All posts by Mike Blumenthal

Senate Hearings on Google and their Behavior in Local

Senator Blumenthal (no relationship) interviewed Professor Tim Wu, who last year came out against Google’s Local Universal results as opposed to an alternative result, and Prefessor Meamed as to whether consumers have been harmed by Google’s behaviors, particularly in local.

To paraphrase Prof Wu starting at 01:59 in the video: There was not strong evidence of consumer harm during original case. But subsequent research, particularly in Local, there is evidence that Google is manipulating search in an anti competitive way. There is stronger evidence of consumer harm now. Particularly in local.

Prof Melamed noted that consumer preference for a different product would not in and of itself be a reason for anti-trust enforcement.

Let me know your thoughts. I have trouble seeing how Google controlling their own search site actually does consumer harm. Even more so with the dramatic switch to apps in the past two years.

That being said I have seen concrete indications that Google relies on sites like Yelp to strongly inform Local Universal results to Google’s advantage.

Local U Video Deep Dive: Should you spam Google Maps?

Join Mary Bowling and myself at Local U for our weekly Deep Dive as we look at some of the issues around spamming Google Maps from the agency and business point view.


Google Testing Enhanced Buy Buttons for Movie Ticket Purchase

Last week when I was discussing the new Google approach to immersive mobile search I noted that if Google didn’t get you on the click they got you on the clock. This definitely falls under “the click” category.

Google, in what is clearly a test*, is offering movie purchases up with a bold, call to action for each movie time available that takes you directly to Fandango. This screen was visible for several hours this afternoon.

Google has long had a transactional relationship with Fandango, what is different in this test is the presence on the front page of big, fat buy buttons.

This test shows the lengths that Google is contemplating in order to gain transactional “traction” in local.


*Test or not? This new layout has been coming and going for the past 24 hours. It’s now visible again. So perhaps it is rolling out. Perhaps not. Are you seeing it in Europe? On Android? On iphone? Please let me know.

Here is what it looks like regularly:
Photo Apr 02, 5 10 10 PM

Google Reviews Just Got Easier – No G+ Required

It appears (h/t Conrad O’Connell via David Mihm) ) that Google now allows reviews to be left with just a Google account and is no longer requiring the use of a Google Plus.

This appears to be true across all browsers on both mobile and desktop. Read the whole store at GetFiveStars.


Google My Business Updates “Improve your local ranking on Google” Page

Google My Business updated their help file page: “Improve your local ranking on Google” Page.  And surprisingly, after a slow start, actually added some real ranking information (this does not appear to be a April 1 Joke):

Prominence is also based on information that Google has about a business from across the web (like links, articles, and directories). Google review count and score are factored into local search ranking: more reviews and positive ratings will probably improve a business’s local ranking.

Your position in web results is also a factor, so SEO best practices also apply to local search optimization.

I am archiving the page as a PDF for future reference.

What Does Google’s Immersive Search Experience Look Like via the Mobile Pack Results?

img_0740.jpgOn mobile, Google has been slowly moving towards “immersive search” as the local search experience. Google’s goal is to allow the user to get all of the information that they need via Google, never having to leave for another site. We saw this very dramatically last week with the introduction of Google Destinations. We see another example of this immersion in the current Local results on mobile.

To do this Google is providing their own and other’s content (but hosted on Google for speed of course), multiple paths and numerous related carousels so that once a searcher has moved down the proverbial rabbit hole by entering the Local Finder, every piece of information about the local search is immediately available to the user until such time as they have made a choice and either executed a transaction, called or visited the website of one of the search results.

The logic appears to be that if they can’t monetize via adwords on the first screen in the mobile search results, they will keep the user engaged ever deeper and longer in the local results and thus gather viewer and conversion data. If they can’t get you on the click they will get you on the clock.

Watch this video to see how a user, once they select entrée to the Local Finder on mobile is first presented with an infinite scroll, and then as they dig into the results numerous alternative paths to explore including the new expanded “People also search for” functionality as well as StreetView, interior Streetview Trusted, reviews, leave a review etc.

In the restaurant industry there are assorted calls to action for transaction completion available to the user as well including booking a table and ordering food to go. Most significantly note how Google has totally sucked up Menu content and is now presenting that content completely within the context of the local Knowledge Panel not on a 3rd party site and the content is hosted on Google.

While not as “immersive” even standard local searches offer much of the same experience although with obviously less detail. I recorded this video as I was looking to see where Independent Motors, a car repair facility in Boulder, showed in the search results on behalf of another client.

Google Local Restaurant Search Autofilters on Best, Cheapest Like Phrases

Several weeks ago Mary and I had a discussion at the Deep Dive at Local U about whether Google was using review sentiment in ranking. While I noted that the new patents for entity rank seemed to indicate that professional reviews might influence rank, that I had not seen any indication that sentiment as expressed within a review influenced ranking or that ranking for a good review corpus comparatively had a strong influence.

That all being said within Google restaurant search, Google is now autofiltering results based on phrases like good, best, cheapest etc.  (As a note, while I just started noticing this recently it may have been present for quite some time).

The searches for things like “Best Restaurant NYC” works on both the desktop and mobile but the results are more obviously labeled in the mobile result. “Best” as a modifier returns only 4 star listings or better and “cheap” returns one $ sign listings. You can combine these modifier words and see results for Best Cheap Restaurant NYC:

Best restaurant nearby
Cheap restaurant nearby
Good cheap restaurant
Best cheap restaurant near me open now


GetFiveStars Now Integrates with QuickBooks Online

I have been enjoying my work at GetFiveStars. What is most enjoyable is the constant effort to upgrade our feedback and review platform to better serve businesses.

The most recent effort on that front has been our new integration with QuickBooks Online via Zapier. Imagine all of the power of GetFiveStars happening automagically from within QuickBooks.

The connection of GetFiveStars with Quickbooks Online allows for your customers to be sent feedback requests automatically by our platform when a certain trigger is completed in Quickbooks. Best of all, you get to choose what that trigger is.  It can be when you add a new customer into Quickbooks Online, when you invoice them or when they pay an invoice.

This integration is currently in BETA. We need QB Online users to be part of the BETA test, so please contact us and we’ll get you set-up.

Google Expands “People Also Search For” on Mobile

Last week I noted that Google updated its mobile branded search results with the addition of the “People Also Search For” option showing in the search results as opposed to being buried in a Knowledge Panel. It appears that the update has also expanded the concept by adding additional nuance and detail to those suggested alternative results.

Now, on a local brand search, if a given listing is strong in multiple search categories and if there is adequate listing inventory for these categories, Google is expanding beyond the “People also Search For” with multiple local carousels.

In this mobile result example we see that Google provides 3 carousels instead of “People also search for” by showing results for additional Plastic surgeons (the original search) as well as Medical spas and similar Nearby places.

Google Home Services Ads – Whats the Hold Up?

Google Home Services Ads were first tested in July, 2015. In August of that year they went public as part and parcel of Google Adwords Express. We have also seen it tested both without and with the 3 pack.  And as of yesterday we saw that Google was promoting the product’s use strictly by phone.

When Google Home Services was first introduced it was only available in very few verticals; plumbers and locksmiths and shortly after house cleaners and handymen.

The Google AdWords inquiry form does have a field for “other” and Peter Troast of Energy Circle sent me a screen shot of its recent use for the HVAC industry:

Screen Shot 2016-03-08 at 11.24.23 AM

While we have seen slow and steady testing in different verticals we have seen no real significant expansion of  the area where the ad is available.  It was and is currently only available in the San Francisco Bay area and south to Los Gatos.  Here is a map I created showing the cities currently accepting ads for the programs (list of cities was provided to me by AdWords support):

Given the very slow rollout, limited geography and Google’s many cancelled attempts at lead gen products like insurance quotes and car leads one has to wonder why this has not rolled out any faster. Is the product going to roll out and they are just working through the details? Or is it like the two mentioned above, just another test that will be axed sooner rather than later?

So questions for you all:

What do you think? Are Home Services Ads a keeper for Google?

Are you seeing verticals for Home Services ads besides the ones mentioned?

Are you seeing them outside of the cities that the Adwords support rep sent me?

Here are a list of the cities where it is currently available.  Continue reading Google Home Services Ads – Whats the Hold Up?