Update: 12:30: I have changed the title of the article from saying “Account” to “Listings” as what is being transferred is the G+ Page ownership NOT the account.
I learned the hard way this past week that a business listing in the new Google Places for Business Dashboard that has been upgraded to social functionality, is intimately tied to that social presence. Delete the social page and you delete the business listing forcing you to reclaim the listing. The upshot of this is once you go social you can’t go back. At least not without some aggravation.
Dan Pritchett, who plays a significant role in the dashboard development at Google, said this:
To be clear, with the new dashboard the G+ page and the listing are tightly associated. Every G+ Local page is backed by a listing and once you get a G+ Local page, your places listing is tied to it. Removing one always removes the other.
But like all Google “features” there is a flipside to this. Since the business listing is intimately associated with the social G+ page it’s ownership can now be transferred via the G+ Page ownership transfer option. This seems like a simple function and so self evident that one might ask why I am even writing about it. Despite the obvious nature of the feature, it has has never before been possible.
Again according to Dan who responded in the same G+ post:
Okay, just clarified, that once you have a G+ page, transferring ownership of the Local page also transfers ownership of the listing.
Obviously the steps necessary to being able to transfer a listing that is not yet social are probably more cumbersome than just deleting the listing from your account (again with not without some scary verbiage). But if the listing is already social then the process is relatively straight forward via the G+ interface. Here are the instructions:
Step 2 of 3 Click Managers associated with the page you’d like to transfer.
Step 3 of 3 Click the dropdown arrow on the card of the person and select Transfer ownership to _name of user_.
OK class. To summarize where and when one can transfer ownership of a listing. There may be a pop quiz later in the week.
If the business listing is in the new Google Places Dashboard AND the listing has been upgraded to the have social functionality, you can transfer it via the Google Pages ownership transfer technique.
If it is in the old dashboard it can be reclaimed by another account without the need for a transfer. Although leaving the listing in the old dashboard may impinge on your ability to leave review responses so you probably want to delete the listing from the old account.
If it is in the new dashboard but not yet social, it would need to be deleted and then reclaimed to effect a transfer
Now if Google would just have one solution, improve the language of these processes and offer some degree of granularity in the delete function, we might be getting someplace.
Since Google has allowed business listings created via the (old) Places Dashboard to merge with and take on attributes of a G+ Page for local, it has been standard procedure in certain problem cases to delete the G+ Page and return the listing to a non-social listing. I had done so on numerous occasions with no ill effects.
So when I when I was demonstrating to a client exactly how easy it was to create the social features for a business listing from the new Places for Business Dashboard, I assumed that there would be no issues if I deleted the social pages and reverted the listing back to a basic listing until they were ready for a more social listing. Well the old saw, “if you assume you make an ass out of u and me” definitely applies in this situation.
If you delete a business’s social page of an upgraded listing, the listing will also be deleted from the new Places for Business Dashboard and require reverification to add back. The process will also delete any other Google+ entities that you may have created.
Here is the Google messaging when you go to delete the social page of an upgraded business listing:
When Google says all Google Services, they mean ALL GOOGLE SERVICES including your business listing from your dashboard.
What can you do if you or your client has an upgraded business listing and don’t need or want the social tab? As far as I can tell, nothing. While Google offers up the ability to shut off the video, photos and business reviews (of other businesses) tabs they do not offer any facility, once a business listing in the new dashboard has been upgraded to social & video, to shut of the social stream on the listing.
Google is slowly moving towards a G+ local world where there will be two types of G+ Pages for local; claimed and unclaimed.
There will be subtle differences between the claimed pages depending on owner configuration (social or no, video or no, owned by a person or a company) but all G+ Pages for local that are claimed will have the same options available to them. Whew… this reality has been a long time coming but with the recent rollout of the “auto-merge” capability we can start to see the “end game” for these pages (as if Google works with end games).
In the meantime there is a transition going on and many G+ Pages for both in the US and internationally are caught in some intermediate state; old dashboard, new dashboard without social, merged social page with old dashboard etc. It’s important to understand the state because some things are possible in one situation and not in another and some bugs seem to be a function of what the page is and how it was created. For example a business claimed into the old dashboard can be reclaimed by another account but one claimed into the new dashboard can not. That has implications for all sorts of situations now and in the future.
First spotted on Linda Buquet’s forum earlier today on Monday, Google has announced that they have started auto-merging G+ social functionality into basic (upgraded) Dashboard listings. Here is the Google announcement (bold is mine):
Starting today, some pages managed in the new Google Places for Business dashboard will be automatically upgraded to have social features. We will send out emails to users whose pages are automatically upgraded letting them know. Users who have upgraded pages will see a link to Visit your Google+ page in their dashboards. A personal Google+ accountis not necessary in order to utilize social features on local Google+ pages that are automatically upgraded.
If the listing for your business is not automatically upgraded and you are interested in social features, you may be able to use the Google+ widget to upgrade the page manually. (You can read more about the Google+ widget in the update from April 11 on this post — scroll up.)
Please first make sure you follow these criteria:
You must have verified your business in your Places account.
Your page must be in a category that is eligible for Google+.
If these apply to you, you will see a Google+ widget in your dashboard inviting you to upgrade. Simply click Get your Google+ page to upgrade. This will create a local Google+ page in Google+ that is tied to your Google+ account. You will be able to update this page from both Google Places for Business and Google+.
If you do not see the Google+ widget yet, or don’t have the upgrade link in your widget, sit tight while we work on getting a smooth upgrade process in place for you.
To clarify Google’s somewhat imprecise communication: Google is saying that if you wait and just have a generic Google email or corporate email BUT not a G+ account, your dashboard will be upgraded automatically to be able to have a social presence and video capabilities. My understanding is that if you don’t not post any social content to your stream then your listing will continue to not show the posts tab and likewise with videos.
If you want to to have a social presence for your business before that new capability hits your account you can initiate the upgrade from within the new dashboard if your login email for the dashboard is already a G+ Plus account.
The bottom line is that if you sit and wait your new Places for Business Dashboard will bring all of the social and video features of Plus to your business without the need for an individual to have a Plus persona. You can continue to use a generic or corporate email address to manage the listings.
This is obviously a second, continuing step in creating an integrated system where all listing management can occur from within the Places Dashboard and where a business will have the ability to manage the whole system as a branded entity rather than as an individual, an obvious necessity for large businesses as well as small.
While the listing management picture is clearing up, there are still some questions around how the bulk upload feature set will be integrated into this picture and how a single brand with many locations will be accommodated so to not need to produce social streams per location. Hopefully the wait will not be interminable but this change dramatically simplifies management of listings for both agencies and a range of businesses that struggle with arbitrarily putting one individual face forward as a claimant of the brand.
Even though it seems like summer will never end, September is rapidly approaching and with it the next Local U Advanced. It is being held September 30th in conjunction with SMX in NYC. Ticket sales have been brisk and only 14 remain, so if you are thinking of joining us, you might want to buy your ticket before the end of the early bird pricing on August 24th.
With the LocalU discount code, WS-LUA10, the price is $895 until end of business Saturday at which point it will rise to $985 ($1095 without the code) after that.
Joy Hawkins of Imprezzio Marketing, alerted me to this post in the Google forum where a business noted that the Google Places for Business Guidelines do not prohibit the use of city in the category field . Apparently Google has recently changed the Google Places Quality Guidelines and removed the prohibition against the use of geography in the category field.
Should you now add your city to a custom category? The short answer: No. Google knows where you business is located.
Provide at least one category from the suggestions provided in the form as you type. Aim for categories that are specific, but brief.
Categories should say what your business is (e.g. Hospital), not on what it does (e.g. Vaccinations) or things it sells (e.g. Sony products or printer paper). This information can be added in your description or as custom attributes.
Categories should not contain location-based information (for example,Dog Walker Los Angeles is not permitted).
Only one category is permitted per entry field. Do not “stuff” entry fields with multiple categories.
Select at least one category from the list of available categories.
Categories should depict what your business is (e.g. Hospital), not what it does (e.g.Vaccinations) or products it sells (e.g. Sony products or printer paper). This information can be added in your description.
Here is the long answer.
The Google Places Guidelines have apparently been rewritten to apply to the new Google Places for Business Dashboard. In that environment there is no option to create a custom category nor any ability to add a geographic modifier to a category. Businesses can only choose from a predefined list of categories so the rule becomes irrelevant. The option to add custom categories is only possible in the old Google Places for Business Dashboard which will soon be going away.
Those of you in the old Dashboard still have the capability to add custom categories but I would strongly urge you not to add city to your category field, even if competitors are doing so. The reason that Google originally banned the practice was that it gave companies an unfair edge in the search rankings and was widely abused. In response Google at first wrote a guideline to prohibit it. However some months thereafter they implemented an algorithm that punished those listings using geographic category modifiers by dramatically reducing their rank and preventing them from showing in their primary category searches.
That algorithm change is still in effect even though the rule isn’t. As happened to the poster above, a business that was using this sort of modified category called me, desperately wondering why their listing was no longer visible. Within 48 hours of removing the geo modifiers from their business name AND categories, the business bounced back onto the front page listings.
Phil Rozek of Local Visibility shared these two screen shots of a Google test that highlights the sitelinks display on a branded local search with card like outlines.
The treatment, first spotted by Moz on a local search in late July, has evolved from a single box around the complete result to a number of smaller boxes around the individual sitelinks in the context of the large box. Regardless, it is very striking display.
Do you think this test will become the defacto sitelink display?
The new Places for Business Dashboard has for the most part been a significant improvement over the old Dashboard in most regards. That being said, it was missing one critical feature: you couldn’t remove a listing from the dashboard once you had started the claiming process. That self evident feature has finally be added (just reported by Dan Leibson this via Twitter as well. Google just updated the Places Dashboard post in the forums and the Help Files:
If your business is closing, make sure you first report it as closed using Report a Problem. If you’d also like to remove the business from displaying in your dashboard, first access the dashboard for the business you wish to remove. Select the Gear icon, then select Remove this listing.
Note that Google may continue to show businesses that have been removed from your account on Google Maps, Search, and other Google properties as closed, moved, or open, depending on the information we’ve received about the business.
The action removes the listing from the Dashboard in real time with the following message:
Are you sure you want to remove this listing from your account?
This action cannot be undone and you will no longer be associated with this listing.
This will stop any campaigns in Google Offers or AdWords Express for this business.
LocalU Marketing Seminars may continue to appear in search results on Google, Google Maps, and Google+ Local. Learn more
You will no longer be able to use this listing with these services:
Google has had a busy week on the local front. The most significant of these updates are two new local interface conventions in the main search results. Clearly Google wants increase the visibility of their reviews and it is going to do so by keeping users on their front page.
Yesterday Andrew Shotland started seeing the local pop-up that provides review content directly in the main search results rather than requiring a user to head over to the G+ Page. According to Google this interface change is being rolled out universally. It is currently not seen by all users but will soon be visible by all and is a permanent change. Here are screenshots from Scott Rowley on G+.
The other major change is in the new Local Carousel. First written about yesterday by Dan Leibson, Google has added a faceted search facility to the carousel that allows users to discover and recover listings by ratings directly from the carousel and in the case of restaurants by pricing and cuisine as well. This feature was first seen in some of the early tests of the Local Carousel but seemed to have been dropped in the initial rollout.
Once a search is modified by rating (and in the case of restuarants, price and cuisine) a branded search results. One assumes that even on those the reviews will then be visible from the front page in a pop up.
When viewed in conjunction with the new City Expert program, one has to conclude that Google is looking to not just increase the visibility of reviews but to increase their quantity as well. With the bulk of a business information appearing in the side panel and the ease with which one can now view reviews on the front page, visitors will have fewer reasons to visit a businesses Plus local page from the main search results.
Small businesses will likely feel the sting and as Darren Shaw asked will also ask: “Why is Google abandoning their Plus Local pages?” I think that Google is looking to capture readers for a longer period of time at their main search results rather than “abandon” Plus Local pages. The reality is that many, many more readers are on the front page of Google than ever make it into a Plus local page. If Google can increase engagement on the home page by 2% that would far exceed even a 50% increase of engagement on a Plus local page in terms of “time at Google”. Perhaps Google thinks that the lost traffic to Plus Local page will be made up by increasing social content. Most small businesses will need to think long and hard about how much time they put into making the Plus page more engaging.
With the rollout of the knowledge panel the Plus local pages became largely irrelevant to searchers with the exception of reviews. Now that reason is gone as well. With these two more interface changes users will be more trapped“engaged” in Google’s world and will be less tempted to visits other sites.