Google+ Local Bug: Service Area Business with Address Hidden Showing Address

Screen Shot 2013-03-31 at 9.18.16 AMIn Google+ Service Area Businesses (SAB in Googlespeak) that are in a residential area or do not accept walk in traffic are required to hide their address in the Places Dashboard. Normally this results in the address being hidden in Maps and Plus and a round pin showing

However since mid March there have been repeated reports of SAB addresses selected to be hidden that have their addresses showing up the Maps and Plus results. This was first reported by Linda Buquet but I continue to get inquiries about it and see new postings in the forum. This is a known bug and Google is aware of it.

The danger of course is that a listing might be deleted due to non-compliance with the rules. Google has indicated that ‘MODERATORs’ won’t be deleting listings now due to the bug. That being said there are powerful volunteer MapMaker editors (RER in Googlespeak) that seem unaware of the bug as indicated  by this recent comment:

 If the address appears to be a SAB from the satellite/street view image or the website and the address is not hidden in Places, I have no problem marking the listing for removal. Rarely will I waste my time or cellular minutes to call a business to confirm.

It’s (85-90% of the time) quite apparent if you have a business reception area or office and see customers at your location. Google Maps (and by extension Places) are for people to visit locations and a business that is primarily a SAB is of little use to someone on a mobile device looking for a business or service.

MapMaker editors, while often well meaning and hard working, often function autonomously and one wonders given their zeal and black and white view of the mapping world whether they are becoming the DMOZ editors of the new millennium. I am all for stomping out spam and making map data more accurate and marvel at the endless hour that RERs put in policing maps. But when the greyness of the real world is removed from judgement and there is a lack of over site bad outcomes will result.

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Google+ Local Bug: Service Area Business with Address Hidden Showing Address by

16 thoughts on “Google+ Local Bug: Service Area Business with Address Hidden Showing Address”

  1. Unfortunatly, when you remove the barrier of interacting with another person and don’t try to approach situations with empathy bad things can happen. I would think that MapMaker editors would be aware of the continuing tranwreck that is Places/+ Local and act accordingly, but clearly I would be wrong. I guess I shouldn’t expect any differently though, because if Google isn’t going to correct the issue why would their volunteer editors pick up the slack.

  2. @Dan
    Unfortunately, like all things Google, the lines of communication are very fragmented. Also RERs tend to be very meticulous and rule driven (usually a good thing).

    But when you combine the many bugs, the lack of communication etc listings get removed that maybe shouldn’t have.

  3. I’m a SAB and after switching my places to G+ it initially still hid my street address.

    Now it is showing.

    Interestingly I recently got a call from Google where they confirmed my situation. From that they seemed to edit my categories but not my SAB status even though that was the main topic of the call.

  4. @Tiggerito

    The G+ merge is explicitly NOT supported for SABs that do not accept customers during working hours and are in residential areas. Google’s recommendation is to delete the G+ Page for local and to just use the Dashboard. The G+ Page environment is not yet ready for hidden addresses.

    The above bug applies specifically to SABs with hidden addresses in the Dashboard that have not yet merged their listings.

  5. Thanks Mike for airing this! The other quote at the G forum that concerned me, maybe even more, was from Flash:

    “SABs without a permanent location that is open to the public are not permitted on the map. And chances are it won’t be either Places checkers or volunteer mappers that would take such a business down; the most aggressive group I see tracking them down are entire teams of Maps editors.

    Concerning, because we know how big the maps team is. I sure hope Google has all these different teams on high alert about this bug, because there better not be a rash of take downs on compliant listings!

    I wanted to share another pertinent quote from a business owner, I posted in that 2 page thread over at my forum.

    Address returns to showing after hidden

    “Irony at it’s finest.

    It took Google almost 4 months to resurrect my listing because I was in violation of Google’s quality guidelines because I did not have my address hidden, and now a month after being restored, a Google bug is causing me to be in violation again by showing my listing even though it is hidden.

    That’s just F’n great.

    I now shiet my pants every time the phone rings.

    Am I still at risk of having my listing pulled from Pakistan AGAIN???”

    Pity the poor small business owners – again!

  6. I appreciate how calm and matter of fact you are about this Mike (and Linda!)

    I sometimes wobble between anger and hopelessness. They created a valuable resource, wiped out traditional media advertising, have made a mess, and are seemingly cavalier in dealing with the mess which is hurting many small businesses in many countries.

    I guess it’s probably broken and too complicated to ever be fixed and we just soldier on. Best to be accepting of what is and be stoic.

    1. @Mark
      Google’s bizarre development practices make these sorts bugs inevitable.

      This creates a dilemma where you have a choice: blow your brains out or make lemonade. The only productive choice is the latter. It does not work for all and it does not work every time but the basis for navigating the shoals is knowledge.

  7. Hi Mike and Linda,

    This is happening to one of our clients again. Back in November we claimed a Plumber, hid their address and a Street name, close by their address, kept coming up. I had posted the issue over at the Local Search Forum and was told to use the troubleshooter, which is great and got me a real person from Google who helped. After they fixed it numerous times, I read your blog today, went back to the plumbers listing and the name Salisbury Street name is showing up again.

    Here’s one of my emails with dated 11/26/12 to Christian who fixed the problem before and fixed it again after this email. Here you go:

    Unfortunately, the name Salisbury Street is showing again on Simulis Plumbing and Heating. Here’s my original complaint:

    Simulis Plumbing & Heating:
    Correct address: 5 Hilltop Circle, Worcester, MA 01609

    When I claimed the listing in behalf of Tom Simulis, Simulis Plumbing & Heating, I hid the address (per Google’s guidelines). It published correctly and then about a week later Shrewsbury Street appeared on it, which is wrong. The correct address is Hilltop Circle, not Ave. and the address is supposed to be hidden.

    The address is supposed to be hidden for it is a service area business (per Google guidelines). It is NOW showing Salisbury Street AGAIN when it was removed by you over a week ago. Please fix this as soon as possible for we may loose this client’s trust.

    Please let me know that you will remove Salisbury Street from this listing. Their photos are not showing up either and it has been over a month.

    Thank you,
    Susan Walsh in behalf of Tom Simulis, Simulis Plumbing and Heating

    I’m at a loss. We no longer are claiming or adding service area businesses because of all the issues. Now, I need to go back again to have it fixed again.

    Thank you for your blog post – Linda, we’ve been so busy I hadn’t gotten over to your Forum to see that the issue is back again. I’ll go on your Forum tomorrow and forward my original issue – this has been going on since November – I kept my eye on it and thought it was resolved until I saw Mike’s post tonight. I need to stay off the computer at night – I’m on East Coast Time!

    Hope you had a nice Easter or Passover!


  8. So IF the ‘hidden’ address is showing up on Google+ (I have one client wherein this is occurring)… what are the necessary steps that should be take?

    Anyone ? – thanks 🙂

  9. I’m find it difficult to believe that this is an significant issue with MM RERs or mappers, and see it more as an illustration of Google’s incompetence in dealing with their own bugs. Yes, it’s true, a few mappers will take down your listing if you don’t hide your service address when you should, but it’s not like Google has made it any easier to figure out whether the address is hidden in the first place. Proposals were made on the MM side, over a year ago:

    1) Make the Hidden Address Checkbox visible on the MM interface.
    2) Show that a business is claimed.
    3) Provide a link to the Place page from the MM POI page to check on the status of a business.
    4) Some limited guidance in handling SABs other than telling prospective businesses to add them on the Places rather than MM side.

    None of that has been implemented, or seriously discussed. Honestly, it’s never been a reason for me to take down a business, unless they happen to occupy one of the spammy categorized types, and even then, it’s really the job of Google to police the listings and ensure that the businesses are in compliance on the Place side, and more often than not (99%) I’ll give them a pass. To me, the hiding the address thing did nothing to improve the quality of Maps, but I’ve resigned myself to the fact that when Google makes a decision, they like to stick to it, no matter what the cost.

    Some of the real structural problems with Google Geo remain unresolved:

    1) Inconsistent guidelines among the various geo products (especially MM and Places).
    2) Inconsistent handling of data on each of the UIs.
    3) Placing the appearance of the product (tinkering, packaging, pictures on the top instead of the bottom, etc.) over the functionality and reliability of the product.
    4) Poor or no training of frontline Googlers who are responsible for evaluating whether a business is compliant with Google Places Quality Guidelines (it would be difficult to find one experienced Google Listings Editor who has any comprehensive knowledge of those guidelines).
    5) And of course, my favorite, the unending torrent of spam that spews largely out of Google Places because they don’t seem to know what the difference between one and the other is (really, it’s easy to tell), even though many businesses are not in compliance with the aforementioned guidelines, either deliberately (spam) or not (ignorance).

  10. @Dan
    Apparently this bug is part of a change of process at Google… where they will be hiding addresses where they think appropriate and apparently not even showing the listing in MM.

    Certainly that doesn’t speak to all the other issues you mention.

  11. I know that this post is a few months old by now, but I just want to reiterate my frustration with this. I run local SEO for a large carpet cleaning company with franchises all over the country. I have hidden all of the addresses to every listing, and I am still getting the “well you need to hide your address” response from all of the Google support staff I have contacted.

    What makes this more frustrating is that there are now two ways to edit your data if you have a bulk listing – you can either use the old Places dashboard interface and click on the individual listings to edit them, or you can click on the “edit my data file” link at the top. I usually prefer to use the “edit my data file” link, because the interface is new and MUCH easier to use, with the option to sort, search, and filter listings. However, the “edit my data file” interface doesn’t have the “hide my address” checkbox anywhere. I have to go back to the old interface, try to find the right listing (which, with 7+ pages of listings that aren’t searchable or filterable, is kind of a pain), and double check that way.

    Also, I have a sneaking suspicion that edits made using the “edit my data file” interface either do not appear, or appear much slower than edits made through the normal dashboard interface. I haven’t done any rigorous testing to confirm this, but based on Google’s other actions, it seems perfectly believable that they would make a new, much easier to use interface and then make it so none of the edits you make there actually get implemented, forcing you to use the old, clunky one.

  12. This policy needs to be clearly stated in the MapMaker guidelines. Currently it says “you can add the business at the location where it physically exists”, which is a much weaker condition, than where walk-in customers can reach it. It seems to me to include where they store their materials and where they have their office.

    The other map maker issue with this seems to be that any deletion has to accuse the business of spamming, when it is quite likely that it was an honest mistake, or the result of misclassificaton by robots.

    Note that it does make sense that such businesses should not be on the map, but looking at the map around where I live (in the UK) I would say that the majority of marked businesses don’t take walk in customers at the location shown (they may even be in violation of planning zoning). (Bing seems to be even worse, showing up lots of what seem to be hotel businesses in residential areas.)

    In the current state of the map, if I were an SAB and I didn’t find the right rules and read them carefully, I would go by the existing precedent, rather than the rules.

    I suspect part of the problem is that the Map Maker guidelines have been dumbed down to the point of failing to clearly demarcate categories.

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