All posts by Mike Blumenthal

Video: Local U Advanced Speaker Series – David Deering & Schema for Local

LocalU Advanced takes a deep dive into the nuts and bolts of the bleeding edge of local search. Our upcoming LocalU Advanced is taking place the night of October 20th and the day October 21st. To give you a sense of the topics we will be covering we will be interviewing some of the speakers that will be there. David Deering, one of the foremost practitioners of Schema markup will be heading two sessions; Advanced Schema Markup for Local Businesses and a deep dive problem solving session Schema Q&A. If you want to learn the latest in Schema you owe it to yourself and your team to come.

In this first interview of our speaker series with myself, Mike Ramsey and David Deering of TouchPoint Digital, we discuss a number of recent developments, new Schema standards, updated Google rules and some in depth Schema ideas as to how it benefits the local business.

Cross posted at LocalU.org

Google Expanding SMB Test of “Write Directly to Search” Feature

Google has confirmed that they are expanding the test of a “write directly to the search” results product first seen in January for presidential candidates and in the March time frame seen for small businesses. According to Google the test is expanding from “10’s of small businesses to thousands”.

Andrews
I am in Canada at the moment and unable to see them but you should them appearing regularly in the US
We should be seeing more and more examples in local branded search results over the next 30 days.The test is being run in the US, Brazil and India. The product has not yet been seen being tested with larger brands but is also being tested with live events like soccer matches, certain vertical solutions and other entity types likes schools.

Essentially the product, which has no formal name (I refer to it as Google Posts or Google Podium or maybe the product that “shall not be named”), allows an small business (or other entity) to easily create “cards” that present directly in search results much like an AMP page. In the March SMB tests these local “cards” showed on broad search terms but it appears that in the new test these “cards” will typically show on a brand search in close association with the Knowledge Panel.

Think of it as a live, real time stream of local business content for search. The local card is essentially a super lightweight, fast loading web page that resides directly on Google and may become one of the simplest ways for a business to create a web presence for user discovery.

The product apparently uses a dedicated app/environment that is a super simplified way for a small business to post images, text, links and videos in real time. With these cards, Google is opening up a more dynamic, real time content arena for local businesses. The cards, as in the previous test, can be easily shared by searchers via email or social channels. Essentially Google is attempting to make search results more of a destination and possibly viral.

Given that this current test is focused around showing these local cards on branded results only, I could envision a companion monetization by “boosting” a card to broader local search terms or charging for possible calls to action.

Given that the test is being expanded in Brazil and India as well implies that Google might be seeing this feature as a web alternative for small businesses in developing countries with less bandwidth and computing resources.

When viewed in conjunction with AMP, Places Actions (the ability to schedule a visit via the Knowledge Panel), Google Local Trip Planner and other long standing features like click to call, you can see a long term product arc that is making Local search results the final destination for users rather than a stopping point on a purchase journey. 

Update (via Joy Hawkins): here is a search My Special Day that returns the results.

 

 

LocalU Advanced Agenda & Super Early Bird Pricing

LocalU Advanced is my favorite conference of the year. And you probably get tired of me saying this but this will be one of the best ones yet.

The agenda has been released and it is chock full of great speakers:

– Darren Shaw will be talking enterprise citation campaigns
– Cindy Krum will discuss digital marketing in the age of AI
– Joy Hawkins will be exploring the ins and outs Google Local listing management
– David Deering will be covering advanced Schema techniques
– Paul Keller shows you how to amplify your content with Facebook
– Mike Blumenthal will be looking at the impact of social, reviews and semantics on local search ranking

Join Mary Bowling, Will Scott, Aaron Weiche, Mike Ramsey, Willys Devoll of Google PLUS all of our guests as we discuss both agency and enterprise issues in sessions on Local Link Building, Content, Google Enterprise issues, Google trouble shooting, mobile rankings and a ton more.

The event will start Thursday night with our traditional social gathering and continue all day Friday. This event will include both Agency and Enterprise tracks. Light breakfast & lunch included. If you are bringing three or more folks we offer an additional $50 discount. Bring your whole team.

If you have some new staffers and want them to get additional training we will be offering our intermediate event the day before.

Here is the full agenda:

Continue reading LocalU Advanced Agenda & Super Early Bird Pricing

Google Testing More Aggressive Review & Content Calls to Action on Mobile Knowledge Panel

Google seems to be either testing or rotating in more aggressive of the Knowledge Panel on mobile to garner reviews and additional location details. I am awaiting Jeremy Stoppleman’s forthcoming hue and cry.

Last week over the cours of the day I saw these three Knowledge Panel presentations for the same location. (These have probably been available for a while but I just noticed it.)

Write a Review call to Action Knowledge Panel
Write a Review call to Action Knowledge Panel
Additional Details request mobile Knowledge Panel
Additional Details request mobile Knowledge Panel
Normal Mobile Knowedge Panel
Normal Mobile Knowedge Panel

Google Continues Unifying Google My Business & Bulk Interfaces/ Improves Insights

Google is in the process of updating the Google My Business and My Business List (bulk) interfaces to create greater consistency of the user experience. Several weeks ago they launch a new navigation experience and today they are updating the Info Panel. My sense is that there is more to come. (h/t to Joy Hawkins and the Localsearchforum)

Simultaneously with the improvement to the interface Google is rolling out on an account by account basis, a completely new Insights platform. Initially the new analytics platform will only provide improved visuals but according to Google the complete guts to the system were rewritten and provide a basis for future expansion of capabilities.

Screenshot 2016-08-09 14.43.54

from google:

GMB and GMBL have long been different products with different interfaces and editors. This has caused confusion for our users, many of whom end up using both products.

To simplify the user experience we are taking steps to unify the products so that everyone will use a single GMB interface. There will always be features that benefit users with multiple locations, but we want the navigation and editing experience to be consistent.

A few weeks ago, we launched a navigation experience that is consistent for users with a single location and those with multiple locations.

We are currently in the process of launching a redesigned editor that will make many tasks easier for our merchants, including:

  • Style that previews the merchant’s Knowledge Panel
  • Updated editor for hours and address
  • Improved messages regarding listing states with clear calls to action toguide users
  • Clearer UI for Google Updates that clearly shows what’s live on Maps vs what the merchant last provided
  • Convenient links to view the listing on Google Search, Maps, and Google+
  • Ability to make a business as permanently closed

The improvements are slowly rolling out for the single listing editor. We will eventually replace the multi-listing editor with the same interface; however, that will happen at a later date.

The improvements are slowly rolling out for the single listing editor. We will eventually replace the multi-listing editor with the same interface; however, that will happen at a later date.

Screenshot 2016-08-05 13.50.36

Screenshot 2016-08-05 13.47.55

Unfortunately the new Insights product still has limited date range and comparison features, no multi location aggregation of data and the data is not yet integrated with Analytics or the Google My Business API. But Google has indicated to me that these are all things that they are looking at. Whether the reliability of the data is greater is also TBD.

Google Now Inserting Critic Reviews & Top 10 Lists into Mobile Local Search Results

Google announced the inclusion of expert opinions and top 10 list data into local search results. For now its appearing on restaurants but I assume that it can and will show more widely as Google figures out how to assign these sorts of results to other entities.

These results are currently on mobile browsers and the Google App. When they will be migrating to the desktop is not known.

IMG_1757
Note that the search results only shows the special designation on some listings

It appears that if they are on more than one list, then the listing will receive a special designation in the mobile Local 3 Pack results.

On this search result Hutch’s shows the special designation in the search results but in the mobile local Finder, the top three restaurants show the designation.

IMG_1762
Even though all of the top three had at least one list that they were on that showed in the mobile Local Finder.

It appears that the difference is that Hutches is on more than one list. When you drill in this is what is visible:

IMG_1763

When you click on the original source list you are then taken to the website. That’s at least 3 clicks in for those of you that are counting.

Update: I am seeing this on the desktop but it is buried deep in the Local Finder:

restaurants buffalo ny   Google Search

Google Testing Horizontal Local One Box + Card Format for Serps

There have been an increasing number of reports (H/T Michael Wallace) of a horizontal Local One Box showing at the top of the search results as opposed to the side. There have been sporadic reports of the search results being shown as cards.

Rasmus Himmelstrup, an SEO Analyst at Resolution Media, sent along an example of a test from Denmark that includes the horizontal Local Box PLUS the search results displaying as cards.

Obviously this type of desktop display pushes organic results further down the page and can occasionally show for key word searches.

one-box-card-heavy-crop
Click to view complete page

Google Continues Test of Horizontal Local One Box

Frank Motola of Brandastic shared with me another recent example of Google’s test of a horizontal Local One Box that sits prominently at the top of the serps rather than to the side.

This test has been reported for several weeks although I have not yet seen it in the wild. It would be one more step towards aligning mobile and desktop results. And of Google dominating the results with their own properties.  I am sure that it will further inflame Yelp’s antitrust fervor as well.

Click to view larger
Click to view larger

 

Comatose Google My Business Description Moved from Hospital to Long Term Care on Path to Burial & Replacement with Attributes

attributesThe business description that Google has been asking businesses to create forever and that has not been seen anyplace for about half that long has finally been removed from Google MyBusiness. (Thanks to Dan Leibson of Local SEO Guide for pointing this out). It is soon to be “replaced” with “attributes” that offer more granular characteristics of your business.

The description field has long been in a near dead state with no obvious purpose other than to possibly give Google clues as to how businesses might spam them. But its demise is interesting on several fronts.

August 2016
The Introduction/Description field is no longer editable in Google My Business. It only displays to users in Google+, and may still be edited there. Editing of attributes, coming soon to all Google My Business views, will be an improved way to describe your business to users on Google Search and Maps.
8/1/2016
Help Center

The description data has not seen the light of day for many many many months (has it been years?) but Google hung on to requesting the data.

I can imagine the discussion between the Local group and the Plus group as their relationship frayed and finally dissolved: “You take it. No you take it. You take it. No you take it. You take it. No you take it.” Low man on the totem pole finally “won” the discussion. Why wasn’t it just thrown away? Google NEVER throws data away. Even in the negative (i.e. spam) use case when they can extract value from it.

But even more interesting is the fact that Google will now be “giving” businesses the ability to contribute their own attributes from a more structured list of attributes helping define the local business in ever more discreet ways.

However as you look at the history of these attributes you realize that Google is not single sourcing them from the business owners. Google has never trusted businesses enough to give them the freedom to be the sole source of their own information. Not even things as basic as hours or phone number. If Google finds information that they trust more than yours, they have and will replace it in your listing. Now at least they have the courtesy to alert you in the GMB dashboard that they arbitrarily changed your hours.

android-crowdsource-e1467049941816Attributes appears to be no different in that regard. Google is multi sourcing them. If you recall Google first started publicly asking Local Guides to identify attributes of places that they had visited late last year. More trusted bulk accounts received the privilege with the release of the GMB API in May. Then last week they gave “regular” Map users the ability to confirm or nix the attributes that Google had identified for a business. One presumes that these structured attributes have also been sourced from a 3rd party data source and, if your website is well structured and informative, from there as well.

Once they have in place enough sources that they can predict with some big data based broad strokes what any given business listing’s attribute should be, they will then give the business owner the “privilege” of adding them. This effectively gives them both a way to extend the reach and depth of their data AND check it for veracity.

Don’t for a minute think that you somehow own or even are a primary source for Google My Business data. You are one source for that data and a not very trusted one at that.

Dumb & Dumber: Houston Lawyer Sues Over Review

The Houston lawyer who decided that he needed to show a reviewer that they “need to learn the consequences of their actions,”  for a bad review must not have gotten the message that suing customers over online reviews is a terrible idea.

Screen Shot 2016-07-30 at 10.57.20 AMThe act is usually dumb* and the consequences almost always counter to the interests of the business doing the suing. That certainly seems to be the case here where the law firm’s actions are being splattered over the local Houston news and he has been hit with a veritable torrent of bad reviews and comments.  It will get worse if he loses the case.

The claims the lawyer is making are weak and his behaviors left a lot to be desired. He may have thought he could win this in a court of law or won by intimidation but he certainly won’t win this in the court of public reviews or public opinion. And if (more like when) he loses the legal case, the public perception of his legal capabilities, to say nothing of his integrity, will be questioned. I can’t think of worse outcome to befall a business.

Yelp may be disingenuous in their defense of free speech in highlighting businesses that sue customers over bad reviews but their highlighting of the behavior certainly serves Yelp’s interest and has its merits . Although in this case Yelp will have to wait for their Active Clean Up alert to be removed before they can add the Questionable Legal Threat alert.  It is but one more reason why a business should be sure that there is no other avenue before pursuing a legal case and that the gains will far outweigh the losses.

The legal system is stacked against a review suit, the costs are high and the barriers are real.  But I would never say never sue over a review. I think there are times when a competitor or an ex- employee or ex-spouse is behind it and the damage so great that the perfidy needs to be exposed publicly. But those situations are rare, even in the wacky world of reviews, and targeting a customer always appears to be an act of desperation.

This lawyer is going to get his reputational clock cleaned both socially and legally. And he inadvertently makes a great case why it’s almost never rational to sue over a bad review. At this point the lawyer should probably withdraw his suit before he is further embarrassed.

Tuan-Khuu-crop

*Notice I didn’t say the attorney was dumb, I wouldn’t want to be sued. That is yet to be determined. 🙂

 

Developing Knowledge about Local Search