Google Places: An Angry SMB's Perspective


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I am a small business owner - an attorney in Dallas. Several years ago I began paying attention to the "talking heads" in local search/Google Places, noting with some optimism that my competitors were not. So I followed the advice of Mike Blumenthall, Linda B., and the crew: claimed Google Places account, completed it to 100% and solicited quality reviews from client.

I have been rewarded with continual dups, confusion, inaccurate information, and unresponsiveness from Google. My quality review have fled to Mexico.

This is not a problem of several months - this is a problem of several years. I am going to be completely honest here. The bulk of my ire is reserved to Google Places. While the Google Places community lauded Vanesssa for her leadership, she directly blamed me for my problems, and accused me of "sassing her" for daring to suggest (correctly) that she was failing to respond to my problem. Since her departure my problems remain. If you want to suck up to Google Places, OK. But don't deceive business owners into thinking they are responsive.

I would like to suggest ever so delicately that those of you in the google Places community suggesting that people spend valuable time fleshing out their Google Places account, are doing your clients a GREAT disservice. You are in a position to know how unreliable google places really is. Why are you encouraging your clients to waste their valuable time????
 
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Linda Buquet

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Re: Google Places: An SMBs Perspective

I agree Stan and hear your frustration. Have seen some of your posts and know what a struggle it's been.

If you want to suck up to Google Places, OK. But don't deceive business owners into thinking they are responsive.

I would like to suggest ever so delicately that those of you in the google Places community suggesting that people spend valuable time fleshing out their Google Places account, are doing your clients a GREAT disservice. You are in a position to know how unreliable google places really is. Why are you encouraging your clients to waste their valuable time????
Not sure exactly who that was directed to or what post(s) it relates to...

So I'll speak for myself and say I'm one of GP's biggest and most vocal critics. Most of us, pretty much tell it like it is. We know it's buggy and service is lacking. So who do you think is sucking up exactly?

And yes we are going to help SMBs flesh out their Places accounts and try to help them fix things if the listing is wrong. How is that doing them a disservice when we are trying to help??? :confused:

Yes, we know how unreliable it is, but if business owners are trying to FIX their listing, would you have us just ignore them and tell them to just live with it? MOST listings can be fixed eventually. There are those that for whatever reasons end up being a tangled up mess that do feel pretty hopeless. And I really feel for those folks. (Not saying that's your situation - remember seeing posts but don't remember anything about the specifics.)

Kinda of confused by your comments. Seems like your frustration should be leveled at Google not at the hard working folks here that are trying to make things better and influence positive change?
 
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Re: Google Places: An SMBs Perspective

I know Linda you have been most generous to me, and I am sorry if I seem to be slinging mud your way. I am suggesting that the level of incompetence at Google Places is high enough - from my business experience - that I have a hard time understanding how any of you - you, Mike Blumenthal - are advising clients to spend ANY time with Google Places. Its just so broken, I can't see how you don't advocate another local search strategy. No one, but no one, has been able to help me with my problem, that is for sure. My time as a business owner has been wasted trying to redeem Google Places. And yes,I do think you guys are too easy on Google Places folk. They finally give Places a half ass effort and you guys are all hopeful.

---------- Post Merged at 12:41 PM ---------- Previous Post was at 12:31 PM ----------

Let me put the matter in a bit of a different perspective. In 9 months now NO ONE - not you, not Mike Blumenthal, not Vanesssa and Google Places - have been able to solve my problem.
 

djbaxter

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Re: Google Places: An SMBs Perspective

I have a hard time understanding how any of you - you, Mike Blumenthal - are advising clients to spend ANY time with Google Places. Its just so broken, I can't see how you don't advocate another local search strategy.
What would you suggest as an alternative, standenman? Google, whether we like it or not, still has a stranglehold on search traffic and Google+/Google Places owns local search at the moment. Where would you advise people to put their efforts?

I do think you guys are too easy on Google Places folk. They finally give Places a half ass effort and you guys are all hopeful.
Google doesn't have a good track record for being very responsive to the complaints of webmasters about how they rank. They don't have to be. Their clients/customers are not webmasters but searchers and advertisers.

I'm certainly no Google fan boy but if you want to play in the search market you have to play with Google. I use Bing for search whenever I can as a pathetic sort of protest but when Bing doesn't show me results I can use I go back to Google. And as long as that remains the case, Google will make the rules their way whether we like it or not.
 

Chris Alphen

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Re: Google Places: An SMBs Perspective

I agree with all 3 of you as I'm sure other readers do as well. Linda; You are probably the most knowledgable and highly skilled Google places/Google + local/ local Google plus (they don't even know who they are) person on the planet. The other day you were confounded by dupe issues along with the gentleman Chris. Your knowledge and experience, one would think, should make you at the very least the person who can answer any question/solve any problem.

No knock on you but time after time you are befuddled. Basicly that is Stan's point and as a longtime SMB who has been up close and personal with real street level local business owners for over 3 decades I can attest to Stan's point about a waste of time and effort. He for a moment anyway thought he might achieve a competitive advantage but got sucked into the vortex that is Google. Google likes it that way because Stan after investing time and effort is likely to throw his hands up and say enough I'll just pay Google.

So, Stan has a valid point - David is absolutely right - you are also right and always optimistic and I am constantly seeking an organic alternative because Google has proven beyond doubt that they are untrustworthy and not interested in local business owners.

By default this platform will become a playground for those firms that are not really locally owned not mom and pop.


Anyway this new forum is great keep doing what you do Linda and thanks to Stan, David et all.
 

JoyHawkins

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Re: Google Places: An SMBs Perspective

I have always seen the reason why Google Plus Local is "broken" as the fact that it's a free product. I totally understand the frustrations of the business owners bc I work on hundreds of listings each month. The thing I have always wondered is how we ended up with a scenario where Google offers a free service which makes most businesses a ton of money without them paying a dime to Google yet they expect Google to spend a ton of money to hire employees and resources to fix this product that they never even paid for. I am not siding with Google at all but I just can't help but notice how different this scenario is from traditional advertising.

Normally you pay for a listing and expect it to work because you paid.
 

Linda Buquet

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Re: Google Places: An SMBs Perspective

I totally get what you are saying Joy and it's very true.

However on the other hand FREE products I use every day like Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, Google docs, Gmail, Firefox, Chrome are not constantly broken.

AND Google has made Places so undeniably important to businesses that it's critical it works better and there is better support.


2 things I've always said:

1) Google Places (G+ Local) should have always had a big red BETA warning and should not be available as a self service small business product. It just does not work well enough.

2) Google should offer PAID premium support, so even if the product is free, if you have a critical problem, like your listing is merged with a competitor down the street and has THEIR phone #, you can pay for immediate support.

Paid support would be a new profit center for Google and a win for business owners who would gladly pay to have a broken listing fixed.
 

Linda Buquet

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Stan I just promoted this thread on Twitter, Scoop.it, Facebook and G+. I do hear your frustration although you've had more problems than the average SMB.

But I think this will result in a good discussion and hopefully Google will read it. Possibly it will even result in positive change which is always my goal.

You said "I am suggesting that the level of incompetence at Google Places is high enough - from my business experience - that I have a hard time understanding how any of you - you, Mike Blumenthal - are advising clients to spend ANY time with Google Places. Its just so broken, I can't see how you don't advocate another local search strategy."

Given the prominence of Google for local small businesses I can't understand how you could advise we in good conscience IGNORE it and just give up and STOP trying to help peoples?

We could advocate other approaches all day, but that won't change the fact that the majority of consumers search on Google. And putting our efforts somewhere else won't help all the SMBs that are struggling and begging for support and answers for Google Places problems.

I do hear your frustration, but to suggest we should just give up and stop helping people AND stop trying to push to make Google Places better I think is misdirected.

"They finally give Places a half ass effort and you guys are all hopeful."

Yes I am thankful and hopeful for every small improvement. You have to give credit where credit is due.

When you have a tough case with a tough client and get a bad judge or you just say "Screw it, let's give up?" Or do you fight for what you can and are thankful for every small win, hoping it helps you help your client's case and helps you get the best final result possible?
 

Linda Buquet

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Google IS working to try to make it better. And I am thankful for every step forward.

What do you guys think?
 

Colan Nielsen

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Google Places has a long way to go. However, looking back at the way things were last year and beyond, they have come a long way.

Google Places support is much improved. Bugs are still prevalent, and have mutated into all types of different manifestations, but overall, looking back, it has become a much better place. At least from the perspective of someone who works with Google Places on a daily basis.
 
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When I read the OP, I thought it might be one of my clients ;-)

Stan, it's a mess, but as others have stated, it's a mess that we have to deal with because it's so prominent in search. If you don't play the game, as frustrating as it is sometimes, your competitors will get that first page real estate instead of you. There are alternatives - some pretty good ones - like Yelp. I work hard to optimize other web properties for my clients so when Google +Local goes down, they are still visible in search. In fact, now my clients' Yelp profiles look better than their maps listing because of the five gold stars that show (though Yelp has its own set of headaches).

Joy, I thought that for a while, too, but just don't buy it any more. I think Google created a platform that now most businesses and consumers rely on. They have a responsibility to maintain it with a minimal standard of effectiveness, IMO. I wouldn't even mind if they found a way to monetize it, but fix it. Businesses like Stan's are suffering. These are real people with families to support. I just don't think Google gets that.

I agree that there should be alternatives and I wish as a community we could push for a better one, but that just isn't happening. Yahoo is a spam fest. Microsoft is not the savior either, but if we can at least get a little better competition in search, I think we'd all be better off. Doesn't seem like that's going to happen any time soon, unfortunately.

Dino
 

Chris_Gregory

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The reason there are Local Search Pros and we advocate and try to clean up the messy environment that Google has created is because if you CAN get it cleaned up and a corresponding front page ranking occurs then there is a lot of value to business owners. We hate the mess that is Google + Local just as much and perhaps even more than SMB's. Quite honestly the OP's frustration level is probably a direct correlation to how much value there is with a good ranking. If that wasn't the case everyone would just move on.
 
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From the "Angry SMB"-

Thanks to all for the responses - especially Linda for being understanding, and not getting offended though my comments may have gone too far. Though there continues to be nosolution to my problem, I feel better knowing someone (and it is not Google) gives a flip. I have a couple of comments:

1. I don't find merit in the "what do you expect, its free" argument. Google Places is displaying inaccurate, incorrect information, and is unconcerned. In my case, Google Places is choosing to display a scraped, incorrect Places account over my 100% complete and claimed Places account. The fact that I pay nothing does not matter in the slightest - its Google's search engine that is displaying INCORRECT information. If I was paying for it, I would pull the listing in a heartbeat.

2. MY spraying critisism at all in the local community is unhelpful, and uncharitable. The nub of the complaint, though, is this: I have followed the advise on developing Google Places and my competitors have not. My "reward" is that my listing is inaccurate, and has lost 8 high quality reviews. My competitors accounts are accurate. Maybe there needs a be a big disclaimer about building on the sand that is Google Places.

3. The argument that I/we would not be so flamed if Google Places was not such an incredible bargain is a good one. There was a time when I has sitting atop the blended listing with my near 10 high quality reviews. The impact was positive, but not the breakthrough/home run that you might expect (i.e, it was not that great). I am POed in equal parts because of the business hit and that fact that I feel I have wasted untold hours in the past that has put me in a worse position vis a vis competitors.

4. I would be interested in what is considered a good review solicitation strategy. I can no longer refer former clients to Google Places to post reviews any more.
 

JoyHawkins

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I would say the best people to ask for reviews are those who would also want them for their businesses. For example, I work for a marketing company and one of our clients is also our insurance agent for our business. Since you can leave reviews now on Google as a business rather than as an individual (via your G+ Business Page), this gives a huge opportunity. I can leave our insurance agent a review commenting on how we like working with him for insurance and then he can leave us one commenting on our marketing product. Both reviews are totally legit and I don't feel bad "asking" since we are both benefiting.
 

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