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


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.

GetListed Local U – Minneapolis Local University in Minneapolis is coming up on May 13th at the Westin Edina Galleria and there will be an AM and one PM session. As always the Twin Cities event will be focused on providing the small business person with an overview of marketing their business on the web.

The regular cost is $129 but the discount of $40 is still available (use discount code MB). To register visit our Twin Cities page. I am hoping to see some of you there, get a chance to meet and talk over a beer.

The sessions are designed to educate small business folks on some of the ins and outs of internet marketing in a DIY style leaving ample opportunity for those of you who are professionals to add value and context for your clients. If you are interested in bringing a block of customers, email me so that I can provide you with an additional savings on the ticket price.

Google Updates Community Edit History with Editor Quality Comments

Google Maps has been updating a number of features of late, some small and some not so small.

Here is a detail of the upgrade that was pointed out to me by Alice, one of PureSheer’s staff, where Google is now including a great deal of interesting history of community edits. If you edit a non-claimed listing, Google is now presenting an incredibly detailed edit history :

What is so fascinating about this history is that it includes opinions (one presumes algorythmically derived) about the quality of the edits AND the quality of the editor. I have bolded some of these:

Changed 1 hours 34 mins ago
Phone: Deleted 415-373-1665
Interesting notes about this edit:
User is new to making edits of this kind

Changed 3 hours 43 mins ago
This edit is a suggestion
Phone: 415-422-9594 415-373-1665
Interesting notes about this edit:
User has some history of entering poor data.
User has made few edits.

Changed 3 hours 50 mins ago
This edit is a suggestion
Phone: 415-422-9594 415-373-1665
Interesting notes about this edit:
User has some history of entering poor data.
User has made few edits.

Changed 4 hours 33 mins ago
Phone: 415-373-1665 415-422-9594
Interesting notes about this edit:
User is new to making edits of this kind

Added 4 hours 33 mins ago
Name: SF Bay Locksmith San Francisco (English, type: Preferred)
Name: Available Locksmith San Francisco (English, type: Obscure)
Building / Ground: Establishment / Point of Interest
Geometry: Location added
Address: 236, West Portal Avenue, San Francisco, CA, United States, 94127
Phone: 415-422-9594
Payment types: Visa
Payment types: MasterCard
Additional Categories: Locksmith
Interesting notes about this edit:
User has increased their rate of edits.
Pornographic or curse words have been detected.

Bill Slawsky has written a number of posts on how Google may be rating raters. This might just be providing us a glimpse of that.

How Often Does Google Show A Local Map? More than a 1 billion times per month!

Yesterday, Nielson reported the March 2010 U.S. search rankings. It included the normal stuff…Google has a 65.7 market share, Yahoo’s down, Bing is up….

Of more interest to me was the reported fact that there were 6,387,932,000 (6.4 billion) searches on Google in March. Last week, Google noted in their Google Places rebranding of the the LBC that 20% the searches on Google had local intent. Assuming that these results were calculated in roughly similar way, 1.28 billion searches in March on Google had that local intent last month.

We do know that Google doesn’t show the Local Universal Map for all searches with local intent. We don’t have a clue how often Google doesn’t show the map but it seems evident that when there is not enough user in interest in the Map and when Google doesn’t feel like it, it stops showing.

Earlier this year, based on a Google announced factoid that 1 in 13 search result pages showed a Map. I speculated, using conservative values, that the Local Universal results were shown on the order of 800 million times.

So how many times does the Local Universal Map result show on the main Google results page? It is safe to assume that the number is closer to the 1.28 billion than the 800 million.

We don’t know for sure and will probably never know exactly but we are narrowing in on a reasonably good guesstimate and the number appears to be north of a billion. Is it 1.1 billion, 1.2 billion or even 1.28 billion times??

For the sake of symmetry and because no one (other than Google and they aren’t talking) can prove us wrong, let’s round it off, split the difference and say that a Local Universal Map (one box, 3 packs and 7-packs) showed ~1.2 Billion times on the front page of Google.

Regardless, as my father would say, it is no small potatoes.

Google Maps Now Using Streeview Data in Place of TeleAtlas

Today on the Lat-Long Blog, Google has announced that they are now using their own underlying geo data instead of TeleAtlas data. The move mirrors the move made in the US when Google replaced TeleAtlas data in October 2009.

Here is their announcement:

The map of Canada is constantly changing – new roads are being built, highways are being renamed, and bike trails are opening. To keep up with all these changes, we’ve started using new map data in Canada. This new base map is built from a wide range of sources, just as we recently announced for the US in October. In Canada, we’ve made use of data from organizations such as the National Hydrography Network and Canadian Council on Geomatics. Once again things like satellite imagery and Street View were also helpful to make a rich, thorough base map.

You may notice some changes like seeing a full map of your former campus, but overall the look and feel of Google Maps will be pretty similar to what you’re used to. One of the biggest changes is that now you can give us direct feedback about our map of Canada – let’s say a new park has just opened in your neighborhood. You’ll notice a link that says “Report a Problem” in the lower right corner of Google Maps when you’re looking at Canada, which will let you send your updates and feedback directly to us. We’ll review it as soon as possible and keep you posted on the status of your report. We want our map to be as up-to-date as possible and reflect what’s important to you, and we think these changes will help us with that goal.

The move, while predictable, foreshadows a time when Google has replaced TeleAtlas in every country where they have adequate StreetView coverage. The move solidifies Google as a major player in gathering and vetting of geodata and puts them in direct worldwide competition with both Nokia’s NavTeq and TeleAtlas. For more insight into the implications of this move read my SearchEngineland interview with Mike Dobson.

Introducing the Hot New Social Network, PhoneBook

Allows User to Call Friends, Speak to Them

SILICON VALLEY (The Borowitz Report) – A new social network is about to alter the playing field of the social media world, and it’s called PhoneBook.

According to its creators, who invented the network in their dorm room at Berkeley, PhoneBook is the game-changer that will leave Facebook, Twitter and even the much anticipated Google Buzz in a cloud of dust.

“With PhoneBook, you have a book that has a list of all your friends in the city, plus everyone else who lives there,” says Danny Fruber, one of PhoneBook’s creators.

“When you want to chat with a friend, you look them up in PhoneBook, and find their unique PhoneBook number,” Fruber explains.  “Then you enter that number into your phone and it connects you directly to them.”

Another breakout utility of PhoneBook allows the user to arrange face-to-face meetings with his or her friends at restaurants, bars, and other “places,” as Fruber calls them.

“You will be sitting right across from your friend and seeing them in 3-D,” he said.  “It’s like Skype, only without the headset.”

PhoneBook will enable friends to play many games as well, such as charades, cards, and a game Fruber believes will be a breakout: Farm.

“In Farm, you have an actual farm where you raise real crops and livestock,” he says.  “It’s hard work, but it’s more fun than Mafia, where you actually get killed.”

This article is reprinted with permission of Andy Borowitz. For real-time fake news updates, follow Andy Borowitz on Twitter. You may subscribe to his daily Borowitz Report here.

Google Adds 3D Earth like view To Maps

Google continues to roll out new features to Google Maps, having added 3D Google Earth view to Google Maps.

View Larger Map

In June, 2009, I noted in speaking on the Google Earth like future of Google Maps:

It portends a day in the not too distant future when the browser by default, handles the complexities of a 3D geo environment with ease and speed. It points towards a rich mapping environment where Google Maps takes on the sophistication of Google Earth but inside the browser.

Well that day has arrived as Google is moving quickly to integrate business data with more fluid and engaging views of the world around us.

The new 3D capability is available for use on a custom map from within MyMaps and could be used to create an embedded Map for a business site that offers some incredible eye candy.

View Search Clients in a larger map

Google enhances discoverability of businesses in Streetview

At the Google Lat-Long, Google has announced a new release of local businesses annotations “to help improve the discoverability of content in Street View….For now, browsing a location in Street View will show the top listings for that immediate area. We will be extending this coverage soon to include more businesses and also transit locations” (Click on the pin).

View Larger Map

Note also that if you scroll over the truck in this image, some of the original base level icons show as well (although apparently not those that were given icons by virtue of their Favorite Places awards):

View Larger Map
Google has noted that Google that Google Earth has more usage on the iPhone than on the Mac. Going forward, the type of immersive enivronment offered up by Streetview and Google Earth is likely to achieve its most popularity in the mobile world.

Developing Knowledge about Local Search