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:
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.