Category Archives: Google Places (Maps & Local)

Comments, research and information about Google Maps (Google Local)

Google: We Can Show Stars if We Want to!


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:
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Google+ Local Pages Category Confusion


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.

An Updated Step By Step Guide for the SMB to the Google + Local Page Transition


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.

Google Places Experiencing Lost Listings


In Google local when there is big change you can always expect some extra “excitement”. Lost a legitimate listing or getting the “We do not support this location” inappropriately?

As Jason has notes below in his recent email below, several users HAVE contacted me about the issue and Google’s response: We are working hard to fix it soon. Boo on Google for the glitch but kudos to Google for clear & honest communication about the problem!

—–
Hi Mike B –

I thought you’d find it interesting (perhaps for your blog, which this industry watches with baited breath) on a known Google issue it seems.  Here’s the thread.

Basically since June 1 / May 31, our listings just “disappeared.”  Both Podesta Baldocchi and Rossi & Rovetti Flowers in San Francisco.  We’re sort of fortunate to have somewhat of a good organic presence, though our hit volume is off almost 60%… so it matters to be on Google local.   I raised the flag and here’s an email I also received from them:

From: local-help@google.com

Re: [#1039831384] ,!RE:  Google Places for Business Help

“Hello,

Thanks for getting in touch with us about your listing not showing.

Unfortunately, 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.

Best,

The Google Team

I bet other people are enjoying this glitch.  It appears though to be very connected with the same software change they made when they made it imperative to use Google Plus as the tool to make reports.

Jason B.
Rossi & Rovetti Flowers
415.200.5500

Google+ Local – What Wasn’t in the Announcement Was More Important Than What Was


Last week’s announcement of Google+ Local was underwhelming. The review upgrade was impressive but the rest was tepid at best. Essentially the URL for your Place page has changed and the page now shows in the index although the “upgrade” seems to have broken more than it fixed. The announcement last week of Google+ Local was more important for what was left out than what was in it.

We know that Google has been gradually diassembling the Dashboard (pulling out AdWords Express and revamping Offer Coupons) and that its functionality has not been updated in eons (think analytics that only report out pack results NOT blended).

The current move of the business listing from Places to Google+ Local essentially broke the ability of the Dashboard to view the listing and the listings no longer indicates that the business has claimed them or that it is verified.

We also know for sure that the Google +Local page will merge into the G+ Business page in the near future. Clearly Google is focusing its energies on integrating as much as possible into the social backbone of G+.

Over the past year Google bought Zagat but they also bought local online services Punchd (a digital loyalty program) and Talkbin (an SMS based) CRM program. Both programs that have a strong potential appeal in the local market. In the recent rollout we see a glimmering of using the business listing as a local transaction engine with the inclusion of OpenTable.

When you add all of that up you come to the inescapable conclusion that the backend Dashboard is undergoing a massive rework and will likely become a central point for the SMB to interact with all of Google’s products with a special emphasis on Google Plus.

David Mihm has written about a vision of what the Dashboard could and should become. Bing has implemented a blueprint for an integrated marketing portal that might also provide a guide to Google. Whatever it is it will need to be more engaging, more valuable and more integral to local businesses ongoing marketing needs: better analytics, simple integration with G+, CRM, easy opt-in to Google’s paid products, the ability for the business to easily understand and interact with a full range of Google’s local offerings and the ability for Google to plug in more functionality down the road.

Today the Wall Street Journal today essentially confirmed this direction. They note that by early July Google will be rolling out such a product:

The project combines several products and services aimed at small businesses under a single banner. It is based on a mix of internally developed software and recently acquired technologies that the company hopes eventually will bring in billions of dollars a year in new revenue.

Central to the effort is Google+, the company’s social network, which it hopes consumers will use to interact with local businesses that now have special Web pages on the network. Those Google+ pages will draw traffic from the company’s Web-search engine. When shoppers visit these businesses, Google wants them to use their Internet-connected phones like a digital wallet, earning loyalty points and making payments at stores that sign up for Google’s new services.

When this occurs the real Google+ Local will be rolling out, not just a new location for a landing page, but a substantial improvement to the static and marginally functional Dashboard. Let’s hope that it is an integrated marketing solution that is elegant, provides significant on-going value and works properly right out of the gate (oh and is multiuser).

Bug in Google+Local Prevents Links on Page From Resolving Correctly


Michael Borgeit and Linda Buquet have both alerted me to a new bug on the new Google+Local pages that frequently prevents any link on the G+Local page to external websites (listing website, review websites etc) from correctly resolving and when clicked serves up the “Google 400. That’s an error.” page instead.

The bug is not persistent and seems to come and go but it is more coming than not at the moment so visitors to the new page can not make it to your website. Google engineers are aware of the bug and are working on a solution.

7-Pack Upgraded – Stars Are No More, Authorship is King


Google continues to march down the integration road of bringing the new Google+Local pages into the flow of their products. Today the 7-Pack was updated to include the new links and the new review rating system. As you can see from the image if there are more than 10 reviews the new Zagat rating replaces the stars. If there are less than 10 reviews it shows a review count and if there are none it simple goes to the new Google+Local page.

The replacement of the review stars with the simpler and less visually obvious Score is likely to attract less user attention. I will miss the star system as it was an instantly understandable symbol of quality. The Zagat system, while perhaps more granular, will take a while for customers to get used to and lacks the visual appeal of the stars. It highlights why authorship is more important than ever.

Also note that that Adwords Express Ad still directs to the deprecated Places page and shows the old star system so the transition is far from complete.

Google has simulatneously upgraded the mobile display to include the new Zagat rating system. The new rating is somewhat more visually obvious  on a small screen. Interestingly, they have not yet returned the ability to leave a review to their mobile clients that disappeared last week. The new mobile display, rolled out several weeks ago, preloads a “mini” version of the business listing data and doesn’t take the user over to Google+ like the desktop does.  You would think that mobile would be the first environment that would be able to leave reviews that could be shared with friends, not the last.
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Google+Local Retains Community Image Upload But is Missing a Way to Report Abuses


Reader Dimitar Dimitrov sent me this email comment about Google+Local and the attached screen shot of the Google HQ:

Hello Mike,

I just a reader of your blog (and an SEO freak). I was messing around with the new Google+ Local or whatever they are officially calling it.

While me and one of my buddies were messing around with the official Google Listing - https://plus.google.com/107355571499061888485/about

We’ve spotted that anyone can upload pictures… any pictures! Check the profile and see for yourself :)

I’ve attached my mess in case Google fix it before you can see it :)

P.S: I hope Google will fix this bug ASAP…

My response:

Dear Dimitar:

Welcome to the world of Google Local. As they say this a feature NOT a bug.

This capability has long been abused on Google Places and the feature has migrated over to the new Google+Local Page. In Places there was an option to report the image as inappropriate. It does not appear that feature has arrived to Google+Local. I don’t know when that will take occur. In the meantime it is not clear what a business should do if he runs afoul of an ex-girlfriend or a malicious competitor with compromising photos.

BTW I love your sense of humor. My only regret is that my own library of images does not include such classics!

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