Google Places & Google+ Local Troubleshooting
By Marion Hirtzig - SEO Consultant.
Our last blog mentioned the merger of Google Places with Google+ Local, with the automated creation of +pages with data extracted from Google Places.
This can be quite confusing when you're looking for answers to problems you encounter with Google+ Local since most of the answers you will find are about Google Places, and things don't work exactly the same with the two features. So while we’re waiting for the two to merge, here is some help to navigate through situations that may occur, and the opportunity to discover some nice features you may not have used yet.
Verifying a business
Verifying your business is different whether you are dealing with Google Places or Google+, but the result is similar: it allows you to appear on Google Maps and to prove you’re the official page for a business.
The verification process
Verification used to be possible with Google Places by phone or text, but since 2011 the only verification possible is via postcard. It’s not a problem when it’s your own business, but when you’re doing SEO for others like we do, asking your client to check the post regularly and making sure they give you the PIN as soon as it arrives can be tricky. Once you have the postcard it’s not over yet: your PIN number needs to be accepted. We had created several +pages for each of our clients and asked for a PIN for everyone. When one client sent us the PIN, we couldn’t verify it because the only option we had then was “request a PIN”; “enter the PIN” was not an option anymore. Later on we realised that some other clients had disappeared from the list of businesses we still needed to verify. That was a few months after we had sent the postcards so we can assume that there is a deadline for entering the PIN number! [27/11/2013 edit: I've just created a G+ page for a new client and now Google warns that the PIN is only valid for 30 days]
Bulk verification: verifying more than 10 businesses
If you have more than 10 businesses to register, it actually is not possible for you to do it on Google+ at www.google.com/local/verify, you must do it through Google Places. You can create an Excel document with information on all the clients you wish to register at the same time to verify in bulk, but you can only do it on Google Places. However, if you want to verify businesses on Google+, another manager of the G+ page you created can enter the PIN. So if your client is also manager of their +page, you can ask them to enter the PIN on their end and it will work.
Getting a business icon on Google Maps
We’ve all seen that some shops, restaurants and other places have a dedicated business icon or Place Label as Google calls it, when others don’t; furthermore, some icons will appear or disappear when you zoom in or out. When you create a business page you have no guarantee to have a place label, as there seems to be a mixture of different elements such as your profile and sheer chance that will determine whether you get one or not: areas with numerous businesses like malls obviously cannot show every single business otherwise the map would be unreadable; more famous and well established companies seem more likely to get an icon, and so do companies with accurate information and well completed listings.
Google Map Maker
As mentioned in my previous blog, Google Map Maker is a very useful tool when you want to change something on Google Maps but for some reason can’t do it through Google Places or G+.
My favourite Google Maps feature
I may complain about the registration and verification process on Google Places and finding my way around Google+ Local as it can become very confusing, but I would really miss Google Maps if it weren’t around anymore. I use Google Maps at least once a week on my phone as a GPS, and when you are looking for a business you can simply search for “restaurant” or “post office” on Google Maps to see the closest ones to your position. The map lights up with markers for each relevant business listed in the area, and you can access their profile and website to see reviews and such should you wish to. That is really convenient when you don’t know the area you’re in too well and when you need a specific service; it also proves the importance of listing your business on Google Maps through Google Places or G+ Local, so you can be found anytime, anywhere.
What about you, do you have a favourite feature on Google Maps? Do let me know in the comments below!