In the Trenches Of Local: SF Florist’s Maps Listing Goes Missing

Update 2/10/2009: The records returned to some state of normalcy. Since 7:00 am EST (and it is now 3:00 pm) the record is visible and working properly. Would love to hear from Maps Guide Jen where this puppy went. :)

Update 2/9/2009 1:30 EST: Whoaah….hold on there partner. Save the kudos for later. The record for Podesta Baldocchi seems to be disappearing once again! The correct listing currently has disappeared from Maps again. If you select the reviews link for Podesta in the listing returned on the search Flowers SF, CA in the Local 10-Pack it doesn’t take you to a Maps listing. My conclusion: Valentine gremlins have made their way into the Google index.

Update 2/7/09: During the night the primary listing for Podesta Baldocchi Flowers has returned to the index with reviews and Local 10 Pack placement intact.

I first met Marc Rovetti of Podesta Baldocchi Flowers, San Francisco in the aftermath of the Google Map’s florist hijackings last September. He runs one of the most respected floral shops in the Bay Area.

Recently, there have been a few reports in the Google Maps Help Forums of records going missing in the Maps index. When Marc emailed me several days ago with this problem, I took notice. His record has completely disappeared from Maps and thus from the Local 10 Pack. Given that the biggest flower shopping season is shortly upon us, Marc wondered if anything could be done. Given Google’s lack of customer service, I had to respond that his only choice was to post in the Help Forum and even though I am not religious, to pray. Neither has worked and it once again demonstrates the power that Google wields and the impact that it has on our everyday lives.

This issue speaks to the question that Marty Himmelstein has been addressing at Screenworks about the need for a factual content layer in Local. It also speaks to the need for more customer service options and accountability on the part of Google.

Here is a recent interview with Marc of Podesta Baldolcchi Flowers:

MB: Tell us about your business in San Franciso….how long have you been at your current location?

Marc: We have been in business in San Francisco continuously since 1871 and have been at our current location since 2001. Our most well known location in SF was 224 Grant Avenue where we were featured in Hitchcock’s Vertigo 1958.

MB: How did you learn about your Google Local Business Listing?

Marc: I learned about Google Local Business Listing from a florist friend of mine in San Francisco. We signed up a few years back have always been listed in the 10 pack usually around c and d.

MB: Do you do much on-line marketing besides Google Local? If so where and how?

Marc: We do use Yahoo and CitySearch ( Yelp until recently) for exposure to other veins of potential clients. We also market back to our clients via email.

MB: When did you notice the Local 10 pack and Maps record had gone missing?

Marc: After we experienced the floral hijacking a few months ago I check the 10 pack each morning as well as the listings below them by typing in “flowers San Francisco” The listing completely disappeared on Wednesday February 4th, 2009. I am not sure if it was there on Tuesday afternoon. We are however listing below the 10 pack (in the main search results) as I can see our website etc… This shows one or two placements below the 10 pack on a regular basis and hardly ever moves.

MB: What percentage of your business do you estimate that you get from your Local 10 Pack listing?

Marc: We get about 30% of our business from the 10 pack listing. It might actually be more but this is a fair estimate.

MB: Are you familiar with Adwords? do you use them?

Marc: Yes, I am familiar with ad words and we do use them. We could do a better job and this is always a work in progress. I fully understand the importance of being proactive and vigilant about the internet and being such a well known entity having online exposure with Google is essential for our clients to find us. We have long since dropped our print advertising as our clients use the web.

MB: Do you have a backup plan?

Marc: We have, because of the nature of the economy, already battened down the hatches. We have not replaced employees as they departed and we have a great repeat business from our traditional customers. We are glad to not have all our eggs in one basket.

MB: Any closing comment?

Marc: Its frustrating because we have done all of things that Google has asked, we claimed our listing and we run adwords and poof! Our listing is gone. It appears that I am not the only business experiencing this problem. I am coming up on the biggest holiday of the year and I am gone!

Please consider leaving a comment as your input will help me (& everyone else) better understand and learn about local.
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28 thoughts on “In the Trenches Of Local: SF Florist’s Maps Listing Goes Missing”

  1. Thank you Mike for this very thorough article on identifying the problem. This is very serious, as it impacts not only a small business, but it impacts the trust that customers looking for a local, relevant source come into. Podesta Baldocchi flowers is 1. very close to the centroid, 2. has a large number of reviews of it’s business and 3. is one of the most relevant choices when doing a search for a florist in San Francisco. When this listing was removed, less-relevant listings moved onto the list (non-retail florists, for instance, which isn’t relevant)
    JB

  2. Oh, how frustrating! I feel grieved for Marc…what a pain in the neck, and right at St. Valentine’s Day.

    Maybe Mike’s article will help to bring some attention to this.

    Was there anything you could have done, Marc, that might have triggered a spam signal in Google? Maybe a large campaign to get user reviews or anything like that? Probably not, but just to explore all avenues, I thought I would ask.

    I really wish you luck in getting this remedied. It’s a real pity!
    Miriam

  3. @Miriam

    I looked at his LBC and he did have 2 listings in there, instead of one. That was a result of the previous hijackings. But both listings showed as Active. We suspended one and slightly changed the other to be sure that Google knew about them. Neither action precipitated a verification call or card and in the end one show as active and the other suspended. It didn’t look like they had been tagged in anyway….they was just gone from the index.

    Mike

  4. @JB

    It isn’t clear why it was removed…it doesn’t appear to have been intentional but I suppose that it could have been.

    Mike

  5. Hey all-

    Thanks for the kind words and support !

    The only thing we have done with our website is add a Valentine’s tab featuring flowers geared towards the holiday. No campaigns, all of the reviews are from customers on their own accord- just going on our honest business approach of impeccable customer service and quality here in San Francisco.
    I hope that Google will look into this issue as next week is this largest holiday in our industry.
    Best-
    Marc

  6. Big article, Mike:

    It turns out that being identified at the top of rankings in Google is extraordinarily important to a business. It is the defacto source of information for shoppers. It makes or breaks businesses in this day and age. Additionally, as we have seen over the past year or two, erroneous information has dire affects, at times impacting hospitals, health care etc. Its not an issue to take lightly.

    There could be a random issue with regard to lost records in google maps. It could be an issue with their systems or algos. For a florist to lose a listing just before Valentine’s day though, is cause for more concern in light of highjackings and other nefarious actions.

    Its a serious issue that needs immediate concern. If its not random it is a form of modern day theft using the internet. I think Google should be looking at this PRONTO…..(like immediately). If they don’t look at it…sooner or later attorneys and law enforcement will get into the issues.

  7. 2 listings. Gosh, we have seen problems with this, too. I think a tutorial about how to suspend listings would be really good, Mike.

    Marc – You’ve done a smart thing having Mike look at your LBC record. If anyone (outside of Google) can give you good advice in this matter, it’s Mike.

    I must say, the florists have had a horrendous past year with Google Local. Just when the hijacking woes are dying down, here’s a whole new concern to deal with. Keep calm, Marc. This is very trying, but I’m crossing my fingers Google will take EarlPearl’s advice and address this pronto.

    Miriam

  8. Interestingly, someone (Colleen) added Podesta Baldocchi back to Maps via the Community Edit/Add feature at roughly 3:15 this afternoon. This doesn’t really solve the problem as it won’t pick up any of the original listing’s reviews and citations for a while and is also open to community abuse (ie hijacking).

    Clearly it needs to be claimed but should it be suspended or should he suspend his original listing?

    Mike

  9. Oh, gosh, situations like this are so tough to make a decision on. Your guess is as good as mine.

    If you claim and suspend the new listing, would it draw Google’s attention back to the correct listing? Maybe?

  10. I have always leaned toward keeping the original listing and not deleting it. If I were Marc and Google had not fixed the situation in a short time, I think I would claim the new listing and suspend the old one…its a risky strategy that it will pick up some of the original listings strength but at this point what is there to loose?

    Mike

  11. Hey All-

    I have just talked with Colleen, who is in fact my wife, and she was just trying to help out by putting up a listing because we just were not showing up. I am not sure where this will lead, this new listing and all but I hope the folks at Google will see that our old ad that had been on the 10 pack for ever should supercede this listing.
    I am tempted to delete the new listing but that might make the issue more complicated. The new listing is blank without reviews and claiming it and suspension is the best option. Thank you all for your continued support and interest with this issue as all input is appreciated.

    Best-

    Marc

  12. We’re back on line! Thank you Mike for giving me a voice in your blog and as well thanks to Miriam, JB, and EarlPearl for chiming in… And thank you Google.

  13. First of all congratulations, Mark.

    I’m sorry this situation is desperately difficult for business owners. Google has become the de facto source of information for business contact information. The placement of the 10 pac makes it the first and possibly likeliest source of contact information. Being in or out of the 10 pac has dramatic impact on revenues.

    The strange evolution of search has created a new type of business relationship which has yet to be defined in legal terms and level of responsibility between Google and those it lists.

    Google doesn’t earn any money from these listings within the 10-pac or organic listings. Yet virtually all of its revenues are derived from PPC ads that accompany search/universal search/10 pacs/organic listings etc. Without those ad revenues Google would not have had the resources to develop a separate Google Maps/Local mechanism for identifying local businesses.

    Yet because of the indirect nature of this relationship, Google remains opaque. It doesn’t offer customer service to try and ascertain why a listing should immediately “disappear”. It remains mum on the issue. Mum in an environment wherein a business’s success or failure relies on this visibility.

    Who knows whether the Podesta Baldocci listing vanished because of skullduggery, a mistake, a bug in the Local algo’s or what. Hopefully Google knows….but the rest of the world won’t find out.

    Strangely it takes a “fair minded” commentator like Mike and this blog to grab Google’s attention. Seriously, as this blog has gained popularity its visibility is infinitesimally small with regard to the universe of businesses that could be impacted by changes in Google’s visibility such as what occurred to Podesta Baldocci. Fortunately, for Podesta Balducci, and not for the first time, Google seemed to respond to comments here.

    It would have been clearly more effective and appropriate if Podesta Baldocci had a mechanism to contact Google and get some kind of direct response, rather than this seemingly roundabout method.

    Sooner or later some attorneys and aggressive business people are going to take a shot at the relationship between google visibility, its impact on business revenues and its practice of hiding behind its cloak of secrecy so as to not have to respond to the impact its power can cause.

    In any case, congratulations to you Marc for having another shot at surviving in this rough business environment.

  14. The bad news…the listing seems to have disappeared from Maps once again. I fear it is but a prelude to going in missing in the 10 Pack….

    Mike

  15. Hey All-

    Geez…………I think my head is about to pop open and I am not quite sure how to yell any louder that we are experiencing problems and just want them to be correct as we try and limp into Valentine’s Day.

    Our LBC listing currently shows up on the 10 pack but It is about to disappear again as Mike has mentioned. The correct listing we have in our LBC shows in the 10 pack but not in maps section when you type in our shop name. Our 800 # is listed instead of our local 415-346-1300. and I am not sure why but I can live with that at this point. Additionally, we are currently showing at item B in the 10 pack but if you click on the “B” in the map it is someone else. When you click on our 25 reviews link it takes you to a listing of florists, not our reviews….
    I wish I could call and talk to someone over at Google and get things cleared up but this medium and a post on Google is my only option to be heard.
    Thanks for sounding the alarm Mike and everyone else for their support. I will remain cautiously optomistic heading into this week.
    Best-

    Marc Rovetti
    Podesta Baldocchi

  16. Now I see that the problem on PB’s listing is that the review link goes to an amalgamated view of other florists’s reviews. G should do a codecheck here, as it’s not working as designed.

    JB

  17. Jason
    If you go into Maps and search on Flower SF Podesta Baldocchi has disappeared again.

    If you search on Podesta Baldocchi SF CA the only listing showing up is one that was user generated on Friday but not their main listing and it has no reviews attached.

    In the LBC, he had two listings last week, one has now disappeared and the one that is there and shows as active, is nowhere to be found in Maps…

    Who at G do you suggest?
    Mike

  18. “I wish I could call and talk to someone over at Google and get things cleared up but this medium and a post on Google is my only option to be heard.”

    I wish you could do that, too, Marc. I can’t believe this! Your listing is really being put through the wringer. I’m really sorry about this.

    On a side note, Mike et al, I noticed yesterday that the Tasty Mexican got fixed after I blogged about it:

    http://www.solaswebdesign.net/wordpress/?p=405

    I’m going to remain hopeful that Google is doing SOMETHING with Marc’s listing in order to clear the mess up.

    Miriam

  19. @Miriam
    It has to be incredibly frustrating when you think you have your marketing under control and it just disappears….

    Glad to hear that the Tasty Mexican was fixed but better be careful…you will be getting pleas from around the world for help :)

    Did the bad map in Wisconsin ever get fixed?

    Mike

  20. Yes, everything is working reasonably well and I too hope Jen will take a peek and chime in as there are a few issues to be resolved and I am afraid to muck with the listings.
    1. ” Podesta Baldocchi flowers” is showing on the 10 pack and in maps with the active listing however, when you go to maps and type in Podesta Baldocchi our deleted listing comes up.

    2. The listing in the 10 pack and maps has our 800# and not the local one as it did before. When you go to maps and type in Podesta Baldocchi our deleted listing shows our local phone #.

    Other than that all looks like things are back to normal………

    Keep you posted!
    Marc

  21. Hey All-

    I am posting again as the listing for Podesta Baldocchi has yet again been compromised.
    We are indeed showing up on the 10 pack with the correct listing however, when you click on the ” 25 reviews” below podesta baldocchi flowers you are taken to maps listing of florists instead of our reviews. Additionally we are not even listed there. And to boot when you type in Podesta Baldocchi under maps the user listing appears.
    At this point I am hoping someone at Google will take a look and correct this glitch as it appears to be something out of my control.
    Any thoughts on this matter would be appreciated.

    Marc

  22. Marc,
    When I type Podesta Baldocchi into Maps, I am getting your listing, but it’s the one that says “added by Coleen on Feb 6″. (Aside to Mike…what is that? Added by Coleen? I’ve not seen an edit with a name like that in the popup before). The listing has 0 reviews associated with it.

    I’m seeing you in the B position in the 10-pack for ‘florists san francisco’. You are quite right about the link to your 25 reviews. It’s taking me to a text view of 10 florists’ listing in Maps and you are not among them. That’s a very weird error. It’s just amazing to me that there could be this many problems with your listing, Marc.

    May I ask, did you notice a difference from this trouble in your Valentine’s Day sales?

    Miriam

  23. Miriam-

    The listing in maps was added by Colleen a week ago when our listings completely disappeared from Google. I did not claim this listing last week as I was concerned that any move on my part would cause yet another issue; I was hoping that Google would have corrected this issue but alas no such luck. My plan is to claim this user listing and then delete it and hope for the best. :)

    Sales were off yet we were fairly in line with the last time the holiday fell on a Saturday. The other factors were the weather, three day weekend and of course the economy. I’m not sure when this issue reverted back to being a problem ( it was fine for a few days after Mike’s posting) but as far as I can tell everything was ok on the 12th late in the day.
    Orders were placed late this holiday and I suspect had we been ” on line” earlier sales might have been higher.
    We shall see.

  24. As of this morning our listing Podesta Baldocchi flowers is back in working order, our “25 reviews” link takes you to reviews and we show up on maps with the correct listing. Yeah!

    Now to claim the user listing created by colleen and see what happens.

    Keep you posted.
    Marc

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