|by Mary Kelly Gaebel, Reputation Management Specialist|
|This month, Google announced that the upgraded interface that will replace the Google Places Dashboard is now available for new users. This long-awaited update brings a new look and feel to Google Places for Business and is designed to make it easier to edit your business listing and track the status of those edits--- something that has been long overdue and eagerly anticipated.|
As an automotive reputation management specialist, I work closely with my clients to monitor, manage and edit their listings, drive traffic to them, and keep them updated with fresh content.
I can tell you that I’ve seen it all; from merged listings, to deleted listings, to reviews disappearing and more! It's been a labyrinth of pain, frustration, escalations, hours spent in the Google forums, and hair pulling. So you can imagine that my initial reaction to the new update was one of relief and excitement.
The updated dashboard will be rolled out for existing businesses in phases. In the meantime, Google encourages current Google Places Business users to...
"Sit tight and continue to use Google Places for Business to update and edit your listing. The update currently affects new users only. Please do not make new accounts/pages for listings that already exist. Please know that the update will be gradually rolling out to existing Google Places for Business users like you in the coming weeks." - Google
While we wait, I've done some research on this topic and here are my takeaways. Overall, the change will be a good thing. However, be warned. It's not perfect. Not just yet. You still may find yourself in the Google product forums suffering through the occasional hair pull. Let's look at the not-so-good news first.
The Less Than Ideal News
No Custom Categories
Categories are a factor in Google's determination of the relevance of a business listing. With the new updates there is no longer the option to have custom categories--- instead Google will provide a fixed list of choices.
No More Enhanced Data
No More Videos... Kind of
Video uploading will only be available if your business has a Google+ Local page in ADDITION to a Google+ profile. If you want videos, start getting familiar with Google+.
Photo Publishing Still Delayed
There was hope that the new and improved dashboard would allow for photos to be uploaded much quicker. But it looks like it will still be weeks until your newly added photos will be published.
No Improvement to Hours Listings
It's been requested over and over to allow for split and seasonal hours, but this enhancement did not address this concern.
Now the GOOD News
Better Integration with Google Products
Several of the new features in the dashboard make it clear that Google intends to continue fighting for a larger chunk of the social medium, hoping to compete with the likes of Facebook, all while keeping Google products relevant and top of mind. That's good news for business owners as the new dashboard will offer a one button Google+ page set-up AND manager widget, a Google Adwords Express widget, and a Google offers widget--- all together in the same place!
"The upgraded interface is simpler and more intuitive, so the process of updating your business information is quick and easy." - Google
Edits will go live faster
Most edits made via the upgraded user interface now appear within 48 hours! (with the exception of photos)
Status Updates for Edits Now Available
The updated dashboard will now notify you when edits need to be approved and/or are pending. I can't tell you how excited I am about this feature. It means I can now rest assured that my edits are not getting lost in the Google abyss and I can now communicate to my clients about more accurate timelines for when edits will be published.
Throughout the dashboard you will find several visual cues in various places that alert you to the status of your edits. If you've ever waited 6-8 weeks to simply update say, a business category, and wondered if Google ever really got the changes, now you'll have proof that you're not crazy--- you did make the edits and Google did receive them.
A New Widget to Help You Optimize Your Listing
In the new dashboard, you'll get an "at a glance" view of how much more you need to add to your listing to have a fully optimized business profile. Having a complete online business profile is not only customer friendly, but SEO friendly as well.
Drag & Drop Functionality
While it will still take time for photos to upload, there is more ease now to adding photos.
No More 200 Character Limit
The 200 character limit in the description field has been removed and you can now add rich text. There is also the ability to add links to your description.
Even though the option of custom categories has been removed, businesses will be allowed to select up to 10 categories with this new upgrade, as opposed to 5 in the old dashboard.
More Contact Options
Notice that chat, AIM and the option to add more contact info have been added.
Multi Business Management Interface
This is big. A business can no longer be claimed into multiple accounts. Once a second business has been entered, the user is shown a multi business management tool. This is amazing, as it appears you’ll be able to not only manage your business listings, but the Google+ pages for those businesses as well--- all in one place and with one log-in!
Have you ever experienced the "respond to review" feature missing from your listing, disappearing right when there's a negative review that needs a business comment stat? Often times the respond feature is removed when businesses have multiple log-ins and it's not clear to Google as to who the owner of the account is. The person who last logged in becomes the owner of the listing and is the only one who can respond to reviews, regardless of whether you also have access to the listing. This simple change will alleviate a big frustration. It also means no more multiple log-in screens and passwords to edit and manage all of your Google properties--- a big time saver.
For help & more information, visit the Google Forum to get your questions asked and answered! Also be sure to always check what Mike Blumenthal, local search and all things Google expert, is up to. Much appreciation to Mike for most of the images of this new roll out. For a complete visual walkthrough, check out Blumenthal’s visual guide blog post.
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About the Author
|Mary Kelly Gaebel is a Reputation Management Specialist at Cobalt, proactively monitoring and managing dealerships' online reputations while working with dealers to increase dealership awareness and branding via social media outlets. She has a B.A. in Communications from the University of Washington. Feel free to reach out to Mary Kelly directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.|