The Google Maps team added a new feature that pits competing businesses against one another in a block of local links on Place Pages.
Normally I praise the endless rollout of Maps features, but I'm torn about this feature, dubbed "Nearby Place You Might Like."
I did a search on Borders Bookstore and picked this entry for Wilton, Conn. It listed nine other bookstores within a 40 mile radius:
That's great if I'm on the road and want to make a tour of bookstores, but what if I want to see nearby movies, restaurants and other shops in the immediate area? I'm out of luck, and have to do individual searches for other local businesses in the area. That requires more engagement with my phone.
Here's another example. I'm going to see "A View From the Bridge" in a couple weeks at the Cort Theater in New York City. I want to find a restaurant or a coffee shop to cool my heels after the show. If I enter Cort Theatre, I'd expect to see a variety of businesses.
Instead, I get 10 other theaters:
Again, I'm forced to do other searches. So, I like the concept, but the practice needs to improve. Show me the variety!
Another problem inherent in lumping book stores with bookstores and theaters with theaters is that competing businesses are vying for our attention.
As pointed out by the pros at Search Engine Land, these Place Pages are supposed to help prop up businesses who place ads on Google.
But is putting rival businesses side by side going to make them happy? Google could argue that the placement alone is advantageous, but not every small business bookstore will be happy seeing their link next to that of a Borders chain store.