Category Archives: Google+ Local

Step by Step Guide to Enhancing Multi-lingual Listings on Google MapMaker

Google has never fully supported multi-lingual listings in Places very well. At one point Google was suggesting that you create a separate listing in a different dashboard in the alternative language. Unfortunately Google was unable to keep those listings from merging and the practice was ultimately prohitibited. The current dashboard offers no real alternative. MapMaker however does offer limited support for multiple languages in a single listing. While the user experience with this is still not ideal (for example you can’t direct a user to a specific landing page) it is better than leaving the translations to chance. I asked Dan Austin to write up a guide to using MapMaker. Here is a link to a PDF Cheat Sheet (without images) of the process.

As a side note, MapMaker is not for the faint of heart and is very quirky and often bug ridden. Caveat emptor!

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If your listing has international customers or your country is bilingual, a good way to attract their favorable attention is to add accurately translated names to your listing. These will show up in the search results better, since the searcher may be viewing your listing through their native language web portal.

I’ve selected a famous brand listing, The Hilton Club New York, in a world-renowned city that brings a lot of tourists from around the world to illustrate what you can do to enhance your listing with additional languages for display on Google Korea.  I’m going to use Google Map Maker to do this, since it offers an opportunity to not only explore MM but also enhance your listing in a way that your Dashboard or Support may not be able to accomplish.

1.  Open MM.

2.  Find the listing by typing it in the search field (the more details, the better)—it works just like Maps.

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2a. (Alternately, find the listing in Google Maps then open it in MM by clicking on the Edit in Map Maker link on the bottom.)  If you can’t find it using search, use the address, then right click, Find near this point.  It will usually turn up.

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3.  Click Edit, Edit this place.

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4.  Click on Name, then Add more names below that.

5.  Click on +1 (or more; total number can vary, from 1 to 100) more names if it’s available (that shows all the names)

6.  Start adding names, or correct existing names/tags.  Each name should be language specific (English:  The Hilton Club of New York), and should be tagged with the following tags:

  • Primary (the name it’s more commonly known by for each language type—there should be only one for each language type).
  • Local (the language most predominant in the region—for example, if the hotel is in NYC, it would use Local for all the English name tags; if it’s in Tokyo, it would use Local for all the Japanese names; only one set of Local tags for one language type, so all the English names in NYC are Local, but none of the other languages use the Local tag),
  • Obscure (the name it could be known by, but isn’t used very often).
  • Official (whatever the official name is on the hotel, usually visible on the website or building or promotional literature).
  • Abbreviated (the short name for the hotel, usually something like HCNY).

Using the above system and the example, I would create something like the following for the English and Korean languages:

image06-adding-names

 

 

  • English:  The Hilton Club New York (Local, Primary, Official)
  • English:  Hilton Club New York (Local)
  • English:  Hilton Club New York Hotel (Local, Obscure)

Google translation (not necessarily accurate, but used as an example) of the above names, in order:

  • Korean: Screen Shot 2013-11-02 at 9.31.46 AM (Primary)
  • Korean:
  • Screen Shot 2013-11-02 at 9.31.53 AM (Obscure)

You can have as many translated names as you want, for either the specific language or languages in total (provided that Google supports that specific language), but you can only have one name as Primary for any given language.

(Note:  If you hit a hard limit on the total number of names you added (Add more names disappears; sometimes you can only add 5 new names), you can save the edit, as below, and then re-open it, and add more names.)

If, as in the case of this listing, you find a bunch of names that are wrongly tagged in a different language than the provided “translation”, either correct them by accurately translating the names or delete them.  For example, (Spanish) Hilton Club New York (Primary) probably isn’t the Spanish translation of that name.  MM doesn’t provide an easy way to organize names, and it’s not always clear if there are redundant translated names (for example, two Norwegian tagged names).  Not infrequently, to get a sense of the redundant names, I’ll either start over by deleting them all, and adding new ones, or copy/pasting them into a separate document (like a spreadsheet) to see all the names.  Maps often adds these non-translation translations to popular features using a separate data feed, even though they’re not ‘translations’.

image07-alt-names

 

7.  Click Done if that button is visible.  If not, skip and go to step 8.

8.  Add an explanatory note in Comments, if necessary, and select Correcting Poor Data as the reason.  Since GLEs (Google Listing Editors, from the Maps team), rather than GRs (Google Reviewers, from the MM team) often review claimed POIs (point of interest), it’s helpful to add an explanatory cut-and-paste generic note (i.e. I’m adding additional foreign translated names, and correcting the tags for the English names so they appear correctly on Maps.) and, if necessary, alert Support in advance that you’re going to be fixing some of your POIs from MM.

9.  Click Save.

10.  Wait.  Usually a few days to a few weeks.  Pending edits stays under the My ActivitiesIn Review (or Everything, for everything)  As noted before, the edit can be Denied, Accepted, or Approved.  If it gets Denied or Accepted (without approving the changes—check in the DetailsHistory and/or Published to ensure that all your changes were accepted), then save the link from your MM sidebar (My ActivitiesEverything) or the email you’ll get, and contact Places Support to have them override the GLE (or GR) and approve the rejected changes.  Approved is the most desirable state of affairs, although as often the case, the review process can be occasionally chaotic and erratic.  (Note: Accepted is just another way to reject your edit without affecting your approval rating, visible as a percentage if you hover over your profile name or picture.  Lower percentages can send your edits into moderation, and is a measure of your trust in the system.)

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Avoid using any misspellings, w*ird [sic] characters, ALL CAPS, and anything else that marketing suggests to increase the name presence of the POI on Maps.  Names should be accurately and reasonably spelled.  Google is really good at providing suggestions for misspelled words.

  • image09-lockedIf the listing is Locked (example), you can’t edit it in MM (and it’s not really clear you can edit it in Maps using Report a problem, but you can try).  Contact Support to unlock (they can do this, even though they claim they can’t, for various policy and technical reasons).  Locked are usually high value or frequently vandalized POIs which you should be able to freely edit if you own the listing.
  • You can also use Report a problem on Maps to add additional names and tags, which uses a simplified version of MM, and follow the steps above.
  • For additional guidelines, see MM Help.  They have excellent visual guides, and frequently, YouTube videos.
  • You can add translated categories, like ?? (Hotel) but I usually avoid that, since Google automatically (and accurately, for standard cats) translates those categories based on the specific language that each country is using.  You can also add custom categories, but I also avoid that for claimed listings (unless no equivalent category is available in Places), as that might cause issues with claimed listings on the Dashboard, due to Google’s restrictions on custom cats.
  • If a country uses multiple official languages, use one Local language that best suits that region (example:  Canada, which has two official languages.  Use English as the Local language in Vancouver, BC, and French as the Local language in Quebec.
  • Don’t use Google Translate.  It just doesn’t work for formal names, and it’s becomes increasingly inaccurate the longer and more complex the word clusters are.
  • image10-categoryWhile you’re working on the listing, take the time to note any additional points that should be corrected or enhanced for your listing.  Since it’s usually claimed listing, the fastest and easiest way to correct the contact information and categories is to do so from the Dashboard, rather than MM in order to avoid any of the above moderation hurdles.  For example, in the case of this particular listing, categories like Luxury Hotel or whatever you think is appropriate could more accurately direct Google Maps searches to this POI.
  • A Googler has a G tag next to their name.  GLEs are usually, but not always listed as Listing Editors or similar.  Google Reviewers usually use Google Reviewer in their name and a badge on their profile.  GLEs will not have a Google tag on their profile.  Why is this important?  In the review process, each has their separate reviewing responsibilities and belongs to different Geo teams, and depending on who reviews your edit, this may affect the outcome of the edit (GLEs are not well-regarded in the MM community, as they often make incorrect reviews, and it’s an outstanding ‘bug’ that MM is working to fix)image11-12-editor-reviewer
  • If done right, your visitors will be able to quickly and easily find your listing in their native language when they search for it on Google Maps.

Google SAB Update: Service Area Now Displaying in Knowledge Panel

I don’t search on service area businesses very often. But doing client work today I did and I noticed that for the first time that service areas are prominently displayed in the local branded knowledge panel.

I have no idea when this was implemented but it indicates that Google has increasing trust in the data if they are surfacing it to the front page. Historically this information was buried in Maps and rarely seen by searchers.

How long has the service area been displaying in the panel results? Is this part of the recent updates to the local displays?

Screen Shot 2013-10-31 at 4.30.36 PM

It also points out that you really need to pay attention to your settings. Otherwise this might occur:

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Google+ Custom URLs – Facts, Tidbits and Concerns

Screen Shot 2013-10-31 at 9.24.59 AMGoogle rolled out a series of new photographic tools on Tuesday that they hoped would make them as cool as Apple but it seems that all folks are talking about is the new “custom” URLs at Google Plus.

Here are a number of factoids, observations & issues in relation to the latter:

  • “Custom” is a misnomer. Assigned is more like it. Custom implies that you have some input into the process which is fully automated. You pretty much have to accept the URL given or keep your number.
  • Any brand or business that has a linked website or is a verified local business can claim a custom URL for their Google+ page. Link and verification info is available in the Google+ Help Center: http://goo.gl/RMpxP
  • Even though there appears to be an appeal option the decision is for the most part final on the new URL.
  • From Google: At this time, we do not allow you to appeal your assigned Custom URL. Based on user feedback, we’ll determine any necessary updates to this process. 
  • Google will use a number of signals, including the name of the page/profile, and the website associated with the page to determine the given URL.
  • Businesses with multiple locations are being assigned a URL like BusinessNameLocation as in plus.google.com/+PizzHutOlean
  • When the domain is NOT .com Google seems to be adding the TLD to the end of the URL. Business with .net or .org will have those added to the URL.
  • This applies to international domains as well. So folks in France are getting URLs with FR appended to the end. This is an aestetic problem but apparently becomes  more so if you live in Cook Islands, and the websites end in “co.ck“. (Is this real?)
  • John Mueller noted that the “vanity URLs also work on any Google TLD”. They thus can be shortened from plus.google.com/+MikeBlumenthal to google.com/+MikeBlumenthal and it will still work.
  • Barry Schwartz noted that the Google’s TOS regarding Custom URLS indicate that Google “are free for now, but we may start charging a fee for them. However, we will tell you before we start charging and give you the choice to stop participating first”. Wow would that be a mess.
  • Glenn Gabe noticed that Google is 302’ing the old # URL to the new name URL. Strange but according to John Mueller  noted in the comments that “Google treats it like a redirect. [and] Yes, you can use rel=author with these.  You can also use the numeric ID” and thus should have no affect on existing author links. There is a good discussion of this at Cyrus Shepard’s G+ Post.

As in all change the real question for me is who really benefits? Clearly this is a win for Google. It is ironic at one time Google only sent traffic to your website and now you will be sending traffic to Google.

Cyrus Shepard noted that the new URL structure would likely cause G+ Pages to show more visibly for branded searches at Google. I suppose that might shift some traffic away from the directories to SMBS so that would be a net benefit if the SMB maintained a decent Plus Page.

My biggest concern though is that SMBS will not think through how this should fit into an integrated on-line marketing plan and that they will send folks willy nilly to their new and shiny google.com/+MyBusiness page. If this comes at the expense of building out their own web equity and losing the ability to track, analyse and convert new and existing customers it would be a shame.

Social media has a roll to play in SMB marketing but it should supplement a sound plan not replace it.

Google Local SERP Results Change Again

Last Thursday, Google shifted the pack display (Blended Results) from mostly blended with large pins to the smaller pin display (Map Packs) with locally driven ranking (ie Maps order) rather than organic driven ranking. Last night they switched (thanks to Nicolai Helling) the display of the pack back to a larger pinned display. So far at least, Google has retained the local, map based rankings rather than driving the results order from organic rank (Blended Map Insertions). The switch last week and the switch last night were apparently world wide.

Because the blend is not occurring, home (authority) pages are still able to show as a separate organic result in the SERPS and not be merged into the local result. Because the current results are not blending you are also NOT seeing author tag or title tags integrated into the local result.

This type of display (Blended Map Insertions), looking like blended results but being primarily based on Maps order, have been ever present over the past two years constituting roughly 24% of pinned results. They were seen mostly in the restaurant searches and to some extent in the locksmith searches. Today at least they are displaying at 100%.

The positioning of the pack under blended results typically started anywhere in the first four results. With the current state of the local display most of the pack results are inserted at postition four. In a small sample of ten searches, eight started at position 4, one search started at position 2 and one started at position 6. I assume that a larger search sample would show a similarly broad distribution with the bulk of pinned results starting at position 4.

Are Blended Results going away? If you had asked me yesterday I would have said yes. Today, I am not sure so of anything other than that we are in the midst of both display and ranking shakeups and where it will settle is anyone’s guess. Its hard to know exactly what is going on and even more so why. This change which started last Thursday seems to be continuing.

insurance bradford pa   Google Search

 

Nicolai pointed out in the comments that Branded searches for multi location entities, that have been shown as the small Map Packs forever, are also now using this same format:

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Google Upgrades Self Serve Offers with Performance Based Pricing, Improved Distribution and a Simpler Interface

overview-promoYesterday Google has once again announced an upgrade to their self serve Offers product.

Ok that isn’t that interesting in itself given the long (it is almost as old as I am) and mostly invisible history of Google’s couponing product but there are some interesting aspects to this upgrade. Besides an easier, slicker to use set up process, the changes that could be significant are the move to performance based pricing and the promise of improved distribution

For the first time Google is charging for the product and making claims about the number of times that it will be downloaded. The pricing model is a pay per download instance. In the coupon I set up, Google is estimating that the Offer will be downloaded between 120 and 160 times per month for a cost of $30 at a cost between $.19 and $.25 per download.

Is it $.19 or is it $.25? It is not at all clear if the pricing is somehow bid based or fixed and more transparency in this arena would be useful. The product retains a free pricing option which one assumes will mean less aggressive distribution or perhaps none if there is a paid coupon alternative. This also reinforces Google’s developing fremium approach to it’s SMB products.

visible-new-mapsAn Offer, highly visible in the new Maps, will be taking on increased visibility in the upcoming Plus page update and retains visibility in Google’s Offers search engine (who knew right?). What is different in this release is the fact that since you are paying, Google will be motivated to highlight the inventory more and has a direct stake in the resultant outcome. Whether the increased visibility in the new Maps is enough to get the kinds of views they are hoping for is unclear, at least you won’t be paying unless the coupon is actually downloaded.

When a user saves an Offer they recieve an email copy of it and are encouraged to download the Android or iPhone Offers App. If they do so they will get geofenced notifications, alerting them that they are near the location of the coupon provider. At least on the iPhone side, the app has very little visibility and low distribution minimizing the value of that feature. It would make more sense to me to use Google Maps and the Plus apps to increase mobile visibility.

Google self serve Offers (aka Coupons) has been Google’s ugly step child of products. Like that step child that sits on the couch watching TV all day and that you can’t bring yourself to kick out the door, self serve Offers has somehow avoided the hatchet over the years despite its long and storied sorry history buried in the bowels of local.

The current version of the product was introduced as a beta in the Places Dashboard and in May, 2012  but it has existed in a very similar state since its introduction in 2006 . Offers was strictly a self serve, free, stand along coupon, Places based product until April, 2011 when Google rolled out a full blown competitor to Groupon that they also named Offers. The self serve coupon version has stayed in beta as a free product with caveats and with minor upgrades since that time. The main caveat noted at last year’s major refresh was that “Currently, you can create offers from within your Google Places account at no cost during this limited time trial period. You will be notified about pricing details before the trial period concludes.”

The bugaboo with Coupons/Offers has always been distribution. Or rather the lack of it. The coupon inventory has always been buried deep in a custom search engine or lost on a Plus (Places) page. As such, it never has had much adoption by either the public or SMBs. I always thought that it was just one front page placement away from success. Perhaps some day it will make it to the big leagues. In the meantime, it seems that Google is planning on keeping this step child around for a bit longer and hopefully bragging about it to at least the relatives if not the neighbors.

These new Offers can be created in any of the local management environments (Old Dashboard, New Dashboard, + Page for Local, Android Places Dashboard App)  but appears to be rolling out now so it may not be visible in all dashboards.

Here are screen shots of how a self serve offer is created and of the end user email notification: Continue reading

Google Testing New Local Listing “About Page” Layout – Just What are They Thinking?

Google is testing a new enhanced “card” layout for the About page on local listings. The new layout, visible to me in Firefox only, was pointed out by Mary Kelly Gaebel of ADP.

The big difference is that the page now can be displayed in either a single, two or three column layouts depending on browser window width as opposed to the current fixed two column display. Reviews will now follow the same columnar structure as the rest of the page and will not be limited to a current one column display. While this view is not yet visible in mobile, one assumes that if the view were to become universal it would likely push to mobile as well.

The page adds three iconic based calls to action near the top; review, directions & photos. The review summary has been moved up the page and photos have been moved down the page. Geo information including street address, category, hours, description and map are now consolidated into a single card near the top titled “Contact Information. “Similar Places” from around the web no longer show and “reviews from around the web” have been moved up the page to be nearer the top.

The real question about this change is why here, why now. The About Page of the local listing has become virtually inaccessible on Google. Since reviews were pushed to the front page and Places search was replaced with a the new Google Maps, it takes searchers anywhere from 2 to 4 clicks to get to the page. I am confident that visitation has plummeted. It is hard to understand a visual makeover of this page when there appears (at least to an outsider) that there are so many other more critical issues to deal with… Makes one think of Nero fiddling while Rome is burning.

Here is a screenshot of the three column width view (click to view larger):

three-wide-editied

 

LocalU Odds and Ends

Local-Advanced-U_180x70Lot’s has been happening at LocalU. We have an advanced LocalU coming up Monday in NYC that has just 5 seats left. If you do sign up be sure to use the discount code WS-LUA10 for 10% off. If you are already signed up be sure to reach out to me and introduce yourself.

We will be announcing our (very busy) winter & spring speaking schedule shortly and it looks like we will be in Dallas, Springfield (MA), Valley Forge, Harrisburg and hopefully the Cupertino area (and perhaps a few more places as well). We are now scheduling for May and the fall of 2014 so if you are interested in having us come to your city, let us know.

We hope to have our full video tape of the LocalU advanced session in Seattle available for purchase shortly and some other cool content as well. We will keep you posted.

We have been busy at the LocalU blog as well with some great articles over the past few months that you might have missed:

Where Should a New Business Create a Listing: Google+ Page or Google Places for Business Dashboard? – Mike Blumenthal

The Real Truth About SEO & Call Tracking – Mary Bowling

Is Your Website Ready for the Holidays? – Mary Bowling

What Kind of Google+ Page Is It? – A Visual Guide to Google+ Local Pages – Mike Blumenthal

How Long Should Your Business Description Be in the Google Places for Business Dashboard? – Mike Blumenthal

Have You Tried Google Support for Local Lately? – Mary Bowling

How To Segment Local Search In Google Analytics (with Free Dashboard!) – Ed Reese (I particularly like the free dashboard that Ed created that gives some incredible insights into where your local visitors are coming from. And what is better than free?).

There will be light postings next week due to travel. I hope to see you in NYC next week.

 

 

New Countries Added to Places for Business Category Tool – Volunteers Needed

google-places-iconWe have just upgraded the Google Places Category tool with categories for the new dashboard from:
UK – United Kingdom contributed by Andrew Loy, Occupancy Marketing
NL  – Netherlands contributed by Eduard de Boer
FR  – France contributed by Ken Fagan
Aus  – Austria contributed by Petra Kraft
IT – Italy contributed by Andrea Scarpetta
CA – Canada contributed by Darren Shaw

Norway has been contributed by Aleksander Steinsvik, Crosspath Media but is not yet loaded.

Here are the countries that have been added to the new dashboard for which I do not yet have categories and am asking for volunteers:

Argentina Liechtenstein
Brazil Malaysia
Bulgaria Mexico
Chile Pakistan
Colombia Poland
Croatia Romania
Egypt Russia
Finland Saudi Arabia
Greece Singapore
Hong Kong Slovakia
Hungary South Africa
India Switzerland
Indonesia Taiwan
Israel the Philippines
Japan Ukraine
Kenya United Arab Emirates
Korea

If you would like your 15 seconds of fame and a link and live in one of the above countries here are the instructions to gather the categories from the new dashboard (obviously I wold appreciate it if you sent them along):

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Google Becoming Slightly More Transparent About Nuking Reviews

Update 9/28: I had myself taken off as a manager of Barbara’s page and my review instantly lost the notice and showed back up on the listing.

Historically at Google Local, if a review triggered the spam filter, the reviewer would still see the review associated with the business if they were logged in and other users would not. The reviewer would have no clue as to why the review wasn’t showing.

This “technique” for handling “spammy” reviews led to many, many posts in the forums inquiring about why a given review wasn’t showing. Google has now implemented at least a modicum of communication in this regard and is tagging flagged reviews with an alert.

Screen Shot 2013-09-24 at 10.51.31 AM

Is this enough communication and enough transparency? I would suggest that while it is better than before it still misses the mark.

1) Google has chosen to make the announcement in a users review section which I assume is infrequently visited

2)The complaints are still coming into the forum with regularity

3)The explanation given provides little in the way of helping the user understand what is going on if they do happen to see the notice.

My review of Barbara Oliver & Co. Jewelry was flagged because I am a manager of her G+ Page. Perhaps a legitimate reason to not show the review but if I were to read the help file that would not be at all clear.

Filtering reviews is a difficult dance between users and a complicated algo that is at best imperfect at identifying spam. Google has always erred on the side of opacity to prevent spammers from learning too much about their techniques.

The problem with that approach is that spammers figure it out anyways and regular users and businesses are inevitably punished. This occurs without any understanding of how or why on their part. Yelp, while imperfect in many things, handles their spam classification in a much more transparent way that while not ideal at least does a better job of communicating to the reviewer that their review will not be displayed. I believe that Google could learn from that example and with some careful thought do even better at solving this problem.

Upgraded Google Places for Business Dashboard Listings Now Allow Managers to be Added

google-places-iconOnce a listing  in the Places Dashboard has been upgraded to G+ Page social functionality, Google inextricably intertwines the listing with the social Page with both (mostly) positive and (some) negative effects. For example deleting the G+ Page will now delete the Dashboard listing and changing owners of the Page will transfer ownership of the listing.

Google has just announced that this also means that you can add managers to a listing in the Dashboard:

Update – September 19

Starting on September 19, new Places dashboard users with upgraded local Google+ pages will be able to invite other users to manage the page. You can read more about admin roles for pages here.

Please note that only pages that have been upgraded to have social features will have this multiple manager functionality. Owners of eligible pages will be able to invite others to manage a page, or remove other managers.

To add a manager:

  1. 1.From the listing dashboard, click on the gear icon on the upper right and select Manage listing access.
  2. 2. Select Add Managers and enter in the email address of the desired new manager.

Please note that managers must accept the invitation via email before being able to manage a page.

 

To remove a manager:

  1. From the listing dashboard, click on the gear icon on the upper right and select Manage listing access.
  2. Click on the X associated with the person you’d like to remove.

Please note that removing a manager means that account will no longer be able to edit, post, or act as the page. That account’s former actions will remain intact.

To transfer ownership:

  1. From your listing dashboard, click the gear icon in the upper-right corner of your screen and choose Manage listing access.
  2. Click dropdown arrow on the card for the Manager you’d like to promote to Owner, and select Transfer ownership to…

This integration of functionality is the fruition of the vision that most in the industry had when Google first rolled out the G+ Pages for local in 2012. It has been a long time in coming and we are still waiting for many existing old Dashboards to be converted.

Meanwhile Google has slowly and steadily been adding new countries to the list where new claimants will be directed to the new dashboard automatically. Those include: Russia, India, Mexico, Ukraine, South Africa, Israel, Malaysia, Indonesia, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Greece, Slovakia, Korea, Egypt, Morocco, Japan, Brazil, Argentina, Taiwan, Colombia, Chile, Hungary, Romania, the Philippines, Poland, Bulgaria, Hong Kong, Pakistan, Kenya, and Macau.

There is still work to be done by Google, like upgrading the bulk upload and integrating it into the new Dashboard but these new changes seem to imply that that upgrade will occur sooner or later. Having recently transferred some clients from Bulk to the new Dashboard in an effort to speed data updates, I have found that the interface, while not quite as fast to work with as the Bulk interface, has potential to get to that point.

Compared to the incredibly confused mishegas that is the G+ Page management interface, the Dashboard is a pleasure to work in and with. Essentially now any new business can work in either the dashboard or the G+ Pages management interface and expect the exact same outcomes for their local data. I would, for a number of reasons, suggest that going the Places for Business Dashboard route is the preferable choice. For more details on this logic see my most recent post at LocalU.org: Where Should a New Business Create a Listing: Google+ Page or Google Places for Business Dashboard?