As you undoubtedly know by now, Google replaced Places with Google+ Local as their local business directory a few weeks ago, but not much changed for business owners. Sure, they overhauled the review system and transformed how local pages look to the front-end user, but management processes and the back-end dashboard for the business owners went largely unchanged. The lack of any sort of support seemed to remain as well, outside of a help forum where the most common answer is arguably some derivation of "...we’re very much aware of all the issues that you’re experiencing, and we’re working hard...". Still, it seemed to be a "you get what you paid for" situation, because Google offers Plus Local services (and Places in the past) free of charge. I mentioned last week, however, that they're about to roll out an entire suite of paid business products, for which I'm assuming they'll have to provide support, just as they do currently for Google Adwords.
But where does that leave those of you who are currently dealing with local listing issues like duplicates, inaccurate information, etc.? This morning I would have said SOL (What, the SO means "short on". What did you think it meant?), but that was before I got the following Skype message from my friend Katie at iMarket Solutions:
Hi Randy, was reading your blog on google business builder. Wanted to let you know there is a sort of email support thing now for google places, which might get a real person to look at your listing. Usually they make it worse rather then better, but better than nothing: http://support.google.com/places/bin/static.py?hl=en&ts=1386120&page=ts.cs
What!? This almost seems to good to be true! To quote the page Katie linked to (emphasis mine):
Go through our step-by-step troubleshooters to find Help articles that can assist with your issue. And if we still haven't answered your question, fill out the short form at the end of the questions to get in touch with us. We'll get back to you via e-mail once we investigate.
After reading that I had my reservations and they were reinforced by a quick chat I had with Katie. She basically explained that in many instances she's not heard back from anyone at all, but I suppose Google could say that they haven't yet had the chance to investigate. Basically you could be left waiting indefinitely because they haven't promised to respond within any specific window. Katie also showed me a few examples of how the support rep seemed to have made things worse. In one case, instead of just changing a phone number, duplicate listings were created (seemingly by the rep) and then the rep explained that this is against quality guidelines, detailing how she then removed them. This also doesn't seem to be accurate, as Katie explained that while there hadn't been duplicate listings to start, there were many after the support rep intervened. There were also issues of updated information reverting back within days.
I would assume the example above was an outlier, but given my history with Google Places/local over the years, I suspect it's the norm. But I would also point out that I doubt the creation of duplicate listings was actually the customer support representative's fault. Rather, I'd say their system simply remains full of bugs. I've seen duplicate listings created out of the blue and added to accounts, merged with existing claimed listings, etc. all without any human action being taken. I've also seen updated information revert back to inaccurate and old information, probably as a result of crawling trusted citation sources that haven't been updated.
So at this point I'd describe my feeling about Google local support as underwhelmed, but the fact that they're offer any sort of individualized investigations and response is a MAJOR step forward. We'll have to wait and see how and when service and response time improves, but I'm holding out hope after seeing some of Google's recent improvements to their other services on the horizon: