All posts by Mike Blumenthal

Current Google Plus Page URL Cluster F%&k Alert Update

The Google Franken Page problem seems to have largely if not completely disappeared. In a check of 54 links from Uncle Bob’s Storage that were known to have suffered from the problem only one remains that has not yet been fixed. That is down from 2 bad listings this AM so a fix seems to be rolling out.

I asked Google to comment on the situation and here is what they said:  Thank you for reporting this. We’re working on a fix and apologize for any inconvenience.

Here is the bad Uncle Bob’s listing that still is not resolving correctly:

plus.google.com/108640529131864108346 plus.google.com/115946642344527709980/ 11955 South Orange Blossom Trail Orlando

If you recall, these franken pages started showing up early last week when Google, for whatever reason, was re-directing Plus pages to new URLs for some percentage of Plus pages. At the time we were seeing about 10% of all pages that had been redirected failed.

There appeared to be two types of these pages that were similar but had subtle differences. Some, which had just been separated from their local knowledge graph appeared as brand pages but verified. Others, a much smaller percent, though showed a 0 instead of a phone number. These are the few that seem to be still outstanding.

The risk level has dropped significantly and hopefully those remaining broken pages will be fixed in the near future.

Google Plus "Franken" Page
Click to view larger

 

Google Places API Drops G+ Page in Results

The inevtibale and complete separation of Google Local data and results from G+ continues.

Michael Cottam reported yesterday that the Google Places API which had been returning the Plus page regardless of whether a listing was verified or not is now returning the maps result.

From his post:

the docs on the Place Details Requesthave been changed. The example response now shows this for the URL instead of a Google+ page:

http://maps.google.com/maps/place?cid=10281119596374313554

And the description of what’s in that field now says:

“url contains the URL of the official Google page for this place. This will be the Google-owned page that contains the best available information about the place. Applications must link to or embed this page on any screen that shows detailed results about the place to the user.”

Those maps.google.com links bring up a regular Google map with a pushpin. If you click on the pushpin, you get the business info that you’d have gotten from many other kinds of searches, and that WOULD HAVE BEEN stored in the Google+ page for the business.

This change seems to have occurred simultaneously with last week’s G+ URL fubar that created the franken pages and is possibly related. It is but one more step along the way of the slow and painful divorce of local from Plus.

Google Bulk (GMBL) Adds Holiday Hours Support

Google My Business List (aka GMBL, Bulk) has not seen this many upgrades in a quarter since the financial meltdown in 2008. Google rolled out last night a small but helpful upgrade that allows businesses to  set different hours for different days both en masse and on a daily date basis. The feature rolled out in the GMBL via the bulk upload is also available to individual businesses via the List view in the dashboard. Help file instructions are here.

Screen Shot 2015-11-03 at 9.36.46 AMStarting in September Google released a visual upgrade on the search results that alerted searchers to the fact that a business might be closed on a given national holiday.
Screen Shot 2015-11-03 at 9.39.54 AMIf a business adds special hours specifically for the dates of the holiday the .ours will clearly indicate that they are open thus avoiding the consumer confusion.

Both the old style and the new style hours are supported in the upload file which is good as it allows large organizations and the software that generates these files a few weeks to adopt before Thanksgiving in the U.S.:

new-hours

If a single location business or a bulk wants to change the hours directly they are able to do so via the List view interface in the new dashboard by selecting “special hours” in the hour area. Once there a user can select any number of individual days and times to indicate their specific status. If there are multiple locations that you manage in the dashboard, these changes can be applied to all locations for which you have management approval:

Screen Shot 2015-11-03 at 9.57.32 AM

There is no real restriction on how far into the future a business could make these changes so they could conceivably add the holiday hours well into the future with one fell swoop:

Screen Shot 2015-11-03 at 9.57.24 AM

As I noted above, the GMBL has finally started to get some serious love from Google. It has sat largely untouched and unchanged for a long time and it retains many of the oddities of its pre 2012 existence like 200 character limits and no html in the description field (not that anyone can actually read the description field).

In late September we saw the major update to the GMB interface that integrated the single and list view into a consistent experience. And in mid October we saw the release of the API. Google noted to us in a show and tell of the new product that they were the first local platform to support holiday hours across both single and bulk listings. But the really big change in all of this is the obvious reality that Google understands that agencies are a real and significant part of the ecosystem and their existence needs to not only be recognized but helped.

I met with the new GMBL product manager while at Google several weeks ago and he is a forthright, articulate and forward thinking person. The many and frequent changes we have seen in the GMBL is an optimistic sign that GMBL is not just alive and breathing but that it is finally looking to the future.

 

 

LocalU Advanced Williamsburg March 5th 2016 Pre Agenda Special

Local U Advanced is my favorite local event of the year; its collegial, casual, intimate and leading edge educational. This year the event will be held in Williamsburg, Va the night of March 4th and all of March 5th, 2016.

The agenda for the event will be coming out on November 8th but if you are interested in a ticket prior to that LocalU is offering up a Pre Agenda special for only $499 ($449 if you are a Local U forum member).

That’s the good news.

The bad news? There are only 2 tickets left at that price.

Buy your ticket to Local Geekdom here. 

Why Acxiom Needs a New Name and Always Has

I am a student of local. I read Google patents, I study legal documents. And I am reasonably a good speller. That doesn’t mean that I can spell Acxiom’s name correctly very often. Nor can I pronounce it.

It is one of those corporate branding exercises that must have looked great on paper but never quite worked out in the real world and should be changed. I have at least 3 spellings that I use with regularity and I am sure there are variations I haven’t thought of.

As incontrovertible proof I offer up this document from the Google Legal team, known for dotting their i’s and crossing their t’s:

Legal Notices for Google Maps/Google Earth and Google Maps/Google Earth APIs

5.2 Google Local Business Listings in the United States

When you search for local listings, Google displays business listings which may be supplied by Acxiom Corporation and/or infoUSA Inc. (“Axciom” and/or “infoUSA”). This information is proprietary to those corporations and is protected under U.S. copyright law and international treaty provisions.

Even Google’s Legal Department gets it wrong 50% of the time.

Another thing about Acxion that is worse than their choice of name?

Their choice of URL for claiming local listings: http://mybusinesslistingmanager.myacxiom.com/

Someone else can rant about their actual UX.
.

 

Current Google Plus Page URL Cluster F%&k Alert

Screen Shot 2015-10-28 at 4.44.48 PMStarting Monday we started seeing a growing number of weirdly formatted G+ Pages for local. Apparently it is being caused by the fact that Google has changed EVERY MANY G+ Plus page url for local (not all pages but definitely some…).

Most of the new URL’s redirect accurately but for some fairly large percentage that is not the case. In those cases, the old URL’s 404 and the new ones take users to a franken-page that looks half local and half brand.

Uncle Bob s Self Storage About Google

Uncle Bob’s Storage, a large national storage company with their HQs in Buffalo,  was tracking the change and noticed that of their 537 locations, 482 correctly redirected but that 55 of their locations did NOT redirect correctly. Thus somewhere on the order of 10% of all G+ Pages for Local that were redirected may be in this malformed state*. And the old URL’s are generating 404 errors!

Here are two URLs from Uncle Bob’s larger sample that show both a malformed & problematic outcome and one where the redirect works correctly:

Old URL New URL Status
https://plus.google.com/104293257073313824810 https://plus.google.com/104654323590397403528/about Old URL 404’s and new one is a Franken page
https://plus.google.com/116238460079913628835 https://plus.google.com/b/114198565595588604622/ Was broken and now fixed
https://plus.google.com/110463140997869677948 https://plus.google.com/103476571530254149133/about Redirects Correctly

A bigger problem confronts those of you that were using your G+ Page URL in your marketing to get your customers to your page. Some fairly large* percentage of those URLS are currently broken and need to be tested.

The problem is that these new franken-pages do not show reviews and do not offer any way to gather reviews so until Google fixes this there is no easy work around if you are using the Plus url for your review program other than sending users to a search for your company.

This sort of craziness demonstrates why as a user or agency you should always track the URLs for your local page in Plus, Maps and Mapmaker and track the core CID.

* We don’t really know how many pages were affected by the redirect and of those how many didn’t redirect correctly. While my sample size is largish, it is for just one business. They could be the unlucky ones. We don’t know whether their % is typical of those pages that were redirected and we have no idea of how many pages in total were redirected. Regardless, capture your URL now and watch the page for the next several weeks if you are using the URL in your marketing

Review Incentives – Are the Costs Worth It?

I have just published a new post on incentivizing revies at the GetFiveStars* blog: Review Incentives? Are the Benefits Worth the Cost?

Reviews and testimonials are powerful social proof of your business’s capabilities but they are often hard to get. Incentives, including contests and discount coupons as well as direct rewards, often will increase your review counts. But at what cost?

*Full disclosure: I am a founder and co-owner of GetFiveStars.com

Google Adding Desktop Hangout Calling to Knowledge Panel in Search & Local Finder?

kp-click-callI have been traveling for the past week so I am not sure when this hit the street or that I am seeing it because I am inside of Google but Google has added the ability to directly contact a business via the Knowledge Panel.

This is a feature that was first tested in 2006 and made appearances throughout the years.

The current iteration that I am seeing drives the user from the linked phone number directly into a hangout screen and is immediately ready to dial the business.

Are others seeing this? I am inside the GooglePlex and no one here seems to know about the feature.

Here are the screen you see when you click on the phone number in the knowledge panel: Continue reading Google Adding Desktop Hangout Calling to Knowledge Panel in Search & Local Finder?

Google Best Practice For Different Businesses in the Same Dashboard

Google, with the release of the new Google My Business API, is perhaps suggesting one of the biggest “best practice” shifts for handling SMB Google My Business accounts in years by suggesting that it is not only ok but preferred to claim multiple listings in a single Google My Business account. Yesterday in the Google Ads Developer blog post discussing the new GMB API Google said:

 “For developers managing AdWords accounts with a large number of locations for small and medium businesses, we recommend creating one Google My Business account as a central repository for all locations. Each physical location should be created only once. If different owners and managers are involved per location or for sets of locations, we suggest using Business Accounts“.

For years as Google approached the small business market, it has long been Google’s recommendation for each business to create their own dashboard account. They made life hard for agencies in this mix and made claiming a business listing by someone other than the business an onerouse task. Despite on the ground reality Google stuck with the fiction of the small business owner claiming their own listing and barely tolerated agency involvement in the process.

So what is best practice for verification going forward? Should you claim the new listings into a master account? Its a little too early to make that call but it would appear that a possible small agency work flow would be to spreadsheet upload new listings into a master GMB account and individually verify it. Once you have access to the API that could occur within your own dashboard.

Until such time as this is clarified it makes sense to create a master GMB account and add it as a manager to all of your individually claimed listings and use the Business Accounts feature to organize them per your internal priorities.

The two worlds of bulk and single business listing management were long kept apart and the Google My Business dashboard had a singular focus on the small business owner. However with the rollout of the new integrated Google My Business dashboard and now the GMB API (can we get any more acronyms together?) Google is clearly shifting management and development priorities away from the single business towards the Adwords resellers.

Their needs in a location management product are much different than the needs of the small business and these recent developments speak to that. Larger Adword resellers need the ability to have many different companies in one account, they need the ability to easily use location extensions with these locations and they need it to be easily and centrally managed.

This would explain the lack of SMB polish in the new dashboard and why the bugs that were there at launch seem to disadvantage the single location owner more than those used to the workings of the Bulk dashboard. IE development priorities were focused on using the dashboard to manage multiple businesses not a single business.

There are many questions that remain unanswered as this shift of priorities and functionality moves forward:

Will large Adwords resellers ultimately be able to get whitelisted for individual small business verification added to this central account?

Will this single GMB account be used for AdWords and location extensions work equally well for managed as well as owned listings?

What happens for example when a small business shifts Adwords resellers will the verification go along with it?

Will adding Adwords into the already complicated GMB product (or in reality vice versa) make support totally incomprehensible?

And where does one go to get these questions answered?

When will the API for Bulk listings be opened as that seems a critical step to really make this work for larger resellers?

Will smaller resellers with Adwords accounts for 50 or 75  different small businesses be able to play?

How should they organize their accounts?

Are Business Accounts the answer?

What market driven distortions will occur short haul that are not aligned with Google’s long term goals but ultimately leave agencies or small businesses disadvantaged?

The flow and the reality within the new GMB is still unclear. So what else is new. As Google My Business appears to be pivoting yet one more time, the only thing we can count on is change.

Google GMB API Becoming More Available

Screen Shot 2015-10-14 at 10.40.22 PM

Updated 10/15

Google has started to open up the Google My Business API. The API allows “authorized representatives to manage business location information on Google that you can use with Ads, Search and Maps”. Currently the API can be used to edit individually verified locations but not bulk. The API will be able to manage  Bulk verified listings in a future release.

Currently the API is limited to “AdWords API users who currently manage more than 50 business locations using AdWords manual feeds.” If you meet that criteria you can request access here. This limited availability is temporary and and will be available more broadly in future releases.

Google, in noting its increasing availability is essentially confirming something that I had confirmed several weeks ago and that was that it was in use by some users and that Google was traveling the globe talking to IYPs to better understand that future features needed.

While it is clear that locations can be created and edited via the API no mention is made of whether location specific Insights (analytics) will be available, whether the API will allow posting and what specific API calls are available. I have asked Google for clarification.

Update 10/15:

In the Google has added a post to the Ad Developers Blog that includes some additional information. The initial release is limited and the only “supported attributes are name, address, contact numbers, URL, categories, and business hours”.

Google also noted: “For developers managing AdWords accounts with a large number of locations for small and medium businesses, we recommend creating one Google My Business account as a central repository for all locations. Each physical location should be created only once. If different owners and managers are involved per location or for sets of locations, we suggest using Business Accounts“.

This is a strange recommendation given the many years of them recommending one account per business.

I was asked on G+ the purpose/value of an API. Many of you know but it bears repeating here.

Essentially Google is opening up ( some of?) the functionality of the dashboard to outside programmers.

Here are quick thoughts off the top as to possible uses. You could:

A) build a WordPress plugin that would allow your client to change their hours on their site and at Google at the same time with one step.

b) create a custom client dashboard that gives your clients access to Adwords, Analytics and GMB reports (but just the important stuff ) all on one screen.

c) a multi location plumber/SAB could deploy photos and description updates from an internal dashboard.

d) Companies like Moz Local, Yext or page builders could create additional functionality within their platforms by integrating their data with GMB.

We have to wait and see what API calls are available but it could lead to some interesting programs.