I’m a big believer in the Google Places model and what it can and SHOULD be… but I’ve been a vocal critic of the buggy beta-like tech problems, faulty data scraping mechanism and total lack of support for small businesses.

Google Places Help However I can finally say I see a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel. It’s my sincere hope that what I experienced this week is an indication of more good things to come from Google Places in the near future.

I had a VERY insightful and eye-opening call with a Google Places employee yesterday. Even though I’m not going to share any trade secrets will keep many of the things we discussed in detail, under my hat, I think it’s best that the person I talked to remain nameless. So for short, I will call this person Agent A – A for AWESOME! 😉

The 1st thing that impressed me, is that Agent A was not a bot, but a real person that truly cares about small businesses who are trying to harness the power of Google Places. Agent A says that Google cares too. That her heart is in the right place and she is trying very hard to make Google Places better for all and that many plans are in the works. (I’ve always called Google a she – don’t know why, but it makes more sense with GP, now that Marissa is at the helm.)

Agent A told me many things that were encouraging. Like the fact that Google has really been cracking down on and closing down some of the scammy LOCAL SEO companies that say they are WITH Google or HIJACK Place Pages or in other ways try to take advantage of small businesses. Those guys give us all a bad name! Like the fact that their internal metrics are not just based on how much money they bring in, but the quality of calls and how much time they spend trying to help customers with Google Places, Tags and Boost.

Agent A also told me there is an increased commitment at Google to work with ethical marketers, local SEOs and consultants that are trying to do things right and G wants them to form relationships with us and to help us help our Google Places clients

He helped me with a client that had been rejected and then ‘pending review’ due to his keywords being part of his REAL business name. Totally legit client, a your start up Pediatric Dentist, with a DBA and practice license in that name and the whole nine yards. He explained a little about the inner workings and the fact that there was not a whole lot he could do, but he did escalate it, to try to get the attention of the review team.

I asked a lot of questions about Boost, because I just have not had time to look into it. Plus as I explained to him – due to the myriad of problems all my clients have with dupes and other bugs, I (like other consultants I know) advise clients NOT to add Tags or Boost because I don’t have time to add one more thing into the mix that could possibly create more problems.

After my call, I’m going to start recommending Tags to all my clients – as long as I know I now have Agent A to work with, if problems come up. Plus I’m going to get a couple clients to test Boost so I can track the results. One of my clients is a big Adwords spender, so we have some history and a decent ad spend to work with, so will track the results and see what happens.

I’ll try to blog soon about some of the cool things Agent A taught me about Boost and the different ways it can benefit local advertisers. I certainly didn’t realize some of the major advantages or would have been recommending Boost to my clients and blog readers all along!

FYI when I told a couple of the Google Places pros I refer leads out to about this experience, one practically screamed “Linda, you’ve reached the inner sanctum! I’ve been doing Places for years and have never been able to break through to talk to a real person.” The other said “Wowser, you just hit the Motherload!” I told them both pros to get all their clients on Tags and/or Boost. That it was worth it just to have a rep to work with. I’m glad Google is starting to realize that consultants like us can be their best allies and their BIGGEST sales force, if we can all work together to help local businesses!

In summary, since Google just announced they are offering phone support for Adwords customers, I’m hopeful that at some point support for Google Places could be coming as well. No one needs it more than all these small businesses. And if Google Places support ever does come, I hope everyone at Google is as helpful and knowledgeable as Agent A.