All posts by Mike Blumenthal

Some Thoughts on the YP industry & Google in Europe

I am just returning from the SIINDA conference in Budapest. SIINDA is the newly formed association born out of the combined efforts of the EASDP, the European Association of Search and Database Publishers (YPs), and EIDQ, the Association for the Directory Information. Most of the attendees at the conference were Yellow page companies that were in various states of conversion from print to digital. Many were fairly far along and appeared to be succeding with the transition. It was an incredible personal AND work learning experience.

One of the speakers was Karen McGrane, who if you haven’t followed you should. She has really thought through the idea of systems to allow content to be re-purposed and right purposed. A critical question for any pre-digital organization that is sitting on a ton of great content as well as new media companies.

Budapest and Hungary are amazing places. Budapest has incredible architecture and cultural assets. Their public transportation made moving around the city a breeze. As far as local tools there, Yelp was a non starter in terms of usefulness and Google’s leading position in all aspects of local were obvious – tourist information, mapping, navigation, listings and reviews. Apple Maps, due to their weak set of POIs, was a non starter as well. I tried it on my first day to take my wife to a nearby restaurant/poi for her birthday dinner and realized that it just wasn’t going to cut it.

Interestingly Apple had three people in attendance (but not speaking) at the conference including one from Cupertino that joined Apple from Locationary. When I asked several of the Apple employees if their attendance was an indication of coming activity on the local front I was obviously answered with non answers. Equally interesting though was when I broached the topic with several of the participants (mostly data providers) and they also felt compelled to note that they were unable to respond. Hopefully Apple is picking up some decent local POI data sets that will make their product more useful in Europe.
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Google Bulk Being Upgraded to Google Plus Capability

Nicolai Helling of the United Digital Group is reporting on Google Plus the upgrade of the Bulk Upload to allow multiple administrators. Apparently this upgrade will add full social functionality as well (the link from the help file is currently not working).

Image from Google Help files

I have not seen this new feature in dashbaords that I have access to. Here is his post in its entirety:

    Multi-Admin for Google Places Bulk Upload becomes reality

With the ability to enable companies to upload location data in a corporate Google account and then authorize another Google account to manage a single location, a feature is going live that has been awaited for a decade in local search!

This development was preceded by lots of smaller changes to the bulk upload tool, that had been long treated as an unwanted offspring. But as the demand from local search experts and businesses for a more robust Google Places bulk upload backend had steadily increased, this step was somewhat overdue.

It is noteworthy that users using the bulk upload have to wait, until Google changes the account to an upgraded account. A good indication for an upgraded account are the new owner status icons in the backend (see attached screenshot).

With the ability to have multiple admins the bulk upload will also use the rights management architecture and the “one claim rule” that is already in use for listings in the Google+ backend and for manually verified locations in the regular Google Places for Business Center.

So to be clear at this point: A company can now upload and manage up to 10.000 locations in one corporate Google account and remains in full control over each listing by adding and removing other Google accounts (i.e. store managers) for single locations at the same time.

Nicolai notes in the comments on a previous post about recent Bulk changes updates to the help file:

There has been an update to the announcement page (https://support.google.com/business/answer/6002011?hl=en)

It now lists:

Manage access to your locations by adding and removing managers and transferring location ownership – New!

as a new feature for upgraded accounts!

There is also a new help page about adding and removing admins: https://support.google.com/business/answer/4669095?hl=en

And a new help page about transferring account management (i.e. using a different Google account for managing bulk uploads): https://support.google.com/business/answer/4669093?hl=en

And a new one about transferring ownership on a per location basis: https://support.google.com/business/answer/4669094?hl=en

And another one about requesting ownership on a per location basis: https://support.google.com/business/answer/4646651?hl=en

I think Google is getting serious! :)

Google Mobile Search Results for Hotels, Restaurant and Other Entertainment Locations Updated

Google announced yesterday that mobile searchers would now be able to filter restaurant results more effectively. It appears that the mobile display for restaurants and hotels has also been updated and hotels also offer a filtering option. These new results are also showing for museums, music venues and amusement parks. The list of location types is very similar to those that return the carousel on the desktop.  The change applies to both iPhone and Android clients. H/t to Linda Buquet. This was reported in her forum yesterday.

I presume, like the carousel, that it is US only. Can someone confirm that?

Only three results are shown in the initial search and all locations and all results that display like this (amusement parks, music halls etc etc) offer a filter option if only by rating.

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When you select “See all” you are presented with a longer list and no organic results.

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When you click on the calendar you are offered the ability to select a date range

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Hotel filtering allows choice by class and rating: Continue reading

Google Review Snippets – Hall of Shame Favorites

Front page, full sentence Google review snippets are in full swing and I can’t take my eyes off of them. I have spent more time than I should looking for front page examples of smb armageddon. And I am finding them even on more highly rated businesses. And they can certainly add “color”.

Its still not clear exactly when or why Google includes certain snippets or no snippets at all. For example here is a knowledge panel for a hotel in Chicago with 22 reviews, some within the past 4 months, many within the past year and yet nary a front page panner. And there are some doozies in there.

Pubic Hairs
Bold is all Google’s

But here are some of the ones that I have seen on the Knowledge Panels that have struck me as powerful examples of what a business DOESN’T want to happen. There is no hiding any more. It will be interesting to hear from some owners once they start seeing these.

Bottom line is that a business with bad service can run but they can’t hide.

Please share your favorite “hall of shame” examples.

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Although this example from the other day is still one of my “hall of shame favorites”:
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Some others:

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Google Review Snippets – More Impactful by Half

With the rollout of review sentiment snippets to the Knowledge Panel in Local search, Google has again elevated reviews another notch in their visibility and impact. These “review synopses” are not just more visible but in being just one sentence and clearly highlighted they are more capable of having greater affect on the reader.

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In the previous incarnation of sentiment snippets (still extant on the about page) Google amassed a jumble of words that really had little affect and was easily ignored. The graph is clear but the sentiments provide little of value and no context :

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The new review synopsis on the other hand stands out and guarantees, by both the brevity and boldness, a higher likelihood of being read and a higher likelihood of impacting the searcher attitude:

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Good News, Bad News in the Apple Mapping & Business Listing World

A client, having re-located to a new sub division, contracted with me early last spring to get their new street “on the map” and to clean their NAP. Google, with the help of Dan Austin (a partner on the project) picked up the new streets in about 2 weeks and went live to Maps immediately after. The change of address was equally speedy. OpenStreetMap was about the same.

TeleAtlas, which Apple uses, and Navteq-Here both took almost 6 months to give acknowledgement of the fact that the street reality had changed, another 3 months to get their base maps updated and then with each of their down stream users it was a crap shoot. MapQuest picked up the new streets in January, 2014. Yahoo Maps in February and Apple finally picked up the change this past week. We are talking over a year and nearly a year for Yahoo and Mapquest. Bing, well… we are still waiting for Bing Maps. That’s the Apple (and industry) bad news. Bad but not as bad as Bing and about the same as everyone else. And solely due to their partner TeleAtlas.  Although it does not appear that Nav-Teq-Here is any better.

But here is the Apple good news. Once the base street map was correct, we reported the changed address and had a response and a fix in two days. And not just a response but a direct feedback sent to my iPhone. Nice. It actually felt like the Apple service to which we have grown accustomed and that would distinguish them in the market (Google are you listening?). This is not the first report of Apple upping their listing game.

Now if they can get TeleAtlas to fix stuff as quickly we would be going someplace. Or rather we could get there using Apple Maps.

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Using Google Reviews On Your Website

The question often comes up whether a business can and should use their Google & Yelp reviews on their website. Leaving aside the value to the user experience for a minute, I was curious about the legal issues involved.

A small business would be foolish to use those reviews if the costs of litigation, however remote, would be onerous. So I set out to answer the question by asking on G+. It lead to a lively discussion (be sure to read the comments) and a clarification/confirmation from Google themselves.

Here is what Google says about the use of the reviews:

“Google reviews content is authored by our users. We would suggest that business owners ask for permission from the author of the content before re-using the review on a business’s website or elsewhere. Usage of the Google brand itself is covered by these permissions: http://www.google.com/permissions/.”

Bottom line, you can use the reviews legally with user permission but might get in trouble using Google trademarks without explicit permission. Although a takedown order seems more likely than litigation. On the permissions page they note:

“All of our brand features are protected by applicable trademark, copyright and other intellectual property laws. If you would like to use any of our brand features on your website…you may need to receive permission from Google first”.

I am still exploring Yelp’s formal policy but given their litigious nature I would be hesitant to use Yelp reviews until this is clarified.

Are Younger Consumers More Tolerant of Bad Reviews? Or Do They Just Understand Them Better?

How Many Stars to Consider a Business

If your business has an aggregate star rating of 3 or less, you need to be concerned that shoppers might reject you out of hand. If, on the other hand you have a star rating greater than 4 most shoppers will accept you on face value. However we are seeing dramatically different standards within different age groups.

Several days ago I published surveys that clearly indicated that consumers perceive that a negative review corpus hurts a business more than positive reviews help them.
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I asked the following questions:

If you found a [business] online with negative reviews from customers, how likely would you be to choose it?

If you found a [business] online with positive reviews from customers, how likely would you be to choose it?

The surveys, in asking the questions in a broad way, left the question of what negative and positive reviews meant to the survey taker.

To answer the question of exactly where a searcher drew the lines I asked these two follow up questions:

When searching online for a local business, at what point on a 5 star review scale would you decide to NOT consider the business?

When searching online for a local business, how many review stars on a 5 star scale do you need to consider the business?

Here are the overal results to the first question (sample size 2500 American internet adults ages 18 and up):

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And the results to the second (sample size 2500 American internet adults ages 18 and up):

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It’s a little easier to parse this data by consolidating some of the results.  Essentially if a business is showing 3 stars or less, 82.8% would not do business with that business.

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Like wise, about the same percentage, ~84.5% would need to see something greater than 4 stars before considering any given business.

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And ~50% would need to see something greater than 3.5 stars to make the positive decision.

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The obvious conclusion from this, in a general sense,  is that if a business has a star rating greater than 3 than they will not be rejected out of hand and if they have star rating greater than 4 then most folks would consider that business favorably.

That make all kinds of sense but the research really turned up some interesting results when you started looking at the data by age group.   Continue reading

Google Now Displaying Full Review Snippets in the Knowledge Panel

Off and on for the past few months Google has been showing reviews in the Knowledge panel for local searches. James Gibbons pointed out today that he was now seeing them more regularly. I would have to agree. This may be a more extensive test or it may be the new normal but many (not all) local listings with reviews are showing the snippets.

Interestingly while the specific review snippet comes from a single review, there are bolded/highlighted elements of the snippet that come from several reviews and the number is noted to the right. These highlighted snippets may or may not match the review summary snippets that are shown at the top of the about page.

They are, though, based on a principal word that repeats throughout the reviews. These bolded snippets are much more impactful when presented in the context of a full sentence. If the reviewer has a profile photo that will show as well. These photos add to a compelling presentation.

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It is not exactly clear why some listings show the reviews and others do not. (Note:These do not seem to showing on any searches in Europe, Canada or Australia yet.) For example both of these restaurants have 9 reviews. And both have 4 or 5 reviews done by users with G+ profiles. Yet one shows and one doesn’t. For reviews to show they need to have been created in G+ but that isn’t the only factor. It might be how current the reviews are as Tasta Pizza has had a review within the last month while the most recent for Angee’s is 8 months ago. Also note that in the example below, Google is only showing two review snippets not three as is typical. Another question to be answered.  If you have a theory why let me know.

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