All posts by Mike Blumenthal

The Value of Google Collections 1 Week In

Google Collections was introduced on May 4th, one week ago. As I noted at the time there were three constituencies that needed to be addressed for it to be successful; Content Creators & Curators, Content Consumers and of course Google themselves. And as I pointed out, Google’s marketing would be the difference.

Google will obviously take care of themselves and content consumer value will be determined by usage trends over time. I can however speak to its value so far, at least in terms of follower counts (and to a lesser extent engagement) from my point of view as a Content Creator & Curator.

For rollout I created 6 Collections. I subsequently merged the Apple collection into the Mobile Local collection. My typical follower growth up to the introduction of Collections had been very, very consistent at about 100 new followers per week. 

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On May 4th I had 17,636 followers and all of them were privy to my collections so they had the same. My follower count today is 17,706.

My collections and their current follower count:

Google My Business – Tips & Tools 17,705
Local Search – tips, tactics and news 17,701
Scenes of Rural New York – Barns, Nature and More 17,682
Reviews & Reputation for the SMB 17,700
Apple & Local Search – deleted and content merged with Mobile Local Search
Mobile Local Search 18,524

Note that while most of my collections track my follower growth pretty closely, Mobile Local Search showed a large jump. Why? Because it was a featured collection and was (is) being promoted by Google.

In terms of interactions I can anecdotally say that +1s are up but comments are not.  Site traffic from G+ for the week is up about 4x over the previous week although it is way to early to tell the long term impact on that front. So for me, the benefit has been real if not overwhelming despite several annoying “features” and the lack of availability on iOS. And I think, for other creator/curator types that had their Collections highlighted, probably likewise.

Regardless, it confirms for me my previous conclusion: Collections is a nice but not spectacular feature that can benefit Creators, Curators and Consumers but ONLY if Google promotes it. Otherwise, it is just a me too feature with no significant added value other than that data gained by Google in understanding the world better.

I am curious if you have created Collections what your experience has been.

 

 

Google Rolls Out Mobile Local business orders and appointments

Update: Google has posted information about this service in the forum. 

Google has started rolling out the ability for searchers to directly book a table, order or make an appointment via mobile Google search and Google Maps. Previously there had been links to some of these services like OpenTable but now the user can complete the reservation directly via the Google interface.

Currently Google is working with a limited number of partners to provide the services. If a business is currently signed up for OpenTable for example then the table reservation feature will appear automatically on their mobile page at Google. It is rolling out, so while I found the process currently available in Google Maps for some restaurants it was not yet available on Safari for the same restaurant. The current list of partner sites includes Grubhub, Eat24, Delivery.com, BeyondMenu and MyPizza.com and apparently OpenTable.

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From Help Page
Photo May 07, 1 57 40 PMPhoto May 07, 2 23 49 PM Continue reading Google Rolls Out Mobile Local business orders and appointments

How to get Google Status Update ROBOCALLS from 3rd party marketers HIRED BY GOOGLE to stop calling?!?!

phone-449836_1280This Google MyBusiness forum post, pointed out by Joy Hawkins, shows the far reaching impact that local search robo callers have in poisoning the industry.

It is amazing to me 1) that we allow our regulatory environment be so lax that these scams continue (ah isn’t laissez faire capitalism grand?) and 2) that Google has not made an obvious, highly visible effort to slap these folks down.

How to get Google Status Update ROBOCALLS from 3rd party marketers HIRED BY GOOGLE to stop calling?!?!

Jennifer SligarLevel 1
Apr 30

We get 5 robo-calls per week (sometimes up to 3 calls per day) with a “Google Status Update” recording saying that our Google Business Listing needs to be updated. We have nothing and want nothing to do with Google and yet when you press 2 at the end of the call to be deleted from the list, nothing changes. THE CALLS CONTINUE. When you press 1 you are generally not connected to a live person (to tell them to stop calling in person).

Today, however, I was.

“Paul” told me that he would take me off the list from “his” office but that Google hires DOZENS of marketing companies to make THE EXACT SAME ROBOCALL, using the EXACT SAME AUTO DIALERS and that our office would continue to be hounded by these calls forever or until we have exhausted some unknown number of firms to get off of their lists as well.

I CALL BS ON YOU GOOGLE, FOR ALL THAT YOU CLAIM NOT TO MAKE CALLS…YOU HIRE !!!DOZENS!!! OF COMPANIES TO DO FOR YOU WHAT YOU CLAIM TO NOT DO!!!!!

WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU PEOPLE??? THIS IS DIRTY POOL!!!

WE SHOULD NOT HAVE TO WASTE OUR VALUABLE COMPANY TIME CONTINUOUSLY, DAY BY DAY, WEEK BY WEEK, TO TELL YOU OR YOUR MARKETING FIRMS THAT WE DON’T WANT TO GIVE YOU OUR INFORMATION.

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!STOP CALLING US!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
DO YOU HEAR????????????????????
IS THIS LOUD ENOUGH????????????????????????????????
STOP FUCKING CALLING US!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

This is an amazing post. Continue reading How to get Google Status Update ROBOCALLS from 3rd party marketers HIRED BY GOOGLE to stop calling?!?!

Google Plus Rolls Out ‘Collections’ Feature

Screen-Shot-2015-05-04-at-12.49.57-PMRumored for the past several weeks, Google+ has just rolled out a new Google Plus feature – Connections, a feature that allows a G+ persona or page to curate G+ posts into targeted & topical sets. Collections is available on Android and the web, and iOS is coming later. For Android users, make sure to update your Google+ app to get access to Collections.

It is, for regular G+ posters, a useful feature that allows for sub categorization of groups of posts so that any posts can be more easily found in the future. It adds an organizational structure to G+ that was not really available with circles. Here are several collections that I have created 6 collections of my postings there:

Google My Business – Tips & Tools
Local Search – tips, tactics and news
Scenes of Rural New York – Barns, Nature and More
Reviews & Reputation for the SMB
Apple & Local Search
Mobile Local Search

Will I benefit from this new feature? Will I gain new followers or increased front page exposure in the main SERPS? Like so much of what has happened on G+,  it depends on whether Google puts some oomph into the marketing and exposure. And whether they make ranking of these Collections somewhat more transparent.
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If new readers of G+ are readily shown this curated content it might make them more likely to stay in G+ and create an interest based stream that is topically driven and doesn’t require them to know which individuals are prominent in those fields. A user can follow a specific Collection for example and not see all the content of a given persona. It could (operative word could) improve the newbie experience and lead to user growth. Google has yet to impress me with their capacity in this regard.

On this front Google will be offering “Featured Collections” but their success is totally dependent on Google’s positioning and marketing of them. Although the varied crowd of testers has created an interesting array of first efforts on this front.
Continue reading Google Plus Rolls Out ‘Collections’ Feature

Billion Dollar Bully Documentary about Yelp Hits Kickstarter Goal

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Billion Dollar Bully, “documentary on marketing giant Yelp and their $3.6 billion racket against small business owners”, has reached its Kickstarter funding goal of $90,000. To read more about their plans for finishing the film visit their website. You can see the documentary trailer here

The “Yelp is an extortionist” meme is one that continues to dog Yelp and its not clear that it will go away any time soon. One wonders what the exact current basis for it is or if it is just the many hard feelings that have existed over the years projected into the moment.

photo-originalWhat we do know for sure is that in the past Yelp has used incredibly hard sell & deceptive tactics* against relatively unsophisticated SMBs. We also know that there is an intrinsic conflict in their long standing business model of selling very expensive ads against reviews. When you mix the hard, sharp angle sell with the emotion of reviews bad things are bound to happen even if Yelp never actually used review removals as leverage in their relationships.

We may never know, in a legal sense, if Yelp actually did use reviews as a hammer but I suppose it doesn’t matter. Yelp’s hard driving approach to the SMB market has come home to roost and until such time as they change their business model, not just their sales practices*, this attitude in the market place is likely to persist.

*To either Yelp’s or the salesman’s credit, in my most recent sales experience last month, the pitch and the process were both more honest and less pushy.

Amazon Rolls Out Amazon Destinations – A Hotel Booking Site

Amazon has been moving steadily into local via their numerous local marketplaces; home services, same day product delivery, restaurant takeout, grocery deliver and hotel bookings.  Today they upped their hotel booking game with the rollout of Amazon Destinations as part of local.amazon.com.

The website doesn’t go for the every hotel in the world approach of TripAdvisor and is focused around regional chains,   botique hotels and b and b’s and seems to be emphasizing short getaways within driving distance from major metropolitan areas.

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From the business section of the local site:

Amazon Destinations helps hotel operators reach millions of Amazon customers looking to book their next getaway. You can provide access to your everyday rates and availability, along with packaged deals and discounts.

Amazon is positioning itself as a high touch, high visibility environment where businesses can increase their exposure and be assured that their customers will receive excellent service via Amazon.

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Clearly Amazon is rapidly moving into the local space. They will not compete directly with Google’s approach of providing massive local data and they probably can’t compete with Google in this arena.

But instead of driving people down the search funnel to an ad they will drive people to make the actual purchase. They will leverage the trust people have in their name and the high traffic of their site to compete in local where their brand, marketplaces and customer service gives them an advantage.

Optimizing Your Profile Image at Google Plus

Pack-Result-Desktop-smallThere probably isn’t an image of your business that gets seen more by potential customers and searchers than your Google My Business profile image. There isn’t a single image that has more impact on searcher’s behaviors. And there isn’t an image in the online world that is harder to “get right.”

Read my thoughts on how to best optimize your profile image: Your Google My Business Profile Image – The Most Important Image? at Local U.

Growth in the Use of “Near Me” in Searches

I have previously noted the growth of “near me” and “near by” in mobile search.

With the advent of mobile computing those phrases have moved rapidly into the search lexicon among phone searches.

In a recent article at Think With Google, Matt Lawson noted: Google search interest in “near me” has increased 34X since 2011 and nearly doubled since last year. The vast majority come from mobile—80% in Q4 2014.. The article also noted that these types of searches were more common amongst travelers, more frequent on weekends and frequently focused on restaurant and food related searches.

Clearly these types of searches occur in some vertical more than others but the “near me” really mirrors the growth of smart phones. I created a GIF from Google Trends that shows the spread of the use of Near Me over the past 5 years:

(click to view larger)

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Old Google Maps Heads to the Graveyard

Screen Shot 2015-04-15 at 10.33.41 AMBarry Schwartz noted a Google Maps Forum post by Abby announcing the full roll-out of the updated Google Maps for desktop and the deprecation of the old Google Maps.

In its place, for slow connection or old browsers, will be a Google Maps Lite Mode, a slimmed down version of the new Maps that eliminates 3D and speeds Maps up generally.

The old Maps was a trusty companion and in its time, an incredibly innovative product. It still has features that will be missed. My top of list request for a feature to be added to the new Maps: The ability to  show two or more sequential searches on the map simultaneously. It allowed me to identify a location in relation to other searches, useful in real life AND Local SEO.

But the old Maps had other capabilities as well that were useful, particularly in Local SEO work, that are still missing from the new Map. For example the ability to ferret out duplicate listings easily is now gone. (This makes Michal Cottam’s Page Finder more useful.)

The new Maps, in minimizing business listings, make them very hard for me (I am color blind) to easily parse on the screen.  The new Maps makes reporting a problem less functional and accessing a G+ Plus page nigh on impossible.

To some extent I suppose that the era of importance of desktop Maps is starting a long decline into second class status as mobile Mapping takes all the glory. That doesn’t mean that the old Maps won’t be missed.