Google Local: Train Wreck at the Junction

Google Local is a veritable train wreck for business listing management. The Dashboard is in a state of non functioning disrepair, the + Page path to listing management is full of bugs. The current business types supported by the feature set in the +Page environment is extremely limited. The rules for business listings in MapMaker differ from the rules for Places/+Local/Pages and bots there often run amok with listing data. Factor in the technical difficulties of legitimate listings going into “We currently do not support this location” purgatory and being lost for months on end AND the bevy of old issues like merges and duplicates and the wreck starts to take on epic proportions.

The problems are compounded by Google’s unclear complete lack of  guidance as to whether the Dashboard or the social local management environment is the future of their local interface. This adds a level of uncertainty for businesses small and large as to how to proceed with effective listing management. Should a business commit to the new G+ Page local environment? Is this Dashboard being phased out or is it just undergoing a renovation? There are “indications” that both products will exist going forward. Yet Google, rather than laying out a road map so businesses can plan in an intelligent manner, plays 3 card monte with press statements and or makes public utterances that lack clarity.

Has Google Local fallen prey to a failure of management or management turnover?
Is Local under funded?
Is it under focused?
Is it too complicated?
Is the project so big (and incredible) that its gestation period is longer than that of an elephant?
Did the Local team get side tracked by the forced march to social?
Has the strategy of release early and iterate often failed because Google local has forgotten the iterate part?
Are we just seeing a failure of execution?

Who knows. Google is not saying. The problem is that businesses need to plan, they need to keep moving forward on their marketing and unfortunately, for many, Google Local is a key component of that plan.

Here is how I see the situation and my recommendations for the next 60 days as to how a business should proceed given the many, many vagaries of the current situation and why I am suggesting that for most business the best tactic for now is to just sit tight in the old Dashboard and wait:


Google+ Page Management – The fact that Google has yet to figure out what to call these pages is but a foreshadowing of bigger issues. When the product was released in August, it seemed to indicate Google’s new direction. There was speculation (me included) that thought that +Page multi user management interface was the replacement for the Dashboard and was Google’s path forward.

The caveats soon piled on. Bugs in the merge process became all too apparent but even more significant was Google’s positioning of the limited functionality of the product. Google noted at the time that a full fledged version was in the works that would allow for automatic transition from the Dashboard and that features needed for more business types would be added. Service area businesses that attempted the transition soon found the problems and Google publicly recommended that they NOT transition.  When pressed Google suggested that multi location businesses wait and not transition. Brands with multiple locations are not well supported.

The product has been and is only suitable for single location bricks and mortar locations that need a social presence. At a recent Local University*, Google positioned the product as ideal for newly created businesses. That is a very limited subset of business reality.

The Places for Business Dashboard: This product currently has even more quirks than the +Page transition. Data changes take forever to reach the listing, features like video upload are broken, the analytics dashboard is practically useless and many fields that are available for input never show data in the listing. The list goes on.

Yet the product sports a renewed Offers interface, an upgraded Adwords Express AND a recently rebuilt bulk upload interface. The dashboard is account based rather than individual based. Certainly that is a superior solution for a multi-location brand yet it is steadfastly single user. It is the ultimate contradiction and any attempt at reading the tea leaves as to its future gives one a serious case of heartburn. But given the fact that parts of the product HAVE been upgraded its hard to conclude that it is in fact going away.

What Google Should do NOW: Communicate a plan. Nothing disrupts businesses like uncertainty. Show us the road map! Put businesses big and small in a position where, while they might not know when you are doing something, they know what you are doing.

My conclusion: I thought at the time of the +Page integration rollout that the dashboard would be integrated into the +Page management environment. I no longer have that confidence and really don’t know how the two disparate products will integrate. A new dashboard with increased functionality is likely on its way and hopefully better social management tools as well. What we don’t know is how the two feature sets will relate to each other and exactly how they should be managed, whether all features will be in a single interface or whether Google will segment functionality in some way.

If you have already made the move to G+ Page for Local on one or more of your listings, then don’t sweat it. However, I would recommend not moving more of your locations over at this time.

Google is unlikely to take my suggestion to map out a the near future for us. In the meantime, since we are only seeing a [broken] corner of the whole picture, it is conceivable to me that a wrong step now might require a business to back up and execute a complete redo down the road if you commit too early. Thus my recommendation to stay in the Places for Business dashboard for now. I also recommend that you periodically check into your dashboard to see if the listing has suffered any penalities, pending reviews or suspensions. Other than that I would suggest changing your listing as little as possible.

*In the spirit of full disclosure, Local University of which I am a participant and owner, receives sponsorship monies from Google.

Please consider leaving a comment as your input will help me (& everyone else) better understand and learn about local.
Google Local: Train Wreck at the Junction by

73 thoughts on “Google Local: Train Wreck at the Junction”

  1. Mike, you couldn’t be more right. The vague hints towards what is happening has definitely plagued this product. There is nothing straightforward and definitely minimal support (at best). With something like paid search, everything gets laid out and explained because Google needs a sustainable revenue stream. Since Local is a “free” product, it really doesn’t seem like there is enough focus on improving the issues. I’m sure Google understands how important the local pages are to small businesses, but I can’t help wonder whether they ignore the situation in an attempt to force them into AdWords Advertising.

    It’s a tough situation for too many businesses out there… especially when so many quality leads/new customers come from local.

  2. Mike you really boiled it down well and summed it up in a way I don’t think anyone else could. You know me, it would have taken me 10 pages to write that.

    I’m constantly amazed that the train wreck is really as bad as I think it is. I sometimes wonder if my perspective is skewed to the negative, because due to helping in the Google forum, I see so many of the problems and disgruntled users. It’s just so hard to fathom a company as big as Google could have a product this crippled and broken.

    I wonder all the same things you do. And as closely as you and I both work with Google every day, I still can’t put my finger on what’s wrong or answer the questions you asked. Underfunded? Forgotten step child? No one really in charge any more? Focus shifted to +? Just too complicated, crippled and tied up in knots at this point to fix?

    I try very hard to be positive and am by nature an optimist. Every now and then I see a little glimmer of light and try to latch onto it. But then it goes away. It’s been really gray for awhile now – like local has totally been put on the back burner. Things just seem stalled and I agree, Google needs to step up with some communication to let us all know there’s light at the end of the tunnel, there is a plan and things are going to get better.

    Since Jade will be reading this I feel the need to say something at this point. Due to her position she’s sort of seen as the ‘face’ of local. Jade I know how hard you work to try to help where you can, so none of this is a reflection on you. You aren’t the head of engineering or support or on the review spam team or in charge of policy making. I know many times your hands are tied and assume you may feel as frustrated and impotent as we do.

    Weird to say this as much as I work directly with folks at Google every day, but I don’t even know who’s running the ship currently. Do you Mike? Who’s ultimate responsibility is local now? I think it would be wise for someone very high up at this point to step in and let us know there IS a plan and local IS a priority and things ARE going to improve!

  3. I’ve been saying for years (via various blog comments and mini-rants on Twitter) that whoever’s been managing Places all these years should be fired. Yes, it’s free to use and sign up to, and – when it works – it can be absolutely great for businesses, but there have been so many bugs/headaches for small businesses that it’s unforgivable – unforgivable for a company the size of Google, who aren’t exactly short on money/resources in order to fix the bugs and provide more support (whether it be more phone support, documentation, etc.) to help people out.

    Sorry, another rant, haha!

  4. Ok so its FREE … Uhhh well when their FREE product dominates nearly 90% of the screen above the fold for most search terms that have a GEO modifier in them – thats a huge responsibility to get your act together and get things right.

    This 1/2 baked pile of excriment they are currently trying to pass off on the entire world – as a viable working product is shameful.

    Look Apple maps was DOA – and they canned that team leader likkity split. Googles Local + abomination is worse – impacts way more people / business and commerce around the world. Who ever is responsible for this should be run out on a rail – never to work in search or social again.

  5. You hit the nail on the head, Mike. It’s incredibly frustrating to sit on my hands with no idea what the future might hold. I’ve been trying to drive traffic to Foursquare with a few profiles I maintain, but since obviously Google controls search, there’s only so much I can do.

    I hope the lull in their participation drives competition in the local marketplace. Local businesses can’t rely on Google Local / +Local.

  6. Thanks for writing this Mike – hopefully someone somewhere in Google will be reading and ACTING on this! Maybe they are hoping it will encourage more PPC usage, but I simply cannot understand why this whole transition needs to be so complex!

    Is it laziness, lack of funding, confusion themselves…or just being too big to care? Who knows. But considering the must be seeing comments like this almost every day from LOTS of businesses owners it’s odd that one of the Google heads doesn’t, as you say, at least give us some clue about what’s coming or how it’s all going to be ironed out!

    Well, I guess we just keep on waiting and wondering what will happen when Facebook search kicks in!

  7. You capture the frustration I’ve been experiencing for months. Does Google not realize what a big responsibility they have to make sure that businesses can be found? Businesses need their information in the local section.

    It puts me in a really bad position with clients when things aren’t resolved for months on end and no one from Google tells you what to do. Worse, when they do give us information, it doesn’t work and we look like we don’t know what we’re doing. I don’t understand why they would role out changes to the program without a clear set of guidelines to make sure businesses aren’t stuck in the “We currently do not support this location” purgatory you mention.

  8. Thanks for writing the article that I can show to clients as an independent 3rd party voice to back up my advice that they “sit tight” with regards to Google Local.

    Does this trainwreck create any sort of opportunity for Google’s competitors? I’m guessing if there were more competition (i.e. Bing) that Google would be more motivated to fix and improve.

  9. Mike: Its somewhat stunning that in the midst of these many things that don’t work, one thing does work: Adwords Express.

    The money product works. Everything else has bugs and quirks, problems, non responsiveness, etc. But the money product works.

    I think that points to where the resources are going…and where they aren’t going.

    BTW: Adwords Express is a crappy product. It’s deficient to Adwords wherein you can knowledgeably mix exact match and broad match phrases to attempt to get a feel for what works and what doesn’t. With adwords you get immense informational value. With adwords you can adjust the account over time to get a best value mix.

    Its quite telling. Google has this local product that affects up to 100′s of millions of businesses around the world, all their customers, and according to the latest information that slipped out of the black information hole that is Google, up to 30% of all searches, and yet for the past 6 years it is an endless series of bugs and problems and issues that don’t work.

    Meanwhile, a second rate, simplistic, admittedly small little product that incrementally makes them money, and has some features connected to the Local Dashboard works fine.

    30% of all there searches might be local. Many of those searches generate clicks on ads, that are generating billions of dollars.

    Yet for the past 6 years, they can’t seem to get any part of this to work well on a consistent basis.

    But adwords express works.

    I think that says it all about where the priorities are…..and to hell with the quality of search results and a good user experience.

    Mike: This thread or any other follow up on this topic would be a wonderful place for a major Googler to respond. I sort of doubt one will show up, though.

  10. What he said:) I couldn’t have said it better.

    As others have mentioned, clearly Google is concentrating on where it makes money and that is their AdWords program. I guess I don’t blame them. It is, after all, the only way they really make money. But then either can Places/Google+ local all together or get it together. Or here’s an idea…if Google needs to get paid to make it a priority, charge businesses to participate on the local scene. Charge a business $10/month or $100/year or whatever to have access to a dashboard that works and updates flawlessly.

    By the way…you mentioned in your closing remarks to check your listings to make sure they aren’t under penalty, review, etc. I have a client who’s listing suddenly is under review. One minute his listing is active and ranking well and overnight he’s under review and we can’t get him out of it. Any suggestions on what we can do? We’re pinging it daily but to no avail. He’s under a constant state of “pending review.”

    Travis Van Slooten

  11. Travis
    If a client is “pending review” the first question to ask is am I in compliance with written and unwritten rules.

    The second to do is remove any potential violation and resubmit it.

    The third thing to do is to leave it. Resubmitting it will put you at the back of the queue and the wait will start anew.

    Reviews can take a number of weeks and since I can’t see the listing any additional suggestions would be without enough information.

  12. Travis, there seem to be a lot more pending review problems just in the past 2 weeks or so. Lots of consultants at the G forum and my forum are reporting LOTS of listings suddenly going pending. (Search my forum for ‘pending’ and you’ll see lots of reports, even by good consultants like Colan who I assume are pretty careful about avoiding known violations.)

    I have not gotten enough evidence to form a firm conclusion, but I’m thinking maybe the dial got turned too high on some unwritten rule or possibly something buggy? Not sure yet.

  13. Mike, I’ve been telling clients for over a year that Google Local is like the Wild West, however your assessment of it as a Train Wreck is dead on. Google, please help us, to help you, to help your local searchers. This is getting more and more weird by the month… and it really needn’t be this complex.

  14. Despite having had many problems in the past, all the places I currently manage-including my husband’s new business, are behaving perfectly. Granted it’s only 12 of them, but 3 are recently claimed and all went according to plan, no pending review or anything. I hope publicly announcing that doesn’t doom them.

    That said, having dealt with past issues and spending time in the forum makes me paranoid to the point of checking every listing every morning. I’d like to think someday that level of paranoia won’t be necessary.

  15. @Carl B you said:

    “Michael what do you think of David’s post recently? http://www.davidmihm.com/blog/google/plus-page-verification/ we are trying the move to +page world on a few clients to see if it helps us any as usual who knows what will happen.”

    Not to answer for Mike – but above he said WAIT. In comments I said WAIT and Jade just posted at my local search forum yesterday also saying she recommends WAITING. So if even a Googler says it, what does that tell ya? ;-)

    If you are moving to + in hopes it makes it better, yet we are all saying it’s too BETA and buggy to move forward, then you may be setting yourself for even more problems. And the really bad thing about the new G+ problems is everything is so new, it’s even harder to get answers and fixes, because it’s just all still being worked out. For example the G+ 500 errors have been happening since mid August and are still not fixed.

  16. Mike first off I applaud this post from you; it was articulate and well written. Some VP at Google should take it into their meeting and read it out loud.

    Having migrated my primary client services away from LSEO over 1.5 years ago in anticipation of these issues I take a little pleasure in the absurdity of the entire problem. To pay the bills I upped my clients in old fashioned SEO and PPC services.

    On the PPC front I recently had a large client’s account flagged for malware because… wait for it… because I don’t know AND neither does Google! After 3 weeks of back and forth Google finally came back and admitted that they have no idea why his account was flagged! So far this year the client has paid Google $55k in PPC expenses; they flagged his account based on a programming error! This is the brunt of the issue. Google has no customer service mentality; they do not care, are not concerned, and frankly could give a crap about what small businesses experience.

    The core problem in local is that 80% of searchers use Google and 1/3 of them are using local qualifiers. Google has monopolized the space by inserting their local crap and map across 80% of the first page real estate. There is no other option other than “wait”; I have a client who has been waiting for 4 months but at least I have his optimized site ranking first page to keep his phone ringing.

    In other news the FTC decided to drop their pursuit of anti-trust against Google for their vertical search practices. Guess the donations to the recent elections paid off. Oh please Marissa Myer give us something to work with at Yahoo.

  17. Spot-on post and comments.

    I am thinking the main reason Google holds its information so closely to the vest is due to lack of leadership and clear direction. Rolling out half-baked products so riddled with bugs would be the death of lesser companies, yet is now par for the course for Google.

  18. This can be even harder for newbies trying to manage their local presence on Google for the first time. Many struggle to even understand the relationship between Google+ pages, Google+ local pages, and Places for Business. The entire environment is confusing.

    I’ve been recommending my customers/followers merge listings only after careful consideration, thanks to yours and David Mihm’s insights. I will be recommending they not merge until this gets more clear.

  19. This article is fantastic. I started to think I was crazy trying to get both platforms implemented and working in harmony. Even worse I consulted a number of businesses to jump on the plus train that now appears to be unrailed. As mentioned I hope Google sees this and it make a board room meeting!

  20. I echo the combined sentiments that have been expressed here, and picking up on Mark’s comment #18, I don’t sense that Yahoo is going to make any sizable investments in local. I’m sure everyone’s read Marissa’s comments about moving more towards mobile, but you can’t abandon local IN FAVOR of mobile; they have to work together. At the end of the day, what does this REALLY say about the local ecosystem?

  21. Today while searching for the term “counselor” in Westland, MI I came across a full 7 pack which was good. But the strange thing is my client was not only in the A box, but a vertical directory for them appeared in the F box.

    I have not seen this before with any of my clients. Has anyone else as of late?

  22. Crazy when you think that some of the best minds and practitioners of Local SEO are confused and baffled by all this.

    However, what really baffles me is Google markets these products to regular buiness folks who just want a place to put their infomration and host a few reviews. What restaurant owner would have the time to even comprehend this stuff.

    disclosure – currently mad at google for another reaosn all together, so i read this post with a bit of schadenfreude

  23. Mike, I’m glad that you finally went off. Lots of times your posts and replies to comments “give the impression” that you are defending Google and perhaps you are sometimes. I always appreciate your attempt to be a rational & neutral voice in the middle of the storm that this is.

    Could it be that Marissa Mayers ideas have been abandoned and the team is working on something new? Should be read into Yahoo’s neglect of local in the past few months as an indication or reflection of what Google might now be up to? Does anyone besides the early adopter techies ever go to Google+?

    No one wants or needs Google+ really. I think this whole transition will be abandoned along with the Zagat Scores. But they can’t go back and try to perfect (fix) the way it was. This will always evolve into what’s next and I hope they do it right next time. Paid listings and paid support is one way they can not lose money on the project. But certainly having a quality interface would have everyone back on the Google bandwagon.

    If I was Google, honestly I’d get help from you Mike, and a few of your colleagues. You guys rock!

  24. This is a really great article. Google definitely needs to communicate a better plan to users using this platform to advertise listings. I manage mapping for over 1000 locations and I’ve found in recent months that “pending being reviewed” really means “we do not know what we’re doing and do not have a solution for it either”. I’ve submitted tickets for listings in “pending being reviewed” status and when I confirm with Google that we are in fact meeting Google guidelines, I am given excuse after excuse as to why my listing does not meet their guidelines even though we have both confirmed that guidelines are being met. Their emails are generic templates and make no sense. They better do something fast or else Bing is coming for them

  25. Mike,
    I have this tendency to blame myself if I don’t understand something Local-related. I get to feeling like I’ve somehow missed some important announcement, but your article reassures me; if you are calling this a train wreck, then I guess all of us are passengers on that train. Truly a great article here. I’ve already linked to it once today.

  26. Amazing Post, It’s unfathomable to see Google botch this so severely.

    I have issue with the term Free being used in the same sentence as Google!
    From a User perspective this is where google absolutely hammer’s the minions. It is absolutely in appropriate if you take into consideration

    Google’s profit model. It goes something like this;
    *Dangle delicious carrot
    *Attract users/traffic
    *Display Ads /monetize traffic
    *Sell ads to Paying customers

    We are their product and they give us services and tools to keep us around so their advertisers can sell us stuff.

    I wish traffic as a whole could grasp this concept to embrace their value to google and demand service. because local in not a delicious carrot it’s more like a golden bar at the bottom of a sewer.

    Thanks again for the great post.

  27. @All
    I have intentionally kept a low profile on this post as I wanted to hear what everybody had to say and to let the conversation flow without my direction. I wanted to provide a platform where all could reinforce (or not) the current stat of affairs in Google Local. I appreciate all of your comments.

    @Jeffry
    Mike, I’m glad that you finally went off. Lots of times your posts and replies to comments “give the impression” that you are defending Google and perhaps you are sometimes. I always appreciate your attempt to be a rational & neutral voice in the middle of the storm that this is.

    As you probably have deduced I am not particularly concerned with impressions. I sit at the juncture of small businesses, marketers and Google. I see my job as understanding those realities and attempting to explain them to each. My goal is not to defend or not defend Google but to as you say “be a rational voice” explaining reality. That is what I “was hired” to do.

    You may think I am “defending” Google. No. I am trying to give voice to the reality that is. If I am defending anyone it is the SMB that has no voice in the matter. But even there, I am trying to help the SMB see reality. Their lives are not served by deluding themselves as to what is real.

  28. Mike- This year all I want for Christmas is 10% of your writing skills. Great article. I’m not being obsequious, I gave that up when I left Corporate America.

    I have said for some time that Google had no idea the complexity involved in their local product.

    Fast solution that most of my clients would welcome… Pay for position in Maps. I have to tell you, it sounds ridiculous but so many small businesses would welcome the fact that they at least understand how this works.

    They would need quality filters… pick what ever you want… over all reviews on line, or years in business… what ever. Just give small business owners a clear understanding of the program.

  29. I work in the Yellow Pages industry where local listings have been dealt with for over 100 years.

    This stuff is complicated and needs specialized people to deal with the listings. In our company we have listings people that have hundreds of years of worktime experience between them. Their days are FILLED with listing changes, deletions and corrections. Then this data is sent to Google, Yahoo and Bing etc….

    It takes enormous effort to get it right…

    There is no easy solution to this…GLTA!!!

  30. Thanks Mike for shining the spotlight or reshining as the case may be.
    it would be very hard to believe that high level Googlers will not be aware of or read this along with the comments. Alas, we’ve had these discussions before and the only movement seems to be backward.
    Far from being a free product these pages are a product that Google is presenting to their customers which, as others here have pointed out, allows them to monetize.
    I’m a little tired of companies like Google and others of their ilk using the general population and particularly some folks who should know better as shills, apostles, and unpaid customer service reps. They pull off this charade while branding themselves as somehow more virtous than others. In reality or I should say in my opinion at least 3 of these companies whose names would roll right out of your mouth are far more sinister but lucky and a tad savvy than those they paint as villianous.
    Sorry for the rant. The Google platform is important for local businesses at least until Bing or someone else takes over. I can’t control much of it or for that matter other issues such as on Yelp, etc. Personally I don’t want to waste my energy or that of a client on these uncontrolable issues. We just have to find a way to get and convert traffic. If Google + local/places is open for business, fine.

  31. Mike, great article and advice. Since June we have seen more than the usual problems. For us, it’s new Service Area Businesses. I’ve been over at Linda’s Local Forum and Google & Your Business Forum to confirm issues and get advice. The troubleshooter Linda and others from her Forum recommended really has helped and you actually get a response. A big issue is that they fix something such as incorrect information and then a week or two later, the same issue is back again. Not only incorrect information, but what’s up with photos. We have been waiting over 6 weeks for photos to appear on the page. I could go on and on, sorry.

    @Linda I agree with you on Jade – she must feel frustrated because she came into this position right at the same time Google Places became Google+ Local with so many changes. She keeps us updated on the your Local Forum, Google and Your Business Forum, and her Google+ page. I would think that Jade would know who is in charge of Google+ Local. Why can’t their be a circle in Google+ called “Google+ Local Team”. Each member could identify what they do. This way we can follow them as I do other Google people in my “Google People” circle. It would be a great way for the Google+ Local team to communicate issues and updates. Jade does a weekly Google and Your Business Forum wrapup video she posts on her G+ timeline. It’s usually about 2 minutes issues and updates for the week. What about a Google+ Local Hangout, hosted by Jade or the Google+ Local team leader, going over the issues and updates in more depth. Other Google+ Local people and experts like you and Linda could join in. What’s nice is the Hangout is posted for you to view when you have time.

    Thanks again for letting me know I’m not going crazy!

    Susan

  32. I’ve said it before & I’l say it again, everything about Places / + from our view is speculation, pure and simple.

    As long as the gods sit back and don’t respond as you have pointed out over the years, it’s business as usual for them and more speculation for us…

    I’ve verified a few listings (I manage over 125) this past week and no noticeable difference (knock on wood) so far!

    –Dennis

  33. @Bob… you’re the man Bob: I wasn’t aware that you and your “specialized people” with their “hundreds of years of worktime experience between them”, had it all figured out.

    Everyone, stop what you’re doing and contact Bob ;-)

  34. @Andy, I agree with Bob that it takes many hours and you need to know what your doing to go and claim or add businesses to local directories and the search engines. We were offering this as a service, so I do know what he is talking about. They are all different as far as the data you can add. I found it easier to have everything ready in a “client folder” – photos, Client Intake Form that includes short description, long description, business hours, payment method, correct NAP and more, link to videos. For example, claiming or adding your business to Yelp is much easier than Google+ Local. Once your Yelp page is verified everything appears. You’re not waiting for photos or the business description. You don’t have to hear “there’s a bug” we are working on it. A Yelp page is different than a CitySearch page, Angie’s list requires less data, Superpages, Local.com, there’s so many of them, who can keep up. The point I’m getting to is it is a lot of work if you do it right. It’s not just plugging in your NAP. Oh, and you have to create an account on each directory site to add or claim the business. We used a spreadsheet for this information. Phil Rozek has some great free resources on his website that have to do with citations.

    We provide Google+ Local training after the listing is all set. Part of our training includes citation building. If they want more help, we send them to someone like Bob who specializes in citation building.

    @ Bob, I’m on Mike’s blog every day to see what’s up with Google+ Local. He is a genius and a wealth of information when it comes to Google+ Local and local search optimization. I can’t tell you how much I’ve learned not only from Mike, but the other experts that come here to make their comments. If Mike say’s G+ Local is a virtual “train wreck” you know it is! I’m glad he is here to help and guide and advise us through all of Google’s issues.

  35. @Susan – I know a thing or two about Google Local, so I won’t be sending my clients over to Bob and his staff of experts, however if you feel the need, go for it :-)

  36. What a mammoth post, Mike! Like most other SEOs, I have a love/hate relationship with Google. It’s really a shame that they can only devote one full-time employee to G+L customer support. The fact that a multi-billion dollar company requires volunteers to manage one of their most active forums is quite telling.

    What I don’t understand is why they keep adding features to a broken product. SEOs are the ones convincing their clients to use the platform. If they fixed some of the data integrity problems, I’m sure more of us would promote the benefits of Local. Like you said, there are lots of ways to monetize Local with ads, but who is going to bother advertising on a network that marginalizes its publishers. And it’s too bad, because this product has a lot of potential with the Apple Maps debauckle and the growing importance of mobile search.

  37. @Andy – I’m sure you do know a thing or two about Google+ Local – more than I do! It’s constantly changing and that’s why I’m on Mike’s blog, Catalyst’s eMarketing, David Nihm’s, Phil Rozak’s, just to name a few. If Google provided the information these experts did in one place, it would make it easier on all of us. I’ll have to check out your blog too : ).

    As far as Bob goes, I was agreeing with him that “this stuff is complicated” and it does take a lot of man hours. He was just giving his take on the situation, not offering his services. If we are going to send a client anywhere for citation building, it woud be to a reputable company. I assume Bob is, but would check him out before sending anyone along.

    I think we are getting a little off topic here… It’s Google+ local that is complicated. Mike’s article is great and helps me understand that we are not the only ones having issues and will take advantage of his advice.

  38. @Susan …It’s Google+ local that is complicated. Mike’s article is great and helps me understand that we are not the only ones having issues and will take advantage of his advice.

    I’m 100% in agreement with you Susan :-)
    Mike and his follower’s comments/advice have been extremely helpful, and represent an invaluable (Google Local) community resource :-)

  39. Here is the part of this mess that Google, to date has avoided. Per the most recent piece of information we have, local searches comprise about 1/3 of all searches.

    Google generates in excess of $100 million/day in adwords revenues per this research and infographic.

    An awful lot of those big spenders are local in nature.

    Local search is bringing in Billions of dollars in revenues. But Google has placed a firewall between one significant component of its local content and Customer Service.

    Its billions of dollars and ZERO customer service. I don’t know of another business that gets away without responding to its customers, and especially at that revenue level. Its truly astonishing.

  40. @EarlPearl —> Google’s (automated) response to your accurate concerns…
    We would love to help you with your concerns related to Google+ Local issues, however we are waiting for an algorithmic solution. Please rate this response, blah, blah, blah).

  41. Google is very obviously abusing their power and the trust of the worldwide users of their search engine because they are trying to bring in more revenue to their business. Although Capitalism is not illegal and by many, considered to be the fairest system of money distribution in the world, Google wishes to exploit it. Until someone, be it another search engine player, or a government, decides to step in, google will continue to abuse and destroy businesses at will. According to how google plays, there will be no small business left. No one will support themselves except on google’s breadlines and they will destroy every essence of Capitalism or the individual’s ability to go to work and support themselves and their families. If they had t their way, every private citizen would get their knowledge from google and the majority of revenue created by small business and big business would be only a fraction of the amount generated. The majority of the amount generated would go to google. That is not even communism at it’s worst, it is organized crime at it’s worst. Someone or some entity needs to intervene and put a stop to their 18th and 19th century rich thug-like reign. Google is nothing but a modern day mafia.

  42. Wow Mike you nailed this one on head!

    We have been dealing with so many of the issues that you’ve mentioned above that I was really starting to go crazy. We fill out the places duplicate listing form and they get rid of the duplicate AND remove the correct listing that had already been verifed, had reviews, and was showing up well in the local results. Luckily enough for us…lol…..we have a large AdWords budget, so we were able to actually talk to someone about the mess and we were told that Google Places is in a code freeze until the 15th of this month.

    Hopefully they will get with the program and fix the mess that is Google Places soon.

  43. Hi guys just a quick note or guide for problems with google + and google places merge. Yesterday i noticed that my phone number was missing from my google places page and my company name had changed and also lost all ranking.

    Having worked on it most of the night I found the following I have a verified Google+ Business page that has now merged with google places after it had gone wrong ie missing Phone number etc I was able to edit the google + Business page this morning and all has come back correct !! showing phone numbers and reviews as it did before. So there seems to be a bug with verified google + business pages merging with google places. I Have edited google + business page and all is good !! Hope this helps some one Im sure glad it helped me :)

  44. I can’t believe Google cannot come up with good names for all these functions. They still haven’t named the 360 virtual street-view-like tours of the insides of businesses.
    They were clever enough to come up with “Google”. Jeez, just call it “glag” or “Flagama” or “bwertle-bip”!

  45. It seems to me that Google has fallen in love with the social aspect of G+ and ignored the business side. Their thinly-veiled copy of Facebook is a much better functioning social program but people are too entrenched in Facebook. They are not going to switch over that easily. Additionally, nobody want to have two social networks to keep up with.
    You missed the boat, Google. Time to move on.

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