January 13, 2012
I am not sure when this changed Google seems have made the login screen to create new user accounts more obvious as to whether you are are creating an account with a gmail or a 3rd party email address. This is much improved interface design that will make it clear that you don’t need a gmail address to get a Google account.
December 21, 2011
There is a story unfolding at Google that indicates a huge shift in their thinking about Places. Google, over the past 9 months has been making significant investments in creating support mechanisms for Google Places. Yes, you read that right. But just to be sure let me repeat myself: Google has been making significant investments in creating functioning support mechanisms for SMB problems with Places.
I never thought that I would be writing the words Good and Support and Google Places in the same sentence with a straight face but if current trends continue they are approaching that benchmark. Given that they literally had next to no support as recently as early summer, this demonstrates a significant resource shift and policy change.
Good support requires good processes, good people and good tools. And based on my observations over the past quarter Google has made significant progress in local on all of those fronts. Don’t get me wrong, there is still long way for them to go but there has been a tectonic shift on every front that indicates a 180 degree change in Google’s approach to the issues for SMBs interacting with Google in the free local space.
Support, or rather the lack there of, the poor product quality and the inability to fix all too prevalent problems has been a common thread amongst critics, including myself, of Google Places for a number of years. I have penned a number of screeds on the topic and not one of them showed Google in a favorable light.
The problem has always been that Google would roll out upgrades to Places while never fixing bugs AND frequently providing no mechanism to fix the resultant bad outcomes. Even if these problems were the direct result of a Google decision there was no remedy. If it affected a very small percentage of businesses then you would have absolutely no hope of a solution at all. In fact often it wasn’t viewed as bug at all. In Google’s eyes, the sacrifice of accuracy for a few businesses to see the overall improvement of the index was a switch worth making. It was just the cost of being in the large data, local listing business.
A classic example was the problem of merged businesses. A merging between two distinct businesses into a single Places page was an artifact of the merge/purge routines built into the Maps algo. Two similar businesses, located nearby would become a single Frankenstein like record that showed part from one business dashboard and part from another.
There was no easy way for Google to separate the two. Certainly there was no easy way for the affected businesses to separate them. It required months of careful upstream cleansing of the local ecosystem for BOTH of the affected businesses. It affected a very small % of businesses but if you were the one affected it could be devastating to watch your traffic dry up as your phone stopped ringing.
At the end of the day, the affected business might make their way into the forums, beg, cry and whine. Perhaps their posting was flagged by a top contributor and if they were extremely lucky an engineer would ultimately look at the situation. But it could be months or more likely never. Unless of course you managed to get the case a fair bit of publicity and the shining light of publicity “encouraged” an engineer to take a look.
Clearly Google didn’t want to provide a fix or perhaps was unable to provide a fix at the individual listing level. It doesn’t matter, there was no fix.
But now I am beginning to see a new Google Places support structure emerging that (hold on to your seat…) actually seems to be working. And in a dramatic departure from past behaviors, it is one that acknowledges that the individual Place listing is worth fixing.
The forums: (more…)
December 15, 2011
Google has finally provided some public guidance, if not a a long awaited fix, to deal with the persistent Places error state “We currently do not support the location“.
The forum comment provides a step by step procedure for assessing and coping with (but not solving) the issue. The listing nuking message, in the system for sometime, seems to have been occurring more frequently over the past 3 or 4 months. The work around offered is the one developed by the frequent contributor to the German Places Forums, Spinatmensch. If you want to see more discussion and experiences with the work around be sure to read the many contributor comments made in response to the suggested work around.
Here is the helpful step by step process that Vanessa, the Google Places forum community manager offered up in response to yet another question about the issue:
I’ve had my places business page for over a year, and now it says the ‘location not supported’ when I click view page?
Topic of your question: “Location not supported” No address change since original place listing – what is the problem?
I’ve had my places business page for over a year, and now it says the ‘location not supported’ when I click view page? I haven’t made any adjustements to the page except to add photos periodically. I have even advertised with google the past couple of months, but didn’t this month. Does that have something to do with places ad not showing up?
If this continues, I will never advertise on google again for sure.
If you’re seeing “We do not supper this location” on your listing:
1) Search for it on maps.google.com — “business name and city”. Sometimes the links from your Places dashboard aren’t synced properly, and you should always search on Maps first to make sure it is indeed removed — often it’s still live and there, you just need to look it up via maps.google.com.
2) If you don’t see it on Maps, go in to the Places dashboard and poke the listing by clicking submit (wait a little bit, in can take some minutes to appear). Then again, go to maps.google.com to see if you see it appear live.
3) If you’re still seeing the message on your listing, use the troubleshooter option, and our team will get back to you via e-mail:
I have verified > Yes > “My listing no longer appears on Google Maps.”
Believe me, we know this can be frustrating for you guys, and we’re working to clean it up so you see less of this happening.
December 14, 2011
It was a year ago April that Google made the first public announcement regarding the number of claimed Places listing. The number came in at 4 million worldwide. Yesterday at the BIA/Kelsey ILM West conference, Jeff Aguero noted that Google Places now has 8 million claimed Place Pages (out of 50MM worldwide). It was just this past March that Marissa Mayer, speaking at SwSX, noted that there were 6 million claimed Places.
The ability to claim a business listing was first rolled out in March of 2005 with the launch of Dashboard precursor, the Google Local Business Center. These four data points allow for some interesting analysis of the “run rate” at which Google is creating a direct relationship with business locations worldwide.
Here is a chart showing the growth since inception (U.S. data is estimated).
Some thoughts about the graph:
December 13, 2011
Last week Google while rolled out new Talkbin features and also reduced its price for the month of December by 80% The monthly price for the anonymous feedback service was lowered from $25/mo per location to $5/mo. per location. Tonight in my inbox I received notice of an new promo, pricing the product at $1/mo. per location…. a 96% reduction.
The product, a very slick text based customer feedback tool, is positioned by Google as the next generation of customer service and at a dollar a month becomes a no-brainer for any bricks and mortar business looking to improve customer feedback.
December 6, 2011
Onsite “Review Stations” AOK with Google
Several weeks ago, I attended a Google GetYourBusiness online seminar and I was surprised to hear the speaker strongly encouraging SMBS to install a computer at their places of business to use as a station where clients, immediately upon completing a transaction, could easily leave a review on their Google Place’s page.
Last week, Scott Falcone sent me a link to a copy of an email from the Google Dealer Jumpstart Team endorsing the idea of review stations. Thinking that maybe the sales side of the house might not be on the same page as the Places team, when the question came up in the forums, I raised the issue with the Places support folks. Their response was that as long as there was no direct incentive involved, it would be an acceptable practice.
Clearly if training, sales and support at Google all say it is OK, then it must be OK to have on site workstations for the purpose of generating reviews. And one can infer from all of this is that the review filter would not block the review based on location (IP) alone.
Yelp and Tripadvisor long ago put in place bans on reviews generated onsite from the place of business. In the case of Yelp, the reviews get filtered. TripAdvisor goes so far as to flag/punish the business with a Red notice questioning the integrity of the hotel. Avvo will allow the practice by prior approval and an explanation as to the need. Google’s policy is clearly contrary to the industry norms. Allowing and even encouraging the behavior of using a review station is questionable at best.
While there is nothing against practice in the Google Places review guidelines it is a practice that I have discouraged in my consulting and writings.
December 5, 2011
29Prime is easy to spot as a deceptive local seo company that preys on unsuspecting small business folks eager to “be on the first page of Google”. Like many low-life firms of their ilk, they have a number of “aliases” (aka 29Live, 29Maps, 29SEM, 29Search, Locallistings.com etc, etc.) they use to make tracking them a little more difficult.
Their robo calls ring into my office no less than 4 times a week with pitches like “Select one now to claim your free listing on Google”, “We are Google’s 6th largest provider of data”, “We guarantee first page placement, “We are Google Authorized to claim your listing”.
As coffee break sport, I often select 1 on the dial pad just to hear the pitch and see how befuddled I can make the salesman by asking for verification of the claims… and of course to learn that free is relative. In this case it means $399 a month.
If there is any doubt in your mind about how despicable 29Prime is you can check out some of these online resources that should quickly convince you.
* their D+ rating at Better Business Bureau and the many disputes.
* More than one independent 29Prime is a scam website or
* this article about the roving reporter in Gilbert AZ claiming to have helped a small preschool get their erroneously charged $1500 back from 29Prime.
But this article isn’t about wondering how a business like this can continue to operate in our lax regulatory/enforcement environment. It isn’t about the myth of efficiency in the markets or how SMBs could continue to be duped by them. It isn’t about how is it conceivable that a company like Google has yet to have their lawyers muzzle 29Prime’s claims to be Google or act on their behalf. Or about how a company like this could be mentioned in the SF Chronicle as a top ranked Local SEO firm.
These are all interesting stories in their own right but not the focus of this article.
This story is about comparing how Yelp and Google handle 29Prime’s star rankings and present the results to the public. This story is asking how, after 4 years in the review business, Google gets it very wrong and Yelp seems to get 29Prime’s review standing right.
December 3, 2011
While perusing the Google Places Offer Help files I found a page discussing Check-in Offers via Google+. It notes:
If your customers have to visit your locations in order to do business with you, you can request that they check-in on Google+ in order to redeem your offers. They can choose to share the check-in publicly or with some of their circles, which helps spread the word about your business on Google+. They can also choose to keep their check-in private and still redeem an offer.
If your customers do not have to visit your location, for example if you serve homes or businesses by delivery or by callouts, you can keep this option off (set to “No”) and customers will not be asked to check-in when they redeem offers. We use the Service Areas and Location Settings setting on your listing to determine if you have a service area for offers that have already been created. When you create new offers, you can choose whether to allow a check-in during redemption.
The option is not yet visible within the Places Offers tab. Google recently started purging the free Offers created in Places if they did not offer a real discount of some sort. Perhaps that was in anticipation of Google + integration of check-in.
Google has started rejecting Offers from Google Places for quality and policy violations. Business owners that have had Offers rejected will receive an email with a clear indication of which guideline was not satisfied. Offers that do not provide actual % discounts or dollar value off will be suspended. Google has upgraded their Google Help with a Troubleshooter Your Offers Form if an a business owner feels that an offer was rejected inappropriately. Here is a recently sent rejection email:
Date: December 2, 2011 5:27:40 AM EST
Subject: Important: Some of your offers on Google have been marked as suspended
Thank you for creating an offer for your Google Places page. We’ve found that one or more of your offers does not meet our guidelines. These offers have been suspended and are listed below. Your Google Places listing is not otherwise changed and remains active.
Offer with summary: Free Consult w/ Attorney, created: Dec 11, 2009.
Reasons for suspension:
Offer does not include a monetary discount or an additional good or service that is not normally included.
You can review the Offers Guidelines in the Places for Business Help Center here.
To create a new offer, visit Places for Business.
Offers that violate policy will be suspended. Please ensure that your new offer follows the offers policies listed in the Help Center. You cannot edit an offer once it has been suspended.
This message was sent from a notification-only email address so email responses will not be seen. If you have any questions, please review the Google Places for Business Help Center.
The Google Places Team
From the guidelines:
November 25, 2011
I know that Google has been integrating author results in the main search for a while and late last month tweaked those results with the addition of circles . But Google is now linking the Author Information image in the main search directly with recent Google Plus posts in a results much like the Plus Places integration seen earlier in the week. Unlike the local results which were in Places but not the Main results, this integration is occurring in the main search results.
To see the results search on an author with author information like Matt McGee and then click directly on the author photo to see the integration with the Posts in the search results: