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!*

(Click to view larger)

* The origin story:
Continue reading

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

Google+ Local Pages Category Confusion


With the rollout of the new G+ local pages, a number of readers reported seeing erroneous categories associated with their listing in G+ local. Jim Froling of 949local.com sent along the examples below that show the types of information that is showing up.

Joel Headley noted at the Getlisted Local Advanced seminar in Seattle last week (if you weren’t there you missed a great day) that it isn’t some new bug or quirk. These additional categories are showing because Google already had the information associated with your listing but up until the G+ local rollout had not been showing the information. If you want to fix this information you can request a category removal either via the new community edit or directly in MapMaker.

David Mihm noted last week that he had noticed that Google+ Local was pulling information from MapMaker and perhaps even giving preferential treatment to that information. At some level that is true.

In March, Google updated the backend of their data pipeline in Places. This is the technology that pushes data from one of Google’s many trusted sources (Dashboard, MapMaker, 3rd Party Sources, vetted community edits or Google edits) to the Place/Google+ Local page. This new backend views MapMaker as one of the sources of trusted data AND due to upgrades in the flow of data pushes that data into G+ local fairly quickly. At the moment, even more quickly than the Dashboard does. Once the dashboard has been updated and the Google+ business page has been created from the Google+ local page, that dashboard will push data even faster to a claimed, an even more trusted, way. For now, Google MapMaker is the fastest way to get information onto a Google+ local page.

An Updated Step By Step Guide for the SMB to the Google + Local Page Transition


Updated 6/8 7:00 pm.
Updated 6/9 12:25 pm.
Updated 6/11 3:00 am

In the change over from Places to Google+Local (and then to Google+ Business pages), Google is upgrading a very complex system. Over the next few weeks and months changes will continue to roll out.

During this process issues are going to occur. It may be painful or fear inducing but these issues will be resolved and for the most part an SMB can just sit back and wait for the dust to settle. For a FAQ on the many changes that occurred last week see this post.

If you want to be more proactive in approaching your local listing at Google here is my advice and a course of action:

1- Be sure that you upgrade your Google account to a Google+ personal account. Life will be much easier if it has the same email as your dashboard account as it will make the coming merge go more smoothly. If your Google+ Business page is created under a different account than your Places listing, then add the email for the Places Dashboard as an additional manager of the G+Business Page. The Places email must be associated with an individual and that individual must have a G+ account. This will make it easier for Google to match the Google+Local page that was created to the Google+ Business page.

Note if the email is a business email and can not be associated with an individual you will need to wait for the implementation of Google’s manual merging process.

2-Go into your (Places) dashboard and view your Google+ Local listing to make sure that the Dashboard is connected to your listing correctly. Note that 1)the link will say “See your listing in Google Maps and 2) the local listing that the link takes you to in in Google+ will NOT show as verified. That badge is still coming and will show after the listings have been merged with the new + page.

3-I think it wise to not muck with your data in the dashboard or your listing too much during this transition. Let the dust settle if at all possible and move on to the next steps.

4-Give Google your email via this form to be alerted when they have merged your new Google+ Local listing with the Google+Business pages

You can stop here and all will be fine. Google will do the rest in the next 6 weeks or so. They will convert the Google+ local page into a full blown Google+ business page and you can move forward.

If you want to start experiencing more of what your page will become you can try any or all of these optional activities:

1- Consider creating a Google+ Business page from your Google+ account so that you can learn about how the pages work.

2- Particularly focus on adding attractive photos as this will become what was your Places Landing page

3- When someone clicks on reviews in the main search results they will be taken to your Google+ Business About page. Pay particular attention to this page. Effectively what was your very limited 200 character description will morph into a rich page of content about your business. You can add links and a fair bit of text to this page.

Note: That your photos and About page business description will become the first things that visitors see when they come over from the main search results. It is important to keep your description brief so that the user doesn’t need to scroll too far to see your reviews (unless of course they are bad).

To see an example of a “merged” page that I have worked on you can see Barbara Oliver & Co. Jewelry. I have already trimmed back the About content but not quite enough.

Last I checked the new “merged” page was working pretty well although I was unable to leave a review response. I have heard that this particular “bug” has been fixed but I am not positive and it will be rolling out very soon if not already.

4- Search Google+ for some folks in your industry that you would like to follow and add them to your circles to learn how that is done. Read their posts and see what they are sharing.

This will become a client communication tool going forward so getting comfortable with circles is useful (but not yet required).

5- If you are the early tester type and want to get your Google+ local page merged with your Google Plus Business sooner rather than later (with the risks of experiencing more bugs) you may request to do so via this form.

Obviously this is a rapidly evolving product. So particulary if you are going whole hog you will want to track the bugs and not stress over them. This Google for Business (Places) Forum wrap up covers the state of bugs in the change over so you know where the “gotcha’s” are:

- 400 Errors on links from Google+ Local should be mostly resolved
- Google Dashboard now linking to the new redirect to the Google+ Local Page
- A known Bug that is still unresolved is that there is no way to access Google+ Local pages or to leave a review from mobile
- Missing categories are not actually missing but are only showing the first few. You can see additional categories via pop up bubble. (Note we have seen listings will too many categories and inappropriate categories. This seems to be due to a data push from MapMaker. Report them via the new report a problem procedure by clicking on the edit this listing link.
- Google WILL be merging the Google+ Local Page with the Google+ Businesses page in the near future. The stand alone Google+ local page which is essentially the same page as your Place page, will be integrated into the full interface of Google+ Business Pages. If you would like to sign up to be a guinea pig for this merge process you may do so on this form (caveat emptor).

Other known bug: Google has been losing a number of legitimate listings to the “We do not currently support this location” bug.

Google Places Experiencing Lost Listings


In Google local when there is big change you can always expect some extra “excitement”. Lost a legitimate listing or getting the “We do not support this location” inappropriately?

As Jason has notes below in his recent email below, several users HAVE contacted me about the issue and Google’s response: We are working hard to fix it soon. Boo on Google for the glitch but kudos to Google for clear & honest communication about the problem!

—–
Hi Mike B –

I thought you’d find it interesting (perhaps for your blog, which this industry watches with baited breath) on a known Google issue it seems.  Here’s the thread.

Basically since June 1 / May 31, our listings just “disappeared.”  Both Podesta Baldocchi and Rossi & Rovetti Flowers in San Francisco.  We’re sort of fortunate to have somewhat of a good organic presence, though our hit volume is off almost 60%… so it matters to be on Google local.   I raised the flag and here’s an email I also received from them:

From: local-help@google.com

Re: [#1039831384] ,!RE:  Google Places for Business Help

“Hello,

Thanks for getting in touch with us about your listing not showing.

Unfortunately, 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.

Best,

The Google Team

I bet other people are enjoying this glitch.  It appears though to be very connected with the same software change they made when they made it imperative to use Google Plus as the tool to make reports.

Jason B.
Rossi & Rovetti Flowers
415.200.5500

Google+ Local – What Wasn’t in the Announcement Was More Important Than What Was


Last week’s announcement of Google+ Local was underwhelming. The review upgrade was impressive but the rest was tepid at best. Essentially the URL for your Place page has changed and the page now shows in the index although the “upgrade” seems to have broken more than it fixed. The announcement last week of Google+ Local was more important for what was left out than what was in it.

We know that Google has been gradually diassembling the Dashboard (pulling out AdWords Express and revamping Offer Coupons) and that its functionality has not been updated in eons (think analytics that only report out pack results NOT blended).

The current move of the business listing from Places to Google+ Local essentially broke the ability of the Dashboard to view the listing and the listings no longer indicates that the business has claimed them or that it is verified.

We also know for sure that the Google +Local page will merge into the G+ Business page in the near future. Clearly Google is focusing its energies on integrating as much as possible into the social backbone of G+.

Over the past year Google bought Zagat but they also bought local online services Punchd (a digital loyalty program) and Talkbin (an SMS based) CRM program. Both programs that have a strong potential appeal in the local market. In the recent rollout we see a glimmering of using the business listing as a local transaction engine with the inclusion of OpenTable.

When you add all of that up you come to the inescapable conclusion that the backend Dashboard is undergoing a massive rework and will likely become a central point for the SMB to interact with all of Google’s products with a special emphasis on Google Plus.

David Mihm has written about a vision of what the Dashboard could and should become. Bing has implemented a blueprint for an integrated marketing portal that might also provide a guide to Google. Whatever it is it will need to be more engaging, more valuable and more integral to local businesses ongoing marketing needs: better analytics, simple integration with G+, CRM, easy opt-in to Google’s paid products, the ability for the business to easily understand and interact with a full range of Google’s local offerings and the ability for Google to plug in more functionality down the road.

Today the Wall Street Journal today essentially confirmed this direction. They note that by early July Google will be rolling out such a product:

The project combines several products and services aimed at small businesses under a single banner. It is based on a mix of internally developed software and recently acquired technologies that the company hopes eventually will bring in billions of dollars a year in new revenue.

Central to the effort is Google+, the company’s social network, which it hopes consumers will use to interact with local businesses that now have special Web pages on the network. Those Google+ pages will draw traffic from the company’s Web-search engine. When shoppers visit these businesses, Google wants them to use their Internet-connected phones like a digital wallet, earning loyalty points and making payments at stores that sign up for Google’s new services.

When this occurs the real Google+ Local will be rolling out, not just a new location for a landing page, but a substantial improvement to the static and marginally functional Dashboard. Let’s hope that it is an integrated marketing solution that is elegant, provides significant on-going value and works properly right out of the gate (oh and is multiuser).

Developing Knowledge about Local Search