All posts by Mike Blumenthal

Google Spam Hall of Shame – A Well Deserved Group Award

This week’s second Google Spam Hall of Shame award goes to not one deserving business but to a group, who have worked hard and persistently to achieve this honor (drum roll please….)- the personal injury lawyers of the City of Orlando.

This achievement, of having every listing(ok two out of three1) in the 3 Pack and the top six Local Finder results be spammy,  took both persistence and a great deal of cooperation of spirit.2

So a word of warning to searchers in Orlando… don’t slip and fall outside your apartment building looking for your lost keys. Your Google search for locksmiths and injury attorneys will both only add cumulative insult to your already injured person.

Who knows what lurks in the reviews, marketing listings and virtual offices, I didn’t even bother to look but the frequency of suite #’s gives a clue.3

1- I have learned that listing number 3 is actually using a filed DBA, which brings up the whole issue of the world changing their business names to satisfy a “feature” in Google’s algo. Which makes the whole situation even more absurd. 

2- Hmm. I get that personal injury cases are profitable and worth a little stretch to get them but is it really worth the rough digital equivalent of ambulance chasing? So much for ethics boards. 

3- These results, even though anecdotal, are clear evidence of the sheer lameness of Google’s spam white paper conclusions.  All I can say is, its a good thing that only 1/2 of 1% of all of the Google listings are spammy and have been removed by them. Although I am not sure what you call what is left. 

Google Spam Hall of Shame

This week’s Google Spam Hall of Shame nominee achieved a double double score in the race to be nominated and secure this week’s nod. The offender has 13 words (96 characters)1 in his business title and somewhere north of 20 fake reviews.

I discovered the listing via my on-going review spam research and I loved his name so much that I had to give him this week’s award. Let me know if you agree.

With a name like “Photo Experts, Los Angeles Headshots Photographer Scanning Lab, UPS Shipping, Notary, Money Order“, how could you NOT do business with them?

And their incredible review profile, seals the deal.

Many of the reviewers fit the clear pattern that I identified in my review spam article. If it isn’t obvious, Google didn’t dig very deep with the data that I originally provided them2.

Andy B. Brian is among them. One can only surmise, given how obvious the pattern is and how easy it would be to take down the whole network with a little bit of code, that Google currently just doesn’t give a s&!t.

Given the number of fake Google reviewers, one has to be somewhat suspicious of his Yelp profile as well.

The Runner Up this week was Window Cleaning Company Houston (Window Washing Company), while they got extra points for squeezing the word “window” AND the word “company” in twice, and for having 78 fake, five star reviews, the fact that their business name was only 56 characters left them out of the victory circle.

1 – Am I going to have to go and figure out the field limit? Sheesh… you folks are falling down on the job.

2– It’s amazing how trusting and naive that I am. Having given Google 100 obvious spammers, with an easily coded rule to find more of them, I just assumed that they would spend a few minutes, write the code and zap 20,000 reviews. Although I was hoping that the number might be as high as 100,00. Heck I had done the hard lifting. Boy am I gullible.

You would think that I would have learned by now. I remember, I think it was 2008, when the then head of Google Maps told me that they had left the spam in so that they could “train their system” who the bad actors were and that soon (very soon) they would have a handle on it. Good thing I didn’t hold my breath. 

Mobile Knowledge Panel Tab Test

Sergey Alakov, Toronto SEOshared a new mobile Knowledge Panel test that shows the use of tabs to hold the reviews and separate them from basic business information.

Obviously Google does a ton (and a half) of these tests, most of which never go further. But Sergey pointed out several other interesting tests last week.

This one, however, particularly interested me because it highlights reviews AND because it is one more of the Google”down the rabbit hole”, keep them here or nowhere type tests. Google either wants a users time or their action. And doesn’t want other sites to get credit for the activity.

Mike B Around the Local Web

It’s spring time and there is mania in the air…or at least there is for me.  I have written/created a few more pieces for those of you that can’t get enough of local.

Here is my other writing from around the web:

LocalU: Podcast: Last Week in Local April 24th, 2017 Joy Hawkins joins me for a look at the past week in local.

GetFiveStars: Case Study: Key Performance Indicators in Local Digital Marketing       

Getfivestars:  Case Study: In Local Attribution Word of Mouth Dominates     

LocalU: Video Deep Dive:  KPIs, Key Performance Indicators, which ones really matter in local Mary Bowling and I discuss Barbara Oliver Jewelry’s case study.

One Approach to Appointments Only Scheduling

Joy Hawkins pointed out this obvious attempt at communicating via the Google listing when you are just getting too much walk in traffic and Google offers no real solution to run their business the way that they want.

Although their messaging is such that it isn’t at all clear just when they do want your business. Good luck with that.

One, Google should offer an appointment only hours option and two, there really should be something in place that prevents a business from so mucking with the results. Although this makes it perfectly clear that the business isn’t totally clear on Google’s concept of a business listing. I.E. open and someplace a customer can drive to when the business says that they are open and that you can drive to it.

Best Searches Now Default to +4 Star Listings in the Local Pack & Increased Granularity

Two interesting developments in the Local Pack today. Joy Hawkins,  (via Dave DiGregorio) pointed out that “Best Keyword + City” searches now return 3-pack results with average ratings of 4+.

Sergey Alakov pointed out on Twitter that the rating drop down now display increased granularity with 1/2 point differences now selectable.

Why is this important? Google is highlighting businesses with better reviews more in the search results. This increases the ever growing financial incentive to cheat on reviews. In any rational world this would increase Google’s responsibility to remove fake reviews in a more rigorous and through way.

Google Spam Hall of Shame

Update: As of 2:40 EDT all of Michael Park’s reviews are taken down so you will have to take my word for their value.

As you know I have been exploring a Google review spam network. Google took down everyone that I pointed out to them in the network but neglected to dig one iota deeper and find the many related profiles. Their loss.

My gain was finding Michael Park, legal reviewer extraordinaire! Either he is a spammer or the most prolific plaintiff in the 50 states. And when I say 50 states, I mean each and every one of them. Ok…. not every one of them, but quite a few.

Michael, you see has left 23 lawyer reviews, in the past 7 months in at least 22 states. Either he has an obsessive compulsive desire to sit in lawyer offices and courtrooms or maybe, just maybe he is a review spammer1.

Original he is not2
Richard A. Steadman Jr.
6296 Rivers Ave #102, Charleston, SC 29406

Richard is an experienced attorney who was very attentive and detailed to my case. I would highly recommend him to friends and family alike.

Murphy Cooke Kobrick LLP
177 Bovet Rd #600, San Mateo, CA 94402

MCK are truly experienced attorney’s and were very attentive and detailed to my case. I would highly recommend them to friends and family alike.

Continue reading Google Spam Hall of Shame

Mike B Around the Local Web

Articles that I published or contributed to elsewhere around the local inter webs last week:

Streetfight: Frustration With Digital Marketing Vendors Boils Over for One SMB. In my biweekly conversation with David Mihm, we discussed the how the hard sell in the local world was leading to bad outcomes for all of us.

LocalU: Video Deep Dive Special Edition: Darren Shaw & the Local Search Ranking Factors Study. Darren Shaw of Whitespark joins me to discuss the methodology, results and future of the Local Search Ranking Factors Study.

LocalU: Video Deep Dive: Why some big brands lag behind in local & how they could improve. Mary and I explore some of the reasons that brands are still struggling with putting together a decent local plan (also available as a podcast.)

Mozcon: Are Words the New Links?. Moz is now selling the video of the day long MozCon Local event in February. As teaser for the bundle they are providing my presentation gratis.

LocalU: And Video: Last Week in Local April 17th, 2017. My weekly video with Mary Bowling that is also available as both a weekly e-mail newsletter and a podcast.

 

Google Adds Product & Service Menu Links to the Knowledge Panel

Google is now displaying a Product/Page Link in the Knowledge Panel and providing direct entry of the link via the Google My Business dashboard.

Last week Google added the ability for individual restaurants to add their menu links to the GMB dashboard and have them show in their branded KP result. At the time it appeared to support service menus as well but it was buggy1 and the feature was temporarily pulled. The feature is back and appears to be now fully functional.

The Google Knowledge Panel has largely become a business’s new home page. By that I mean that the bulk of consumer to business interactions are now occurring ON Google and not on their home page.

In Barbara’s case at a ratio of 3 to 1. She gets three times the number of calls and driving directions from Google than she gets from her website. In having looked at a large number of businesses over the past several months, I believe this to be generally true of most businesses.

Given that, the ability to add a link directly to the Knowledge Panel, creates one more focused opportunity for a business to interact with a customer when they do click through from the Knowledge Panel.

While many interactions are taking place on Google, the bulk of the remaining direct client interactions are taking place on her website via traffic referred by Google. That makes your product service page one that could get increased views and increased opportunities for client interactions and conversions.

When I wrote about this feature coming to the API and likely coming to the GMB (in  Menu Attributes – Why Your Services Page Just Got More Important ) I noted:

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.

1 – As a note, the feature is still a little wonky, When you first add the service menu link, it is displayed with the link in red and crossed out. However if you refresh the screen that goes away. 

 

The GMB User’s Guide Google Forgot To Publish

I don’t often express pride publicly but one thing I am very proud of is LocalU. Over the years this group of talented Local SEO’s has led the industry in educating and training small businesses and agencies in ethical, sustainable and leading edge Local SEO. One such effort is Joy Hawkin’s new training manual, The Expert’s Guide to Local SEO.

I invited Miriam Ellis of Moz and Solas Design to explore the manual and here is her review:
———————

Just like the human brain, Local SEO has two sides: the creative and the technical. When we clarify a local business’ marketing vision, craft content, help draft owner responses and seek new ways to earn reviews, we’re in right-side creative mode. When we hunt for duplicate listings, need to see all the categories a competitor is using, or manage a NAP overhaul when a client moves to a new location, Local SEOs move to the left side of brain – the technical side.

It’s within the latter – the technical hemisphere – that The Expert’s Guide To Local SEO stands as an unprecedented resource for managing the most challenging and sparsely-documented daily tasks agencies and businesses face. How do you unverify a listing? Do listings marked closed really hurt open businesses? What is the difference between a soft and a hard GMB suspension and what can you do about them?

Google Has Been Lacking 

Google has never done an adequate job explaining the technical details of how to work with its powerful local product – in fact, the meagerness of their documentation is legendary. And this is precisely why agencies and enterprises will feel a kind of light-headed, amazed empowerment opening the pages of this guide, which is the joint effort of Joy Hawkins and LocalU – recognized industry experts. Here are all of the technical procedures you need, all in one place, to answer nearly every question that surfaces about the in-the-trenches procedures for building and maintaining a healthy local, digital presence.

Your team could spend 20 minutes trying to find an article that describes how to contact Google’s various support platforms, or you could just open this guide. You could try to figure out on your own how to find a listing CID number (good luck!), or you could just open this guide and follow the clearly documented, well-illustrated instructions.

For the relative beginner in the field, you’ll also find sound pointers on the basics of local-focused website design, understanding Yelp’s filter, and why citations matter. But the greatest strength of this landmark eBook is in the time it will save all readers dealing with the nitty-gritty of daily dealings with Google My Business and the various local data formats. In this regard, The Expert’s Guide to Local SEO stands alone as the most comprehensive eBook on the market, almost guaranteed to to up the game of even very advanced practitioners.

Extra Value, Built-In

The chief hurdle to writing Local SEO book of lasting value lies in the fact that the pace of change in our industry is dizzying. Guidelines change, major updates happen, practices that once moved the needle just don’t anymore. If you publish a static manual on the topic of Local SEO, parts of it are almost guaranteed to become outdated within a couple of years – if only because Google keeps rebranding its local product!

Fortunately, the experts behind The Expert’s Guide to Local SEO have foreseen this reality, and it’s a tremendous and necessary value-add that purchasing the book comes with an offer to subscribe at a reasonable price to future updates. It’s an opportunity to learn from Hawkins and team not just once, but continuously.

True Enlightenment

I’ve been working in the Local space for over a decade now, and in that time, I’ve seen a few extremely bright people arrive on the industry scene and really light it up. David Mihm is one, with his vision of the need for automated local business data management. Phil Rozek, with his creative thinking and exceptional communication style, is another. Joy Hawkins joins these enlightened ranks with the publication of The Expert’s Guide to Local SEO. For the past few years, industry insiders have been repeatedly wowed by her ability to root out and solve the most abstruse technical problems and I have personally learned so much from her highly-specialized expertise. It’s my hope, that with this partnership with LocalU and with the publication of this guide, marketers at every level of experience are about to start learning from Hawkins in a way that will make a truly meaningful difference in their skill set and in the quality of service they offer to clients.

— Miriam Ellis is the Local SEO Subject Matter Expert at Moz and runs her own Local Search Marketing Agency, Solas Web Design.
Continue reading The GMB User’s Guide Google Forgot To Publish