Google Map’s Carter Maslan: Categories upgrade coming soon

Is a Google Categories fix is on the way?

After recently completing a number of posts on the problems, background and possible work arounds to the Google Maps category issues, I was able to interview Google’s Carter Maslan, Maps Product Management Director. It appears that a fix to the category issues is on the way.

He noted that he and Google were painfully aware of the categorization issues that had been identified here and in the Google Groups postings, that he shared the small business user’s dissatisfaction and he assured me that they have been working on the fixes. Some of those may be ready is as few as a couple of weeks.

I am anxious to see the solution to this problem. I am not sure whether it is relief at finally being able to stop beating my head against the wall or that I will finally be able to start complaining about something else 🙂 but I am glad that Google will attempt to offer up a solution. Being the skeptic that I am, I need to see to believe but I was encouraged by my conversation with Carter.

You may read the whole interview at SearchEngineLand: Google Maps Categories: Will The Pain End Soon?

Please consider leaving a comment as your input will help me (& everyone else) better understand and learn about local.
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11 thoughts on “Google Map’s Carter Maslan: Categories upgrade coming soon”

  1. Its discouraging to me that while he acknowledged the problems and the fact that they have been in existance for a year… and corrections haven’t been implemented.

    They can and do hand fix something when it grabs the public’s eyes. They are putting a lot more emphasis on study, analysis, experimentation and data gathering.

    Specific complaints come in from site owners/business owners. At times they reflect the aggregate problems that users face. When phone calls are misdirected to the wrong phone in a health care facility….or when potential visitors/customers are misdirected to a business or a wrong location……who is going to have the access to the aggregate information but the site owners. The individuals received the erroneous information from maps…..but they may not know or realize the scope of bad information.

    You’d think they could put a little more effort into solving the issues and announce them as they make progress.


  2. Hi Dave-

    Time will tell, no? This communication is certainly different than anything that we have seen for th past 18 months…perhaps they are starting to move into proactive mode on those things which affect us, perhaps not.

    I would agree that acknowledgement of bugs and communication of fixes and their timeframe would be a huge improvement.


  3. Hey, this is big news! I really enjoyed your SEL piece, Mike.

    However, I’m finding it puzzling that Google is suggesting that a good solution will be to have companies compete for who is giving the best category for a business?

    Why not simply expand the list within Google and allow the business owner to be in complete control of that? Wouldn’t that really be the ideal solution instead of scraping those categories from outside sources? It seems like going any other way is going to continue to result for frustration for the business owner because of communication disconnect, regardless of whether the end user notices this going on or not.

    Congratulations on getting that interview, Mike. That’s great!

  4. Hi Tim-

    Glad the fix worked. It is ironic that they would create a technology that would force small businesses to take the exact opposite action of what Google would want….but a person has to do what a person has to do. Why didn’t Google tell us about this option earlier?

    As I said at SEL: “Show me”. Certainly 18 months is a long time for a bug to be so evident and for a such a simple work around not to be mentioned. Shame on Google.


  5. Miriam-

    However, I’m finding it puzzling that Google is suggesting that a good solution will be to have companies compete for who is giving the best category for a business?….Why not simply expand the list within Google and allow the business owner to be in complete control of that?

    Ultimately, the way people search, it is impossible to create a “flat” category structure like existed in the days of the YellowPages. In speaking with Localeze who key in records from the major phone books, they said that there were 75,000 total different phrases for the 8,000+ categories that were in each of the books….ie Bridal Gowns, Wedding Dresses, Wedding Gown…you get the idea.

    So Google is looking to provide a loose initial taxonomy and then use the various sources on the web to create “signals” to match up against what people are really looking for. The competition would be between the various directories & web pages that Google is referencing to provide the best category when there isn’t a good match with the main category selected.

    Ultimately it is more like a cross between categories and tagging so that while there isn’t an infinite number of ways to phrase something, it is much expanded over a simple 8000+ category system. Or perhaps an infinitely indexed set of tags that have stronger and less stronger relations.

    You might be right about the continued frustration though as most Small Business People are firmly entrenched in the idea of categories. If they don’t find what they are looking for (even if it isn’t what customers are looking for) they will be frustrated. Some of this is training (they have been schooled by the YP folks), some is probably generational as noted in the article last week: Local Searchers Hunt for Ideas, Not Categories.

    In the end with the system learning (ie Google Maps) and people learning (ie they don’t get what they want the first time) there might be a happy ending with the users having trust in Maps like they do in Google in general. The question for me is if the good will will be lost before that point is gained.



  6. Mike:

    I wanted to restate one observation after we discussed this a bit.

    Various comments at Google groups for business owners reflect the frustrations of business owners who have received a significant number of feedbacks from customers, potential customers, clients, patients, etc.

    Even as one business operator may contact Google about a problem or more specifically misinformation showing in Google Maps–and probably more specifically showing in Organic results via a maps insert…..the problems represent the total of many calls and contacts from outside customers who are getting bad information; bad addresses/bad phone numbers/poor directions etc–all coming out of google maps.

    I think that when Google suggests that the number of problems doesn’t seem to be big enough to spend time correcting problems –they could be underestimating the volume of problems that users encounter.

    One report from one site owner/business operator/site administrator could represent a large total of people who received erroneus information from Maps.


  7. Hi Dave

    Yes, I would agree that a complaint from a small business person that stemmed from customer feedback is much bigger than it appears…and what are small business people but end users that also contribute content to Google via the LBC…and potential advertisers…as Miriam points out today that doesn’t give them any special rights but it should highlight their complaints and they should be reviewed carefully.

    More importantly they should handled with transparency. If a problem is going to fixed any time soon then functional work arounds that don’t copromise the system should be suggested…

    In (monor) defense of Google on the category issue (as opposed to the Plus Box, bad phone numbers etc), I am not sure any end user ever complained to a small business person that they were in the wrong category.


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