All posts by Mike Blumenthal

Google Assistant Now Recommending Local Services – Particularly Their Own

Today Google has announced on their blog that the Google Assistant will now start helping you find local service providers.

In the U.S., this feature will start rolling out over the coming week, so help is just around the corner. In many cities the Google Assistant will suggest providers that have been prescreened by Google and companies like HomeAdvisor and Porch so you can feel confident they’re ready to take on the job. And if you’re in a city that doesn’t have any available guaranteed or screened providers, you’ll still get an answer from the Assistant with other nearby results.

But as Joy Hawkins of Sterling Sky  pointed out on Twitter, the example that Google is showing are not of HomeAdvisor or Porch but of the new Google Local Services ads.

If you wondered how Google was going to monetize Home, this provides a good framework for that with its ability to facet the search into discreet elements and provide a single answer if needed. It mirrors closely the conversation David Mihm and I had on Streetfight at the beginning of the week where we asked How Far Can Google Local Services Expand?

Now we know the first baby step.

According to Google it’ll be available for eight different categories at launch, including:

  • Plumbers
  • House cleaners
  • Locksmiths
  • Heating and air conditioning services
  • Electricians
  • Garage door repair services
  • House painters
  • Appliance repair services

For businesses within the above categories, local services on the Assistant is currently free for any business that can pass the Local Services by Google vetting process. Businesses that want to participate can fill out this interest form and someone from the Local Services team will reach out to help them onboard after validating their location and category. Businesses do not have to pay to go through the background check process.

Homewdvisor, in their pre-release about this feature noted:

The experience includes the option to instantly connect users with a HomeAdvisor pre-screened professional through HomeAdvisor’s Instant Connect technology. The experience is available via the Google Assistant on eligible Android phones, iPhones and on voice activated speakers like Google Home.

If anyone tries it, please update us!

Google Q & A Rolling out to the Desktop

Google Q & A, periodically visible on the desktop, seems to be finally rolling out full force to both PCs and Macs.

Earlier in the week, after the feature had largely gone missing even on mobile.  Danny Sullivan (now of Google) noted that it was but a temporary bug. It would seem that it was a precursor to the full roll out which appears to be happening now.

As you can see, it is viisble in the Knowledge Panel AND the Local Finder.  It is not yet visible in Google Maps.

First rolled out this summer with a mobile only visibiliy, desktop visibility will increase both how easy it is to find them as well as make it easier to have them created. I am seeing a surprising number of them both rurally and in urban environments although the questions are not always valuable or appropriate.

The feature is not yet visible in Google Maps nor in the Google My Business Dashboard. Google has though recently started alerting business owners to their existence by way of the newly expanded Search Dashboard. We are hoping to see more active alerts via the full GMB dashboard at some point.

Google Testing Verification Whitelisting via API with Large Resellers & IYPs

Long asked for but not yet made public, a number of large Adwords resellers and IYPS seemingly now have the ability to auto-verify local listings via an API.

I have spoken with a number of European and North American resellers that claim to have the functionality.  Although I have not yet seen it, its existence has been confirmed from multiple sources.

I do not know the processes involved, how Google vets the quality of the listings or if there are additional steps but the flow sounds expedited.

Obviously for anyone doing any amount of verification work, this would be a huge time saver.

And for spammers it could be a new vector. If you have details about how the product works, I would love to hear. Email me mike@blumenthals.com.

And apparently when I was not looking (traveling and speaking in Spain and California) Google has started offering up additional SMB verification options and an easier sign up flow.

 

 

Google Alerting Business Owners to Recent Questions in the New Search Dashboard on Mobile

Google Q & A has been one of the most problematic recent introductions because the questions can so readily impact the reputation of a business.

And even more problematic because there is not active notification of the business owner that a new question or answer exists and these questions are not yet visible on the desktop although there have been lots of sightings of them on the desktop in the wilds. (To view these on the desktop read this article: Hack: Seeing Google Questions & Answers on the Desktop).

While it is possible to get in front of the Questions with a good plan, a partial solution seems to be at hand with the new Google Dashboard in Search on mobile where there is a very clear indication of the existence of a new question:

When the business owner clicks on “Respond” they are taken to this screen and offered the opportunity to provide and answer. Perfect? By no means but a small step for the SMB for sure.

Google “Hustling” the Business Dashboard in Search

In one of a long line of recent (and approaching spammy) GMB related emails, Google has started sending out emails educating owners of verified businesses that they can now “Meet your new dashboard on Google Search”

When clicking the email call to action it takes the user to interact with the new(ish) mini dashboard visible on a brand search when they are logged in.

When the user clicks on the “see my new dashboard” they  presented with links to go into the Google My Business dashboard or given specific tasks that need to be done.

Between the many new, free features over the last 6 months (Posts, Websites, Chat, Q&A, API 4.0, Appointments…) and the incredible barrage of emails from the GMB, there seems to be an all out effort to attract businesses into the dashboard. The features rolled out seem to each appeal to a different subset of users from bricks and mortars to agencies all with the same focus of getting the SMB back into the dashboard to keep their data up to and (one presumes) buy some AdWords Express or HSA ads.

And it seems to be working. In the recent earning call “Google Chief Executive Sundar Pichai told analysts that efforts to attract “both large and small advertisers” around the world were paying off, especially in Asia, where sales rose 29 percent to $4.2 billion”.

LocalU Advanced Santa Monica Advance Pricing Ends Soon

LocalU Advanced is rapidly approaching. Its only a few weeks away and the seats are filling.

It should be a great event with incredible speakers and sponsors. Speakers include Joy Hawkins, Darren Shaw, Joel Headley (ex Googler), Marissa Nordahl (Google) and myself amongst many others. We have 14 speakers overall.

Sponsors include ZipSprout, Moz Local, GetFiveStars and WhiteSpark… regardless the price increases on November 10th and you can save $200 on your ticket if you buy now. If you use the code “blume” you can save an additional $50.. You won’t find a better local conference. At any price.

Order Tickets

Limited Capacity. Register Today!

Google Spam Hall of Shame

It’s beem a while since I have posted to the Google Spam Hall of Shame. It’s not that there is any less of it or that it is less obvious, its just that I have been busy on other projects.

But I couldn’t resist this example of systemic name abuse occurring in the jewelry business in Toronto. As well as every other vertical and in every other market. This example shows the degree of degradation that occurs in some search results:

Google Releases My Business API V 4.0 With Ability to Add Posts

Google has announced the release of V 4.0 of the Google My Business API. While there are a number of new  features, the most notable is the ability for 3rd Party platforms to now post Google Posts on for the businesses using the platform.

The API currently supports posting for any business with fewer than 10 locations. Large chains are not yet able to use the API for their postings. When larger chains might be able to post is unclear although Google seems to have been testing this feature.

In addition to the posting capabilities, the new version of the API supports

  • multiple value attributes like credit cards accepted (Amex, Discover, Visa)
  • Photos has been upgraded to Media to allow for richer media types like video in the future
  • More granular notifications as to the types of notifications they wish to receive
  • Notifications of reviews being updated
  • Posts analytics such as times a Post was viewed or the CTA was clicked

The Google My Business API was first released in October 2015 and since then has had three major updates and numerous minor ones.

The API is still missing some critical features for agencies and tool providers like the inability for large chains to post or to be able to use a 3rd party platform for verification. But the regular updates are a positive sign that Google has finally committed to local on both the level of the SMB and larger users.

Here is the link to the announcement and the API Docs changelog.

Ebook: Build a Better Business Using Customer Complaints

It’s been a blast building GetFiveStars. One of the things that I love the most is the support I get for projects like this new ebook.

As you probably know while I think its important to “optimize your review process” I think it’s even more important for you to “optimize your business”. Every process, not just lead generation, needs to be focused on the customer and needs to be well thought out. Then when you do ask for a review you will have earned it.

One area that sometimes is left to chance by local businesses is customer complaints. I am of the belief that you need to anticipate and plan for the bad experience. Thinking through how you are going to handle that complaint when it finally does come will help you keep that customer and avoid the issue from turning into a bad review. The ROI on a well thought out complaint plan is huge.

Build a Better Business Using Customer Complaints, a collaboration between myself, Aaron Weiche and Paul Chaney, is now available.

I would love your thoughts on the book, the good, the bad and the not so pretty. Let me know what you think so that we can make version 2.0 even better.

 

 

Bedlam Breaks Out in Google Q & A

Bedlam Coffee hit the news with a media frenzy over the owner ejecting Christian activists from his coffee shop. (To preview their Q & A on the desktop use this URL:  https://goo.gl/dkwi6h).

With this event we have learned three things about Google Q & A:

1- It’s a $h!tstorm when a business gets into the news

2- That ranking of the questions is strictly an upvote count

3- You better be monitoring yours

To see the Q & A on mobile use: https://goo.gl/9HULmW

(H/T to Matt Casady)