There will be a full schedule of interesting posts this week. However I will be traveling, speaking and consulting. My ability to respond to comments, questions and feedback will be limited. So feel free to chime in if you get the chance to keep the conversation flowing.
Apparently Google+ Local (aka Places) has finally established a firm policy on how to handle Medical/Legal Practice and Practitioner listings that now requires that both the practice and the practitioners be listed. Linda Buquet has taken a Sky is Falling attitude to the change:
Big departure from what we are used to and this could make it really difficult to rank for Medical, Dental and Legal practices with multiple practitioners.
If in fact there is a new policy, I would suggest that actually having a policy in this regard is a positive step in the right direction. In the past some practices wanted to show just the practice (and they suffered from dupes) and some practices wanted to show the practice and practitioners (and they suffered mergings). It was not ideal for either approach and it involved a lot whack a mole for one and a lot of frustration for the other.
As I understand the new Google+ local pages, there will be a great deal more trust placed on the data provided by the verified owners of the listing. Thus they are less likely to be merged or changed. If that is the case, then the change (not really change rather a firming up) of the policy in regards to professional practices makes sense.
If there is only one way to do it and that way involves having practice and practitioner listings AND they do not merge, then for once we have a concrete target that both we and Google can strive for. So while it is a change, it really should make life easier IF in fact Google 1)puts in place the technology to support the practice & practitioner listings in the index without merging and 2)keeps that same policy firm going forward.
As Linda noted, tagging departed practitioners with a ““This Place is permanently closed”” tag is wildly inappropriate messaging. But other than that gotcha which Google should be able to solve, I am hopeful that there will be only one way to handle practice and practitioner listings and that way will actually work.
Google is now processing manual Merge/Verification requests that were made to expedite the integration of the Google+ Local and the Googe+ Business pages. I assume that the bulk of merges have now begun.
I and several others received this email in the last few minutes (just before 3:00 pm EST):
Congratulations your Google+ page is verified and upgraded! Remember to keep the information on your page up-to-date by editing in your Google+ account. Please note that after you verify, changes you make to your page may be subject to review before being published. Learn more at http://support.google.com/business/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=2566475&p=edits_policy
Since you are one of the first users to be verified, we’d love to get some feedback on your experience so far, this will greatly help us improve the product. Please take a few minutes to take our survey.
If you have any other question regarding your verified local Google+ page, check out our help center articles at http://support.google.com/plus/bin/topic.py?hl=en&topic=2566084&parent=1710599&ctx=topic
The Google Team
As Greg Magnusson of Leo’s Pet Care noted, only one of the three links is currently live. I particularly was curious to understand what was meant by this sentence and link; Please note that after you verify, changes you make to your page may be subject to review before being published. Learn more at http://support.google.com/business/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=2566475&p=edits_policy. Unfortunately the link is not yet live.
The other problem is that the form makes no indication which listing is being merged. If you have more than one on an email address it can be confusing.
Update: the links are now live.
Policy for edits to local Google+ pages
Any content that you have on your local Google+ page should follow the Google+ content policy. Information about your business should also follow the quality guidelines for listings.
All new listings or changes to your existing listing are subject to review. Please wait a few days for your changes to appear on your local Google+ page. Having problems editing? Let us know.
This page about service area businesses appears to be new:
Service area businesses
If you’re a service area business and have hidden your address in Google Places for Business, your address is already hidden on the local Google+ page for your business as well. Once we roll out the ability to verify your upgraded local Google+ page, doing so will respect that selection to hide your address.
Google is on a mission. If you have been in Siberia studying methane emissions from tundra ponds, you might not have noticed. Otherwise their incredibly aggressive nagging to get you to get a G+ account may have seemed like an ever present specter in your daily Google jaunt.
This nag, brought to my attention by Mike Ramsey, seemed particularly lame. Here’s the pitch with the benefits as to why you should join.
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Several week ago a large number of mostly service area listings started receiving the dreaded “We currently do not support the location” message. At the time Google noted that “your listing may have been dropped due to a technical issue that we cannot yet resolve. We hope to have a resolution soon for this issue, at which point we will be in touch with next steps to help you return your business to Google Maps“.
Last week Michael Borgelt sent me a copy of this email that Google had started sending to those inappropriately affected by the “We do not support” message on their listing (bold mine) :
Thanks for your patience in waiting for an update on your Google Maps listing. If you’re still receiving the “We currently do not support the location” error message, then your listing was affected by a technical issue and there are a couple of things you can do to help restore it to Google Maps.
First, review our quality guidelines. If your location doesn’t meet these guidelines, it may have been removed from Maps. Especially check out this article about service-area businesses, and hiding your address in case your business is at a residential location:http://support.google.com/places/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=177103
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.
If you’re unable to reinstate your page this way, then please remove your listing from your Google Places dashboard by clicking “Delete” then “Remove my listing from my Google Places account,” then recreate the listing. You will need to undergo PIN verification again if that was your original verification process, but doing so may cause your listing to surface cleanly on Maps once you input your new PIN.
Thanks for your patience and understanding with this process, and we hope to continue to improve your experience in Google Local and on Google Maps.
The Google Local Team
This response qualifies as not just the worst customer service response ever from Google, but perhaps the worst customer service response ever. It is as if the printed Yellow Pages didn’t print your listing due to their error and then told you that you needed to go down to their office and enter it yourself on their arcane typesetting machine. Hello?
Some notes: Continue reading
Jade, in her first ever solo video, makes it short and sweet. The new that you need to be aware of is that photos that you upload and were uploaded via the dashboard will experience interminable delays.
Summary if you don’t want to watch:
1-All links to your old Places listing links will now redirect correctly to the new Google+ local page. (A corollary is that you can no longer see your old Places page. If anyone has figured out a way to do so, let me know.)
2-Photo uploads have been (seriously) delayed. If you uploaded photos within the past week it may take as much as another month for photos uploaded in the last week to show up. (the implication? That a new dashboard may occur in that timeframe?)
3- The 404 errors to from the Google+ local page to external links are still occasionally happening when links are clicked. This problem should be resolved soon.
4- There are two types of local pages in G+; the Google+ local page that you update from the dashboard and the Google+. (If you are still confused by this,well…)
5-Google+ local tip of the week: How to remove an inappropriate photo. Click on the photo and on bottom left select options and then report.
6- Forum tip: subscribe to a specific forum thread by clicking on envelope below the gear in the upper right of the forum thread and you will receive emails any time someone comments on the thread.
Last week in “It Really Is a Google World and We Are All Just Living in It“, David Mihm observed that the bulk of content above the fold was Google’s. Last week, with the upgrade to G+ local, Google removed the engaging 5-star graphic from regular business listings and replaced them with the bland and less engaging Zagat rating graphic.
Except, of course, on local Adwords. An obvious corollary to David’s “law” became apparent: It’s Our World and We Can Show Stars if We Want to!*
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* The origin story:
For those of you that either live under a rock or have a very limited reading repatoire David Mihm’s annual Local Search Ranking Factors Volume 5 is out. In it you will see the compiled opinions of a large number of local search practioners, new and old.
If you read only one blog post this month, read David’s compilation of opinions.
With the rollout of the new G+ local pages, a number of readers reported seeing erroneous categories associated with their listing in G+ local. Jim Froling of 949local.com sent along the examples below that show the types of information that is showing up.
Joel Headley noted at the Getlisted Local Advanced seminar in Seattle last week (if you weren’t there you missed a great day) that it isn’t some new bug or quirk. These additional categories are showing because Google already had the information associated with your listing but up until the G+ local rollout had not been showing the information. If you want to fix this information you can request a category removal either via the new community edit or directly in MapMaker.
David Mihm noted last week that he had noticed that Google+ Local was pulling information from MapMaker and perhaps even giving preferential treatment to that information. At some level that is true.
In March, Google updated the backend of their data pipeline in Places. This is the technology that pushes data from one of Google’s many trusted sources (Dashboard, MapMaker, 3rd Party Sources, vetted community edits or Google edits) to the Place/Google+ Local page. This new backend views MapMaker as one of the sources of trusted data AND due to upgrades in the flow of data pushes that data into G+ local fairly quickly. At the moment, even more quickly than the Dashboard does. Once the dashboard has been updated and the Google+ business page has been created from the Google+ local page, that dashboard will push data even faster to a claimed, an even more trusted, way. For now, Google MapMaker is the fastest way to get information onto a Google+ local page.
Updated 6/8 7:00 pm.
Updated 6/9 12:25 pm.
Updated 6/11 3:00 am
In the change over from Places to Google+Local (and then to Google+ Business pages), Google is upgrading a very complex system. Over the next few weeks and months changes will continue to roll out.
During this process issues are going to occur. It may be painful or fear inducing but these issues will be resolved and for the most part an SMB can just sit back and wait for the dust to settle. For a FAQ on the many changes that occurred last week see this post.
If you want to be more proactive in approaching your local listing at Google here is my advice and a course of action:
1- Be sure that you upgrade your Google account to a Google+ personal account. Life will be much easier if it has the same email as your dashboard account as it will make the coming merge go more smoothly. If your Google+ Business page is created under a different account than your Places listing, then add the email for the Places Dashboard as an additional manager of the G+Business Page. The Places email must be associated with an individual and that individual must have a G+ account. This will make it easier for Google to match the Google+Local page that was created to the Google+ Business page.
Note if the email is a business email and can not be associated with an individual you will need to wait for the implementation of Google’s manual merging process.
2-Go into your (Places) dashboard and view your Google+ Local listing to make sure that the Dashboard is connected to your listing correctly. Note that 1)the link will say “See your listing in Google Maps and 2) the local listing that the link takes you to in in Google+ will NOT show as verified. That badge is still coming and will show after the listings have been merged with the new + page.
3-I think it wise to not muck with your data in the dashboard or your listing too much during this transition. Let the dust settle if at all possible and move on to the next steps.
4-Give Google your email via this form to be alerted when they have merged your new Google+ Local listing with the Google+Business pages
You can stop here and all will be fine. Google will do the rest in the next 6 weeks or so. They will convert the Google+ local page into a full blown Google+ business page and you can move forward.
If you want to start experiencing more of what your page will become you can try any or all of these optional activities:
1- Consider creating a Google+ Business page from your Google+ account so that you can learn about how the pages work.
2- Particularly focus on adding attractive photos as this will become what was your Places Landing page
3- When someone clicks on reviews in the main search results they will be taken to your Google+ Business About page. Pay particular attention to this page. Effectively what was your very limited 200 character description will morph into a rich page of content about your business. You can add links and a fair bit of text to this page.
Note: That your photos and About page business description will become the first things that visitors see when they come over from the main search results. It is important to keep your description brief so that the user doesn’t need to scroll too far to see your reviews (unless of course they are bad).
To see an example of a “merged” page that I have worked on you can see Barbara Oliver & Co. Jewelry. I have already trimmed back the About content but not quite enough.
Last I checked the new “merged” page was working pretty well although I was unable to leave a review response. I have heard that this particular “bug” has been fixed
but I am not positive and it will be rolling out very soon if not already.
4- Search Google+ for some folks in your industry that you would like to follow and add them to your circles to learn how that is done. Read their posts and see what they are sharing.
This will become a client communication tool going forward so getting comfortable with circles is useful (but not yet required).
5- If you are the early tester type and want to get your Google+ local page merged with your Google Plus Business sooner rather than later (with the risks of experiencing more bugs) you may request to do so via this form.
Obviously this is a rapidly evolving product. So particulary if you are going whole hog you will want to track the bugs and not stress over them. This Google for Business (Places) Forum wrap up covers the state of bugs in the change over so you know where the “gotcha’s” are:
- 400 Errors on links from Google+ Local should be mostly resolved
- Google Dashboard now linking to the new redirect to the Google+ Local Page
- A known Bug that is still unresolved is that there is no way to access Google+ Local pages or to leave a review from mobile
- Missing categories are not actually missing but are only showing the first few. You can see additional categories via pop up bubble. (Note we have seen listings will too many categories and inappropriate categories. This seems to be due to a data push from MapMaker. Report them via the new report a problem procedure by clicking on the edit this listing link.
- Google WILL be merging the Google+ Local Page with the Google+ Businesses page in the near future. The stand alone Google+ local page which is essentially the same page as your Place page, will be integrated into the full interface of Google+ Business Pages. If you would like to sign up to be a guinea pig for this merge process you may do so on this form (caveat emptor).
Other known bug: Google has been losing a number of legitimate listings to the “We do not currently support this location” bug.