Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Google Places Fixes in 2011 If I Were the President - Be Careful What You Ask For

In 2010, Google vastly improved the old Google Local Business Center with an upgrade in the name to Google Places, and with maybe 100 changes to the look, the rules, and more. Each change brought happiness to some and misery to others. But the reality is that the product is still as buggy as the beds in Washington DC, and the algo rewards companies who are spamming or who haven't even claimed their sites, and messes up the early adapters of Google Tags.

As a Google Places expert and consultant I rode the roller coaster last year with days of glee and days of heartache. My clients and others who called me were as confused as they could be about Google's reason and intent. One thing they all knew for sure. They needed to be highly ranked to get the phone to ring or the door to swing. Here is one pundits plea to Google for 10 ways to fix their fantastic tool.

1. Without question the number one fix would be to reconfigure the ranking system or the bot that evaluates the ranking to be far more, dare I say, fair. Ok. How about just? Currently it is common to find unclaimed sites with no website, no reviews, and no citations ranking above sites with solid optimization, multiple reviews from Google and other sites, and citations aplenty. This hurt credibility for Google, and drives businesses, SEO pros, and even consumers crazy.
2. Help the helpless. With Google being so critical to the health of its business clients, why should the rules and nuances of those rules be reminiscent of Mario Brothers. The forum is nice and all, and sometimes Google employees and unpaid consultants give some "cheats" to those who have not been able to decipher the code. Why not have serious tutorials to help companies do it right. Better Google Places Pages would be good for everyone. Facebook Fan Pages is charging for tutorials. Fine. Charge.
3. Enforce the Rules! The first lesson of making a law is that it must be enforceable. I just don't think that any business has a real name of Best Price Junk Cars Los Angeles. Why doesn't the bot kill that one before it ever goes live. If Google Places is going to know all about every place on earth, shouldn't it be a priority not to list a business at an address that doesn't exist or that is an empty building.
4. Fix the thumbnail pictures. Why is this even an issue? Squashed faces and weird shaped logos don't do anything to enhance this product. Google plans to change the energy delivery system for the entire planet. Can this be so hard?
5. Title the movies. Who wants to watch random movies? Just give us 30 characters. More would be better. A description would be fantastic. This would help the consumer immeasurably
6. Improve the look of the Google Place Page. Currently there is no serious reason for the consumer to go to the "page" other than reviews. Maybe there could be template choices for layout, more choices for pictures including products in the top section. And how about bigger or more interesting fonts for the section titles. Currently it is a bit hard for folks to find the various reviews and citations, even if they want to.
7. Put the link to leave a review on the search page. It could go right under the stars.
8. Stop penalizing those who use Tags. Using mechanical scrutiny for every possible minor rule violation on Tags users while not using the same scrutiny on those who have not chosen to use Tags. I have no experience with Boost, so don't know if this is also happening with Boost clients.
9. Certify Google Places Consultants. Provide a course or a test or some method for determining who understands the system. Allow the certification # to appear on the listing page so that unintentional errors can be sorted out, and certifications can be lost if the errors are frequent or black hat.
10. Allow businesses to move their places listing from one Google Account to another. There are hundreds of legitimate reasons for this to be done, including the fact that no one who set up Google Places listings in the last two years knew this would be an issue. Many of them are associated with personal emails or multiple businesses.

Google Places is a work in progress. While it may never be completely "finished" and allowed to be somewhat static for a while, I believe that by 2012, the site will be far less volatile and more predictable for business owners and their consultants.


Henry Griner said...

Knock, Knock... Mr. Google god, are you reading what Randy wrote here??

He has given you some really good ideas. Have you directed one of your staff managers, someone who is allowed to think and act on good information, to call or visit Randy. He has been working with/for you for a long time now and I believe has good ideas that you need to hear and take action on.

Randy and guys like him are the good guys in the white hats and just want to play by the rules... as long as you can write them so they are understandable Mr. Google god.

Signed, Hopeful but Confused in Minnesota.

P.S. Good stuff Randy :-)

Jim said...

Amen to the consistency of the rankings. I just checked the 7-Pack that I'm trying to listed in.. the word, 'internet'..the top 8 show 6 'internet service providers', 1 'telephone company', and 1 'computer store'....with 78 citations, talking about products 'with the best pricing on the internet.'

And what triggers a Places map in the first place? 'Internet' is the only map I can find...nothing for 'internet marketing', Google Places, etc.

Mobloggy said...

I really like #9 and #10. Thanks Randy. said...

I believe that the arbitrariness of the listings is worse than ever at this time. Doesn't mean we won't continue to use best practices to make improvements, but it is sad to see a great potential resource be managed so poorly.