Google loudly proclaims that it's search results are ALWAYS about giving the searcher the best possible result. We hear that time and time again. So why is it, when a search term contains a location/city/town etc, that Google immediately devalues those "best possible user experience" results (the orgainic results) and instead inserts a 7 pack of dubious results simply because they are supposed to have a connection with the "place"?
If Google's algo is so smart that it can bring me the "best user experience" in organic results when I search for "San Antonio bodyshops" (just an example) why are organic results pushed below the 7 pack? On the one hand Google is telling me they give the best possible search results, then they push those results out of eyesight below 7 pack sites! Sorry.... but that is not providing me with the best user experience.
When I add the letter "s" to a search it's because I want to see more than one. I don't want to slog through 7 individual sites hoping that I MIGHT find the right body shop. When visiting New York I want to see sites that offer me a collection of "New York hotels", not have the world's best comparison sites buried below 7 individual hotel sites that happen to be New York related.
Then there is the inconsistency of showing the 7 pack at all. Sticking with the "New York hotels" example, we see the typical 7 pack results. However, refine the search to "luxury New York hotels" and hey presto, the 7 pack vanishes! The same product/service (hotels) and the same location (New York) are still there but by simply refining the search (luxury), all of a sudden the logic for showing the 7 pack evaporates! "<Placename> accommodation" gets a 7 pack, "<placename> apartments" does not get a 7 pack. If Google seriously believed the 7 pack adds to the user experience, why not apply it consistently?
Google prides itself on a clean, uncluttered presentation of search results. So why have such a mish mash of different styles when presenting Google Places. Sometimes there are organic results above the 7 pack, other times not. Some displays consist of 2 lines, other displays involve merging part of the Google Places data with an organic display to create an 8 line monster version complete with links to citation sites. Why?
When Google Adwords first appeared at the top of the search page, we understood that they had to monetize their business just as we have to do with our businesses. As their vested self interests started to encroach onto more and more of the screen real estate, we understood they have to appease their shareholders. But with Google Places they seem to be demonstrating a total contempt for organic results and I for one can see no "user wins" reason for introducing the 7 packs into the serps.
Google Places smacks of the old IT mindset of "can do = must do". It does not improve the user experience.
PS.... I have sites, both my own and clients, appearing in Google Places. Doesn't change the above one jot!