Saturday, September 17, 2011

The Day the Internet Stood Still


I don’t know whether GoogleBots suspending a dealer's Google Places (GPs), or incorrectly merging their GPs, or automatically creating dealer GPs that the dealers don’t know about, qualifies for this dramatic article title (also the title of my new movie script!) or not.  However, they can definitely cause as much havoc on your dealership GP as the robot “Gort” did in the 1951 science fiction classic “The Day the Earth Stood Still” (I didn’t much like the 2008 remake).  And there’s no “lone alien" to listen to your pleas and perhaps Save the World (or just your GP) from Gort The GoogleBot:   Uttering the famous phrase “Klaatu Borada Nickto” isn’t likely to work.
I want to note here at the beginning of this article that I believe that speaking too authoritatively about Google Places’ direction (much less Google!) is especially risky at this time.  I’m using the term “GoogleBot” here, for example, but that’s MY assumption that Google is a wiz at automation, especially in the face of the massive GP effort they are making.
However, authority or not, I want to share my latest experience chasing issues with Google Places.  I’m also, by the way, participating in their Request for Ideas at this link www.google.com/moderator/#16/e=ba1ca&v=23,  but I still feel some GP misunderstandings occur and want to share my experience and issues with GP
Some background:  Since Google launched GP, the sheer size of the work (cost) caused for businesses to create/manage GP, and also to keep the effects positive to searches for businesses, may well be without precedent in the modern age.  GP affects EVERY business across the globe and requires attention from EACH of them.  And remember while reading this article that Google is AUTOMATICALLY creating GPs RIGHT NOW from business directories—so you will have a GP whether you like it or not!  And you may get tangled up because there may be MORE THAN ONE old Google Maps, or even several old directory listings for your dealer, and all that can compete for validation with Google for your new GP.
By the current “rules”, my experience is that--in order to ENSURE you keep a dealership’s GP as “safe” from GoogleBots as possible--you MUST begin with doing AT LEAST these five things:
  1. Have a unique, local ph #
  2. Have a unique address
  3. Use the same business name as various other online business listings
  4. Have a unique website per each GP
  5. GAIN GOOGLE REVIEWS!
What can happen if you don’t do these five, at least?  A store I’m working with lost their current GP because an old GP gained a more-recent Google review and the old GP matched ph # and address with the new GP—and so the GoogleBot over-rode the newer and more-complete GP because of a more-relevant REVIEW.  So, understand that my recommendation is that you MUST seek reviews in order to remain most relevant to Google on your GP.  Did I mention that “Google Places Hijacking” is a real problem?  (though not related to this article’s attention on GoogleBots).  You need to get your GP going and keep it relevant.
And next, at the same dealer, a GoogleBot evidently decided that the pics and videos for the GP were some SEO hoakum and deleted them.  So, this means to me that Google is using these GoogleBots to keep businesses from gaming GP for better SEO—a VERY good thing, because GP show automatically on most page one searches for your business.  Especially those by brand.  This advantage is VERY valuable in SEO.
And so just try launching, and keeping, a separate service GP on your same physical address.   Apparently, in Google’s view at the moment we are dealerships and dealerships have service as a component of their business—so it shouldn’t have a separate GP.  That doesn’t mean you can’t “get away” with it and create one . . . except if a GoogleBot clues in, you can have your whole GP suspended, reviews and all.  The same thing can happen with multiple makes using the same physical address.
I’ve discussed and argued about these “Five Things” on my list with some very prominent SEO experts.  And not only in Automotive.  A very few—sadly and surprisingly—don’t have a clue about how to integrate GP into their SEO work.  And others have shown me their very good work on a dealer’s GP that has multiple makes in the business name (instead of their directory-matching normal business name) and said “Ha! SEE!!”  Or they’ve noted that they believe that Google will allow a separate GP for service.  Or multiple suites in an address to handle multiple GPs for multiple makes at what is really the same physical address.
All that tells me is that SEO has changed with GP and that a few experts haven’t followed those changes.  And that Google’s policing—and POLICIES!—aren’t perfect with GP, either, so, yes, you can “get away” with different GP strategies.  For a time, anyway.  There’s more changes ahead, I’m sure.
In the meantime, you can try “Klaatu Barada Nickto” in the text areas of your GP.  Or you can be cautious, work within Google's rules, pay attention to changes, and do at least The Five Things listed above.
Personally, that is how I'll handle Gort The GoogleBot when he shows up again!

P.S. Here’s some links on Google Places information that are helpful to learn and also give Google some feedback:
https://www.google.com/moderator/#16/e=ba1ca&v=23 (ideas for GP, thank you Scott Falcone!)

by Keith Shetterly, keithshetterly@gmail.com
Copyright 2011 All Rights Reserved
www.keithshetterly.com

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