Google + Local: Q’s and some A’s

I was on the road yesterday after the Google + Local roll out so I was unable to answer questions that showed up in the comments on my two posts. Vanessa has been answering a number of questions in the forum so it also makes sense to follow her post there.

Rather than answer them in line, I have created a FAQ and done my best to answer the questions in one spot for all to see. Google is providing TC training shortly and will be answering additional questions so if you have them post them here and I wll try to get them answered.

Reviews

If a user just has a gmail account will they be able to write a review or must they also sign up for Google+?

They will need to sign up for Google +

So our customers are not able to leave reviews unless they are on Google+?

Yep, you need a Google+ account to write a review. See the help page.

Can reviewers leave anonymous reviews?

No. At this point it is real names only.

Is there any way to choose a nickname like we had in Places reviews?

No

Why am I not seeing the “Leave a Review” button?

These had been removed from the Places page in anticipation of this move and put on the new Google+Local page. If you are still not seeing the review button it is because you have landed on the old Place page which is still accesible.

Why would Google make my re-publish old reviews while I’m trying to publish a NEW review for a different business? 

Why it happens at that point in the process was an intentional design decision. It is a one time process needed since Google is moving from anonymous and nicknamed reviews to full, real identity reviews . This necessitated some sort of user approval process to explicitly allow your user name to be seen or to choose to make the review private.

Oh Google, you are driving me CRAZY! Can you please tell me how a dentist can have a Zagat review rating on their places page?

In this case it will be a single number indicating quality on the 0-30 scale.

Listings

I have my Google+ Business Page and my Google+ Local page claimed into different accounts. What do I do?

Keep managing them separately. From Vanessa: “We know it’s not ideal right now, but we’re working to consolidate these pages into a single page where you guys can manage your presence across Google. We’ll keep everyone posted on news in that regard.”

“To be very clear here, we will be combining any Google+ page you may have created with any matching upgraded Google Places listing (what we’re calling local Google+ pages). ”

If I have several hundred listings how to I enter them in Google+Local?

Bulk Upload was recently upgraded and is the method of choice for getting data into Google+Local. Given its very recent upgrade that is likely to remain the case.

Do you think we’ll be able to create one Google + page for a franchise type business and link it to all of the listings? Otherwise, I fear that my clients will either a) be forced to create (and manage!) 400+ Google + pages or b) Take a huge rankings hit!

We do not yet know how Google will this parent child relationship. Google has given a great deal of thought to the needs of large companies in Google + and were slow to implement the needed features to get them right.

They have added multiuser management to Google+ and it appears that it will likely be a feature when the merger of the Business and Local pages occurs.

Based on this evidence I am optimistic that Google will put in place some a way for a large, multi location chain to easily mange both +  and +Local page.

The fact that the bulk upload was recently updated implies to me that these issues were considered and likely already “baked in”.

Do you know if the Google + page is automatically linked when you set it up and find it via phone number?

The claiming process has not changed.

How can I upload Videos?

You can no longer upload videos or use the Post to Place page feature in the Dashboard. So for now there is no way but obviously video is a critical part of Google + and it will be integrated sooner rather than later.

Why does the See your listing on Google Maps”  link in the dashboard not take me to the new Google+Local page?

From Vanessa: “We’re working to update that link so that it redirects to the new local Google+ page. Stay tuned.”

Is the Google Google+Local page still considered a search result?

Interesting question that I will put to Google. As it stands today the answer is yes AND no.

The Google + Local pages are indexed pages and are now showing up in the search results as a stand alone result in addition to a pinned result. So in that sense they are a web page and not a search result.

This will create some opportunity to use the page for reputation management and perhaps long tale strategies. They may become more important over time.

But the pages will still be updated automatically at Google’s whim if they suspect bad data and currently include competitors nearby so in that sense they are a Google controlled search result. They do not yet have ads on your page but that seems inevitable.

Can you please explain the difference of a Google+ Page compared to a Google+ Local Page? It seems like a lot of duplicate content? I don’t want to spend time and money creating both for all of our clients if they will eventually merge into one in the future?

From Vanessa: “A Google+ page has all the social features available to Google+ users — Hangouts, sharing to circles, video uploads, etc. A local Google+ page is just a new look to the Google Places listing, minus the social features. Those social features are coming soon, as I mention in my original post above. And as I also said, we know it’s not ideal needing to manage two separate pages.”

How will Google know to merge my Google+Local Page and my Google+Business Page?

From Vanessa: “Be sure to choose the Local category so that we can bring your multiple pages together to create one listing later on.”

How will I know when Google is planning on merging the two pages?

From Vanessa: “Go to this form — http://goo.gl/8apbo — give us you’re email address, and we’ll let you know when we can combine your pages in to a single page — like the ones we feature on the Google and Your Business blog post (http://goo.gl/lhF6S). ”

Where do you find a link for a Google+Local listing if you wanted to report a duplicate VIA the Troubleshooter? 

Use the URL you see at the top of the local Google+ page.

Do the Place’s Dashboard Analytics track impressions and actions on the Google+Local Page?

From Vanessa: “activity from your Place page as well as new click and impression metrics on the local Google+ page that originated from Google.com and Google Maps. Metrics originating from within Google+ Local or from searches within Google+ Local won’t be displayed in the dashboard.”

Comment: It is not at all clear to me that blended results are currently being counted in the current view of the analytics so this might not be completely accurate.

Will this upgrade solve the duplicate listing problem?

The backend system that creates listings is largely unchanged. So some problems will persist. Certainly with a new level of trust and verification provided by Google +, additional ways to triangulate who listings belong to may mitigate the problem but this remains to be seen. A possible result is that dupes will be pushed so far out of sight they don’t have the same affect as they do currently.

The rapid fire changes are difficult to keep up with. One has to wonder – why is Google deliberately creating such a chaotic situation? 

Google has yet to learn that change is an anathema to most businesses. The updates occur on their development timeline and that is apparently chaotic.

Hopefully Google has taken the time to resolve some of the under the hood problems that have been so painful (merges, dupes, lost reviews) so what we lose in learning about the changes we can make up in efficiencies down the road. Here’s hoping!

What a mess it’s going to be when you’re trying to manage the new Plus+Places, but your login for each is different….

It would appear to me that the when the new local environment is fully fleshed out there will be multi user management so it MIGHT be workable.

I have a hard enough time trying to get small businesses to adopt Facebook and Twitter. I am concerned that the small businesses I work with will get frustrated with the lack of engagement they see with folks on G+.

It seems to me that the Google+Local page can be approached with passively or proactively. Your clients will be able to manage it passively much like they do today. IF the Google+ starts gaining traction AND Google starts showing local results in the main SERPS based on that activity then it will clearly be in the client’s interest to engage with Google + (or have you engage in  Google+ on their behalf).

While it complicates things somewhere in the future, it holds out the promise of greater direct affect on business results than either Facebook or Twitter.

If the algo is going to continue to include social signals what do you think this means for the all mighty local citation?

At this point the algo has not changed and remains intact. So it plays whatever role it currently plays and will for some time.

Historically in both organic and local, elements of the ranking ago persist even when new signals are added.  But like all of Google’s algos if Google upgrades it,  it will need to handle a range of situations where some business categories have social signals and some do not. In this case, it will be a long time before there are signals in many categories of local business.

I added Google + account, and now I lost my first page indexing.

The two are likely not related. Penalties that we have come to know and love as well as glitches like dupes that cause ranking issues are likely to persist. It is more likely that you are experiencing one of Google’s traditional brain farts rather than a new one

Looks like Google+Local page is showing only the first two categories that are listed in Places. 

That is odd but accurate. It is not clear why Google is only showing two and if that has any significance in terms of ranking.

The “owner verified” designation is also apparently gone. It appears that the listings all have a “Is this your business?” and “Manage your page”.

According to Vanessa Google is working on fixing that.

Please consider leaving a comment as your input will help me (& everyone else) better understand and learn about local.
Google + Local: Q's and some A's by

36 thoughts on “Google + Local: Q’s and some A’s”

  1. I am also seeing only two categories at this moment but “At a glance” is alive. Also like we talked before about improving fake reviews (minor-change-to-review), they did integrate zagat in their reviews, btw nice Q & A, helped a lot.

  2. Mike,
    Thank you for this insight.
    If possible may I ask, bottom line, is G+Local going to replace Place Page?
    I still see majority of small biz owners have not claimed place page or just do not see it as necessary or significant. As for G+ itself, not so much… I am seeing a growing number of business owners with Facebook biz pages, (albeit often poorly maintained) rarely am I seeing any small business owners with G+, at least not yet.

  3. Very thorough review, it appears on a rapidly changing environment.

    I posted in the review thread, but I’ll post here also. Here is what I strongly detest. I reviewed a bunch of our smbs. In total north of 80 reviews. We don’t go review crazy. right now every one is anonymous

    I was over at your blumenthals. Saw that several people already changed their g+ profiles and set reviews.

    Reviews by real people are dramatically better than anonymous.

    Here is the kicker. AS smb’s we are going to go out there and get those who have written reviews to now either sign up for G+ or to take their g+ accounts public.

    I do not want to do google’s work. I shouldn’t be required to do. Google isn’t forcing us to do it. The market will though.

    We will be google’s unpaid, unhappy recruiters in their battle against Facebook. I have less than zero interest in that and should not be in that position.

    2ndly the “other places” links are still on the bottom of the page. I found a competitor listed not only with a link to his site but now the link shows his Zagat rating as 30.

    Screw that. And I do mean that in all sincerity.

    Again this is google’s page not ours. They are now not only making other businesses visible on this page through links but they are giving them a potential boost through the zagat rating if the competitor faked/wrote/guided each review.

    The page is worse than that offered by any other social media competitor.

    Its not only google’s page there is a subtle set up for us to do their dirty work.

    (the rest of this piece are a bunch of non family friendly curse words!!!!)

  4. Thanks Mike for the detail. I’ve been trying to find the upside for the SMB – is there any euphoria that Google is supplying some fantastic tool or mechanism here? I think not. The silver lining though is the possibility of gaining traction in SERPS. Do you mean that this Google+ business page will be a result unto itself and not part of a 7-pack or some grouping of like pages?

  5. Thanks Mike great Q & A!

    FYI all – you CAN see all the categories. Searchers probably don’t care but guys like us for competitive research and just to check that our client listings are correct NEED to see them all.

    Just click on one of the 2 categories and you’ll get a pop out that shows them all.

  6. @Dave
    That is always the way of big data… they push the data and you clean it up… Its socialized data improvement but privatized profit.

    @Chris
    Yes if you search for some of the example pages that Google highlighted yesterday you will see both a pinned result AND their integrated Google + Local page in the results.

    This search for Baltimore’s Mezze Restaurant (one of the highlighted examples of what the feature will look like) on Google you see both a pinned result AND a + result. See the screenshot here

  7. Not in this case Mike. This is a large monopoly on information that basically operates free of any restrictions whatsoever. No oversight, no controls and absolutely no accountability. Zero accountability to smb’s.

    Yet they are out there sucking money out of us through their monopolistic control and through adwords.

    seriously, google. Do your own work to get people to sign up for google+ and to use it. Don’t force me to do your work for you.

    Really despicable, IMHO.

  8. So there is a silver lining here as the SMB now gets 2 yes 2 possible page 1 entries out of 1.Fits my game plan nicely. Thanks for the work Mike.

    I forgot to express my solidarity with Dave earlier – I agree – the Google MO has been to let the user do the R & D sort of like a self serve restaurant eventually becoming a self-cook and then eventually you’ll just bring the food and clean-up too.

  9. Mike,
    Any idea on how to amend the link to a +Local page to go directly to the “write a review” box? As I recall, “&action=openratings” at the end of the URL worked in Places.

  10. @chris
    Great analogy. And at each step the cost of the proffered upsell gets higher.

    @Ted

    For now at least the old way still works of adding “&dtab=2&action=openratings” to the url with CID (https://maps.google.com/maps/place?cid=3291747407840809159)

    Surprisingly the above url allows you to still write a review on Places although it will come into Google+Local as “Google User”.

    I doubt that it will last long. As of yet, I don’t know of a way to do this in Google+Local but I will check.

  11. There are two categories showing on the Google+ Places Page, but if you click on one of the categories it will drop down a list of the others. Not sure why it is such a difficult process to see the other categories, but I guess we can be comforted to know the other terms are not going to waste.

    Thanks for the Q/A, very insightful!

  12. If you need a Google+ account to write a review and only half of the people who have Gmail/Google accounts (who until yesterday could write a Google review) have a Google+ account, did Google just make it twice as hard to get a Google review?

  13. @Ted
    They replaced one hard (the need to also have a nickname) with another hard (get a G+ account). Long haul the second hard will make life easier as Google is forcing many users to get the account and it will thus be easier for them to leave a review with no extra steps.

  14. @TD Dolan

    Sorry your comment got buried and I just found it.

    Yes. Places are GONE and they have essentially moved over to Google+Local pages. It will be some time though before they are thoroughly integrated into G+. It will require a merger of the two pages and Google is going to take that very slowly.

    IF Google creates a compelling replacement for the dashboard that makes maintenance and engagemet with customers EASY then the SMB world will adopt G+. For now it will remain as is with 4 or 5 million claimed listings in the Places dashboard.

    At some point though Businesses will need to pick and choose whether to be on G+ AND Facebook or just one or the other or neither. The hopeful answer to that is that they will chose the one that sends them the most business.

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  16. Thank you Mike for putting that Q&A list together – what a great resource. I just saved it in scoop.it for our members to read through. The last question about owner verified was what I was looking for. You saved me from having to scan the Google+ Local help thread again, such a time saver. :)

  17. Fantastic resource, thank you Mike.

    From what I’ve gathered G+ Pages & G+ Local Pages will eventually merge and multi-user management will become available.

    Until such time is it still ok to claim and manage new listings with a shared gmail address between the client and myself?

  18. I am really annoyed that Google is doing this. It’s harder to be honest if I have to worry about anyone seeing my review and attributing it to me, whether it’s good or bad.

  19. Nice Post Mike!

    But still i have one que. and i know you you will reply me and define well.

    My Question is : I am not using google plus profile, but i managing my Google local business Listing. so that scenario which things i have to do? any suggestion?

  20. Hello:
    I’m working as a consultant for a local safety training business. I’ve tweeked and rebuilt his business profile on Google + and on Google Places.

    I don’t understand why it states that his profile is 92% complete, and

    why, when I type his main keyword in to Google along with our city, he comes up second, but there’s no map showing to right like there is for the listing before him.

    Does it take some time for this to happen or did I miss a step. I thought that once I added all the information to Google Places and confirmed it with the pin # – I was set?

    Thanks for any help you can share.
    Janie

  21. I just HATE that google is forceing google+ on us. Why does a review need to be linked to social networking? I do not like social networking and the only reason facebook worked in the past was it had something for everyone. Google is just craming this crap down our throats. You will no longer get honest negative reviews about Doctors as people will be afraid to say somthing.
    This whole thing sucks and I destest anyone that trys to say my opinion is wrong.. like when you complain to I-Tunes people about the functionality of thier software they say something like you should like it that itunes rearanges your folder systems.
    But there I have a choice. Is their much of a choice when it comes to searching and reviewing local businesses on the internet? No – and so its google crappy way or the highway.

  22. Katie

    This started about two days ago and is affecting many, many listings. Whether it is a new “feature” (which I suspect) or a bug is yet to be determined. I have asked google but have not yet heard back.

  23. Hey guys

    when you click categories now in google local some listings which are newly verified only show on category and you cant click to see more, and the ones which show 2 categories doesnt drop down to show more categories.

    anyone else see this?

  24. I did quite a bit of ranking analysis on my forum and shared some results. From what I see ranking is not affected. The cats show on the listing if you search for them on maps so G is still seeing/reading them. All my clients that ranked all for all the cats that are now missing, still rank high.

    So I think she sees them in the dash, they are just not displaying.

  25. Can you tell me why my Place page is not showing please under the search term restaurants in Dun Laoghaire? I have done everything to optimize it yet hotels are even showing and I can’t see what I have to do

  26. Mike, it seems that Google is still publishing anonymous reviews. This is the current office for a local podiatrist Marco Vargas DPM The most recent anonymous review is only three months old. I didn’t think this was supposed to be possible. Thanks, Paul

  27. Paul

    There was a bug a few months ago that showed anonymous instead of names… I will check around and see what I can find out about that…

  28. Paul

    Here are the details

    There are a few reasons for “anonymous” reviews.

    1. there was a bug that affected a pretty small number and has been fixed but those affected reviews were not fixed
    2. users on legacy mobile clients (those that have never updated their Google Maps for Mobile or iOS Places app) still can leave anonymous reviews- there’s nothing Google can do to force users to upgrade to a new version

  29. Thanks very much for that information Mike! I wonder if it’s possible that some agencies know about the second issue and might use it to leave anonymous positive reviews for clients.

    I’m certainly not saying that this particular review is false, but before Google+ Local there were were false Google Places reviews being left under the old profile names. You could spot them by clicking into the profile, and you’d see a list of near simultaneous wonderful reviews for local businesses across the US. Now, the anonymous “A Google User” profile hides the reviewer’s activity. Plenty of incentive for a few legacy mobile users to not upgrade.

    Thanks again for these insights! Paul

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