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Google Local is Buggy: Here are the Reasons Why
A List of What Needs Fixing on Google Local

WebmasterWorld Administrator martinibuster us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

Msg#: 4440947 posted 10:36 pm on Apr 14, 2012 (gmt 0)

Not a day seems to go by that there is new post describing an exploit in Google Local where spammers are using fake addresses, mail pick up centers, HTML specs to game Google Local.

There are two kinds of flaws in Google Local.

Ranking Flaws in Google Local
The first and most important to web publishers and business owners are those related to ranking flaws.

Poor User Experience in Google Local
The second set of flaws relate to those who use Google Local to find things. This less discussed. To this list the most blatant poor user experience for travel searches is Google's habit of not showing the 800 number for hotels and other travel destinations.

What are the flaws and bugs you see?



WebmasterWorld Administrator phranque us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

Msg#: 4440947 posted 12:40 am on Apr 15, 2012 (gmt 0)

i think the 800 number is antithetical to "local" as far as google is concerned. they see a local number as a local signal.

from the Google Places quality guidelines:
(http://support.google.com/places/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=107528 [support.google.com])
Use a local phone number instead of a call center number whenever possible.

i think this is meant to imply that a "local" number is a signal of quality here.


WebmasterWorld Administrator anallawalla us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

Msg#: 4440947 posted 1:59 am on Apr 15, 2012 (gmt 0)

The biggest flaw is the automation used by Google to scrape data, which results in wrong data being attributed to valid sites.

I see problems even where there is no 800 number displayed, but just a local one.

People use different PBX extensions to get multiple entries at variations of one physical location. Downtown buildings are easy to game in this manner.


WebmasterWorld Administrator martinibuster us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

Msg#: 4440947 posted 3:17 am on Apr 15, 2012 (gmt 0)

they see a local number as a local signal.

Right, but Google shows me a "local" number in another state even when my IP address is from somewhere else and I am doing a search that is clearly in the travel bucket.


10+ Year Member

Msg#: 4440947 posted 5:45 pm on Apr 15, 2012 (gmt 0)

Most of my pet peeves as anallawalla mentioned, involve the data scraping mechanism.

DUPES and MERGES are 2 of the biggest problems and both can be attributed to the scraping algo which is sometimes wrong or sometimes overly aggressive. PLUS dupes and merges are inter-related. If G turns the dial one way you may get fewer dupes but more merges, the other way clears up some merge problems but creates more dupes.

OVER-WRITING USER DATA - Often done by the algo and again often due to scraping and putting MORE TRUST in 3rd party data than what the owner himself added to the dashboard.

I wish there was an option for proactively managed Place pages to be able to lock down their data so the algo, map editors and users could not keep making changes and messing it up.

BUT in Google's defense I also realize the other side. Here's a really good post that illustrates WHY the algo has to step in and try to fix stuff. Most business owners don't get their data right, keep it up-to-date or don't read the guidelines and break the rules. https://groups.google.com/a/googleproductforums.com/forum/#!msg/business/z__VFWjEp7k/6FnQIevvXeoJ (Note to mods, I think it's OK to link to the G forum, if not, sorry and please remove.)

I could go on and maybe will add more when I have time.
But for now let me just say, even though I see TONS of bugs and problems, the more I learn about how the back end really works, the more I work with upper management at Google Places on policy/procedure related issues, the more I come to realize that trying to organize millions and millions of business records, billions of reviews and thwart TONS of spammers, scammers and hijackers is just an incredibly tough job!

Lots of things are in the works right now to try to make it all work better, but there is still a long way to go.

Linda Buquet

[edited by: anallawalla at 7:52 pm (utc) on Apr 15, 2012]


10+ Year Member

Msg#: 4440947 posted 6:40 pm on May 8, 2012 (gmt 0)

From a user perspective I know that users are deeply frustrated, sometimes angry when Google Places generates wrong information: bad phone numbers, addresses, wrong information about an smb. I've been on the receiving end of a few of those calls. It pisses them off and they are confused. It wastes enormous time.

From the SMB side misinformation, and sudden unexplained, unforeseen changes in the status of a google Places record...with either the misinformation or a loss of a Places Record is devastating....potentially it can destroy businesses who are primarily recipients of google leads. No matter what they do to change that.

Either way, the misinformation is deeply problematic.

I agree with Linda...for honest businesses the issues stem from an unstable complex algo that fuels google places.

A different issue is widespread spam....that attracts users to unscrupulous businesses. That is a different issue...though related to the algo.

Finally from an SMB perspective what is so frustrating is the direct lack of simple communication and consistent response.

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