For the past several weeks Google seemed to have had its heart set on screwing up Knowledge Panel and Local Finder Business Photo display. That apparently was in anticpation of a new, more attracitve display of both images and interior views that is slowly rolling out.
Spotted by Segey Alakov, a Toronto SEO, the new display is currently showing in the Local Finder but has not yet fully migrated to the Knowledge Panel.
While most images in the Knowledge Panels goto to a single image when clicked, those Knowledge Panels that still show the “See photos” label are now working correctly like this search for busch gardens tampa.
It provides direct access to the new image carousel when clicked:
The new photo carousel, when fully working, also integrates Streetview directly into the same scroll view of the photos when you click to view the Streeview image.
Update 7/20 Google has confirmed the new email verification feature. It would appear that Google is auto selecting the email address to which to send the verification email. This implies all of the things that an algo based trust solution would entail; scrapping of the email from the associated website, ideally at the same domain, found on the contact us page and possibly in the footer, perhaps longevity of the domain and association. And like all algos, and thus their instruction to be sure you have access to it, wrong in some percentage of cases.
“For select businesses, we now offer users the option to receive their verification code by email.
Before choosing verification by email, make sure you can access the address shown in the verification screen. If you don’t have access to this email account, or you don’t see this option, then please select one of the other available options, such as postcard.
To verify by email just click the Email option, check your email and enter the code we sent to you.”
Kiran C Kumarspotted this option to verify a business listing via email when the GMB account is using the domain email. It is not clear if it is just a test or more widespread or if it also requires that the domain have a Search Console account. It is not yet mentioned in the help files.
I am asking Google for more details. Have you seen it?
In related GMB editing news (this has been visible for a while) Google has increased their call to action to edit your listing if you do a brand search for a business for which you are the owner or the manager. Google first introduced authenticated Knowledge Panel editing in January. This upgrade is significantly more visible. The “edit information” choice allows you to edit primary data directly in the KP while the “Add Photos” and “Do More…” options take the user to the GMB dashboard.
First reported several days ago by 9 to 5 Google and highlighted again by Local SEO Brian Barwig on Twitter, Google is now showing average times spent at different businesses.
It can report either a specific time or a range of times and only appears to be showing on businesses that have a lot of traffic. For example the local Walmart does show it but the busiest local restaurant does not. It also appears to be showing on mobile but not yet on the desktop.
While I find the usually popular feature helpful, it is not clear that this new feature offers similar benefits. But maybe I am missing something.
Google, with the growth of Android, obviously is gathering massive amounts of location data. The location history is opt in but I would imagine that Google still is generating enough data to make these predictions.
Yelp has started implementing active monitoring of businesses that become the target of political reviews due to having their story go viral. While I think that the business’s behavior in this case was reprehensible, I find Yelp’s new approach to be appropriate. Google and Facebook would do well to follow the policy.
Google has yet to make any announcements vis a vis providing business photos to the Knowledge Panel via Image Search rather than from the GMB and Google Maps. Whether the change is permanent or “just a test” we do not know. It is very widespread though and appears to be the new normal. Google’s new normal is always more than a touch abnormal and this case is no different.
But we do know that there are problems with using Google Image search in lieu of business provided photos, some of which probably can be resolved and some of which can not.
Here are some of the issues that I see:
1- Google is very good on parsing user intent on partial searches and delivering the One Box when appropriate. However these same partial searches might return total crap for imagery. For example if you search for “Barbara Oliver Jewelry” and you click through to the images, you will get mostly relevant images. But if you search on the more common but less complete “Barbara Oliver” and click through the profile photo in the One Box with the specific intent of seeing more photos you get totally irrelevant photos:
2- When a user does a local keyword search and clicks through to the Local Finder and explores the profile images, Google is still presenting the traditional More Photos view with images from the Google My Business Dashboard and ugc from Maps. Should a business be expected to manage and monitor images at both the GMB and Image search?
3-Google My Business has provided a structured, relatively easy place to add photos that would be one click away from your Knowledge Panel. A business could put a stake in it and, for the most part, understand how to use it and have some modicum of control over the images that showed. Should small businesses now have to learn about Google Image Search SEO to have control over the images?
4-Some listings, mostly larger brands and hotels, are still delivering the “original” See Photos option. Is that because they are using bulk upload? Will that continue to be the case? Will brands with bulk be handled differently than SMBs?
5- Some local listings from the same company have it one way and some have it the other. In the case of Busch Gardens, which has two locations, one goes to Image Search and the other to the See Photos box. What gives? Is it because they are slightly different types of Knowledge Panels? Will a business have both types to deal with?
Google, in typical fashion, is not making life easy but worse they are not communicating about what is going on with one of a business’s most important digital asset, their Knowledge Panel. (Oops I forgot it’s not the business’s, it’s Google’s.)
Google, Google, Google. Complexity instead of simplicity. Change instead of consistency. Insular instead of communicative. Its no wonder that most businesses throw up their hands in disgust.
While the image that you chose as a profile photo might show, now when you click on it, you are taken to Google Image search, rather than to the businesses chosen photos for that business that were uploaded via the Google My Business Dashboard.
If the listing no longer notes “see photos” in the lower right of the Knowledge Graph profile image then the images, when clicked will take the user to Google Image search.
The images showing in Google Image search may or may not be very relevant. In my case I am seeing images for my long dead father, a politician named blumenthal, a uniform stored named Blumenthal, some images from blog posts and who knows what else.
If this is a new feature, I can sum up my thoughts on it very succinctly:
A business should be able to put photos of itself and they should have some measure of control over those photos. Taking users to random photos is bad for everyone. Do businesses need one more reputation management/(stupid) SEO task on their plate?
If this is more than a test then shouldn’t businesses be advised? At some point, this change MIGHT make sense.
But businesses that have focused on uploading images to the GMB now need to think about being sure that their images on their website are actually the ones that Google should show. It seems a lot to ask of most small businesses. And they need to be aware that images from around the web could be showing thus creating both a new SEO obligation PLUS a new reputation management concern.
The change has not occured to hotel Knowledge Panel images nor big brands like Target and Best Buy. And for now, images in the Local Finder still reference the GMB and Maps images. The change seems to be impacting SMB Knowledge Panels only at this point.
The wild uptake of Pokemon Go over the weekend demonstrates in a show not tell way the power of these sorts of virtualsegmenteddetachedalienated “augmented”* reality experiences to create real world buzz and traffic.
If you are not familiar with it (hard to believe that it was actually competing for news cycles), it is essentially a version of Pokemon layered over Google Maps that takes place in the real world by allowing you to capture Pokemon, level up etc by throwing a ball at a Pokemon figure that has been over layed on the real world in front of you on your mobile screen ….
Google (actually John Hanke’s Niantic Labs) is collecting a ream of local geo data, Pokemon, with its stock at a long time high, is collecting money with in app purchases and you (or hopefully your customers) are collecting virtual Pokemon in proximity of your business. Near perfect symmetry that portends the coming age of virtual gamefication of life in a (dystopic?) consumer world.
OK so its weird, its social, it takes place in a nether world between the screen and reality and it might be hard to get the attention of someone whose eyes are glued to their screen but it is worth thinking about, perhaps jumping on the bandwagon and at least being Pokemon friendly if not Pokemon alluring.
And thinking about how and how soon Google will figure out a way to insert local AdWords units into the game play.
I am curious if anyone has actually tried it in their business? Or if you have ideas on how you might use it in your business? Please let me know.
*Augmented? Augmented my ass. What marketing double speak for being engaged in something other than reality. A brilliant term for an experience that is anything but “augmented”.
Updated 11:21 Note the 404’s issues were mine
Updated: 11:30 It does work on Android Updated 7/12: The help page has been removed but the technique still works.
Google has added a new help page Create a link for customers to write reviews which explains in detail how to use the Google Maps API to generate a URL that can be used to solicit reviews. (NOTE: this page has been removed as of 7/11.)
The page is interesting for two reasons.
One it explicitly provides a Google approved way of generating a URL string for asking for reviews. While Google has acknowledged in the forums that is ok to ask for reviews there has never been a specific help page nor an “easy” method for generating the review URL.
Two, the method doesn’t work very often and only appears to work on the desktop some of the time. Go figure.
The steps Google recommends generate the review URL (these steps still work even though the help page has been taken down):
To create a link, you’ll need to get the Place ID for your business. To get your Place ID:
Unfortunately, at least for now, the URL that Google is providing doesn’t always work or doesn’t work in different browsers or doesn’t work in mobile. Exactly when and why it fails is not clear.
For example the example link above works in Chrome on my Mac but not from Safari and not on my iPhone in either browser. On Safari on the my desktop it generates the Knowledge Panel but not the review box. This is likely due to Safari’s poor handling of redirects which this URL does.
I hear from Helmut that the URL does work on Android. I still can not get it to work on iPhone on either Safari or Chrome but it does appear to be working on Google Now for Android. Would love others to test.
I have observed in the past that features and new search parameters (like /local/writereview?placeid) do not necessarily roll out to all browsers simultaneously. If we are lucky Google will be fixing this and rolling it out across all browsers on all platforms. For now it just as easy to copy the URL that Google generates from the Knowledge Panel or use one of the many tools to generate the URL.
Local Guides will be able to have photos that they are taking of local businesses “automagically matched” and added to the business listings from their Google Photos collection. The feature, first released on Android but soon available on iOS, only requires you to “turn on the back up and location features in Google Photos to have your photos of places appear in the Contribute tab of Google Maps.”
When Google Photos was introduced a year ago I noted in my article Google Photos- A Visual Graph of People, Places and Things. Can It Become Their “Everything Graph”? : Almost every photo these days comes geotagged so Google knows, at least within a 100 feet or so of where it was taken. They don’t yet auto assign a specific [business] location but they show incredible accuracy in auto assigning the photos to a city level. I assume that Google has more granular insights but has not yet turned them loose for fear of a privacy backlash.
So much for that fear.
Google Photos is one of those brilliant tools that shows Google at its very best and its very creepiest with its use of AI, machine learning and the ability to dig deep into your phone to surface additional details about businesses that you are frequenting.
And now with a little gamefication (Local Guide points), the offer of some free storage and some very sophisticated technology Google has unleashed one of the worlds most amazing geo-photo crowd sourcing projects ever.