Summary: Today is the day! Finally Google is allowing business owners to verify and merge their existing Google+ business pages with their Google+ Local pages (formerly Google Places pages). Unfortunately, while this isn't another round of beta testing, it's also still not a feature available to all business owners just yet. In this post we'll talk about which businesses still can't access this feature.
Earlier this summer Google shook up the local SEO world when, in an effort to get more people to use their social media site, they replaced Google Places with Google+ Local. Google+ is frustrating enough for businesses because we all feel like we have to have a page because our Google overlords say so, but it's tough to justify spending any time using the service when it's such a ghost town in terms of active users. Because many of us had already created Google+ business pages, the Google+ Local/Places change left a lot of us managing 2 Google+ pages, one of which (the local page) didn't even have social features yet.
While only recently offering some limited individual support, there are clearly people behind the scenes pulling the strings because it wasn't long before they rolled out a beta test for merging G+ Local and G+ business pages, for business (like us) owners who had both. Days after I blogged about the merger testing, Google ended the test. But I promised then that I'd update you when the merge option returned for the general public. Well, that day is today.... for some. It's not beta testing, but your business and Google+ pages have to meet certain criteria in order to qualify, which is going to be rather frustrating for a lot of businesses.
Mike Blumenthal already put together step-by-step instructions for merging your pages, and Barry Schwartz has a great write-up as well, so rather than repeat what's already been said I'd recommend you read their two posts. For my part, I'd like to focus on why many of you may not be able to merge/verify your Google+ pages. As Schwartz and Blumenthal both note, you should see an "Unverified" link at the top of your Google Plus business page. But what if, like us, you don't? Instead it just says "Page" when you mouse-over.
So why can't I verify and merge the Vermont Design Works pages using the method described in those other posts? Because when we set up our Google+ business page, we (correctly) didn't choose "Local Business or Places". Jade addressed this in the forum, but it wasn't immediately clear what was meant:
Also note that verification will only work for pages created in the "Local Business or Place" category in Google+.
The key here is the word "category". For Google+ business pages, "category" takes on a completely different meaning than the "categories" you choose for your Google+ Local/Places. In the case of Google+ Local/Places, the categories relate to the actual services your business provides (e.g. Web Designer, Internet Marketing Service, Graphic Designer). It's worth noting that these aren't local services (in our case), so related searches don't trigger a "local pack" the way searches for restaurants, hotels and plumbers do. Still, claiming your local listing is standard best practices, so we did and these are our categories. The point is, there are hundreds of categories to choose from, it all depends on the products/services you offer.
When Jade talks about your Google+ business page "categories", she's talking about something entirely different. In my mind, these "categories" would be better described as "page types". Choosing a "page type" is the first required step in creating any Google+ page (again, we're not talking about Google+ Local - I know, it couldn't get much more confusing?):
As you can see, "Local Business or Place" is one of five page types to choose from, or as Jade puts it, "categories". Again, at Vermont Design Works, this wasn't the appropriate option because we don't offer strictly local services even though we are "local" to many of our clients. "Company, Institution or Organization" obviously made the most sense for us. Unfortunately that means that for the time being there is no way for us to verify our page and merge it with our Google+ local page, and there are certainly many others who will run in to the same problem.
But these aren't the only types of businesses who can't yet take advantage of the new verify/merge option:
What about if I’m a service area business with hidden address?
The new verification process does not currently support service area businesses with hidden addresses.
If you've been following our blog posts about Google local, then you'll recall that earlier this year Google Places made a policy change that required certain types of businesses to hide their address. Google summarizes it well in their quality guidelines:
If you don't conduct face-to-face business at your location, you must select "Yes, this business serves customers at their locations" under the "Service Areas and Location Settings" section of your dashboard, and then select the "Do not show my business address on my Maps listing" option.
Clearly this doesn't pose a problem for restaurants, markets and hotels, but what about other local businesses that don't actually perform their services at their physical address? There are many, but here are just a few types of businesses that this rule applies to:
- General Contractors
- HVAC Businesses
- House Painters
- Moving Companies
- Roofing Contractors
- House Cleaners
- Towing Companies
- Appliance Repair Companies
Google's argument is that users only need to see addresses of business that they themselves will go to. They also point out that a lot of people with home offices would prefer not to share their addresses. The latter makes logical sense, which is why hiding your address is an OPTION. The fact that they made it mandatory for a lot of other types of businesses is somewhat troubling. One could easily argue that the proximity of a contractor to ones home could easily impact the price they'll pay for service. I'm sure our friends at iMarket Solutions are struggling with this one today, given that their clientele are all home services providers.
So for whatever reason, even though Google is now rolling out this feature more publicly, it's still in limited release. I would have to assume Google has plans to roll this out to everyone at some point, but in the meantime it's rather annoying that many of us are still stuck with two Google+ pages. Fortunately there are still very few people using Google+, so slacking off on posting updates probably won't hurt you too badly.
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