Google’s Worst Customer Service EVER – An SMB Tale of Woe


Dan Wakefield runs YardRents.com, an innovative Portland based tool rental firm that directly delivers yard tools to homeowners for their use. His firm, being a service business with his address appropriately hidden on Google Places, suffered the “We Do Currently Do  Not Support This Location” problem that inappropriately removed businesses for the second time in a month (yes Google suffered the exact same problem last month but not as badly).

His tale captures the issues that an SMB faces when Google loses their listing and accurately reflects Google’s current (inadequate) response to the recurring problem. He unfortunately learned the hard way that diversification of review and marketing resources is necessary in a Google world. Read what he has to say:

We had our places profile for several years then we got the “We Currently Do Not Support This Location” at the same time everyone else did.

Unfortunately, whatever they did to fix the problem had the opposite affect for us.  We have been in a state of “We Currently Do Not Support This Location” for almost 3 weeks.  When we look at our places dashboard, we see “Being reviewed – Pending” even though we can still edit information.

Fortunately, Google Places support has been corresponding with us and says that it is a Google technical glitch that’s causing the problem and it is not a result of anything we have done.  They won’t tell us when, if ever, this bug will be fixed.  We had 56 (5 star) reviews on this profile.  It took us nearly 3 years to accumulate those reviews and now they are gone.

The support people created a second profile that is incomplete and has no reviews associated with it.  I question the usefulness of a duplicate profile for the same location, but it was their doing, not ours. They have confirmed that the reviews will never re-associate with the new profile, but maybe the old one will come online someday when they fix the bug.  As far I am concerned, this is a data integrity problem.  It’s funny, if Google were to lose customer data for a few free Gmail accounts then we would hear about it on national news, but lose a few Small Business Google Places profiles and nobody cares (except the business owners).

If there is a lesson to be learned here then it’s “don’t put all your eggs in one basket.”  Over the years we have sent every customer to our Google Places profile to write a review and many of them did. Why wouldn’t we?  We trusted Google to do no evil.  With the blink of an eye all those precious reviews have been lost.  We embraced Google 100% and have been bitten because of it.

Going forward, we are sending all customers to our Facebook page to “Like” us and share their experience.  Additionally, we intend to fully embrace Apple maps (when they come out), Yelp, Yahoo Local, Bing etc… Spread things around a little.  The online equivalent of market diversification.  Rest assured, based on this nightmare experience with Google, we will likely not be sending customers to participate in Google Places or Google+ review activity. Funny thing, a fair percentage of our customers actually took the time to create a Google account so they could write the reviews.  Yes, they where that happy with our service.

And Dan is probably right. Creating a second listing is likely NOT a good solution to his problems. Your thoughts?

Why Google’s New Policy on Professional Practices & Practitioners Makes Sense


Apparently Google+ Local (aka Places) has finally established a firm policy on how to handle Medical/Legal Practice and Practitioner listings that now requires that both the practice and the practitioners be listed. Linda Buquet has taken a Sky is Falling attitude to the change:

Big departure from what we are used to and this could make it really difficult to rank for Medical, Dental and Legal practices with multiple practitioners.

If in fact there is a new policy, I would suggest that actually having a policy in this regard is a positive step in the right direction. In the past some practices wanted to show just the practice (and they suffered from dupes) and some practices wanted to show the practice and practitioners (and they suffered mergings). It was not ideal for either approach and it involved a lot whack a mole for one and a lot of frustration for the other.

As I understand the new Google+ local pages, there will be a great deal more trust placed on the data provided by the verified owners of the listing. Thus they are less likely to be merged or changed. If that is the case, then the change (not really change rather a firming up) of the policy in regards to professional practices makes sense.

If there is only one way to do it and that way involves having practice and practitioner listings AND they do not merge, then for once we have a concrete target that both we and Google can strive for. So while it is a change, it really should make life easier IF in fact Google 1)puts in place the technology to support the practice & practitioner listings in the index without merging and 2)keeps that same policy firm going forward.

As Linda noted, tagging departed practitioners with a ““This Place is permanently closed”” tag is wildly inappropriate messaging. But other than that gotcha which Google should be able to solve, I am hopeful that there will be only one way to handle practice and practitioner listings and that way will actually work.

The G+ Merge Has Started: Google Now Processing Manual Merge Requests


Google is now processing manual Merge/Verification requests that were made to expedite the integration of the Google+ Local and the Googe+ Business pages. I assume that the bulk of merges have now begun.

I and several others received this email in the last few minutes (just before 3:00 pm EST):

Hello,

Congratulations your Google+ page is verified and upgraded! Remember to keep the information on your page up-to-date by editing in your Google+ account. Please note that after you verify, changes you make to your page may be subject to review before being published. Learn more at http://support.google.com/business/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=2566475&p=edits_policy

Since you are one of the first users to be verified, we’d love to get some feedback on your experience so far, this will greatly help us improve the product. Please take a few minutes to take our survey.
https://docs.google.com/a/google.com/spreadsheet/viewform?fromEmail=true&formkey=dEthemZhcURpVWRIdkF1d2kwUklkbVE6MQ

If you have any other question regarding your verified local Google+ page, check out our help center articles at http://support.google.com/plus/bin/topic.py?hl=en&topic=2566084&parent=1710599&ctx=topic

Cheers,
The Google Team

As Greg Magnusson of Leo’s Pet Care noted, only one of the three links is currently live. I particularly was curious to understand what was meant by this sentence and link; Please note that after you verify, changes you make to your page may be subject to review before being published. Learn more at http://support.google.com/business/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=2566475&p=edits_policy. Unfortunately the link is not yet live.

The other problem is that the form makes no indication which listing is being merged. If you have more than one on an email address it can be confusing.

Update: the links are now live.

Policy for edits to local Google+ pages
Any content that you have on your local Google+ page should follow the Google+ content policy. Information about your business should also follow the quality guidelines for listings.

All new listings or changes to your existing listing are subject to review. Please wait a few days for your changes to appear on your local Google+ page. Having problems editing? Let us know.

This page about service area businesses appears to be new:

Service area businesses
If you’re a service area business and have hidden your address in Google Places for Business, your address is already hidden on the local Google+ page for your business as well. Once we roll out the ability to verify your upgraded local Google+ page, doing so will respect that selection to hide your address.

The Over Promise, Under Delivery Of Google’s G+ Signup Nagging & What it Means


Google is on a mission. If you have been in Siberia studying methane emissions from tundra ponds, you might not have noticed. Otherwise their incredibly aggressive nagging to get you to get a G+ account may have seemed like an ever present specter in your daily Google jaunt.

This nag, brought to my attention by Mike Ramsey, seemed particularly lame. Here’s the pitch with the benefits as to why you should join.

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The delivery?
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Google’s Worst Customer Service Response EVER


Several week ago a large number of mostly service area listings started receiving the dreaded “We currently do not support the location” message. At the time Google noted that “your listing may have been dropped due to a technical issue that we cannot yet resolve. We hope to have a resolution soon for this issue, at which point we will be in touch with next steps to help you return your business to Google Maps“.

Last week Michael Borgelt sent me a copy of this email that Google had started sending to those inappropriately affected by the “We do not support” message on their listing (bold mine) :

Hello,

Thanks for your patience in waiting for an update on your Google Maps listing. If you’re still receiving the “We currently do not support the location” error message, then your listing was affected by a technical issue and there are a couple of things you can do to help restore it to Google Maps.

First, review our quality guidelines. If your location doesn’t meet these guidelines, it may have been removed from Maps. Especially check out this article about service-area businesses, and hiding your address in case your business is at a residential location:http://support.google.com/places/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=177103

If you’re confident that your business fits within our guidelines, then search for your business at mapmaker.google.com and see if it has been marked as removed. If you’re able to find it, attempt to undo the removal and reinstate your listing on Maps. It may take a couple of days for your reinstatement to be processed.

If you’re unable to reinstate your page this way, then please remove your listing from your Google Places dashboard by clicking “Delete” then “Remove my listing from my Google Places account,” then recreate the listing. You will need to undergo PIN verification again if that was your original verification process, but doing so may cause your listing to surface cleanly on Maps once you input your new PIN.

Thanks for your patience and understanding with this process, and we hope to continue to improve your experience in Google Local and on Google Maps.

Best,
The Google Local Team

This response qualifies as not just the worst customer service response ever from Google, but perhaps the worst customer service response ever. It is as if the printed Yellow Pages didn’t print your listing due to their error and then told you that you needed to go down to their office and enter it yourself on their arcane typesetting machine. Hello?

Some notes: Continue reading

Google for business Forum Update: Photos Uploaded in Dashboard May Take 1 Month To Appear


Jade, in her first ever solo video, makes it short and sweet. The new that you need to be aware of is that photos that you upload and were uploaded via the dashboard will experience interminable delays.

Summary if you don’t want to watch:

1-All links to your old Places listing links will now redirect correctly to the new Google+ local page. (A corollary is that you can no longer see your old Places page. If anyone has figured out a way to do so, let me know.)

2-Photo uploads have been (seriously) delayed. If you uploaded photos within the past week it may take as much as another month for photos uploaded in the last week to show up. (the implication? That a new dashboard may occur in that timeframe?)

3- The 404 errors to from the Google+ local page to external links are still occasionally happening when links are clicked. This problem should be resolved soon.

4- There are two types of local pages in G+; the Google+ local page that you update from the dashboard and the Google+. (If you are still confused by this,well…)

5-Google+ local tip of the week: How to remove an inappropriate photo. Click on the photo and on bottom left select options and then report.

6- Forum tip: subscribe to a specific forum thread by clicking on envelope below the gear in the upper right of the forum thread and you will receive emails any time someone comments on the thread.

Local Search: Geo Keyword Creation Tool


When building a website for a regional business, it is often desirable to build out pages targeting the services to the many surrounding towns. David Mihm estimates that 30% of all searches have local intent and from research by Hanns Kronenberg of Systrix we know that post Venice only about 6% of all searches show pinned Places search results. That leaves a lot of purely organic opportunity for a regional business website to cover, a lot of pages to create and and a lot of towns to look up if you are going target them correctly.

Local Keyword Research Tool from Local Marketing Source makes part of that process easier. It does one thing and it does it very well. You give it a list of your keywords and a distance around your business and it auto-creates a list of geo targeted keyword phrases with all of the cities within the specified mileage radius of that business.

It has some options to add phrases and or additional cities outside the specified boundary before or after the phrases and it also allows you to specify zips or cities you do not want in your list.  After it generates the list you can export it to a .csv file.

I like free and I like simple and this tool is both. Despite the fact that the name implies more than it does, what Local Keyword Research Tool does do, it does very well. My compliments to the chef and thanks to Nigel Kay (@KMarketing) for showing me the tool!

 

 

Google: We Can Show Stars if We Want to!


Last week in “It Really Is a Google World and We Are All Just Living in It“, David Mihm observed that the bulk of content above the fold was Google’s. Last week, with the upgrade to G+ local, Google removed the engaging 5-star graphic from regular business listings and replaced them with the bland and less engaging Zagat rating graphic.

Except, of course, on local Adwords. An obvious corollary to David’s “law” became apparent: It’s Our World and We Can Show Stars if We Want to!*

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* The origin story:
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Local SEO Blocking and Tackling for Siri & Apple Maps


With the announcement of iOS6 and Apple Maps at the WWDC today, the shape of Apple’s local search strategy started to become clearer. Greg Sterling pointed out this list of Apple’s copyright attribution for their mapping product. From the list it is clear that Siri/Apple Maps basic listing data will be coming from Localeze, Axciom and, with additional review & ranking infomation, Yelp. And the mapping base layer from TeleAtlas/TomTom

Greg noted that he thought that TomTom was also a source for business data but a careful read of Apple’s attribution page seems to indicate that Apple is just getting their mapping data from TomTom and its MultiNet system but not business data.

Obviously showing up correctly in Apple Local search is the first step and the first step to that is no different in practice than what you should have been doing right along… listing at all of the primary data suppliers for the local ecosystem; Localeze, Acxiom (& of course InfoUSA) as well as Yelp. If your listing process has only included one or the other of those sources you should expand your claiming process to include them all.

Axciom has a free front end tool as does Localeze & InfoUSA. UBL.org, as you probably know, also submits to Axciom and InfoUSA (& TomTom) although these primary data sources are both important enough that even if I submitted via UBL I would also consider submitting directly to them.

Localeze also has a free listing capability. If you have a traditional Ma Bell landline, the free listing option is probably adequate with Localeze. However be forewarned that if you or your client is using a VOIP or cell phone number, due to the technology that Localeze uses to verify a listing, the free option is not viable. In those cases you really need to submit a paid listing to Localeze to be sure that the listing is in fact verified.

In addition to providing basic NAP to the primary data suppliers, it makes sense to check TeleAtlas maps to be sure that your business addresses resolve correctly. Obviously a great deal of the use of Apple Maps will be for directions and making sure that your address is where you think it should be is critical. Historically their mapping data in the US has been less complete than either Google’s or Navteq’s.

Thus the basics of blocking and tackling of local search for Siri is the same as the desktop: NAP consistency at the primary data suppliers and checking the underlying map geometry and accuracy.

Ranking, at least so far, has taken on a very Yelpish color.  Matt Siltala did an excellent presentation at the recent Getlisted Local University Advanced on his observations vis a vis Siri and Yelp and some things that seemed to correlate well with rank. Here are some factors that seem to come into play in Siri ranking based on my observations and conversations with Matt:

Distance from the searcher
Yelp review totals
Keywords in review content
Yelp Premium partner status
Yelp Elite reviews

It will be September before iOS6 and Apple Maps hits the streets and another few months before it is widely used on all iOS devices. But unlike Siri, it will not be limited to the most recent phone only and should start to play a significant role in the local search arena. In addition given that it is a default app and includes turn by turn driving instructions its uptake should be very swift.

Time to get ready is now. Here are URLs Data submission forms noted above:

Continue reading

Developing Knowledge about Local Search