Dear Google: Small Businesses in Our Industry Need Clarity About Business Listings.
This is a plea for help. The small businesses we work with in the energy efficiency retrofit industry need some clarity about what's going on with Local. Blended listings have become the norm for virtually all the key searches in our industry (energy audits, insulation, heating and cooling, etc.) So lots of traffic is going to the new Google+ Local pages. As such, we've coached the industry in our presentations at national conferences to take their listings seriously, and many have tried.
Being small businesses in a nascent industry is tough -- businesses are trying to reach people, trying to get new customers, and those potential customers are relying on YOU to help them find the businesses in our industry and the services they offer. But the Local system is badly broken. We need a dashboard that works, and we need to know whether or not we should be merging our Google Places and Google+ Local pages. But our experience is that the system is every bit the "train wreck at the junction" that local search guru Mike Blumenthal wrote about last week.
Google Local is a veritable train wreck for business listing management. The Dashboard is in a state of non functioning disrepair, the + Page path to listing management is full of bugs. The current business types supported by the feature set in the +Page environment is extremely limited. The rules for business listings in MapMaker differ from the rules for Places/+Local/Pages and bots there often run amok with listing data. Factor in the technical difficulties of legitimate listings going into “We currently do not support this location” purgatory and being lost for months on end AND the bevy of old issues like merges and duplicates and the wreck starts to take on epic proportions. (Read the rest of the original post here.)
Small businesses are the lifeblood of the economy. Why are you ignoring us?
We just finished an election cycle where the #1 concern was the health of small businesses. And yet, here, we have you guys, one of the biggest and most influential companies in the world, with the dominant local search ecosystem on the web, and it is a mess. The local SEO community is all over it, but most ordinary small business people don't understand how tough of a situation we're really in. We're flying blind. Even SEO experts can't figure this out. Us small businesses are eager to please you--we want to do the right thing, but we need some guidance. Something.
So how much is the Google+ Local "train wreck" really affecting small businesses in our industry? Well, let's use DeWitt Kimball of Complete Home Evaluation Services as an example. DeWitt is fairly tech-savvy, he's heard from us that he needs to get his Google Local situation in order. He set up his Places page a few years ago when his was primarily a mold and home inspector. Today, he's Maine's leading energy auditor and has added all kinds of leading edge credentials for green building certification. Yet despite numerous attempts to change his page, it remains covered with mold:
Yup. Every picture on his profile is of mold. It's gross. He uploaded these pictures to add them to an album, but they're now the only pictures that show up on his business page. He's tried to change them, no luck. He's tried to contact Google to figure out how to change them, again no luck. So for now, he's stuck with pictures of mold any time somebody finds his business page.
Although he has some great reviews, there's a good chance that some visitors to his page won't hang around long enough to read them -- they'll see the mold and hit the "back" button faster than you can say "remediation."
He's tried every version of verification--phone and postcard. The most recent attempt to verify produced a link that went to a 404 page.
Maybe Mike Blumenthal is wrong. Google Local isn't a train wreck. It's a moldy, rotten mess that's toxic for everyone that gets near it.
We're pleading with you. Online marketing is critical for a successful small business these days. Obviously, we're trying to help these companies succeed. We're soliciting reviews, but they aren't showing up, our verifications aren't going through, and our pages are covered with mold. Please put somebody in charge of Local who understands the importance of small local businesses, and who's ready to get things done.
Thanks for listening.
Small Businesses in the Home Performance Industry.