This Is Why People Hate Google

I need to rant, get it out, share my pain…

We work with a number of businesses with a distinctly local focus or service area. We perform various kinds of internet marketing services for them, but one of the easiest things to do when working with a new client it to make sure their Google Maps listing is correct, complete and active.

You’d think this would be a simple matter. Apparently, it no longer is. The reality I was living is was one where, if you had your address properly entered into your Places/Maps listing, then your business should show on the map when a search for your service or product + physical location was entered.

Here is what I learned today:

Google Places/Maps listings are now based on “factors” outside of a business’ physical address. How did I come to learn this disturbing information? I have a client whose Places/Maps listing has been stuck in Google hell for months. We have jumped through quite a few hoops and followed every instruction given to us by the Google Local Support Team as to what we needed to do to get their listing back on the map. Still, it took 3 months AND they are on Page 2 when you do a search for their primary service + the town where they are based. There are other entities, which are physically located far from the center of the town where my client is located, who show up on THE MAP before they do.

How can this be?

From Google:

Google Maps search results are based primarily on relevance, distance, and prominence. These factors are combined to help us find the best match for your search. For example, our search technology might decide that a business that’s farther away from your location is more likely to have what you’re looking for than a business that’s closer. (Emphasis mine – Read the full answer here).

So, is a map no longer an empirical tool?

In Google’s eyes, apparently not. According to the Local Support person I spoke with (who was not unsympathetic to my loud questions and general incredulity) get this – the reason my client is not showing up at the top of the map listings for the town they are literally in the center of is because the Google Maps algorithm is deeming other businesses as more relevant because, among other factors, they have been clicked on more. My head nearly exploded when she said that. It would be funny if nonsense like this was not actually putting small or local businesses out of business.

Our exchange went something like this:

Me: So, just so I am 100% sure that I am understanding what you just said – my client, who is located IN the town that we are using for the search term + town, is not showing up in the first few results, or even first page, on the map because other businesses get clicked on more often.

Rep: Yes. The other businesses are deemed more relevant because they have been clicked on more.

Me: Has the definition of a map changed while I was not paying attention? Is a map not supposed to be something that displays things based on geography & physical addresses?

Rep: Well, yes, it should, but since your listing was off the map for 3 months, other businesses are considered more relevant. You should really work on optimizing your listing.

Me: We were off the map for 3 months because you guys had technical issues that kept blocking our listing.

Rep: Yes, sometimes that happens.

Me: You do realize the supreme absurdity in what you’re suggesting, don’t you? In order for my client to show up on the map for the town where they are located they need to get more clicks. There are quite a few studies out there that show that the top 2-3 listings will always get the majority of clicks. And, let’s not forget about mobile searches! Search for a service + specific town and you will see 2 AdWords ads and then 6 or 7 map listings/links. It takes up essentially the entire first screen. Therefore, if we keep showing up on Page 2 of the map listings, how exactly are we supposed to get those clicks to help us be more “relevant” in our own actual town?

Rep: Maybe you could work on getting more reviews posted on Google. That can help.

So there you have it, Google has taken something most people take as a given when it comes to containing factual data, that is not open to any kind of interpretation – a map, and turned it into their own Frankenstein, consequences be damned. Who cares if real businesses are getting royally screwed out of traffic that they should at least have a shot at getting seen for ON THE MAP FOR WHERE THEY ARE LOCATED. I guess this is another example of the collateral damage that Google can’t be bothered to address or even consider.

This is not a rant about SEO and Google’s capriciousness in how it metes out penalties. How they want to structure their search results is completely up to them. Use any algorithm you like and and factors you like, no problem. But a map should be a map and SEO should not be part of any algorithm that chooses what displays on a map. Policies like this are hurting, and in many cases irrevocably damaging, real businesses owned and operated by real people.

You do have a responsibility for this Google. And if you really “don’t want to be evil” you should put some serious time and money into addressing these types of issues. With great power comes great responsibility.

Comments

  1. I’m speechless. You do not “optimize” a map. You print factual information on it. Maybe Google thinks the world is flat? And that the US is right next door to the UK? Unbelievable. Wow.

    • Neptune Moon says:

      I know, right? I still can’t quite believe it. People complain their GPS systems aren’t accurate – maybe they are using Google Maps!

    • The optimization does print factual information. The fact is that other businesses have more clicks and more and/or better reviews along with, what I imagine, are dozens of other empirical datasets Google analyzes.

      As a user I am primarily interested in what is most relavent to my search based on the experience and feedback of others like me. I am very rarely disappointed by what I find in the first page of results and usually if I am I need to rewrite my query.

      From the business end of the service it can (and for me has been) a pain in the butt but encouraging customer engagement online and having a solid and informative website can help a lot. It can take time but if your service has 10 5-Star reviews it will be far more likely to show above similar services closer to the person searching. I feel that, in concept, it ought to be that way and that Google does what it can to make its software act as intended.

      I’m not saying it couldn’t or shouldn’t be better or that Google doesn’t screw things up. But, on the whole, as an idea and service and for something free… it is pretty dang awesome.

  2. Ouch! This type of circular logic from a customer service rep is bound to cause frustration. They’re basically telling you that in order to overcome their stupidity you just need to pay a bunch of people to search for the business + city and then click your business listing so it moves up in Google’s rankings. Dumb.

    • Neptune Moon says:

      The level of absurdity is mind blowing. It is funny to me how Google keeps creating situations where people are actually incentivized to try to game the system.

      • Google isn’t public service but a company. I guess u can do whatever u want with ur webpage and so can Google.

  3. I think, oddly enough, I’m going with Google on this one. Their job is not to provide geographical information (as much as it seems that way); their job is to provide “tested” results, exactly as they do in the regular results. People want to be fed the best options and they trust Google to do that.

    For instance: If I’m visiting a new town and I’m looking for a coffee shop I’ll likely use Google maps or another tool. Yes, I want to see the markers for all of the locations, but my decision won’t be based solely on distance. I want to see the most relevant, tested, proven businesses showcased so I can find them more quickly. I want to see the companies with the highest number of positive (preferably lengthy & relevant) reviews; the ones people are raving about on social media and linking to. This is exactly what I expect Google to do, regardless of the search format. This is Google’s product – spoon-fed relevance.

    So the solution? Stop worrying about numbers and start worrying about relevance. Request reviews, work on link-building efforts (maybe even links directly to the map listing), build social media attention, etc.

    I’d be all over Google+ as well – as they’ve shown us time and again that they’re going to make it important, whether we want them to or not. Ha!

    What do you think?

    • Neptune Moon says:

      Bethany:

      Thanks for your thoughtful comment.

      Here is my thinking – if you want to view things sorted by review scores or popularity, then you should use a site/app like Trip Advisor, Yelp or Urban Spoon. I have no problem with Google showing review information with its map listings, in fact, I think that is helpful.

      BUT, this is the major difference – when I use or see results from the Google Map, I expect that it is based on the logic of a map, not “other factors”. If I search for “coffee shops royersford” the map should show me coffee shops in Royersford first and then move outward from there, based on geography, not popularity.

      With the way Google displays SERPs, especially for local searches, it is getting harder and harder to be seen organically. Not having your business show up on a map when a searcher is looking for what you do/sell in the place where you are located, to me is nuts.

      • I definitely understand your frustration Neptune. It’s hard for local businesses, to stand out in today’s Google world if they are not showing up.
        What I would suggest is try to make the customers of your business your advocates. Encourage them to write reviews for you, to join you on social media and yes…invite their friends over to you.

    • You must be joking. Google is now an unchallanged business that can do what it likes at a whim. Google+ is a joke being forced onto the masses as I type and fortunately failing in favour of real social media portals. Thank goodness they have started the corporate greed journey which will see them flatline in future years which will be the beginning of the end.

      Your logic of “I want to see the companies with the highest number of positive (preferably lengthy & relevant)” means that bigger companies will beat smaller ones. Go back to the original statement/purpose of a maps search. If I want an accountant in Detroit that is what I am looking for, so geography counts big time.

      Google = Greedle

  4. I’m surprised that, what seems the obvious comment (at least to me : ) has not been made.

    There is one very easy way to get clicks up, Adwords. The businesses that spend the most with Adwords will get more clicks. Providing the campaign is highly on topic and the local listing is a good relevant one and sticky, the Adwords campaign will drive more good clicks. The clicks will therefore influence the degree to which a company’s local maps listing will naturally rank.

    Google says Adwords does not influence rankings… But really,,, we know “good” clicks / site interaction does. It therefore follows that Adwords may not effect local search results but the clicks will.

    Ha Google wins again! This is completely in line with your previous posts about Adwords and Google profit priorities…

    Give them money, that’s really the bottom line…

  5. had this situation happen to a client of ours, took over 3 months I’m the long grass to resolve this.

  6. I’m sorry to hear this. Im guessing that the data likely shows that what they are doing is more useful to the majority of people and it produces results that are preferred. Their mission is to organize information in a useful way and they do an outstanding job at it. If you prefer a static map of businesses and everyone else feels the same, the market will recognize this in one way or another.

  7. In principle this is a good system – the cream should rise to the top and the closest is not always the best (or most prominent) in a given area. Without this attempt at separating the wheat from the chaff there would just be too much spam (well, there is already too much spam, but more).

    As I see it the problem is, the system does not work as well as it should in many cases and many small businesses become collateral damage.

    Interesting read as was the discussion this sparked over at the Local Search Forum and the experiments done over there. :)

    Cheers
    Marcus

  8. I find Googles intrusive! I don’t want half of the apps they force on me yet when I uninstall they automatically reappear. I don’t allow automatic upgrades yet they do that as well. They are a monster without conscious. Talk about Big Brother? I’m about to toss my cell…

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  3. […] necessarily. Julie Bacchini from Neptune Moon shared an interesting blog post (aptly titled “This is Why People Hate Google”) last week that highlights factors outside of a company’s physical address that may […]

  4. […] necessarily. Julie Bacchini from Neptune Moon shared an interesting blog post (aptly titled “This is Why People Hate Google”) last week that highlights factors outside of a company’s physical address that may […]

  5. […] has changed the way they rank who’s shows up first in Google maps. Her post is even titled, “This Is Why People Hate Google” […]

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