That’s one of my recent tweets, inspired by seeing early reports of local businesses getting their “Favorite Place” decals from Google. It’s also inspired, I suppose, by a bit of envy … because my wife, a real estate agent, is probably not going to be honored like these other local business owners are. In fact, I doubt very many real estate agents will be honored, nor plumbers, nor any local business that attracts phone calls more than in-person store visits.
Don’t get me wrong. I think the “Favorite Places” program is a pretty smart idea on Google’s part, and as I said in this post about Google PlaceRank, I think it’s a Good Thing for local businesses to show off those decals prominently. But the problem is with…
How to Become a Favorite Place
Google’s help pages describe how to become a favorite place:
“The list was determined based on the popularity of a business’ Local Business Center listing, as determined by how many times Google users looked for more information about a business, requested driving directions to get there, and more. Google users “decided” based on their actions, and we sent the decals.”
And there’s the problem: It’s all based on how Google users interact with the Local Business Center listing. But some local businesses are very limited in that. You don’t usually need directions to:
- real estate agents
- fence installers/repair companies
- construction companies
- appliance repair shops
- carpet cleaners
- janitorial services
- snow removal companies
- many more
People won’t click for directions for those local businesses, and they may not click on anything. They’ll just pick up the phone and place a call, and Google has no record of that (for now, at least).
A Real Estate Agent Example
As I say, I happen to know a local real estate agent pretty well and have access to her Local Business Center stats. Here’s what they look like as of an hour ago:
(Sorry for blacking out some numbers; there are other local real estate agents who read this blog and I don’t think they need to know Cari’s exact LBC stats.)
That covers May 1, 2009 (when Google began storing this data) through December 7, 2009. Cari’s LBC listing has impressions that are in 5-figures (i.e., above 10,000). The number of actions is 3-figures. But in more than six months, only four times has someone clicked for directions. Four times.
As it stands now, Google’s program is biased toward local businesses that need foot traffic to survive. Maybe a rethink on the qualifications is in order, or perhaps a separate designation for local businesses that rely on phone calls more than clicks for driving directions.
No one ever said marketing is fair, and I know the playing field is never really level … but it sure would be nice for all small businesses to have a shot at getting Google’s blessing as a “Favorite Place.”