December 2009

Congratulations To Our 2 Google Favorite Place Clients!

Our 2 clients receive Google Favorite Place recognition

I’ve been writing a bit about this already here on the SEOigloo blog but we want to take a moment to formally congratulate 2 of our fantastic clients for having been recognized as Google Favorite Places! When an honor is meted out to just 100,000 businesses in the entire United States, being one of the chosen recipients is a big deal. We are incredibly proud of these clients. It’s been a privilege to work with them, and to get to know them not just as ‘clients’, but as really nice people! I’d like to introduce these fellows and praise them for the exceptional efforts both of them have put into building strong and trustworthy presences on the web!

John Tuggle
John Tuggle is the man to go to if you want to learn how to play Blues or Slide Guitar on the web. His website, Learning Guitar Now offers instructional videos, live Skype guitar lessons, DVDs and a great blog, among other things. Being named a Google favorite place isn’t John’s first claim to fame – he was named a Gibson Guitars Recommended Instructor within months of taking his business online – but John is really happy about the Google recognition. In addition to all of his tremendous online work, John teaches guitar locally in Decatur, GA. and it’s great to know that his Google Place Page has the power to bring new students to his door. John will be blogging about winning his Google Favorite Place honor and we want him to hear us cheering,”Bravo! Bravo!”

Glenn Younger
Glenn Younger has the distinction of running the oldest locksmith company in San Diego, CA: Grah Safe and Lock. As I blogged about earlier, an error on Google’s part produced the odd situation of Glenn’s business being awarded a Favorite Place poster and having their listing pulled from Maps all at the same time. Google employee, Joel H, let us know that they are going to remedy this situation promptly. Today, I see that Grah Safe and Lock’s Place Page is back in the index, and I am crossing my fingers that Google will soon be restoring the company’s usual high spot in the 7 pack. Glenn will be promoting his Favorite Place recognition via email and on his blog, and will be having a cool contest to draw attention to the poster. Great stuff and we are saluting this super company for fighting the long, good fight in the locksmith industry in an effort to help Google achieve a clean and usable index! Way to go, Grah!

Matt McGee wrote a great little piece about Promoting Your Favorite Place Status. I’ve already sent it to both of our winning clients, but to the other 99,998 recognized businesses, please do yourself a favor and take a gander at this inspirational article.

The general consensus amongst Local SEOs is that Google’s Favorite Place campaign is a cost effective way for Google to raise awareness of Maps while also monitoring interactive behavior (cell phone usage with the poster bar code). On a more personal level, it’s a much appreciated pat on the back for a chosen few business owners who have embraced the potentials of Local with a level of gusto that Google has deemed worthy of praise. We’re pretty delighted that 2 of these hardworking business owners count us as trusted advisers and our hats are off to John and Glenn today!

Favorite and Flagged! An Odd Google Favorite Places Story.

Here’s one for the books. Grah Safe & Lock, a San Diego Locksmith client whom it was our pleasure to work with this year, has been awarded a Favorite Places poster from Google. Owner, Glenn Younger, has cause to be proud of this achievement…only there’s a small problem. A couple of days before Glenn’s poster and congratulatory letter arrived in the mail, he discovered that his Google Maps listing had vanished and that his LBC account held the dread message: Flagged, Waiting For Content Check. The irony of a flagged Favorite Place will no doubt strike you without further explanation on my part.

As you may recall, Google has been taking some action in the ultra-spammed Locksmith category of late. On November 19th, I blogged about the exceptional news that, for the first time in ages, the 7 pack in San Diego actually contained mostly legitimate locksmiths. Google had taken some direct action against the mountain of spam that has made this category next to useless for users and honest business owners. We celebrated this great change.

Now, we’re back to scratching our heads. I’ve advised Glenn Younger to get in touch with that wizard of locksmith mapsspam: Mike Blumenthal to see if the two of them can get to the bottom of this problem. Mike has reported the fact that, for the past 6 months or so, the category ‘Locksmith’ has apparently had some type of flag/alert associated with it at the Googleplex, and perhaps this is the problem. I must say, though, I’d like to know how locksmiths are supposed to categorize themselves if not with this obvious word. Ah, what a muddle, and I’m hoping Mike can muddle his way through it. If anyone can figure out what’s going on with this, it’s Mike.

I’m crossing my fingers that Google will step in and remedy this situation. Imagine the disappointment of any customer who might see Glenn Younger’s poster, get out their cell phone and scan the bar code, only to be taken to…nothing. Not good for Google’s promotion, or for Grah.

My Big Question About Google’s Favorite Places

There’s been buzz the last couple of weeks about Google’s Favorite Places campaign in which they are sending posters to just 100,000 US businesses with the suggestion that the business owner display their poster in a prominent place. The purpose? People can stand in front of the poster and use their cell phone to scan a bar code on it that takes the user to the business’ Google Place Page. You can see the language of the letter being sent out here at Mike Blumenthal’s blog.

So, here’s my big question: if you’re already at the place of business, why would you need to look at their Place Page?

-To ask for directions? No, you’re already there.
-To look at the place on a map? No, you’re already there.
-To look at a StreetView shot of the map? Why would you need to? You’re already there.
-To get the phone number or address? Presumably not, since you’re already in direct contact with the business by being there.
– To see hours of operation? By standing in front of the business, you can see if they are open or closed, right?
– To see which buses go there? Well..maybe, if you’re trying to direct a friend who has no car to come at once and meet you at the business.
– To see photos or video of the business? Likely not, as you are already looking at ‘the real thing’ just by standing there.
– To look for a coupon? I doubt it, really, because if you are like most people, you’ve never heard of Google Coupons.
– To see AdWords ads, what category the business is in, or perhaps, what citations it has? Come on. I don’t think so.

So…what are we left with? If standing in front of a business and scanning the Favorite Places poster is yielding you information that will already be obvious to you just by dint of standing there…what does a Google Place Page offer that would make you engage in this scanning behavior?

I can think of just one thing and that is reviews. In fact, the Google Favorite Places letter indicates that this is one of the reasons someone would put up the poster. I almost always find it necessary to envision real-life scenarios in order to understand the application of local-oriented products. I want to understand how you and I would use them. So, here is the only scenario I can think of in which someone would bother scanning a poster hung, perhaps, in the front window of a shop. Let’s say you are looking for a place to eat on a big city street with many restaurants. You could walk up and down the whole street scanning each poster to look at the user reviews that have been left in order to pick your place to dine.

Will this happen? Not with Google only sending out 100,000 posters nationwide. Chances are, you’d be lucky if even one of the restaurants on a busy city street has been awarded this poster of obscure merit. Now, if Google had sent out posters to every business in the country, maybe adoption of this activity would be widespread enough that walking past store fronts and scanning posters in order to access user reviews would become habit-forming. I don’t know.

Help me out here. The more I think about this poster idea, the more confused I become about both the scenario of usage and the value of implementation. And then I start thinking about how Google has this huge glitch that’s been ongoing for years now in which they often don’t count reviews left through their own Google Reviews portion of Maps. You’ll see the total number of reviews added up in the A-J column of Maps, comprised of user reviews from TripAdvisor, Frommers,, JudysBook, etc., but the reviews left directly through Maps aren’t taken account of. Sometimes they are. Why? I don’t know.

All I can think is that it’s really kind of weird that a company (Google) is making a big effort to drive traffic to pages that really only offer one type of content you can’t get just by standing in front of the business and that this content is the portion of Maps that is perhaps the most neglected and poorly understood: user reviews. What is the point? Can anybody tell me?