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).
A common issue that arises in the forums is the business owner that is unable to change or enhance their listing because they no longer have access to the account that it is in, perhaps because they lost the password , the employee that had claimed the listing is no longer employed or they had a falling out with their SEO company.
It is possible to reclaim the listing and last year I provided instructions on how to do so. The instructions are accurate as far as they went but there are often complications with a listing claimed into multiple accounts. For example the Place page might display unwanted photos or categories from the previous Places Dashboard. Worse might the fact the even though you had claimed the listing, you would still not be able to comment on reviews as the system thought that the other claimant was domininant.
With Google now offering additional customer service it is possible to solve some of the quirks and issues that arise with the reclaiming process.
Here are the updated steps:
1) Go to the Places dashboard/locations page of the new account and select Add another business.
2) Enter the phone number for the existing claimed listing, select “find business information” and go through the process of editing the listing that Google displays.
3) Change as little as possible initially and be sure to keep name, address and phone number the same.
4) Google will require you to reverify but you will be the dominant controller of the listing. As the last to claim the listing most of your data will be given preference.
5) It is preferable to claim it with an email at your business domain so if there is a dispute in the future, you will be recognized as the authoritative listing holder.
Suggested Additional Steps:
6) Get in touch with Google Places support using this form:
This will have the previous claimant removed and prevent the listing being reaccessed from this account. This will guarantee that the new claimant will be the account that is able to respond to review. It will also prevent the other account holder from making changes to the listing.
If there are still unwanted photos or categories still in the listing (from the old claim) communicate back to the Google support person that helped originally via the same case number and ask them to remove them.
Google support still has a long way to go but it has made progress and at least now common problems like this can be addressed.
Vanessa Schneider, the Community Manager for the Google Places Forum, has taken the initiative to record a video series summarizing key points that have arisen in the Google Places forums during the previous week.
(Note to Google management if you are reading this: GIVE THAT WOMAN A RAISE! She is the best thing to happen to Places since… well…since the introduction of Places.)
-The “We currently do not support this location” bug that erroneously affected a number of listing has been squashed (see this post for details)
-Google rolled out a new Offers and Bulk Upload tools
-The Places Dashboard once again supports the use of a URL (in addition to direct upload) for showing photos
-The bug that caused some Places videos to not show has been fixed
-If you are using a suite number it should be in line 2 of the street address field
This is a cautionary tale to 29Prime’s remaining 8000 clients. If this company abuses their own Google Places listing imagine what they might be doing in your name.
Let me be upfront with my bias.. 29Prime is not one of my favorite companies. And I have in the past commented on their abuse of Google Place’s reviews to hide the reality of who they really are. But reader Dave Middleton pointed out that in addition to abusing Google Places’s review policy they are also abusing the Google Places Guidelines as well by adding a tagline to their business name in their Places listing:
Their claim of having served 20,000 clients, while an abuse of Google’s guideline against tag lines in the business name, is an interesting one. Linda Buquet pointed out one of their recent PR releases where they claim to have a current client base of more than 8,000 small business owners. The article notes that they were founded in 2010 (although their website notes a start date of 2007 and the domain was claimed in 2008).
If we take their most recent word at face value (Tough I know but..) and assume (for the sake of simple calculation) a May 2010 founding we can get a sense of their churn. They have lost 6000 customers a year. It would appear that they have lost 1.5 clients for each one still claimed to be under contract.
OOOPS. Turns out they violated another Places guideline and claimed their listing at the local UPS Store. The address, 2233 West Balboa Blvd # 115, Newport Beach, is the same one used in their Whois record and their website. This was no accident.
Still not convinced about 29Prime’s ethical behaviors? The image of their HQ on their website appeared to have been photoshopped so I dropped it into Google image search to see what I found.
Surprise! They seemed to be “occupying” the Unisys offices at 9701 Jeronimo RD Irvine, Ca. They may in fact be at that location occupying some space but the building most definitely isn’t labeled as 29Prime and they are but a renter. Hmm, stranger and stranger.
To any client of 29Prime: If these folks can’t get their own marketing story straight, how can you expect that they will get yours straight? They are obviously violating Google Places guidelines, run the risk of being suspended, are gathering fake reviews and are photoshopping images on their website that have one intention, to imply that they are more successful than they really are. Their churn rate is at best disturbing. They are willing to “cut corners” (to say the least) on their own marketing, can you really trust them with yours? Or will your listing end up suspended like theirs is likely to be?
Just for the record here is the image from the website and an unretouched image of the same location reflecting the actual occupant. It appears that they didn’t even take the time to take an original photograph and just used the one from the Wikipedia article on Unisys. They did appear to have adjusted the colors.
Would love to see you at our next Getlisted Local University!
May 22 - Local University: Syracuse will take place on May 22, 2012 from 8am – 12pm OR 1pm – 5pm at Driver’s Village in Cicero. Your choice of identical 4 hours sessions. Besides the regular speakers (David Mihm, Mary Bowling, Will Scott and myself) the event also includes John Carcutt, the Director of SEO for Advance Digital and co-host of SEO 101 on WebmasterRadio.FM, Lauren Hufnal, a Bing Evangelist at Microsoft and Joel Headley the manager of Google’s Consumer Operations for Places and . If you have questions for Google about Places, Places support and policies this is your chance to have your questions answered.
If you come be sure to introduce yourself to me.
Pricing for the Syracuse event is $129 and with the discount code of MB2012 you will get a $30 discount. To register now visit our sign up page or click the button to the right.
Google has changed the date information attached to a review and switched from the actual date created to a rough estimate of when it was created. The actual date is still visible if you click through to the reviewer. The change seems to create a greater visual sense of whether reviews are coming in over time.
Now if they would just fix the problem of losing reviews. I find it amazing that Google is continuing to release new local products without fixing underlying issues like the problems they have keeping track of reviews and their lack of transparency in fighting review spam…
The snafu with the Places index that caused an inordinate number of accounts to suffer the dreaded “We Currently Do Not Support This Location” report for a listing should be fixed by now. But some users may find that they have moved from purgatory into Dante’s circles of hell.
Vanessa noted in the forums that the engineers should have had the immediate problem repaired by today and the influx of new messages has nearly stopped.
The operative word here is nearly. To those still experiencing the problem Vanessa is referring posters to this FAQ where she details why a listing might still be getting the message. She notes the following:
You may be seeing this message on your listing for a couple reasons.
1) Have you just recently verified your listing? Note that it may take up to a week from the time you’ve verified that listing to appear on Google Maps, and during that time your Active listing will say “We currently do not support this location” on it. Please just sit tight.
2) Has your listing been verified and live for some time? Search for it on maps.google.com (“business name, city/phone”). Sometimes the links from your Places dashboard aren’t synced properly, so 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.
3) If you’ve done a search on maps.google.com and still don’t see it, go to your Places dashboard (google.com/places) and “poke” the listing by clicking Edit > Submit. Give it a couple days, and then again, go to maps.google.com to see if you see it appear live.
4) If none of that helps, then your listing has been removed from Google Maps. If you believe your listing should not have been removed, get in touch with our support team:
Select: I have verified > Yes > My listing no longer appears > Fill out the short form, hit Submit, and await an e-mail from a member of our support team (it may take a few days).
Issues 1-3 are all temporary states from which your listing can and will easily recover. I would however direct your attention to point number 4. The implication of the message is that Google feels that your listing should be removed from the visible index for some sin real or imagined.
In the past I have referred to this state as purgatory. However purgatory assumes that you have or can redeem yourself and achieve a state of grace.
This penalty, occurring at a listing level rather than at the account level, might actually assume that purgatory is not appropriate punishment and the reality may be that you have entered the eighth circle of the inferno instead.
Any promotion, marketing, contests, or other giveaways should clearly link to the terms of the activity and provide clear guidelines and qualifications. All such promises, given or implied, should be adhered to.
This is an odd Guideline in a number of respects. At this point there is no obvious way to run contents or giveaways on Places and even if you figured out a way to do so (via Offers or Updates) it is not clear that you would be able to include a link. I have asked Google for clarification as to what exactly this new guideline applies to.