Last year in his verbal testimony to US Senate Judiciary Subcommittee Yelp’s CEO stated that “the experience in my industry is telling: Google forces review websites to provide their content for free to benefit Google’s own competing product – not consumers. Google then gives its own product preferential treatment in Google search results.”

The verbal testimony delivered by Yelp’s CEO was very charitable because Google doesn’t only give preferential treatment to their own products; they promote half-baked products that hurt scores of businesses, particularly small businesses.

Google Places is an absolute nightmare, full of problems and glitches yet Google has integrated it in their “organic” search results.

No such thing as “organic results”:

There is no such thing as “organic” or “natural” unbiased results on Google anymore, almost. Google is using what we knew as “organic” results to promote its own products i.e. Google Places, Google Maps, Google Books, Youtube and their rather unsuccessful attempt at social networking, Google+.

Take a look at most search results and figure out how much real estate Google uses for its own products and be the judge yourself or take a look at the example below – the entire page is full of Google properties. 

Question for Google:

Have you ever considered how bad Google Places/Map listings are for users and businesses?

You keep going on about “user experience” but are turning a blind eye when it comes to the elephant in the room! Here is the latest “user experience” sermon from Google’s Matts Cutts, “I wanted to clarify a quick point: when people search for a phone number and land on a page like the one below, it’s not really useful and a bad user experience.”

Google Places is full of bugs:

There are countless examples of Google Places/Map Listing errors and bugs. Mike Blumenthal has created a list of current bugs in Google Places and Google Places dashboard. This is not a complete list of Google Places bugs, I have seen a lot of weird bugs and problems with Google Places that are not included in Mike’s list.

Try this query and you will see the following result (see screen shot). Take  a closer there is no telephone number next to the worthing-martinco.co.uk results in the map listing. Now take a look at the normal result below it and you will see the corresponding telephone number.

Now take a look at the actual Google Places listing for this business, see below. The phone number is not there at all and the business owner has tried for months to rectify this issue. They have submitted countless “report a problem” tickets to Google but nothing has been done about this! When the business owner changes the business details in the Google Places dashboard the change doesn’t reflect anywhere, it has been months. They have tried the so called troubleshooter “My Listing has incorrect information” but still no luck.

Is this what Google calls good user experience? If you can’t fix these issues why are you including a half-baked product in to the so called “organic” results? You can’t fix it, businesses don’t have any control to rectify it either!

Google Places landing pages:

Let me give you another example to show you that this is not an isolated case, infact it is not even the worst case! Below is another example, again this is another letting agent and this business has reported issues for months without any luck! Take a closer look and you will see that cinema events are included in the Places page. Cinema “upcoming events” in a estate agent’s business listing? User experience!!?

 

It doesn’t stop there, for the same business listing, Google includes cinema’s reviews which means all the negative reviews for that cinema are associated to this estate agent’s business, see below.

Google, you have not fixed these issues. When these issues are reported, you don’t fix them! No body expects you to fix things the moment a report has been submitted but this is getting silly! You are hurting businesses and you know it!