The new stats in the Local Business Center leave a bit to be desired. Apparently though they are better than no stats as many outside the US, which have not yet been upgraded to the data rich dashboard, are reporting that what few stats they had are no longer showing and have been at best erratic for the last few months.
I contacted a number of Canadian local search folks, all of who confirmed that for the past 3-8 weeks stats have all but disappeared in their Local Business Centers. Have the stats disappeared in anticipation of a world wide upgrade to the new data rich dashboard? Or is there just a quirk in providing them?
The data rich dashboard was introduced in the US during the last week of May. At that time when asked what the timeframe for broader international rollout, Carter Maslan noted: “It is a high priority but we have nothing specific to communicate. It will follow as we are able to provide it but there is no timeline to announce at the moment.”
I have been seeing this adword listing on the search Google Maps Help over the past week.
I am no AdWords expert but in Maps, there is no way to use the word Google in a business listing even if you are using a Google Site as your home page. Your listing will be flagged and move to a state of semi-permanent purgatory with the “Flagged Waiting for Content Check” message.
Does Adwords allow for the offer of Google tech support on Google products? Is this an approved service? The headline leaves the distinct impression that it is actually Google Tech Support.
Update 8/12/09 4:50 PM: I just received the newsletter in my mailbox. Just one showed up, but no stats just yet. Ok its 5:06 and I just received a second email with a different subject but the same newsletter but now including an overview of stats for one of the listings in the LBC.
According to the Google post in the Help Forums the communication also includes the ability to get a snapshot of the data rich dashboard emailed on a monthly basis. It is not clear whether the mailings started or will occur over the coming month.
Today around noon, Google, as part of a change across all of their forums, has upgraded the Map’s Help forums. The goal of the change is to make the system as descriptive as possible to avoid duplicate questions.
For a frequent forum visitor it dramatically slows down getting an overarching view of the activity and posts although with a click you can get to the All Discussions View. That being said it does provide a single view of all of my personal activity and all discussions on the forums so that I can get a better sense of the status of posts that have been updated.
Lost in the “upgrade” are links to the form to post spam reports for Google Maps as well as the links to the significant blog posts that Google has made in their Water Cooler Blog. The site has become much more hierachal with all links leading off of the main Maps Help Page linked from Maps. Unfortunately once you head into the forums, there is no direct path back to the critical tips in the blog or easy way to file a spam report.
Time will tell whether typical users will get the information they more quickly. Regardless, the nature of problems in the Maps’ forum are such that without more Google staff intervention many of the questions still can not be answered.
Can a Canadian business that is required by law, post two listings in the LBC? One in French and one in English? Can a Lawyer that services both English and Spanish clientele from a San Diego office have a listing in both languages? Can an English guest house that services European clients have a listing in 6 languages?
The question of whether a business could create the same listing in multiple languages comes up from time to time in the forums and in this blog. It was assumed that the Business Listing Guideline that stated: Create only one listing for each physical location of your business meant that having the same listing in several languages was not acceptable. Apparently, that is not the case and it is acceptable under Google’s guidelines to have the same listing in as many languages as appropriate.
Here is what Google had to say when asked if it was OK for a business to list in multiple languages:
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.
In early June, reports surfaced of a new beta program that allows a Local Business Center account’s bulk uploads to be whitelisted after approval by Google. Google has confirmed this program and estimates that it will be live in the Local Business Center in several months.
Here a correspondence from last week with Carter Maslan, VP of Maps:
MB: I have received several emails concerning Google’s whitelisting of bulk uploads for use in the Maps index. Would you be able to share program details and specifics as to how an agency might get approved under this program?
Carter: We’re still working out the process for whitelisting, but we should be able to start introducing it soon (within a couple months). It is geared towards people that are acting as sole agent of a single business in publishing locations (typically an employee of the business supplying a feed of chain/office locations, but perhaps also a person that the business has contracted). So whitelisting is not at the Agency-level; instead it’s at the individual business level where that business may have hired an employee or SEM consultant to do its work.
Does that make sense?
MB: Are you saying that it will be an LBC level procedure? If so what is involved in obtaining the status?
Carter: Yes. For example, if you’re signed-in to the LBC account that contains the bulk upload of all the Acme Widget Company locations, then you’d request whitelisting of that feed in that account.
MB: So you are saying that it will be a brand by brand, case by case level approval? Will the request structure be formalized within the LBC or will it stay the “figure out if you can” sort of thing?
Carter: Maybe not quite brand by brand. For example, if a parent corporation has multiple brands and they’ve hired someone to handle all their various franchise locations, we *may* want to enable whitelisting of the corporation’s feed; we haven’t finished working that out exactly. But generally, we want the user account to correspond to a single business brand to help ensure quality/accuracy.
In terms of process, we’re still working through that; but there will likely be a link in LBC to request whitelisting.
It is unclear if the beta program is still open and how one would join. Regardless, an improved and secure bulk upload would be a welcome change.
If you grew up in the American school system like I did, you always wanted to know: How do I get a 100? Ever since Google introduced the Data Rich Dashboard in early June, this has been a frequent question on the minds of all that have frequented the Local Business Center and filled out the details for their business. How do I get 100% Complete on the Local Business Center Dashboard?
At the time of the introduction Carter Maslan noted: “We are making a change so that is more specific as to what the % complete indicates. If it isn’t available on rollout it will be available shortly.”
A reader (Nick Thomas of G5 Search Marketing) couldn’t wait and produced this very helpful data to provide clear guidelines as to how to achieve a perfect score on your LBC listing:
Here is the same information in table form:
Field in LBC order
% Contribution to Score
Required Fields, Company/Organization, Street Address, City/Town, State, ZIP, Main phone
Description: 200 characters or less
Hours of operations
Payment options (any box toggled)
Additional Details (one line)
The writer noted that he tabulated these percentages by filling in a new listing and saving after each field was completed. He indicated that Google being Google the tabulation might not be the same if you were working on an existing listing. However my experience is that he has in fact identified the critical issues in reaching the 100% Complete level.
Sometimes Google Maps just has a brain fart. Life will go along and all will be good with your listing. Then, for no apparent reason, it just forgets things. Not insignificant things like the year you opened or the special brand you carry but important things like your listing’s URL or its correct location on the earth.
Late last week though, I saw a strange one. On the surface it looked like a record had been hijacked. The reality was both simpler and more complex than that.
You may recall Podesta Baldocchi Florist in San Francisco. They are the poster child for the great family run urban florist. They have been in business since 1871, have a great reputation in San Francisco and have been owned by the same family for many years. They were one of the many unclaimed florist listings that was hijacked in September of 2008 via the community edit feature as part of an affiliate fulfillment scam. They actively use the internet for marketing and have checked their Maps record every day since the hijacking.
On Thursday of last week I received a desperate email from Marc, the owner of Podesta Baldocchi. It read: Help! Our website on the Google 10 pack has been hijacked again. I am trying to understand why and how to get it corrected. Any assistance would be appreciated.
Fortunately it had not been hijacked but his record had reverted to both an unclaimed state and taken on all the attributes of the original hijacking from almost a year ago. Maps seemed to have just forgotten that the record had been claimed into the Local Business Center after the community hijacking and somehow dug up and reinserted all the information from that event 10 months ago. It had been hijacked once and suddenly had become ready for a second round. Do hijackers hijack already hijacked records?
It seemed a simple matter to just reclaim it and bring it back into the LBC. Upon investigation a duplicate record showed up as well in the index and I thought it would make sense for Marc to go through the claiming and duplicate removal process for that record as well.
As part of a much larger campaign, Google is now serving up ads that promote Google Maps with a maplet that provides a guided video tour of Maps functionality. The following ad was returned on the local search “Bradford Pa Restaurants”:
When clicked the ad loads a Maplet (visible at this url) that provides a series of three folksy, first person “I love Google Maps” promotional videos that overview finding routes, getting store information and picking a business (not a locksmith btw).
The videos are a low key, easy to watch, “people on the street” sort that provide a personal touch to the Map experience without beating someone over the head. They are professional and portray Maps as “the way” in a way that is appealing.
Google is obviously spending money of late promoting Maps and attempting to create much of the same “cool” factor that has surrounded Google since its inception. Today, in San Francisco, they invited a number of local businesses to an event called “Favorite Places” where SF Mayor Newsom and other “trendsetters” show off their favorite businesses.
The event has an educational focus that features product demos and speakers to educate smb’s about Maps and Adwords.
Simultaneously, Google is placing statue like Google Map Markers in obvious real world locations while simultaneously rolling out a new maplet called “Favorite Places” that introduces a collection of favorite local places around the globe from worldly “trendsetters.
On one level it is positive and necessary for Google to promote and educate about their Maps products. It is clearly part of a full fledged campaign to position Maps as trendy, fun and something lovable.
The problem Google is confronting though, is that Maps is still a somewhat unwieldy, buggy enterprise that many SMB’s find frustrating and which offers absolutely no real support. Google has attempted to answer some of that criticism with their recent blog post at the Helps Forum.
Most SMB’s and marketing folks recognize that post for what it is, a somewhat hollow attempt at explaining away both the problems and the lack of a true support structure for Maps. Yet Google is now out on the blogs touting that post as answer to the many problems that still are affecting small businesses that use Maps.
My advice to Google: PR is great but a great product with great support is even better. Most SMB’s have a very finely tuned ear and can spot BS at far more than 20 paces and have very long memories. Before you start touting your service, you need to provide some. It is fine to educate and promote your products in an easy listening style but don’t try to tell folks that “we hear you” as a solution to real, concrete bug fixes and human support.