Google+ Local – What Wasn’t in the Announcement Was More Important Than What Was

Last week’s announcement of Google+ Local was underwhelming. The review upgrade was impressive but the rest was tepid at best. Essentially the URL for your Place page has changed and the page now shows in the index although the “upgrade” seems to have broken more than it fixed. The announcement last week of Google+ Local was more important for what was left out than what was in it.

We know that Google has been gradually diassembling the Dashboard (pulling out AdWords Express and revamping Offer Coupons) and that its functionality has not been updated in eons (think analytics that only report out pack results NOT blended).

The current move of the business listing from Places to Google+ Local essentially broke the ability of the Dashboard to view the listing and the listings no longer indicates that the business has claimed them or that it is verified.

We also know for sure that the Google +Local page will merge into the G+ Business page in the near future. Clearly Google is focusing its energies on integrating as much as possible into the social backbone of G+.

Over the past year Google bought Zagat but they also bought local online services Punchd (a digital loyalty program) and Talkbin (an SMS based) CRM program. Both programs that have a strong potential appeal in the local market. In the recent rollout we see a glimmering of using the business listing as a local transaction engine with the inclusion of OpenTable.

When you add all of that up you come to the inescapable conclusion that the backend Dashboard is undergoing a massive rework and will likely become a central point for the SMB to interact with all of Google’s products with a special emphasis on Google Plus.

David Mihm has written about a vision of what the Dashboard could and should become. Bing has implemented a blueprint for an integrated marketing portal that might also provide a guide to Google. Whatever it is it will need to be more engaging, more valuable and more integral to local businesses ongoing marketing needs: better analytics, simple integration with G+, CRM, easy opt-in to Google’s paid products, the ability for the business to easily understand and interact with a full range of Google’s local offerings and the ability for Google to plug in more functionality down the road.

Today the Wall Street Journal today essentially confirmed this direction. They note that by early July Google will be rolling out such a product:

The project combines several products and services aimed at small businesses under a single banner. It is based on a mix of internally developed software and recently acquired technologies that the company hopes eventually will bring in billions of dollars a year in new revenue.

Central to the effort is Google+, the company’s social network, which it hopes consumers will use to interact with local businesses that now have special Web pages on the network. Those Google+ pages will draw traffic from the company’s Web-search engine. When shoppers visit these businesses, Google wants them to use their Internet-connected phones like a digital wallet, earning loyalty points and making payments at stores that sign up for Google’s new services.

When this occurs the real Google+ Local will be rolling out, not just a new location for a landing page, but a substantial improvement to the static and marginally functional Dashboard. Let’s hope that it is an integrated marketing solution that is elegant, provides significant on-going value and works properly right out of the gate (oh and is multiuser).

Please consider leaving a comment as your input will help me (& everyone else) better understand and learn about local.
Google+ Local - What Wasn't in the Announcement Was More Important Than What Was by

21 thoughts on “Google+ Local – What Wasn’t in the Announcement Was More Important Than What Was”

  1. I’ve noticed a big shakeup in the Places SERPS since these changes have taken place. I wonder if things are just all screwed up or if they will settle back to normal after a while. I agree with the article too…the dashboard issues are darn confusing.

  2. I am so confused by the backend dashboard now. If I click on modify this listing I get my old Places dashboard. But if I click on the Google Plus link provided I get a Google Plus business page. BUT, it looks like this G+ business page is not the same one that I have created so I likely have doubles now. ARG. Google.

  3. Mike: Interesting article and compilation of many analyses about what google is doing and how it relates to smb’s. I found the article in the WSJ and David’s analysis very interesting, especially as it relates to customer relations software.

    Of interest; of the smb’s we operate the one with the most well packaged information is one using Salesforce customer relations software including a connection to google adwords. The adwords connection is being ended and customers received notice about that months ago. There was no explanation included. I’m sure Google terminated the relationship.

    I’ve expressed some concerns earlier about these changes. On an immediate basis, as a multiple smb operator with various google reviews…I’m afraid competition will get us to start asking customers to join google+. I do not want to do their dirty work. Not in any capacity whatsoever.

    The large scale plans especially outlined in the WSJ article suggest a massive effort at consumers and smb’s alike.

    There is an overwhelming large amount of potential smb advertising out there in the annual multi billion dollar annual basis. It has significantly moved from local newspapers and hard copy YP to other sources.

    My fear about google is that it is an enormous monopoly on the consumer eyeball….It aggregates all of the old sources….and its far easier to use than newspapers or YP’s. Its also more informative. One trip on the internet essentially enables a potential customer to get a full scale essential brochure of a business, its menu’s, its specials of the days, see reviews, price compare with competitors, etc. It can all be done quickly from your desk or from your smartphone at a fraction of the time it used to take.

    Google has the unbelievable monopoly on all of this. Nothing else is close. Facebook has a different approach and possibly can break the monopoly on its own. Most everything else on the web right now is subject to search and essentially how it shows in google serps.

    For years independent seo reviews of traffic to their clients sites suggest that google domination of search is far greater than what comcast and other market companies report. Run ppc campaigns in Adwords and Bing/Yahoo. The difference in impressions and clicks is astonishing.

    For the most part over the last several years google customer service to problems with its Local Algo’s has been lousy, if not virtually nonexistent. Too often its crazy unstable algo’s present wrong information.

    Last year google improved its responses. there are still large holes. I’m independently doing some research.

    Look, you have said this before. Google leaves a lot undone, with regard to cleaning up problems as it surges ahead with new programs. Hopefully it will put a larger context on customer service and getting things right for smbs and institutions as it tries to be everything for all smbs and capture the bulk of all that smb advertising business as it migrates to the internet.

    I had a surprising and frightful experience with regard to seeing the consequences of what occurs when a single provider is able to monopolize a market. My view of it actually occurred as a result of a glitch in google reviews. In a way its both pathetic and scary. You need to look at this:

    I wrote a review on a Whole Foods Supermarket in my home town. Naturally the review was placed on that whole foods local places page months ago when written.

    When i opened my reviews to google + somehow the review migrated across the street and is now sitting on a comcast google+local page. The whole foods address is 2700 Wilson Blvd. The comcast service office is 2707 Wilson Boulevard. Its across the street. (It makes one think of an updated version of the old joke….”why did the chicken cross the road” to why did the google review cross the road.).

    Read the reviews on comcast. They are miserable. Lousy service in every way possible. Customers who find that based on where they live they have restricted access to alternatives.

    Comcast has had a somewhat monopolistic control of cable and high speed internet access in this area. Its service SUCKS. Read the reviews.

    Likewise google has a monopolistic control of internet visibility. Its service to smb’s has essentially sucked over time. It improved in late 2011 as you reported. It still often misses the mark.

    Look, if google is going to gather all entities and try and suck up all smb advertising dollars it has to improve customer service to smbs.

    It has to get the basic information correct. No ifs ands or buts. It has to be responsive and accountable in some way. Otherwise it has too much life and death control over too many smbs.

    With all that manpower, energy and dollars being spent to be the be all and do all for smb’s, somewhere and somehow they have to significantly improve their customer service and get basic information correct.

  4. For a while I’ve been saying things like “I’m still interested to see what becomes of the local pack because right now there is a major battle in many cities where thousands of companies would like to be in that 7 pack, but there’s no guarantee they ever will be.

    “Centroid” issues used to be one of the biggest obstacles, but there are any number of reasons a given company will never get in that 7 pack. Not that Google owes anyone/any business anything, but it always seemed like they might wind up giving an overwhelming amount of business to just a handful of companies while the majority are destroyed. These companies could optimize and claim listings, get citations, etc. all day long and never get in that local pack and that could be a death sentence these days.

    What I’ve often thought might happen was we’d see some sort of rotation of listings. Like if I was to search for a Myrtle Beach, SC hairdresser and then search again 5 seconds later, the local pack would be different. This seems unfair to the top ranking local listings who’ve held those positions for extended periods of time, but I’ve struggled to see another way to be fair and show all relevant results?

    …. But now I’m beginning to see how all businesses MAY stand a chance of getting in that local pack – mobile. With mobile, your location is more precise. For years Google thought the computers in our office in VT were actually in MA (due to our IP). Bing still thinks so – not sure why.

    Still, then you have to wonder – how much emphasis is put on proximity to mobile user’s physical location. If I’m looking for a restaurant, there’s a reasonable chance I’m looking for one as close as possible. But what if I’m looking for a dentist? Reviews are probably more of a factor, right?

    Perhaps Google has people trying to account for this by having humans actually consider each individual industry.

  5. Marie, I don’t think you’re creating duplicates. It’s only a matter of time before the Plus backend replaces the Places for Business backend, both of which seem to be relying at some level on the Mapmaker backbone data. Based on the WSJ article, I’d think possibly July…

  6. One issue I have for several clients who were early adopters of a Google+ Business Page, is the ability to merge it with their new Google+ Local Page.

    If the time it takes to offer a solution to merge Google+ Business Pages with the new Google+ Local Pages is anything close to the time it’s taking (it’s not available yet) to merge duplicate Google+ Profiles… we’re in for a long wait; it’s been months, and months, and months, and still no merge solution.

  7. thank you for the excellent information! just signed up for Talkbin, is there a way to add a link to my Google+Local Page? Thanks so much

  8. Thanks for the great information about all of the Google+Local changes and thanks for keeping me informed. I agree with @MarieHaynes, it looks like I have several duplicate pages for my business, i have some Google Maps/ Google Places Pages and when I select one, it is different then the one Google selected for Google+Local. it seems like there should be a way to obtain just one page for your business from Google. keep up the great work on this great blog!!

  9. A word on pictures: I have resized many pictures to the “250×250” that Google+ is asking for, and it will NOT allow me to upload ANY profile pictures. I am resizing well past that, trying all kinds of sizes, the “profile picture” app doesn’t seem to work at all. Wonderful.

  10. The worst part of this merger is now people who review you HAVE to have a G+ account. If you don’t have one and you try to leave a review you are forced to create one. Not everyone who uses my services will have a G+ account nor will even want one. And most certainly will not want to sign up for one for the sole purpose of leaving a review.

    1. @Chris
      From a customer friction point of view adding a G+ account is actually less work than the bizarre requirement in the Places review environment of obtaining a “nickname”. That feature, created originally under the defunct hotpot, was hard to find, redirected the user away from the review page and then after creating the nickname they had to find their way back to review. So compared to that the path to create a G+ account is smooth and well integrated. Since Google is nagging ALL users in all their products to get G+ accounts more and more users will have them over time. So for example YouTube goes + every person that uploads will need a G+ account making it easier for them to leave a review.

  11. Mike
    Thanks for peeking into the future. I’d be very interested to learn how digital loyalty and CRM will fit into this puzzle. I’m no Socrates but I do have more questions than answers. The 125 million businesses you mentioned; does Google think they can put them in a funnel and monetize them? If so you would think they would pour more resources into this area. A much larger picture of Google shows not a bumbling behemoth with bugs and glitches at every turn. Google is apparently a force behind driverless cars, no room for bugs in that one. Space travel and mining in space are on Google’s radar. Not much room for a null edit there. Kinda makes the concept of bringing some order to business listings seem like childs play.

  12. @Chris A

    Well if one didn’t have more questions than answers you would be foolish. While I am not able to say what Google thinks, I do believe that we can see Google search-local- social strategy coming together.

    I agree that they certainly they can release good software when they and here’s hoping they do so with the face they present to the SMB. And that it is useful and engaging to them.

  13. I don’t think there’s a problem with requiring a Google+ account. Eventually, everyone will have one, as all Google properties are moving to require it.

    The real problem is that I can’t leave my old reviews published under my Places nickname. I had to hide the 100+ local reviews I had written, because I don’t have time to go through and re-read them to see if I want them associated with my Google+ profile. As more users choose to hide their old reviews, it’s going to be a like a long press of the reset button for businesses that had accrued positive reviews.

  14. Well you probably knew that I would chime in and offer my hopes and wishes that Google will somehow provide franchises with some answers here. 5-8% of the SMB market is nothing to sneeze at. But ‘zees have special needs and a parent-child management hierarchy is required. Will they ignore it yet again – trying to sell this to each ‘zee individually? Or will they get smart and offer a solution to the franchisor with appropriate dashboard capabilities?

  15. @Scott
    There seems to be inklings of that coming but when is not at all clear. I am with you that there needs to be clear and easy way to manage across multiple locations for both data and content.

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