Google phasing out city pages, focuses on local intent

Local search has been the apple of many a powerful search engine's eye, particularly Google's. The tech giant once again made its local focus even more clear after Search Engine Land reported the company had recently begun to phase out its Google City pages. The shuttering of its city pages follows the earlier shift of Google Places into Google Plus Local, both clear indicators of Google's increasing prioritization of local search efforts.

Search Engine Land said Mike Blumenthal, a local search guru, recently reported the city page for Portland, Oregon displaying a 404 error page. The same was shown for the collection of city pages Google hosted including Chicago, Boston and Madison, Wisconsin.

The city pages were just launched in summer 2011 to act as a hub for Google Places' local efforts, catering to local businesses and consumers. The page's prominent central display had recommended business listings with star ratings and a sidebar with a calendar of events and social media snippets from around the city and Google's local team for that city.

Now, as Search Engine Land reports, at least one of the old city URLs - for Austin, Texas - redirects to an accompanying Google Plus Local page. However, not all of the hallmarks of the erstwhile city pages made the crossover to Google Plus Local. The Austin local page doesn't display a recommended businesses feature, but that doesn't necessarily mean that the feature has been scrapped altogether, but may come along in the time it takes for a full transition. After Google launched Google Plus Local, it took a couple months for some of the effects of the debut to kick in for local businesses.

The website also received a statement from Google after inquiring about the disappearance of the city pages: "Earlier this year we announced Google Plus Local - a local search experience that makes it easier to discover and share your favorite places - like a great restaurant or museum. With Google Plus Local, information for hundreds of cities around the world including Portland, Austin, San Diego and Madison is streamlined in one place."

The elimination of city pages boils down to the optimization on local Google has signaled it wants to undertake, the city pages were basically duplicates of Google Plus Local pages and consolidating them into the local pages will allow Google to work more efficiently on providing local news and updates.