The dust has started to settle on switch from Google Places to Google+Local. As usual, whenever Google makes an omelet more than a few eggs get cracked. So far the worst thing I’ve heard about is businesses losing their listing altogether and Google pretty much saying that there’s little hope of the listing ever returning as it was; meaning you get to start over from scratch.
As a business owner you should get in to the habit of looking at your listing every once in awhile to make sure there’s nothing weird going on with it. If you ever have a problem that can’t be solved Google does provide a handy troubleshooter for local listings and thankfully they’ve gotten a lot better at dealing with issues that come in.
Google uses the info you provide to make up your listing, but they also trust 3rd party websites (True Local, UrbanSpoon, etc.) which provide the same info. If enough websites show a different phone number for your business then Google may change your listing to show the other (incorrect) phone number. This can obviously be very frustrating.
Thankfully Google has started sending emails to users informing them of the changes they are going to make to your listing; this gives you a chance to let them know the changes are incorrect. But there are things you can do to minimise the chances of this event occurring:
- Don’t use call tracking numbers on listings, only use your local number
- Find and edit your listing on any other websites to make it consistent with your Google listing (business name, address, phone & website)
A lot of business owners who have had problems with their listing ask if they can just delete it. You can, but it will come back a few weeks later if your business information is on another local listing site. That’s why you need to make sure your info is correct all over the web.
Currently you can’t choose which order your photos appear. This will be fixed when the listings are merged with Google+ Business Pages, until then you’ll have to live with whatever picture Google chooses as your profile picture. Pictures are going to feature more prominently so concentrate on uploading only great looking images.
One of the little known features of Places listings was the ability for anyone to upload a photo of your business. This is what Google’s local listing looked like last week when someone decided to try out this feature:
Obviously this can easily be exploited for evil, but there is a way to flag inappropriate images.
- Click the offending image
- In the lower left corner click “Options”
- Click “Report photo”
- Choose the reason for flagging the photo and Google will remove it if it violates their community standards
Reviews have changed quite a bit. Now you can sort reviews by Most Helpful, Latest, Highest & Lowest Score. This algorithm works much like Yelp’s where people that write a lot of reviews will be seen as more trusted or helpful. If reviews are voted as helpful then that will help those reviews rise to the top.
Here’s some reviews from Dracula’s Cabaret:
When Google changed everything over, all of the old reviews changed to being written by “A Google User”. When those Google users write their next review they will be greeted with a popup explaining that if they want to write a review they have to agree that their real name will be used and it will link back to their Google+ page. Once that happens all of their previous reviews will switch from “A Google User” to their real name. This should help curb some of the fake reviews, but only time will tell.
And yes, you now have to be on Google+ to leave a review.
If a review is spam, hover the over the review and a flag will appear in the upper right corner. Click it to report the review, but that’s all you’re doing. It likely won’t go away quickly, if at all.
The Google+ Business Pages & Local Listings Merge
If you don’t have a Google+ page for your business now is a great time to set one up. You do not have to get a Google+ page for your business for your business listing to continue, I’d actually recommend skipping it if you don’t plan to devote time to your page. If you do decide to setup a page you should use the same email address you use to manage your Places listing. This will make it easier when the merge happens.
If you already have a page and use separate email accounts then it’s still possible to merge the Business page and Local listing, but it will be a manual process and Google has a terrible track record for things like this going smoothly.
The merge should happen within the next 6 weeks. You can sign up to be notified when your listing is merged.
Example Google+Local Page
This page doesn’t look much different than the current Places pages. The addition of a “Posts” tab and the other social aspects are really the only change.
I actually prefer this over what Facebook has to offer. This is much easier and intuitive. I feel like Facebook suffers from too many options. This is streamlined and very easy for anyone to figure out.
If you’d like to get an early merge to the new page you can apply here.
Let’s say you have a business with locations all over the country. Does each of those locations get their own Google+ page or will there be a master brand page with all the locations living beneath it? So far Google seems to be saying that both options will be available, but they’re not giving straight answers at this time. I have a feeling they’re still trying to figure out how it will all work in the end.
How do you feel about the new Google+Local? Have you had any issues? Do you think it’s too much for the average business owner to deal with?
If you need help with Google+Local or Google Places Optimisation get in contact with us and we’d be happy to talk about how we can help you with internet marketing for your business.