All posts by Mike Blumenthal

Google My Business Expanding Wheelchair Accessibility Attributes

When Google rolled out the ability to add attributes to single locations earlier this month, they excluded professionals from adding attributes.

I noticed yesterday that now all professionals (doctors, lawyers etc) are encouraged to add the attributes relating to wheelchair accessibility. Unfortunately this is the only attribute that they are allowed to add at this point.

Most listings for which Google knows the information have been autoupdated to include the information. This entails an alert to the business to accept the update. 

Clearly Google is looking to enhance their knowledge of the real world’s accessibility. It’s a very positive step.

Google is using the attributes to return local results indicating both the value of attributes and the importance of this particular one. See this search for:  wheelchair accessible jeweler Williamsville.  Google seems determined to understand that attribute about every business.

 

 

Google My Business Really, Really, Really Wants Your Photos – Will They Really Send You More Website Visits?

Over that past 6 months Google has gone to great lengths to get businesses to post most photos in the My Business Dashboard….

For months Google has encouraged business with the promise that (and I quote): Businesses with recent photos typically receive more clicks to their websites.

Offering up ranking gains or at least more site visits is not typical Google behavior and it seems unlikely that they would say it if they actually didn’t provide some boost. 

Click to view larger.
Google promising up more sites visits in return for some photos? Hmm….

But I just noticed these new reports (who knows when they appeared I have been paying that close of attention) in Google Insights where Google exhorts you to: Post more to stay ahead. Stay ahead of whom? Businesses like you? If you and they both have images does adding more give you some extra bump?

Click to view larger. Stay ahead of your competitor! Interesting messaging.

Just to be sure that you noticed the red cape that they are waving,  they directly compare you to some mythical cohort. And they don’t just want one photo uploaded, they want multiples over time and set up a weekly chart showing you how poorly you are doing.

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Of course you can’t just do it once. Keep em coming!

What is clear is that Google wants you to load more photos. They seem to be offering up ranking gains or increased exposure in return or maybe just more visits because you have photos.

Google never talks rank and yet here they are offering some sacrifices on the altar of additional data and increased engagement.

Are you going to provide you provide additional photos and do you think that it will really impact your web visits from Google?

Menu Attributes – Why Your Services Page Just Got More Important

It’s time for every business to take a second look at their services page and be sure that it is a great page that converts your local customers.

Last week Google added Attributes to the Google My Business Dashboard. Earlier this week they added the ability to add menus via the Google My Business API. They simultaneously updated the Google Guidelines to provide guidance on what is an acceptable menu and made clear that a menu of services (in addition to a restaurant menu) are welcome.

Unfortunately many businesses that offer menus do not have access to the API.

But a solution appears to be nearly at hand. Today I am seeing an option in the Google My Business to allow single locations to add a menu directly via the Card Interface for single locations via the Attribute fields:

Unfortunately as of this AM it is still throwing off an error message and doesn’t provide a field for entering the site’s menu link. Regardless it would appear that the feature is soon coming.

Giving this feature directly to the small business owner will solve one of the persistent and annoying problems that crops up in the GMB forums IF owners are given enough control over their menus AND 3rd party order options that Google auto loads. Few businesses want an outdated SingPlatform page as a default, uncontrollable link in their Knowledge Panel.

With the release of the API feature to add menus, Google updated the Google My Business Guidelines to delineate the two types of menus that can be added; food and services.

From a tactical point of view it means that the services page of any business that is offering a range of services has just become significantly more important and might become a frequented entry point to your site. Google will be linking to the “menu” page from the Local Finder and the Knowledge Panel.

Whether you are a spa, a jeweler or any business offering a range of repair or personal services you should take some time to be sure that your services page is clear, enticing and offers clear calls to action. While any page can now function as the home page due to the nature of search, some pages are more important than others. By linking to your page from local results, Google might just have elevated your services page from obscurity.

What we don’t know at this point is whether Google will limit the availability of the attribute to certain businesses or certain businesses types. As of now, while the Menu URL is visible in restaurant listings it is NOT visible among some of the service business listings that I have access to. Regardless it appears that it is likely on its way and you should take the time to enhance your services page.

Here are the guidelines vis a vis menus for restaurant and service businesses. Continue reading Menu Attributes – Why Your Services Page Just Got More Important

Is Amazon Defining the Future of Bricks and Mortar Retail with AI?

Bricks and mortar has expenses like staffing that don’t exist in online shopping. They also have checkout friction that slows the process and is one of the pain points. Self checkout that you see at BJ’s or a few grocery stores might be good for the business but they have never been good for the shopper.

Effectively there has not yet been an Amazon like “One-Click” solution to the problem. Until now. Or at least it would so appear and Amazon is the source.

I have no idea whether this is an Amazon only project for their bricks and mortar stores or something that is being planned as technology that will be made more broadly available. Regardless it will change retail and the last refuge of the working class, low paying retail jobs will also be out the window.

Google Local Spam Hall of Shame

If its good enough to do, its good enough to do in excess.

Particularly with a name that gets verified in the GMB. The only questions I have remaining are his age, his wife’s name and how many children he has.

Maybe Google should do away with categories and attributes and just allow businesses to put everything including the kitchen sink (and emoji’s of course) in their name field.

Max Minzer though asked on Twiter: why just 3 stars? My theory is that he hit the field character limit and it was removing two stars or removing some other more critical piece of information.

Via Joy Hawkins. Listing here.

screenshot-2016-12-02-13-00-52

PS the beginning and ending characters are Unicode Emojis which can easily be inserted for dramatic affect even without the excessive detail

Google My Business Rolling Out Attributes to Single Listings

screenshot-2016-12-02-12-06-45In May Google added the ability to add yes/no attributes via API in May and allowed API users to add non binary attributes like menu links in September. Joy Hawkins has reported that the GMB now has the ability to add attributes to single listings.

It is interesting that:

  • Attributes are not available to all business types (lawyers and doctors do yet show them, while restaurant and bricks and mortar do). It is unclear if or when they might be added.
  • So far it only allows for binary attributes; ie yes or no but doesn’t allow for things like menu links which are allowed via the API. One presumes that is coming.
  • Each business type has a very limited preselected set of attributes from which to choose that sometimes is not really expansive enough. For example restaurants are not asked if they provide free wifi. The choices are even less than those presented to Local Guides who have been seeding this data for quite some time.

Here are screen shots of some of the attributes available:

Continue reading Google My Business Rolling Out Attributes to Single Listings

Google Adding More GMB Notifications?

Barry Schwartz reported on a new feature that allows configuration of your Google My Business settings to send notifications on a wider range of tasks than was previously permitted. The new feature will allow the account (as opposed to each location) to set email and mobile app notifications for the following activities:

  • Important updates
    Google may send you important updates about your account
  • Customer reviews
    Alerts when customers post reviews of your business
  • Customer photos
    Alerts when customers post photos of your business
  • Listing health
    Timely alerts to help you keep your business info accurate on Google
  • Insights
    Personalized insights and tips about your customers and listing
  • Product updates
    Occasional alerts about new features and offers to improve your listing’s performance
  • Feedback
    Occasional opportunities to send product feedback to Google

Google has published a detailed Help Page: Manage your notifications:

You can choose which kinds of Google My Business notifications you receive on your mobile device and in your email inbox. Notifications can help in a variety of ways, like letting you know when customers leave photos or reviews for your business listing, alerting you to product news from Google, and reminding you to keep your listing up-to-date.

Manage email notifications
To manage the Google My Business notifications you receive via email:

Sign in to Google My Business.
Go to business.google.com/settings.
Check the box for each kind of notification that you want to receive.
These settings apply to all listings owned or managed by the account that’s signed in to Google My Business. To see which account you’re currently using, tap the menu icon at the top left of the screen, and see which account is listed at the top of the panel that appears. To set notifications settings for another account, sign out, then sign back in with the other account.

Regardless of your notifications settings, you may still receive important updates about your account from Google.

Manage mobile notifications
To manage the Google My Business notifications you receive on your mobile device:

Open the Google My Business app. (If you don’t already have the app, you can download it for Android or iOS.)
If you manage more than one listing, select a listing that’s owned or managed by the Google account whose settings you’d like to manage.
Tap the menu icon > Settings > Notifications.
Check the box for each kind of notification that you want to receive.
These settings apply to all listings owned by the account that owns the listing you’ve selected in Google My Business app. To set notifications settings for another account, repeat the steps above.

Unfortunately the feature does not yet appear to be generally available. Or at least it’s not available in either my mobile app or my GMB dashboard. Is it visible in yours?

Whether it is rolling out or just in final testing I am not sure. I will ask Google and let you know. When the feature does become fully available it will be a welcome way to monitor your listing.

Update: It is now appearing in all of my accounts and since the posters below range from India to the West Coast it would appear to be a full and rapid rollout. As a note, it is opt-out rather than opt-in.  All in all a welcome update.

Videos from the Web Showing in the Knowledge Panel

Sergey Alakov (a Toronto SEO that spends way too much time looking at local search results 🙂 ) spotted a mobile search result where videos from around the web are showing as integral part of the Local Knowledge Panel.

The videos are presented in a carousel format that allows the user to scroll to see 9 videos. And while in theory they are “videos from the web” in classic Google “keep em in the sandbox” fashion they are in fact videos from Youtube.  Humberview VW, where you can see the videos in their mobile Knowledge Panel, does have a YouTube Channel associated with their Local Google+ Page.

Obviously if this is more than just a test, it’s one more reason that a solid YouTube channel for your Local page makes all kinds of sense.

video-around-the-web

Google Rolls Out Real Time Popular Times – What Can We Learn?

Last weekGoogle rolled out two new Knowledge Panel features; department hours (which show hours for any business “located in” a main listing and more significantly, they are now showing real time visitation in comparison to what it regularly is.

Here is a screenshot of the department hours of a local Walmart and search for you to explore this via clicking on the “see more hours” link.

wlmart More interesting and somewhat spookier is that Google is now showing actual visitation in real time.

As searchers we can extract specific value from the information and decide whether we want to visit or not. Clearly a nice feature.

But we can also gain some relative business intelligence. Continue reading Google Rolls Out Real Time Popular Times – What Can We Learn?

Google Testing New Local Pack in San Diego with Rollout of Advanced Verification

In early October, Google announced a new test for service area businesses that offered direct consumer contact and exhibited lots of spam (ie locksmiths, plumbers etc) that involved an advanced verification process. The advanced verification process is similar to, although less rigorous than the vetting process involve

d with the Home Service Ads that were showing in the Bay Area. Along with this Advanced Verification test, Google announced that any plumber or locksmiths in San Diego that did not Advance Verify or did not meet the standard would be pulled from the index sometime after November 10th.

What Google didn’t announce but that has now become obvious from this screen shot provided by Joy Hawkins on Twitter is that were will also be a new local display unit, the Home Services Pack, that highlights SABs that have done through this more rigorous vetting.

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The Home Service Pack lists just Advanced Verified local businesses and displays them with a check mark to signify the higher level of verification. And it appears that the unit can appear in addition to the Local Pack which shows store front businesses.

Since this has yet to really role out and seems to still be only occasionally visible we are not yet sure how many previously listed SAB Plumbers and locksmiths will be removed.

More to follow.