May 21, 2013
Google just announced in the forums that they were starting the process of converting existing Dashboard users to the new Placed for Business Dashboard. Here is the post:
As of May 21, some existing Places users will begin to see the new Google Places for Business dashboard. The transition will happen automatically, and all existing users should continue to manage listings at http://places.google.com. Please keep in mind that the new dashboard is still gradually being rolled out, so not all existing users will see the change right now.
What happened to the custom categories I had using the old dashboard?
Custom categories are no longer showing on listings with the new dashboard. Business owners should try to select an auto-filled category that most closely describes their business. We’re working on improving the way categories work, and by sticking with the categories we have defined, we believe we can better connect customers and businesses.
What happened to payment options, additional details, or videos?
These fields do not appear publicly, and the data will not be transferred onto the new dashboard. The “videos” field no longer appears in the dashboard. You can access prior uploaded videos through your Youtube account. If you wish to post videos on the listing for your business, upgrade to a local Google+ page.
I’m using Google+ to manage the local page for my business; what should I do?
Please continue using Google+ for management, as you had before. If you were using both Google+ and Google Places for business, you should continue doing so. When we are ready to migrate the pages that have social features, we will have further instructions.
I’m using Google Places but don’t see the new dashboard, yet. Should I panic?
Don’t panic. The new dashboard is still rolling out gradually, and we’ll continue to post updates here. Please continue to use Google Places for Business as usual.
May 17, 2013
At the Philadelphia Local U last week I had a chance to touch Matt McGee’s Glass. It was exhilarating, disturbing, interesting, disorienting and a number of other adjectives. Everyone at the table was anxious to try it and see what it did and how it works.
I was struck by its awkwardness and obtrusiveness as a wearable device and it is clear why it has already engendered a new noun: Glasshole. But I was also amazed at the power that an always on, always present, always connected device has and its obvious impact on local. Despite my inability to bond with the device it raised the question for me: Is this the future of computing?
My personal answer as to whether the Glass was THE PRODUCT was “not this product, not this form factor” as it didn’t go far enough for me to define a compelling experience. I wasn’t sure what I was hiring it to do (as Horace Diedu always says).
That though raised the question: Was it me or was it the Glass that was the problem? Was I being myopic and it was really the future?
To try to get out of my own way I asked all of the folks at Local U (whose opinions I value very highly) to give me some perspective by answering the following questions:
Macintosh was a metaphor for desktop computing. The iPhone became the metaphor for smart phones. The early products defined what other products needed to be like.
1) Do you think that the Google Glass is a metaphor for the next generation of small, wearable computers?
2) Is it a winner?
3) Do you think that Google will make Glass the market leader in the category?
Read their answers at the Local U Blog: Thoughts About Google Glass – Is It a New Metaphor for Mobile Computing and Local Search? and let me know what you think,
May 16, 2013
Google has announced in the forums their ability and willingness to now move reviews when a business has moved locations and to remove reviews with significant brand changes for a given location. The request by the business to do so is done via a new troubleshooter.
The guidelines that will apply to requests to move reviews can be summarized as follows: same business at a new location, reviews will be moved; New business at the same location reviews will be removed.
This new (and welcome) capability in no way affects the policy or procedure around removing inappropriate individual reviews – flagging the review as inappropriate via the G+ Plage and if dissatisfied with the lack of response then filing a troubleshooter report.
Here are the specifics of the guidelines:
Change of ownership
If you are the new owner or manager of an existing business that hasn’t changed it’s name, reviews will not be removed. You can use owner responses to respond to previous reviews and clarify any changes/improvements to the services your business is providing.
Change in name
If you are the new owner or manager of an existing business that has changed its name, reviews may be removed if your business meets specific criteria.
- Rebrand: Reviews can be removed from the listing if there’s been a significant change in well known, distinct brand name changes. Hotels or fast food establishment that switch franchise affiliations or car dealers that specialize in a different makes of cars would qualify for review removal.
- Name changes related to change in underlying services: For instance, a business that switches from Jade’s Chinese Garden Restaurant to India Palace Restaurant, or Al’s Sporting Goods Store to Performance Bike Repair, would qualify for review removal
- Partners or other business affiliations that disassociate: For example, if Perkins and Rogers, Attorneys at Law becomes Perkins, Attorney at Law because Rogers has left the practice to form his own, all reviews would be detached. Note that all reviews would be removed, not just the ones that refer to a particular practitioner
Name changes that don’t reflect core changes to the business’s services aren’t eligible for review removal. For example, if Dasha’s Dry Cleaner becomes Dasha’s Super Dry Cleaner, or JFK Limo Service becomes Super JFK Limo, reviews will remain in place.
Out of business
If your business closes, reviews will remain attached to the closed listing.
Physical location (address) move
If your business moves from one location to another and keeps the same business name, Google will generally move the reviews to the new location. There are some exceptions for businesses heavily tied to their locations, like hotels, golf courses or scenic attractions.
Submit a request for us to move reviews using this form. Currently this is only available for users of the new Google Places for Business dashboard, but we expect to expand its availability soon. I will update this post when it is available more widely.
Peter Troast of EnergyCircle.com asked a great question in the comments to my post about the new visuals for the (now named) Maps List View -aka Places Search- result:
Also seems like the # of reviews threshold is shifting for display. For zero reviews, “Be the first to review” appears right under company name. From 1-__, it looks as if nothing appears at all (in contrast to the old “3 Google Reviews.” I’ve seen a couple 5 review listings that displayed the new stars (yeah!), and several 8′s and 9′s, so it appears the 10 review threshold is coming down. Anyone figured out what the new threshold is? Certainly seems like nowheresville for 1-4.
The answer is 5. It takes 5 reviews for Google to show the stars. On these searches for restaurants surfaces results with a range of lower review totals. Obviously we do not yet know how or when they will update the main search results display to stars and whether this will apply.
The weird stuff from yesterday has come into clearer focus. New Maps, Back to the Future on Review Rating Stars (although red this time), New G+ (argh)….but here are some tidbits that might make all of the once and future changes a tad more understandable:
- The new Google Maps is currently available by invite only. You must go here and request an invitation as it is still considered a preview.
- However there is some leakage in the preview. To see the new Maps list view of local search results add the search parameter “&tbm=plcs” to a local search result. Even though the URL parameter indicates that this is the Places page (whose link was removed last week from the main search page), it currently is only visible to the public via the new Google Maps to those that have access to the preview.
- Whether this view will ever be visible via the main search results is unknown. Certainly retaining the old url parameter makes it confusing. But it appears so far that local isn’t so much being rebranded as being absorbed into Maps and Plus. Still no real clear name for it. I guess that entitles us to make it up. Nominations are open.
- Google is abandoning the Zagat rating system. I guess they are planning on selling it to Yahoo. Regardless, in another visible leak of the coming upgrade, you can see the new rating system on your
Place Page G+ Local Page uh your (local and perhaps social) G+ Page by adding this search parameter “&rfmt=s” to the G+ Page URL.
- In the current iteration of the G+ Page for Local with the new review notation, it appears that there is a bug that prevents owner comments from displaying. (Hat tip to Dave…welcome back btw)
- If you are like me, and find the new,
improved G+ layout to be way too distracting and hard to follow you can change it most of the way back by using this tip from David Fuchs:
Go to your home page
– Click “More” on top
– Scroll all the way to the bottom
– two icons choose the left one.
To fix the profile page
[x] Change the presentation of some pages to work better with screen readers and other accessibility tools.
May 15, 2013
The new local result list display that was discovered today makes more sense when viewed in context of the newly updated Maps. Select the “Go to list of top results” link from the refinement pane and you will arrive at the new page. For those of you that don’t have access to the new Maps view yet, you can get to this list view by adding the parameter “&tbm=plcs” to a local search result URL as in this search for Jewelry Design Buffalo NY
Once there you can click on the Google Reviews link for any listing to see how the newly formatted G+ Page for local will look with the new red 5 star motif. Adding the parameter “&rfmt=s” to the +Page URL: https://plus.google.com/103156080483607740278/about?hl=en&rfmt=s will take you directly to the G+ page showing the new review stars.
Note the bold use of red number in summary at the top of the review sections that is significantly more obvious that the stars and immediately draws the eye down the page. I am sure that no one will miss the arbitrary 29 that was often given to those with averages of 30. Click the image to view it at full resolution. Or better just go there yourself.
Along with a total revamp of Maps, Google has announced at I/O, the forum and their blog the return to a 5 star review system. You can request an invite to the new Maps here. From their blog post:
Users who opt-in to the new Google Maps will now rate businesses on a scale that ranges from one to five stars. The system maintains the precision of the former 30 point scale while improving the readability and accessibility of the business listings. Your customers will be able to find up-to-date, accurate information on your business faster than ever. As a business owner, you’ll notice that past ratings have been mapped to the five star system.
Here is how the new scores are now calculated:
poor/fair = 2 stars
good = 3 stars
very good = 4 stars
excellent = 5 stars
Some other notes from Google:
- Users on legacy Maps, mobile (Android + iOS), Google+, Google.com, and other properties will continue to see 30 point ratings for several more weeks
- If a user is opted into the New Google Maps and clicks on a “more reviews” they will be taken to a plus page where they will see the 5 star ratings
- However, if the same user had just navigated to the page from plus.google.com they would see 30 point scale
- Note that users just searching on google.com not coming from New Google Maps will continue to see the old results.
- Google will no longer be asking users to rate on specific dimensions/aspects. For example, for restaurants users will no longer rate the “food”, “decor” and “service”.
- Google will show just one overall score (they used an algorithm to translate the food/decor/service scores into a blended overall score).
To the dismay of many, Google replaced the yellow stars with the Zagat system in May, 2012 when Google rolled Places pages into Plus. It was clear from August of last year that Google was testing a return to the 5 Star system and they were never removed from local AdWords display.
The current iteration of stars appear to be universally red and it seems that they will roll out to all properties over the next few months. The new “Places” results that were spotted earlier will apparently be the results seen when visited from the new Maps interface.
Updated: Linda points out that review STARS seemed to have returned in this interface. And they are red.
I was first alerted to this change by Radina Sisheva of 411Locals.com. Google appears to be rolling out a new Places (whatever it will be called) search result page that is visually much more attractive. Apparently this display is world wide and has been reported to be visible in Europe by Myles Anderson at Bright Local. It may be a test but if it is it is a very large one and it appears to me to be a worldwide rollout to bring the visuals of the results in line with Google’s newisgn aesthetic.
With no links on the home page it is not clear how a user will be accessing these results. Interestingly the Map notes “Back to Map for”… the search. I assume for those doing ranking of Places results this might break their software once again.
You can see the page live by using the Places search modifiers “&prmdo=1&tbm=plcs” on a given search result. I have highlighted some of the visual queues on the page. There is but one large photo associated with a listing and when that listing is rolled over their is box outlining the listing, a single red pin on the map and a call to “see photos”. All in a an attractive display:
fWhat do these numbers have in common?
May 14, 2013
The question of call tracking keeps coming up in local search. Should it be used? Why or why not? The answer is often posed in stark terms of either you should or you shouldn’t use call tracking.
The reality is, as is usual, more nuanced and subtle than that. It is a technology that has incredible power but that is easy to use improperly and when done so it can cause on-going problems in local and a great deal of damage. All too often it is suggested as a tactic to unsuspecting businesses by companies that offer little of real value and use the technique to take credit for calls that the business would have received any ways. Often these businesses are not made aware of the disasters that can possibly ensue.
Given that the first dictum of search optimization is (or should be) do no harm it is easiest, when given 3 minutes to answer the question, to say that call tracking should not be used.
What harm can come of using call tracking numbers? There are actually several situations that can lead to long term problems.
The first is that Google assembles all local listings via a machine. That machine looks to match name, address and phone number of information it finds across the internet with a cluster of similar data about a business. If the match is made with data that Google finds across the net and the cluster, that business is credited with that citation. If it is not possible for the machine to make the match due to the fact that a call tracking number is being used then it is possible that Google will create a new cluster for the data. Not only is a given listing NOT given credit for a citation but it is possible that dupes will appear that will “steal” strength from the main listing. Effectively phone number is the glue that holds the cluster together. If the cluster becomes unglued your listing will very likely rank poorly at Google and it could take months to do the recovery work necessary to make it whole again.
Secondly, call tracking numbers are frequently “loaned” to a business for the duration of the contract and then put back into use for a different business. Unfortunately these numbers are very persistent in the online local ecosystem and may stay at various sites attached to your listing. If the number is no longer in your control it means that the customer attempting to call you will be getting through to some business but not yours! The solution to this issue is simple: NEVER use call tracking numbers if the numbers can not be transferred to you at the end of the contract.
The subtler answer to whether call tracking numbers can be used is that they can be in some very limited ways but the guidelines to proper use are complicated and they need to be implemented in such a way as to not cause damage. If the guidelines can not be followed to a T then it is far better to not use call tracking at all as the damage will far outweigh any benefits.
There are four places that a call tracking number can be used: