Google SERPS and Google Places are continuously changing and Google runs tests all the time. It’s impossible to know which of the tests we see will become the new standard format AND for how long. Back in July 2010 I was the 1st to break the story about the new “Blended” algo over at Mike Blumenthal’s blog. I was sitting on a Google test server and was the 1st to discover the test. Then 4 months later the results went live.

Today I want to share a couple new tests with you that are rolling out on a pretty broad scale. I’m not seeing the changes, but my clients and other bloggers are. One change involves some major Google blended and 7 pack SERP changes. Be sure to read below too for major dashboard changes that were just reported today. Sounds like it could include a change in the number of categories as well as category selection functionality.

Gray Map Pins & Location Data on RIGHT

gray map pins

Original screenshot provided by Matt Prados at, enhanced by me.

Yesterday I was doing Advanced Google Places Optimization Training for Matt and he said he was seeing strange results so I asked him to send me a screenshot. (Thanks Matt) He was seeing different results with different browsers and also based on whether he was logged in or not. I’m waiting for him to get back with me to confirm which browser and what log in status the above image was taken from.

I believe Nyagoslav was the 1st to blog about the gray pins a couple days ago, but they were on the left. Google Testing Grey Google Places Balloons

Then Eric emailed me yesterday that he’d seen gray pins but they were still on the left. Here’s his post: Google Places Changes Pin Color!

Then this AM Phil blogged and shared screenshots similar to the one above, with gray map markers on right. He also shows a 7 pack layout with this new format. New Google Places Layouts w/ Gray Map Pins: Face-lift or Botox Shot?

DASHBOARD CHANGES COMING TOO? Jo from LollipopLocal just blogged about a very interesting new Google Places dashboard update she’s seeing over in the UK.

Most noteworthy: “The most obvious thing from my point of view is the categories bar – no longer separated into five boxes but one long bar with the suggestions from Google now appearing when you hold your mouse over the words. And, looking at my list without any editing, there seem to be eight categories listed…” Head over to her blog to see the screenshots.

Also if you missed it, be sure to read about the big ALGO change I recently discovered. More and more people are reporting a drop in rankings due to this. Google Places Algorithm Change – New Proximity Filter Can Cause Major Ranking Drop