Google Places 2011 – Eight Predictions For the Very Unpredictable Local Search Engine Leader

My Google Alert is going crazy under the keyword I most care about: Google Places. There’s been another spotting of possible new design changes being tested or previewed in Podunk Iowa. The pundits are scribbling in their blogs and Twitter. The SEM experts are quaking in their boots. What will this next change do to or for their clients.Tags, Preview, Instant, Boost, no more 7 pack, integration of regular search and Google Places, new rules, new rules thrown out with old rules back in force. And with each change the algo goes crazy. Companies that had enjoyed great ranking can’t be found. Companies who haven’t even claimed their listings are number one. One thing for sure, the changes won’t stop because we hung up a new calendar. What might Google do in 2011? Here are my top eight predictions for changes in Google Places next year.1. Google Places will not only continue to dominate as the most critical advertising engine on or off the web in 2011, but it will actually grow in influence to the point that Uncle Sam will take a look at whether this is monopolistic or not. The government may already be considering the issue, but in 2011 there will be at minimum rumblings and rumors of intervention.2. Google knows full well that this could be the case, and will start taking more steps to avoid government action. This year it would seem clear that their decision to show third party reviews (like Yelp, Yahoo, and City Search) above reviews created by Google Account holders would seem to validate their wide open eyes about monopoly complaints. One such step will probably be to change the algorithm to give other local search engines and directories higher visibility under local SMB categories.3. Google will crack down hard on violations of their Google Places Rules. In particular the key word stuffing of the company name and fake locations.4. Reviews will dominate the ranking battle on Google Places. As usual it will be impossible or nearly so to determine how Google is scoring this game. But their announcement that they will potentially pick up reviews from any source that properly marks up those reviews will result in a host of review sites hoping to get scraped.5. There will be more huge changes in Google Places structure, content, layout, and rule book in 2011. I threw this prediction in so that I can be assured of getting one of these right.6. Coupons will get some type of boost unrelated to Google Boost. Google has great mailing lists and the potential to advertise coupons as widely as they like. Somehow in this new year the coupon element will get some big and free help. But in 2012 it will cost money to put up a coupon.7. Google will try to do a Groupon knock off or buy one of the lesser players, but as they often do, they will do it horribly. Then they will try to buy Groupon again.8. The Google Places Page will be completely revamped. The current look is almost unusable and unfriendly, not to mention graphically boring. Google has the capability to solve this with ease. Why they haven’t to date is a major mystery.So there are my top predictions for 2011. Will they do other things that can’t even be imagined. Yep. Will they do all these things. For the most part, I hope so.

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