I haven't written a blog post in a while, but the latest update from Google pushed me to do it... As the title states, I was speechless for a few moments after seeing the latest update to Google's Local product. I'll clarify by saying I don't see this as a positive update.
For those of you following the local search changes, or have businesses invested in Google's product, you will know the impact that Google+ Local has on small businesses. In one fatal swing of Google's mighty fist a business can drop below the typical 3 to 7 local results which are typically displayed on a SERPs page. That would result in a loss of customers and a loss of thousands of dollars in potential revenue. I've devoted years of my life studying this product; I've seen businesses become wealthier through advertising on Google Local than they ever did with traditional Yellowpages, newspaper ads, or billboards combined. I've also seen the heartache and devastation that a small business owner faces when they drop off the first page and the phone stops ringing with new customers.
Now I know that no one is perfect; I've made my share of mistakes in the past just like anybody else. I don't expect Google to have flawless products either. It's the nature of the industry that there are bound to be small flaws or inefficiencies that could be improved. Of course, it takes time and resources to build a product. I don't fault Google for that. Google's Local search product has a few bugs that it needs to get worked out. Here are a couple of things I would like to see changed:
1. The dreaded "we currently do not support this address" message
2. Customer Reviews that actually show up
3. A faster and more direct support system
4. More accurate analytical reporting
5. More accurate API for pulling in the previously mentioned reporting data
Well the list goes on, but these things take time since the merger from "Google Places" to "Google+ Local." Any normal business owner or any rational thinking person for that matter would prioritize a list of feature releases that would fix some of the major issues before trying some new gimmicks.
Apparently Google missed that memo. Someone check in and make sure they're putting the right cover sheet on their TPS report because they just released a new feature and it makes no sense to me.
Instead of fixing one of the major issues that millions of business owners have been complaining about, they decide to introduce a tab at the bottom of the local page that will let you update contact information for persons of interest/contact person at that business. Wait... What??? Okay, so now you're asking, "whoa, Eric... It's got to do something cool right? I mean this is Google we're talking about." My answer is, "nope, not really." That contact information you add at the bottom of the screen feeds directly into your Gmail contacts (as long as you're signed in). It will only pull the information you enter into the fields.
Great job Google. The muffler is falling off the car, and to appease us you decided to throw in some fuzzy dice. Business owners are probably loving you right now. At least it looks cool, right?