All posts by Mike Blumenthal

Matt Cutts: Google Plus to Receive Manual Penalty

Google has in the past penalized it’s own properties five times for breaking its own SEO rules. Matt Cutts has apparently now also sanctioned Google Plus with a manual penalty. Here are the comments from the internal email that was forwarded to me:

“Forks or no forks, we believe that the Plus team has overdone their link building. Starting at 9 am tomorrow we have manually applied a penalty to the subdomain. This problem first came to light when an engineer working the PR Toolbar noticed that the Plus sub domain had achieved a page rank of 11. We decided we either had to act or change the algorithm. Neither choice was appealing but the manual penalty seemed the more appropriate path”.

He went on to say that:

“[there] are a number of violations of our linking policies that we have repeatedly pointed out to the team but its seems that we have been ignored. They include but are not limited to:

Rel Publisher – we have long ago deprecated header links in our algo but the Plus team was insistent on pushing them into the market place at such scale that they were impacting ranking.

Rel Author – We absolutely can not allow the quid pro quo of a photo that increases click throughs in return for a link. It’s not a paid link but it effectively is pay to play even if it has generated significant traffic for Plus.

In-Post Do follow Links – while we recently no followed links from profiles, all of the links inside of Plus posts are still do-follow links. Given our current policy on guest blogging, we need to hold the same standard for Google Plus.”

Should a Local Business Use Just a Local Page or a A Brand Page And a Local

I have written before about the fact that it is not possible to merge a G+ Page for local with other page types like brand or company. But the question of the relative value of one page versus another is an om-going question for me. Is there a benefit to having both page types if so when and what type of business would do best to do so?

I raised the question on Google Plus and am posting the conversation here as it has been very valuable:

Google Updates Bulk Feed

Posted from 20,000 ft on my iPhone so forgive any typos.

Googler Jade, who seems to be everywhere these days doing everything, just posted these notes about an upgrade to the bulk tool:

Importing a spreadsheet to the bulk upload tool is now improved. Now, when you import a file, you’ll see a preview of changes that will be made and be able to cancel out any unintentional changes. We hope this allows you to better manage information on your business locations.

A few more details–

The import preview will have:
A summary of the total number of locations included in your account prior to upload and the total number of locations in the file being imported.

A series of tabs with the type of change your current import will have on your account and the number of locations that will be changed in each. The types of changes that are listed are: new, changed, missing, ignored, and unchanged. Please see our Help Center for a more detailed explanation of each type of change.

The tabs make it much easier to see exactly what changes will be applied to your account. If you see an unexpected number of locations in a tab (more “new” locations than you mean to add, for example), you can investigate further before applying any changes. You can read some tips on troubleshooting an import file here.

Please note that store codes are now mandatory to enable this feature. Learn more about the new improved import process.

Reviews: If it is Good Enough to Do, It’s Good Enough to Do in Excess

footFile this under: Bosses come up with the worst ideas category or perhaps in the “it felt so good shooting myself in the left foot, let me do it in my right one as well” category.

This comment was recently posted on my GOOGLE: REVIEW CONTESTS VIOLATE GUIDELINES article from a Mrs G.

Mrs G. (1 comments)

So when is asking no longer asking. I work for a large company who is pushing the reviews so that they can get listed higher on the Google search engine. I mean wow, we are asking them when they come into the store, we are calling them and reminding them that we have not seen the review yet, we are going through our client lists and calling the ones we thing will give good reviews, now we are trying to get them to do the review on their phone before they leave the office. We even offer to use our phone if they did nor bring their and to help them sign up for a Gmail account if they do not have one. Are we going too far?

Dear Mrs G:

Remind me never to shop there.

Mike

 

Last Week in Google Local

Mb-hairtl;dr: Lots of small updates last week. And soon, very soon I won’t be pulling my hair out. :)

The transition to the new dashboard status: Judging by the fact that there were lots of complaints over the past two weeks in the forums about THE EMAIL and that my crufty, 2007 dashboard was finally converted I am assuming that Google has been making significant progress in the conversion to the new Places Dashboard.  And along comes some new issues and features and changing rules.

Bulk Uploads and Security: When the hotels were hijacked earlier this year, I noted that the bulk upload was a not very secure feed as opposed to true claiming of the new dashboard that locked down the listing. As Google moves to the new dashboard though, those feeds are becoming more secure as people can not add a listing uploaded in bulk to their new dashboard. “New dashboard users are blocked from verifying pages that are already verified by another user (either old dashboard, new dashboard, or G+). Being verified in a bulk account counts as being verified in the old dashboard. So, new dashboard users can’t claim pages that have already been verified in a bulk account”. OK that doesn’t mean that they are yet secure because a bulk listing can still be claimed in another approved bulk upload or an old Places Dashboard but it is step in the right direction. One day the transition will be over and we won’t be able to kick that dog any more. And then the real fun will begin as Franchise and Franchisors will actually have to talk to one another and possibly cooperate on their listings.

Orphan Plus Pages: In early February, Googler Jade noted If you’re creating a listing in the new Places for Business dashboard, now, you won’t have to wait to complete PIN verification before you can see the +page, for most businesses. Just follow the link from your dashboard to see the new page. You will be able to use Google+ social features on this unverified page, but please note — you still need to complete PIN verification before the page will start showing up in Google Maps and across other Google properties. Makes sense that a new claimant wouldn’t want to click on the G+ Link on the right and be confronted with another command to create an additional G+ Page.  Jade just updated that post and noted:

Accounts that have been migrated from the old Places dashboard to the new Places dashboard will have these changes retroactively applied. This means that when the account is migrated, unverified entries in the old dashboard will become unverified Google+ pages. If you don’t want to use this page, please remove it from your account, which should delete the page.

It also means that listings that were suspended, or were otherwise removed from the index but stayed in the old dashboard will also sort of show up once again. These pages are somewhat difficult to find, never showing in Maps but they will show up in G+. If you clients surface them, just go into the new dashboard and delete them

Google Maps for Android now showing owner responses: The mobile apps and mobile browsers have long had fewer features than the desktop vis a vis reviews. The new Google Maps for Android v 7.7 has recently been upgraded to show owner responses. OK that is a step in the right direction but the feature is still missing on Google Maps for iPhone and MORE IMPORTANTLY there is still no way to leave a review on mobile with the iPhone or Android from within the browser. This feature has been missing for nearly 2 years. At the time Google had indicated that they were aware of the bug and were working on a fix. Hows that for release early reiterate often? Baby steps are good but shouldn’t a user be able to leave a mobile review easily in 2014?

One More Reason for an SMB to Engage with Google Plus

Engaging with G+ can seem like a chore to most SMBs who have trouble attracting their local clients to their Plus page. Its main advantage is that Google has integrated it with search, where folks are in fact looking. Google seems to have recently upped the ante in local providing one more reason for the SMb to post on Plus.

Radina Dasheva pointed out on Linda’s forum that local brand searches will show recent G+ posts in the right side Knowledge Panel (I am not sure if this is new but I hadn’t noticed it before).

Several interesting things about this. On a 1440 x 900 pixel  screen the recent post content pushes competitor listings below the fold, making them less visible to searchers. It additionally provides the SMB with more real estate in the panel.

And as noted in Radina’s example, if the post contains a link it will show on the panel as well, giving the SMB one more chance to get a searcher over to their site and away from the rabbit hole that Google has become.

(click to view larger)

area-above-fold

 

Google Testing Moving Directional Local Info Panel Back into Search Results

With the advent of the knowledge graph and the info panel, Google has provided local businesses a lot of territory above the fold. This is true in both the main search results and the area to right of the search results where ads often show.

Kerry Fager of Findlaw.com shared this screen shot (IE) that shows Google returning to the Universal One Box integrated directly in the search results and not as as right side local knowledge panel. It is not clear whether this result is an example of the informational or navigational type of panel. My guess is the latter:

(click to view larger)
Reviews-from-around-the-web-whole-page

Here are the two current possible info panel displays; one that returns when Google thinks it is a navigational search and the other when Google thinks it is an informational search:

Navigational Info Panel (click to view larger):

Local Knowledge panel - navigational

Informational Info Panel (click to view larger)

Screen Shot 2014-03-14 at 10.28.41 AM

Certainly, on the economic front, it would make sense for Google to return to an in-line result rather than taking up more real estate to the side. That being said, at least in the navigational example provided by Kerry, there is a dearth of content.

It could be that the change is only being considered for the navigational result only. As that result currently hides the information behind the clickable drop down that would make a fair bit of sense to move.

New Look for Google Local Search Results

Google is apparently testing a new, cleaner front page layout that will affect both local and regular search results. First reported by Dan Barker on March 5th, Searchnewz is reporting that they will be rolled out.  I am now seeing this new layout on Safari for Mac.

The differences:

  • The removal of the underlines from all the links that appear in the search results on both paid and organic content.
  • A new font style and larger font size for the titles. This results in only 55 characters visible in the title tag; the same as mobile.
  • When a listing is rolled over and the KG Info Panel is show, the whole area to the right is greyed.
  • Ads are now annotated rather than shaded making them more obviously ads to a color blind person and on LCD screens compared to before.

Here are some comparisons of the change before and after (click to view larger):

Before-after-jewelry

Note that the grey extends down the full screen when the Info Panel is selected for Barbara Oliver & Co Jewelry:
Continue reading

Why You Got the Google Places Email & What You Should Do

Over the past few weeks, Google has been moving a large number of listings from the old dashboard to the new one. Often these dashboards held listings that were claimed into more than one account or had been claimed in multiple ways.

When there was a conflict in either scenario Google sent out an alerting email. Jade has just clarified when a user would get that email and what they should if they do.

If you recently received an email from Google that begins:

“We’d like to inform you that Google Places no longer accommodates more than one authorized owner per business location. Your account contains one or more listings that have been identified as duplicates of other listings and as a result, some of the information you provide will not be shown to Google users anymore…”

We have upgraded your account to the new Places dashboard, but we ran into one of the following complications:

In one scenario, your account and another account that you don’t control became verified for the same business using the old Places dashboard:

Additional unknown verified account(s) from the old Places dashboard

Google Places no longer supports multiple verified business owner accounts for the same business location, so we are letting you know that your account has a listing that’s a duplicate of a listing in another account. By logging into your Google Places for Business dashboard, you can view the duplicate listing, which will show a banner reading, “You cannot update this listing because it has been marked as a duplicate of another.” If you no longer want to manage this listing, you can remove this listing from your dashboard. Alternatively, you can request administrative access from the current owner of the listing using the link to Learn more in your dashboard.

It’s possible that someone else in your organization, or a third party whom you once worked with, verified the business in another account. If you don’t believe anyone else could possibly be active in managing this business information, other than yourself, you can always contact support directly to help restore your account’s access to the listing.

Or, you may have verified the page multiple times using accounts you control:

Multiple known verified accounts from old Places dashboard

You may remove the duplicate listing from the dashboard in the account we emailed, which won’t affect the information on Maps. Then, please simply use the other account to manage the listing.

Verified same business in both Google Places and in Google+, same account

You had a listing that you created on Google Places as well as a local page that you created in Google+, using the same account. You PIN verified the local page in Google+. The system now has identified that the listing you have in Google Places and the page you have in Google+ as duplicates. We have marked the listing from Places as duplicate. If you log in to Google Places, and you should see your local page (from Google+) as well as the duplicate listing, which will show a banner reading, “You cannot update this listing because it has been marked as a duplicate of another.” You can remove this listing from your dashboard, and continue to manage the business using the account with the listing which is connected to Maps.

Verified same business in both Google Places and in Google+, different accounts

You or someone in your organization used different accounts to verify the Google Places listing and the local page in Google+. If this is the case, please use the latter account to manage this page. You should be able to do so via Google+ or Google Places. You can remove the duplicate listing from the account we emailed in Google Places, which won’t affect the information on Maps.

In any of the above 3 scenarios, you can keep the duplicate listing instead of the active one if you really want.  First, remove the active listing from that account Then, you should contact our support team, who can help make the duplicate listing active again.

If you have questions or concerns, please contact our support team.

Here is a screen shot of what you will see if you fell into the Verified same business in both Google Places and in Google+, same account scenario. Sinply delete the unverified data. 

dual-listings

Google Shuts Down Self Serve Offers Product

Google announced this afternoon that they will be shutting down their Places Dashboard self-serve Offers product.

The product was updated with performance based pricing in the fall of last year and given a new interface in 2012 but like the coupon product upon which it was based, has toiled in obscurity.

The product and the output was actually quite nice. There were two problems with it. Google buried the resultant coupons, never showing them in the mains search results and never promoting the program. The product was renamed Offers in Novemer of 2010. At the time I noted:

Google Coupons had been the Rodney Dangerfield of Google local products, always hidden, never talked about and for years, after anoptimistic start in 2006, they languished.

Screen Shot 2014-03-05 at 4.04.43 PM

 

Google owns some incredible couponing technology that they purchased in late 2012. Technologies that offer incredible end to end tracking and simple creation that many SMBs would find incredibly valuable.

It is a shame that Google has not yet succeeded in the space. One can only hope that the phoenix will once again rise with new life in some future product.