Google+ Local - Category Bug Bites Listings


Linda Buquet

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When I discovered this last night, I wasn't sure if it was a bug or update.
Now I'm calling bug and will explain why below.
1st the problem.

<a href="http://localsearchforum.catalystemarketing.com/google-places-help-support/531-any-thoughts-what-determines-gp-category-order.html">Don Berthiaume</a>, one of our Local Search Pros reported the problem last night in this thread.

hmm.... not sure what's happening now because if I check various Places pages, there IS only one category showing, unlike before when G showed two, then you had to click on those cats to see them all.
So I went and checked some previous clients that I knew that all had 5 cats and most are showing only 1 category and a few are showing 2. The 1st I checked is only showing one category and it's not his CORE cat Dentist, it's Cosmetic Dentist.

Then checked my personal Place page because I know for sure I have 5 cats in dash. Yep only 1 is showing. (BTW my page is a fully merged page, so it's not just affecting the unmerged G+ Local pages) I checked a bunch of other listings. All cats are missing.

Last night I told Don "One quick initial observation. This does not seem to me to be affecting ranking. I didn't do a complete rank check comparison, but did a quick manual check for the dentist who's cats are gone and it only shows cosmetic dentist - he still ranks for city teeth whitening and city dental implants. In past if you didn't have those cats in dash you normally would not rank. So it appears Google is still READING what's in dash - she's just not displaying everything.

Then today <a href="http://localsearchforum.catalystemarketing.com/members/colan+nielsen/">Colan Nielsen</a> confirmed this saying:
I'm seeing this on listings as well, in the insurance industry. So far I haven't observed any ranking drops that could be attributed to this. In fact I have seen some ranking increases as of this morning...coincidence I'm sure..
Last night at 1st I was not sure if this is a new update or just a temp bug.
But after further checking, I'm calling this just a bug.


Because Google's G+ Local shows cats: Google - About - Google+
And so does the Meatball shop. The Meatball Shop - About - Google+

If it was a feature change or display update I would think it would be consistent across the board.

I'll report to Google as a bug. Will report back as I get more info.

Then I'll be back in a few to tell you how you can see missing cats on listings you don't own, if you need to for new prospects or competitive research.
 

Linda Buquet

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So here's how to check categories if you need to for potential new clients you are researching OR competitive analysis.

The following example also proves somewhat to me that Google is still READING the cats in dash, just not displaying them on the G+ Local page.

This is random example, not a client or anything.

Maps search for Dallas Teeth Whitening = Dallas Teeth Whitening - Google Maps
Check any listings but lets' just take the A spot. Lakewood Family Dental Care shows
Category: Teeth Whitening Service

But when you click to their G+ Local page, the only cat that shows is Dentist.
Lakewood Family Dental Care - About - Google+

So that kinda tells me Google can still read the categories and therefore the cats are not TOTALLY missing, which would affect ranking. This appears to just be a display bug on the G+ L pages. (Not all of them, but the great majority of them.)
 

Linda Buquet

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Talked to several people at Google today but they didn't really admit bug or even say they would look into it. All they would say is "use the feedback form!"

In case you have not noticed that reporting option, it's under "manage this page" at the link that says "Send Feedback". That form goes to G+ specialists and this appears to be a G+ display problem, as opposed to a Google Places problem.
 

Linda Buquet

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Don, Colan (and other interested Pros) Please see important post in the back room titled "Missing Categories."
 

m_j_gregory

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Hey Linda,

Just thought I'd chime in to help with the cause. I've been seeing the exact same thing happening this week across a large number of listings as well. If there is anything I can do to help out, please let me know.

Do you think this could be an update and they are considering getting rid of the 5 category feature all together?

If we take Jade's comments into consideration (between the 30-45 second mark) about Google being able to seamlessly update place pages to fully-merged G+ Local pages, it could make sense.

We currently know there is no "categories" field within the G+ Local Page dashboard and dialogue from Google around integrating this feature has been seemingly nonexistent (from my understanding). Now, listings that will be seamlessly integrated via Jade's statement would have 5 categories (thus putting these listings at what I'd think to be a huge advantage). So this could be Google setting a standard prior to converting the old Place Pages to the updated G+ Local format.

On the other hand, it could be a way for Google to place everyone on an even playing field with one category and integrate a 'categories' feature once every listing is updated to the G+ Local format (to possibly prevent listings from having more than 5 categories - as this was a concern when places listings were intentionally claimed in 2 accounts so they could have 10 categories, seemingly doubling the listing's visibility).

What is your opinion - do you think categories will be gone for good? If so, would this put more weight on a G+ Local listing's website to determine how it will perform? I wouldn't be surprised if they were heading in that direction.

Who knows, just thinking out loud here and trying to spark some conversation!

Thanks,
Matt
 

Linda Buquet

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Thanks Matt, some of us have wondered whether it was by design as well.

In fact I had many of the same thoughts you did and maybe even went a bit further in this thread:
Missing Categories Conspiracy theory

BUT Jade in the forum replied they are looking into this, so then it made me think bug.

So we were discussing in the back room and I had some of the guys use the troubleshooter so we could find out what support has to say. So far they are all getting consistent replies...

Reported on Aug 31, 2012 - Answered on Sep 4, 2012
"Thank you for contacting Google. After investigating your problem, we've found that it is being caused by a technical issue and we are pursuing a resolution. At this time, we cannot say when the issue will be resolved and when you will see your reported problem fixed."
That reply leads me to a new conspiracy theory. Not sure I'm ready to verbalize it yet.
 

m_j_gregory

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Hey Linda,

Thank you for sharing! That is very interesting, I appreciate the insight. Hopefully we'll see how this plays out sooner rather than later.

Thanks again,
Matt
 

Colan Nielsen

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I'm loving all this conspiracy theory talk.....I'm suddenly in the mood to go watch season 1 of The X-Files on Net Flix.
 

Linda Buquet

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Well a month later and many industry leaders I know are writing this off as a new feature or design change rather than a bug.

We keep asking Google and have not gotten any clear answers. In fact we have asked in the past week and were unable to get an answer.

ESPECIALLY concerning is the fact that some WRONG categories that can get businesses in trouble are showing and owners can't change them. (License issues like the only category showing for a Dentist as Orthodontist when he isn't a licensed ortho OR a Chiropractor showing up as Physician.)

HOWEVER Jade just posted in the forum and once again it's sounding like a bug.

Categories not showing on local Google+ pages? - Google Groups

It seems that categories are not appearing on some local Google+ pages. (Or, relatedly, some categories are showing, and some are not.)

Team's aware and working on it, but here are a few things you can do in the meantime that may help.

Poke/Null Edit:
- Go into your dashboard to edit your page.
- Submit the edit without changing anything.

MapMaker:
- Find your location on mapmaker.google.com
- Edit -> Select a Place, then click where your business is located
- Edit -> Edit this place
- add your desired category if it's not already there, Submit
Please note -- MapMaker edits need to go through review (just like all other edits) before going live.
 

Simon James

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Prior to properly building out my website, I belatedly tried to claim my own Local G+ page today, and was not able to select any categories, other than 'Professional Services' from one dropdown list, during registration. This however, is not showing up on the About page.
Does this mean that I can't add any categories whatsoever?

Edit:
Forget what I said before, I didn't realise that I could still claim a Google Places page. Going to try filling that out now.
 

Linda Buquet

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Simon, that's just a Google+ Business page correct?

Do you have a separate Google Place page /G+ Local page and have not verified/merged yet?

Because that just looks like a G+ Business page and you don't set up cats there. You set up cats in the Places dashboard.
 

m_j_gregory

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Hey Linda,

Thanks for the follow up on this. Unfortunately, I too, believe that it is an update rather than a bug.

Unsure if this is any supporting evidence (or just another random tangent :rolleyes:) but I spot-checked a number of listings that we have recently claimed via the updated route (not claimed via Places) vs. the listings that were already claimed within Places dashboard (waiting for the 'seamless' update). Here were the differences:

Newly claimed listings via updated route:
On these listings the only category that appears is "Professional Services". Which makes sense as that was the category we selected during the claiming process.

Already claimed Places listings:
On these listings there was 1-2 categories that was pulled over from the Places dashboard. There was no rhyme nor reason as to which one(s) were chosen from the 5 in the Places dashboard.

It will be interesting to see the performance difference as the categories in the already claimed 'Places' listing are more targeted (Chiropractor, Attorney, Dentist, etc.) than the "Professional Services" category via the new process. It makes me think Google may be putting even further 'weight' on the website's optimization? It also makes me wonder if Google will address this after the seamless integration.

This could be old news but just thought I'd weigh in. Thanks again for the follow up, Linda!

-Matt
 

Linda Buquet

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Yep back to getting unclear mixed signals from Google on this. Don't fricking know any more what it is. Can't get a straight answer. I guess the Jade post refers to some other cat bug where cats are totally missing. The display issue with only one showing can't get a clear answer on really. Head. Hurts. :rolleyes:
 
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Hey Linda

Should we now presume that this isn't a bug and Google is only going to show 1-2 categories forever more on G+ profiles?

Let us know if you got any updated info from G on this matter. Thanks
 

Linda Buquet

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Hey Myles,

No new info so I assume this is the new normal.

ALL cats still show on SOME listings though in the click drop down. So you would think if it was a display change/update it would be universal. Since it's on most but not all listings kinda makes me scratch my head.

Just saw my 1st listing in awhile that showed all the cats. Found it when reading a post over at the Google forum yesterday. I'll go see if I can backtrack and find it. Maybe we can figure out why all his cats are showing and others aren't.
 

Linda Buquet

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Found them, there are 2. One is a Place page/G+ L the other is a merged G+ L Business page. (Dupe for the same business.)

Elite Napa Auto Repair - About - Google+ (Place page - click all cats show)

Elite NAPA Auto Repair - About - Google+ (Merged + Page - click diff cats show)

Meatball Shop has always had all their cats showing since the beginning when the change happened and they still do.

And Google Mountain View cats have always showed up too.

So again, you'd think if they flipped a switch it would be consistent but who knows.
 

Colan Nielsen

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Thought I would share another example of a listing with all 5 categories displaying in the drop down:

State Farm Insurance - About - Google+ -
Auto Insurance Agency
Health Insurance Agency
Home Insurance Agency
Life Insurance Agency
Renter's Insurance Agency


Here's what's in the dashboard -
[SIZE=-1]
Life Insurance Agency
Home Insurance Agency
Auto Insurance Agent
State Farm Agent
Renters Insurance Agency[/SIZE]

---------- Post Merged at 08:07 AM ---------- Previous Post was at 08:04 AM ----------

Has anyone seen any custom categories being displayed? I've only seen pre-selected categories.
 
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Regarding categories, I am not too sure why it is such a big problem if Google displays 1, 2, 5, or all categories. Actually it has never displayed all (at least ever since I am in Local, but as far as I understand before this, too). Now you can easily check all categories associated with a listing via the MapMaker record. Here's the listing Colan referred to, and here are the categories associated with it:

Insurance, Auto Insurance Agency, Health Insurance Agency, Home Insurance Agency, Life Insurance Agency, Renter's Insurance Agency, Auto Insurance Agent, Renters Insurance Agency, State Farm Agent, Insurance Agency

So these are not just the ones that are publicly displayed and/or displayed on the dashboard, but also additional ones!

One thing that is very frustrating with categories is that they are "additive", i.e. unless an incoming category is an exact match of an already existing associated with the listing category, Google will actually add it. Refer to the case of "Renter's Insurance Agency" and "Renters Insurance Agency" above :)
 

Linda Buquet

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Regarding categories, I am not too sure why it is such a big problem if Google displays 1, 2, 5, or all categories. Actually it has never displayed all (at least ever since I am in Local, but as far as I understand before this, too). Now you can easily check all categories associated with a listing via the MapMaker record.
It's important for troubleshooting (especially for me trying to help in the G forum and/or doing consulting on problem listings) and for competitive analysis too. And for me all cats have always shown until this recent change.

For troubleshooting, when ALL cats used to show, I could see right away if someone geo stuffed city in cats. I could also see if 8 or 10 cats showed then that was a pretty sure sign that there was a merged listing. Or if someone complained they weren't ranking for a certain keyword, I could quickly see it was because they were missing that keyword in cats. OR I can see if they are violating the is not does rule.
ALL VERY important for troubleshooting.

ALSO for evaluating a new client's listing. If I had a new prospect I was ready to do a consult for, I could see right away if there were any cat problems (like any of the above) on their listing.

Same thing for competitive research. If I want to see why a competitor to one of my clients is ranking high, I want to see if they have stuffed cats or some great cat my client is missing.

The cats in MM aren't always the same. I've seen many many examples where they were totally different from what's in dash. So now I do go to MM to check but it only gives you 'some' indication and you don't know for sure what's really listed in dashboard.

I just saw a thread at the MM forum over weekend where someone was complaining that a massage parlor was ranking for NY escorts and mappers were trying to figure out what type of spam was being used to make it rank for that keyword because it was not on the listing and Escort was NOT in the MM cats.

I showed them "Escort Service" WAS in the Places cats so that's why it was ranking. No trick or spam. It was in cats, so it ranked. Showed them with a map search that clearly showed they had "Escort Service" in Places dash - BUT that category did not show on live listing OR in MM cats.

So those are a few reasons I think it's helpful/important to see cats. Maybe not for the average user but for someone like me - def! And for most consultants analyzing a potential new clients listing or doing competitive research - I would think it's beneficial to be able to see all cats too.
 

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