However, Google has has often been accused of not making it easy enough for local businesses (and SEOs!) to manage, and many of the same old criticisms remain – with a few new ones in place too!
Objective of Survey
We wanted to know what features & enhancements search marketeers & SMBs wanted to see Google make to Places / +Local. So we put together a wish list of new features & enhancements and asked our readers & customers to vote for the ones they wanted the most.
We had a great response with 614 SEOs & SMBs casting their votes. A big thank you to everyone who took the time to vote &/or promote the survey – we’d love to name you all but there are just too many!
But, I’d like to give special thanks to Phil Rozek who helped us compile this list of features/enhancements – cheers Phil, awesome as always!
There were 19 features/enhancements suggested in this survey/poll (jump to bottom of page to see the full list). The survey/poll contained 2 questions -
Which of the following features are you most keen to see Google introduce?
In your opinion, how likely is Google to deliver each of these features?
1. Which of the following features are you most keen to see Google introduce?
Participants were asked to score each of the 19 features from 1 to 10.
- 1 = Low Demand (i.e. ‘I’m not interested in feature’)
- 10 = High Demand (i.e. ‘I want this now!)
All Features: Most wanted Google Places / +Local Updates
This chart shows the full list of features displayed in order of demand, with ‘most wanted’ features shown to the left hand side – see blue columns. We also display results for ‘how likely google is to introduce these features’ – these are shown in red columns.
- The most in demand feature is a duplicate listing report & solution to merge/remove (9.6/10).
- Very few people require the bulk upload of more than 100 locations at once (3.8), or the ability to hide posts (6.6).
- There is little demand for account support that’s good enough to pay for – 6.9 / 10.
- Clear gulf between the ‘desired’ features and the ‘likely’ features.
We can see a clear pattern that the features which are in most demand are actually those that are considered least likely to happen (wishful thinking on our part?), and that the features that participants are ‘moderately’ happy to see introduced, are those which have a good chance of coming to light. It’s also true that the least wanted features are generally the most likely to be introduced.
Essentially this highlights the gulf in what search marketeers/agencies want from Google Places and the direction that Google is most likely to take the product. We (search marketeers) want more control and easy management of listings, while Google are obviously more focused on attracting, engaging & up-selling more SMBs on paid-for services. More on this after the next chart below…
Top 5 most wanted Google Places / +Local features:
In this chart we take a closer look at the 5 most wanted new features in Google Places / +Local.
- 1st = Duplicate listing report & solution to merge/remove dupes – 9.6 / 10
- 2nd = Email verification to replace postcard verification – 8.8/10
- 3rd = Citation / NAP analyzer for all directories – 8.7/10
Again in this chart we can clearly see that there is a big difference between demand for features and what is likely to be delivered.
3 of the top 5 results relate to accuracy & control of business data on Google+ and across other 3rd party sites. Duplicate listings and incorrect NAP data are a big issue (maybe the biggest?) for many local businesses and clear reports & functionality that help with cleaning up ‘dirty data’ is something that would be very well received by SEOs & SMBs alike.
Another issue to point out, is a striking juxtaposition between demand for email verification and the likelihood of Google allowing it. Although many of us find the existing postcard & PIN verification system a huge pain in the %$^@ it’s also a necessary step. Email verification would make listing set-up & claiming process 10x easier but it would also open the door to more abuse which would result in more listing spam and unlawful takeover of listings. Keeping the more stringent process of postal & phone verification helps to minimise this abuse and ensures that listings can not be easily claimed by unconnected parties. So despite the pains of postal verification I think most search marketeers appreciate that there is a genuinely good reason for it.
I think that we can safely say that none of the top 5 ‘most wanted’ features will see the light of day anytime soon! (boo)
2. In your opinion, how likely is Google to deliver each of these features?
In this chart we look specifically at likelihood that Google is to introduce each feature. Participants were again asked to assign a score from 1 – 10 for each feature -
- 1 = Not likely
- 10 = Very Likely
All results – Most likely Google Places / +Local changes:
This chart looks at the full list of new features that Google is most likely to deliver in Places / +Local.
- 1st = Automatic suggestion of best category(s) – 6/10
- 2nd = Specific ‘logo’ upload field – 5.8/10
- 3rd = View ‘insights’ for longer than 90 days – 5.4/10
- White-label reporting for end-clients & Live ‘chat’ support rated very unlikely – 3.4/10
The top three most likely new features to be introduced can be essentially viewed as ‘fine tuning’ of existing features as opposed to exciting new changes. It is not expected that Google will introduce the changes that we really want – but we can expect some marginal improvements to take place – lucky us!
The least likely feature to have life breathed into it is White-label reporting. This is not surprising considering that the Google Places / +Local service is one that is designed for SMBs rather than SEOs – and a White Label service is obviously not something a typical SMB end user would value as much as a local search marketer. In addition to this, it would obviously dilute Google’s influence and this is not the sort of move that Google has demonstrated in the past.
Live chat is also not considered a likely addition in the near future. From our own experiences at BrightLocal, providing chat support on our SEO tools is something that we have found incredibly useful. In particular it enables us to jump on issues as soon as they arise, giving on the spot support which helps to build rapport with customers. Google has always struggled to connect & engage with smaller customers so you’d think they’d jump at any opportunity to strike up a conversation and push Adwords Express. However Google does have a scale issue to content with. Given the sheer volume of customers, combined with product flaws & issues, they would be inundated with chat requests and would need an army of people to handle the questions. We should also point out that Google has recently made some positive changes to their Places for Business Help Center and so further changes may be near the top of their roadmap.
All results: Average Demand vs Average Likelihood:
This chart looks at the average score of each of the ‘desired changes’ vs. ‘likely changes’.
- The average ‘desired’ score for these features was 7.7/10
- The average ‘likelihood of change’ score was 4.6/10
Generally, as we’ve seen above, there are plenty of new features that we want to see implemented, but there is little belief in the fact that Google will make these happen. The chart above essentially shows two differing perspectives; those from a search marketer, and those from a service provider, ie. Google.
Drawing on our own experience as a Software as a Service (SAAS) provider we get a steady stream of useful suggestions & requests for new products and tool tweaks. We ultimately have to juggle these and decide which are not only feasible for production, but also which are going to have the maximum benefit for the maximum amount of users. You can’t please everyone, but you should try and please the majority. Unfortunately it all too often feels like Google is pleasing itself (excuse the innuendo).
On a much larger scale, Google must make the same decisions. It’s clear that with such a large gulf between the features that users really desire – and the features we think are most likely to be introduced – that there is definitely scope for Google to be more open to suggestions and to actively listen to what its users want from services like Places / +Local. Increased communication and welcomed feedback would only serve to increase engagement on Google products, maintain loyalty and be beneficial in persuading users to try other Google paid features - something which Google ultimately values.
We can of course hope that some of these features will be implemented in the near future – if at all! But hopefully the Places product team will now swing by, take note of what the search community wants and hopefully reconsider their roadmap.
Key to charts & full list of features:
- $$$ Acc. support – Account support that’s good enough to pay for
- Auto. category sugg. – Automatic suggestion of best category(s)
- Bulk upload 100+ – Bulk upload more than 100 locations at once
- Citation analyzer – Citation / NAP analyzer for all directories
- Deeper analytics – Deeper search term analytics
- Dupe. listing report – Duplicate listing report & solution to merge/Remove
- Easy GA export – Easy export of Places Data into Google analytics
- Email verif. – Email verification to replace postcard
- Hide Posts – Remove or hide ‘Posts’ from profile
- Live chat support – Live ‘chat’ support
- Location Data – Data on searcher location
- Lock listing – Lock’ a listing so un-official changes can’t be made
- Logo upload field – Specific ‘logo’ upload field
- Longer insights – View ‘insights’ for longer than 90 days
- Pinnable reviews – Ability to ‘Pin’ reviews at top of stream
- Real-time alerts – Real-time alerts for dashboard edit updates
- Single dashboard – Single dashboard to manage multiple locations & clients
- Suggestion system – Suggestion system for custom categories
- White-label reports – White-label reporting for end-clients