Local U Advanced – March 8th – King of Prussia, PA

Update: 3/3/14: Only 11 seats left.

There are only 9 days left until our next Local U Advanced, just outside of Philadelphia, at the DoubleTree by Hilton in King of Prussia, Pa.

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This year we have limited the total ticket sales (including sponsor seating) to just 65 folks. As of yesterday afternoon there were only 16 spots 11 seats left. Its only $899 and the rooms can be had for $129.

The event starts with a mixer (with great foods and drink) Friday the night before and continues all day Saturday. We cover your  day of breakfast, lunch and post even refreshments. It’s a day and half full of all things local.

Google is sending Derek Wetzel so you can ask him your most daunting question (off the record of course) as well the full compliment of Local U folks including David Mihm, Mike Ramsey, Aaron Weiche, Will Scott, Mary Bowling, Ed Reese and myself. So whether you have an agency related, process related or technical question we will have you covered.

It’s an incredible event with great conversation, great presentations and great learning. The keynote this year will be by Will Reynolds of Seer Interactive sharing some of the most effective strategies for driving local customers.

Sign up now. You’ll be glad.

Please consider leaving a comment as your input will help me (& everyone else) better understand and learn about local.
Local U Advanced - March 8th - King of Prussia, PA by

8 thoughts on “Local U Advanced – March 8th – King of Prussia, PA”

  1. Good as time as any to ask Derek about all the local spam, and what Google plans to do about it. Hopefully everyone will come prepared!

  2. @Kerry: No, you will not. Google disinvited me. Serious. (Actually, I’m joking.)

    Hopefully someone will corner Derek and start the interrogation. A good starting point is “What about Report a problem?” Specifically, how come Report a problem doesn’t work for spam? Or anything, for that matter? And what’s up with Google Listing Editors (GLEs) from Places denying all the edits to verified POIs in Map Maker? Are they on a timer to see how fast they can hit the deny button?

    Places business owners should care about this issue. Mappers on MM are actually enhancing listings by correcting a lot of basic details, and in many cases, the GLEs are approving spam edits to verified POIs, including changing telephone numbers. Although many business owners would prefer that no one messes with their listing at all, ever, it cuts both ways, since the GLEs are so incompetent that they could just as easily approve a bad edit as a good one. Remember that guy that called you up and asked you some questions, right before your business listing disappeared? That was a GLE.

  3. That’s a bummer.

    I wouldn’t want to claim responsibility for doing this on behalf of the whole Local community (due to my limited knowledge of how MM works), but if no one else brings this up, I will! If you can arm us with anything else, send it over!

  4. @Kerry: Thanks!

    Sometime about a year ago, Places agitated to get control over edits to claimed listings in MM. Previously, Google Reviewers from MM would review edits to claimed listings from either Maps Report a problem or MM Edit/Report this. This was done, like all Google initiatives, quietly. Well, as an experiment, this has been a complete failure. The GLEs were never trained in properly reviewing edits so they’re in accord with Google Places Quality Guidelines. In addition to making bad reviews, the GLEs apparently have a limited set of tools, so they don’t even see the listing on a map, just the data, which means there’s no way to check street view or satellite view. So it’s either they don’t have enough information to make a good review, or they’re not properly trained, or a combination of both. I also suspect that there’s a time element, that is, Google wants them to get through the edits as quickly as possible, and since the GLEs are Google contractors based out of India, there’s little adult supervision for QC. As a result, MM Reviewers are getting backed up, and mappers are leaving MM in droves, because the edits mappers make are denied by the GLEs (you can’t tell the difference between a claimed and unclaimed listing on MM, and in many cases, spammers have hijacked parks, parking lots, and other benign features and claimed them on Places) and the MM Reviewers are coming behind the GLEs and cleaning up their mess (mappers are able to hit the “I Object” on denied edits and have them escalated to MM).

    It’s been an on-going issue between MM and Places. Places, instead of admitting that they failed, have decided to double down on their mistakes, and are continuing to push this project forward. Wouldn’t it be simpler and easier just to fix it?

    This isn’t the only issue. Ever notice how all the SABs (service area business) Edit details pages are broken on Google+Local? It’s because SABs used to sit on top of MM, and when Places pulled SABs from MM (ostensibly to protect the privacy of SMBs that chose to hide their address, even though their official business address is a matter of public, online government records), they broke the link between Google+Local and MM. Places and/or Maps has never bothered to fix it, even though they’ve been aware of the issue for months, now. SABs are often the refuge of spammers, because there’s no way to research their many, many false addresses, and because it severely limits the options you have to report spammy SABs. You can’t report them in MM, because they don’t exist there. You can’t report them on Google+Local, because the report page is broken. And you certainly can’t use Maps Report a problem, because that just dumps the report into a blackhole. In point of fact, the only reliable way to remove spammy POIs has always been MM, because the sharp-eyed mappers practice better due diligence than the low paid contractors employed to keep tabs on Google local listings and edits.

    So it’s not just one issue, it’s three:

    *Report a problem doesn’t work.
    *Map Maker Edit/report doesn’t work.
    *Google+Local Edit details doesn’t work.

    Reporting spam doesn’t work. If you can’t report it, it doesn’t get removed.

    Having a healthy, vibrant marketplace demands that someone enforce the rules. If one person breaks the rules, and gets away with it, then everyone has to break the rules to remain competitive.

    I should also add I’m not concerned about minor transgressions of the rules. I’m talking about whole verticals that have been hollowed out by spam: locksmiths, lawyers, tow operators, etc. Increasingly, it’s anywhere from 70-90%.

    Google is already collecting tons of money through AdWords. They have a responsibility to ensure the integrity of their maps listings, if nothing else than making a feeble attempt at enforcing their own guidelines and terms of service, and having the appearance that quality matters. Otherwise, why bother having the rules in the first place, if the only the people following the rules are the ones following the rules? Why not just let anyone put up anything on Maps, like OSM? Why have an army of reviewers if the reviewers don’t review? Then it can become more visibly the repository of spam that it is.

    And for anyone that says that you can’t review POIs in a timely manner: it takes me less than 30 seconds to use three different public facing web databases to verify a listing. Derek should know: I was contacted by him in 2012 and gave him a list of databases and techniques he could use to verify spam listings:
    https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/ccc?key=0An-Ki0i1zEuUdEtZTXBlUWEtTnp4dE9zem1WN3FNNWc&usp=drive_web#gid=0 Google simply doesn’t want to do it. Ask Derek why the verification procedures were never implemented. It’s easy, it’s fast, it’s simple and it’s better than whatever it is that they do, which is not much.

    Whole thread on the MM forums about GLEs and spam:
    https://productforums.google.com/forum/#!category-topic/map-maker/UL1Y5CEdUJA%5B1-25-false%5D

  5. @Dan Thanks for all the information.

    Completely agreed on the GLE situation.

    Is the solution to SAB’s non-existence in MM adding them back into that database, but still not include information not provided by the owners for privacy purposes (namely building number and street name)? Or would that put the integrity of the information at risk by way of any MM user attempting to edit the address and add information? Also, forgive my ignorance, but can a business not use a virtual space as their official business address for government records purposes? Because if they do that, then claim a listing on Google for their home address, I could see why they would not want that to be visible to the public.

    Re: using databases to verify information, if Google doesn’t want to use that information, I find that funny. Was there not a time when responses to reviewed edits (I’m not sure if they were from Reviewers or GLE’s) would even often include a message that indicated “internal resources” were used to verify the information?

    @Mike, PS, thanks for letting Dan and I talk it out on your blog.

  6. @Kerry The solution is pretty simple: return SABs back to MM, with the address fully visible. There’s no longer a link to MM on the Maps page. It’s doubtful that more than a handful of people know about MM anyway, and the way that mappers are giving up on MM (https://productforums.google.com/forum/#!category-topic/map-maker/J7y_FoAQDEg), it will be far fewer as the days go by. And NO ONE uses MM for directions, unless they’re trying to correct the underlying directional data. It’s just not set up for that.

    As for virtual offices, they’re prohibited according to Places, unless someone is actually there during specific hours : https://productforums.google.com/d/msg/business/Az–JGbPOME/PwGBsBKNudUJ

    Honestly, even that exception is pretty bad. Virtual offices have a wide range of services, including private mailboxes, a secretary to take calls from Google (to confirm that the business in question is not spam, they’ve just stepped out to the next city over to have a little break), conference rooms, etc. so the tendency of particularly spammy business models is to set up “offices” in remote markets in order to stretch their presence. I’ve never found a virtual office that wasn’t being misused on Places in one way or another.

    So the business can use their home address if they’re using a virtual office as their business address, hide the home address on the Dashboard so no one ‘drops in’, and they’ll be compliant with Google Places Quality Guidelines (not that Google Places has ever shown any inclination toward enforcing those guidelines, except through arbitrary sweeps that run out of steam about halfway through). No one is going to go to your house. Seriously. Not using MM, they won’t. If you have a legal business model, that address is a matter of public record. Your property records are also a matter of public record, freely available on GIS databases (type in GIS County Name) for anyone to look up. For tax purposes, pretty much all that data is available, and for a small fee, the rest is readily available. So, ah, no privacy anymore, sorry.

    Also, does anyone actually trust Google to protect their privacy? With the periodic glitches in Maps, the SAB data is being exposed anyway. I can recall two instances when the SAB data was visible on MM for months even though it was supposed to be hidden, the most recent one being the database integration. If someone doesn’t want their data on Maps, then don’t put that data on Maps! Plus, Google doesn’t seem to mind exposing their networks to the NSA, which now has a copy of everyone’s Gmail and contacts, in addition to all the other data that is being stored on Google’s servers. Google doesn’t take privacy seriously at all. No one should take any of their promises in regard to privacy seriously either.

    The last thing Google should be worrying about is whether you’re hiding your address or not. Business owners are constantly cheating the system anyway, not just by creating spam, but by openly flaunting the rules regarding SABs. SABs are just another way to conceal spam, and since Google doesn’t bother with verification, the sensible thing to do is to expose the address on some Google product to allow MM crowdsourcing to do the job that Google doesn’t want to do. If Google is actually serious about enforcing the hide your address rule for SABs, can you tell me why the vast majority of spammers haven’t had their spammy listings flagged yet? Example: https://plus.google.com/local/Denver,%20CO/s/locksmith?hl=en&gl=us The locksmith spammers have realized that exposing a fake address, and creating thousands of spam listings, is the best way to get the attention of someone who’s trying to find the closest locksmith on their mobile device. In some business segments, like locksmiths, all the legit businesses are doing is competing against spam. That seems like a more urgent issue than deciding what colors the background map should be, eh?

    “Internal resources” for Google consists of street view and Googling it. Nothing else.

    The Places GLEs (Google Listing Editors) don’t even bother with that: https://productforums.google.com/d/msg/map-maker/6EboNA3yqyI/cKqz6f31p8MJ I’m pretty convinced that they just look at it for a few seconds, and unless there’s compelling evidence to the contrary, or they want to spice it up, they just hit Denied. No tools, no training, no supervision, no guidelines. That’s a GLE for ya.

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