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May 9, 2011

Ten Things I Hope Google Places Fixes in 2011

In 2010, Google vastly improved the old Google Local Business Center with an upgrade in the name to Google Places, and with maybe 100 changes to the look, the rules, and more. Each change brought happiness to some and misery to others. But the reality is that the product is still as buggy as the beds in Washington, DC.

As a Google Places expert and consultant I rode the roller coaster last year with days of glee and days of heartache. My clients and others who called me were as confused as they could be about Google’s reason and intent. One thing they all knew for sure. They needed to be highly ranked to get the phone to ring or the door to swing. Here is one pundits plea to Google for 10 ways to fix their fantastic tool.

1. Without question the number one fix would be to reconfigure the ranking system or the bot that evaluates the ranking to be far more, dare I say, fair. Ok. How about just? Currently it is common to find unclaimed sites with no website, no reviews, and no citations ranking above sites with solid optimization, multiple reviews from Google and other sites, and citations aplenty. This hurt credibility for Google, and drives businesses, SEO pros, and even consumers crazy.

2. Help the helpless. With Google being so critical to the health of its business clients, why should the rules and nuances of those rules be reminiscent of Mario Brothers. The forum is nice and all, and sometimes Google employees and unpaid consultants give some “cheats” to those who have not been able to decipher the code. Why not have serious tutorials to help companies do it right. Better Google Places Pages would be good for everyone. Facebook Fan Pages is charging for tutorials. Fine. Charge.

3. Enforce the Rules! The first lesson of making a law is that it must be enforceable. I just don’t think that any business has a real name of Best Price Junk Cars Los Angeles. Why doesn’t the bot kill that one before it ever goes live. If Google Places is going to know all about every place on earth, shouldn’t it be a priority not to list a business at an address that doesn’t exist or that is an empty building.

4. Fix the thumbnail pictures. Why is this even an issue? Squashed faces and weird shaped logos don’t do anything to enhance this product. Google plans to change the energy delivery system for the entire planet. Can this be so hard?

5. Title the movies. Who wants to watch random movies? Just give us 30 characters. More would be better. A description would be fantastic. This would help the consumer immeasurably.

6. Improve the look of the Google Place Page. Currently there is no serious reason for the consumer to go to the “page” other than reviews. Maybe there could be template choices for layout, more choices for pictures including products in the top section. And how about bigger or more interesting fonts for the section titles. Currently, it is a bit hard for folks to find the various reviews and citations, even if they want to.

7. Put the link to leave a review on the search page. It could go right under the stars.

8. Stop penalizing those who use Tags. Using mechanical scrutiny for every possible minor rule violation on Tags users while not using the same scrutiny on those who have not chosen to use Tags. I have no experience with Boost, so don’t know if this is also happening with Boost clients.

9. Certify Google Places Consultants. Provide a course or a test or some method for determining who understands the system. Allow the certification # to appear on the listing page so that unintentional errors can be sorted out, and certifications can be lost if the errors are frequent or black hat.

10. Allow businesses to move their places listing from one Google Account to another. There are hundreds of legitimate reasons for this to be done, including the fact that no one who set up Google Places listings in the last two years knew this would be an issue. Many of them are associated with personal emails or multiple businesses.

Google Places is a work in progress. While it may never be completely “finished” and allowed to be somewhat static for awhile, I believe that by 2012, the site will be far less volatile and more predictable for business owners and their consultants.

Randy Kirk is the president of internet marketing company, Kirk is the author of several business books including Warner Business Books 4.6 star “Running A 21st Century Small Business.” The book is available on Amazon. specializes in helping very small companies (1-50 employees) with marketing both on and off the internet. The company specializes in helping companies get highly ranked on Google Places, and also is a low cost provider of help with social networking, YouTube videos, word of mouth marketing, email blasts, press releases, website development, seo, sem, and more.