Google announced on its Google Maps blog on May 15, 2013 that a new upgraded version of Google Maps is available for use by those registered Google users who request an invitation.
The new Google Maps can create a customized map that is specific to the behavior of each user, revealing highlights that are based on the information that is entered, providing useful local information such as restaurants, and a new carousel that gathers all Google Maps imagery in one location and contains an Earth view that directly integrates the 3D experience from Google Earth into the new maps.
The new version is also more closely connected to Google+ and the local businesses that are displayed are based on each user's Google+ network.
Advertisements in the new Google Maps have been redesigned and short sections of advertisements are placed directly onto the map itself, alongside the business name.
The local items listed in the top of the results page are currently in a carousel format, which mimics the layout they created for Google Glass, which focuses on individual timecards, featuring a large image area and news item.
The most interesting thing about the Carousel is that it doesn’t allow for clicking on the images, but only features the image, reviews and name.
Google Carousel A Beta Test for Google Glass?
Overall the Google Carousel is one to watch. Clearly, it’s still being tested and is currently in a beta version because you need to receive an invitation from Google to see the results and utilize the new maps feature.
The format of the maps is similar to changes that are being implemented in the Google Glass beta version, as well as the way images are viewed on Google +.
It appears that Google engineers are in a race to fix the fiasco that is Google+ and Google Business listings, by handing the relevance and authority of sites over to its users.
Users will be able to add their own images to Google Maps which will be featured in the Carousel.
Another unique feature is that the review score on the Carousel “timecards” will be based on how many users either bookmark, share, comment on, interact with and ‘check in’ at the business locations.
The total review score (no more “/30″, which is a tad confusing to people not familiar with the review scale that is being used by Zagat) is no longer coming from the reviews being submitted in Google+.
In the last year, there has been an outcry from businesses in terms of reviews, so it looks like Google is also placing this feature in the control of its users.
The strange thing about the Google Maps Carousel, is that you cannot in the current version, click directly on the timecards to visit the business’ website or Google + page.
There are no urls displayed and no phone number or address, so people who utilize this feature to find information on a particular business are going to be left scratching their heads on how to use this.
Right now there is no way to know exactly what the future of the Carousel will be, or how far Google will implement the Carousel into local search results.
I believe this is the way Google is testing the layout and getting the functionality correct before it implements the timecards layout across the entire Google search network.
While it will be interesting to get a birds-eye view as well as street level photos of any given place at any specific time, from real users on the street, it is essential that Google fix the bugs to make sure that people can navigate back and forth between features.
Also not revealed to the public, is how the street level user can submit images to be utilized in Google Maps.
Businesses will need to stay tuned and see how this application develops and we at Stream will make sure to keep you posted.
If you want to stay ahead of the curve, make sure you're outside, taking pictures of your business and interesting images within the neighborhood, without people in them, and have them ready once the new look of Google Maps goes live!
All the best, Susan Connelly
Susan is a Sr. SEO strategist for Stream Companies.