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