All posts by Mike Blumenthal

Google Adds Sharing Link to Local Knowledge Panel

I have not seen this before. Not sure if a test or a release. Google is getting downright social in their old age.

And in typical Googly fashion THEY decide which sharing I should be able to use rather than relying on the iPhone OS level options. Oops just seemed to have forgotten SMS/iMessage. Big surprise there.

It seems that Google just can’t resist falling into this sort of passive aggressive monopolist mode. It must be what is best for the user.


Google Testing Advanced Verification Process for Plumbers & Locksmiths

Google announced today a plan to increase verification scrutiny of plumbers and locksmiths. The beta is taking place in San Diego and every verified plumber and locksmith will be emailed a request to go through the new advanced verification process. The businesses will have their application accepted or denied within a two week period.

Google is  apparently focusing on the types of businesses that are often affected by local business fraud and and “make it easier for verified locksmiths and plumbers to be discovered online”.

The help documents are posted publicly but remember they currently only apply to those SAB plumbers and locksmiths in the San Diego market:

Some tidbits from the documentation and other dteails: Continue reading Google Testing Advanced Verification Process for Plumbers & Locksmiths

Google Posts Directly to Search Feature Expansion Continues – Now What?

1bqmh9Google announced in mid August that they would be expanding their test of the beta ‘direct to search’ posting for SMBs.

Barbara Oliver Jewelry just received her entree into the beta so for the first time I can test the product and assess its value. And learn better what how it performs and what benefits accrue to Barbara when it appears in the search results.

What is the product?

Originally I described it as a local social sharing product. I suppose that it is in some sense but more along the lines of a blog and not really in the vein of a G+ or Facebook. Maybe like Twitter with no character limit.

It is really a publishing platform with the unique distinction of making fresh content available for limited periods of time on the front page of search.

When and where does it appear?

In the current iteration it will ONLY show on a brand search for the entity that is using the product. It presents in an AMP like carousel just below the home page of the entity and to the left of the Knowledge Graph. The pages are extremely fast on mobile.

Relate Post From Local U:

Video Deep Dive: Google Posts, A New Paradigm for Fresh Local Content or Another Failed Social Experiment?

How Sharable is it?

The post has a permanent URL and the built in ability to share via G+, Facebook, Twitter and email.

Ever visible but NOT evergreen

One of the advantages of a blog is that the content, once indexed by Google and visible in search, can send traffic to a business website forever.  Roughly 50% of my 30,000 monthly visitors come from articles written in previous years. It’s content that keeps on giving. Particularly when it’s gotten a few links. 

Content on  Google Posts shows for a limited time on the front page and then it is stored on the business’s Posts page.  BUT it is not indexed for Google search and  can’t be found via Google, they can only be browsed2. Very limiting indeed.

At this point in the beta, the content has nowhere to go. It is conceivable, that with enough shares, it could show in search though we don’t really know. 

But its not too hard to imaging that Google could easily push the content into Google Plus or even back to the SMB website for a more lasting value if the content is good.


The local indexed search results are for the most part very static. A listing from barely changes year to year let alone month to month.

This product actually allows for scheduled minute to minute changes. Since it publishes in real time a business (or any organizational event like the Olympics or Google I/O) can be posting during a live event. The posts can be scheduled to disappear from search as quickly as they appear of they can be scheduled to last up to two weeks.

For sure they bring a dynamic nature to the otherwise boring content of a brand search that currently does not engender repeat visits by the user.

What’s Impressive Continue reading Google Posts Directly to Search Feature Expansion Continues – Now What?

10 Years Ago: Sometimes you just need a name change

dried-plumMy wife was extolling the virtues of Dried Plums as a sweetener in her homemade ketchup the other day. She was convinced that they were better than prunes for the task.

Little did she realize that “in 2001, plum growers in the United States were authorised by the government to call prunes ‘dried plums’. Due to the popular U.S. perception of prunes being used only for relief of constipation, and being the subject of related joking, many distributors stopped using the word “prune” on packaging labels in favour of “dried plums”.

Naming is indeed important in terms of perception AND search.

Here  is one of my earliest posts from September 29th, 2006 about the importance of name in ranking at Google:
Does Business Name = Title Tag?

Then as now I asked the question: Will Google at some point consider it spamming to do so?

2)Enhance the title of the Business to include the key phrase(s)

As I have explored Google Maps local rankings, I have used the models developed for organic search optimization as a starting point to develop understanding and make progress.

The working theory I developed is that the business name created in the Google Business Center functions in much the same as a Title Tag on an html page and that it perhaps has priority over other methods of determining relevancy. Minimally it plays a role, that much is sure.

Google Local (Google Maps) Title Example
Note in this example how Google highlights the search phrase in the Business Name (title) phrase.

Google Maps though has a number of different ways to potentially determine relevancy of a page to a search. One of the most significant besides business name is categories. Since they are limited in number and any listing can only have five they could easily play this role. Description also seems to play a part in reinforcing the relevancy of the listing.

It is certainly conceivable that category and description are more important or equally important to title. My theory is though that they act more like body copy & headlines on a text page to reinforce the business listing name. Can anyone shed more light on this relationship?

From a marketing and branding standpoint, this can have implications. Should a business change its business name in some way to enhance its standing on Google Maps? Will Google at some point consider it spamming to do so?

I have taken the approach that by adding one or two key services to a business name you are probably ok on both fronts. This is an issue that needs to be addressed and perhaps discussed with a client prior to the listing.

In 2009 Barbara Oliver changed her name from ‘Barbara Oliver & Co’ to ‘Barbara Oliver & Co Jewelry’. This past month she changed her name from ‘Barbara Oliver & Co Jewelry’ to ‘Barbara Oliver Jewelry‘. She has done so to better rank in Google and to further her brand her efforts. Initially she was a one person show and wanted to seem larger than she was thus the “& Co”. The recent change to just Barbara Oliver Jewelry reflects her growing understanding that she is the brand even though she has tripled in size and added full time employees.

All the while she respected the guidance in An Internet Change of Address Guide written in 2008. And still mostly relevant.

A Summary of Recent Local Pack Tests

Talk about walk and talking in Local at the same time, Google Local has been on a testing tear with the Local Pack.

Lots of reports of new and different pack layouts over the past few weeks. A special nod to Sergey Alakov, Barry Schwartz and Jennifer Slegg and the many other observant souls who do such a great job tracking these things and reporting on them.

9-28 Distance Filter spotted by Sergey Alakov on Twitter.


9-26 Blue Links in the Pack spotted by Sergey Alakov on Twitter.and reported at Searchenginerountable


9-26 Reported by Barry in Google Tests Hotel Booking Ads At Top Instead Of Right Side and spotted by Craig Harkins posted a screen shot on Twitter

Early September – Search by Rating for Non Restaurant Business (lost my reference on who saw this first but I think it was Sergey).


Local U Advanced Speaker Series Videos

After 10 years writing about Local Search, at one point I wondered  if I could keep the fire in my belly.

But I have realized that there is always something exciting, always more to learn and its just a question of finding the people to learn from.

What I have also recognized is that sometimes just sitting down and talking is the best way to do that.  While I did this series as a way to highlight the great speakers that will be coming to Local U Advanced in New Orleans, the project has had many additional rewards.

Which is why I wanted to share them with you. There are many more than a few gems in these interviews that will make it worth your time:

Ed Reese on Assumptions Driving Conversions, KPIs, Visualization & The Summer of Discovery

Cindy Krum on the Latest Trends in the Local Mobile Space

Darren Shaw on Enterprise Level Citations & Local Ranking

Joy Hawkins & Google Local

David Deering & Schema for Local

Mark Sullivan on Local Call Tracking

Andrews Lock and Key – Locksmith Warrior Mesa Az

Andrew of Andrews Lock & Key deserves more than a link and a citation and a little bit of publicity for his efforts but that is all that I have to offer since I don’t live in Mesa, AZ.

Locksmith spam has long been an issue in Google Maps and has been the baine of consumers and real locksmiths alike. I used to write about it a lot as it was really the first case of widespread abuse at Google and gave an inkling of the deep hole they were in. And to some extent still are. In the end though I stopped writing about it as it was very difficult to tell the good guys from the bad guys from my seat in Olean.

Take a look at this video (H/T to Chris Silver Smith for sending it along), share it to your network and if you are in Mesa in need of locksmithing give Andrews Lock and Key a call:
Andrews Lock & Key

Andrew is a good guy… obviously a dedicated locksmith and a very good marketer and willing to go out on a limb for his love of his industry. Running a local small business is effing hard. I know from my 30 years of running them. I can only guess at the incredible pressures placed on a business by the wild west of the Locksmith world when added to all of the other existing stresses. He would have to really love it.

Local U Advanced New Orleans – Early Bird Special Ending 10/7

LocalU AdvancedThe LocalU Advanced conference in New Orleans on October 20th (networking party) and 21st (all day conference) promises to be an incredible event. The line up of speakers is amazing BUT the EARLY BIRD Pricing is ending on October 7th so you will need to sign up soon to get the lower price.

We don’t have another advanced event scheduled for anytime soon, so don’t miss one of the best Local Search line-ups ever. If you have any questions about getting your money’s worth by attending, just listen to  the videos we’ve done with some of the event speakers – Cindy Krum, David Deering, Darren Shaw, Joy Hawkins and Ed Reese. And speaking of money, grab your tickets before the price goes up at midnight on October 7th and save $200. Or bring your whole team (3 or more) and get a special group discount.

To get a screenshot-2016-09-28-17-15-37sense of the quality of speaker we will have take a few moments to watch these videos from our Local U Advanced Speaker Series:

See you in NOLA!

Google My Business API Gets Updated to V3.1

Google has just released the Google MyBusiness API V3.1 . The update brings real time push notification for the ever changing listing updates AND when a new review is written for a location.

These real time updates with push capabilities will allow businesses monitoring their listing via a dashboard to be actively notified of status changes, data updates and incoming reviews without having to make a call to Google for that information. It should allow businesses to respond more quickly to any of these changes.

According to Google additional features for V3.1 are be released in the coming weeks and will provide support within the API for additional attribute types including things like a menu URL and payment methods.

This is an expansion of attribute data beyond simple yes/no states previously collected via the API and shows Google’s ever increasing desire for this additional, structured data. The menu URL will remove a huge pain point that many restaurants have confronted by showing an old 3rd party link and they have not been able to update it.

There are three additional features in this API that will be of interest:

  • Maps URL in location response allows for easy navigation to the location on Google Maps
  • Additional Location States provides a better understanding of the action required on a location
  • New category service allows developers to get up to date list of GMB supported categories by country and language

The Map URL will create a universal URL to use that will allow users to easily navigate to a location (and possibly leave reviews). The creation of a category API will facilitate 3rd party understanding of categories world wide. The tool will be available with categories for each language and country and will be updated continuously making it easier for 3rd parties to explore and choose Google categories.

The critical piece still missing is the Insights API. Google has noted in conversations that they are aware of the demand for accessing and aggregating location insights. Given that it was recently updated and rewritten from the ground up, one can assume that giving access to the API was considered in the rebuild.

While the features provided are going to be useful the real story of the update is the demonstration of Google’s ongoing and regular committment of development resources. We first heard of V1 of the API in mid October 2015. Google subsequently released V2.0 of the GMB API in mid December, 2015 and they released 3.0 in May of this year. That is a release update schedule of once every 5 or so months. Google also noted that V2.0 of the API would be deprecated on Dec 6, 2016 and sunset a month later.

This will be their 3rd product release for GMB in September and while none of the releases have been earth shattering, they continue to reinforce my observation that they are in fact taking a more “mature” approach to development.


10 Years Ago Today -The 7 Steps for Local Listing Success at Google (& Yahoo)

A Google Local result from September 26, 2006

This week, 10 years ago, I published my first post. My blogging has directly led to 3 new careers1 and a bevy of new and wonderful friends.   During that time I have written over 2100 posts here, at  LocalU and now at GetFivestars. Early and trusted friendships with Matt McGee, Bill Slawski and David Mihm helped me learn a lot and “earned” me my first link. 🙂

Despite all that I have learned from the many people that I have come to love and respect over the years, it strikes me how my third post2,  dated September 27th, 2006 and named3  The Basics of Listing for Success, demonstrates how the more things change the more they stay the same.

Google may cancel business programs faster than I can change underwear but at least in terms of the Google Local algo  they NEVER throw anything away,


 The Basics of Listing for Success

Here is a simple list of what is I have discovered is necessary to start improving your ranking at Google Maps and Yahoo Local.

As I have worked with local listings over the past year I created this small check list for achieving some measure of success. These points may be self evident or they may require additional clarification which I will be attempting to provide over the next several days. They all need testing and examination.

1)Be sure to edit the local listing and include the relevant business categories

2)Enhance the title of the Business to include the key phrase(s)

2a)Craft the categories and the description to reinforce the key phrase(s)

3)Get lots of web references (these are like links but not as rigidly defined) that reference the main key phrase and location of the business

4)Be sure that your own site has lots of references to your local address and key phrase

5)Join the Better Business Bureau/Mobile Travel Guide/Talking Phone Book etc. etc. that Google uses to provide details

6)Be sure to get some good reviews from the reviewing services that Google & Yahoo uses

Unlike optimization for organic search, optimization for local search at the major engines is in a much less developed state. It seems to have many fewer people poking, prodding and testing the hypothesis of local search and coming up with a definitive set of best practices. This is list is an attempt to create that model that we can all test. Have a go and let me know.


Please let me know what you think.
Continue reading 10 Years Ago Today -The 7 Steps for Local Listing Success at Google (& Yahoo)