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Ideas on Google Places Improvements and What to Expect

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Google Places Product Ideas

A few weeks ago Google started an initiative to collect ideas on what should be changed with Google Places. Overall, 574 people have submitted 233 ideas and voted 4,457 times. I purposefully did not promote this at the time when it was active, because I noticed it was very easy for to be abused and for nice ideas to be pulled down the rankings.

Anyway, now it is over and we are expecting the promised video responses. However, some of the questions got replied by Vanessa Schneider (Google Places Community Manager) directly on the moderated forum. Some of these replies reveal interesting insights on what Google is planning for their Places product. I share some of these ideas and answers below.

Idea: Enable Analytics on my Places, so that I could analyze my listing with Google Analytics Tools.
Answer: Excellent timing! We’re actually thinking about ways to combine the best of both worlds, Google Analytics and the Places dashboard. Please post other ideas here on what kinds of data and features you think would be most ideal for the experience.

Idea: A Google certification program for those who would like to serve other businesses needs for administrating their Google Places pages. Qualifying individuals who can help businesses who can’t do it themselves, or don’t want to, but need to.
Answer: Thanks so much for your interest in this — we’ve heard this kinda thing from a number of you here. As you know, we don’t have a program like this currently, but I’ll let the Places team know there’s a bunch of users out there looking to help us with this. Let’s see what we can do in the future.

Idea: As part of the Administration, allow multiple users access to the places page similar to that of Analytics and Webmaster Tools. I prefer to have my client own the listing and give me access to manage it vs sharing a login.
Answer: Great idea, and something we’re looking into for our roadmap. We’ll keep you posted.

Idea: Enable integration with social feeds like: twitter, g+, etc.
Answer: Great idea. When we allow businesses to create profiles on Google+ — sit tight! — we’re aiming to create a space where local businesses can connect with customers.

Idea: Add active informations to business owner via mail if something happens like status-change, new reviews, additional informations and so on AND give business owner the option to say “correct” or “wrong” to improve quality.
Answer: Lots of users here have been asking for more notifications! It’s great to hear this feedback. We are working on better notification mechanisms, so we can keep business owners posted on this kind of stuff. Keep the suggestions coming for what kinds of notifications you’d like to get —these suggestions can inform those developments. Thanks!

Idea: Allow two businesses that have merged listing data to easily separate them.
Answer: The best thing to do right now is use Report a problem: http://goo.gl/YZI4k But we know this a user pain point because it can take days, even weeks, for things to get fixed. We’re working on some things in our backend to make this process faster.

There were many other nice suggestions which did not get answered, but I think are worth mentioning:

Spinatmensch: “Add an overview (maybe for business owners only in backend) where they can see where google has found which additional informations about there business. So owners can see where are wrong informations on 3th party sites!”

Scott: “Offer centralized control of franchises on Google Places, perhaps in a similar interface to Adwords MCC. Let us deliver common content in different regions for franchises.”

mblumenthal: “When it is necessary to create a new listing for a previously claimed listing in a new account make ALL the data from the previous listing visible and editable in the new account.”

Shawn: “More detailed analytics that separate desktop computer searches and mobile searches would be awesome. Even more helpful would be to include info about time on listing, conversions, and separating google.com vs google.com/maps results.”

Shawn: “Provide some sort of feedback when a listing gets rejected or is under review. If it’s due to an inappropriate “term”, possibly highlight what word(s) are questionable.”

mblumenthal: “Provide more granular detail of the search phrases (include geo modifiers & full phrases), allow for better reporting, better comparison of two timeframes and the ability to see ALL search phrases in Places analytics”

Dev B: “Enable RSS feeds for a Place Pages reviews. This will allow business owners to re-publish their reviews without hassles. You should also incorporate this option into the Google Places API.”

TheTexian: “Notify Places owner when account or listing is flagged or suspended. Would it be too much to ask to know exactly what to fix instead of making us guess? This would be an economic stimulus by not wasting our time or yours.”

e-mphasis: “Optional notification of reviews by email, ideally with customer services email option and ability to restrict by selected rating scores e.g. 1 and 5″

bluespark: “Allow users to report a spam user, not just a spam review It is really easy to see what some spammers are doing through a particular user name by clicking the user name and looking at all their reviews. So let the user easily report them for review.”

Tenkely: “Would like a way to have businesses with multiple locations linked to one another via the parent org.”

And a few of my ideas (I posted 13 in total):

“Do not overwrite owner-verified data with scraped third-party data. If you find some inconsistency, send notification to the verified owner for them to approve if the third-party data is the more up-to-date one.” (67 likes, 3 dislikes)

“Make the list of forbidden words on Google Places public!” (32 likes, 2 dislikes)

“Do not allow directory pages on yellow pages or review sites, such as Super Pages, Yelp, Citysearch, to be used as business websites.” (26 likes, 2 dislikes)

“Allow “working hours” to be set to “24 hours”.” (22 likes, 3 dislikes)

“Upgrade the spam filter algorithm so that it could detect mass spam reviews through different Place pages. It currently detects just the spam on the same listing, and it does it badly.” (17 likes, 2 dislikes)

“Increase the visibility of the coupons and additional details (which are currently missing) and make them searchable.” (9 likes, 2 dislikes)

“Do not use the keywords in the business name or the website domain name as primary ranking factors.” (7 likes, 3 dislikes)

I noticed that each of my posts has at least 2 negative votes, even suggestions in which I cannot see any harm, such as the ability to set the working hours to 24 hours. Although I understand that my suggestions are not perfect and cannot be liked by everyone, since all these dislikes appeared in the same day, I’d guess that they were given by the same person/people.

In an effort to summarize all mentioned, here I present the most common topics that circulated the moderated forum:

  • More and better structured analytics data for Google Places
  • More feedback on issues related to listing suspension or rejection
  • Better control over duplicates and merges
  • Multilevel management of Google Places listings, similar to the AdWords My Client Center
  • Notifications on changes happening on business’s verified listing
  • Better control over third-party data overwriting the owner-verified data
  • Ability to get Google reviews directly on business’s website
  • Better anti-spam options

And… here is what the Google Places team claims to be working on:

  • Upgrade on Google Places Analytics
  • Multi-user management over listing(s)
  • Integration of social media into business profiles on Google+
  • Improved notification mechanisms for verified owners
  • Faster work on reported problems, such as merges and duplicates
  • Google Places certification program for professionals

Not too bad – there are some overlaps between the two! It is also worth mentioning that some of these have already been partially implemented. Google started notifying verified business owners when their listing was marked as “Permanently closed” on Google Maps. They also rolled out a new support feature for reported problems. Let’s hope the process will go on.

  1. Dustin S
    Dustin S10-11-2011

    I like the idea about making the company name and company URL obsolete in the algorithms. Obviously, businesses like ‘Starbucks’ are still doing quite well in local listings without mention of their produce, coffee / cafe, etc.

    It makes absolutely no sense that words in the business title or URL would have any weight – It’s what the business offers , not what their name is – or at least should be IMO.

    • Nyagoslav Zhekov
      Nyagoslav Zhekov10-12-2011

      Yes, Dustin, it is really sad Google are using these as major ranking factors and I’m not really sure what the logic behind this is. Not to mention there are many cases where the business name is completely irrelevant to the type of business, and in such cases very often Google automatically associates an additional category to the business’s listing…

  2. Andrew Huskinson
    Andrew Huskinson10-11-2011

    It would be nice if someone organised a workshop about ‘Normalised Data’ for the developers.

    Stopping data being picked out of subsidiary fields would stop a lot of problems and cure ‘features’.

    The Lucky 1 Pack only works in many cases because category is picked out of the business name, in contravention of the spirit of googles own business guidelines.

    Where Categories are assigned to scraped listings do not scan the Address fields for candidate categories. That will stop people with Lodge in the address suddenly getting calls for holiday sites.

    There are also examples where not using the data properly allows spamming.

    Cheers. Andrew Huskinson.

    • Nyagoslav Zhekov
      Nyagoslav Zhekov10-12-2011

      Andrew, you are correct on the assigning of completely irrelevant categories, and as I mentioned in my previous comment – it is ridiculous that Google would use business’s name or even address (as you stated) to assign a category.

      And unfortunately, the spamming is widely spread on Google Places exactly because of things such as the ones I suggested to be fixed – using business name and website URL as ranking signals. Sad story.

  3. Gav @ CrunchWebDesign
    Gav @ CrunchWebDesign10-13-2011

    Im certainly in favour of business website excluding directories etc. More often than not, the local businesses who invest in a strong online prescence and contribure on a regular basis are the businesses that have a better reputation in their local area.

    Spam is a big big problem which needs attention. Even highlighting/warning reviews all made from the same computer would be a start. Granted some reviews may be made whilst on the business premises by customers but more often than not, its just the business owner sat at his pc, generating random gmail accounts and posting like crazy!

    Lastly, feedback on rejected/suspended entries would help alot of small business owners. Having had a listing suspended in the past myself and nearly pulled all my hair out going through Googles Guidelines with a fine toothcomb, a simple automated email with the offending area/s would be a great help!

    Some excellent suggestions Nyagoslav…..lets see how much is taken on board!

    • Nyagoslav Zhekov
      Nyagoslav Zhekov10-18-2011

      Gav, yes, the reviews problem is one of the most major ones and I believe Google are taking it very seriously, because they seem to be trying hard to compete with Yelp on the reviews front. The only way for this battle to be won is to improve the overall quality of their review base.

      And regarding feedback on suspended/rejected listings – this is a no-brainer to me. Very often the suspension occurs because the business has more than 1 listing for the same business, and they have it, because Google Places is full of bugs and frequently duplicates pop up in the account when changes are being done. Not to mention the ones that show up on Google Maps uninvited…

  4. Jay Killeen
    Jay Killeen10-18-2011

    The dislikes may not be dislikes, I know when I voted I disliked somethings purely because even though I agreed, it wasn’t a priority. Just to clarify where they may be coming from. We are all aware that if they implement even a third of these changes it would be a great improvement, and I don’t want them wasting their time on some of these when they could be finalising the meaty stuff!

    Great post otherwise!

  5. Nyagoslav Zhekov
    Nyagoslav Zhekov10-18-2011

    True, Jay. But as I said each of my ideas got 1-2 dislikes in just one day. So while I am sure some of these are legitimate, I believe the majority were produced intentionally.

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