Google has been notoriously unclear about best practices concerning Google+ Local (formerly Google Places) since the “big switch” last summer, but things are looking up. The search engine giant began showing its local maps results in a Google+ format in May 2012. In July 2012, they started offering Google+ Business and Google+ Local mergers, as a way for users to house their entire Google presence in one location. The mergers were only available for business that already had the Google+ Business Profile and Google+ Local platforms, but the thing is, it didn’t work. The merger process was so ineffective that many industry leaders began advising against it, and some refused to accept clients looking for help. Google has long been known for its “launch-early-fix-later” mentality, but the Google+ merger failure takes the cake.
The challenges from totally or partially failed mergers mean inconsistent listing information, split reviews, duplicate reviews and even slowed verification when trying to use each service separately. The challenges were cropping up so quickly and being fixed so slowly that most of the community was forced to take a “wait and see” approach. Until now.
As of early January, Google+ Local has offered phone support on verification issues. So maybe they’re not going to help you with everything, but verification is a good start. Moreover it’s staffed with US-based, English-speaking personnel according to industry leader Mike Blumenthal’s test call.
If you find yourself facing problems with Google+ Local verification, visit the, “I’m having a problem verifying my listing” support page. Choose the “I tried PIN verification for a single listing,” then “The status is not Needs Action.” You’ll be able to choose your verification method, then whether or not you’ve waited 15 days. If yes, you’ll get a new form to fill, or you can click a “Call Us” link! This is a huge step toward fixing the Google+ issues and returning sanity to the lives on internet marketers forced to fight this battle for the past six months.
Google+ hit us with another piece of useful information when it announced its official stance on review contests and solicitations. They’ve long made comments like “do not offer or accept money or product to write positive reviews about a business or negative reviews about a customer” (February 2011 guidelines). They haven’t, however, specifically addressed contests or product exchange for reviews in general (even if you don’t require a certain sentiment). Until now.
The new guidelines have dropped that powerful little word “positive” and now read officially, “Don’t offer money or product to others to write reviews for your business or write negative reviews about a competitor.” Googler Jade also specifically commented in the forums that any sort of contest or drawing for review-leaving customers is considered an exchange for money, and therefore against the guidelines.
The big idea? You can’t offer incentives in exchange for reviews. Period. Watch for future blog posts about how you should seek reviews to improve your online reputation without angering the review giants like Google+ and Yelp.
Therese Kuster is the Director of Digital Reputation at TargetClick – Powered by Mudd Advertising. Contact here at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more about reputation management, social media strategy and content marketing.