What Should Your Business Listing Categories Be in MapMaker

A client asked me to advise him on the best way to handle the categories in the MapMaker listing for his business. I felt that the question deserved a thorough and comprehensive answer so once again I turned to Dan Austin, MapMaker contributor and expert, with these questions:

What is the best practice for adding categories in MapMaker? How many is too many? What are the limits? What are the Gotchas?

Dan’s response:

There are no real best practices, other than avoiding keyword spam.

There’s a few problems with categories in MM, namely:

*Categories in MM don’t match the categories in Places, creating data issues.

*Categories are not comprehensive. There’s quite a few “missing” categories. There’s no transparent process for dealing with category changes, additions, or deletions.

*The Place page utilizes the Establishment/Point of Interest category for all new POIs and for non-standard categories that Map Maker doesn’t recognize.

Here are my best practices:

*I usually limit it to five, since that’s all that’s present in the Dashboard. The only exception is Establishment/Point of Interest, which is an ‘invisible’ category on the Place page. If you utilize that as your Primary category on MM, you can have five additional categories, which should show up on the Dashboard. If it’s already present on MM as a Primary category, then you can either leave it or convert it to a different Primary category. I usually convert it to get the Payment options to appear and be editable in MM. (Since payment options are not displayed on Google+, this is almost a non-issue.)

*If I have more than five, I structure the non-standard categories last, and the two categories that I want to best describe the business first, since only two categories will be visible on the Place page. The rest will be invisible, but can still be used for search purposes. Non-standard categories are usually invisible, regardless.

*The Primary category in MM should always be what the business basically is. The category that follows should help best describe also what the business is. Example: A gas station. I would use: Gas Station, Convenience Store. The rest should just be considered for search purposes (like Service Station, ATM, Car Wash, Propane Supplier, Beer Store, Wine Store). I go for generic search purposes rather specific terms, which is why I stick to the main categories. I try to think like someone looking for a place. If they can’t think of the name, what’s the first thing they think of? That’s the Primary category. What’s the second thing they think of? That’s the secondary category.

*Primary categories are not recognized by either the Dashboard or the Place page. The categories can get jumbled up, so the order you see on Dashboard, MM and the Place page can be different. The Place page is king, so if you want two categories to appear on the Place page, and you don’t see those two categories on the Place page, then you’ll need to edit the Place page directly using community edits, and then go back into MM (where the Place page is usually pending in your edits) to add the categories you just deleted back in. You’ll need approval for both set of edits for this to work.


So, in summary:

*Five categories. Six if you’re using E/POI as your primary category, which can be ignored, since E/POI is invisible.

*Standard categories only. Non-standard categories should be added only if there’s no better category. Non-standard categories can be added in addition to the five category rule, but should be added last. Non-standard categories are almost always invisible on the Place page.

*Only two categories are visible on the Place page. Use the best two standard categories to describe the business. Primary categories are not recognized on the Place page or Dashboard.

*Place page categories don’t match MM categories. Use Place page standard categories whenever possible to avoid data issues.

*The Place page is king. It may be necessary to edit the categories directly on the Place page, and finish up in MM.

Sorry if this sounds complicated, but it really is.

An issue to take up with Google:

Fix the dang categories! Categories should be consistent across all the products. There should be a comprehensive set of categories (presently they’re not). Primary category should be Primary on all the UIs, and Primary should be ‘locked’ to prevent non-standard categories from being added. So if you go on the Dashboard, the first box should have some sort of dropdown field that allows you to pick a Primary category, and nothing else. The rest should have a dropdown box and be free form, like MM.

The Sound of Trouble Knocking – A Call from Google Places India

When Google wants to verify information about a business and when unable to verify it in a fully automated way, they have someone call that business. The calls can result in suspensions and removals from the index (“We do not support this location”).

The call may be precipitated by a change you made to the listing that could not be automatically verified, it could be precipitated by someone marking you as closed, Google could just be looking for service area businesses that has not properly hidden their address or businesses using fake locations and call forwarding.

Regardless the someone making the call for Google is from India and the calls are always very weird. The Indians don’t always understand what is said and for sure, don’t understand the pace of our lives. The calls are somewhat jarring and out of context, the caller only identifies themselves as from Google if asked directly and they are inevitably viewed with suspicion by the local business.

In this particular case, Precision Door Memphis, is a totally legit business with a long time track record at a location where they accept client visits. Google called from 650-253-2000 and shows up as GOOGLE INC in the caller id but the receptionist did not have that information available to her at the time of the call.

Unfortunately for the business, Google sounded much too much like the daily spam local SEO marketing calls and the receptionist hung up on the first caller. The listing disappeared that night and showed the now infamous “We do not support this location” message. To Google’s credit they called back again to be sure and again, sounding like spammers, the receptionist hung up on them.

Here are the actual recordings of the calls.

The first call:

And four days later another call:

Your thoughts? Have you gotten these calls? How did your organization respond? What should Google do differently when human verifying the calls?

A note of caution. On each recording the initial sound (shown as two, wide vertical segments) of the ringing is very loud and the subsequent conversations are quite soft. So block your ears for the beginning and crank it up after that section to hear the details

A Step By Step To Recover Your “We Currently Do Not Support This” Location in MapMaker

Pending Google’s recovering listings that had been erroneously removed from the Local index, Google advised businesses that they could try to recover the listing themselves via MapMaker.

Jeff Maltz asked the question as to the specifics of how this was to done. I thought the question deserved a thorough and technical answer so that others in the same place could enter MapMaker partially armed. Not being fully versed in the arcane world of MapMaker, I asked Dan Austin, a long time MapMaker user and expert to explain the process in detail.

Jeff’s question:

I’m curious if anyone out there has actually been successful at getting a listing that was removed from Places, but still showing up on Maps, back on Places per Google’s note

“If you’re confident that your business fits within our guidelines, then search for your business at mapmaker.google.com and see if it has been marked as removed. If you’re able to find it, attempt to undo the removal and reinstate your listing on Maps. It may take a couple of days for your reinstatement to be processed.”

How do you undo a removal from Places? What are the exact steps i should take here? My listing is still showing up in Maps just not Places.

Thanks for your help in advance!


Dan Austin’s answer:

The trouble is in finding it [a record that has been removed from the Places index] in MM. Most business owners never bothered to save their Place page URL, but if you can recover that, about 50% of the time you can recover the original MapMaker URL. The other half of the problem is some POIs are not recoverable from MM, no matter what you do. That is the “widespread technical” issue that Google is talking about.

I’m also confused by his terminology. Visible on Maps but not Places? I assume he mean Map Maker:

1. Go to the Place page. If it shows the message We don’t support this location, that isn’t an issue.
2. Recover the CID number from the Place page, which should look like this:
http://maps.google.com/maps/place?cid=705997672099256085 (The Place page is visible if you click on Edit business details or Edit details on the Google+ Page. It also recoverable by clicking on the Map pin to the right of listing.)
3. Plug the CID number (which is only a number—no letters: 705997672099256085) into this formula:
…so it reads:
4. Cut/paste the URL into the address bar of your browser. Open that location.
5. If it comes up with an error message, then the POI is most likely irretrievably lost. Go to step 16.
6. If it shows as Removed or Closed in details view, click on Edit.
7. If it doesn’t show as Removed or Closed, open it for editing to check the status.
8. If there are checkboxes for Remove or Closed, uncheck them.
9. If there are no checkboxes, then look for any recent edits that say Place removed or Place closed in history. Undo that edit, choose reason as Correcting poor data. If there are no recent edits with that status, then it’s likely unrecoverable. You can try to undo the most recent edits that have no status message, but this may or may not work, since you don’t know what you’re undoing.
10. If you’re able to uncheck the boxes or undo the edit, save the edit. Any error messages means it’s likely unrecoverable.
11. Copy/paste the MM URL from your pending edits, and go this forum:
12. As the title, post the location (NY, NY)
13. Explain what you’re trying to do.
14. Wait for approval from either Google Map Maker Reviewers (GR) or an Regional Expert Reviewer (RER). Post again if you don’t get a satisfactory response within 48 hours.
15. Place page should reappear within 24 hours (often instantly). If it doesn’t appear, then there’s other issues that can’t be resolved in MM, and you’ll need to use Places support.

16. Search for the POI in MM (http://www.google.com/mapmaker), using the search box. Is it a dupe that you’re editing, rather than the original?
Here’s how to check if it’s a dupe, or if it’s the original:
16a. Open the POI in a separate tab. Right click on URL, open in separate tab.
16b. Edit. Click history. Does the history match with the changes you’ve made? Does it have a history? If no on either question, then it’s likely a dupe, and your original Place page is unrecoverable.
16c. To check further, right click, Find cid. Does the CID match the original Place page URL? If you don’t have the original Place page URL, plug the copy/pasted CID number (example: 705997672099256085) into the following URL formula: http://maps.google.com/maps/place?cid=
so it reads http://maps.google.com/maps/place?cid=705997672099256085
16d. Open this URL. If it’s a We do not support this location or a page that doesn’t match your original listing, then it’s not your claimed listing.

Best practices for managing Place pages.

Record the following URLs:
1. Google+
2. Place
3. Map Maker

Example for Good Food Store:
1. Google+: https://plus.google.com/107937670594974239538/
2. Places: https://maps.google.com/maps/place?cid=705997672099256085
3. MM: http://www.google.com/mapmaker?gw=39&fid=0x535dcddf42144869:0x84ed04d79b4b8549

If you have that info, then almost any POI is recoverable and editable, no matter what it’s status.

Google’s Worst Customer Service EVER – An SMB Tale of Woe

Dan Wakefield runs YardRents.com, an innovative Portland based tool rental firm that directly delivers yard tools to homeowners for their use. His firm, being a service business with his address appropriately hidden on Google Places, suffered the “We Do Currently Do  Not Support This Location” problem that inappropriately removed businesses for the second time in a month (yes Google suffered the exact same problem last month but not as badly).

His tale captures the issues that an SMB faces when Google loses their listing and accurately reflects Google’s current (inadequate) response to the recurring problem. He unfortunately learned the hard way that diversification of review and marketing resources is necessary in a Google world. Read what he has to say:

We had our places profile for several years then we got the “We Currently Do Not Support This Location” at the same time everyone else did.

Unfortunately, whatever they did to fix the problem had the opposite affect for us.  We have been in a state of “We Currently Do Not Support This Location” for almost 3 weeks.  When we look at our places dashboard, we see “Being reviewed – Pending” even though we can still edit information.

Fortunately, Google Places support has been corresponding with us and says that it is a Google technical glitch that’s causing the problem and it is not a result of anything we have done.  They won’t tell us when, if ever, this bug will be fixed.  We had 56 (5 star) reviews on this profile.  It took us nearly 3 years to accumulate those reviews and now they are gone.

The support people created a second profile that is incomplete and has no reviews associated with it.  I question the usefulness of a duplicate profile for the same location, but it was their doing, not ours. They have confirmed that the reviews will never re-associate with the new profile, but maybe the old one will come online someday when they fix the bug.  As far I am concerned, this is a data integrity problem.  It’s funny, if Google were to lose customer data for a few free Gmail accounts then we would hear about it on national news, but lose a few Small Business Google Places profiles and nobody cares (except the business owners).

If there is a lesson to be learned here then it’s “don’t put all your eggs in one basket.”  Over the years we have sent every customer to our Google Places profile to write a review and many of them did. Why wouldn’t we?  We trusted Google to do no evil.  With the blink of an eye all those precious reviews have been lost.  We embraced Google 100% and have been bitten because of it.

Going forward, we are sending all customers to our Facebook page to “Like” us and share their experience.  Additionally, we intend to fully embrace Apple maps (when they come out), Yelp, Yahoo Local, Bing etc… Spread things around a little.  The online equivalent of market diversification.  Rest assured, based on this nightmare experience with Google, we will likely not be sending customers to participate in Google Places or Google+ review activity. Funny thing, a fair percentage of our customers actually took the time to create a Google account so they could write the reviews.  Yes, they where that happy with our service.

And Dan is probably right. Creating a second listing is likely NOT a good solution to his problems. Your thoughts?

Why Google’s New Policy on Professional Practices & Practitioners Makes Sense

Apparently Google+ Local (aka Places) has finally established a firm policy on how to handle Medical/Legal Practice and Practitioner listings that now requires that both the practice and the practitioners be listed. Linda Buquet has taken a Sky is Falling attitude to the change:

Big departure from what we are used to and this could make it really difficult to rank for Medical, Dental and Legal practices with multiple practitioners.

If in fact there is a new policy, I would suggest that actually having a policy in this regard is a positive step in the right direction. In the past some practices wanted to show just the practice (and they suffered from dupes) and some practices wanted to show the practice and practitioners (and they suffered mergings). It was not ideal for either approach and it involved a lot whack a mole for one and a lot of frustration for the other.

As I understand the new Google+ local pages, there will be a great deal more trust placed on the data provided by the verified owners of the listing. Thus they are less likely to be merged or changed. If that is the case, then the change (not really change rather a firming up) of the policy in regards to professional practices makes sense.

If there is only one way to do it and that way involves having practice and practitioner listings AND they do not merge, then for once we have a concrete target that both we and Google can strive for. So while it is a change, it really should make life easier IF in fact Google 1)puts in place the technology to support the practice & practitioner listings in the index without merging and 2)keeps that same policy firm going forward.

As Linda noted, tagging departed practitioners with a ““This Place is permanently closed”” tag is wildly inappropriate messaging. But other than that gotcha which Google should be able to solve, I am hopeful that there will be only one way to handle practice and practitioner listings and that way will actually work.

The G+ Merge Has Started: Google Now Processing Manual Merge Requests

Google is now processing manual Merge/Verification requests that were made to expedite the integration of the Google+ Local and the Googe+ Business pages. I assume that the bulk of merges have now begun.

I and several others received this email in the last few minutes (just before 3:00 pm EST):


Congratulations your Google+ page is verified and upgraded! Remember to keep the information on your page up-to-date by editing in your Google+ account. Please note that after you verify, changes you make to your page may be subject to review before being published. Learn more at http://support.google.com/business/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=2566475&p=edits_policy

Since you are one of the first users to be verified, we’d love to get some feedback on your experience so far, this will greatly help us improve the product. Please take a few minutes to take our survey.

If you have any other question regarding your verified local Google+ page, check out our help center articles at http://support.google.com/plus/bin/topic.py?hl=en&topic=2566084&parent=1710599&ctx=topic

The Google Team

As Greg Magnusson of Leo’s Pet Care noted, only one of the three links is currently live. I particularly was curious to understand what was meant by this sentence and link; Please note that after you verify, changes you make to your page may be subject to review before being published. Learn more at http://support.google.com/business/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=2566475&p=edits_policy. Unfortunately the link is not yet live.

The other problem is that the form makes no indication which listing is being merged. If you have more than one on an email address it can be confusing.

Update: the links are now live.

Policy for edits to local Google+ pages
Any content that you have on your local Google+ page should follow the Google+ content policy. Information about your business should also follow the quality guidelines for listings.

All new listings or changes to your existing listing are subject to review. Please wait a few days for your changes to appear on your local Google+ page. Having problems editing? Let us know.

This page about service area businesses appears to be new:

Service area businesses
If you’re a service area business and have hidden your address in Google Places for Business, your address is already hidden on the local Google+ page for your business as well. Once we roll out the ability to verify your upgraded local Google+ page, doing so will respect that selection to hide your address.

The Over Promise, Under Delivery Of Google’s G+ Signup Nagging & What it Means

Google is on a mission. If you have been in Siberia studying methane emissions from tundra ponds, you might not have noticed. Otherwise their incredibly aggressive nagging to get you to get a G+ account may have seemed like an ever present specter in your daily Google jaunt.

This nag, brought to my attention by Mike Ramsey, seemed particularly lame. Here’s the pitch with the benefits as to why you should join.

(Click to view larger)

The delivery?
Continue reading The Over Promise, Under Delivery Of Google’s G+ Signup Nagging & What it Means

Google’s Worst Customer Service Response EVER

Several week ago a large number of mostly service area listings started receiving the dreaded “We currently do not support the location” message. At the time Google noted that “your listing may have been dropped due to a technical issue that we cannot yet resolve. We hope to have a resolution soon for this issue, at which point we will be in touch with next steps to help you return your business to Google Maps“.

Last week Michael Borgelt sent me a copy of this email that Google had started sending to those inappropriately affected by the “We do not support” message on their listing (bold mine) :


Thanks for your patience in waiting for an update on your Google Maps listing. If you’re still receiving the “We currently do not support the location” error message, then your listing was affected by a technical issue and there are a couple of things you can do to help restore it to Google Maps.

First, review our quality guidelines. If your location doesn’t meet these guidelines, it may have been removed from Maps. Especially check out this article about service-area businesses, and hiding your address in case your business is at a residential location:http://support.google.com/places/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=177103

If you’re confident that your business fits within our guidelines, then search for your business at mapmaker.google.com and see if it has been marked as removed. If you’re able to find it, attempt to undo the removal and reinstate your listing on Maps. It may take a couple of days for your reinstatement to be processed.

If you’re unable to reinstate your page this way, then please remove your listing from your Google Places dashboard by clicking “Delete” then “Remove my listing from my Google Places account,” then recreate the listing. You will need to undergo PIN verification again if that was your original verification process, but doing so may cause your listing to surface cleanly on Maps once you input your new PIN.

Thanks for your patience and understanding with this process, and we hope to continue to improve your experience in Google Local and on Google Maps.

The Google Local Team

This response qualifies as not just the worst customer service response ever from Google, but perhaps the worst customer service response ever. It is as if the printed Yellow Pages didn’t print your listing due to their error and then told you that you needed to go down to their office and enter it yourself on their arcane typesetting machine. Hello?

Some notes: Continue reading Google’s Worst Customer Service Response EVER

Google for business Forum Update: Photos Uploaded in Dashboard May Take 1 Month To Appear

Jade, in her first ever solo video, makes it short and sweet. The new that you need to be aware of is that photos that you upload and were uploaded via the dashboard will experience interminable delays.

Summary if you don’t want to watch:

1-All links to your old Places listing links will now redirect correctly to the new Google+ local page. (A corollary is that you can no longer see your old Places page. If anyone has figured out a way to do so, let me know.)

2-Photo uploads have been (seriously) delayed. If you uploaded photos within the past week it may take as much as another month for photos uploaded in the last week to show up. (the implication? That a new dashboard may occur in that timeframe?)

3- The 404 errors to from the Google+ local page to external links are still occasionally happening when links are clicked. This problem should be resolved soon.

4- There are two types of local pages in G+; the Google+ local page that you update from the dashboard and the Google+. (If you are still confused by this,well…)

5-Google+ local tip of the week: How to remove an inappropriate photo. Click on the photo and on bottom left select options and then report.

6- Forum tip: subscribe to a specific forum thread by clicking on envelope below the gear in the upper right of the forum thread and you will receive emails any time someone comments on the thread.