SMX West 2012: Solving Problems and Seeing Success in Google Places

Another liveblog session here by me, guest blogger Kathy Long. We’re joined by these local SEO experts and speakers to talk Google Places success:

SMX West logo

  • Mary Bowling, Optimized!
  • Joseph Henson, SearchInfluence
  • Corey Morris, emfluence
  • Nyagoslav Zhekov,OptiLocal

Nyagoslav Zhekov

Basics of internal system of Places – Solving mergers and duplicates

How Place is created

Listing is what you see on the front end compiled from data sources:

  1. Local Business Center (GooglePlaces)
  2. Yellow pages and feed data providers
  3. Scraped content from other websites
  4. User Generated Content

Google decisions: merging data vs creating a new cluster and which data to display publicly

Threshold for merging vs. creating a new cluster:

  1. Low threshold – merging data for different biz
  2. too high threshold – Google might create duplicate for same biz
  3. Main determining factor is NAP

Which data will be displayed:

  1. Trust
  2. Recentness
  3. Completeness of data
  4. Number of sources displaying the same data

Data Sources in order of importance

  1. Owner verified
  2. Data from biz directories (from David Mihm
    • Yelp’Super pages
    • City search
    • YP
    • Info Group
    • Yahoo Local
    • Insider Pages
    • Niche industry websites
    • Others
  3. UGC approved – approved user generated content (reviews, etc.) If approved can trump owner generated data
  4. Scraped data

How to prevent problems

1. Check your NAP consistency with these tools:

  • local citation finder (whitespark)
  • Local search scorecard (Yext)
  • (David Mihm) Yext does not have agreements with Localeze and others, so use this one too.
  • Local SEO check-up (BrightLocal)-adds a few more directories and data

2. Be careful which account you use when claiming/creating the listing. Google does not have multi-level management tool.

3. Check the email associated with this account frequently. Google sends out email notifications you need to see.

4. Update listing frequently so Google sees you are maintaining it.

5. Follow Google Places Quality Guidelines

Fix a problem via:

  1. Report a problem GP frontend tool but it’s not very efficient. Can’t report a merger, but you can report a duplicate.
  2. Editing the info via Map Maker – Google trusts this source
  3. Troubleshooter
  4. Google Places Help Forum

Joseph Hensen – Audit and Organization Tips

How can audit help?

  1. Determine Place Page strengths
  2. Find weaknesses that negatively affect rankings
  3. Discover local optimization opps
  4. Prevent further duplication and data corruption
  5. Set realistic expectations
  6. Establish a roadmap for moving forward

Problems caused by:

  1. Incorrect name, address and phone
  2. Inconsistency and buplication of citations and data feeds, multiple variations of nap in ecosystem
  3. Improper or non-existent on-site local optimization

Confirm by name

  1. Is official DBA being used? It should be?
  2. If unsure, check that state’s Secretary of State business registry

Confirm business address

  1. use to make sure it is formatted correct.
  2. Confirm business phone, one unique primary phone per location, Google gives more weight to businesses using 1 phone number, primary phone number is local

Then analyze place page

  • What’s the rank?
  • Are there duplicate or merged listings?
  • Filled out with description, website, etc.
  • Only one owner-verified listing per locations usingofficial NAP
  • Currently ranking for perferred local search terms?
  • Create detailed spreadsheet of all Place pages
    • Keep notes on the status of each listing
  • Whitespark Local Citation Finder is his preferred citation finder.
  • Search in Google for address and phone number to find all mentions
  • Find all citations, put in spreadsheet so you can find inconsistent NAP

InfoGroup, Localeze, and Axciom – check for incorrect and duplicate NAP info

InfoGroup – easy, update at, take about 3 months

Localeze – will require payment if addition or modification is necessary

Acxiom data can be updated throught or UBL

Management suggestions:

  1. Keep track of all logins
  2. Use 1 email for ALL citation sources. Use a domain email ifyou can.
  3. Be ABSOLUTELY sure your NAP isn’t already listed

hCards make NAPeasier to crawl and parse.

If there are multiple locations,use one address per page inorder to keep NAP signals clean.

You need a local landing page for each location:

  1. Embed Google map referencing PLaces page
  2. Locally optimized title tags
  3. Meta description with address and phone included
  4. Locally optimized url naming structure

Mary Bowling

Resolving data confusion in Google Places

Believes that inconsistent data is the biggest reason you won’t rank well.  

Gave example business. Began with an audit. Found some location had mailboxes, some UPS store mail drops. There were near duplicate listings, some with same locations with different phone numbers or differing street address, and more. Everything that could go wrong did.

  1. Step 1
    • Get physical offices for each location.
  2. Step 2
    • Clean up data on website, correct NAP, individual page for each location, optimized title tags, and other standard SEO
  3. Step 3
    • Seeded the correct NAP data thru Express Update, Localeze, and UBL

Another problem is that they had listings in many accounts. She put them all in one account and went through postcard verification for each. After all this done, things got worse before they got better because she created more inconsistencies in Google’s mind.

She continued cleaning up at the secondary data providers and trusted directories, and started building citations in other directories, and built up links tone citations to get them indexed more quickly and make them stickier. She created a KML file and uploaded. She used the report a problem feature, then edited problems in Google Mapmaker and changes would appear in Places listings but had many problems with Google and Google staff to get correct data in. Much was rejected and she got a bad reputation.

Forty days into it, started using Places Troubleshooter. Used the forum to get help on how to use it. Got better results using this than anything else, in some cases within a week or two.

90 days later, they are in the 7 pack for 6 keywords and on the cusp for 2 others.

Her tips:

Much easier to add listings than to get rid of them. Do what’s best for customer, not for you!

Potential stumbling blocks

Google’s calling system for phone verification cannot navigate through automated answering.

Listing with multiple owner problem: last one to edit owns, You can request that other owners are deverified via the Troubleshooter.

Retaining reviews – Reviews are associated with the listings CID. They should eventually find there way back to the right listing or report via Troubleshooter.

Corey Morris

Shared Houlihan’s Case Study – Houlihan is a national chain with 85 locations

  1. Logistical Challenges
  2. Data challenges
  3. Google Places system challenges

Logistical Challenges

  1. One account, multiple people accessing
  2. Claiming ALL locations corporate and franchise
  3. Zero support at location level
  4. No history of past centralized efforts
  5. Differing expectations and opinionsoffranchisees
  6. Franchises questions and activities with Place pages

Data Challenges

  1. Building, standardizing, and scaling the data for each location
  2. Constant updates to the data
    • Location address changes
    • Locations opening and closing
    • Social media links
    • Changing menu links

GooglePlaces system challenges

  1. Bulk verification fail initially
  2. Closing and removing locations
  3. Duplicate listings
  4. Mapping and address issues near city boarders
  5. Problemresolution through support on first try
  6. Automated data update notices and validation

Successes with Google Places

  • Great rankings, actions, and overall performance across markets
  • Maintain and troubleshoot wehre necessary based on feedback

Google Places Human Support Tips

  1. Full disclosure of who you are, what you are trying to solve, and more,the burden is on us
  2. Send screenshots and visuals
  3. Continue to reply to same support email conversation
  4. Be respectful, polite, persistent, yet patient

Q/A – Answers

If two businesses merge in real life, Google says you have to close a listing and start over.

Possible to outrank places are closer to the city center by number and quality of citations and inbound links.

Opinion: Virtual offices with 10, 20 companies with the same address will eventually be demoted by Google.

Opinion: Get minimum paid listing service with Localeze, not free.

Kathy Long is one of the original "Digital Divas," having jumped on the Internet bandwagon back in its infancy in 1995 when she started her own company, Kat & Mouse. Her current passions are SEO, Local Search and what she calls "SECRO" (Search Engine Conversion Rate Optimization), as well as public speaking and teaching groups of SMB business owners on how to get their websites to ka-ching.

See Kathy's author page for links to connect on social media.

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5 Replies to “SMX West 2012: Solving Problems and Seeing Success in Google Places”

This was great information, where we have been lacking on Google Place optimization. Appreciate you Kathy for sharing the vital information.

Kathy, i tried to enter the get a quote page but it wasn’t working. I was wondering if you could contact me regarding my google places account

Yes, Matthew, it was a GREAT lineup, the cream of the crop. So sorry you missed it!


awesome round-up! wish i was there with you all!

Kathy did a fabulous job for us!


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