Posted April 21, 2011 2:41 am by with 11 comments

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While I know complaints about Google Places complete lack of support to cut through its mess of duplicate listings, spam, misinformation etc falls on deaf ears at the Googleplex, it doesn’t mean that there is NO way to get in touch with someone about this critical component of local search.

In a blog post from yesterday Google Places Community Manager Vanessa Schneider responded to a request for a meeting with a Google rep in the latest market to get the Places treatment, San Diego. Her response read

Hey Sandi —

You can call our hotline to request a visit: (619) 928-9401


Vanessa, Places community manager

Have you ever been so hungry that you literally would try anything to satisfy the pain? Well, if you have any experience with Place Pages and the myriad issues they can cause even the most seasoned local marketer to pull out their hair, seeing the existence of an actual Places hotline number is truly a case of something is better than nothing.

Sure, this number is designed for this San Diego marketing push but why not give it a shot? Desperate times call for desperate measures is what I say. If you have any questions about Google Places try it and see what happens. That Google Hotline number again is 619-928-9401.I called it after hours and the promise was that “Google Voice will try to reach a member of the Google local business outreach team in San Diego”. You could even leave a message for them. With Google that’s almost like getting an audience with Page, Brin or Schmidt.

Maybe you are wondering why I even bother to do this? It’s a direct result of the answer that was given to me by the same community manager to a comment I put on the Places blog two days ago for a post about a Google Places product manager, Mat Balez. My comment read

Mat – What is the best way to talk to a person (not in a help forum and using an actual voice rather than something digital) about Google Places issues and concerns?

And what response did I get? Here’s community manager Vanessa again with

Hey Frank —

We don’t provide phone support for our free services — the Help Center and forum is your best bet:

Vanessa, Places community manager

Hmmmm. Isn’t that the exact answer I asked NOT to receive? Google just doesn’t get it.

Oh and free service? Sure, it’s free to claim and optimize your Place Page in Google but it’s connected to potential revenue and lots of it. Now that Google has retired the Tags offering that required a verified Place Page in order to even take part it’s obvious that their next big local push will be with the Boost product. Why? Because rather than being a simple flat rate product with limited income like Tags, Boost allows for variable spending with no cap thus much more revenue potential for Google. Mike Blumenthal unpacks this idea quite well in a post from the other day.

Also, Google essentially is saying that they will only provide real support if they deem your city worthy. If you’re not on their radar then you are S.O.L. when it comes to any hope of support for Google Places outside of folks trying to figure stuff out on their own in the “Help” forums. Help is in quotes because oftentimes those forums turn into a lot of “Have you seen? questions and the “I’m not sure this works for everyone….” advice.

I continue to marvel at Google’s complete cluelessness that there is a very large portion of the market that needs help getting through the Places maze. If they get that help they actually want to do something else. They want to spend money with Google. Free service? Sure but it’s a true freemium because there is plenty of revenue waiting on the other side that pesky ‘free service’.

So Google, let’s try this again. Many, many people want to spend more money with you but you don’t seem to want it? Maybe Bing does. Hey Stefan Weitz and Andy Chu of Bing are you reading this? What do you think your opportunity is? Isn’t servant leadership in these days? Wouldn’t it be cool if you were the anti-Google and did the opposite of what they do. You know, provide actual support and service for the SMB’s of the world? I bet people would listen and be interested.

Would you?

  • Alternate Instinct

    If you think you have it tough being in the USA, imagine what it is like for marketeers like us in New Zealand. Lost postcards, competitor addresses displaying on listings, unruly feeds from local directory services… I am so glad it is Easter and I can forget about it all for a day or two!

    Appreciate the post!

    Thanks – Gavan

  • RE : “…they will only provide real support if they deem your city worthy..”

    guess that leaves us Canucks out in the snow once again….sigh…

    and I sure wish the googlePlex lads would consider us as a “part” of the continent, eh…



  • One of my few issues with Google is there lack of customer service for Google Places. Local is more important than ever, and businesses realize that. Yet they can’t get the help they need from Google. This is incredibly frustrating and discouraging.

  • I “think” (HOPE) the lack of support issue MAY be on the cusp of change.

    Beginning of April did a long blog post about “Agent A” my extremely helpful Google Places rep and some of the insights he gave me about the inner workings at Google Places. When I told my friend Miriam Ellis about the connection I’d made with a LIVE person she said something like “Wow, you’ve reached the inner sanctum at Google, I’ve been trying to do that for years.” Sad that getting ‘real’ help at Google is that illusive!

    Agent A told me there is an increased commitment at Google to work with ethical marketers, local SEOs and consultants that are trying to do things right and G is encouraging reps to form relationships with us to help us help our Google Places clients.

    Tuesday Agent A reached out and called ME, left a voice mail just to say “have not talked to you for a couple weeks so wanted to check in to see if there was anything I could help you with.” BLEW ME AWAY! I’ve been busy so we have not connected live yet.

    However yesterday I saw a Tweet from LocalOptimizer saying he got a voice mail out of the blue from a Google rep saying he wanted to talk and offering help. I need to contact Dave to see if it was Agent A or someone else.

    I made the following comment on Blumenthal’s blog and Jeff Huber, the new SVP commented that he is reading and listening to our pleas. There were a lot of comments on that post but I’m hoping he saw this one, and is maybe starting to make some changes.

    “Google needs to take some of the wise advice Mike and others have been trying to give you for years. FIX some of the core issues that create so many support problems (like not overwriting verified Place data with scraped data, etc.) Work with us and give us some support!

    YOU WILL HAVE A SKILLED SALES FORCE BIGGER THAN GROUPON’S singing your praises and selling Tags and Boost for you FOR FREE all day long. Think about it. A FREE sales force, bringing in TONS of additional revenue! “

    Here’s a link to the post at Mikes with TONS of great comments including Jeff Huber’s.
    Where Does Local Fit into the Newly Organized Google Under Page?

  • Google “gets its” just fine. The lack of support, as you and I define it, in Places is not obtuseness nor lack of understanding it is intentionality.

    Every smb in the non virtual universe know how they want to be treated. They recognize the importance of treating their customers well and expect the same in return. For many years, I too thought that Google didn’t get what support was, but I realized that they do recognize it. They fully understand what support is but do not ever intend to implement it in Places now or perhaps ever.

    What you see happening in the Places city by city rollout isn’t support. It is education, marketing and testing. You may get a phone number to call in those cities but you don’t get support in the 5 cities that Google has targeted.

    Here is how I perceive what Google is doing with their city by city Places/Hotpot rollout:

    1)With the education, Google is attempting to find out what it takes to get businesses to claim their records so that Google can have increased confidence in the data set and have better and direct access to a decision maker.

    2)With the marketing, Google is seeing what works and measuring the marketing costs against unpaid and paid uptake of their review and ad products. They are comparing and contrasting different venues and methods to find the most cost effective at building brand awareness, public adoption of reviews and business adoption of the platform.

    3)The brand building they are doing is in very specific markets where Yelp and other local players are not that strong. Google hasn’t gone after NY or SF, they are going after Austin and Portland, Charlotte and Madison, San Diego and Las Vegas. Mid major markets all. If Google can learn what it takes to achieve escape velocity in a less completive environment they can scale it up and down to work across the board. And in a way that engages both searchers and businesses.

    4)You are seeing testing of new products (NFC, Check-in Offers) that will affect local both midterm and long haul. NFC is still 5 years out for mass adoption particularly the way Google is using it. They know that. They are testing, testing, testing. It is a long term investment in closing the digital buying loop. Check in offers ala Austin and now nationally is a medium term social play to make checkins sustainable.

    Just because you and I and Jim want and need support, just because Places and organic blended results send real traffic to businesses, just because it is the “right” thing to do, are not reasons why Google will provide support.

    I think one of the things they learned with Tags and Boost and the attempted acquisitions of Yelp & Groupon, is that they do need salesmen and a warm fuzzy touch. Particularly on the sales side. But if and when it leads to support after the fact, it will be support on their terms. Terms where the ROI is very high and will allow them to scale income in some predictable ratio to expenses.

  • I agree Mike, but am still hopeful of change and for some good reasons.

    Just now Agent A called me again to see if I needed help NOT to sell Boost to more clients. We talked for around 40 minutes. I talked to him about some dupe problems I’m having and he said he’d escalate the probs directly to engineers. Gave me his email and told me the specific details he needs to escalate problems. Nothing to do with Boost or revenue. Pure support problems.

    They’ve been instructed to be on outbound calling campaigns, reaching out to try to help folks like us as well as clients. He personally ‘feels’ it’s much like I said above. G is realizing that they could have us as raving fans and we all work together to help the SMBs (which I know equates to more ad revenue for Google).

    Now I agree with you, IF they are being told to reach out, it’s NOT just based on the goodness of Google’s heart, but G sees a monetary benefit to re-building their rep and trying to build relationships.

    He told me about lots of other things that are in the works as well, so lots of changes coming down the pike soon. Of course, there are always lots of things changing.

    • @Linda – So what did you do to get in the good graces of Google? Is there a secret password or handshake? 🙂

      • @Frank – Say 3 Hail Marys, hold your breathe, then dial the 800# while spinning counter clock-wise in your office chair 3 times. 🙂

    • Support for Boost and Adwords clients is one thing, general support for Places users is another.

      • I get that Mike. Trouble is that you need to have a verified Place Page to use Boost. It just seems backwards. I understand the business decision that Google makes but money decisions vs what actually benefits people don’t always jibe.

        It’s just frustrating that’s all because sits on the mountaintop and basically gives it the “Let them eat cake” approach. Never warms the heart but when you are stuck with them as the best option they can get away with it.

        Man, I would love for Bing to make a run at them but I am not sure they have the chops.

  • Anonymous

    Google at one time I praised for the great innovations and easy navigation throughout their many online services however I no longer feel that way anymore. My once great thoughts of Google have been replaced by anger and frustration.Google makes billions a year but they cannot afford a technical support and customer service call center for they billions of users?!? I just don’t get if we are “valued customers’ how come our issues can’t be resolved. I had my google email account for 3yrs I also chose Sprint because their phones are manufactured to come w/ Google services. I use my Google account for business and personal reasons. I use to send out about 20 emails a day and received 3x that amount.I was told by Google about 4 months ago that my account was closed due to misuse!!!MISUSE???? HOW DO YOU MISUSE A EMAIL ADDRESS I DON’T GET IT. I HAVE IMPORTANT DOCUMENTS AND INFO THAT I NEED FROM MY GOOGLE ACCOUNT THAT I’M NOT ABLE TO RETRIEVE THIS IS DETRIMENTAL TO MY CAREER LIFE AND FUTURE. WHERE DO I GO FROM HERE?!? I’m frustrated w/ Google and Sprint Google.