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:
Re: [#1039831384] ,!RE: Google Places for Business Help
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.
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.
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).
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.
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. (more…)
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…
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!
Today Google announced the integration of business pages with Google + and the demise of their Google Place page. This is a change that has long been anticipated and one that simultaneously gives a business more control over their page AND dramatically enhances the review environment. Greg Sterling has a good overview of how specific details will change.
Effectively Google + has become a destination for local search and a shared local experience. And tasks that were accomplished on the Place Page like reviews will happen on Plus instead. This explains the missing review buttons on mobile and the desktop.
According to Greg Sterling “Not unlike some similar functionality offered in Foursquare, users will be able to sort and filter search results by several criteria, including “your circles,” which will reveal places “touched” by friends. Currently this means reviews and posts, but could extend to check-ins later.”
But while the display of the page has changed, many other parts of the local ecosystem at Google have remained the same. Google Places is composed of three parts; the business listing display, a backend management tool and a ranking system.
This change essentially moves the location of the business listing display, gives a business more control over the visuals and allows for more segmented social activity around reviews. However the current backend, the Places Dashboard will remain the primary location for input.
Here is what I posted at David Mihm’s recent article about the coming Place – Plus merger:
There is no doubt that Google is integrating (slowly) Places with the social backbone and the single login logic of their update. There has also been a trend away from highlighting the stand alone Place page… For example Google has pushed the Places result out the front page with the rollover option and made the Places page difficult to get to from Maps…
So when thinking about what is coming I segment Places into three components
1)The display (search result or otherwise)
2)The SMB management interface
3)The back end architecture that assembles Places listings, dedupes the list, attaches reviews to a listing (or not )
Lets look at #3 first. This might be upgraded but it appears that the technology to automatically generate a business directory world wide will continue to persist and will survive any changes. Google is actively investing in the architecture with recent changes and tools & staff to fix the artifacts of its workings.
#1 – Certainly Google is interested in displaying search results where ever and when ever they make sense and can generate ad revenue. While Place Pages are perhaps being directly displayed less on the desktop they might still make sense in mobile. They most certainly would make sense in the context of Plus in the many ways that you point out.
#2 the Dashboard – It is likely that an SMB dashboard will continue to exist in some form or another. It will likely undergo a radical redesign so as to be able to provide a simple self service interface to Adwords, Analytics, Offers, Punchd etc. It makes all kinds of sense to add Plus to that mix for all the reasons that you point out. There certainly needs to be more reasons for SMBS to return to it but it seems unlikely that the primary interface for SMBS with Google will go away.
Essentially this has transpired. The Dashboard is still awaiting an update but Google has confirmed that it will remain the point of contact for creating a business listing.
The algo, while it will evolve to include more social signals, is still the algo and it will still rank businesses. It has been evolving right along but Google rarely throws away ranking algos rather they add and change the important elements.
As for the backend that assembles the listings, dedupes the list, merges similar businesses that too will stay. It is being improved and enhanced but over the past year signficant investments in this technology has been made and it will not disappear.
Google is still rolling out the change so the details of how all this will work are not yet clear. But they note “If you don’t yet have a Google+ Page for your business, we encourage you to create one now. And if you do already have one, hold tight for news on how to get it linked to your local listing.”
So while some has changed, and the change is important, it is incremental change and not revolutionary change. It is a change that will hopefully engage more businesses in claiming and keeping their “place” current and one that will hopefully engage more customers with the business.
But it is not a change that will fundamentally change (at least initially) how a business is ranked in the main search results nor how listings are created and assembled.
Google rolled out a very slick update to their iPhone App several days ago. Its fast and essentially makes Place page content almost instantly available. Google apparently upgraded the iPhone Safari app at the same and provided a similarly fast access to the Places data.
Unfortunately as you can see in the Google screen shot above, in the app, in Safari search and on some Androids, the button to review a business is missing in action. Google has indicated that they are aware of the bug and are working on a fix.
In the meantime if you are using an iPad or mobile devices to access your Places page so that client can leave reviews you are in a bit of a sticky wicket. There are two work arounds until Google fixes the issue.
To get to a page that will give users the review button you can create a url like this that will work on an iPhone or iPad:
Google has announced in the forums that they will update the Guideline to explicitly ban the use of PO Boxes in both line 1 and 2 of the address fields.
P.O. Boxes (and their UPS equivalent) have long been banned by Google for their use in the primary street address line of a listing. This came about due to the widespread abuses in the locksmith industry a number of years ago.
However, there are many businesses in rural America that can not receive mail at their primary location and Google has allowed the use of PO Boxes in the line two address field to accommodate them. Unfortunately this was open to abuse by spammers as well (I demonstrated how this hacked worked in late 2010 with the creation of Illusory Laptop Repair).
Early on in the evolution of Google Local, Google actually encouraged the use of PO Boxes by businesses that did not have a physical local presence. However their use quickly got out of hand.
Google first added the prohibition on the use of PO Boxes in 2009 after widespread abuses of the feature to create additional locations. In late 2010, after the November 2010 guideline update, they actively began removing rejecting listings that had PO Box in their first address line. Subsequently they added a nanny bot filter in the Places Dashboard that prevented the use of the words PO Box when creating a new Places listing that gave a Term Not Allowed error if the term were used.
In February of this year, Google went through several rewrites of the Guidelines to require that internal mail stops and office suites be placed in line 2 and this practice was reinforced by Google Places Community Manager Vanessa in her video summary last week.
The announcement in the forums that they will update the Guideline seems to have preceded the actual change to the Guidelines.
Here is the evolution of the guideline from 2009 till today with the changes highlighted:
Do not create listings at locations where the business does not physically exist. PO Boxes do not count as physical locations.
Do not create listings at locations where the business does not physically exist. P.O. Boxes are not considered accurate physical locations. Listings submitted with P.O. Box addresses will be removed.
Do not create a listing or place your pin marker at a location where the business does not physically exist. P.O. Boxes are not considered accurate physical locations. If you operate from a location but receive mail at a P.O. Box there, please list your physical address in Address Line 1, and put your P.O. Box information in Address Line 2.
Do not create a listing or place your pin marker at a location where the business does not physically exist. P.O. Boxes are not considered accurate physical locations. If you operate from a location but receive mail at a mail box there, please list your physical address in Address Line 1, and put your mail box or suite number in Address Line 2.
(No change in wording, just a change in enforcement)
Google will be emailing all businesses that still have PO Boxes in their Places listing and asking them to remove the PO Box information. If the change requires reverification by post card Google is asking that the business request assistance via the following Google Help Troubleshooter path:
Select: I tried PIN verification for a single listing ? Yes, the listing already appears owner-verified
Are you setting up a brand new Places listing?
Try creating and verifying the listing using your physical location. If you don’t meet customers at your address, make sure you hide your business location. Places may give you the option to verify by phone.
If you cannot verify using the available options, you’ll need to request a manual verification using this troubleshooter path:
Select: I tried PIN verification for a single listing ? No, I am attempting to verify my listing –> The status is not Needs Action –> Postcard –> Yes
Once you submit a request via the contact form, please give the Google Places support team up to a week to get back in touch with you via e-mail.
Note: Users with a “P.O. Box” in Address Line 1 or 2 should have received an e-mail by now explaining this policy change and next steps (via the e-mail associated with your Places account).