Jul 232012
 

It has been quite a long ago that me, and anyone else following the trends in local search, stopped getting amazed by the recentness of the problems and glitches related to Google’s +Local (ex-Places) product. However, it is rather rare that two (or more) major problems occur simultaneously. Currently there are three withstanding issues, some of which date a few months back:

1) Mass “We currently do not support the location” glitch.

The reports of disappearing listings started in the beginning of May. The engineers were reportedly working on fixing it, but a more major fix came just in early July. There are still thousands, or probably even tens of thousands of listings that are still in the limbo, and some of them will most probably never get back to their previous status. Here is what Google suggested to some business owners which reported the problem with their disappeared listings:

If you’re unable to reinstate your page this way, then please remove your listing from your Google Places dashboard by clicking “Delete” then “Remove my listing from my Google Places account,” then recreate the listing.

In other words: “We provide advice that will most probably not work, because the glitch is on our end, and your listings are most probably not anymore in our public database, thus there is not much you can do. However, try these, and if they don’t work, well… simply delete your listing and start all over.”

I’ve been telling in some conversations that the listings affected by the initial error on Google’s end were probably hundreds of thousands, and I was asked how I came up with this estimate. Here is how:

“Assuming there are appx. 50 million business listings on Google Maps in the whole world, probably about at least 40-50% are listings of service-based businesses. So this is 20-25 million. And if from these even 1% were hit (and the percentage seems to be much higher from what I see and hear) this is already 200,000 listings.”

2) Not working troubleshooter.

The troubleshooter for Google+ Local incorrect data problems has been down for a few days. It is actually still down if you try to go to it through the Google Places Support Center. The link leads to this page:

Google Places Troubleshooter Down

If you go directly to this link though, it works normally. I doubt even a hundredth of all people that will visit the support center and will click on the “dead” link will come to my blog and see this link, so Google needs to fix this as soon as possible.

3) Only one page of Google+ Local organic search results.

Google currently shows only up to 10 Google+ Local results even if you click on “More results near …” under the listings in the organic local search results. This seems to be spread across a large number of cities, and for queries mostly related to service-based businesses. Here is an example of the Places search results for [plumber New York]:

One can only guess if this is a result of the major “loss” of service-based business listings.

  5 Responses to “Three Simultaneous Google+ Local Problems”

Comments (5)
  1. Nice observations, Nyagoslav:

    Of these issues, with regard to the one mentioned last, about only 1 page of results:

    This issue started to appear as early as April: http://blog.bizible.com/no-pagination-in-google-places/

    At first it was only related to Places and not Maps. When I looked at the NY Plumbers search phrase today. There was only 1 page of results in either Places or Maps.

    OMG. Its spreading and getting worse.!!!!!

    btw, with regard to the above referenced issue, it seemed to be resolved in mid to late may. Guess that is not the long term case at ALL!!!! geez!!!

    With regard to the 2nd issue: The troubleshooter being down, I noticed it in passing, didn’t give it a lot of thought but just guessed it might have been a result of the huge volume of problems…all stemming from Point 1 above. I believe Mike B believes that to the case. It might have been that Google, and its support team is simply overwhelmed.

    Not sure…but it doesn’t inspire confidence. UGH.

    THE BIG POINT #1.

    Its hard to imagine the overall instant impact by Google on up to potentially hundreds of thousands of brick and mortar businesses. Its literally beyond comprehension and simply describes an entity whose power is immense, different and new from any entity before. It controls the visibility over eyeballs, primarily searching for an economic reason. Either they need an attorney, shoes, a pizza, a plumber, etc.

    They primarily aren’t looking elsewhere. Google is the first choice of eyeballs across the world in most places. Google is primarily not accountable to anyone and its impact crosses National Borders.

    With problems of this scope we at the very least need competitors with viable systems, but ultimately the competitors don’t matter much (think Bing in search today–)unless the users turn to other search engines.

    There is very little one can do.

    A short while ago you were nice enough to publish a little (but wordy) piece I wrote about suffering from a problem with google places: http://www.ngsmarketing.com/google-local-back-end-problems/

    Our business recovered. Our problems were relatively small compared to the enormity of issues suffered by the up to 100′s of thousands who lost their records in full. We had a record that suffered a Dup and was instantly replaced by an informationally accurate but emasculated new record with no ranking strength.

    Basically the most critical part of the problem was resolved in 2-3 weeks. The weakened record reconnected with the data and regained its ranking strength. In 2-3 weeks we returned to our former visibility. In 4 weeks our old reviews were reconnected to the new record. All other issues were minor, IMHO.

    Here is the other take away from that issue and the issues that are going on now.

    1. You simply can’t just depend on Google+Local. You have to diversify. In our case we had a strong organic ranking and heavy investment in ppc. We lost traffic but it wasn’t severe. I say wasn’t severe. We did some heavy analysis and think we lost 10-15% of leads to site from Google. Frankly that was costly. But it wasn’t 100%. There are smb’s in the forum that are crying for having lost virtually ALL their business.

    2. You have to diversify outside of Google itself. That is far easier said than accomplished. Unfortunately for many SMB’s the first effort by consumers when considering a purchase of a service or product is to look it up in SEARCH. Its a very trying situation.

    In any case keep up the good work on reporting on issues. I believe your blog is a must read for people focused on Local SEARCH.

  2. This is really a great post, because it cuts to the core of the issue – Google’s gross incompetence in managing data that is now starting to negatively effect the overall quality of results as well as damage thousands of business owners who are actually in compliance with their guidelines.

    It’s nice to see and SEO call it how it is rather than kiss Google’s ring. I read Blumenthal’s, Mihm’s, and others. I’m now reading your blog Nyagoslav. I hope to write such critical content when my blog is finally published this month.

    As far as quotes from the affected business owners, my favorite one is as follows:

    Google says in its mission that it aspires to “do no evil”. I would say that this level of gross negligence at such a massive scale is no less than evil. Please Google – minimize your atrocities. Please help me and the others that are victims of this gross ineptitude.

  3. Well the troubleshooter is back now so I guess there is some light at the end of the tunnel?

  4. Nyagoslav, thank you for the succinct summary on an out of control issue. It made my blood pressure go down a bit realizing the sheer multitude of other businesses being effected with your percentage breakdown.

    Many times over the past few months I held off billing clients to try and let the dust settle in getting their location that all of sudden isnt being supported back to life. Tried a ton of things that you suggested in prior posts but found it sometimes better to leave it alone as you also concluded in some cases.

    Even though things were totally and only in Google’s control its felt wrong to bill during this mess(even though we end up doing more work to fix stuff and trying to figure out whats up)

    These small business owners have enough on their mind. The overall tone I am sensing from them is that they are really upset with how difficult Google is making things. Especially with customers having to create a Google+ profile now. Talk about another poor experience…

  5. Nyagoslav:

    Good recap of the continuing “glaring” problems that persist. To your point #2, as Linda over at Catalyst eMarketing suggests, I’m sure that link hasn’t been fixed for a reason. They don’t want a flood of support emails right now as I’m sure they are still a little swamped. Selfishly, I hope they don’t fix that link until they can truly handle the support emails.

    Regarding point #3, I wasn’t aware this was such a major issue. I was seeing it on various searches the past month but didn’t give it any thought. I figured it was just some kind of glitch. I just did a few searches this morning and I’m seeing it now still.

    Finally, regarding Dave’s comment, he is spot on regarding the importance of diversifying. I don’t like to see any business rely solely on Google+ Local (or Google itself for that matter).

    Travis Van Slooten

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