Google Places Bulk Upload Revamp: Banishing Custom Attributes

Google has rolled out some improvements to the Places bulk upload tool. From Google’s Blog:

“We’ve made many improvements and now enable the following actions:

  • Edit one or more of your listings’ data at once
  • Search through your listings, filtering by specific information or for listings with errors
  • Upload new listings using a data file or by adding them individually within the interface
  • Tell us how we can improve this new interface by clicking the “Give Feedback” link”

While the new bulk upload tool does seem to work more seamlessly now, Google has also quietly removed more functionality from Google Places.

Specifically, business owners are no longer able to add custom attributes to their business listings on Google Places.

From Google:

“Custom attributes from old data files
“Custom attributes are no longer supported in the new bulk listing interface. You should remove any custom attribute columns from your file before importing it into the new interface.”

Google has removed this functionality and scrapped any existing custom attributes from all listings. This means that fields such as Products, Services, Facebook Pages, Brands etc., are no longer permitted.

In short, Google no longer allows the business owner to tell them what their business is about in the Places listing details (aside from standard fields like category selection and description).

Google’s move away from custom attributes comes as no surprise given that these fields were dropped from the visible Places listings back in July ’11. However, Google’s previous stance was that these fields should still be included in listings on the back end; “it helps our system ensure that your organic listing appears and ranks appropriately on Google and Google Maps when potential customers perform searches related to your service.”

Now, Google relies more on the business owner’s website and on organic ranking triggers to tell them what a business is all about.

The removal of custom attributes resonates with Google’s Venice update in late February ‘12, which localized traditional organic results on broad search queries and placed more importance on organic search results as a ranking factor for local listings:

“Improved local results. We launched a new system to find results from a user’s city more reliably. Now we’re better able to detect when both queries and documents are local to the user.

“Improvements to ranking for local search results. [launch codename “Venice”] This improvement improves the triggering of Local Universal results by relying more on the ranking of our main search results as a signal.”

With these changes to Google Places and localized organic results at a national level, it’s clear that all businesses need to focus on local.

So take advantage of the Venice update; create unique, location-specific landing pages & website content and localize your link portfolio. At the same time, you’ll be getting past the hurdle of removed custom attributes. And as always, keep your Places listings fresh and up-to-date.

With all of these updates in Google, one thing is for certain: local has never been more important.

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