Okay, folks. We're fully aware that we've been inundating you with updates to Google's local business guidelines lately; but the fact of the matter is that they're extremely important for small businesses in our space. Getting it right can drive a lot of business to your company, and getting it wrong presents a pretty big risk of getting stuck at the bottom of the Google well.
Mike Blumenthal, one of the leading experts on local search, wrote a post declaring categorically that service area businesses (SABs) that have merged their Places pages with their Google+ pages should DELETE those pages, and stick to the Places dashboard for now.
Virtually every business in our industry is a service area business rather than a storefront, so this applies to us all.
From the rollout of the G+ Local Social merge and bugs showing up when service area businesses attempted to hide their address, Google has said that service area businesses (SABs) should NOT merge their Places listing with their G+ social page. Well, some SABs did not get the message (big surprise eh?) and the question is what should they do now. The answer: Delete the Merged page and rely solely on the dashboard to manage the listing.
Peter (our CEO) chimed in with a comment asking for clarification:
Mike–I’m trying to understand the potential harm here. Assuming that a service business isn’t afraid of listing their physical office address, even if not serving customers there, where is the downside? At the moment, we’re not seeing that anything sticks on G+ Local pages–no photos, no videos, no reviews, no updates, no verification calls or postcards. But on merged pages, we’re at least able to get photos and videos to take. Posts at least allow for some content and engagement. And I’ve been unable to detect any harm to local rankings. (Although in checking just now for “energy audit los angeles” I notice that Building Doctors now displays two separate Google+ page links, one to Posts and one to About.)
Here’s Building Docs merged page:https://plus.google.com/u/0/101441141718220114156/posts
Blumenthal promptly responded:
Google REQUIRES that a business that does not serve customers at their location to HIDE their address. Failure to do so will result in a take down and the dreaded purge to the freezing cold “we currently do not support” siberia.
Photos will take from the dashboard but they take 4-5 weeks. Videos will not. But so few people actually make it to the Local+ page it is not that important if a photo is missing.
Linda Buquet, another local search expert, then chimed in:
Peter THOUSANDS (I believe hundreds of thousands) were delete due to not hiding address. Many were down for months, so it’s nothing to mess around with.
The double G+ links you are seeing in the SERPs is a new display issue that just started being reported. I did some investigating and think I figured out what’s up. I attempt to explain it here and show screen shots, so look and see if this is the same issue. Seeing Double? 2 G+ Local Links in SERPs? Here’s Why?
So, if you've merged, we HIGHLY recommend deleting that page for now. We understand that this is pretty frustrating; rest assured a lot of other small business owners and marketers across the country are feeling your pain.
Keep you posted with any updates.