Google Adds Posts to Local Branded Search Results

Google has been expanding the branded local search results. Most recently (last November timeframe) they added an About tab that included corporate information, often a link to wikipedia or the main corporate about us page and social links Today I started seeing the inclusion of a Posts Tab in these results.

Interestingly this is NOT the long awaited multi-location posting product but rather a way to show the Posts that originated from the local agents.

In this spotted example (mobile only) the Post shown under the tab is the post from the #1 listing. None of the other listings have posts so it is still unclear what would show if other locations had posted.

Would it just show posts from the top 3?

Would it dig deeper and show posts from the top 10 listings?

Did the local listing rank #1 because of the post?

Not yet sure.

Note the Posts tab between the Locations and About tabs ABOVE the map.

Heck and who knows maybe this is a precursor the long promised, naught delivered multi-location Post product.

If you see this in the wild and can share examples with more than one post I would love to see them.

Here is what the Post looks like in the search result: Continue reading Google Adds Posts to Local Branded Search Results

Bed & Breakfasts Forced to “Suck Hind Teat” at Google

Tim Capper pointed out a few weeks ago How Google Exploits the Hospitality Industry for Profit.  Bed and Breakfasts are effectively treated as hotels on Google so they have to put up with all of that and then some.

Growing up my father raised dogs. When there was a new litter, the runt was often forced to the rear and maybe not able to get any “love” at all. My father would say: “They are sucking hind teat“. As Wiktionary points out it is a colloquialism that variously means:

  • To feed from an inferior source of food.
  • To be the youngest or most neglected child.
  • To be last in line.

Bed & Breakfast operations are certainly all of that when it comes to Google and the hotel industry.

What got me thinking about this was a forum post that Joy Hawkins pointed out to me where the owners asks:

My GMB page has a blue Book a Room button that takes viewers to 3rd party booking engines. I want people to go to MY website and book, so I don’t have to pay the 15% commission. My website booking engine doesn’t even show up on the list!

How can I have my booking engine show up as top choice – or even better as the only choice?

The short answer; you can’t. At least not easily and certainly not without consequences. The long answer is even worse.

From Tim Capper:

Firstly you will need to contact all the OTAs ( Online Travel Sites ) and ask them to remove your hotel from their platforms.

Then for your own bookings to appear, you will either need to integrate your own booking system with Google Hotels API or use one of the parner booking sites.

Once integrated, you can then use Google Hotel Ads to Bid on your own rooms >> Yes you still have to pay Google to have your own bookings appear.

The thing you need to consider before removing yourself from all the OTA sites, is can you afford to do this – how visible is your website and GMB listing in organic searches. In other words, will people find you without using an OTA ?

What does Tim mean about visibility? Well it turns out that if you manage to get the booking button removed, your listing will literally sink to the bottom of the heap and show much less as the algo is tuned to show those listings with OTA availability.

Here is what Lisa Kolb of Acorn Internet Services, who specializes in the digital marketing for the B & B space, told me:

Regarding this sentence: “The problem is that if you stop working with OTAs your listing shows a whole bunch less in search as the algo is tuned to show availability.”

When a property chooses to NOT provide their availability to any OTA, their competitors who do provide availability typically show up HIGHER, based on the dates selected by the surfer. Thus the Non-Participating OTA property doesn’t show up less, they just show up lower in the Local Listings (typically below those that do have availability for the search dates).

This is such a complex issue for hotels and B&B’s. Their OTA strategy must be highly refined because that OTA reach isn’t just to Google (which is a biggie), it’s to other products such as some B&B directories, and also Trip Advisor (another biggie). And how you make (or don’t make) your property available ultimately filters down to each of these other systems, and can seriously affect your bookings.

Starting a B & B’s is often an act of love and not a totally rational business decisions. They often are shy of resources and have difficulty navigating the vagaries of the online world. Worse, they can’t very well afford to pay the highway ransoms that OTAs charge (25-50% of the booking fee). And yet they are stuck in this unenvious position by Google.

I think that you would agree that in affect they are forced to suck hind teat.

Google Insights – Queries used to find your business

I just saw this Google My Business Insight feature: Queries used to find your businessSend feedback. Per Google these are “The most popular queries for your business by unique users”

I have been on a trip for the past week and less than observant of Insights so this could have shown up at any point and I wouldn’t have known.

That being said it appears that it is a useful upgrade to Insights. They currently are only showing for 1 month and 1 week but they seem to surface the kind of detail that has been harder and harder to find from Google:

Let me know how long you have been seeing this, if you have been seeing this, whether you find the data useful and how you might use it.

Google Confirms Removal of Anonymous Reviews

Google has confirmed that anonymous reviews have in fact been removed from public view. Their statement to me:

“We do not allow anonymous reviews today and we’ve removed legacy anonymous reviews.”

If you recall, on May 24th, I reported their disappearance with the article Google Stops Counting Anonymous Reviews?.

Given the obvious angst that many small businesses were expressing, I reached out to Google for a comment and possible confirmation.  I received that today.

I tried to get it sooner and it wasn’t for a lack of trying on my part. But Google, in their (not so) infinite wisdom was unable to get me a statement.

In many ways, Google has become a more mature company in local  than the Google of old. As noted by David Mihm and I on Streetfight they have actively moved to develop and market their product on many fronts at once. They continue to roll out new features at a rapid pace and have improved dramatically in their ability to communicate to the small business owner.

And yet, when a small business reaches out to me proactively wondering, and many more asked me privately and on my blog for word, Google was not willing to share any details.

Obviously honest communication is KEY to a long term relationship that they might hope to develop with largely distrustful small business folks, These folks have been conditioned by Google to expect products to be pulled out of the market willy nilly and to not feel totally comfortable developing a strategic relationship with Google. This holds true for larger multi location businesses as well.

And yet most of the evidence points to a Google that has worked hard to “clean up its act”…. more reliable product fixes, regular roll outs, improved communications etc etc etc.

So why was it so hard for them to send a simple statement confirming the obvious?

As much as they have changed, they are still evolved from the Google culture. This culture, largely secretive and engineering driven, thinks that their actions have little impact and thus don’t have to be explained.

And yet in this case, while the aggregate impact of removing anonymous reviews is likely not large, the distribution of that impact is not even. Barbara Oliver, who started engaging her clients with Google reviews in 2009 lost 18% of her reviews. She felt like she worked hard both earning those reviews and in reaching out to customers. Way too hard to just lose them on a moments notice.

From her pov, and I agree, if Google has good reason to remove anonymous reviews  then the least is that Google owes her an alert and hopefully an explanation.

That didn’t happen in this case. When will we know that Google has moved on from their teenager mentality? We will know when Google understands and fully integrates the idea that they have a huge impact on the lives of small businesses folks and those folks, by virtue of embracing Google, deserve timely and honest communications.

On the one hand I am a bit of a Google fan boy when I see the largely positive impact that local search has on small local businesses. And yet for every cool free feature that moves them two steps forward in the local space, they inevitably remind me with a step back that they still don’t fully understand the world in which they have chosen to play.

May they become adults sooner rather than later.

Mike B Around the InterWebs

From GetFiveStars, a new post about two business that are suing because of reviews (always a fascinating topic to me):  Reviews & Lawsuits – You Can Win for Losing and You Can Lose for Winning       

From LocalU, my weekly conversation with Mary Bowling: Important Links from Last Week in Local – June 11

From Streetfight with David Mihm (last week): Google’s Local Improvements—Posts Become Essential, and Mike Wins the Bet!

From Local U, a great discussion about how to interact with industry spokespeople. Also last week: Video Deep Dive: “Reading the Industry” – Discussion with Willys Devoll

Google to Roll Out “See What’s In Store” as a Free Knowledge Panel Feature

Yesterday, Sergey Alakov and SearchEngineRountable reported a new siting in the Local Knowledge Panel: See What’s in Store.

Today, Google has announced on Inside AdWords that as part if its new inventory feed program, See What’s in Store will be a free feature.

From the Adwords Blog post:

Onboarding to both local catalog ads and local inventory ads is now much easier for retailers of all sizes with the new local feed partnership program. The new program allows point-of-sale or inventory data providers, like Cayan, Pointy, Linx and yReceipts, to provide sales and inventory data to Google on behalf of merchants, so they don’t have to create their own local product feeds. As an additional benefit, retailers can showcase their local inventory for free on the “See What’s In Store” feature on the search knowledge panel.

Google My Business Guidelines are Like Traffic Signals to New Yorkers – A (Very) Rough Suggestion

To paraphrase David Letterman, Google My Business Guidelines are like traffic signals to New Yorkers… just a rough suggestion.

Google clearly states in the guidelines that “your name should reflect your business’ real-world name, as used consistently on your storefront, website, stationery, and as known to customers. Accurately representing your business name helps customers find your business online….Including unnecessary information in your business name is not permitted, and could result in your listing being suspended.”

In this case the definition of “should” and “could” are sort of like Clinton and his verbal gymnastics around what the meaning of the word “is” is. Like “is” with Clinton, the words “should” and “could” do in fact have meaning in both objective reality and in the Google My Business Guidelines. The only problem is that they are different in both places. And it isn’t clear that Google ever plans to inform us of their intended meaning.

How do I know and many small businesses know this? Experience.

The telling example that comes to mind is a jeweler near Toronto. About once per quarter I blog about this and about once every month or two or three I edit their listing to the actual name, it gets approved and then shortly there after it returns to its adopted name. It’s quite an adoption too. It includes brothers, sisters and the kitchen sink as “Glitz Jewellery Boutique” becomes “Glitz Jewellery Boutique – Engagement rings, diamond jewellery and gifts in Vaughan” shortly after my many interventions.

For the record my edits have been approved by Google SIX times. The owners of the listing are probably swearing at Google for the ever changing suggestion in their GMB. Well at least they are visiting it often.

My only wish in this whole sisyphean tale is that my Local Guide edits counted as frequent flier miles instead of just the lame points I do accrue. I could at least be close to a vacation in some exotic place by now.

 

Another Interesting Google Local Result Test -> Interesting Finds

The search “restaurants in Mountain View” seems to be returning interesting test of late. Yesterday we saw a feature snippet, schema driven list replace the local pack.

In this test we Interesting Finds supplement the pack.

These were first spotted by Barry Schwartz at SearchEngineRountable in early April in the context of a Mother’s day search.

According to Barry these results “are AMP pages, with top carousel markup, so the images look good and the content loads fast on click.

It does look like not all of those results are powered by AMP, such as the bottom left one. But it does seem most are, which is why there are AMP icons on three of the four results.”

In the example below not all of the results are amp either. This is the first time that I have seen them in the context of a local search.

Google Local After Antitrust – Careful What You Wish For

In the EU and the US, Yelp has been actively seeking to get regulators to look at Google’s behaviors in local and to change the search results to stop favoring Google’s own local results.

Yelp’s Luther Lowe noted:

When a mother does a search for a pediatrician in Berlin, instead of being matched with rich review content from a service like German startup Jameda.de, Google siphons her to a degraded local experience with fewer reviews and less content. In addition to being anticompetitive, this type of conduct directly harms consumers who still assume Google is relying on its meritocratic algorithms to govern which information appears at the top of the page.

Yelp’s argument has long been that their results are better than Google’s and that those Yelp results should not be benched and effectively supplanted with Google’s own Knowledge Panel.

There are problems with that argument. Ben Thompson of Stratechery noted that if you follow that argument Yelp might actually, in getting their wish, end up reinforcing Google’s lead by effectively improving Google’s local product and thus cement their position as an aggregator.

This Google Local test surfaced on my phone yesterday and clearly demonstrates the point. This test, first noted on SearchEngineRoundtable where it surfaced in the context of a featured snippet for the search “top online marketers”, shows how there are a number of ways to skin the cat of local search results on Google.

Click to view larger

When you click through to the results for one of the restaurants you see a similar carousel with organic results and review totals for the selected restaurant. Only after a second click the “More about Chez TJ” call to action does a searcher finally get to the local Knowledge Panel.

Click to view larger

Yelp has always contended that their results were better than Google’s. And while that may be the case, it is arguable that they are no longer better than OpenTable or TripAdvisor. Where would that leave Yelp? Probably worse off than they are now, buried in the hinterlands of organic search, fewer reviews than OpenTable, with no reason for a consumer to click on their result. And nothing left to complain about.

Google Posts Testing More Visual Display

Petra Kraft, a long time Local SEO and careful observer in the hospitality space, noticed an interesting test in Google Posts.

She found a Knowledge Panel where Google was showing six posts using the primary image and a text over lay and the abilitly to see more via a right arrow.

This is one of may tests and upgrades to Post of late:

Currently the posts show in a mini carousel but with only two posts and the immediate call to action showing.

In a similar vein Ellen Edmands noted that she was now seeing (obviously also a test) a link to previous posts in the desktop Knowledge Panel (it has been like that in mobile for a while):

Of all of the products introduced to Local over the past year, Posts is both the most generally useful and the one with the most obvious on-going development. Google has introduced a range of new CTAs  with things like product posts (reported by Ben Fisher of SteadyDemand):

Posts is an interesting product in many ways. When introduced a year ago, it is really the first time that businesses could write directly to search. It is a super easy way to stream content that is both free and likely to be seen. As such it’s a great way for Google to get on-going SMB engagement with the GMB dashboard, obtain long tail location information AND to position Google in their battle with Facebook. While Facebook reduces organic reach of post ever further closer to zero in an asymptotic fashion, Google is providing increasing visibility.

It is also interesting in that it offers a way for agencies to provide regular and valuable posting and creative services to SMBs by implementing a regular Post regime. In that regard, Google, in providing agencies with a clear income opportunity & by making the product available via the API, seems to be having a change of heart and  thinking vis a vis agencies large and small.

As a note for those of you looking for ways to execute an agency strategy with Posts, SteadyDemand has recently released a full service white label approach to Posts and CitationManagerPro has created a Posts scheduling dashboard for those agencies desirous of doing it themselves.

Developing Knowledge about Local Search