March 31, 2013
In 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.
February 27, 2013
Two weeks ago in Canada, Google rolled out an Easier MapMaker Interface that took community edits made via the Report a Problem link on a G+ listing and integrated the input directly with MapMaker. That interface has now rolled out to the US. It does not appear that this interface has rolled out in England or Germany but it has rolled out in France and Mexico. I would be curious to hear what other countries do not have it yet and which do.
The change means that all of the information changed by the public will now go directly into MapMaker and become part of the MM approval hierarchy; some edits will be bot approved or denied, some will be done by MM volunteer and some by Google staffers. As RER Andrew Sawyer pointed out two weeks ago, this change should improve addressing issues that revolved around discrepancies in between how Report a Problem and MM handled things like suite numbers (although whether it will really solve the problem is unclear). It also means that comments made on Report a Problem form will be seen in MapMaker. It should also make it easier to achieve consistency across the Places Dashboard and the MM data. This is moving Google towards a simpler array of databases where changes reside prior to their approval and inclusion in the main Google Local index.
Update: Here is a list from Google of countries that now have the new interface. For once Denmark was not left to last.
AT – Austria
AU – Australia
BE – Belgium
CA – Canada
CH – Switzerland
DK – Denmark
FR – France
IN – India
MX – Mexico
NL – Netherlands
NO – Norway
PL – Poland
UA – Ukraine
US – United States
February 12, 2013
In a recent comment Jeffrey Manger noted that “FYI the Mapmaker interface totally blows. What a confusing, ineffective, waste of my time. Maybe there is written instructions in a booklet somewhere on how to actually use this thing.”
I totally agree that the standard MapMaker interface is a total kludge. Only the most persistent and geeky can find their way around there. But there is a new, simplified MapMaker interface being rolled out in Canada that makes editing directly into MapMaker much easier.
You can see this interface by finding the G+Local page for any Canadian business and selecting the “Report a problem” link. It will take you to the simplified MapMaker front end with this new interface. The URL contains a ton of unnecessary code.
To use this interface to edit a US business take a simplified version of the url:
and substitue the CID of your local business for the CID above and you will gain access to an interface that is functional and simple enough for us marketers.
November 29, 2012
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:
July 23, 2012
Last week, the Google MapMaker team announced (thanks to Forum TC Treebles for a heads up on this) a new bot whose purpose is to help fix Map Maker – Plus Page inconsistencies. The bot is called the “Mapmaker Syncer”.
The purpose of the change is to lay the foundation for better and quicker synchornization between MapMaker and the Google+ local/Maps listings. But like all bots unleashed in MapMaker, there appears to be a dispute about whether overall data quality has improved or been set back… the reality appears to be best stated by this poster in the MM forum: “Technically, the bad data was already there in some database, and now that the databases are synchronized (or are being synchronized), you have a chance to get rid of the bad data and have the changes you make in Map Maker elsewhere.” Like with all of these changes it will create an improvement for some users and a wild ride for others.
Here is the full announcement:
Dear users -
As several of you must be aware, local business listings information provided by Google is synthesized from a few different sources. Among these sources is Map Maker, with the content coming directly from all of you.
The data collected by these multiple sources resides in databases that are algorithmically kept in-sync. On occasion, however, some content across these databases may not synchronize as desired and lead to annoying data issues.As a first step to address this problem, we have been working on improving the quality, frequency and speed of the process that reconciles these data bases. We have made a significant adjustment and before rolling it out, wanted to let you all know about this and any changes this might cause.
As a one-time event, you will see (might have seen these yesterday, depending on your time zone) bot edits that lead to either minor changes to the current data or add additional attributes to the data.This will only impact local business listings. In both cases, the bot will synchronize the data you see on Map Maker with what you see in Google Maps or Google Plus Pages. This creates the foundation to then launch new logic and systems that will synchronize the two data sets faster and more frequently. Kindly note that this step in itself is only part of the solution – it is the necessary first step – to fix many other issues that several of you have identified relating to inconsistent data between what you see on Plus Pages (previously Place Pages) and Map Maker.
While we have tried to ensure correct operation, it is possible that there may be some unintended issues. If you do notice any, please let us know on the forums so we can respond as quickly as possible.
As a Map Maker user myself, here’s wishing that the bot does not get crazy along the way anywhere….I will be keeping a close eye out along with some of the team here.
Jayanth, Product Manager of Map Maker – on behalf of the Map Maker team
July 3, 2012
MapMaker, despite its bugs and quirks, has taken on an ever increasing role in the health of your business listing in Google. Being able to find and edit the listing in MapMaker has become critical.
Last week in Dan Austin’s post: A Step By Step To Recover Your “We Currently Do Not Support This” Location in MapMaker he noted that it was a best practice to record your listing’s url in Google+, Google Maps and Google MapMaker. Having these handy in times of trouble will facilitate diagnosis and repair if your listing goes south.
I wanted to highlight his suggestion in its own post so that the recommendation achieved the visibility it deserved. Here are the steps to obtaining this critical information for your listing:
1- From the Places Dashboard click on “view” from the analytics page or “See your listing in Google Maps” from the locations page and it will take you to the Google+ URL & number that will look like:
Which can be shortened to:
Google+ Local URL: https://plus.google.com/102992615806778826953/
2- From Google Plus Local page click on the Map Pin for the listing and it will take you to Google Maps and give the Maps URL and its CID:
Which can be shortened to:
Google Maps URL: https://maps.google.com/maps?cid=9198701853947205333
3- You can then take the CID from that URL and insert it into the following Mapmaker url: “http://www.google.com/mapmaker?gw=90&cid=”
to create the MapMaker URL for the listing:
Google MapMaker URL: http://www.google.com/mapmaker?gw=90&cid=9198701853947205333
With this information you can communicate clearly to Google Places for Business support and as Dan noted “If you have that info, then almost any POI [in MapMaker] is recoverable and editable, no matter what it’s status”.
June 28, 2012
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?
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.
June 25, 2012
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.
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:
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.