All posts by Mike Blumenthal

LocalU Video: Deep Dive into the Local Search Ranking Factors with David Mihm

David Mihm is back from England and joined Mary Bowling and myself to talk about the previous week in local. This week’s Local U deep dive video takes a look at David Mihm’s recently released Local Search Ranking Factors. This is the sixth installment of our Deep Dive Into Local series, for the week ending 9/25/15. The complete video is posted in the Local U forums (paywall).

Watch: Video: Deep Dive into the Local Search Ranking Factors with David Mihm

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Google Local Search Phone Hack

Tim Colling and Helmut Schmidt (Google Local TC Extraordinaire) both pointed out to me that if you add the word ‘phone’ to your keyword local search, Google DOES in fact surface the phone number.

Thus while a search like emergency services buffalo or emergency plumber buffalo would not return a phone number (even though they should…Google what are you thinking???), a searcher can surface it with the search emergency services buffalo phone

I have not found a way to surface street address in the Local Pack but maybe there is one?

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Maybe this will make our good friend, Dave happy… hmm probably not. :)

OMG- Say it ain’t so Joe! Phone Numbers Once Again Gone from the 3 Pack?

Chris Alphen of EarlyOftenNow just noted in a comment on my post about the reappearance of phone numbers in the 3 Pack, their disappearance!

Shoeless Joe Jackson[5]A quick check across browsers that were showing phone numbers, confirm that they are once again not showing. For those of you that are not following the drama, to the dismay of many, phone numbers were first removed from the pack on August 7th. Several users reported their periodic reappearance in tests. On Thursday AM (Pacific time), Jennifer Slegg reported their widespread appearance in an article titled: Google Returns Phone Numbers & Addresses to Local 3-Pack noting the general sigh of relief at their return. By Thursday evening they had started appearing worldwide and despite my initial caution I noted that they had in fact rolled out. Now, Saturday morning Eastern time they are once again MIA. Go figure.

As I said on Thursday and revised for today: However given the spread and frequency of visibility my current money is on a rollout not a test. Rollout in the sense of testing for the next 3 months days or so as opposed to testing this week.

Here is a Safari, Mac screen shot. I checked in Chrome and Firefox and via an overseas proxy and all show the numbers as missing.

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Test? Rollout? Brainfart? Your call I am done calling it.

Update: I have heard from UK and Japan and both have lost the number in the pack.

And for Dave Oremland, who feels he has some sort of right to be able to see the phone number in case he needs emergency services while serving up students at his bartending school, I offer up these: Continue reading OMG- Say it ain’t so Joe! Phone Numbers Once Again Gone from the 3 Pack?

Woman Who Wrote a Scorching Yelp Review is Fined $1000 by Court – Technovate LLC v Fanelli

Frank Kockritz of Ascend Local pointed out this recent Fox News Clip from earlier in the week announcing a $1000 penalty against a Staten Island women for writing a scathing Yelp review of a flooring company, Mr. Sandless OF Staten Island.

According to the court documents:

On March 4, 2015 identified as “Emily” she posted the following “review” on silive (presented below as it appeared on the website):

this matt the owner is a scam

do not use mr sand less of staten island matt is the name he will destroy you floor he is a liar and con artist beware

On March 4, 2015 a similar review by “Emily F.” was posted on Yelp (presented below as it appeared on the website).

this guy mat the owner is a scam do not use him you will regret doing business with this company I’m going to court he is a scam customers please beware he will destroy your floors he is nothing by a liar he robs customers and promises you everything if you want shit then go with him if you like nice work find another he is A SCAM LIAR BULLSHITTER

On March 20, 2015, “Emily F.” posted an “updated review” on Yelp (presented below as it appeared on the website).

this is a night mare of a company you can not imagine what my floors look like stay away from matt gardiner your floors start to crack the stuff comes off the floors are left with no shine i had beautify shine before matt came to my house believe me if you want to see matts work and you rare thinking of hiring him contact me per my email and i will gladly show his work here is my e email address it is i would show you his terrible work you would thank me please advise any now who is thinking of wiring with him stay away he is the island biggest scam person around, DO NOT HAVE YOUR FLOORS DONE WITH THIS MAN, CUSTOMERS PLEASE BE WARE OF THIS MAN MATT GARDINER HE IS A SCAM HE TAKES YOUR MONEY AND DESTROYS YOUR HOME

he des not even deserve a one star 0 stars he gets

The Staten Island Civil Court Judge Phillip Straniere said in his ruling: “Terms such as ‘scam’, ‘con artist’ and ‘robs’ imply actions approaching criminal wrongdoing rather than someone who failed to live up the terms of a contract”. For a full reading of both the background and the legal issues read Technovate LLC v Fanelli

From the NY Daily News:

Norman Siegel, a noted civil rights attorney not involved in the case, said the ruling “could chill people from expressing their negative opinions.”

“Opinions are protected speech,” Siegel said, and Fanelli’s comments — while extreme — are opinion. “Context is important,” he said. “She was just spouting off and giving her opinion about his services.”

“If she called him a convicted felon, that would be different,” he said. He encouraged Fanelli to appeal — and she said she’s planning to.

Its an interesting case and it will be interesting to see if the ruling stands as solid case law given the free speech issues. Historically reviews have been seen as a free speech arena and there was little that could legally be challenged. Yelp has consistently defended that position.

“New York also adheres to the doctrine that “a publication defamatory of a place or a product is not libel against its owner unless the owner himself is accused of disreputable conduct”

And per the ruling, the poster, Ms Fanelli,  most definitely crossed the line into defamation in New York State. The judge noted that her personal invective was “designed to impugn his integrity and business practices with the intent to damage his business reputation”.

I am hopeful that the defendant does pursue this case as it may be the first review the clearly defines the limits of where free speech ends and defamation starts. In my mind, it would provide a useful yard stick for all of the players; the reviewers, the businesses and the review platforms.


Are Phone Numbers Returning to the 3 Pack?

Jennifer Slegg of theSEMPost is reporting the return of phone numbers to the Local 3 Pack results. I am not yet seeing them on my Mac with Safari, Chrome or Firefox although some others are reporting seeing them. Update: As of about 5:00 pm eastern they were showing world wide. 

Certainly their return would prove a boon to those dependent on calls for their sustenance like emergency plumbers etc and from a user POV I welcome them. It isn’t clear to me if this is the new normal (whatever the f%&k that means) or a broad test. Are you seeing them? If so what browsers?

I only wish I were a fly on the logs of the search results so I could see and know what Google sees and knows about user behaviors.

Courtesy of theSEMPost
Update: In small surveys across Google Plus and Twitter as to whether and where 3-pack with the phone # is being seen or not:

They were seen by folks searching from/located in in Calif, NV, AZ, Japan and Austria.

They were not seen by those searching in FL, NY, Pa, Seattle, Austin, Chicago, DC area, Toronto or the UK.

The results are dependent on physical searcher location NOT the location setting in search. However given the spread and frequency of visibility my current money is on a rollout not a test. Rollout in the sense of testing for the next 3 months or so as opposed to testing this week.

Google Testing HSA display + Local 3 Pack

Service businesses have been in a tizzy of late worrying about the possible demise of the local pack and its replacement by the Home Services Ad format. This would effectively monetize all of the prime real estate in local search and interject Google into their quoting process.

Maybe this screen shot will provide a small safe harbor in an otherwise stormy Google.

David Rodecker of Local Splash just shared this screenshot for the search: Plumber Emerald Hills which includes both the home service ad pack PLUS the new Local 3 -Pack.


Clearly this layout is a test as while it is currently returning this result for the Emerald Hills plumber search, it does not return for a San Francisco plumber search. As a side note, the Home Service Ad is now showing as far south as plumber san jose (that seems to be an expansion?).

I get why service area businesses are worried but I have, after many years of dealing with Google, learned that all you can count on with them is the NOW. Google is what Google does, today (only). They test so fast, change so quickly that their rate of change is quicker than you can ever respond as a business.

Thus the only offense is a good defense. Diversify, diversify, diversify. Diversify your search strategy to go after more organic and long tail opportunities plus video and Adwords. Diversify your advertising into other avenues besides Google even if the ROI is not as high as search.

But most importantly diversity your customer relations and retention. The best customer is one you already have not one that you have to find anew.

Make sure that you are taking care of every customer in a way that makes them want to share your information with their friends. Make sure you are staying in touch and get their buy in on how they want to hear from you in the future whether that is email, text or Facebook. Figure out a way to measure their satisfaction and if it isn’t the best in the market figure out how to change your approach so that it is.

Only then will you have some immunity from the vagaries of Google local search.

Personal Assistants & the Changing Nature of Local Search

Join Mary Bowling, David Mihm and me for the newest Deep Dive in Local Video. Each week we share our thoughts about the critical news and events in the past week in local. In the second half of that weekly video  we take a deeper strategic and tactical dive into one interesting area that caught their attention during the week and publish this weekly dive on the Local U Blog. We recently posted our newest installment:Video: Deep Dive into Personal Assistants & the Changing Nature of Search

These segments will typically be about seven minutes in length and be posted one to two weeks after their posting in the forum.

The complete video is posted in the Local U forums (paywall). In 15-20 minutes each week you can learn about the important events in the week that impacted local and potentially your agency. If you are a typical agency and are strapped for time to stay on top of critical events, the Local U forums is worth the price of admission for this reason alone.

An Updated List of Apple Business Listing Data Providers

Interested in who provides business listing data to Apple Maps? With rollout of iOS 9 Apple is becoming ever more important in local search.

This fact struck home early this year when a major theme park contacted me and said that people were piling up at their service entrance instead of their front gate. Turned out it was a routing issue on Apple Maps and surprisingly Apple was able to fix the issue within 24 hours. It did point out the need to have accurate POI information in Apple Maps

They source their data from many more sources than Google and the list is long. In fact I think that currently in the US alone they are likely sourcing data from 18 firms. Head over to Local U for the complete read:

A Updated List of Known Apple Maps Business Listings Data Providers


Details of Google’s Robo Calling Lawsuit Against Local Lighthouse

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From the front page of the Lighthouse website

Earlier today Google announced an educational and legal attack on deceptive robo calling that has and continues to run rampant in the local space.

Google mentioned in their blog today that they had filed a lawsuit. I have just read through the filing and it reads like one of my rants against this sort of thing. Maybe Google is serious this time around.

The suit was filed in the US District Court for Northern District of California against Local Lighthouse, a Tustin, CA based local SEO. The filing is a 3 part complaint for Federal Trademark Infringement, Unfair Competition and False Designation and False Advertising.

Here are some of the juiciest highlights from the filing detailing the tactics that we are all too familiar with:

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  1. Google is informed and believes, and based thereon alleges, that Defendant makes extensive, unauthorized, and misleading use of the GOOGLE mark and other marks that include  or incorporate the GOOGLE mark
  2. That Defendant’s sales  agents have made and continue to make various false and misleading claims during Defendant’s  telemarketing calls to confuse consumers regarding the true source or nature of Defendant’s services and the relationship between Google and Defendant. These include: (i) claims that Defendant’s sales agents represent Google or are calling on behalf of Google; (ii) claims that  Defendant is affiliated with Google or has been contracted by Google to provide SEO services;  and (iii) other claims designed to obfuscate Defendant’s identity and foster the mistaken belief  that Defendant and its services are approved, sponsored, or endorsed by Google.
  3. That Defendant  exploits such confusion to induce consumers to enter into contracts costing hundreds of dollars in recurring monthly bills.
  4. Evidence of such confusion is reflected in online consumer complaints and  pending lawsuits by consumers against Defendant. In addition, some consumers have directed their complaints regarding Defendant’s sales practices at Google.
  5. On July 29, 2014, Google sent Defendant a letter after receiving several complaints regarding Defendant’s telemarketing calls. Google told Defendant that consumers had complained about incessant, unsolicited automated telephone calls, misrepresentations of Defendant’s relationship with Google, and false guarantees of first-page placement in GOOGLE search results.
  6. Google demanded that Defendant immediately cease all such actions and bring its  practices into compliance with Google’s Third Party Policy. Google also demanded a copy of Defendant’s sales script.
  7.  On August 12, 2014, Defendant responded to Google’s letter by denying that it  used “robocalls” to market its services or that it harassed consumers with unwanted phone calls. Defendant claimed that it would “take quite a thorough look through the Sales Force Compliance to further our employee training to make sure all policies are being adhered to.”
  8. Defendant also denied that it guaranteed certain placement in search engines. Despite these representations however, Google received additional complaints.
  9. On January 9, 2015, Google sent Defendant another letter informing Defendant that it had received further complaints regarding Defendant’s telemarketing calls, including reports that Defendant’s sales representatives were introducing themselves as “Google Local Listing representatives.”
  10. The letter demanded that Defendant stop such misrepresentations and  bring its practices into compliance with Google’s Third Party Policy.
  11. Google continued to receive complaints from consumers indicating that Defendant’s sales representatives harassed them with multiple, unwanted telemarketing calls, misrepresented Defendant’s relationship with Google, and made false and misleading statements
  12.  For example, Google is informed and believes, and based thereon alleges, that Defendant’s sales agents have made statements such as: “We’re a Google subcontractor,” “we’re working for Google,” “the $100 fee [to initiate Defendant’s services] goes to Google,” and Defendant’s customers’ webpages “will show up multiple times on the front page and get what’s called ‘Front Page Domination.’”

Here is the filing if you would like to read it yourself: Google Complaint Against Lighthouse.

Not to pile on but their Yelp reviews make for good reading as well.

Robo Callers – Google is not going to take it any more – Files Lawsuit

Update: Details of Google’s Robo Calling Lawsuit Against Local Lighthouse are now available.

Apparently Google is not going to take the abuse from robo callers any more. Today Google is publicly starting to educate the public about rob caller’s abuses in Google’s name AND has apparently initiated its first law suit against a search marketing firm that has apparently been at the forefront of SMB abuse.

Robo callers have long been more than a thorn in the side of small businesses, often calling the same business 6,8,10 times in a week with a common refrain. Masquerading as Google, they inveigle, threaten, cajole or otherwise bullshit the small business into parting with their money.

The reputations of the search industry and Google have been the collateral damage in the robot caller’s battle to profit from ignorance. All too often you would find reports of these characters in the Google My Business Forums, asking how to get Google to stop harassing them. Despite the efforts of many noting that it wasn’t in fact Google, the posters continued to believe that it was Google harassing them or worse, stealing from them.

In today’s post in their “Safety Center”, titled Report Robocall Scams (cross posted to Google and Your Business) Google, provides tips to protect oneself  and is also providing a form to report robo callers directly to Google.

More significantly they have reportedly have taken one company to court.  Although I have yet to confirm the specifics of this.

Continue reading Robo Callers – Google is not going to take it any more – Files Lawsuit