Google’s Local Business Center Should Allow Shared Users

Note to Google – this should be a priority for 2010

Update: It’s now 2011 and still no shared user access :(

I  believe that business owners should own and control their online data. Or as much as is possible. Google generally feels the same way and recommends that business owners claim and verify their own listings in Maps.Too many small business owners are not getting this message.

Why Google does not have a shared user system, like it currently uses in products like Google Adwords and Google Analytics, baffles me.

What I see happening, too often in fact, is marketing agencies, SEO’s, and whatnot creating, claiming and verifying listings on behalf of clients from within the agencies LBC accounts. This makes it much easier for the agency to manage their clients info, and, as a fair number of  small business owners are a tad handicapped when it comes to just about anything computer related, it’s also easier for the business owner to have someone else handle it for them. But it poses many problems. Some big nasty ones, in my opinion, that create significant business risk.

Risks Associated with Not Controlling your Own Google Maps Listing

  • Being Held Hostage by Marketing Companies – read that as “keep paying monthly or we delete your listing”.
  • Lack of Transportability – Must create new account and listing, wait for a data merge, then delete old listing. Potential 2+ week disruption.
  • Unable to Make Your Own Changes when you Need To or Want To – Don’t like your description? Want to add new hours or payment methods? No can do.
  • Open to Spammy Abuses by Unscrupulous Agencies or Amateurs – these could get your listing penalized at some point.
  • Potential for Duplication of Listings – multiple internet yellow pages type sites are adding Google Maps marketing up-sells, where they create maps listings and/or are using their own call tracking numbers. eeek!

Any of these could cause a noticeable drop in rankings for anywhere from a few days, a few weeks or a few months.

Risks of Having to Share Login Info

You should not share your Google Account with others. Whoever you share your Google Account login info to has access to all your Google services. That includes your Gmail, where you may have private information in your inbox, Google Adwords where you are spending money on advertising, Google Docs where you may have important documents such as business plans, etc…

Sharing your login info to allow a 3rd party to “optimize” your Maps listing should only be done after you’ve established some level of trust with that 3rd party. Even then you should probably change your password to a temporary one, for while they have access, then change back to your preferred one and lock them out after they are done. Note, while that third party has access it is possible for them to change passwords and lock you out!

That said I often have clients send me login info so I can set things up for them. But I’m upfront about making them aware of what it means and what I have access too. In cases where the client does not yet have a Google Account yet I go through the process of setting one up, creating an iGoogle page, Analytics, Local Business Center, and in some cases Adwords. Show them how it all works then tell them how to change the password so they then have control.

Keep Business Accounts Separate from Personal Google Accounts

A tip to business owners. Keep your business data separate from your personal data. This includes your Google accounts. Google recommends this too. At some point you may need to share login info regarding business stuff, or in the future when you sell your business, you want to be able to easily transfer ownership of business data online.

Ideally The LBC Should have Shared User Access Functions

This would solve a number of problems while still allowing agencies and SEO’s to manage things efficiently. Google already has the infrastructure in place. A simple cut and paste of code from Adwords or Analytics, some tweaks to apply it to the LBC, and presto, shared user capabilities.

I worry about the many naive small business owners facing the growing onslaught from mediocre quality and sometimes outright exploitative companies working towards scaling local SEO to capture the big market where those naive and spendthrift people lie.

I see some “local SEO agencies” springing out of the multi-level marketing (MLM) world and it makes me shudder. Not to mention those springing up outside of North America and Europe. That’s not meant to be a xenophobic/racist comment by any means. I’m just generally not comfortable with the quality of service coming out of certain parts of world where tech labor is abundant on the cheap. Also many larger agencies don’t apply any sort of exclusivity on their service and offer the same services to local competitors, and thus are privy to your performance data which can than be applied to assist your direct competitors.

Google Maps team, get on it!

7 Comments on “Google’s Local Business Center Should Allow Shared Users”

Will Scott on January 4th, 2010 wrote:

Steve,

Great post!

The way we deal with this is to create a new Google account and claim the listing with that. We then share the login information with our clients.

This way our clients have control. We can be kicked out if they change the password and it means that to some extent we’re carrying the risk. And, we have more of a challenge in maintaining multiple IDs on behalf of our clients.

And, of course, we don’t have ownership of those accounts as a switching cost.

That said, it’s totally worth it. We are much more interested in a relationship based on trust than one built on manufactured control.

I’m expecting great things from your new site!

Looks good,
Will

Andrew Shotland on January 4th, 2010 wrote:

Welcome back to the jungle Stever!

SearchCap: The Day In Search, January 5, 2010 on January 5th, 2010 wrote:

[...] Google LBC Accounts Should Allow Shared Users, GEO Local SEO [...]

Transfering Ownership of Local Listings in Google Maps | GEO Local SEO on January 6th, 2010 wrote:

[...] I recommended that Google should be allowing shared user access in the LBC [...]

Portland Marketing Company on April 1st, 2011 wrote:

GREAT CALL HERE. We searched for “claim map listing lock out previous account” because we want to claim a customer’s account into a new Gmail account for them – as a responsible agency (just like Steve above us in the comments). Our concern is that the previous agency won’t be locked out of that listing – and can undo any changes we implement… DOH! What do you recommend there?

Stever on April 2nd, 2011 wrote:

If the previous agency logs back in and happens to edit anything, then their version now takes over again. I’ve also seen cases where the new account that has re-verified again ends up getting suspended while the old account the biz can’t get its hands on stays active.

At the moment I don’t really know what the solution is. I mean Google does not yet have a satisfactory solution to address this and that’s a shame.

Keeping Control of your Local SEO Assets | Search Engine People | Toronto on April 13th, 2011 wrote:

[...] create a shared user access system like that of some of its other products. I recommended that this should be a priority for Google, at the beginning of last year, but still nothing is in [...]

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