Google Place (LBC): While listing in multiple languages is OK beware of merging

Late last summer, Google confirmed that having a listing in multiple languages was allowable. At the time Google noted:

Yes, users can do this. The thing is, there isn’t a feature currently available, but there is a workaround. What users can do is first create the listing in English. Then they can select the appropriate language from the drop-down menu in the upper right-hand corner of the Local Business Center and create the same exact listing in that language.

We hope to make this easier for users in the future.

Creating the same listing in a different language doesn’t violate our guidelines. Our policy states that a business owner can’t create 2 different business listings at one location.

But because of how the cluster works, most clients that I worked with were leery of the potential for mergings and decided that multilingual listings could potentially cause more harm than good. Google had suggested that for single location businesses that the secondary language listing should be created in a distinct Google Place account to avoid mergings. Apparently, according to this forum posting, that is not enough:

I work for a local attorney who serves clients speaking both english and spanish. He is very committed to his latino client-base and, as such, we have a fairly robust translated version of his site, in addition to his English site.

The problem is when we try to get local search results for terms in both languages. We’ve tried a number of different approaches to this, eventually going with a recommendation we found on a reputable local seo blog that had been suggested by a Google employee: we have two listings, one for each language. However, when we created the Spanish one we first changed the language interface of LBC to Spanish. This allows us to choose spanish categories, for example. We set these two listings up using two different Google account, a recommendation that was supposed to avoid merging.

Despite all of our efforts to do this on the up-and-up, the listings keep getting merged, with the spanish URL trumping the English one on every search result. Obviously, this is not ideal. We want to send clients searching with spanish terms to the spanish site and clients searching with English terms to the English site.

Despite the fact that Google Maps allows multi language listings, caution is obviously the order of the day if you wish to list your business in more than one language.

I would suggest that you perceive enough business benefit in attempting to have your listing in multiple languages you experiment with the following:
-create the listing in a separate Google Place account
-use a slightly different address (ie add an office number)
-use a different phone number

Google Places Webinar Follow-up

Google Maps has started providing webinars as a means to educate more SMBs about the benefits and features of Google Places. Not much new here but note Google’s clear cut answer about call tracking numbers. Here is a summary of the May 10th webinar:

From: Brianna Brekke <maps.guide9@google.com>

Date: May 17, 2010 4:50:51 PM EDT

To: Maps Guide Brianna <maps.guide9@google.com>

Subject: Google Places Webinar follow-up

Hi folks,

Thanks for attending the Google Places webinar on May 10. As promised, here are some resources below.

Best,

Brianna

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Google Places webinar recording

Plage Page Tour

Short Survey – please take!

Q&A Session for Google Places Webinar

Date: 2010-5-10

Starting time: 10:00a

_______________________________________________________

Andrew N.

Q: Will Google ever offer an API? It would be helpful for agencies managing several thousand locations to pull reporting information, post to place page for several locations and manage locations across different brands.

A: We’re always working on new features and updates to Google Places, but are unable to comment on exact timelines or plans.

In the meantime, we encourage you to post this idea on our Google Moderator page for Places.

________________________________________________________________

Theresa C.

Q: My problem with Google Places is the verification process. We have multiple locations but listings are place in Google Places by the Corporate office.  The phone verification will not work because we have so many customer services reps nationwide.

A: If you have more than 10 locations, please submit these locations via a bulk upload and then request verification for the bulk upload.

If you don’t have at least 10 locations but still experience difficulties with the verification steps, you can request assistance by submitting this contact form.

________________________________________________________________

Theresa C.

Q: The mail verification is also a problem bec our branch offices will receive the postcard but it’s corporate that placed or updated the listing.

A: Please make sure that you communicate this process to all branch offices.

________________________________________________________________

Theresa C.

Q: The mail verification also takes forever. is there a better way?

A: If phone verification is not available or not feasible for your business type, mail is the only option.

________________________________________________________________

Theresa C.

Q: If the people who initially placed the listing is no longer with our company, how can I disable theirlogin and yet keep the listing?

A: There isn’t any transfer functionality, so you should create a new listing in a new account. You can read more in this FAQ.

________________________________________________________________

Scott G.

Q: How does choosing “service area” affect search results? Seems like we are coming up much lower on the results than we were before.

A: The ranking of listings with Service areas enabled can vary. Please read this FAQ for more information about ranking.

________________________________________________________________

Scott G.

Q: Why isn’t there a choice for open 24 hours?

A: This is a great idea We’ll bring this feedback to our Product team.

________________________________________________________________

Doug T.

Q: How can I claim a listing if the business that was at the address I am now is no longer there.

A: Try creating a new listing at google.com/places. Then, request removal of the old business by clicking ‘More’ > ‘Report a Problem’. More information about the removal steps are available in this FAQ.

________________________________________________________________

Theresa C.

Q: Can you set up a verification that will go to the corporate office instead of the address or phone listed there?

A: No, you must verify information from the actual business for your protection.

________________________________________________________________

Marjory M.

Q: What happens if you hit delete? Can you restore the business easily?

A: If you hit ‘Delete’, you will be prompted to select between two options:

‘Remove listing from Maps’ and ‘Remove listing from Account’. Please visit this FAQ for more information about what each of these actions means.

________________________________________________________________

John E.

Q: if I change core business info how long to reverify and how long is my listing not shown??

A: Your listing will continue to show in its older format until you verify. The time to re-verify will depend on the verification method you choose. Phone verification is almost instant, while mail verification can take 1-3 weeks to receive your PIN in standard mail

________________________________________________________________

Brian L.

Q: is there an export for the dashboard??

A: Not yet, but great idea! Please post this idea on our Google Moderator page for Places.

________________________________________________________________

Theresa C.

Q: We already have existing listings. Can I use bulk upload to update? But some branches do not offer the same products. How can bulk upload work in this case??

A: Yes, each time you want to update information for stores in the original bulk upload, just submit a new Complete bulk upload. You can also add new stores only by submitting an Addition bulk upload. Each time you update, be sure to keep your original store codes for each business location. More information about the bulk upload types can be found in our User Guide.

________________________________________________________________

John E.

Q: If I do Google Places listings for clients can I do bulk uploads???

A: If you aren’t the business owner, you should be the sole authorized representative for the business. If the account is not clearly from the chain (@businessname.com), we will need to verify with the chain that the user is authorized.

There should not be any other providers for the business information. We also don’t accept SEO accounts that have many different clients. Only one account per business chain is allowed.  If you meet this requirement, you can submit bulk uploads.

________________________________________________________________

kevin m.

Q: how can I change the email addressI used for my google places account?

A: Changing your email address of your account entails changing your Google account entire. Please see this FAQ for more information.

________________________________________________________________

Julian E.

Q: What if someone claimed my listings? What do I do?

A: Create and verify a new listing at google.com/places.

________________________________________________________________

John E.

Q: What is Gogle doing about hijacked listings…how do we report and monitor the listing for hijackings?

A: As you are probably familiar, we require verification of a PIN before a listing will go live. This is for your protection, to prevent hijacking. More information about hijacked listings can be found here.

________________________________________________________________

Nick G.

Q: How do you move the shopping bag icon on Maps if it is located incorrectly? Changing the point in the Places dashboard just moves the red location indicator.

A: If you see a place label that is in the wrong location or that contains incorrect information, you can report a problem.  It may take over one month for any reported issues to be fixed, so thanks in advance for your patience.

________________________________________________________________

Ryland D.

Q: We have two locations, but only one is listed – do we have to create a separate listing for our other location?

A: Yes – please do create one listing per business!

________________________________________________________________

kevin m.

Q: I see a lot of my competitors listings with fake google places reveiws.  What can I do about that?

A: Fake reviews are against our Comment Posting Policy.  Please report these reviews as spam.

________________________________________________________________

Marjory M.

Q: I understand that it might not be possible to fix every little problem but is there a way to escalate a problem if it is resulting in a dangerous situation?

A: Please see our Contact Policy Page for a number of options. If you don’t see any options there, post in our Help Forum.

________________________________________________________________

Mary B.

Q: what causes a listing to  suddenly drop in the Places rankings, or 7 Pack rankings?

A: Just as web search refreshes frequently, so do the local results. There could be a number of factors here including changes to any of the listings in the set of search results in addition to changes to our algorithm. It’s unlikely that search results will remain consistent over time.

________________________________________________________________

Jon M.

Q: I cannot see the new $25 enhanced listing tags in my verified bulk upload dashboard reports for the supported cities. Are these new tags available for bulk uploads?

A: Tags are not yet available for bulk upload listings.

________________________________________________________________

Mary B.

Q: What types of things can prevent your local listing from ranking well and what types of things can help it rank better?

A: Providing an accurate and complete listing is the best way to connect to users.

________________________________________________________________

Mary B.

Q: Are the flat rate local ads coming back?

A: Please find more information about our most recent local ad product, Tags, on this page.

________________________________________________________________

Mary B.

Q: Can we use call tracking phone numbers in our listings? if not, why?

A: No, please use the most local phone number available. As I mentioned in the presentation, Google aims to provide the most useful and accurate information for users, so a local phone number is preferred.

________________________________________________________________

andy k.

Q: Do we list all the practitioners on our wellness centre Palces account or have each business set up their own Places account? the phone number and addreess is the same for everyone. 18 massage therapists – acupuncturists etc. — thanks so much 🙂

A: If each practitioner is meant to be individually contactable or individually reviewed by users, then you should you should create one listing for the actual Wellness Center and  listings for each practitioner. Each practitioner can create their own individual listings so that he/she can add more personal details about his/her specialities.

________________________________________________________________

Andrew B

Q: When will driving direction stats be available in the UK?

A: Our team is working on making driving directions stats available in more international countries.

________________________________________________________________

Andrew B.

Q: When will mobile coupons be available in the UK?

A: Our team is working on making mobile coupons available to more international countries.


LocalU – Twin Cities is Done, On to Cleveland

Last week we had another successful Local University in Twin Cities. Matt McGee has created a great recap of the event.

I had an incredible time and truly enjoyed myself as the Twin Cities audience was engaged and very savvy. While the event was targeted to SMBs there were more than the usual share of in-house marketers and SMBs in attendance. Many of them had read my blog and introduced themselves during the event. It is a special treat to put a face with a name or just to even meet someone in person with whom I have had a “relationship”. One person noted that while I didn’t know them, it felt to them like they knew me. That was very rewarding.

Our next Local University will be taking place in Cleveland on June 30th. If you are planning on coming use the discount code of MBneo and you will receive a discount of $50 off the standard rate of $129.

We are also finalizing our “agency package” that will allow professional marketers & designers to bring themselves and a group of clients. We are strongly committed to the local markets that we are visiting. The seminar is a great place to educate your clients about the value of some of the additional services that you might provide that they had yet to recognize the value of. If you are interested in such a package, please contact me: mike@bluemnthals.com.

We are also starting to look at next year’s schedule of events and if you think that your agency is interested in sponsoring a Local University, let us know.

Local SEO Planning Tip – Determine The Geo Limits of a Search

Local Search folks don’t always agree on the factors that affect rank but there is one search relevance factor on which there is strong agreement: A local business listing must be in the city of search in order to even be considered on a given service + city query.

While there is a general idea about how Google determines the boundaries of the polygon that defines any given city used in a search, it is never easy to determine exactly where the boundaries for any given geography are. While the distance radius that Google will use to rank businesses also seems to depend on business density and industry, it would be useful to know the outside limits of the boundaries defining any city or town used in the search.

Does that new client in Scottsdale have a chance to rank in Phoenix? Is the business in the burbs just too far on the wrong side of the tracks or can they be ranked in the principal city with a strong enough local presence?

Wouldn’t it be nice to know, going into the meeting whether there is a snow balls chance in Phoenix of success? It has always been difficult to know exactly how Google Maps drew the polygon boundaries for any given geographical area but with the new service area feature available in the Google Places management area, we now have a solid guide.

To determine the likely boundaries for any given geography simply select (temporarily) the “Yes, this business services customers at their locations” in the edit listing area of your Google Places management area(LBC). Enter your primary search area target in the “List of areas served” field and Google Places then draws the polygon that defines the boundaries of that particular area. As you can see from this graphic, and as I learned the hard way (a long time ago), Deer Park South will not rank on a search for “assisted living Topeka, KS” no matter how strong the listing is. (Click to view larger)

GetListed Local University – Twin Cities

Today, I am presenting at the second GetListed.org Local University in the Twin Cities. If you are coming PLEASE take a moment to introduce yourself as I would love to meet you.

For those of you that attended the presentation these links will provide background information and details for a pathway to dig deeper into the world of managing your listing on Google Maps

Slide 2 – March 2010 Search Engine Market Share
Slide 8/9 – The Importance of Page One Visibility
Slides 10/11 – How the Google Cluster Works
Slide 16- Choosing the Right Category – A Tool
Slide 16 – Writing a Great Business Description
Slide 17 – Creating a GeoSitemap – A tool
Slide 22- Local Search Ranking Factors – the many variables
Slide 22- A brief list of 10 Ranking Factors – somewhat old but still valid and a quick read
Slide 23- Thinking about your Business Name in the Internet Era
Slide 24 – Custom Maps – A Goldmine
Slide 24- The Importance of Citations
Slide 24 – 20 Citation Sources in the US
Slide 24 – User Generated Content – Geo Tagged Photos
Slide 24 – How To Gather Reviews
Slide 24- Where to Gather Reviews

Google Places and the Professional’s Place Pages – Should there be multiples?

Many, many professional practices and clinics have multiple practitioners. Google Maps is all about the Place. In the past, Google has made it quite clear that there should be one listing for each business.

However, Google when assembling data about these professionals, often gathers both place and practitioner detail to create Places pages. Thus often there will be a clinic page as well as a number of individual professional places pages.

I have often wondered whether one should keep the individual listings or consolidate them into one to best conform to Google’s guidelines and practices. Historically I have, when appropriate, consolidated the listings into a single listing. While that strategy consolidates all citations and reviews it often creates ongoing work. It becomes necessary to check the and purge the index as the individual listings continue to flow in.

I decided however, to get Google’s “official” opinion on the matter so I asked Ari Bezman, Google’s product manager for the Local Business Center Google Places as to how Google thought this situation should be handled.

MB: What is Google’s recommended practice in regards to handling the multiple listings that most professionals and clinics end up with?

Should we endeavor to have one listing for the practice Place and merge all of the doctors (or whatever) into the one listing or should a we endeavor to keep the individual doctor listings?

Ari: Each doctor (or other independent professional) should have their own listing, with one more listing for the clinic.

MB: A related question is that often the Doctor listings come into Google with a format of Dr Name: Speciality . Is that the preferred business name or is just the Dr. Name preferred?

Ari: The name should just be Dr. Name. The specialty should be in the category and/or the description.

MB: What about in practices (say legal practices) that have a ton of low level professionals who come and go but the practice really only wants to be known by their place and trade name. Is there anything wrong with them claiming the many spurious records into the master record?

Ari: It really depends what the individually “contactable” parts of a business are. We’d like to have one place page (and so one entry in Google Places) for each one of those. So, that definitely means one for the law firm, and then one for each department or professional that is willing to receive cold calls/emails/etc. from new customers. There’s no reason to list internal/back-office departments or people. So I’d say it depends on the law firm and how they represent themselves in the real world and in other media.

GoogleSpeak – “We currently do not support the location” = Banished?

Google Maps has never been great at providing meaningful feedback in the Google Places management area (aka LBC) to businesses that encountered errors in entering their record or when being given a penalty. For a while this trend was improving as the messages were getting more specific and meaningful and at one point last fall, Google’s Joel Headly responded to my post complaining about the ever onerous “Flagged Waiting for Content Check” message, by saying publicly that “I take responsibility for this. I’m working through this issue now, and I expect to improve the experience for users by the end of the year”.

But we seem to have taken a big step back with the “We currently do not support the location” message now being applied in several situations, none of which make sense to the small business person making the edit.

The message has meant that Google hasn’t fully processed your recently added site and that they had not yet fully integrated the listing in the index. Thus users would generate the error when viewing their stats or viewing the listing in Maps too soon after creation of their listing. If you stopped backed a few days (up to 12) later, you would find all is ok.

Apparently though, the message now also means: Your listing is not in compliance with the Guidelines and is not showing on Maps.

This answer was recently provided in the forums by Google Employee Helen to a poster whose listing had disappeared from Maps (and in this post as well):

Check out this article [1] for details about why you’re seeing the message “We currently do not support this location” when you click on See your listing on Maps.

If you find that your listing receives this error message for an extended period of time, check to make sure that it adheres to our Google Places quality guidelines [2]. Some of our most commonly-violated guidelines include:

-Multiple Listings For Same Location
-Inaccurate Representation of Business Name
-Inaccurate Representation of Address
-Inaccurate Representation of Phone/URL

Cheers,
Helen

I support Google’s efforts to clean up the index, I support their right to not show listings that are not in compliance with their guidelines. I do not support their cryptic non-transparent communication and terrible error messages.

If a listing isn’t showing because of a violation, say so. If it is clear how the user can fix it, tell them explicitly. If they are being suspended from the index for a given time, indicate how long.

Is it really so hard to provide specific, meaningful messages to various error and/or punishment states? Can’t the error say exactly what went wrong, what needs to be done to fix it and which help page has more details. This is deja vue all over again.

Google has insinuated themselves into our business lives. That’s the reality. They offer benefit to those who manage to do well in Maps. That does not give them the right to not communicate to a business that has gone afoul of whatever the new rules are….

New Google Layout Now (Mostly) Live

The Google Jazz upgrade is now rolling out and is available in most locations (although not all as I have it at home but not work). SInce its early testing, the interface has evolved through a number of changes as it relates to local, some of which pushed organic results further down the page than others. In the end though the final changes will not result in any significant difference when local results are shown.

Here is a screen capture at 1024 x 768 with before and after looks at the impact that the new interface PLUS the new local refinements options have on the page (click the image to see full size):

As you can see, by reducing the amount of space at the top of the page Google preserved the size of the Local 7-Pack and kept the amount of organic results the same as before.

When using the interface during the test, I came to like its feel and prefer it to the “yesterdays” display. What is your opinion of the interface? Will it have any new impact on Local and organic results?

I have also added screen shots of the old and new Local Universal result displays from my 1920×1200 monitor. Interestingly at this resolution the new and old designs both show 6 organic results.

Developing Knowledge about Local Search