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Completely And Utterly Farcical Google Local Verification Procedures


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#1 glyn

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Posted 02 July 2009 - 03:23 AM

Everytime I go to Google Local Business the verification process is different.

Now as part of the latest chapter in this story, that by comparison makes War and Peace look like something to be dusted off in one sitting on the toilet, I've lost my rag.

Here's the Chapter entitled - Do I care about local.

1. First of all the Core Business is verfied by post cost.
2. I add another element of business to the same account (without conceeding the raw details, you need to trust me that it's not spam and a real business and conforms). Which has it's own website.
3. I submit the initial profile and get the message "We are calling your business to verify".

"Hold on a minute, where are my options to select the method".

"phone rings in business....answers, why the hell is Google calling me, must be a scam?"

Back in the land of the SEO, I click on Google Local Logo to force return to homepage showing all Google listings in the account.

See that account can be verified by SMS.

Knowing that National telephone operator cannot send SMS, go back into Google account and add Mobile Number to the additional details.

Google tells me that the number needs to be in a format that in fact corresponds to the national telephone operators formatting, and is therefore not appropriate for the mobile number. This means that it is not possible to enter the mobile phone number into account, and therefore the SMS option is completely and utterly redundant.

So, here will be the workaround:

1. Try and explain to client what needs to happen.
2. Get one of their staff to take a laptop with wireless internet to the place where the business telephone number resolves too and login to Google Local. Request the pin and do it from there.

And this is the best the brains from the biggest SE on the planet.

It's a complete and utter joke, what's next.. a stool sample?

:)

#2 jonbey

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Posted 02 July 2009 - 04:12 AM

I think the Goolge would just prefer if it was the buisness owners that were setting up their accounts. Making a persoanl phone call to confirm that you are indeed who, and where, you way you are is a pretty good way to ensuring no spam gets in. Google knows that there are virtual offices, where you can register space and telephone, but no actually use them. People are cunning. Someone tried to promote the London based business (with website) on my local portal the other, using their home address. People are cheeky when it comes to link building.

Maybe I missed the point. I normally do. Fuzzy head today.

#3 SEOigloo

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Posted 02 July 2009 - 03:40 PM

I hear you, Glyn.

Yep, you have to have the client at the ready and at the number to make this work. It's a pain in the neck. Agreed.

#4 JohnMu

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Posted 02 July 2009 - 05:26 PM

I'm curious (I don't have anything to do with the Local Business Center), how would you change it to make it easier and still safe enough? I remember I had the same problem listing my old company, but at the same time I thought it was pretty good that it's so strict since it helps to prevent someone from maliciously grabbing your listing. What ideas do you have that might work for this?

Cheers
John

#5 AbleReach

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Posted 02 July 2009 - 07:25 PM

1. Try and explain to client what needs to happen.
2. Get one of their staff to...

Is this always a problem?

Once was transferring a domain for someone who no longer had their log in details, let alone remembered who was their registrar. After carefully trackign down and confirming a bunch of identifying information with both the registrar and the client, I let client know that they'd be receiving a confirmation email THAT AFTERNOON from the registrar, and NOT to delete it. I was specific about the email needing to be responded to, or the process would need to start again. That evening the client emailed to ask when I could take care of it, as they'd already deleted "that spam." :scratchhead:

There are always going to be times when the client simply doesn't get it.

Not Google's fault.

#6 glyn

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Posted 03 July 2009 - 02:30 AM

No problem with verification by post. That's easy and manageable.

But when you are not even given this option for verification, the alternative is just laughable and gives me more weight to support my thinking that Glocal is G's attempt to cut out the middleman in the online advertising world.

I'm now going to be forced to try and hack with the Local system to see if I force the option I want.

Really Stupid Google.

#7 glyn

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Posted 03 July 2009 - 02:51 AM

That didn't take long :)

#8 SEOigloo

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Posted 03 July 2009 - 02:44 PM

Hi John :)
I want to preface this by saying that you are one of the reason I've continued to urge, admonish, praise, plead with and focus my attention on G. Local. It's good people like yourself who make me confident that Google is full of good people and that they can do better!

In my opinion, here are some of the things that I think are wrong with G. Local.

The Creation Of The Index
This was done without the knowledge or consent of business owners. It's my impression that that majority of them remain unaware that their business contact information is being represented, and frequently misrepresented, by Google Local. Local business owners approach business from a YP mindset in which they must authorize any advertising (free or paid) of their business and are not only aware of anywhere that their company's name and contact info appears, but that they also have total control over the appearance and accuracy of that data. Google's approach of amalgamating an index based on third party data providers has not only created the problem of conflated records with bits and pieces of incorrect and outdated data from multiple sources, but has created what I see as the very serious problem of all of this happening without the business owner's knowledge of consent.

Should The Business Owner Become Aware
Now, let's say the business owner should somehow become aware that Google is representing them with their local applications (the 10 pack or Maps). Danny Sullivan recently gave a tongue-in-cheek presentation regarding the hoops a business owner would have to jump through to figure out not only that they need to claim their listing but, also, how to claim it. It takes 3 serendipitous clicks in Maps just to get to the point where the user is asked the question Are You The Owner? Claim Your Business. It's buried and obscure and is doubtless one of the reasons that so many of the listings in G. Local remain unclaimed and vulnerable to both community edits and competitive hijacking. The need to claim your listing has not been well-publicized by Google and the mechanics of doing so are simply too complicated. A lack of thought has been given to human Usability (I'd love to see G. Local hire Kim for an audit!) :)

The verification process itself has been fraught with difficulties. Between lost postcards and very disturbing problems with Google's automated phone system having problems with certain kinds of phones and certain numbers of the key pad, and then not even offering real confirmation at the end of a successful phone call that the verification has been completed, the whole process is not satisfactory or user-friendly.

A Wiki Approach To Real World Data
Google reps have stated that they view Local as a wiki effort that can be created and policed by the public. I have come to the conclusion that this is absolutely the wrong approach when it comes to the accuracy of real world business data. Wiki works for Wikipedia because few people are going to be spammed out of business or die if there is inaccurate data in Wikipedia. But when it comes to business data, leaving it open to competitive hijacking that business owners have reported has deprived them of up to 70% of their income...well, that's a real-world consequence of a mistaken wiki approach to the scenario. The inaccuracy of emergency services has been of special concern to me and the Google Maps Help Group has recently had visits from doctors begging Google to correct errors before someone dies. That's totally serious and, in my opinion, all the reason Google should need to realize their approach to local is not right.

Lack Of Accessibility And Accountability
I recently wrote this post detailing the public's overwhelming dissatisfaction with the fact that Google is representing their businesses publicly but providing absolutely zero way to contact them about errors. Response in the Google Maps Help Group (should business owners serendipitously manage to find) is sporadic at best. In my book, if you take it upon yourself to represent real businesses, you are also taking on responsibility to be accessible to those businesses, but Google has given the local business world no way to speak to them about errors, loss of massive income due to inaccuracy in Maps and other real world problems that have been created by Google's local index. Most recently, Google has even removed the one very small option they provided for people to fill out a special form to report errors in emergency services data (hospitals, poison control, women's shelters, etc.) Maps Guide Jen Chin had shown me this page last year after I discovered that 3 local doctors and the major local hospital in my area were all being misrepresented by Google. At that time, Google would allow you to alert them to this type of incorrect data and their page stated that they tried to correct such instances within 48 hours. Now, even this option has been taken away and I consider this to have created a situation of public hazard.

Google is not being held legally accountable for this misrepresentation of emergency services, nor the loss of income created by inaccuracies in their index. I don't think that's acceptable, for any business, and I am totally dissatisfied with the lack of transparency, accessibility and accountability present in the current situation with Google's local entity.

I believe that Google can do much better than this and will continue to read and write about this in hopes that Google will change their approach and policies. I want them to succeed.

Edited by SEOigloo, 03 July 2009 - 02:49 PM.


#9 JohnMu

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Posted 03 July 2009 - 05:37 PM

Hi Miriam
I don't quite agree with all of that but it's hard for me to judge it based on the little parts that I've seen :). Again, since I don't work on the Local Business Center, this is all just my personal opinion.

Here's one part in particular which I don't fully understand: is it really worse for a local business to have incorrect information (eg wrong phone number) listed than not to be listed at all (not automatically added)? I got my company listed in the Swiss LBC right about when I left my company and started at Google. The company wasn't listed automatically, so I had to go through everything to get the listing added. Personally, if I had known that the company was already listed (automatically added), I would have gone there and done that much earlier. If I had heard that the information there was incorrect, I would have been even faster. We had other incorrect listings (local yellow pages and a "paper" business directory) and we learned about them very quickly. When someone wanted to call our business and reached something else, it usually encouraged them to try harder and to tell us how the listing was incorrect and that we should try to get it fixed asap. So if for instance the local LBC had our company listed incorrectly, this would have gotten us to claim and fix it much faster than it actually took us (even with my Googlemania) to do it on our own. How much business did we lose by not being listed (and instead, even paying for AdWords)? It's useless to think about it because you can't really put a number on lost opportunities. My company "could have" done a lot of things if we had known about them :). Oh, boy, the things we could have done :)

I know I was probably a bit more versed with this internet stuff than the average small business owner (not to mention hard-headed enough to keep on trying if it didn't work right), that's certainly a difference. That said, as a user, if I search for say [flowers] I usually want to find local flower shops. If it only showed me the 2-3 in Zurich (20 miles away) that manually added themselves instead of the 10 that are in my town, I'd be unhappy with the results. If the one local entry which I pick has the wrong phone number or address, I might pick a different entry or I might (if I wanted exactly that shop) search for the real phone number and tell them about it. To me, this is no different than if they didn't pick up the phone (versus a company that did). Do I try again later or do I pick a different listing? It's a lost opportunity for them, but in general if a small business does not take advantage of the opportunities presented, the sale may go elsewhere.

I always root for the small guy because I know they have to juggle a million different things (I certainly did). I can fully understand that they're too busy or unknowedgable of things they could handle with little effort, that's life. That's why I think it makes sense to have them listed automatically, even if that means that a small part of the listings have mistakes in them. Most of the great flower shops in my town don't even have a website because they don't know how to do it or if it would really bring them something (lots of small businesses don't want many more customers - you'd be surprised at the number of small businesses I know that are afraid that a website would bring them more paid work, they don't want to expand, they want to stay at the same scale). I certainly don't want a LBC filled with the "elite" flower shops of the area, the ones who are internet-savvy and have a snazzy expensive website, the ones who make you pay twice as much for flowers that aren't even half as beautiful :). I prefer the LBC to contain small businesses who would otherwise not be present in Google's search results.

I agree that emergency service providers are a bit different than normal small businesses. I also agree that bugs in the processes should be fixed, if they aren't already. That said, I'm not privvy to any of these details, so I can't really comment on them.

Anyway, that's my personal 2 cents :). I'll gladly pass your feedback on to the team when I get back from vacation :)

Cheers
John

#10 glyn

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Posted 04 July 2009 - 06:55 AM

Miriam

"Google's approach of amalgamating an index based on third party data providers has not only created the problem of conflated records with bits and pieces of incorrect and outdated data from multiple sources."

As a business owner, if mine is being represented incorrectly in the index I would want to see some kind of justification and trasparency.

a) the supplier of that information (this I can do)
B) the agreement and consent that I gave to that supplier to provide details.
c) the agreement that showed my consent that it could be shared with Google.
d) the verification by me that the data being displayed was corrent.

Let's assume the case of company that is going through a very aggressive marketing spend for a new domain, trying to build brand awareness. If that business is selling toys, and they are appearing in Google local against keywords associated with, say alcohol, that's pretty damaging. Now let's just say that this example was actually valid, are the existing mechanisms to correct the problem adequate?

On the point of conflated indexes, from what I've seen some of those important citation sources have a very commercial and advantageos way in to getting businesses listed in the Google local, all of which I'm not exactly comfortable with.

G.

#11 SEOigloo

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Posted 04 July 2009 - 03:08 PM

Hi John,
I read your reply with great interest! Thank you for such a thoughtful response to my comments.

You ask:

Is it really worse for a local business to have incorrect information (eg wrong phone number) listed than not to be listed at all (not automatically added)?


Imagine you are a local business owner and you've invested considerable time and expense in getting your business correctly listed with the Yellow Pages and correctly advertised in local papers, magazines, perhaps a few online directories.

Then, a 'publication' with the visibility of Google comes along and incorrectly lists your information, without telling you about it and without giving you a way to contact them. Suddenly your calls drop off and you don't know why because people are simply getting a wrong number when they try to call you and aren't telling you about it. They are too busy and simply move onto the next listing.

In my corner of the world, a local futon shop sued the Yellow Pages for incorrectly listing their phone number one year. It nearly ruined their business. It had that much of an effect, and I have heard firsthand from business owners that incorrect Maps data has lost them as much as 70% of their phone calls. It's that bad.

So, I have to say, yes it is worse to be incorrectly listed in Google than not listed at all because not being listed at all means things are still in the control of the business owner whereas being incorrectly listed by Google means having your fate in the hands of a company that is intentionally refusing to let the business community contact them. The owner's business data is being held hostage by someone they can't get through to and the responsibility is suddenly being dumped on them to find some way, on their own, to remedy the situation. Sometimes they figure out how to do it on their own, but as the Maps Help Group attests, many times there is no known fix for their problem and the outrage and concern I have seen expressed over this is very real. People don't see this situation as appropriate business conduct on Google's part, and I have to agree with that.


If a small business does not take advantage of the opportunities presented, the sale may go elsewhere.


I agree with you totally on that, John, but the problem is, 90% of the small business owners I talk to are still wholly unaware that the opportunity of Google Maps exists for them. And then, if they do discover it and their initiation to it is a huge hassle with errors they aren't sure how to fix and a company policy of inaccessibility, I just don't believe that's winning any love for what Google is doing.

And it could win love! That's what makes me so passionate about this. I think Local could be awesome but the mindset of the creators would have to change. Local is different. It isn't Organic. It's real-time and has to be staffed by people, not simply handled by an algorithm. I have heard nearly every one of my colleagues in Local Search championing Yahoo for having phone support for their local app and condemning Google for not doing the same. I think Google needs to take that seriously, but they have left most of the folks that I know (including SMBs) with the impression that because Google is the big guy, they don't have to act with consideration for the welfare of businesses and I would love to see Google create a better feeling about their position than that. I know you would, too, John :)

Edited by SEOigloo, 04 July 2009 - 03:25 PM.


#12 SEOigloo

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Posted 04 July 2009 - 03:17 PM

Glyn -

Now let's just say that this example was actually valid, are the existing mechanisms to correct the problem adequate?


In a scenario like you are describing, with tremendous effort the business owner might be able to track down where the confusion is coming from and by altering the original source of the wrong data, get Google to eventually pick up the corrected data.

The trouble with this is the 'tremendous effort' part. I've watched Mike Blumenthal walk through finding various errors in the 3rd party data from which Google pulls, and the steps involved strike me as being complicated beyond the means of many busy small business owners.

The real question is - whose responsibility should it be to make sure that Google's index is accurate? Google's or the public's? Because it is Google who created the index and Google who is profiting handsomely from it, my definite answer is that it is Google's responsibility. In the case of the incorrect emergency data that is causing public health dangers, I was told by a Maps guide that Google couldn't possibly contact all of the hospitals and doctors they've indexed to make sure the contact information they have published is correct. In other words, Google doesn't have the time...yet, they are expecting you to have the time, or doctors to have the time, or someone else to have the time. Again, I see this as a wrong attitude and a bad approach to the idea of Local. It's a philosophical problem.

#13 bwelford

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Posted 04 July 2009 - 04:17 PM

Very well said, Miriam.

:applause:

The problem is that Google wants to have scaleable solutions, which involve automatic algorithms. Local cannot be handled that way. If Google does not want to handle Local as it needs to be handled, then it should just opt out. It is too big and dominant to leave a people-damaging, erroneous system in place.

It struck me that it is somewhat ironic that Google will on occasions add humans into the process. The spam team has put major effort into identifying even small businesses that may be selling paid links and manually reducing their Toolbar PageRank reading to get them to change their behavior. That was a situation where presumably Google felt its bottom line would be affected if it did not handle these 'errors'.

The effect they are having on some local SMBs is devastating. Despite their tagline, they certainly seem to be 'Doing Evil' here.

Edited by bwelford, 04 July 2009 - 04:18 PM.


#14 SEOigloo

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Posted 05 July 2009 - 01:28 PM

Thank you, Barry.

I'm sure Google isn't meaning to do evil. I'm afraid they're coming off as irresponsible and uncaring, though. I visit the Google Maps Help Group and the amount of confusion and distress on the part of the business owners, contrasted with the sparse response from the Maps Guides doesn't paint a responsive or concerned picture. I'd really like to see this change. Yet, while the help group is good, I honestly don't think anything short of a customer service dept. to back up Maps will cut it.

#15 swainzy

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Posted 05 July 2009 - 03:01 PM

Is it really worse for a local business to have incorrect information (eg wrong phone number) listed than not to be listed at all (not automatically added)?



Yes.
1)I think it's always best to use accurate facts.
2) Misinformation will lead to frustration on the searchers part and annoyance and they might give up searching for the accurate phone number when frustrated. They may even hold it against the business for being "unprofessional".


What are we asking here? Simply to have some kind of responsible timely feedback from LBC. Something that streamlines this whole process? Biz owners might not have the time to have lengthy convoluted communications with G. Esp. in this economy where their collective noses are to the grindstone. G doesn't want to spend their time helping solve this problem either, for now, apparently. This isnt' rocket science - put people on it. Rise to the challenge of making a system that you initiated work better for goodness sakes. :scratchhead:

#16 bwelford

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Posted 05 July 2009 - 03:30 PM

... or if, Google, you are unwilling to put in the resources to make the system satisfactory, then abandon the effort. Stick to those information sources that can be handled by scaleable computer systems. Local businesses does not fall in that category.

#17 glyn

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Posted 06 July 2009 - 02:05 AM

It's a quid pro quo at the moment. You add your business (or rather SEO companies do it for you) and G gets your business data for future campaigns. If Glocal wasn't putting businesses at the top of Google, no-one would be registering. As for the improvements to the system, we know what they would be, and any lack of interest in implementing these is just further evidence of how Google values Local business listings at this time.

#18 earlpearl

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Posted 06 July 2009 - 01:06 PM

John:

With regard to the question...is it worse to have wrong information in Google Maps...I'd say YES. Its particularly more frustrating with Google, in that, if there is a mistake and you report, and you work through various methods to correct it, you have no verification if it in fact will be corrected or when.

I've been a small business operator/owner, have sold directly to small businesses (I was a commercial real estate broker in a major US market place--at one point specializing in retailers and retail spaces), have developed a massive data base (massive for me--I built it on my own) of businesses in my market, and know countless small business operators. On top of that my ex wife was a big shot in the local region advertising society and a local big shot in advertising agencies. I'm somewhat familiar with how SMB's treat advertising.

When the information available in search is wrong...here is what happens.

A)Someone calls off of bad information in an SE. They get the wrong number. They skip the business and go to the next one.
B) Someone calls several competitors. One number is wrong. They go directly to the competitors. One never has a chance to compete for the business.
C)More egregiously, if you have a hospital or emergency facility and the phone number is wrong, or some other element of the contact is wrong--it could lead to horrible results.

I can sense how the process is complex. Google and the other SE's that built versions of Maps/Local obtained data from other data sources initially and aggregated/melded this information. The information was at times conflicting. Businesses in certain data bases had closed. Other businesses had moved. Phone numbers changed.

Collecting and verifying data is extremely difficult and time consuming. Having done this, I can only say that obtaining 100% accurate contact information is difficult to do and more difficult to ensure that it is correct.

Relying 100% on an algorithmic method, which is what Google does, for verification of accuracy is clearly going to lead to errors. Most traditional data collectors have relied on some level of contact and interaction to correct and change data. Eliminating that method is a big mistake in my experience.

Other SE's particularly Yahoo, allow for personal interaction and a level of customer service to correct mistakes. It speeds up the process. It allows for better data. Its deeply more satisfying than the method used by Google.

Simply, a business person may submit correcting information and just doesn't know if it has gotten through to Google and if and when it will be changed. That is incredibly frustrating.

In the meantime, since the Google method for editing/correcting information is slow.....the business simply loses contacts and potential opportunities for business.

Correcting information in the Local Business Center is complex. Small business owners are simply not equipped to do this effectively. I know plenty of them. Cripes I do it, and it confuses me. Virtually all SMB owners I know have always farmed out virtually all of their advertising. The only thing they might have hands on experience with is placing traditional YP print advertising--and frankly there everything is done virtually in house by YP personnel.

The complex methodology with NOT easily accessable directions on correcting information is not conducive to effecting changes.

Google currently owns a MONOPOLY on search visits by users. Therein lies the problem. It commands most visits, and when the information is wrong it is the critical starting point for correcting information. When the information is wrong--the business loses a majority of potential searchers.

In one instance I tried to help a third party business with consistent wrong information showing up in both maps and the plus box. This process went on for about 1 year. At the start of the process a Google employee said they would get back to the business when an inquiry/complaint surfaced in Google groups for business owners. One year later, following consistent inquiries...a Google employee had not responded.

Meanwhile, over the year, the information was being wrongly shown in both Google Maps and Yahoo Local. Over that time, there were consistent complaints from potential customers who were being directed to the wrong address. Not a single time did the complaining person ever attribute the wrong directions to the bad information in Yahoo. Not once.

Ultimately, by reading and rereading the patents on Google Local (providentially provided by our friend, Bill) we determined why the mistaken information was showing up (an algorithmic reason) We addressed this issue and never got a response.

Ultimately after about 1 year or longer Google seemed to universally correct the problem. Meanwhile many potential customers went to the wrong address because of a non response.

More than anything else I would suggest two elements that desperately need correction:

1. Simplify making changes, give these changes more weight over sources of information from data sources, and give some acknowledgement that the changes will be made.

2. Provide a level of customer service and response. Yahoo does it. It is quite satisfying.

#19 SEOigloo

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Posted 06 July 2009 - 02:05 PM

They may even hold it against the business for being "unprofessional".


Donna, that's a unique point I've never heard anyone make before. B)

Great stuff from, Dave. Wise words from a man who knows the Google Local ropes!

#20 earlpearl

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Posted 06 July 2009 - 07:01 PM

There is one other thing that I think is terribly wrong with google's algo's for local businesses. It appears with the showing of a onemap..wherein one business has successfully worked on its site for Maps purposes...and it gets a one map version for a search that includes a major business search term and a city name.

Say Denver flowers. I think about 1 and 1/2 years ago a florist in Denver complained bitterly in google groups for maps/business owners about 1 business that was given a onebox for this search phrase.

It drew a lot of commentary at Mike Blumenthal's blog and here

One business was a winner with this phrase...and others were clear losers. When google takes a generic business search phrase for a product/service/industry and combines it with a local jurisdiction only to create a onebox then Google is ultmately playing search God and determining business winners and losers.

There are other alternatives.

For instance, say someone searches for the phrase Denver Flowers. The searchers intent could be for a particular business with that name in Denver or alternatively for any number of florists in the city.

Realistically we don't know, and certainly Google doesn't know.

Google could show two results imported into google.com from its many resources. Essentially it could present 2 variations from Maps.google.com.

One alternative could be a SMALL version of a onebox. In view of no formal name for this phenomena, Mike Blumenthal calls it a "branded onebox". It is small, far smaller than the onebox. Secondly Google could present a 10pac or 3pac, whatever is appropriate, wherein the other competitors in that industry also show.

That would be an inclusive review of alternatives and would cover all options.

Frankly, we operate a bunch of businesses, all with local competitors. In some cases we have benefitted from a onebox. When we receive this treatment and additionally have the first or first and second organic listings we absolutely dominate the total percentage of clicks on those phrases (we run ppc). In other cases where one of our businesses is shut out by a onebox for a competitor we get a horrible minority of clicks to the site for the phrase.

In my view, google is playing commercial god by emphasizing the onebox in lieu of the alternative I suggested above.

Finally, if you haven't done this I would go back to Miriam's very descriptive post about lack of response in google groups for Maps (Google maps) and read the commentary from people/business owners not getting a response from complaints here. Its very powerful. Day after day one can go into Google Groups forums for maps and see the same type of coments made by new people with problems. In some cases, you see the same people looking for a response for a couple of months. Its pathetic. Also, I would read Miriam's comments about Google quietly removing a mechanism (that wasn't easy to find) wherein it made immediate changes on behalf of hospitals and emergency facilities wherein the information in Google Maps was wrong here . Google had established a quick fast response mechanism...and then quietly dismantled it.

Google clearly doesn't want to directly respond to anyone vis a vis its map product.

Frankly John, when I created a short url for twitter referring to the hospital blog piece by Miriam, I labled it http://cli.gs/we-dont-care . I tweeted about it and referenced it to only a couple of seo type people. I was surprised at how there were a surprising number of responses and retweets. It would only take tweeting this to a lot of hospital tweeters and other concerned folks and I suspect it create quite a loud and unhappy response.

#21 swainzy

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Posted 06 July 2009 - 09:01 PM

when I created a short url for twitter referring to the hospital blog piece by Miriam, I labled it http://cli.gs/we-dont-care . I tweeted about it and referenced it to only a couple of seo type people. I was surprised at how there were a surprising number of responses and retweets. It would only take tweeting this to a lot of hospital tweeters and other concerned folks and I suspect it create quite a loud and unhappy response.

:notworthy:

#22 earlpearl

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Posted 07 July 2009 - 10:29 AM

John:

I don't enjoy "unloading" on you. In fact I parrot Miriam, in saying you are one of the reasons to keep coming back to cre8asite.

In fact you are generous to ask questions about the situation with regard to Google Maps and be willing to share them with personnel at G maps.

Here is one last example of issues with G Maps.

A friend/colleague/partner established a small business recently. He is incredibly busy trying to get it off the ground and make it work. We have experience making this happen but it will take time.

One problem was that he completely oversaw every aspect of a new website while being incredibly busy in operating the business. Unfortunately a new website didn't officially hit the SE's until two months after opening. There are a lot of problems w/ the business to date.

We (he primarily) purchased a failed business from another operator. We have retained the phone number. The old business w/ the same phone number and address and a different website already had an LBC identity, though unclaimed.

We entered a new LBC record, claimed it, and established records. The new record started showing very quickly. Before making adjustments to the old record we awaited final development of the website (and a quick change of url/ a business decision).

Meanwhile in the interim, G Maps reverted to showing the old business with the correct phone number but old website.

While this person is reasonably computer smart....between being very busy in the business and being astounded as to how G Maps takes old records from data sources and merges them with no records, he was aghast at trying to figure out how to correct the records. He was devastated.

I'll tackle it.

The vast majority of business owners don't have the resources to deal with a complex algorithem that doesn't include personal contact, a level of customer service, an acknowledgement that "things will get fixed". In fact, in removing itself from personal interaction....G Maps is the extreme exception to the rule.

Its baffling. Unfortunately it is the monopoly on web views.

Like others, despite snarky comments, I'd like to see it work better.

Maybe you will be able to forward these comments to G Maps and get some response. That would be tremendous.

The tone from nice people inside a nice and helpful forum is anything but nice.

I think that says as much as anything.

#23 glyn

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Posted 07 July 2009 - 10:53 AM

What would happen if I had a really big search engine, and listed Google in my directory but linked them through to something completely off. Of had their business details incorrect because I'd hemmed the information together from a range of sources.

I'd probably get a letter from someones solicitors, and that's probably what needs to happen here.

G.

#24 bwelford

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Posted 07 July 2009 - 10:54 AM

It just struck me that Google so often leaves its services with a Beta connotation. That is not the case with Google Maps or the Google Local Business Center. However in practice, they should probably have the Alpha label based on the problems they still encounter. :(

#25 cre8pc

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Posted 08 July 2009 - 02:54 PM

I'm thinking this discussion should be pinned. Miriam, you outdid yourself here and I'm thankful JohnMu (from Google) is listening :)

I'm curious (I don't have anything to do with the Local Business Center), how would you change it to make it easier and still safe enough?



For starters, there's no pre-instructions or warnings that the person entering information must be near a phone to make an instant entry or update their information. I just updated my office number on mine and got the automated call with my pin to verify I really wanted that change.

I offer this setup as part of my SEO maintenance and it confounds the hell out of local businesses when I try and explain the purpose of adding (claiming) their biz. For them to be there when I enter them requires a conference call so that someone is available to get the pin #.

Postal is fine as well, but it takes several weeks for the information to be added then.

I can't direct the verification to my phone, get the pin, and then change the number to their office number, because it will then call their number to verify that change!

To make this work, so that companies like mine can offer GL to our clients, there needs to be a field for a 3rd party verification phone number. I know this won't be accepted.

However, it could be that when I get the call, get the pin and enter it, and the information is installed, the biz owner is immediately called AND emailed to verify they're aware and approve. If no verification comes within 24 hours, the information is not accepted.

#26 earlpearl

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Posted 08 July 2009 - 03:46 PM

I offer this setup as part of my SEO maintenance and it confounds the hell out of local businesses when I try and explain the purpose of adding (claiming) their biz. For them to be there when I enter them requires a conference call so that someone is available to get the pin #.


Being an smb, having sold to smb's, trying to explain this to the smbs I know and assist, including some who are somewhat tech savvy and somewhat web savvy for their businesses.....this is right at the crux of the problem.

They don't get it. And they certainly can't be expected to sit by a phone when business can walk in the door.

#27 bwelford

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Posted 08 July 2009 - 06:55 PM

I don't think you guys are understanding what is going on here. If you were told that President Obama would be calling you shortly, I'm sure you would be willing to stand by the phone.

So if you are told the big G is going to be calling you. what's your problem? Just who do you think you are? :)

#28 cre8pc

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Posted 08 July 2009 - 08:14 PM

heh

If Obama or a real human person with some importance is going to call me, I might stick around. But in this case, it's all automated and robotic.

#29 glyn

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Posted 09 July 2009 - 02:13 AM

When the verification call comes in, it comes in in English. Now, the last time I checked the World it wasn't made up of the UK/USA. That's one thing that needs to be changed, otherwise you're going to reinforce the perception in non-english speaking countries, of a kind of colonial arrogance (to frame this as clearly as possible).

Johnmu, I think that from my side what I would like if for Google Local to be consistent. Consistent in it's verficiation process and planable. As has been mentioned, sometimes Local just goes ahead and attempts to verify your business without you even saying CALL ME. That's just plain lame!

I understand that any minor loophole is rulebook of interweb gets bent out of shape by all the people that are just after a quick buck, brand mounting or spamming, but the intelligent people at Google must know that it is not practicle the current format.

I personally think that the postal solution is the way to go. But that this should be supported with a major TV publicity campaign in all countries so that at least Google can say it did X,Y and Z to notify business owners of the FREE service, and provide some grounds for justification for the long time it may take to register (up to 2 weeks). The other thing would be for Google to talk to Governments to see how they could get information out to businesses as a service. Everyone gets a letter from the tax office, put something in there.

There is a big tide turning against two things on the internet, at least in the Blogosphere. One is Google, and the second is how personal information is being used. At the moment the concerns are shared only by a small niche of people working in the IT sector, but as is often the case, the rest of population eventually catches up (just look what happened at Facebook when they tried to change their T&C's a few months back). It's an opportunity to be pro-active and repair the damage.

Good luck everyone.

#30 SEOigloo

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Posted 09 July 2009 - 02:01 PM

Thank you, Kim. I'm honored by your comment.

this should be supported with a major TV publicity campaign in all countries so that at least Google can say it did X,Y and Z to notify business owners of the FREE service


Glyn,
I've made that same suggestion. Awareness is simply too low.

That being said, if G. were to go the postal route, there are 2 items that would need to be addressed.

1) The current postcard is too easy to overlook. People throw it out thinking it's junk mail. It would need to be a more official-looking piece of mail.

2) One of the common reasons people need to alter their address and verify that change is because the business has moved. Unfortunately, both the post card route and the phone verification route insist on contacting the business at his old number or address...where he no longer is. This is a big problem that I have seen cause tremendous confusion and distress for business owners.

#31 AbleReach

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Posted 09 July 2009 - 02:23 PM

A while ago Google had a program where they'd pay a representative a nominal amount, I think it was about $10, for each business they registered into Google local. Google closed the gates on registering new representatives, almost immediately. I don't know why.

It's my feeling that if Google did the reverse, and asked registrants to pay Google a small, flat fee, they could use that to have live bodies on the other end of dedicated phone lines, walking registrants through the process. Google would figure out in a hurry exactly what will get the job done better.

A phone interview system could be designed that would give Google insight, under the guise of doing a service.

SERPS are by nature an approximate assigning of value to a changing dataset. A physical address cannot be treated the same way. You can't just slurp up what comes out of phone books & whatnot and expect that getting it right the majority of the time, for some point in the history of the business, is going to be good enough.

#32 glyn

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Posted 10 July 2009 - 03:59 AM

Wow Igloo, I wansn't aware of that point 2, that's insane!

The internet is such a used tool, that there should be plenty of reason why governments would want to engage search portals for things such as validated business information.

#33 earlpearl

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Posted 13 July 2009 - 07:13 PM

John:

If you want to see a pathetic case wherein changing information is either frustrating, impossible, blocked by some mysterious whoknowswhat, and an emergency facility is left out in the cold....check this thread in google groups for maps http://www.google.co...s...18c5e&hl=en

The webmaster for the above hospital first tried to correct bad information on May 18th. It was block via a community edit. Now that is wierd.

He requested help several times, and didn't receive any from Google, with the latest request occurring June 10th. Now that is a long time.

Meanwhile on June 23rd he went to post on Mike Blumenthal's blog and posted in response #6. On July 10th he posted with an update...to say there has been no update. The same misinformation remains.

Mike Blumenthal, who has been granted some level of access to google maps, due to consistent commentary and efforts of help, is trying to assist him.

How crazy is that. Mike is taking the role of unpaid ombudsman on behalf of confused and bewildered representatives of businesses and institutions that can't get things corrected in Google Maps.

It is the height of absurdity. Meanwhile potential patients of this clinic are being misdirected by Google.

Isn't that sick? I'm sorry, the inmates are running the asylum in terms of running google maps.

Edited by earlpearl, 13 July 2009 - 07:14 PM.


#34 bwelford

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Posted 13 July 2009 - 08:34 PM

That is deplorable, earlpearl. I only hope there is someone in Google who is responsible for taking action here. That should be someone for whom the job description clearly pins the responsibility on that person.

Just imagine. Perhaps the only person for whom that applies is the Google CEO, Eric Schmidt. This buck should stop somewhere in Google. If Mr. Schmidt is the one, then let's see action. With effects like this created by a corporation, it almost becomes a matter of Google's Code Of Conduct..

"Don't be evil." Googlers generally apply those words to how we serve our users. But "Don't be evil" is much more than that. Yes, it's about providing our users unbiased access to information, focusing on their needs and giving them the best products and services that we can. But it's also about doing the right thing more generally -- following the law, acting honorably and treating each other with respect.

The Google Code of Conduct is one of the ways we put "Don't be evil" into practice. It's built around the recognition that everything we do in connection with our work at Google will be, and should be, measured against the highest possible standards of ethical business conduct. We set the bar that high for practical as well as aspirational reasons: Our commitment to the highest standards helps us hire great people, who then build great products, which in turn attract loyal users. Trust and mutual respect among employees and users are the foundation of our success, and they are something we need to earn every day.

... they are something we need to earn every day.

#35 swainzy

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Posted 13 July 2009 - 11:01 PM

evil.jpg

#36 earlpearl

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Posted 14 July 2009 - 08:23 AM

Little bit of an update.

On July 13 google employee Joel H, who is one of the commentators in Google Groups for Maps, appeared in both the thread on behalf of the NMH hospital issue and the Bristol Hospital in Great Britain threads offering the two webmasters assistance and direct contact in one case.

This is after an offer by Mike Blumenthal to assist on the NMH thread through his somewhat access to Google Maps (developed by being the number one commentator and number one "outside helper" within Google Maps.

There was also a little campaign in twitter directed at a bunch of hospital twitter accounts informing them of these changes in google policy and problems that hospitals are having in presenting correct information within Maps.

Wouldn't life at Google Maps be a lot simpler and better for both businesses and instittutions and ultimately Google if there was some form of customer relations?

Yahoo does it. :angel:

#37 bwelford

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Posted 14 July 2009 - 11:15 AM

Google as a corporate entity has major responsibilities here, whether it chooses to acknowledge them or not. Unfortunately they are showing a great deal about the way their corporation functions in this case. It is not pretty. :)

#38 SEOigloo

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Posted 14 July 2009 - 04:49 PM

Mike Blumenthal wrote a super post today detailing a day in the life of the Maps Help group. Good reading for anyone interested in the problems with Google's local entity.

#39 swainzy

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Posted 14 July 2009 - 05:18 PM

That's great that Mike did that. It took some time on his part (that he doesn't get paid for) and it's good to have some stats on the problem.

Good Mike :thumbs:

#40 earlpearl

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Posted 15 July 2009 - 08:21 AM

@ Swainzy Haha. I had the exact same thoughts as you and wrote them in Mike's blog: a lot of work on his behalf and no pay. LOL.

In all seriousness, it appears over time that the higher ups at Google have had no concerns for the issues that populate the Google Maps forums. Slowly, some issues get resolved. Others linger.

Mike's commentary on types of problems reveals a deep history with certain issues. They have been going on for some time. Google doesn't deal with them

On a separate issue that is populating Google Maps and other internet sites...the issue of Review Spam was addressed by the New York State's attorney's office http://blumenthals.c...-false-reviews/

While I took part in the 2 studies by David Mihm and the one study by Mike Blumenthal trying to ascertain what elements of Maps relate to high rankings, it is apparant from observation that massive reviews clearly helps certain businesses leap to the top of Maps rankings. It is most apparant when one looks at an industry wherein most of the businesses have few, if any reviews, and then 1 or two sites have a huge number of reviews, clearly indicating spamming, and they coincidentally sit at the top of the Maps rankings.

Its another issue in the world of Maps. My underlying problem with all this, is that this still young, not fully developed algorithim, which does not receive customer service, and is subject to theft/hijackings/ and misinformation often PLAYS ECONOMIC MAKE OR BREAK impact on various businesses.

Who made Google the CZAR of economic well being for the smb world?



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