All posts by Mike Blumenthal

Google Stops Counting Anonymous Reviews?

Update: Over the weekend many of these “A Google User Reviews” were removed from the corpus as well as the count.

I just got this email from my favorite pet client, Barbara Oliver.

She watches her reviews like a hawk and is very protective of them:

I noticed today that I have 139 google reviews and up until now, I had 172. Do they just delete older ones? You know how I get as I work so hard to earn them ……
Barbara

Thanks to a tip from Martin Briggs, of the thesearchroom.com on Twitter, I was able to confirm that Google didn’t throw them away, they are just no longer counting anonymous reviews from “A Google User” in the total shown in the Knowledge Panel.

Whether this fortells some other action vis a vis anonymous reviews is not clear. But for now, many businesses will see an immediate drop in their review count. It will be more obvious to those that started the review process before the G+ era and have a lot of reviews from non-identified users.

Google My Business Agency Dashboard & Upgrade to API Coming

At the LSA 18 Conference in Chicago (at friggin’ 8 am*) Anita Yuen, from the Google My Business team, announced new features focusing on the small(ish) and bigger agency market.

“GMB now delivers a tailored experience for agencies and platform partners”.

3 Key investments

Updated API – coming

  • Messaging API
  • Improved Search APIs across location
  • Department hierarchies

Note: Messaging API is currently in trusted tester state.

New Agency Dashboard – Created with agency in mind and will be available generally in 2 to 3 weeks.

  • Single organization account for all locations
  • Users groups for teams
  • Invitation Management

Note: it appears that the dashboard will only support certain high trust categories. It is not clear what an agency does with locksmiths or garage door companies.* All verified listings can be brought into the new agency account via the invitation management.

The invitation management allows the agency to easily send an alert to a new client and makes client opt-in much easier. Clients can request that they be included into an agency dashboard by entering the location group ID.

It will essentially be an organizational layer above the new GMB list view dashboard.

New Partner Program – .

  • Agencies advanced access
  • Dedicated forum and tailored support
  • Partner directory

Notes: There is some minimum size agency that wasn’t detailed but it sounded like Google looking for larger agencies and or agencies with growth trajectories.

Sign up for the New Partner Program: bit.ly/gmb-partner

*this erroneous note was an answer given that was related to the white listing program which is distinct from the agency dashboard

Google as the New Mobile Website

Yesterday at Streetlight Magazine during David Mihm’s and my conversation he noted:

You’ve been banging the drum for the last 12-18 months that for most businesses, Google Is the New Homepage. The reality is most customers are coming into your business digitally with Google as the front door.

But it feels like with all the new features Google has released during that time period, “Homepage” isn’t a sufficiently consequential descriptor. How about “Google Is the New Website?”

Google has been busy adding user and business owner content to the Knowledge Panel for the past year and, particularly on mobile, was beginning to obviously organize that information as a mobile website directly IN the Knowledge Panel. We noted the addition of videos, Google Q & A, Posts and the recently released Service Menu.

Well today they have further built out your mobile website by adding the traditional About tab to your “new website” (h/t to Sergey Alakov on Twitter). It is showing for all categories that I have checked although its presentation is dramatically different with hotels when accessed through the Local Finder rather than a brand search.

Typically it captures the many attributes that Google has been collecting over the past 18 months from Local Guides and if there are notable attributes they get highlighted visually. This is true of lawyers as well as restaurant.

As a note it appears (I am in a rush and couldn’t double check) that if you have the Service Menu you do not show the About Menu. And if you have no Posts that tab is missing as well:

Note that icons for quality and, in this case, LGBT friendly, are highlighted for a lawyer
This location has a Service menu which seems to be used instead of the About tab if available
Note the distinct presentation for hotels via the Local Finder

Google Adds Restaurants to the Book with Google Feature

This was mentioned on twitter several weeks ago and reported on in France about a month ago (h/t Sergey Alakov). I missed the memo.  Google is now supporting restaurant reservations with the Book with Google Feature in the GMB.

When initially introduced in October, it supported 12 booking programs across a range of verticals.

OpenTable was not mentioned at rollout. One wonders what other verticals and booking packages are in the works.

The  booking button is a very large call to action on both mobile AND desktop views of a restaurant.

The feature, consistent with the earlier booking services, provides Google OpenTable and restaurant specific insights into its utilization.

A restaurant, comparing Google to their OpenTable data should be able to get a solid sense of where the bulk of their transactions are occurring.

Google Q & A Ebook

I have been looking at and thinking about Google Q & A great deal since its introduction.

The feature reminds me of the movie, Dr. Strangelove and it’s subtitle: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. Q & A is a lot like that. For those of you with many locations it’s as if you were just getting used to the idea of your Knowledge Panel as your new home page and engaging with reviews, and the landlord suddenly changed the lease without telling you. Who needs one more digital job?

The problem is that I don’t think we can avoid it. Users are starting conversations around your brand locations and its important that you start engaging with these customers that are leaving questions in a constructive way. You need to think about answering questions that need answering and reporting those that violate Google TOS.

I have put together an eBook with my findings from 3 months of reaserh and its now available (for the price of an email address) at GetFiveStars. It can guide you as you develop the processes and policies to deal with this new feature:

GOOGLE QUESTIONS & ANSWERS – What you don’t know can hurt you.

Download it and let me know what you think.

Google Formally Announces New Service Menu for Local Knowledge Panel

Google has formally announced the availability of the new GMB feature to add a Service Menu to the local Knowledge Panel. It has recently been reported by  both Kevin Getch and Phil Rozek as visible in their client dashboards.

From the announcement:

Back in January we launched a new Menu editor for the food service industry. This month, we are excited to announce that we have expanded our menu editor to now include additional services.

Businesses in health & beauty, and service businesses, such as plumbers and florists, now have the ability to add their menu of services directly to their listing through their Google My Business account.

Same as the food establishment menu editor, this feature will only be available if the listing is not currently connected to a third party provider and for listings in English speaking locals. If your listing is currently displaying an incorrect menu, please see this help center link for more information on how to correct or remove the link.

As a note it is visible in every category I have checked so far EXCEPT hotels. 

The feature is simple to use. Navigagte to the Info section of the Google My Business Dashboard and select the Services Item :

Once there you can enter your items:

Local Franchise Opportunity with a Chance to Enter the Google Local Spam Hall of Shame

Have an office in any city. Heck, every city in your territory

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Three years of Photoshop skills, understanding of call center technologies and a straight face required. Photo geo-tagging and familiarity with competitive local exchange carriers a plus.

You can have an office like this in every city in your protected territory. Other Office styles are available!

Choose from nay different office styles with that open office look found in office supply catalogs
Or go for that more professional style. Click to view other opportunities with this concept.

See what some of our other franchises have accomplished in major US cities. Sign up soon, cities are going fast.

Click to see enterprising entrepreneurs in Google search
Click to see other enterprising entrepreneurs in Google Local search

1- Hat tip to Tom Waddington for making me aware of this incredible opportunity.

Mike B Around the Internet

GetFiveStars: Google Write a Review Link Generator – Free Chrome Extension
Sometimes big things come in very small packages. Easily being able to generate the Google Write a Review link for service area businesses has not been readily available. This Chrome extension will do that in 0 seconds flat.

LocalU Deep Dive: Interview with Cindy Krum – Is Mobile First Indexing Really Entity First Indexing?
Cindy thinks, and I agree with her very interesting thesis, that mobile first indexing is really about a paradigm shift for Google search away from blue links towards entity based answers. Cindy is alway exciting to chat with. She will be at LocalU Advanced on April 12 if you want to hear from her in person.

Available as a video, transcript or a podcast at your favorite podcast site.

MozPod: Make the Most of Google Q&A, with Mike Blumenthal
I had a great podcast with Brin Childs with the ins and outs of Q & A

Streetfight: An eBook on Google Q&A: Everything You Wanted to Know and More
I look at Google Q & A from the multi location perspective and why the Walmarts and Home Depots of the world need to start thinking about it and soon.

Streetfight: Q&A, Reviews, and Fake News on Google: False Content Is Not Just a Facebook Problem
David Mihm and I go on a rant about Google being as guilty as Facebook of leaving deceptive local listings and reviews up for the world to see.

LocalU:  Last Week in Local April 2, 2018
Mary Bowling and I cover everything from strategic to tactical articles in that are impacting the world of local search.

Fake Reviews? Negative Reputation Mgt? Google Once Again Caught Flat Footed in the Review Space

There was an interesting article on CBC Canada this past week and it  encapsulates the range of problems that Google has not yet confronted in the review space- including but not limited to buying reviews, negative SEO reviews, review pile ons etc etc etc.:

Kensington Market restaurant inundated with hundreds of 5-star reviews accused of buying them

From the article:

Hundreds of five-star reviews pouring in over a week may seem like a dream come true for a restaurant. But for the owner of Top Gun Steak and Burger in Toronto’s Kensington Market, it’s becoming a nightmare.

“In the morning I was so excited when I saw those reviews … I’m very, very stressed now,” owner Ibrahim Nehme told CBC Toronto.

The reviews started coming in about a week ago on the restaurant’s Google profile and ramped up on Friday. There are hundreds of mostly one-sentence raves by users who have only reviewed the single restaurant, and whose profiles have little to no information about the user behind them.

A few hours later, the restaurant added a comment under many of the reviews saying, “Our success also has attracted the unwanted attention of our competitors who are using fake accounts to consistently create false reviews.”

Who knows what the truth of the situation is in Toronto. I am sure that there is plenty of fault to go around on the ground. Ultimately though the fault and the responsibility lies with Google. And their approach to reviews.

In other fake review cases Google is quite frequently quoted as saying: We’re always working on new and better ways to fight these issues and keep our information up to date.  We use automated systems to detect for spam and fraud, but we tend not to share details behind our processes so as not to tip off spammers or others with bad intent.

I am sure that they would come up with an equally inane response in this situation. This sort of mealy mouthed company line we often get is typical of Google’s big data approach to a hyper local issues. IE Google’s thinking that amongst the millions of reviews that they receive these fake are but a small percentage.

And because it is a free product, and because they have blanket federal immunity for these sorts of abuses  Google chooses (yes chooses) to not really deal with their review issues both in terms of improving the automation of for review spam detection OR putting humans onto the pitch to deal with the edge cases that their automation seems incapable of handling.

How hard would it be, for example, to set flags that when review volume suddenly surges that the reviews are temporarily quarantined until human review can ascertain their validity?

My point is that the credibility of Google reviews is dying one fake review at a time as case after case of these abuses are raised in the media. Big data has trouble capturing the concept of human trust, a very fragile thing. And it would be a crime if the benefit of reviews were permanently tainted by Google’s lack of action.

 

 

 

 

Google Posts Testing Video as a Media Type

Phillip Barnhart of Nehmedia just noted on Google+ that Google Posts is testing the use of video as a media type within a Post. The Knowledge Panel for  Moments from the Heart Photography Cedar Park Tx shows the video in an actual post.

I am a big fan of Google Posts as a tool for the SMB to use for branding, story telling, coupons and to create customer engagement and increase critical KPIs. Video is a natural evolution of the product and Moments From the Heart does a great job taking advantage of it in their post.

Interestingly though there is no other call to action or link in the post. I am curious if the use of video as a media type precludes the use of a call to action link or if that was a user choice.

Regardless it looks like an interesting test and if it goes live, an interesting feature.