Robert_Charlton - 11:02 pm on Oct 28, 2010 (gmt 0)
This is not a monolithic switch to just one type of organization.
In many cases, keep in mind that directories and review sites provide a utility that Google's Place Pages currently do not. Many geo-vertical directories and review sites also are well branded themselves, with a heavy following... and there are user expectations that these should be shown.
I am seeing Place Search returning many differently segmented layouts, and it's highly likely that Google will be running evaluations over time on best layouts for what geo-niches in what place, with individual site authority and branding still carrying some weight. With personalization, the number of considerations is likely to increase.
Different layouts I'm seeing, among others...
- full organic-sized Place listings with directories either mixed throughout or returned beneath. In some cases, directory sites that were previously beneath the seven-pack have now moved above the "organic style" place listings, which might be highly beneficial to them. Often, there are three directories above and three below the seven pack in the middle. In some cases, directories also appear within the seven-pack. I'm seeing this a lot with hotel searches and some national widget directories I've worked with. Choice of which layout, though, currently varies by city, by vertical within that city, etc.
- seven-pack listings on top as before, a bit larger than they used to be because the map is over to the right, but most of the page below listing directory and review sites. The [chicago restaurants] search Whitey mentions above is currently a good example of this.
This makes sense to some extent with this search, because restaurant sites as a whole aren't very good, and review sites tend to be more useful. But I'm also seeing in pizza searches websites with Place Pages in the center, and review sites top and bottom.
- straight organic, no Place Pages or maps returned at all, often in large cities where I've seen at least the maps and seven packs before, so I've got to assume that either this hasn't rolled out yet, or that Google is running some tests.
Re the testing, I suggest reading this thread and the articles it points to in order to get a sense of where Google will be going with this...
Google & Traffic Shaping - a hidden method to the quality madness?
I suspect that Google is going for highest user satisfaction. Hard to say whether they'll achieve it without collateral damage and customization that frustrates, but I think that's their goal. Keep in mind that this ultimately plugs into mobile search.