Late last week, in a move that was apparently spurred by threats of an FTC investigation, Google removed third-party reviews and listings from their Places pages in the Local/Maps results. This change was intended to help thwart complaints by sources like Yelp, TripAdvisor and Citysearch who claimed that Google unfairly used their content to make the Places pages results useful without compensation or traffic.

Below is a visual of the change via the WSJ:

Google Removes Citations from Local/Places Pages

Impact on Local/Maps/Places SEO

Unfortunately, this move has a strong negative consequence for SEOs, web marketers and local businesses trying to improve their rankings (or earn a listing) in Google Places results. In particular, thepopular tactic of researching the citation sources of competitors and fellow business listees in a city/region via their Places pages is now defunct.

Since citations are like links for SEO/rankings in Google Places, this change is going to be tough on many citation researchers and local optimizers.

Other Options for Local Citation Discovery

Thankfully, there are other ways to find the sources Google may be using to resource their Places data.

#1: Identify Aggregators in the Standard Search Results

This is as basic as it sounds. Just perform a query and seek out the aggregators – those that rank in the top few pages of results that list multiple local businesses. Not only is this a useful activity for Places SEO, it can also help drive direct traffic and brand awareness (e.g. Getting a listing on Yelp isn’t just good for Google SEO, it’s a great idea because lots of people use Yelp to find local businesses).

Aggregators of Local Business Results in Google

In the screenshot above, I’ve pointed to several well-known aggregators that are likely good sources for a listing/citation if a business is targeting Seattle Ice Cream results.

#2: Perform Competitive Research Using Google’s Standard Results

You don’t need the citations listed in the Places pages to find where a business is earning listings/links/references. You can use good, old, regular Google results:

Molly Moon's Competitive Analysis

The screenshot above shows one way to do this – grab a listing from the Local/Places results and use the combination of the business’ phone number and name to see where they’re mentioned on the web. This also works with any combination of address, business name, cityname, etc. It’s likely the most simple and direct way to replace the old competitive citation analysis method.

#3 – Search for Multiple Businesses at Once (Co-Citation)

Another simple option is to query Google for several businesses at once in hopes of finding pages/sites that have listings for several places.

Multiple Business / Co-Citation Search

The example in the screenshot above is a very simplistic one – you may want to combine this with phone numbers/addresses to help identify more listing-focused sites.

#4 – The WhiteSpark Local Citation Finder Tool

Darren Shaw’s great citation finding tool has long been a staple of Places SEO research, and since it uses a methodology similar to tactic #2 above, it’s not affected by Google’s change to the Places pages.

WhiteSpark Local Citation Finder

Just plug in a search as shown in the image above, and the tool will return a list of potential places to acquire a citation/listing. It takes a while to run (up to 24 hours in my experience), but is remarkably useful.

Undoubtedly, these four aren’t the only options for local citation research. If you’ve got more suggestions/ideas for ways to do this, please leave them in the comments below!

Source: Search Engine Land

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