5 Things Google is Doing Wrong with Local Search

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These last two months have been quite interesting with the launch of the Google Places O-Pack. It seems like everyone and their dog finally decided that  Google Local is going to be a huge theme for the big “G” moving forward, and a lot more businesses are focusing on it.

Here is a chart showing the volume of leads that have come through my Local Search Marketing Company since the Oct 27th update.

As you can see, the last few months have been good for business.  However there are other aspects of these changes that I view as not so good. That is what this post is about.

With the new mix of organic and map results there is now a laundry list of companies who have spent years optimizing their websites but are now scratching their heads, looking at the map pins next to their listings. There are more errors, more concerns, more products, and in Google’s dash to stay at the front of the local search race, there seems to be more focus on making “new” things fast instead of making “old” things better.

While I completely understand that there are two sides to this coin, you can’t have a gold coin with only one side.  So, here is my open letter to Google Places….

Dear Google Places,

Thank you for all the wonderful things you have done to help bring customers to local businesses. I also thank you for creating an industry for me to work in. I am noticing that as of late you have come out with a lot more location-based products and offers like Google Tags, Boost, Hotspot, and the shiny new O-Pack. Great work!

But, enough with the compliments…let’s get down to the nitty gritty. Can I bring to your attention some areas that might not be the “hippest” but would solve some major spam issues, help businesses to stay on top of updates and account issues, show businesses the value of Places, and make you oodles more money to swim in at the GooglePlex?

1. Why do you let keywords and location information in the business title affect rankings?

Your guidelines state the following about business titles:

Business Name: Represent your business exactly as it appears in the offline world.

  • Do not include marketing taglines in your business name.
  • Do not include phone numbers or URLs in the business name field, unless they are part of your business name.
  • Do not attempt to manipulate search results by adding extraneous keywords or a description of your business in the business name field.

While I completely agree with your guidelines, why do you let businesses with keywords in their name rank higher, and then penalize those who don’t? Coming from a company who decided to name themselves “Google” instead of “Google Search Engine” I think you would understand.

By allowing better ranking for companies who have keyword rich business names you are opening the door to “new” companies who will spam your system while the legitimate businesses who follow your guidelines and deserve high rankings get no such bonus. I know you are working on algorithm changes to protect the innocent and penalize the naughty, but leave that to Santa in this case. Business titles should have zero effect on rankings– zero ranking fruit juice, as in none. If this were the case it would negate the spam issue entirely.

Though I am not a fan of outing, I don’t think that this is anything new nor hidden so here is a screen shot of a maps search result where only one title is legit, The others are gamed and ranking well because of it. When other businesses see this, they follow and usually end up in trouble.

Local search

2. Why don’t you offer support?

This is the one that you have always done wrong. I understand that Google is big, that there are so many fish in the sea who cares if a few get caught in the net. Sacrifices must be made. But if you look at local search there are a lot more caught in the net than just a few Nemos. There are so many issues of duplicate content, merged tags, swapped reviews, lost reviews, lost listings, lost virginity, and many other things that happen to people who are playing by your rules.

To make it worse, you are monetizing local search with Boost and Tags but still don’t offer paying customers any level of support. I have talked to more Google Tag reps on the phone than I care to mention and have only found one who was willing to help. But he says you don’t give him the training or tools to make a difference so he has to study the Local Search Ranking Factors in off-hours in order to have any idea how to start to help companies with issues. Just today I counted 31 people reporting issues in your forums and it is only 11 a.m.  If you could help solve their problems and push the sale of tags in the process you could easily upsell probably 50% of them– especially if signing up for tags had support options.

One employee could easily handle those 31 issues before noon, and while doing so would sign up roughly 15 tags equaling $450 in today’s revenue and $5,400 if the tags stay on for a year.  That’s not bad for a morning’s worth of work, and definitely covers the cost of a support team. It is a win-win and you stop looking like you couldn’t care less about support like your friend you seemed to be all over for the same issue.

3. Why don’t you have Multi-User Accounts yet?

Google, this one is just pure silly. You want businesses to go out and claim their listing, but the business owner hardly ever is aware that claiming it with their personal account will lead to issues. As soon as the company grows, changes owners, hires a local SEO expert etc., there is a dilemma in giving others access to the account, because there is no way to shield access to the rest of the user’s personal account info and email. Then what? You have to claim the account in two listings and deal with determining which account is the dominant one, or if there will be a duplicate listing and any other headache that commonly happens when trying to switch accounts.

As a solution, you suggest to users that when claiming a listing, use a business email that is not tied to an individual, like a generic companywide address. Great idea! That way, when you send an email update to users (like last week) saying that their data doesn’t match yours, and you are going to automatically switch their data in Jan 2011, they will be sure not to get the email update.

Give people the ability to manage multiple accounts at a glance and make working with the system more user-friendly, and watch your number of claimed correct listings skyrocket.

4. Why do you not report Google Places Traffic information in Google Analytics?

Most companies don’t think that they get any traffic from Places because in Analytics data you show it as organic traffic. I know SEOs who probably still think that to this day. And while Local is somewhat organic, it is lorganic.

While some local searchers have created workarounds on this issue with your recent updates and turning local into a Major Pillar of Google, shouldn’t the ability to track go a bit beyond the joke of traffic stats that can be found in the Google Places account currently? If you show value, you can monetize the system. You do it for paid PPC, do it for local.

5. Why don’t you have a Call Tracking Option?

Name, address, and phone number are the key to location prominence and so using a call tracking number is usually the quickest way to screwing up your map rankings. But, local search transactions don’t take place online, so tracking phone calls would catapult you into the forefront of local, because businesses can then see if the cost of Tags, Boost, and overall Places are worth the effort. SMBs love Groupon because it is freaking trackable to the cent. Get Places that way. All you would have to do is add one data field called “Preferred phone number to display” so that you wouldn’t have to mess up your NAP, but could still display a tracking phone number that you could provide at a cost through Google Voice! Yes, you could monetize this! I want 1%.

Overall Google, these are 5 things you have got to fix in 2011 or your are going to lose more support from potential revenue bringers who will get better luck out of Groupon, Facebook, Yelp and other companies that might put the small business owners first.  Remember my golden rule…In Local, the little guys matter. If you screw them, they will be one click away from different advertising options.

Your friend,

Mike Ramsey

Mike Ramsey

Mike Ramsey

Mike Ramsey is the owner of Nifty Marketing, a Local Search Marketing company hailing from Burley, Idaho. His twitter handle is niftymarketing and he is... Read Full Bio
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  • Glenn Gabe

    Mike, this is a phenomenal list of areas that Google seriously needs to address (and soon). Everyone involved in Local should read this post. Great job detailing some of the larger issues.

    • Niftymarketing

      Thanks Glenn. With every additional feature they have added, there seems to come with it a new laundry list of issues that are 100% on Google’s end with these listings. It is getting to the point where I am spending more time apologizing for google instead of using them as a tool for businesses. That is quite scary. If they don’t address these issues this year, then they will have missed a great opportunity in the local space as everyone seems to be fighting for some amount of marketshare.

  • Dustin Fisher

    Great list!

    The multi-user accounts issue is very frustrating. I really can’t wrap my head around why they will not fix this and allow it.

    I definitely hope they add tracking in Google Analytics for local tracking. This would make life a lot more simple to have it all in one single dashboard.

    Here is to hoping most of this list is addressed in the coming year by Google.

    • Niftymarketing

      You know that is the whole point of this post. They need feedback and hopefully this brings some action…..even if it is a very very small amount.

  • 3 Birds Marketing

    Great list. The lack of support and absence of multi-user accounts… so frustrating! Places is a fantastic resource, but it leaves a lot to be desired.

    • Niftymarketing

      Glad to hear others feel the same about these issues as me.

      • Dave

        Mike: Could you list 4 or 5 precise suggestions to improve google Places customer service??

      • Niftymarketing

        1.) Train Google Tags/Boost Sales staff- I have talked to a lot of them. They have zero support trainning. If they want to learn, they are on their own. I have a personal contact in there that I actually coach in turn for him escallating big issues to hopefully speed up the process.

        2.) Don’t consider a forum support…. I hate that idea. It is the biggest joke around to expect other users to be the backbone of your support channels. Or, have 1-3 dedicated people in support that make sure that google comments on ever support thread started. That would send an awesome message and at this point wouldnt take a huge effort.

        3.) Have a phone line support for tag customers

        4.) Offer businesses the ability to self fix merged listings, listing that dont meet guidelines, etc.

      • Dave

        The forum is a slick nifty way to avoid customer service. Mostly its evolved into a disservice to smbs and their seo’s. It simply should not exist. The comments of disgust from smb’s is a clear picture of what a disservice it evolved into.

        There should be customer service. Plain and simple. That would simply make it like every single other tech company. How has the big press managed to miss this in their evaluations and descriptions of Google? I’m 100% in agreement with you on that point.

  • Chris Biber

    Great post – by far the biggest issue is the complete absence of support. Merged listings take forever (if ever) to properly correct. Business is lost because owner-verified listings get merged with incorrect competitive data – not a good practice!

    • Niftymarketing

      Duplicate listings seem to be a major common theme in way more listings that should be… especially in Dental, Law, and other health industries where the business name and the doctor name can have separate listings but in the same location with same phone number.

  • Anonymous

    support? google support? you’re kidding, eh?

    …sigh…and until such is offered we too have client sites that aint what they should be…




    • Mediahuset Nova

      plz keep patience dude..

      google cant do any thing wrong with us??

    • Niftymarketing

      Biggest of the issues for sure. It is beyond pathetic in my books.

  • Jeff Pohl

    Fantastic list! I totally agree with you but the greedy part of me likes the way Google operates as it makes it more difficult for businesses to know what the heck to do with SEO. However, I am sure even if google did a great customer service job, there would still be more than enough consulting to go around.

    • NiftyMarketing

      You know, I have thought a lot about this. It would most likely result in more work due to more success stories and better overall ablility to have local seo’s take care of issues. Even if the support channel had hoops to jump through. It would still give us the ability to work wonders with ranking factors knowledge.

  • Uwe

    I agree with every post except 1.
    Business titles are the first impression of a searching visitor and will affect the following actions quite a bit, thus it should influence the algo.

    Google just needs to get their ducks in a row to when verifying the business name.

    • NiftyMarketing

      I agree that first impressions are important, but not for rankings. If they effect rankings then that means every business should be named “City + Business Category”. Kinda takes the whole fun out of branding.

      I think titles should be open to anything within a certain amount of space and not all caps ( so you could add information without +/- ranking that might help click through but nothing else.)

  • Trevor Tessier

    Solid Mike, if #3 was taken care of perhaps google wold be spared coal for Christmas.

    • NiftyMarketing

      I seriously have to agree with you on this. If I had to count how many times a day I had to log in and out to make simply adjustments or even view info to make sure it was correct I would run out of numbers.

  • Dankwest

    AMEN MY Brother AMEN…,and another AMEN just for good measure! It is more than frustrating watching the Spammers rubbing their collective hands together in delight whilst the White Hat Boyz, pound their fists on the table and beg for equal treatment. Unfortunately so far, the asking, pleading and begging has gone unanswered. I have high hopes for 2011 that all of this craziness will get addressed and someone at the Big G will start listening. If Google wants to become the “new” Yellow Page Book, they might want to look to the number of customer service reps that were part of the equation, when you dealt with Ma Bell in the “old days”. So, either make the title inclusion info right or wrong, and lets move on. Not trying to cast dispersions either, but try doing a search for ‘SEO Houston” and check out the Places rankings…

    • Niftymarketing

      That SEO Houston search is a joke. Exactly what ruins search in my mind. Now it is my turn to give an AMEN to your comment!

  • Dave

    Nice list, Mike. On the support side its obviously virtually nonexistent, secretive without communication, and in my experience without parallel in any other business or industry. More to the point someone I know with a couple of decades of tech industry experience has said he has never seen a tech business act this way.

    Tech requires customer service. That is its nature. Google does not provide it.

    For some reason Google’s overwhelming non reaction methodology has escaped notice from the larger press.

    On the other hand, here are some things I’ve seen inside the Google Places Forums on an anecdotal basis:

    1. A problem with a misdescribed Google Places Record for a very very large travel business, advertiser, was fixed in a day after notification. (No public mention or response to the person who referenced the problem) (me)

    2. An issue referenced in Google Places was responded to in a day. Again without any public notification. Even the first part of the response process was mysterious: A person called one of our businesses and identified himself as with Google Maps. In an environment in which they never respond and then have a person call it brings suspicion. The staffer who answered the phone was suspicious. I was suspicious. The speaker was very limited in dialogue. The phone experience was weird. Afterwards a “fix” of sorts was implemented. Immediately. Will the “fix” work or not. Don’t know. Will I be able to get back to the Google Maps person? NO.

    Its a very mysterious black box. One only need to spend time inside the Google Places Forum to see the utter disgust SMB’s and their reps have with regard to dealing with Google.

    In my mind the multi user account issue goes hand in hand with the lack of support. Simply, too many times the responsibility for handling this information changes hands. There has to be a simple way to accommodate that. Google doesn’t have one now.

    It is a recurring issue that is seen in the Google Places Forum.

    I’ve a mixed reaction at this point with regard to how web page title tags impact mixed O Pac records. Since the presentation change, its clear that Title Tags are what show with the mixed OPac records. I commentated on the changes made when Google Places created naming rules. I have experience with the specifics of business names/legal names, the state processes, etc.

    Now the OPac essentially negates hard rules about specific business names. It clearly opens the door for dramatically increasing spammy page titles. On the One Hand I’m contemplating creating some of them myself. On the Other Hand I suppose we will see them all over the web shortly just as we saw them spam Google Places Records.

    It doesn’t make for a great web experience.

    As to call tracking numbers….yeah as an SMB operator I’d like to see them. I have some work arounds…but it would be nice to allow them without screwing up a local record.

    My own experience with dashboard stats is that they are miserable, unreliable, etc. On the other hand think of this: Over 90% of Google revenues come from PPC. The vast majority of PPC users had to rely to a certain extent on Google Keyword Analysis. Google admitted that its keyword analysis tools were terribly off base.

    Holy crow: Google had to generate close to $18, 19, 20 billion in part by giving bad/false information to advertisers.

    That is astounding. Nobody is looking into it.

    If they can get away with that they can get away with giving meaningless, spotty, crazy data in the dashboard.

    First things first though. Improve….no….create customer service. That would be an enormous positive change.

    • Niftymarketing

      I just have to say “amen” to everything that you have said. I had an experience lately where I had a problem escalated due the to the fact that I was working with a client with a lot of locations that showed an interest in tags if the problems were fixed. I had a few other clients “ma + pop” that has similar issues and they didn’t even care due to the fact that they could not eventually make as much profit from them.

      Its all very interesting. And one of the things that I should have added to this list and take it to 6 things is a local search keyword/volume tool.

      I find it ridiculous for PPC/SEO/MAPS that you can not find out the answer to

      “how many people are searching for the phrase PIZZA in New York.” I want to see cold hard numbers for generic keywords in specific locations and much better data on geo keyword + category searches. Right now its just a total crap shoot. I have zero ability to give an accurate guesstimate without running (and paying) for adwords which is a total crock of (insert expletive here).

      Thanks for commenting and sorry that they holiday festivities have gotten in the way of me responding. 🙂

      • Dave

        I like the commentary on keyword tools for local phrases. My experience on tools is that they aren’t all that great. OTOH, I love the data I get on impressions. I run exact match adwords at a low low price. spend a couple of days fine tuning it for radius. I trust that far better than keyword tools.

        Some types of local phrases are really thin. Guess I don’t blame google for not generating good stuff on those phrases. One other interesting thing abt local phrases is that for some of that, my experience is that when the competition is down and dirty 😉 some click throughs and other actions will be spammy/ made by competitors. 😉

      • Niftymarketing

        ha! like bidding on local competitor brand names. Those can have amazing click through rates but it is due to the person finding out that you are bidding on their name and having a catious click party every day.

      • Dave

        I just took a look at one keyword phrase for 1 smb. We have ranked organically #1 for all 3 years and probably have 2 pages that top G organic rankings for that time.

        Last yr. over 3300 impressions (covering a region over 40 mile radius)
        2009 over 1600 impressions (same region)
        2008 over 1100 impressions (same region)

        G ppc clicks

        2010 over 400
        2009 over 150
        2008 over 170

        total visits from google

        2010 over 1700
        2009 over 600
        2008 over 500

        What the hell happened with this phrase? How did it jump so much in popularity??
        It used to be roughly similar to some other popular phrases and now is incredibly more popular. At first I was going to point it out as an example of ppc spamming wherein competitors just click away. That was my first impression.

        But the growth in keyword phrase really skyrocketed. My other thought is that is that this phrase which includes city name/service skyrocketed because of google maps. The other similar phrases were with state name/service. Could it be that the creation of Google maps primarily focused around cities changed the terms that people use in search?? From state names to city names?

        Don’t know. Basically though, I still value impression data as the best way to evaluate the activity for local keywords. The other thing is that the G keyword tool acknowledged its phrases were off base this past Autumn. They made an adjustment. Last time I looked, comparing impressions during some test periods and the G keyword tool….the G tool was simply way way off. I’ll go with impressions any day.

        Last thing I noticed…which is simply pathetic. For that keyword phrase wherein the smb has been #1 in G for the last 3 years…it was also #1 in Yahoo during that period. Total visits in G for that period were over 3 k. Total visits in Yahoo….under 90.

        Yahoo. You just s*ck!!!

      • Niftymarketing

        I like your data Dave and I think you hit the nail on the head. The reason that (i would guess) stats are up so much in 2010 is on two fronts…..

        1. Mobile Phones- Whether or not your traffic came from mobile phones, I think as people have searched on them they realize the city searching is the way everything is set up. Every local directory, every application, and they have seen that that this the way to get relevant results.

        2. Google Maps/Local Results – I am in the camp that believes people like seeing local results data and it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out really quickly that typing a city based term as part of the phrase brings extremely relevant (most often) results that are within a reasonable distance. Bottom line, the applications, programs, and websites are teaching people to search local….as in city phrase searches. The next step will be hyperlocal and probably fall over the next 2-3 years. But, will most likely be without geo phrases. If I am on a mobile phone and type pizza… .They will show the closest results based on my friends recommendations.

        As far as Yahoo…… No suprise at all.

      • Dave

        Not sure Mike: I picked out that phrase, in part because it seems like an anomaly…that its particular usage jumped so much. I’ll have to look at a bunch of other phrases …but I don’t think they grew in the same way.

        While mobile has clearly grown in the last 3 years, and in this past year made a big jump…and that should continue…not sure if that is the reason that phrase jumped in usage. I’m wondering if G maps visibility spurred usage of phrases that generate maps…as you suggest.

        Still think that totalling impressions from a ppc campaign is a far better tool for assessing the importance of phrases than the Google keyword tool. I simply have a hard time believing in its accuracy/honesty.

        I like writing meaty responses to your well thought out blog piece. Unfortunately they take up a lot of time, research, and energy…and we old/very old/ancient folks need lots of sleep and medical supplements to keep us in the game 😀

      • Niftymarketing

        ppc data is always way better. I just wish they could generate that data for free instead of me needing to run the damn adwords campaign. But the only place that will get the data before hand….. boost. Genius and Devilish.

      • Dave

        Mike: One of the weird phenomena I’ve run into on relatively small, highly competitive local campaigns is that I’m sure the keyword “popularity” on what are probably pretty thin terms are incredibly boosted by the 2, 3, 4, or 5 (or more competitors) all competing for the same phrases, all hitting one another’s keyword campaigns. Its fascinating. In my experience the human capacity to focus on some competitive keywords in such environments is sort of limited. I’ve seen this thing several times…and the funny thing is…if say there are 25 reasonable variations of keyword phrases for one of these local campaigns….and there are say 3 competitors….and they are all focused on this stuff….searching a lot and clicking one anothers keyword campaigns…..the human capacity is only limited to about 3 or 4 of the keyword phrases….and they go out of whack.

        Its pretty weird.

      • Niftymarketing

        hahahah, I have to agree. I see that even in seo. The long tail is seriously overlooked in most markets. A good case in point is any city and “personal injury lawyer” There are 1000 different ways to search for an injury attorney, but that is the chosen phrase, whether keyword data driven or not. It is the chosen phrase people will fight for when there are 30-40 other combination that would ultimately be more profitable. I might have to explore this in an article some time soon.

        Tag, your it

      • Dave

        This is becoming a good “nitty gritty” conversation. Often its in the details. If SEO’s and ppc bid people go “crazy” on a singular phrase: say “personal injury lawyer” it leaves lots of opportunities to crack through and make great progress. Those that study the details will win on a lot of fronts without getting sucked into the “personal injury lawyer” phrase.

        I’m involved in one of those now. I just subsequently bid up 2 variations of a search phrase by a magnitude of 4 times what I was originally bidding.(originally below $3/bid) Still not #1 in one of them–but moved from #4 to #2. On the other one I’m currently 4th. It appears (through limited research so far–that maybe a total of 5-10 phrases out of that “possibility of 1,000 variations” are under intense ppc bidding. Meanwhile this business is basically kicking @ss on the organic maps side.

        Anyway…getting back to one of your original thoughts: getting more detail from the google keyword tool on local phrases: I’m still of the opinion that w/ or w/out that detail from the keyword tool….impressions from ppc campaigns is a great substitute (IMHO better) and then you have to make estimates for the competitiveness factor—in so far as a couple of competitors are really distorting the numbers because they all search on the same dang phrase(s) all the time. 😀

        Tag. Your it. 😀

      • Niftymarketing

        Good thoughts Dave. So, how can a person find solid data without running PPC campaigns? A lot of people don’t want to and as a consultant, I think that is sometimes the hardest sale for an SMB. They don’t like to here that they need to run a PPC campaign to find exact traffic stats. They want to know as part of a bid process so they can make a decision to even get into internet marketing. While you are right that the data is better. I just think it is fundamentally wrong to make SMB’s pay to even start to play.

      • Dave

        In other words, you are saying that its a marketing question…in terms of getting to the smb and giving them the best info. If that is the issue than simply run keyword campaigns. and give them results.

        You have to explain more….or frankly use other tools besides Google adwords keyword tool.

        ….and then that brings to the point of the piece….its something Google is doing “wrong”

        could be.

        😀 tag 😀

  • Salt Lake Carpenter

    What a great article. Going forward I can see that local search will be the biggest part of SEO. Google penalizes service companies as we cover a big geographic area and only show up in the town we are based in.

  • Dave

    Mike: I think dealing with spammy title tags is a tough call, and a tough thing to manage. That keyword driven title tags will grow and proliferate in connection with merged O pac listings is something I think we will see for at least a while….but dealing with it is probably a tough nut.

    So many old media ads are if not spammy, dramatically misleading, or use terrible half truths to mislead. There is legislation that addresses this and legal enforcement, but it is a long tough battle. Over time cigarette and food ads are excellent examples.

    Personally I didn’t have a problem with the examples of psychologists you used above….unless of course those two groups are totally not psychologists. In that case it would be deceptive.

    The psychologist term is an effort to respond to “discovery” searches….searchers looking for a psychologist. Why not combine a business term with an industry/topical/discovery term. Its descriptive.

    Here is a different example (theoretical). Suppose you had a locksmith using title tags for pages that have to do with emergency locksmith. Suppose the locksmith was located in downtown philadelphia and had truck service. Suppose the locksmith developed multiple pages with multiple title tags, each page devoted to a different suburban town, a unique neighborhood, or a popular geographical term associated with the region.

    One of the pages might have a title tag of “Cherry Hill Emergency Locksmith”. There could be an additional 100-200 such pages on the site, each one with a different geographical name associated with “Emergency Locksmith”.

    I can’t imagine writing 100-200 pages with different unique quality content. 😀 I’m sure it would be dramatically in duplicate format.

    I seriously doubt the engines would catch it from a naturally set up algo methodology. I’m pretty sure they miss things wherein the pages are not dramatically popular. On the other hand Google Places ultimately set up a filter to deal with endless spam in that industry…so specific filters did confront locksmiths.

    The whole issue appears to me to be a tough one to deal with. I do suppose though we will see growth in spammy title tags, just as there was dramatic growth in business names within Google Places.

    I’m going to wait and see how this all plays out.

    • Niftymarketing

      I am completely fine with keywork/category/location rich title tags on website. Largely due to the fact that everyone has an equal opportunity to do the same thing without getting banned. Also, trying to rank organically for terms that dont have exact match in title and desription tags is pretty darn difficult.

      I work with clients where we have built out a lot of page just like you are talking about and also am in the process of learning how places picks up sub pages to display on the listing.

      My issue is with business titles like the one above. They are clearly against Googles guidelines but helping them rank and have nothing to do with the websites title tag. I simply want fair treatment for rankings across the board on giving everyone the ability to rank. If your business name is chicago locksmith, you shouldnt get extra juice compared to “Ted’s mobile car keys”

      • Dave

        If your business name is Chicago Locksmith you can use it in a title tag. In fact Ted’s Mobile Car Keys can also use Chicago Locksmith in a title tag. Both will get similar “title tag ranking juice” for the phrase Chicago Locksmith.

        I think time will tell on this title tag issue as we view the merged OPac rankings. If it gets real spammy then google will probably adjust the algo with regard to OPac sites. I’m going to reserve judgement to wait and see how it plays out.

      • Niftymarketing

        I have the same feeling. I don’t mind keyword rich titles tags though. I don’t think they are spam as you are not breaking guidelines by focusing them on specific keywords.

  • Isaac Bullen

    Fantastic read! Thanks Mike, thinking about many of your points, this is just how Google roll no support etc. *Sigh*

    • Niftymarketing

      Yeah, it doesn’t take much to go through the forum and see that there are some major issues that need some major addressing sooner than later. More and more threads…Less and less answers.

  • Rebecca Lehmann

    For a handful of clients, I’ve claimed a profile and completed the forms according to best practices only to watch as Google overrides it anyway with a spammy and hell listing from the same cluster over which we have no control. So I would definitely add “Please trust me when I complete the listing one way that it really is correct and really is what I want” to your list. Yeah. Boo. (But not “boo” to you. It’s good list, I agree with everything you’ve mentioned.)

    • Niftymarketing

      Yeah, boo to google on this one. Once a listing is claimed they should seriously shut off the ability for duplicates to come into the system and trust the user. I can’t count the times that I have seen yellowpages, healthgrades, or some other random directory with a doctors name listing effect a claimed office listing in google maps. Lets hope for these issues to clear in 2011.

  • Mike Ponych

    We have lost our ranking on some of our key search terms since they revamped Google maps and renamed it Google places. All are organic search results are pushed aside for companies who stack keywords into their title text.

    • Niftymarketing

      if you are seeing the opack with title text rich, go right ahead and follow suite. You just cant do it in your business listing from maps. But, your dirty spammer competition will be, and if they are not getting penalized, they will win.

  • Sathish

    Hey Mike, interesting article. These days Google is doing most of things wrong. Their places is good for small businesses but it will affect the rankings of big businesses. Also, there is an investigation going on about Google Manipulating their algorithm to place their products at the top of search results page. It is clear now, Google is destroying their own credibility.

  • Matthew Hunt

    Mike, great post as always.

    Sometimes I’m grateful for their horrible customer support, if it was better we may not have jobs! 🙂 I kid, I kid.

    The support is a major problem. I say, even charge for support. Small Businesses (even I) at times would be happy to pay to get a ‘live’ person to speak to who is trained and can give solid answers and solutions to challenges, maybe they can merge accounts or duplicate listings, remove obvious review, etc. Google needs to realize the algorithm can’t fix everything, especially when it comes to “reviews”.

    I hope they improve their review filters. This report button for review spam sucks and it takes forever (if ever) for someone to review. Now that reviews have become a currency online. I never seen so many post review services pop up so fast. A lot of major review spam happening and I think we haven’t seen the worst of it yet.

    I think the new O-Pack results solves a lot of that business name spam as in issue. I’m a fan. It’s a nice balance between normal SEO and Places Pages Optimization. However, keyword loaded business names…. that’s a tough one to solve.

    If you ever up in T.O., let me know and I’ll buy ya beer!