All posts by Mike Blumenthal

How Accurate is Google My Business Insights?

The scuttlebutt in the world of Local SEO has long been that Google Insights was inaccurate and unhelpful as a guide to consumer behaviors. But is the newish Insights a better guide? How accurate is it and how can we test it?

Prior to the rollout of the Google MyBusiness dashboard in June of 2014, the original version of Insights was most certainly a piece of crap. Data would disappear or change, the product would not report for weeks on end, it would display spurious and unbelievable spikes. In fact at one point years ago, when I inquired of Google about the old Insights as to how some given data point was measured, I was told that the person who had coded it had left and they had no idea.

The Insights that rolled out in 2014 seemed to me, at least anecdotally, more robust and reliable if not perfect. I had gained at least enough confidence to use the information as a directional guide and felt comfortable that it was accurate enough for client consumption and for decision making.

But was it accurate? Many in the industry continued to diss the product but no one has really bothered to test it. Most of the data that is shown in the dashboard is captive to Google’s environment and largely unknowable. Only they really know what goes on with users interactions with search, the Knowledge Panel, the Local Finder and maps. If they don’t share it, we can’t really know.

How could we test Insights?Last week I asked myself the question: Was there a data point within the dashboard that could be measured in some other way?

The answer is yes, there is one (and one only as far as I can tell) Insight metric that can be externally measured and that is Customer Actions: Visit your website.  With a campaign tracking code you could at least compare Google’s value for that metric in Insights with their value in Google Analytics1.

What did I find? That the accuracy of Google Insights seems to be quite good. The number from the GMB dashboard for Visits is very close to the Analytics number for that campaign.

The GMD Dashboard showed a figure of 1.14K while Analytics for that same period showed 1,147 sessions occurring from that campaign source.

So I have several questions for you.

Firstly are you seeing the same thing in terms of web visits being the same? Now that we have 18 months of Insights data you should be able to go back and look over a long period.2

Secondly can you think of another way to externally measure the accuracy of Insights?

Thirdly is your faith in GMB Insights increasing or do you still distrust the product?

Does a strong showing in one area (web visits) mean that the other areas like click to calls and driving directions can be trusted?

 

1 – Certainly there are issues using this as the benchmark.  If they are cooking the books then they would have to do so across two products. While not impossible, it is much harder. It is conceivable that they are using the same exact data as Analytics.

2 – I do not have a long data set to share unfortunately. 

Just How Long Can a Google My Business Name Be?

Update 5/8: And the answer is 100! I continued testing and determined that if attempting to use 101 characters, the edit gets rejected with a Please enter fewer characters message:

My exploration inside the Google Spam Hall of Shame made me curious exactly how long a business name could be. While I have yet to find the absolute limit I have determined that it is somewhere between 97 and 107 characters. Not sure how I have lived this long without that piece of information.

Armed with this knowledge you can now go modify your business name to your heart’s content.

Poster Ewan Kennedy of Adduce SEO in Surrey is getting into the spirit of this challenge. He hit 97. Do I hear 98?

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.