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The Non-Place-Place Use Case

March 5th, 2012
18 Comments


As some of you may know, a few days ago my Google Place Page was sleeping with the fishes. My initial suspicion was that SEOs who work out of residential addresses had been targeted for a Google Places hit job. I guess I should have taken my own advice, because boy was I ever wrong.

After discovering my listing had gone missing, I pinged the Places Troubleshooter and received a follow up email from Bryan L. at Google Help:

“Thank you for contacting Google. Upon further review of your listing, it appears that you’re receiving the “We currently do not support this location” message because your listing currently violates the Google Places quality guidelines:

SERVICE AREA BUSINESSES
If your business travels to its customers and doesn’t have a consistent customer-facing location, you should apply a service area or service areas to your listing. You should also check the box to hide your business address if customers cannot make face-to-face interaction with your business at the address listed. To learn more about service areas, check out this article:
http://www.google.com/support/places/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=177103

You can find the guidelines at http://www.google.com/support/places/bin/answer.py?answer=107528

Once your listing adheres to the quality guidelines, you can respond to this email, and we’ll evaluate for reinclusion on Google Maps.

Thank you for your understanding.”

So I already had a service area set. The problem was that I had never checked the box to hide my address. I am not sure when that requirement made it into the guidelines but this is what it says buried in a hidden div:

“If you business serves customers at their locations but does not receive customers at your location, you should select the “Do not show my business address on my Maps listing” option within your dashboard.”

Now being a Local SEO guy I probably should have suspected that right off the bat, except for the following facts:

1. I set my service area whenever they released that functionality – 2 years ago? – and have not really touched my Place Page since then. So why I should suddenly be in violation last week was non-obvious. Although if I had been one of my clients I would have immediately run through the laundry list of do’s and don’ts (physician do not heal thyself).

2. While I was impressed with how quickly Google Help solved the problem, I am still puzzled by the following:

  • Wouldn’t it have been easier for the person who took the time to call me and ask about my business to tell me that I needed to change the visibility status of my address?
  • Wouldn’t it have been easier for Google to send me a message either in my Places dashboard or via email alerting me to the exact nature of the problem?
  • Wouldn’t it have been easier for Google to automatically change my address visibility status to fix the problem and then alert me that it had done so?

I know Google Places has a million tweaks on its to-do list and can only do so much, but if my business relied on Google Places traffic for customers (it doesn’t) the past week would have done serious damage.

This is the kind of experience that causes small businesses to both resent and mistrust a service.  I want Google Places to be a simple,  useful tool to help my clients.  I feel like it’s getting there, but we still have a ways to go.


Tags: Google Place Pages

18 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Dana DiTomaso // Mar 5, 2012 at 10:21 am

    Thanks for the followup! I was curious as to why your page got shot down.

  • 2 Andrew Shotland // Mar 5, 2012 at 10:29 am

    Kind of embarrassing that it was such a basic problem…

  • 3 Jim Jaggers // Mar 5, 2012 at 2:48 pm

    I don’t think it would have been easier for Google to do any of those things.

    Though, if hiding your address is a requirement for service businesses that to not see customers at their business address is a requirement, you’d think Google could feature it a little more prominently in the quality guidelines.

    It will be interesting to watch this change play out.

  • 4 Linda Buquet // Mar 5, 2012 at 3:15 pm

    What the???

    I stay pretty up on the guidelines and have an alert set to notify me of any changes and I never knew about this.

    So I went to double check and sure enough this is NO WHERE that I can see the following on the guidelines page.

    “If you business serves customers at their locations but does not receive customers at your location, you should select the “Do not show my business address on my Maps listing” option within your dashboard.”

    I even searched source code and didn’t find the hidden div? Maybe I missed it?

    How can they penalize for something that’s not even in readable text in the guidelines?

    Last I knew hiding your address was an OPTION primarily for people who worked from home and for personal reasons wanted address hidden.

  • 5 Andrew Shotland // Mar 5, 2012 at 4:18 pm

    The reason you couldn’t find them in the guidelines is because they are not listed there. They are listed in an “article” about setting your service area: http://support.google.com/places/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=177103 hidden under the section called “what are my options for defining a service area”?

    Kind of makes sense right? If we’re talking about hiding addresses, then it’s appropriate for Google to hide the requirements.

  • 6 Stever // Mar 5, 2012 at 5:26 pm

    I’m not sure if this is still the case, but when the tick box to hide your address first came onto the scene it was a sure fire way to kill your rankings. The algo could not rank you since the location portion of rankings was effectively turned off. I don’t know if that was ever changed and if it does have or does not have similar effects in blended local results.

    Is your listing showing up again?

  • 7 Andrew Shotland // Mar 5, 2012 at 5:45 pm

    It’s back and ranking #1 again for “Pleasanton SEO” http://maps.google.com/maps?q=pleasanton+seo&pws=0 so it doesn’t appear to be hurting me at the moment.

  • 8 Linda Buquet // Mar 5, 2012 at 6:34 pm

    “It’s back and ranking #1 again for “Pleasanton SEO”

    However I’m seeing an address and a map pin, not a hidden address and round marker.

    Did you change the setting to hide your address?

  • 9 Craig Tobin // Mar 7, 2012 at 11:44 am

    You’d think they’d at least notify you somehow when you are in violation. Heck, I got notified by Yelp last week when one of the sites I manage wasn’t in compliance. Thanks for the headsup, I better get to checking my google places.

  • 10 Andrew Shotland // Mar 7, 2012 at 6:26 pm

    Jim,

    Sorry for the delay in responding, but I am curious why you think automatically dealing with the situation would not be easier than causing a business a lot of pain? I am trying to think of a use case where dealing with it in one of the ways I suggested would not be better than how it was dealt with and I can’t.

    If it’s a requirement for all businesses, why not automatically do it? As Google Local people like to say, if it’s a problem caused by user error, then it’s likely not a user problem but rather a software problem.

  • 11 Fiona // Mar 20, 2012 at 2:52 pm

    Thanks so much for this post, Andrew. We’d been experiencing a similar problem, as our Places page dropped from high-ranking to practically invisible overnight. I’d also put it down to the 3 separate ‘verification’ telephone calls that I’d received from Google and suspected I’d said the wrong thing! Anyway, I’ve since deleted our service area in Places, in favour of showing our registered office address instead – and await the result. Fingers crossed!

  • 12 MiriamEllis // Mar 22, 2012 at 7:56 pm

    Andrew, this got my dander up:
    http://www.solaswebdesign.net/wordpress/?p=1198

    This is so, so dumb! Dumb, Google, dumb.

  • 13 Don // Mar 23, 2012 at 8:12 am

    Thanks Andrew…great heads up. I didn’t know that as well.

    Although there are things Google can always to better, we need to keep in mind that this is a free service. As such some of the details will be missed and not given the attention we would like. Thanks again…

  • 14 Andrew Shotland // Mar 23, 2012 at 4:27 pm

    The fact that Google is free doesn’t let them off the hook. The fact that they are the dominant provider of business location information means they have an even greater responsibility to make sure businesses do not get screwed by their system.

    Someone smarter than me once said something like “if you don’t know what they’re selling to pay for it, then they’re probably selling you.”

  • 15 Marco Berrocal // Mar 26, 2012 at 11:28 am

    If there is a company I dislike due to their double standards and AWFUL policies, it’s them. Also going to support is hopeless, they will just plaster something buried in some Terms and COnditions.

  • 16 Jim // Mar 26, 2012 at 5:29 pm

    So if you service clients at both their locations and a central location, what’s a body to do? Seems like your’e saying choose one or the other.

  • 17 Ed Johnson // May 23, 2012 at 7:14 pm

    coliseum@verizon.net
    My company was deleted by Google Places on March 5, 2012. It has now been (May 23 2012) almost 3 months and we cannot get our listing back. Google will not respond to my questions and marks every listing I try to make as “Denied”. I know this is not much of a problem for Google, but after having been dumped for almost 3 months, it is destroying my business. Google does not give a hoot what it does to others.

  • 18 Limotainment LLC // May 24, 2012 at 5:19 pm

    Thanks! This is the exact information I needed to know. I also had a creepy guy call me on the phone from an unavailable number immediately asking where was my place of business over and over again.

    I run a high end limo bus company, people never start a call like that and I was getting some passive aggressive phone calls from a guy after some charity events I hosted in my free time. I basically said to myself I’m not dealing with this and hung up.

    Boom! Google places gone… right after I got it ranked too.

    My only question: What is the e-mail address to contact to let them know I changed my settings to a hidden address and service area?

    Thanks for figuring this out for all of us!

    Mike

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