Google’s been catching some criticism over the last year or two for ignoring small business owners concerns and being notoriously hard to reach, particularly over in our little corner of the search-o-sphere, Local Search.
If you need any sort of customer service when it comes to Google Places, try posting to the Google Maps help forums and hope for a good response from somebody who knows what they’re talking about. Good luck resolving any merger issues, and forget about reporting any obvious map spam that you’re competing with. Even the community edits feature it frustrating – users report making changes, and waiting a month for it to take effect, if it ever does. Now there are reports of Google actually verifying every community edit by phone, an annoying and cumbersome process.
In the last couple of weeks Google seems to be making more of an effort. They’re allowing business responses to customer reviews, which is a plus (though why not allow responses to non-Google reviews?).
They just announced a small business blog, which I find long overdue. Until now, the go-to place for Google places related info was the Lat-Long blog, which has always been Google’s hub for all maps related news, and Google Places (or the Local Business Center, as it was known back in the day) definitely fell under that heading. However, any marketing guy or small business owner who went there for information was probably annoyed at it’s techie, aw-shucks, look-at-these-cool-new-features attitude. Too much “Better resolution maps! Cool volcano ash pictures! Bike trail mapping!” and not enough help for small business owners hoping for more visibility online. Hopefully, that’s where the small business blog will come in, which was actually announced on Lat-Long, in between breathless pronouncements about the floods in Pakistan, and new hi-res images of the Sphinx.
Another dart thrown at the SMB dartboard this week is the Tools for Online Success website. I’m still not sure what to make of it yet. It’s a pretty static site with a few helpful videos (though not to anyone who’s not a total Local Search newbie). Perhaps “site,” is too strong a word – it’s more of a glorified YouTube channel. Here’s hoping they get some better and more frequently updated content up there soon. But for now, I’m still recommending GetListed.org as my go to source for do-it-yourself SMB marketers.