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  1. #1
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    Unhappy Is Google Local Really this Broken? Who's in Charge? What's the Solution?

    Mike Blumenthal just wrote what I consider to be the best and most important post of 2012.

    It's a no-hold barred expose of the train wreck Google Local has become (and has been for a long time.)
    He succinctly lays out the most important problems Google Local has and gives recommendations for how businesses should handle the current problems and lack of direction. He's also trying to push for change or at least get communication from Google regarding what the plan is to get things on track.

    Here are just a few choice snippets, you really need to head over and read the whole thing.

    Google Local: Train Wreck at the Junction

    Google Local is a veritable train wreck for business listing management. The Dashboard is in a state of non functioning disrepair, the + Page path to listing management is full of bugs...

    The problems are compounded by Google’s unclear complete lack of guidance as to whether the Dashboard or the social local management environment is the future of their local interface...

    Has Google Local fallen prey to a failure of management or management turnover?
    Is Local under funded?
    Is it under focused?
    Is it too complicated?
    Is the project so big (and incredible) that its gestation period is longer than that of an elephant?
    Did the Local team get side tracked by the forced march to social?
    Has the strategy of release early and iterate often failed because Google has forgotten the iterate part?
    Are we just seeing a failure of execution?

    There is a LOT more, need to go read the rest here.
    Mike goes on to make recommendations for businesses and consultants as far as how to proceed since everything is murky and unclear right now. He and I agree it's best to WAIT and not upgrade/merge/verify Google+ if you have not yet.

    Jade stopped by the forum yesterday and said she agrees waiting is probably the best idea too.

    Mike also calls out Google and asks for SOME type of communication - a plan or a solution.

    I totally agree with everything Mike says. Here are my comments:

    Mike you really boiled it down well and summed it up in a way I don’t think anyone else could. You know me, it would have taken me 10 pages to write that.

    I’m constantly amazed that the train wreck is really as bad as I think it is. I sometimes wonder if my perspective is skewed to the negative, because due to helping in the Google forum, I see so many of the problems and disgruntled users. It’s just so hard to fathom a company as big as Google could have a product this crippled and broken.

    I wonder all the same things you do. And as closely as you and I both work with Google every day, I still can’t put my finger on what’s wrong or answer the questions you asked. Underfunded? Forgotten step child? No one really in charge any more? Focus shifted to +? Just too complicated, crippled and tied up in knots at this point to fix?

    I try very hard to be positive and am by nature an optimist. Every now and then I see a little glimmer of light and try to latch onto it. But then it goes away. It’s been really gray for awhile now – like local has totally been put on the back burner. Things just seem stalled and I agree, Google needs to step up with some communication to let us all know there’s light at the end of the tunnel, there is a plan and things are going to get better.

    Since Jade will be reading this I feel the need to say something at this point. Due to her position she’s sort of seen as the ‘face’ of local. Jade I know how hard you work to try to help where you can, so none of this is a reflection on you. You aren’t the head of engineering or support or on the review spam team or in charge of policy making. I know many times your hands are tied and assume you may feel as frustrated and impotent as we do.

    Weird to say this as much as I work directly with folks at Google every day, but I don’t even know who’s running the ship currently. Do you Mike? Who’s ultimate responsibility is local now? I think it would be wise for someone very high up at this point to step in and let us know there IS a plan and local IS a priority and things ARE going to improve!
    Other comments are starting to come in and I anticipate this post at Mike's may get more comments over time than any other, due to all the pent up frustration so many have been feeling for so long.

    Google we REALLY do need to see some kind of light at the end of the tunnel. I wish whoever the heck is in charge, would respond over at Mike's and gives us some hope!
    Linda Buquet .:. Forum Founder, Google Local Specialist

    If you benefit from advice here... Please pay the community back by sharing on social OR helping someone else at the forum. Thank you!

    Don't Miss Important News & Tips! Subscribe to Daily Email Digest Here

    Note: Due to mulitple RSI injuries, pardon short replies. Typos? Blame it on "Dragon".

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  3. #2
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    Re: Is Google Local Really this Broken?

    Phil Rosek, just wrote a great follow up to Mike's post.

    How the Google+Local Train Wreck Is Good for Business | LocalVisibilitySystem.com

    I agree with everything Mike said in that post…with one exception: A “train wreck” implies unmitigated disaster. What’s going on with Google+Local doesn’t quite qualify as one of those, in my opinion.

    Rather, I’d say that the problems in Google+Local are – in at least one strange way – good for business. The problems provide a swift kick in the pants to pay attention to other parts of your online local visibility.

    If have been or are rightly afraid of wrangling with Google’s shortcomings and bugs (some of which are more like Starship Troopers -type giant insects), you have a little more impetus to do things like…
    Way to look on the bright side Phil!

    Another way to say it is work on the things that ARE in your control because Google's problems just aren't.

    The Serenity Prayer comes to mind...
    Linda Buquet .:. Forum Founder, Google Local Specialist

    If you benefit from advice here... Please pay the community back by sharing on social OR helping someone else at the forum. Thank you!

    Don't Miss Important News & Tips! Subscribe to Daily Email Digest Here

    Note: Due to mulitple RSI injuries, pardon short replies. Typos? Blame it on "Dragon".

  4. #3
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    Re: Is Google Local Really this Broken? Who's in Charge? What's the Solution?

    Hey Linda,

    Thanks for the post!

    Yeah, Mike’s post is definitely one of the “desert island” posts of the year.

    I’m not a particularly glass-half-full kind of guy, so my post is anything but a sunny take on Mike’s (not that you or anyone else probably thought that!). Obviously, too many business owners are getting screwed over, and I don’t have faith Google necessarily will do the right thing (even if “the right thing” just means communicating a little better). But I just think people have more options than they might realize.

    I’m thinking more along the lines of “serenity now” from Seinfeld

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    Re: Is Google Local Really this Broken? Who's in Charge? What's the Solution?

    Linda: I think a couple of things are interesting:

    1. About 1 year ago Mike wrote a summary piece at the end of 2011 praising the improvements within google, specifically the systemic improvements w/regard to "customer service" and how there were systemic fixes for the first time. The Untold Story of 2011: Google Local Search

    It appears that is significantly broken now. His most recent article is a veritable 180 degree turn with regard to conditions.

    2. You, and Mike, and plenty of others tend to take Google products for Local more seriously than does Google. In his article and you acknowledged this significant litany of Local elements that don't work well, or only work sporadically without rhyme or reason. There are serious questions about what they are doing or will they communicate, and if they are putting resources into these issues.

    I'll tell you something that works connected to the Local Dashboard: Adwords Express. Adwords works also, extremely well.

    The services that bring in the money work well, Google Places is the "red headed step child" that is relatively ignored.

    Local generates around 30% of traffic per a google "big shot". Local Search drives mobile search. Google has scraped the web information from around 100 million smbs around the world, created its own pages about those businesses in the Places Index and highlights that information to respond to searches. Google has marketed and reached out to smb's to "claim" those listings, but today it seems that a claimed listing is essentially asking for a headache.

    Those searches on local generate a hellova lot of clicks on ads. Google creates a lot of content around the scraped info on the web, the input into those pages from smb's but primarily puts out a mess of data. A lot of smb's are feeding google data for its search engines and its Adwords/PPC engine but their own information is often a mess.

    The smb's and their agents, the SEO's/SEMs are continuously frustrated, yet their input contributes to the big Google money machine.

    Its a shame. The current best advice, per you, Mike, and Jade is WAIT.

    Meanwhile the smooth working adwords machine takes in in excess of $100 million/day.

    The answer to a lot of the issues is that Google puts its resources into the Adwords side of things, and Places is a tool to that effort.

    At least that is my $0.02

  6. #5
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    Re: Is Google Local Really this Broken? Who's in Charge? What's the Solution?

    +1 Dave's comment. The contrast with AdWords is painfully true. As someone who's worked with AdWords since '06, I can say it's as well-run and effective as ever.

  7. #6
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    Re: Is Google Local Really this Broken? Who's in Charge? What's the Solution?

    Thanks for weighing in Dave. I agree to some degree. Since AWE is a paid product they can afford to put more resources into it.

    But I think it goes deeper than money. I mean granted G+ L is free - HOWEVER I use a TON of free solutions every day like Twitter, Facebook, Yahoo mail that seldom ever have problems.

    I think if the original LBC had been built on a solid foundation to begin with and better decisions were made along the way… If it worked half way decent, as it SHOULD, then I think they COULD afford to support it better.

    The upgrade path also was obviously not planned well. I think they got behind the 8 ball on social, then pushed out a reactionary solution too fast, that was not well thought out.

    I think now it's just become such a convoluted bandaided mess with disjointed cobbled together pieces that don't quite fit, therefore it's taking WAY more resources than it should to make it all work smoothly at this point. And I kinda feel like they are starting to give up.

    The more I work with Google and see how things work on the inside, the more I appreciate how VERY complicated this whole local piece is. Many problems we deal with live in multiple divisions that all have to come together to agree on a solution. Plus often times policy makers have to get involved. Plus you can't fix this part because it's connected to that other part that's also broken in a different department, so you have to wait for that fix 1st. Which makes for a lot of catch 22s. So I understand how problematic this local beast is. Heck Marissa Mayer walked away from Google local and then said Yahoo isn't going to try to tackle local, cuz it's such a tough nut to crack.

    So I get that it's hard. But it should not be THIS hard and we need to know there are plans in the works that will make it better.
    Linda Buquet .:. Forum Founder, Google Local Specialist

    If you benefit from advice here... Please pay the community back by sharing on social OR helping someone else at the forum. Thank you!

    Don't Miss Important News & Tips! Subscribe to Daily Email Digest Here

    Note: Due to mulitple RSI injuries, pardon short replies. Typos? Blame it on "Dragon".

  8. #7
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    Re: Is Google Local Really this Broken? Who's in Charge? What's the Solution?

    I'm not sure it is much deeper than money. My views kind of align with Dave and Phil's by saying that Local is relatively ignored because it isn't that big money product. As a sports guy I like taking All Google's products and breaking them down like a college athletic director. Adwords is the football team, because it brings in the revenue. Local seems more like the track team. Adwords gets constant attention from the media, and local only gets big attention when something catastrophic or extraordinary happens.

    Ok... maybe that was a iffy analogy, but you kind of get the point. Point is, I think Local doesn't get the proper attention it deserves because it isn't a huge revenue stream (although it potentially could be), yet it leads SMB owners into Adwords. I think if Google put more time into fixing the issues within Local they would have a much more appreciated and liked brand name. Business owners are frustrated because they feel like they're ignored. Why can't Google put more time into a product that impacts so many small businesses?

    I understand it must be a daunting task, but something's gotta give here...

  9. #8
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    Re: Is Google Local Really this Broken? Who's in Charge? What's the Solution?

    Yes I agree and you make some good points.

    I feel strongly though that if local WORKED well and was not so buggy and business owners were happy and people like Mike and I were always singing Google's praises instead of pointing out all the problems - there would be more happy businesses that would want more exposure and naturally turn into AW and AWE customers.

    But the way it is now you have a bunch of business owners in the forum saying either: "I WANT to advertise on AW but can't because my listing is broken or missing." OR you have others saying "I've been a loyal AW customer for years but if you can't fix my local listing (or won't stop blocking my reviews or won't give me support or whatever) I'm pulling the plug on my ad spend!'

    The way all freemium models work is if the product is good and works well, a large percentage will upgrade or want to buy the paid product. The more happy freebie customers you have as users, the more are that are out there singing your praises, the more paid customers you are going to end up with! (I know Google Local isn't really a "freemium" product, but the analogy kinda seems to fit.)
    Linda Buquet .:. Forum Founder, Google Local Specialist

    If you benefit from advice here... Please pay the community back by sharing on social OR helping someone else at the forum. Thank you!

    Don't Miss Important News & Tips! Subscribe to Daily Email Digest Here

    Note: Due to mulitple RSI injuries, pardon short replies. Typos? Blame it on "Dragon".

  10. #9
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    Re: Is Google Local Really this Broken? Who's in Charge? What's the Solution?

    More Local experts pile it on. Many other good points are shared.

    1st up Chris Silver Smith…

    Google Local Is Now A Train Wreck » Nodal Bits

    But, the even worse problems that Mike points out are where the system simply doesn’t function correctly. That’s where this whole thing becomes a giant wreck. It’s not without irony that we note that parts of Google’s local systems behind the scenes are referred to as a “cluster”.

    There are failures in the verification process. There are failures in connecting old Place pages to new Plus pages. There are mystifying issues where changes to business information result in loss of the listing, suspension of the listing, loss of reviews, etc. Naturally, businesses can screw themselves up by doing things that are wrong, but many of these things could be prevented by Google in the first place.

    But, the most painful thing of all is that there are many processes which are simply malfunctioning in allowing businesses to manage their data, and it’s not clear if/when Google will fix them…
    Next up Andrew Shotland weighs in...

    Are SMBs Impossible To Serve Well, Google Et Al? - Local SEO Guide

    So when I see Google seemingly not investing enough in a coherent product for SMBs, I only partially blame Google. Part of this just seems to be the nature of the beast. As I said on G+, if we went back ten years and substituted “Yellow Pages” for “Google Local”, we’d probably be hearing the same complaints. Still a train wreck, though.
    Linda Buquet .:. Forum Founder, Google Local Specialist

    If you benefit from advice here... Please pay the community back by sharing on social OR helping someone else at the forum. Thank you!

    Don't Miss Important News & Tips! Subscribe to Daily Email Digest Here

    Note: Due to mulitple RSI injuries, pardon short replies. Typos? Blame it on "Dragon".

  11. #10
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    Re: Is Google Local Really this Broken? Who's in Charge? What's the Solution?

    Quote Originally Posted by Dave View Post
    Linda: I think a couple of things are interesting:

    1. About 1 year ago Mike wrote a summary piece at the end of 2011 praising the improvements within google, specifically the systemic improvements w/regard to "customer service" and how there were systemic fixes for the first time. The Untold Story of 2011: Google Local Search

    It appears that is significantly broken now. His most recent article is a veritable 180 degree turn with regard to conditions.
    These two posts do not reflect a 180 degree turn with regard to conditions. And most certainly not about my position.

    One was about support and the article stands the test of time. The other was about poor implementation and slow improvements in the listing management software and the poor communication by Google.

    One article is not a 180 degree turn from the other. Both were and are accurate about their respective topics and reflect the uneven changes at Google.

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