If Google Places usage is to be extended, then Google Places needs fixing

by Peter Young on August 18, 2010 · 6 comments

There have been some very interesting developments with regards to the expanded use of Google Places over the last couple of months, with Google not only increasing the usage of Google Places within their mainstream SERPs but also increasing the number of features within it such as Tags. Further to that – Google Places is POTENTIALLY such a great toolset to have within the Google armoury – HOWEVER that is being tainted by a number of issues at present including

  • Lack of control
  • Lack of support
  • Lack of protection
  • Time for verification

Further to the last point, this was something Lisa Myers blogged about over at SEO Chicks back in January, when one of her clients appeared to have been hijacked and she went through a lot of the pains I am now going through with one of mine in similar circumstances.

Similarly to Lisa, the client in my case operated within the Travel sector, and similarly to Lisa’s example the referenced listing was not owned by the organisation I was working with. In my case this happened to be an affiliate who had managed to get himself/herself associated with the listing. All well and good for the affiliate, not so good for the client.

The repatriation process has been long and painful, with Google themselves not at all able to help in any way – something you would have thought would have been a must do – given the fact this is increasingly looking like a revenue area for them – as demand in local search grows. However try and get something as simple as a rogue listing fixed is not ‘as simple as simply clicking a button’ and unfortunately should you be in a similar situation is likely to mean a long hard slog in order to return your listings to their correct state.

In particular the verification process needs some addressing. The mere fact that it is possible for an organisation to ‘hijack’ another organisations listing is beyond comprehension, whether this be by unscrupulous means on behalf of affiliates, or simply on behalf of incorrect association on behalf of Google it simply shouldnt be allowed to happen.  Let us revisit the example I mentioned earlier and highlight some of the issues

  • Venue name correct
  • Clicking on title takes you to affiliate site
  • Clicking on reviews takes you through to a competitor site (first in the list)

The last point in itself is a concern without taking into account any of the aspects of the Google Places issues. Magnify that issue with the fact now that I have to wait two weeks to verify an account and the problem is increased significantly. I will at this point say the UK staff are generally as helpful as they can be in the circumstances, however the problem would appear to be down to processes within Google as a whole, if looking at the moderation of the Local listings is anything to go by

Looking at the above, Google obviously should have an insight into the fact that the entry in question may not belong to the affiliate site in question. As a result, and given that they moderate affiliate activity for other services such as Base, perhaps , no this should have been picked up earlier.

I will finish by saying, I think Places potentially is a great tool. However if we are to see any further integration of Places, Google needs to get behind it and provide it with the thought, and level of support it gives most of its other products (I would exclude Buzz and Wave off that :) ). Only then will we see a commercially viable and useful solution to integrate into localised campaigns

Google+ Comments

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

SEO Consultant August 19, 2010 at 10:34 am

Truely agree. Although Google Places is a wonderful way of getting access to local businesses; it does need more security features to control it and monitor spam. I know quite a lot of spammy SEO companies use spammy accounts to write reviews to boost their client’s google places listing.

David August 19, 2010 at 6:24 pm

Yep its what happens when you build a product with no customer assistance features built in. Its almost too easy to hijack listings, but agree the time taken to get them back for a client can be insanely time consuming.

Frank Lewis August 21, 2010 at 12:10 am

In many cases what appears to be a hijacking can in fact be related to conflating issues. Certainly real hijackings would be a major concern and I understand that there are causes such as yours. But what is more disconcerting to me about the entire platform are the issues that are seen in scale and that is mostly related to Map SPAM! Reputation management is the flavor of the week. Why? Fake, 5 star reviews posted by both owners and black hats. Thousands upon thousands Competitors dissing competitors and I mean it’s viscous in many cases. How about business names where the title contains 8 descriptive keywords? How about fictitious business locations? Here’s the sad part. This spam influences high ranking performance. I have seen no advances in countering other than published guidelines. When will Google get a handle on what is completely out of control?

Peter Young August 21, 2010 at 6:28 am

Agreed Frank – I think the concerns with Places go far beyond just what I blogged about above. Mine was merely following a week of severe frustration with the existing process – in a week where Google had been testing with more ‘severe’ local search pages – which just seemed a bit strange and ill-conceived.

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