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Dear Google… Please make Local Search Work!

3 July 2012 BY

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(…or you might lose the Nordic SMB market)

Dear Google… I have been waiting for years now, and I think I have the entire search-community in the Nordics behind me when I say: When will local search listings work as they are supposed to? We are close to giving up, and you dear Google, might miss your chance in the Nordic SMB market…

Dear Google… So now Google Places is over, and Google+ has taken over as your local business pages. Does this mean that local listings will work now? I guess the answer is no, the back-end of Places is still the same as far as I can see… And that is the root of the problem; a system that simply does not work in the Nordics. 

(Note: For the simplicity of this article I will still call it “Places”.)

Dear Google… I have worked within the search-market for some years now, and I have always been a very positive spokeswoman for Google Places. All my customers have been advised to add or claim ownership to their Places listings; bulk uploads or otherwise. I have done sessions about Places on Norway`s largest search conference talking to SMB owners about this ”amazing opportunity”. I have even talked my carpenter neighbour into adding his 3-people-business to Places. I have been a great ambassador for Places! I have struggled, begged your representatives for help, pulled my hair out, been awake for long nights trying to get bulk-uploads to work, used hours upon hours trying to explain to customers why their listing suddenly does not work or link to a competitor`s site instead. And slowly but steady, I have given up. When will Places work as it is supposed to?

Dear Google… In Norway we are around 5 milllion people. It`s not a lot, I know, and in some way I can understand that you are ignoring us. But generally speaking, we do have the money, don`t you want that?

Around 99% of all Norwegian businesses are in the SMB segment:

Only a very small percentage of these are actually spending money on AdWords. Actually, out of 487.000 businesses in Norway, only 11.000 are using AdWords. This is a very low number, isn`t it, even if we estimate that only half of them are doing actual business? These are all businesses that could surely spend a lot of money in Google if they could just get one foot in the door. But that will not happen if Places does not work for them, will it? In the rest of the Nordics, SMB numbers are about the same:

Denmark: 99,35% of all businesses are SMB
Sweden: 99,8 % of all businesses are SMB
Finland: 99,8% of all businesses are SMB

This adds up to tens- if not hundreds of thousands of active small and medium businesses with a lot of money to spend, both in their own region and abroad. But how can we advice them to try our Google Places and maybe also local listings in AdWords, when the system does not work?

Dear Google… Businesses all over the Nordics claim to struggle with the same problems in Places. Many of them have already given up. These are some of the problems your potential SMB customers experience when they try out Google Places:

  • General technical issues and upload problems.
  • The postcard never arrives.
  • The phone call-alternative does not show up when the listing is ready to be uploaded and you are stuck with the postcard anyway.
  • Listings that disappear.
  • Listings that suddenly link to a competitor`s site.
  • Pictures that disappear.
  • Reviews that disappear.
  • Phone numbers that suddenly change.
  • US focus… For example you need to fill in a state name in bulk uploads to get it to work. None of the Nordic countries have or will ever have states, we are too small for that to be necessary.
  • No ID code for Svalbard, so no bulk-uploads for them (Svalbard is a part of Norway, just so you know…)
  • Bulk uploads does not support Nordic letters æ, ø, å from time to time.
  • Excel sheets in bulk-uploads are re-formatted when uploaded and does not work or get around 10.000 errors in it.
  • The system does not support businesses without a street address. Not all Nordic businesses have a street address, as a lot of small towns in Norway does not have street names (yes, it is true).

No uploading without a street address… And why Alaska when “country” is set to Norway and “city” to Oslo?

  • Error message, “please verify your bulk upload” when we just did. And when we do, error message “you just did”. Then the weeks pass and the upload is stuck on the same error message and nothing happens, and you end up having to do the whole upload all over again.
  • The email about verifying the bulk upload never arrives, and when it some times do, the language is too difficult for the customer to understand it, and it is deleted or ignored. And you have to start from the top; an endless bulk-upload-loop.
  • No support from Google other than general emails with links to Places FAQ`s that does not answer our questions.
  • No-one in the Google system to contact when we face the problems mentioned above.

The list could go on and on, but generally, you don`t seem to know – or care – about Norway or the Nordics. Why don`t you want to know and help us?

Dear Google… Being an SEO consultant, I have a lot of SMB customers on my client list, with money to spend. They all ask for Places and the opportunities you offer, but most of the time they end up disappointed. If you want their money, if you want the Nordic SMB market, a market with a great, stable economy and a lot of SMB business, you need to listen to us, to give us some kind of support, to do an effort to get to know us, and to follow up on your promises of Places being such a great opportunity for us!

Dear Google… Please make Places work, and we will make you happy, I promise!

AUTHORED BY:
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Agnete Tøien Pedersen is Head of SEO in iProspect Norway and has years of experience within SEM, SEO, web publishing and journalism. She is also chairman of the Board of Ethical SEM in Norway, BraSøk. On a daily basis she is working with customers of all sizes, in Norway, the Nordics and internationally.
  • http://www.ngsmarketing.com/ Nyagoslav Zhekov

    Great article, Agnete! This is the first time I see the problems typical for Google Places/Google+ Local from the perspective of a Scandinavian marketer, and well… they seem so similar to the ones in the US, in the UK, Australia, and practically everywhere where Google has rolled out this semi-baked tool :)

  • http://twitter.com/agnete Agnete T. Pedersen

    Thanks for the comment! What I find most annoying is that Google does not have any kind of customer support (that helps) for their claimed-to-be most important product…

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  • http://twitter.com/jagfirerwalker Jag Firerwalker

    Agnete, even so that it is only virtual but please feel the hugs coming your way. I don’t know how else to say it, but these are the words of the Lord (the SEO one). I have been fighting with Google account manager for years now and always heard the same answer: “Let me check with a tech person.” I always thought that it was just me who is experience this for the European countries. So thank and lets hope that GPLP will improve things to the better for people like us.

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