All posts by Mike Blumenthal

Google Continues Debranding Local – Google Maps App Becoming Local’s Forward Facing Brand

In 2013, with the loss of Places Search, I wrote a post titled Is Google Debranding Local? where I posited that Google was deemphasizing Local as a consumer facing brand. I also noted that Google would make sure that local would “persist as a service feeding critical contextually relevant data to the many current Google products that use local data”.

I would contend that this has in fact occurred and that the basic trend of removing Local branding and local specific features in other products has continued. In June of last year, Google rebranded the backend of local as Google My Business. This allowed Google to create a stand alone app by that name and further integrate the data collection back end needed for local into G+ Pages.

LG_gifs_howToReview_gplus_US_0212a (2)The recent removal of G+ Local search and the Local link from Google Plus further reinforces the idea of removing locally focused forward facing branding and functionality and I think that we may see more changes along this line. When it was announced Google positioned the change to their most active local review writers as a way to make life simpler:

We are making some changes to streamline the Google+ experience, including removing Google+ Local from the navigation bar. You will still be able to see and edit your content under the Reviews tab on your profile, in addition to searching and reviewing local places on +Google Maps, Google Maps for Mobile and We look forward to rolling out more features and improvements based on your feedback in the future.

I would suggest that with mobile now the dominant platform for  searching and user time, that the future of Google’s focus on local will be as a value added content for the Google Maps App(s) and to a lesser extent browser based mobile search. I don’t think we will see any forward facing “Google Local Brand” any time soon if ever.

While I think we will continue to see local data as an integral part of Google desktop search we may see even less of it elsewhere (like on G+) as Google uses local data (business listings & review content) to further their goal of positioning Google Maps as a dominant mobile destination.

Google My Business Locations (Bulk) Gets Interface Update

Michael Wallace (@LocalGladiator) of Ethology has alerted me to a new, shiny interface for the Google My Business Locations (i.e. bulk) dashboard.

Announced in the Help Files with the interface conventions detailed here, the interface appears to improve what has been a product frequented with bugs and inconsistencies. Google has now posted in the forum as well where they note that time to live has improved. .

The new interface provides meaningful error states and the options to fix the errors as well as the ability to sort locations by Status, Store Code or location Name. There is also a “to-Do” list option that quickly shows you listings that require updates. Hopefully the many idiopathic error messages that had no resolution have been banished as well.

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There is a pull out window that allows multiple ways of filtering the listings by different state so that you can view & hopefully repair listings that are in various states of well being or disrepair:

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  • Formatting errors
  • Duplicate store codes
  • Duplicate locations
  • Duplicate addresses
  • Disabled
  • Different owner
  • Google updates
  • Missing store codes
  • Pending review
  • Unverified locations
  • Live locations

Unfortunately analytics & review management are still on a per location basis with no opportunity to view them collectively and there is no option to add photos to the Plus Page without the owner/manager returning to each location’s page level editor in Plus. All three gaping productivity sinks that will some day be fixed. It is also unclear whether Google has fixed the annoying 200 character limit on description although since this is mostly a cosmetic upgrade it seems unlikely. Oh and there is still no phone support.

The interface is a definite improvement for bulk users. But there is still a long way to go.

Updated AM, May 13 with minor details.

The Value of Google Collections 1 Week In

Google Collections was introduced on May 4th, one week ago. As I noted at the time there were three constituencies that needed to be addressed for it to be successful; Content Creators & Curators, Content Consumers and of course Google themselves. And as I pointed out, Google’s marketing would be the difference.

Google will obviously take care of themselves and content consumer value will be determined by usage trends over time. I can however speak to its value so far, at least in terms of follower counts (and to a lesser extent engagement) from my point of view as a Content Creator & Curator.

For rollout I created 6 Collections. I subsequently merged the Apple collection into the Mobile Local collection. My typical follower growth up to the introduction of Collections had been very, very consistent at about 100 new followers per week. 

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On May 4th I had 17,636 followers and all of them were privy to my collections so they had the same. My follower count today is 17,706.

My collections and their current follower count:

Google My Business – Tips & Tools 17,705
Local Search – tips, tactics and news 17,701
Scenes of Rural New York – Barns, Nature and More 17,682
Reviews & Reputation for the SMB 17,700
Apple & Local Search – deleted and content merged with Mobile Local Search
Mobile Local Search 18,524

Note that while most of my collections track my follower growth pretty closely, Mobile Local Search showed a large jump. Why? Because it was a featured collection and was (is) being promoted by Google.

In terms of interactions I can anecdotally say that +1s are up but comments are not.  Site traffic from G+ for the week is up about 4x over the previous week although it is way to early to tell the long term impact on that front. So for me, the benefit has been real if not overwhelming despite several annoying “features” and the lack of availability on iOS. And I think, for other creator/curator types that had their Collections highlighted, probably likewise.

Regardless, it confirms for me my previous conclusion: Collections is a nice but not spectacular feature that can benefit Creators, Curators and Consumers but ONLY if Google promotes it. Otherwise, it is just a me too feature with no significant added value other than that data gained by Google in understanding the world better.

I am curious if you have created Collections what your experience has been.



Google Rolls Out Mobile Local business orders and appointments

Update: Google has posted information about this service in the forum. 

Google has started rolling out the ability for searchers to directly book a table, order or make an appointment via mobile Google search and Google Maps. Previously there had been links to some of these services like OpenTable but now the user can complete the reservation directly via the Google interface.

Currently Google is working with a limited number of partners to provide the services. If a business is currently signed up for OpenTable for example then the table reservation feature will appear automatically on their mobile page at Google. It is rolling out, so while I found the process currently available in Google Maps for some restaurants it was not yet available on Safari for the same restaurant. The current list of partner sites includes Grubhub, Eat24,, BeyondMenu and and apparently OpenTable.

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From Help Page
Photo May 07, 1 57 40 PMPhoto May 07, 2 23 49 PM Continue reading Google Rolls Out Mobile Local business orders and appointments

How to get Google Status Update ROBOCALLS from 3rd party marketers HIRED BY GOOGLE to stop calling?!?!

phone-449836_1280This Google MyBusiness forum post, pointed out by Joy Hawkins, shows the far reaching impact that local search robo callers have in poisoning the industry.

It is amazing to me 1) that we allow our regulatory environment be so lax that these scams continue (ah isn’t laissez faire capitalism grand?) and 2) that Google has not made an obvious, highly visible effort to slap these folks down.

How to get Google Status Update ROBOCALLS from 3rd party marketers HIRED BY GOOGLE to stop calling?!?!

Jennifer SligarLevel 1
Apr 30

We get 5 robo-calls per week (sometimes up to 3 calls per day) with a “Google Status Update” recording saying that our Google Business Listing needs to be updated. We have nothing and want nothing to do with Google and yet when you press 2 at the end of the call to be deleted from the list, nothing changes. THE CALLS CONTINUE. When you press 1 you are generally not connected to a live person (to tell them to stop calling in person).

Today, however, I was.

“Paul” told me that he would take me off the list from “his” office but that Google hires DOZENS of marketing companies to make THE EXACT SAME ROBOCALL, using the EXACT SAME AUTO DIALERS and that our office would continue to be hounded by these calls forever or until we have exhausted some unknown number of firms to get off of their lists as well.




!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!STOP CALLING US!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
DO YOU HEAR????????????????????
IS THIS LOUD ENOUGH????????????????????????????????
STOP FUCKING CALLING US!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

This is an amazing post. Continue reading How to get Google Status Update ROBOCALLS from 3rd party marketers HIRED BY GOOGLE to stop calling?!?!

Google Plus Rolls Out ‘Collections’ Feature

Screen-Shot-2015-05-04-at-12.49.57-PMRumored for the past several weeks, Google+ has just rolled out a new Google Plus feature – Connections, a feature that allows a G+ persona or page to curate G+ posts into targeted & topical sets. Collections is available on Android and the web, and iOS is coming later. For Android users, make sure to update your Google+ app to get access to Collections.

It is, for regular G+ posters, a useful feature that allows for sub categorization of groups of posts so that any posts can be more easily found in the future. It adds an organizational structure to G+ that was not really available with circles. Here are several collections that I have created 6 collections of my postings there:

Google My Business – Tips & Tools
Local Search – tips, tactics and news
Scenes of Rural New York – Barns, Nature and More
Reviews & Reputation for the SMB
Apple & Local Search
Mobile Local Search

Will I benefit from this new feature? Will I gain new followers or increased front page exposure in the main SERPS? Like so much of what has happened on G+,  it depends on whether Google puts some oomph into the marketing and exposure. And whether they make ranking of these Collections somewhat more transparent.
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If new readers of G+ are readily shown this curated content it might make them more likely to stay in G+ and create an interest based stream that is topically driven and doesn’t require them to know which individuals are prominent in those fields. A user can follow a specific Collection for example and not see all the content of a given persona. It could (operative word could) improve the newbie experience and lead to user growth. Google has yet to impress me with their capacity in this regard.

On this front Google will be offering “Featured Collections” but their success is totally dependent on Google’s positioning and marketing of them. Although the varied crowd of testers has created an interesting array of first efforts on this front.
Continue reading Google Plus Rolls Out ‘Collections’ Feature

Billion Dollar Bully Documentary about Yelp Hits Kickstarter Goal

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Billion Dollar Bully, “documentary on marketing giant Yelp and their $3.6 billion racket against small business owners”, has reached its Kickstarter funding goal of $90,000. To read more about their plans for finishing the film visit their website. You can see the documentary trailer here

The “Yelp is an extortionist” meme is one that continues to dog Yelp and its not clear that it will go away any time soon. One wonders what the exact current basis for it is or if it is just the many hard feelings that have existed over the years projected into the moment.

photo-originalWhat we do know for sure is that in the past Yelp has used incredibly hard sell & deceptive tactics* against relatively unsophisticated SMBs. We also know that there is an intrinsic conflict in their long standing business model of selling very expensive ads against reviews. When you mix the hard, sharp angle sell with the emotion of reviews bad things are bound to happen even if Yelp never actually used review removals as leverage in their relationships.

We may never know, in a legal sense, if Yelp actually did use reviews as a hammer but I suppose it doesn’t matter. Yelp’s hard driving approach to the SMB market has come home to roost and until such time as they change their business model, not just their sales practices*, this attitude in the market place is likely to persist.

*To either Yelp’s or the salesman’s credit, in my most recent sales experience last month, the pitch and the process were both more honest and less pushy.

Amazon Rolls Out Amazon Destinations – A Hotel Booking Site

Amazon has been moving steadily into local via their numerous local marketplaces; home services, same day product delivery, restaurant takeout, grocery deliver and hotel bookings.  Today they upped their hotel booking game with the rollout of Amazon Destinations as part of

The website doesn’t go for the every hotel in the world approach of TripAdvisor and is focused around regional chains,   botique hotels and b and b’s and seems to be emphasizing short getaways within driving distance from major metropolitan areas.

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From the business section of the local site:

Amazon Destinations helps hotel operators reach millions of Amazon customers looking to book their next getaway. You can provide access to your everyday rates and availability, along with packaged deals and discounts.

Amazon is positioning itself as a high touch, high visibility environment where businesses can increase their exposure and be assured that their customers will receive excellent service via Amazon.

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Clearly Amazon is rapidly moving into the local space. They will not compete directly with Google’s approach of providing massive local data and they probably can’t compete with Google in this arena.

But instead of driving people down the search funnel to an ad they will drive people to make the actual purchase. They will leverage the trust people have in their name and the high traffic of their site to compete in local where their brand, marketplaces and customer service gives them an advantage.

Optimizing Your Profile Image at Google Plus

Pack-Result-Desktop-smallThere probably isn’t an image of your business that gets seen more by potential customers and searchers than your Google My Business profile image. There isn’t a single image that has more impact on searcher’s behaviors. And there isn’t an image in the online world that is harder to “get right.”

Read my thoughts on how to best optimize your profile image: Your Google My Business Profile Image – The Most Important Image? at Local U.