How the Google+Local Train Wreck Is Good for Business

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Yesterday the one and only Mike Blumenthal wrote a dead-on post about the TARFU situation that is Google+Local – which he aptly calls a “train wreck.”

Some of the lowlights he touched on included:

1.  The fact that Google hasn’t made it clear what’s happening to the old Google Places “Dashboard” or even whether the Google+ backed will become the only place you go to manage your Google listing(s).

2.  The recurring rash of “We currently do not support this location” error messages.

3.  Google’s failure to communicate what’s next­ – like when we can expect the transition to Google+ to be (somewhat) complete or when Google will allow businesses with many locations to integrate their Google+ for Business pages.

I agree with everything Mike said in that post…with one exception: A “train wreck” implies unmitigated disaster.  What’s going on with Google+Local doesn’t quite qualify as one of those, in my opinion.

Rather, I’d say that the problems in Google+Local are – in at least one strange way – good for business.  The problems provide a swift kick in the pants to pay attention to other parts of your online local visibility.

If have been or are rightly afraid of wrangling with Google’s shortcomings and bugs (some of which are more like Starship Troopers -type giant insects), you have a little more impetus to do things like:

  • List your business on as many third-party directory websites as possible.
  • Make sure your profiles on those sites have as much detail as you can muster.
  • Get reviews on as many other sites as possible.
  • Start building an email list.
  • Most important of all, beef up your website.  Add things like customer testimonials, tons of info that’s useful to potential customers and non-promotional (blogging is a good way to do this), and great feedback/analytics tools like CrazyEgg and Qualaroo (please tell me you already have Google Analytics!).

Yes, Google needs to get its act together sooner or later (or else eventually fewer people will use it and Google won’t make as much dinero from ads).

Yes, Google’s mismanagement can hurt real businesses – maybe yours – run by real people who need to bring home the bacon.

No, it’s not always fair.

Trust me, I know.  I wrangle with Google all day long.  I know how frustrating it is.

But I also know that if (for example) my rankings for this website went “poof” tomorrow, I’d still get plenty of new clients and plenty of people would still read my posts.

That’s partly because I focused on the “other stuff” literally years before I had any good rankings, or even a halfway decent website (a brief history of that here, in case you’re interested).

All of those “other” items I mentioned (above) are things I try to help many of my clients do, both before and after they get good Google rankings.

The fact is that any time you depend on any one way to get the phone to ring, you’re taking a risk.  Whether it’s Google+Local, or pay-per-click ads, or word-of-mouth.

I like to think of the blind samurai Zatoichi, from the films of the same name.  He’s blind, but all his other senses are so heightened that his sneaky, murderous foes don’t stand a chance.  His profound badassery wouldn’t exist without his blindness.

You absolutely should push to get visible in local Google.  But my point is you don’t want to push all your poker chips into it.

By the way, many of the to-do items I mentioned are key factors in your Google visibility anyway.  To the extent Google is “working” for you now – and certainly once you’ve gotten past whatever problems that have you down at the moment – those steps are likely to help your Google+Local rankings.

But regardless of how well Google is functioning, if you spend more time on the stuff you can completely control, you will get you in front of more local customers.

Scroll up, take a look at that list, and see how many items you can start knocking off today.

(Anything you’d add to the list?  Leave a comment!)



  1. Good can come out of bad, you’re totally right – diversify to mitigate the Google+ Local effect!
    ‘Other stuff’ is essential, even if Google+ Local were responsible for 100% of new customer referrals business owners shouldn’t go all-in with any one vector.

    Profound badassery! Nice yin to Mike’s yang.

    • Thanks for weighing in, Chris!

      Much of the “other stuff” is also essential for people who have good Google rankings. They can be pretty much useless if your website is just an online paperweight or if you’ve got no reviews or other types of social proof. The time to worry about “stickiness” and diversity is NOT when you’re gasping for customers. (I probably shoulda said that in the post, too!)

  2. Yes!
    I think I only disagree with one bullet in your list. And it’s not the bullet itself but rather its placement (if they were even ranked by importance.)

    Email. Email. Email.
    By far the most important, I believe.

    Thanks for the insight Phil!

    • Howdy Mike,

      Good call. Yeah, I didn’t organize the list in order of importance (probably should’ve, though). I’m with you, though: to me, email is the most important, with the website itself coming in a close 2nd. Again, I can say from first-hand experience that you can get the phone to ring by having good, helpful emails even if your site is blah. But even a great site that forces people either to “buy now!” or to leave and probably never return is a missed opportunity for everyone; email lets people stay in touch without being forced to make a choice.

      Thanks for stopping by!

  3. Hi Phil,

    Good post- good list! You invited items to add to the list…

    As you’ve pointed out a number of times, beefing up the content of your website with good information is a great way to boost traffic from ALL search engines.- and provides potential members of your email list. It also gives people a reason to link to your site.

    If you’re going to create information/articles/posts of your own, then Google Authorship should be on the agenda. You may as well build credibility in your field, because the higher your rating as an Author, the higher your ranking will be for the posts or articles that comprise your content.

    While you’re on the job of building your credibility, guest blogger gigs, or a regular trickle of posts in relevant blogs and forums will help things along.

    Best wishes,


    • Hi John,

      Great additions. I couldn’t agree more that getting your name “out there” – both for the eyes of Google and the eyes of readers / potential customers – is huge.

  4. Great post Phil, as usual. I try not to be a “sky is falling ” kind of guy so my take on Mike’s excellent post and some insightful comments there was this is hilarious. Google is either totally inept or this entire scenario is a carefully orchestrated scheme. As you alluded to here, trying to manage things you can’t control is a waste of time.
    My advice to clients, and I sometimes take my own advice, is to focus on as much low hanging fruit as possible. Just pick the stuff off the ground in the Google orchard and move on to some of those other plantations where they give you free access to some pretty tasty treats. In your lifetime you will never exhaust the supply of useful assets and resources not named Google.
    Thanks for the list Phil. I love the way you invoke scenes and imagery to make a point. Can you pick the answer to a question I’ve been wrestling with?
    This afternoon I want to do one of four things. Which is easiest?
    1. Visit the Moon.
    2.Split the atom.
    3. Land an ATV on Mars – in perfect fashion
    4. Fix Google + local
    Thanks Phil

    • Thanks a bunch for your thoughts, Chris. True stuff.

      Hey, I almost didn’t notice…one item on your list doesn’t belong there. You can cross of “visit the moon.” That was way too easy for the list 🙂


  1. Is Google Local Really this Broken? Who’s in Charge? What’s the Solution?…

    Phil Rosek, just wrote a great follow up to Mike’s post. How the Google+Local Train Wreck Is Good for Business | I agree with everything Mike said in that post……

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