A Place To Hang My Hat … Where Do I Go, Google?

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If you run a business that sells products or services out of a physical location and don’t have your Google Local Business Center listing by now, you’re out of luck. No more Local Business Center. But, never fear, it’s just been renamed, not removed. I bet that got your attention, but it was a mean joke, so I’m sorry for using such a cheap trick.

The fact remains, though, that if you haven’t yet secured the business listing on Google for your firm, you need to do so and there’s no time like the present. Google has just changed the name of the program to “Google Places” and added some cool bells and whistles to the program at the same time, so it’s even more imperative that you stake your claim on your place on Google Maps. Information on all the basics of the program can be found here.

What’s interesting about this is that although Google has made the name change announcement and released all the details, the actual domain name that most people would think will take them to it won’t lead you there (or to anywhere Google itself) for a few more days. Google had to obtain that domain — “googleplaces.com” — through a ruling from the National Arbitration Forum, which it did so on April 14th after filing a complaint March 2. As anyone who has transferred a domain knows, the transfer itself can take 10 days or more.

It’s strange that Google didn’t wait until the domain was directed to a Google-owned URL in order to launch the Google Places brand. At the moment, the company that originally had the domain still has control, and consequently, anyone typing in the domain name “googleplaces.com” goes to a parked page full of links that lead to other links that lead to other links, all with ads scattered on the pages to entice clickthroughs and impressions that undoubtedly are providing cash to the company that — one can only assume — is in the process of transferring the domain to Google.

Why did Google not wait until the transfer had completely taken place before making the announcement about Google Places? Certainly they realized that people looking to set up their business would be tempted to type in “googleplaces.com” rather than navigate through the structure on the Google home page. There’s plenty of current research indicating that searchers are increasingly prone to typing a URL in directly, so it’s only logical to think that some people are going to do so in an attempt to access the Google program once they’ve heard the new name is Google Places. Those searchers are going to wind up confused and heaven only knows if they’ll eventually figure out how to get to the real Google Places. They may even wind up clicking on some links on the parked page and inadvertently put pennies in the original domain owner’s pockets. Given that we’re talking about a misunderstanding involving Google, those pennies can turn into big bucks if enough people are confused in the next week or so.

Personally, I think Google should have waited until the domain name had been completely transferred and then redirect the page to its final resting place at “google.com/places.” Otherwise, it almost looks like Google doesn’t care as much as they claim to about discouraging this kind of “bad faith” setup. Bad move, Google.

While we wait for this to be resolved, take a gander at the National Arbitration Forum’s posting of their decision which lays out the info on the original owner of the domain, Google’s claim, and the reasoning behind the finding by the arbitration panel. It’s interesting. I wonder who “Anthonny c/o Network Service” really is. And, if you really haven’t claimed your Local Business Listing from the old Local Business Center, head to the new Google Places (www.google.com/places) and get the ball rolling. There’s lots of new features for local listings that are available, and it’s crazy not to take advantage of what is (still) a free posting on the most popular search engine in the world!

About the Author

Frances Krug has worked in market research since graduating from UCLA with an MA and CPhil in Latin American history. As an editor and online content provider for the last 7 years, she currently is Associate Editor at iNET Interactive, where she also directs Search Marketing Standard's email marketing program.

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