Search modifiers, both those used by Google and those frequently used by searchers are interesting. In the case of the former, a change in how Google handled the phrase “near” led to some overstated numbers. In the case of the latter, I wondered whether any of them are effective proxies for measuring the increase in voice based mobile search.
The one that came to mind in this scenario was the modifier: “Nearby”. At least for me it is a phrase that I only use when searching on my phone via voice and when I am away from home. It is a modifier that I rarely ever use in desktop search (although I can imagine its use in Maps). Who knows whether that is true broadly but I was still curious.
In that vein I proceeded to Google trends and queried on the frequency of the use of the phrase Nearby in the US as to what I would see and what it might show.
The recent Google Local Update (aka Pigeon) was very disruptive. Although as I wrote at the time and reiterate, only when we actually look at measurable results can we both understand its actual impact and perhaps understand more of what was happening and what changes Google has made.
There were two main parts to the update as expressed by Google:
– Local search results that are tied more closely to traditional web search ranking signals.
– The new algorithm improves their distance and location ranking parameters.
My tea leave translation of that?
– We are moving the algos that dictated page and location prominence closer together. We are integrating brand preferences and entity rank into our main algo and using more of that as a common ranking process across both the web and local results.
-We are better able to ascertain location in both mobile and desktop environments and have, for the most part drawn smaller radius around the presumed location of the searcher from which to draw the local search results.
From where I sit, the first part of this change has been happening for a while and as David noted at SEL was largely seen first with the Hummingbird roll out.
It also appears to me that the improvements to their distance and location ranking parameters and the attendant redrawing of the local boundaries, at least on the desktop, is actually causing the more dramatic shifts in measurable desktop results.
Barbara Oliver & Co Jewelry (and others that I have looked at as well) was strongly impacted by that second change. The search radius, which had previously expanded to include the shopping suburbs of Buffalo (Williamsville, Amherst etc) had once again contracted to just include the city of Buffalo proper. You can see this when you do a search like Jewelry Buffalo. Google had effectively reduced the diameter of the search radius from 12 to 6 miles
The impact of the reduction in local Pack visibility for Barbara is obvious in Google’s My Business Insights with reduced impressions:
Have you ever thought: I really want to spend tonight reading Mike’s back library but I just don’t know where to start?
Phil Rozek thought you might and wanted to make your job easier. He pored through the 2400 articles I have written since day one, drove them through the absolute best local algo (Miriam Ellis, David Mihm, Dave Oremland, Andrew Shotland, Nyagoslav Zhekov & Phil himself) to come up with a list of The Best of Blumenthal (so far).
So if you really ever did think that you actually did want to spend some time perusing my back library this is probably the place to start….. a list of articles curated by some of the best in the local search. And people that I am lucky to have met along the way and become friends with.
Now me? I am off to listen to the greatest hits of Jan & Dean.
Custom categories, long missing from Google Maps, had retained their presence in MapMaker. That distinction has now ended. MapMaker has announced the end of custom categories and that MapMaker would now use the standard 2500+ categories that have been available to My Business and Maps.
Firstly, a BIG thanks for your continued support to improve Google Maps!
Google Map Maker offers you a detailed menu to add the most relevant category by providing a wide range of 2500+ categories to choose from. While we continue to expand this list, we’ve removed the ability to manually type-in the category of your choice.
Henceforth, any existing free-form categories will only be visible to the mapper who originally created them.
Once again, your understanding and patience is tremendously appreciated.
Googler Jade has announced in the forums that they are now going to allow instant verification via webmaster tools for many businesses.
From the announcement:
Good news — starting today, if you’re verifying a page for your business, you may be instantly verified on Google My Business if you’ve already verified your business’s website with Google Webmaster Tools. The verification will happen automatically, if applicable, when you attempt to verify a page for your business.
If you’d like to try instant verification, please make sure you’re signed in to Google My Business with the same account you used to verify your site with Webmaster Tools
Not all businesses with websites verified using Google Webmaster Tools will have instant verification, since not all business categories are eligible. If that’s the case, please use one of our other methods of verification (https://support.google.com/business/answer/2911778).
Make sure you’re signed in to Google My Business with the same account you used to verify your site with Webmaster Tools. Note that some business categories may not be eligible for instant verification.
If your business falls into one of the categories that doesn’t allow webmaster tools verification, it will still be necessary to use the other offered choices of postcard and phone when it is available.
With every update from Google we often get artifacts that are very annoying. With the Pigeon Local Update we have our share of Pigeon Poo. Barry Schwartz pointed out the inclusion of Expedia in the carousel.
We live in a big country. There are differences in behaviors between men and women, rural and urban and regionally. This is as true on line as it is offline.
Those who leave reviews are not a uniform lot nor are their preferred review sites. In my recent research as to which sites US internet users prefer to leave reviews, it was a 1,2,3 finish for Google, Facebook and Yelp. But there were interesting difference by gender, urbanicity and to an extent income as to which sites reviewers preferred. There are likely other differences as well but the sample size was not large enough to make conclusions.
There was little gender differences among those that left reviews at Google, TripAdvisor, Angie’s List or YP.com with each site having roughly equal number of males and females that preferred each site. Perhaps it is self evident but women comprised a significant majority amongst those that left reviews at Facebook. Yelp had a similar tilt towards men.
There was little difference in preference amongst those living in suburbia, rural or urban environs on Google, TripAdvisor, Angie’s List. YP.com and Citysearch. But there was a distinct urban bent towards Yelp amongst its users and a definitive tilt towards suburban and rural users amongst those preferring to review on Facebook.
Cumulative reviews grew 44% year over year to approximately 61 million and and approximately 40% of new reviews were contributed through mobile devices.
Average monthly unique visitors grew 27% year over year to approximately 138 million* and average monthly mobile unique visitors grew 51% year over year to approximately 68 million**
Active local business accounts grew 55% year over year to approximately 79.9 thousand
It is interesting to note the traffic growth and the fact that Yelp didn’t seem to mention whether it was desktop/mobile search or their mobile app growth. Given Yelp’s incredible performance in the Google desktop SERPS, one has to assume that they are getting an increasing number from Google as opposed to their app.
TL;dr: Amongst consumers that leave reviews more than once per year, which sites do consumers prefer for leaving reviews? The answer might surprise you. Google is number one overall but Facebook made a strong showing and outpaced Yelp for the number two spot as a preferred site to leave reviews.
Reviews have two sides:
Where do people read them?
Where do people like to leave them?
I suspected that the answers to these two questions might not be the same.
Facebook reviews received more of my attention with the Big Earl’s controversy in early June. It elevated Facebook on my radar and I started gathering anecdotal evidence that Facebook was making inroads into the local review space despite the fact that they are not highlighting reviews in any significant way.
I also saw the phenomenon on Barbara Oliver’s FB page despite her making no specific effort to get reviews there, they were piling up at a steady rate. I was even seeing Facebook ratings and reviews in industries like insurance that are notoriously hard to get reviews in.
To that end I created a large scale consumer survey at Google of US Adult internet users to first figure out who left reviews for local businesses regularly and then amongst those users, what sites they preferred for leaving reviews.
Using Google survey, I created a filter question to identify users (self reported) that left reviews at least once per year and eliminated from further study, those that rarely if ever left reviews.
We asked 2671 respondents the following with a choice of 5 possible answers: After purchasing from a local business, I will take the time to leave an online review for that business (% response in parenthesis):
-Almost never – less than 1 review per year (19.6%)
-Occasionally – 1 to 5 reviews per year (15.7%)
-Somewhat frequently – 6 to 11 reviews per year (4.2%)
-Very frequently – 12 reviews or more a year (2.4%)
The vast majority of respondents noted they never or almost never leave reviews (77.8%). Is it any wonder that getting reviews is hard?
The 703 of those respondents (22.2% of the total) that answered occasionally, somewhat or very frequently were then asked a follow up question where they were asked to indicate their preferred site:
When you leave a review online for a local business which site are you most likely to use?
The margin of error in the survey is such that Google’s “victory” is statistically significant. And one could argue that the difference between Facebook and Yelp is such that we can’t really tell which is actually in second place.
But this survey is confirmed by a second survey I conducted where users were allowed to pick ALL sites they are likely to use (1002 responses).
Factual stopped accepting individual manual contributions through their website (see here when you choose “Update/Add Business Data”). Instead, now they urge business owners to contact some of the “Trusted Data Contributors” to get the listings updated (obviously, in exchange of a small fee, which is not mentioned anywhere on Factual though). It is also interesting they don’t make it very obvious that they still accept contributions through their API.
Not that the manual approach ever worked properly – it could take anything from 1 day to 3 months for an addition/update to get approved.