Today I'd like to share a special story about Google+ Local that we can all learn from.
In honor of my 1st Golden Nugget about Google Maps, I now reserve every 100th Daily Golden Nugget to check back in on new advances in Google's local services. Today is my 900th Nugget!
In early November 2013, I was contacted by one of my regular readers for help with solving an unusual problem with his Google+ Local account. At the time, he had 29 very good Google reviews and his 4.7 start rating used to appear next to his store name in Google's search results. Due to a mix up in his Google+ Local account, those stars vanished.
The star rating is supposed to appear next to your store name in the SERPs when you have 5 or more reviews on Google. Visible star ratings are an important factor in attracting new customers. Simply stated, they act as social proof that your business is trustworthy to shop at.
For this one store, he immediately noticed that there was a problem with his Google+ Local reviews because, practically overnight, fewer new customers were calling him and fewer people were walking into his store.
His store is located on a busy street in a major US city. He has 4 very competitive jewelers within 600 feet of his store. In an area that competitive, when someone searches for a local jeweler, the most important factor in attracting new customers is the visible star rating of Google reviews.
When his phone stopped ringing at the beginning of the 2013 Holiday Season, he knew there was something wrong.
In the months prior to this situation, he and his brother had both taken ownership of their Google+ Local account. They both had Google accounts, and had both gone through the process of trying to claim ownership of their store listing. However, his brother took an extra step and had requested that Google mail a postcard to verify ownership.
Google will either mail you a postcard, or call your public telephone number, to validate ownership of your store. In this case, Google mailed a PIN on a postcard to validate the store listing in his brother's account.
In early November 2013, while working with an online marketing agency, they realized they needed to consolidate all the business Google properties into a single account. They chose to delete the Google+ Local listing in the brother's account, but because that was the verified account, the 29 Google reviews were attached to it.
Without realizing it, when they deleted their secondary Google+ Local listing, they also disassociated their 29 quality reviews from their store. Even though their other account still existed, those previous reviews effectively were lost in cyberspace.
It seemed strange that Google+ Local would allow 2 different listings for the same location and not automatically associate the reviews with both listings. But that's not how it works. The Google SERPs are smart enough to prevent duplicate listings from appearing. The SERPs are also smart enough to pull all important information from those duplicates in order to show users the best possible results.
To complicate matters a little more, even though those 29 reviews didn't appear in the SERPs, they were visible when viewing the store's Google+ Page. The reviews weren't entirely lost to cyberspace, but they were in some type of limbo.
To solve the problem, the marketing agency logged into their account and sent a message to Google from the Google+ Local edit screen. They explained the situation and asked for the reviews to be transferred to the surviving account. Within 7 days, they got their star rating back in the SERPs and the phones started ringing again.
Although this seems like a quick-fix story, there certainly was a lot of stress involved. Google isn't well known for personal responses or help with accounts. They rely heavily on their automated systems to fix problems.
Although this jeweler does have a website, their organic ranking didn't play an important role in this situation. On average, they receive only 30 website visitors every day. Their website doesn't rank very high for any important jewelry related keywords.
On the other hand, it was the +Local listing that appeared prominently when searching for "jewelry stores" in their city. The store owner who asked me for help felt that the visible star rating was the difference between staying in business or going out of business.
It's quite possible that, if this jeweler had had 200 or more website visitors per day, he would never have noticed the loss of the stars in their SERP listing, and that the stars would have eventually reattached without human intervention.
From as far back as I can remember, the Google Maps/Places/Business/Local system has always allowed for duplicate business listings to be created.
I remember an account I once managed years ago where 2 listings inexplicably appeared. Google's support directions said that this sometimes happens and to simply mark one account to be removed. When we did that it also removed the business from the SERPs. The business reappeared back in SERP results a few weeks later after the duplicate was finally removed.
There are a few lessons to learn from these duplicate occurrences...
1. Avoid the creation of duplicate Google+ Local listings at all costs.
Before you claim ownership of your Google+ business listing, make sure you are logged into the Google account that will always be associated with the business. This should be the same account you use for Google Analytics, AdWords, AdWords Express, Google+ Pages, and your business Google Wallet account.
It's extremely important for you to keep all your Google services managed in a single Google account. There's no real way to merge multiple accounts.
2. Be cautious if a duplicate business listing appears in your account.
My experience with the duplicate listing had happened in the first few days while I was setting up a new account. It wasn't a problem to wait a few extra weeks for their listing to appear while we waited for the duplicate to be removed.
Considering how important your Google+ Local business listing is, I do not recommend deleting a duplicate listing if you rely heavily on it to attract business from Google's SERPs. I especially advise against it if you have reviews.
3. Be wary of any agency you hire that will manage your Google+ Local account.
There are many agencies out there that offer "Local" optimization services. Many of these companies will set up duplicate business accounts in Google+ Local, Yelp, Yellowpages, MerchantCircle, Insiderpages, and several other large online directories.
You should never allow an agency to have full control over your Google+ Local (or Yelp) account. As the business owner, you will eventually need to merge your +Local account to your Google+ Page, then interact with it socially.
If you do hire an agency, make sure they are using the Google+ Local account that you created. Don't let them make a duplicate account, because, when you eventually cancel their service they will delete that duplicate +Local listing and you won't have to worry about experiencing similar problems as those explained here.
One last point of note before I close out this 900th Daily Golden Nugget... At the time of this writing, Google still hasn't completed the transfer from the old Google Places management screens to the new Google+ Local screens. Those of you who recently claimed ownership of your business listing, are using the new user interface while many of us with very old accounts are still waiting.
That concludes this special Google+ Local edition of the Daily Golden Nugget.