Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Is an online business real?

Is an online business real?

If you are in the business of shifting paradigms around, then the answer is clearly yes. Online businesses are the future, you say. 21st century capabilities enable people to conduct business without being trapped by the hoary old limitations of locations. Online business is the wave of the future, and we should encourage it.

But there are other people (wearable devices firmly on their foreheads) who are forced to disagree. Location is key, they say. 21st century capabilities enable advertisers - I mean people - to obtain valuable metadata based upon your location. Location-based business is the wave of the future, and we should encourage it.

Something's gotta give, as Bill Hartzer notes. Hartzer tells the story of a Tucson, Arizona-based online business that is establishing its online presence.

This local business owner set up a Google Plus account, verified Google Authorship, and set up the Google Local / Google Maps listing.

After a few weeks (complicated by the fact that Google didn't initially provide information), the business received this letter from Google.

From: local-help@google.com
Date: March 25, 2013 3:46:40 PM MST
To: XXXXX@XXXXXXXXX.com
Subject: RE: [8-XXXXXXXXXXXXXX] Google Places for Business Help

Hey,

Thanks for contacting the Google+ Local Team. We’ve looked at your account and it looks like your business is not eligible for display on Google Maps per our quality guidelines.

Specifically, do not create a listing or place your pin marker at a location where the business does not physically exist. P.O. Boxes are not considered accurate physical locations.

Check out our quality guidelines at this link to see what types of businesses we’re looking for on Google Maps: http://www.google.com/support/places/bin/answer.py?answer=107528

Thanks for your understanding. If you have any further questions or concerns I’d be happy to help.

Have a Good One,

Bruce
The Google+ Local Team


If you read Hartzer's post, you'll see that he has a couple of concerns. First, why did Google let the business go through this entire process, wait a month for a response, and then tell the business that it wasn't eligible? As far as Hartzer is concerned, the "problem" with the use of a UPS Store address could have been detected in the first day of applying; there was no need to string the customer along for a month.

Hartzer's second concern is that this prohibition of businesses without physical locations is haphazardly applied. There are a number of businesses listed on Google Local right now that do not have physical locations. Is Google going to remove those also? Or are they going to let those businesses get by, and just penalize the businesses that are caught?

I have a different concern.

Let's assume that Google got smart and was able to detect such businesses during the application process, and halt the application right there. Furthermore, let's assume that Google retroactively removed all businesses without physical locations - all of them.

What does this mean?

This means that Google Local and Google Maps are not definitive listings of local businesses.

Allow me to provide a self-serving example. If you survey the Empoprises blog empire, you will see that I author a blog called the Empoprise-IE Inland Empire blog. I'll admit that I don't pay as much attention to this blog as I do to some of my other blogs (but wait for my outstanding blog series that is scheduled to appear in July!), but the blog at least has the potential to offer coverage of events in the Inland Empire of California.

Yet, based upon the decision process outlined in Hartzer's post, it does not meet the quality standards required for a Google Local business listing.

OK, that's a bad example. But what about a security service that provides services to local customers?

Here's the Bing Local listing for ADT Security Services at 1030 North Mountain Avenue, Ontario, California.

It turns out that in this instance, there is no Google Local listing for ADT Security Services at 1030 North Mountain in Ontario.

So does that mean that Bing Local is the better source for information on local businesses? Perhaps. But there are other views in this Google+ thread. Pierre Johnson:

Why should a mapping service include phantom businesses? People use maps to find where places are located, so they can travel to those places.

Matthew Stone:

if i'm searching good maps, i'm looking to drive to something. if your place doesn't actually exist at that location, all you have done is pissed off a customer.
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