I have been getting a lot of questions lately about what a business should do if they have moved to a new location, or if they re-branded themselves in regards with their Google+ Local listing. The options are generally two:
1. Edit the old listing and add the new information (duh…)
2. “Close” the old listing and create a new one with the new information (duh?!)
I know that if you’ve never had to deal with Google and if you are newcomers to the world of local search this topic might look completely silly to you, and you might be saying to yourself “Isn’t it more than obvious the correct answer is 1?”, let me surprise you - it’s not how things work in the Places world. What Google actually suggests and encourages is to mark the listing that features outdated information as closed and to create a brand new one. There are two major problems with this method from business’s point of view, though:
- If the listing gets closed, all the reviews for the business will stay there forever. Imagine that you have invested in establishing and optimizing a feedback gathering system, which over the years has brought you tens, or even hundreds of positive reviews on your Google local listing. Now imagine that this should all be forfeited just because you decided to change the official name of your business. Because this is what Google suggests. Here is what Google says in such cases:
“You’ve moved locations. Note, that we intentionally do not carry over reviews from an old closed location to a newly opened one.”
- The old listing might have been ranking pretty well in the local search results and the business might have been getting a lot of new customers out of it. While listing age is not a factor by itself (i.e. a listing that is 200 days old would not necessarily be “more powerful” than a listing that is 100 days old), it takes time for Google to assign trust points to a listing. These trust points accumulate over time as Google finds more “evidence” (a.k.a. citations) about the existence and popularity of the business. Mike Blumenthal and David Mihm did a great job compiling information about how long it takes for particular citation to be discovered (indexed), and picked up (included in the local data index) by Google. In a competitive niche it may take 6+ months for a listing to regain the same power as its old “closed” brethren. Even in very low competitive niches it takes at least a few weeks.
Unfortunately, the situation worsens. Currently, for the Google Places dashboard users the process of editing the business name or address goes like this:
- Go to the dashboard
- Edit the information
- Click “Submit”
- Wait for the postcard (usually) to arrive
However, the process for the businesses that have already merged their listings into the new “social Google+ local pages”, or who have created a brand new listing directly via Google+, is a little bit different. They can still go and edit the information, but it immediately goes into “Review” status and a moderator/reviewer has to verify it manually before it goes live. As you could imagine, the edits get rejected more often than not and in the end of the day the business owner doesn’t have any other choice but to give up and mark their listing as closed.
Why does Google do that?
Everyone is wondering the same - why would Google suggest such an unimaginably illogical move. The reason is because their business data clustering system is not yet perfect. I have talked previously about the fact that the business owner is not the only source Google gets information from. The verified owner is, of course, the most authoritative source, but information submitted by them can still be trumped by third-party one if it is sufficient and trustworthy enough. This means that if you submit change to Google with your new address, but at the same time your old address shows up everywhere else on the web (Yelp, Yellowpages, Citysearch, etc.), then it is very possible that Google might soon revert the publicly displayed address back to the old one.
In April, Google promised that a “Location Moved” option is on the way. While it would be a nice new feature, if it ever airs, I don’t think it is still the best case for business owners for the same two reasons I described above (although it would make sense from mapping and user point of view). The best solution to the problem, in my opinion, is to update how your business show up everywhere on the Internet. I have previously written about how to discover these mentions (citations), and how to schedule your editing timeline. There is also a more in-depth explanation of the methodology of researching citations in my Citation Building Guide.
Have you had to deal with such cases? What has been your experience?