My Google Places Page Recently Disappeared!

Last week I had a client’s Google Places Page go missing – disappeared entirely. For a client who runs a bed & breakfast, a museum and a tour business, all location-based businesses that depend to some degree on maps (Google Maps) for customers – this was heart-stopping. 

Google replied: “Thanks for contacting us regarding your Places problem. We’ve recently experienced technical issues with Places and you may have experienced your verified listing no longer appearing on Maps. We’ve put the fix in place and listings should be appearing appropriately now.”

SEO CompanyDue to Google secrecy which prevents any explanation whatsoever as to why Google Places, in particular, has so many problems that cause so much anxiety, we are left to make assumptions.

This is pretty serious stuff due to the impact it has on a business that is dependent on the Internet for customers. Yet we can only try to divine possible actions – based on very nebulous clues – to find ways to avoid losing one’s place in Google’s world.

Because this is all vague conjecture, some say SEO is voodoo perpetrated by charlatans. Tell that to the business owner who gets wiped out for no apparent reason. Where would you suggest they turn? Google Forums?

OK, back to it…this “outage” gives me some insight into Google and their Places imperatives.

The client in question runs all three businesses from the same physical location/address. They also have registered their three (3) Google Places listings using the same login, same webmaster account, same analytics, etc. 

Clue: Other clients of mine who do not have similar Google accounts setup this way didn’t suffer any outage.

So what is Google thinking? Spammer!

This is one more experience in a long list of other anxious Google Places “anomalies” that have occurred over the years that always lead me to the same conclusion: that Google penalizes PERCEIVED spammers (scammers) even if the business(s) are 100% legitimate.

Thinking like a search engine (or thinking like someone who builds search engines) its too hard for a computer to map the vague relationships that naturally happen in business; its even difficult for a human. Take a holding company that owns subsidiaries as an example. Or how about a building of dentists all sharing the same physical address? That is very complex for a search engine to map out in the real world. But someone has to do it! So the rules are coded into the algorithm, written by people (called “coders” or developers), then acted upon by machines (called computers ;-). Did you ever see a machine notice an anomaly in human thinking? Its doesn’t stop and say to the developer “Hey if you do this, you could wipe out a bunch of legitimate businesses.”

In the normal course of business at Google, the developers push the limits of their algorithm (filter out the scammers from the real world listings) and sometimes Google Places go missing. You can read what happens next in the forums. If its only one or two innocent injuries as a result of a “tweak”, its not a problem – let them  figure it out. Some will inevitably have to start over recreating their online entity from scratch. What a trauma that is! But if its a few hundred or thousands of businesses that are effected, the developers look at where they tweaked the algorithm, what effects it had that got so many people panicked (yelling blood murder in the forums); and the change is rolled back – and maybe a rare apology is issued (that reveals something about Google).

To avoid this danger, I think its safe(er) to setup all Google accounts individually. What I mean by individually is that even if you have two very legitimate business based at the same address, you should treat their SEO as if they were two 100% separate entities – as if YOU are two different people running two separate businesses. Think like a search engine. Keep it simple. Untangle the wires as it were – or don’t create complex relationships in Google Places, Analytics, Webmaster, Adwords accounts in the first place!

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