Google has been making (its own) news over the past two weeks, but it’s all been good news. Google is calling more attention to the efforts it has put in to streamlining the local search experience from the business owner perspective. While Google has always been the leader of local search, it has been no secret that many in the SEO industry, as well as business owners, have had more than their share of frustrations trying to optimize and manage their local profiles. Now, it would seem those times are a-changin’.
First Google announced that it was introducing a new support feature for its Google Places page. For place page owners and operators, this new help system provides a walk-through of possible errors that could be wrong with your listing. The checklist will help owners troubleshoot. For the more experienced local optimization types out there, there will also be the ability to send a note to a Google Analyst who will respond to the issue. Other search engines like Bing and Yahoo have had service support in place already; though neither have the volume of searches that Google sees.
Next, Google unveiled another new feature that will pre-emptively help Place page users. Google will now send an email that will notify of changes being made to the listing by outside sources. Google has always used valuable data providers like Yelp or Insider Pages to gather information about a business, as well as feedback or changes provided by any Google user on the local pages themselves. Now, when impending changes will alter a listing, a business owner will receive an email explaining the impending changes. Google says this is to keep business owners from having to log in to places every time there is an update, in an effort to keep the most recent and relevant information at the pages forefront. Business owners will still have the opportunity to log-in and manually override these changes with the edit option.
These changes come at the end of a long summer of Google Places in the spotlight for the wrong reasons. As Google tried to promote a new feature regarding businesses open or closed statuses, the story that actually got called into question was how easy it was to report a listing closed. With no support at the time, business owners would have to check in often with their listing to learn if a disgruntled or misinformed customer or competitor took it upon themselves to close their business (on the Places page). After a stunt by a local expert, Google addressed the flaws. But with these new support systems in place, these flaws should be much fewer.
With all of the changes happening to the local world lately, Google may be protecting its position as the leader with these support features. Google has never ignored its users; it simply just doesn’t have the manpower to handle every request that is asked of local support. The real hard pill to swallow was that it seemed as though it was ignoring users helpless against never ending “pending review” statuses, never arriving verification postcards, and unheard cries for help in the forums. While it will take a while to gauge the effectiveness of their efforts, local users should appreciate that the efforts are being made, at least for now.