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Understanding Google My Business & Local Search

Google Customer Service: Up Against the Algo

I was approached by two bed and breakfasts whose Places listing had merged. They have all of the standard problems of being in the same business and being located right next to each other. They have the additional problems of one of the businesses previously having the current phone number for the other business. It is no wonder that an algo can’t keep these two straight but that is not consolation for the businesses involved.

Fortunately, the two owners get along well and have agreed to “share” the listing while we worked on getting them separated. Each Sunday, whoever’s turn it is, gets their Places record updated and they become the dominant business name to display. (Kludge of the highest degree! Shame on Google)

I have been working with them both to unmerge the listings and doing all the standard stuff. We created strong geo signals, updated a very precise pin placement, we built a number of upstream citations, added KML files, massaged all of the directories entries that had the wrong phone number etc etc., tweaked their respective websites.

Now all we can do is wait at this point. In the meantime, I thought I would call Google Tags and seeing if paying $25 might help in the interim.

A number of weeks ago, I called the Tags #800 for the one business that had already purchased a tag. I spoke with a rep that was going to “run the problem up the ladder” and call me back. He did call back and left a message but only to say that he hadn’t been able to solve the problem as of yet but he would stay in touch. That was the last I heard from him.

Late last week, I decided to call a Google Tags rep for the other business and express the desire to get a tag if the listing could be unmerged (true not just a lame effort to get support). Here is a transcript of the conversation:

Me: I called as I have a client that wants a Tag but has merged Places listing with his neighbor.

The rep, after a deep, deep sigh said to me: It is not easily fixed. I used to jump through hoops but now I suggest deleting the listing completely and starting it over.

Me: Delete the listing? Doesn’t that cause other problems like a loss of rank?

The Rep: It usually comes back after a few days.

Me: Do you see this problem frequently?

Rep: Yes and to be honest it is best to just delete the listing completely and start over. However, when you delete the listing you must follow a two step process prior to reentering the record
Remove this listing from Google Maps.
Your listing will no longer appear on Google Maps, but will continue to display in your Google Places account. This listing will be removed after you verify via PIN
Remove this listing from my Google Places account.
Select this option if you mistakenly associated the listing with your account. This listing may continue to display on Google Maps if provided by other sources.

In other words, nuke the record.

My takeaways?

1) These reps have to deal with this problem all too frequently and don’t really have the correct tools at their disposal to do their job. They can’t really sell in this situation.

2) It is interesting that a rep is taking initiative to solve the problem. Whether it will solve the problem is anyone’s guess. It doesn’t seem to be a Google sanctioned tactic but hey this guy has to  make a living… the worst case is that listing will show up but not rank too well.

3) It is an Intriguing sequence of events that might completely obliterate the business ID from the system and could very well force Places to create a completely new cluster. If the signals for each of the merged businesses have been strengthened then this might succeed.

If anyone tries it, let me know. Caveat emptor!