Category Archives: Google Places (Maps & Local)

Comments, research and information about Google Maps (Google Local)

New Flow for Google Places/G+ Page Creation


Googler Jade announced in the forums that newly created Google Plus Pages for local will be visible immediately upon creation. This should make the process more obvious to new businesses claiming in the dashboard.

Hey guys,

A few changes to page creation are rolling out gradually today –

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.

If you’ve got an unverified local Google+ page (made using Google+ in the local business/place category), then we still encourage you to PIN verify this page so that it can start appearing in Google Maps and across other Google properties.

If you’re creating a local Google+ page (using Google+ selecting the local business/place category) for a business that we think is already in Google Maps, then you may need to go through both PIN verification and our admin request flow before you can manage the page.

Thanks,

Jade

 

 

 

Oh Where is Washington, NC? How to Fix a Google Map Error


atlantisEgregious mapping errors occur a lot less these days on Google Maps. While roads are still being lost or misnamed in New Jersey, we have seen no lost towns and misplaced communities like we saw in 2009 and 2010. And truth be told the problem with roads in New Jersey may be just a reflection of some larger ground truth.

But when serious mapping errors do occur they are still painful and negatively impact the businesses involved.  I recently received this email from a forlorn innkeeper, Beckie Sipprell in Washington, NC:

Hello Mike,

Lisa Kolb at Acorn suggested tha tyou might be interested in a dilemma that we have in Washington NC. The town of Washington NC, not the County. That is the issue. When someone puts in Washington NC Bed and Breakfast or restaurants what shows on Google Maps are places in Washington County NC…and no one seems to know how to undo this.

If you have any magic in this department please pass it on to us. I am at a loss. Thank you for any help you might give.

I asked Dan Austin for a MapMaker perspective on the problem and whether anything could be done.

Here is his response (once again chock full of useful tidbits if you run into this issue).

Yes and no.

Google Alerting Australian Dashboard Claimants via Emails


Last week Google started upgrading the Places dashboards in Australia. Last night (which was this morning in Australia) Google started sending out a notice to Australian Places Dashboard claimants. Several folks reported it in the forums (ht to Nyagoslav) with headlines like “Scam or not?”.

Hello,

Due to changes in Google Maps, we’d like to inform you that unless you review and confirm the information in your Google Places account, we will no longer be able to keep and show it to Google users after February 21, 2014.

As a result, on this date your listing “Pet Friends” may be deleted.

If you wish to keep your listing active, follow these three easy steps:

1. Log in to your Google Places account
2. Review and update your information
3. Click the “Submit” button

Sincerely,
The Google Places Team

1- Google has confirmed that the email is legitimate
2- If you have received one of these you should do as the email instructs

Exactly why Google is sending this out, they are not saying. Whether it is an effort to clean up listings after the upgrade or has something to do with local licensing issues, no one really knows. It appears that the email is unique to Australia at this point.

When Google farts it is a sound heard around the world. This email is no exception. They were reported last night in the forums and folks were concerned that they were either a scam or that they were in trouble. One poster noted that “I have logged in but there is nothing there indicating anything that needs updating”. Google in there inimitable fashion did not alert users that the emails were coming, did not say that they were sent and has not explained the purpose of the email. And when a user gets to the Dashboard there is no explanation or alert that they need to do a “null edit”. No wonder they are confused.

Google has started to understand that customer service means taking care of problems. A huge leap for the company as it starts to grow up.

Now they need to learn that, like The Fed, what it means to communicate better. If they don’t every word will be parsed ad nauseum and folks will lose sleep. And farts expelled in an echo chamber will end up sounding like thunder.

Google Local Carousels MIA – Are they gone for good?


Are Local Carousels on their way out? They are gone today in my browsers. (Note others are not seeing any reduction in carousels).

Which raises another question: Is this part of a larger plan to clean up the look of search results page in general and local search in particular?

Several weeks ago rumors started circulating that the Local Carousels were on their way out and would no longer be displayed for local search results. Today, on my machine, the Local Carousel is gone when searching for hotels and restaurants on all of my browsers whether logged in or incognito.

While this could be a test it could also portend a rollout of results in which local carousels are no longer displayed in local search results.

Screen Shot 2014-01-11 at 1.54.19 PM

 

The Local Carousel rolled out broadly in the US (only) in mid June. There were many studies of how they impacted user behaviors and dominated the screen real estate. At the time we had found over three hundred search phrases that showed the carousel in local results.

In my tests today of a range of those different search results that had returned carousels, none were visible on searches as varied as  Fishing CharterGrocery storesCampground RochesterMusic lessons chicago & Kids Entertainment Buffalo.

The carousel is still visible for Knowledge Graph things like museums and theme parks but is not showing for any Places results that I could identify on the desktop. I am not sure about tablet searches.  

When I was asked my opinion several weeks of whether it was likely that they would be going away permanently, I responded  that it was consistent with the fact that it had never been rolled out world wide. Google does thing at the end of the day for the whole world.

A number of other recent developments have taken place that have, in affect, reduced the visual artifacts that have accumulated on the search results page in local.

In late October Google stopped showing blended results which often included author photos and a mishmash of business names and title tags. In roughly the same timeframe Matt Cutts announced an upcoming  15% reduction in the amount of rich snippets and authorship displayed in search results. In mid-December there weremanyreports of the reduction of author photos.  Not as widely reported but noticed on may testimonials pages was the cut back of rich snippet stars as well.

If this change is more than a test (others are not seeing the results I am), all of these changes would be consistent with visual clutter reduction.

As Andrew Shotland pointed out, this decrease in visual business would also be consistent  making Ads more visible and more likely to be clicked.

Here are some more screen shots from this afternoon of searches that yesterday were showing the Local Carousel:

Screen Shot 2014-01-11 at 2.20.06 PM

Screen Shot 2014-01-11 at 2.20.58 PM

 

Tips for Your New Google + Cover Photo


Early this week Google updated the layout of the G+ Pages. They also updated the imagery and maps at the top of the pages moving away from the ever slithering image that continually changed in size to one that was relatively stable. They simultaneously moved the details about business location to the area to the left of the image.

Some notes about the image

The aspect ratio of the cover photo is not changing. It’s still 16:9.

  • The size of the cover photo shown depends on the browser width.
  • According to Google the entire cover photo is shown unhidden on > 95% of desktop displays.
  • When part of the photo is hidden, it is roughly hiding 10% of the length of the photo from each side of the photo
  • The actual image display size ranges on the desktop from 519 x 294 pixels to 1081 x 608 pixels. The text area to the left adjusts both the width of the area and the font size as the screen width increases
  • The navigation bar is now below the cover photo on the desktop (but not on mobile phones).
  • No changes to the mobile design.

Here are some notes about the cover image that might not be obvious at first glance:

Cover-Image

When the image is cropped at certain screen sizes roughly 10% of the image content is lost from each side of the image.

Best Practices

  • The intent of the change was that all current cover photos will work with the new design however if you were an early adopter of the +Page and retained the thin image from prior to May, 2103 it will now be bordered on both top and bottom to fill the space. It works but it is ugly and will motivate you to replace it.
  • Consider how your current cover photo will render in this new design. When a user navigates to your Page, they will see the entire or most of the entire cover photo image.
  • If you choose to upload a new cover photo, make sure it has a 16×9 aspect ratio with a minimum upload size of 480px x 270px. Maximum pixel size is still 2120 x 1192 but the largest actual image that I found displayed was 1081 x 608 pixels so really anything larger than that will do. Note that I was only able to test up to a screen width of 3200 pixels so the image might get still get larger in very limited circumstances.
  • Given that on certain display sizes the left and right edges are trimmed by about 10% each be sure that there is no critical content in the edge areas
  •  On a Nexus 4 the image shows at full width. However on an iPhone the smaller cropped image is shown and on the 5s a small portion at the very top of the image is not visible in the Google Plus app so you probably do not want any critical detail at the very top of the image.
  • I have seen some very nice examples of cover images where smaller images were imbedded in the larger image. They looked great on the desktop but due to the small size of the embeds they did not resolve well on mobile screens. Be sure to check your cover photo on those smaller screens as well.
  • Note that the dashboard profile photo, still round, will reside with above the name and address block when the page is displaying 2 columns or more.
  • When the display is a single column and on mobile phones the profile image will be centered on the middle bottom of the cover image.  Half of the profile image is above and half below the bottom of the cover image. This image will be 123 x 123 pixels. Not enough pixels to resolve any amount of detail so keep the image close and simple.
  • When the display is in two column mode, the profile image is displayed at 71 pixels allowing for even less detail but returns to 123 pixels when the display is wider in 2 column mode and in 3 column mode.

Here is a table that delineates the changes to the image at different desktop screen sizes: Continue reading

Google Rolls Out Android Mobile Places Dashboard App


This afternoon Google rolled out a new mobile Google Places for Business app that allows management of a business’s Google Plus listing via  Android.

From the Google Play description:

Keep your business listing fresh and up-to-date across Google with the free Google Places for Business app:
- Update your business information, including hours, address, contact information, photos and description
- Keep your customers in the know by posting updates and photos
- Respond to comments and +1′s on your posts
- Learn how customers find and interact with your business with insights
- Manage multiple business locations from one app

The app shows the way for the new dashboard to provide an integrated experience to the SMB that wants to interact with all aspects of their listing as well as their public social stream from one unified interface. In that sense it might be providing a look at what the desktop dashboard might become.

The interface, like the desktop Places for Business Dashboard, is intuitive and easy to use. Unlike the desktop dashboard, this product is fully integrated with the Plus social stream and allows for social posts that include photos and for social responses. For those businesses that have a social presence and would like to keep it updated frequently with photos it offers a compelling solution.

There are some limits to the product
- U.S. listings only
- Business must already have the new dashboard
- no iPhone version

Besides the lack of an iPhone app and the inability to respond to reviews, the rap against the app is the same criticism that I have of the desktop dashboard – it just doesn’t do that much that would compel a business owner to return regularly to check in. If their business doesn’t have a strong social presence and doesn’t have a need for regular photo uploads (which is most local businesses), the app and the Places for Business dashboard desktop provide little reason for regular visits to Places.

That being said, the Places Dashboard was built as a platform for the future and is able to readily be expanded with new functionality. One presumes that the mobile version is similarly designed. Google has not provided many reasons in the past for a business to continually check into their dashboard. This had lead to a situation where the listing data gets stale, the SMB understanding and appreciation of the product is decreased, passwords are lost and there is little opportunity for Google to entice the SMB with additional functionality, paid or otherwise.

My sense is that Google understands this and will, at some point in the future, provide increasing functionality to the SMB. Here’s hoping its sooner rather than later and that once Google gets past the very painful transition from the old to the new Places that we will see steady and valuable updates to the dashboards both mobile and desktop.

Here are some additional points provided to me by Google about the app:

Continue reading

Hummingbird, Local Knowledge Graph & Shitty Search Results


Screen Shot 2013-09-28 at 9.59.58 AMThe big news earlier in the week was Google’s announcement of the Hummingbird search algo upgrade. InformationWeek noted that “the Hummingbird update expands Google’s use of its Knowledge Graph”.  Local search results were some of the first entities moved to the Knowledge graph and displayed as knowledge graph results. For me there are thus two questions.

Does Hummingbird affect local search results?

Are there any indications of a decline in local search results quality?

The answer, at least as far as I can tell, to both questions seems to be yes.

According to Danny Sullivan, Google started using this new algo “about a month ago”. Moz pegged the rollout at around August 20-22. For the most part this change went unoticed in both local and universal search results. But there was one big change in local that Linda Buquet has covered quite extensively that she first wrote about on August 24th. The timing and results, I think, are not coincidental.

Linda titled this one exactly right: Attack of the Bad Google Local One-Boxes!

What is the attack of the Local One-Boxes? A number of broad head searches like “Buffalo NY Diamonds” or “Denver SEO”  are returning (usually) a single branded, spammy local result. Google seems to have dug into the wayback machine to have pulled out these totally inappropriate results. (Note: as Linda said below it may be necessary to set your location to the same as the geo phrase to see these. That isn’t always the case but it increases the likelihood of surfacing them).

Essentially it appears that Google has once again conflated these head terms with what they suppose to be a branded search and have surfaced spammy pinned local results that we thought had long ago been buried. Hummingbird has worked surprisingly well as demonstrated by the lack of complaints. It is interesting that a problem thought solved long ago would trip it up.

For example if you search on the phrase “Buffalo NY Diamonds” it surfaces a second listing for a local jeweler at the same address that was created long ago for the purpose of keyword spamming “marketing” in local. The problem of Google showing a single branded results was first spotted years ago. It subsequently lead to a spate of one box spam and then, for the most part, squelched by Google. For whatever reason, these spammy local knowledge graph entities seem to have made a come back.

The timing and nature of the results makes me believe that we are seeing “the Hummingbird effect”.

Screen Shot 2013-09-28 at 9.36.57 AM

When was the last time that you saw a local result for a spammy local SEO listings? The answer: December, 2009. They seem to have returned.

Screen Shot 2013-09-28 at 9.50.32 AM Continue reading

LocalU Odds and Ends


Local-Advanced-U_180x70Lot’s has been happening at LocalU. We have an advanced LocalU coming up Monday in NYC that has just 5 seats left. If you do sign up be sure to use the discount code WS-LUA10 for 10% off. If you are already signed up be sure to reach out to me and introduce yourself.

We will be announcing our (very busy) winter & spring speaking schedule shortly and it looks like we will be in Dallas, Springfield (MA), Valley Forge, Harrisburg and hopefully the Cupertino area (and perhaps a few more places as well). We are now scheduling for May and the fall of 2014 so if you are interested in having us come to your city, let us know.

We hope to have our full video tape of the LocalU advanced session in Seattle available for purchase shortly and some other cool content as well. We will keep you posted.

We have been busy at the LocalU blog as well with some great articles over the past few months that you might have missed:

Where Should a New Business Create a Listing: Google+ Page or Google Places for Business Dashboard? - Mike Blumenthal

The Real Truth About SEO & Call Tracking - Mary Bowling

Is Your Website Ready for the Holidays? - Mary Bowling

What Kind of Google+ Page Is It? – A Visual Guide to Google+ Local Pages - Mike Blumenthal

How Long Should Your Business Description Be in the Google Places for Business Dashboard? - Mike Blumenthal

Have You Tried Google Support for Local Lately? - Mary Bowling

How To Segment Local Search In Google Analytics (with Free Dashboard!) - Ed Reese (I particularly like the free dashboard that Ed created that gives some incredible insights into where your local visitors are coming from. And what is better than free?).

There will be light postings next week due to travel. I hope to see you in NYC next week.

 

 

New Countries Added to Places for Business Category Tool – Volunteers Needed


google-places-iconWe have just upgraded the Google Places Category tool with categories for the new dashboard from:
UK - United Kingdom contributed by Andrew Loy, Occupancy Marketing
NL  - Netherlands contributed by Eduard de Boer
FR  - France contributed by Ken Fagan
Aus  - Austria contributed by Petra Kraft
IT - Italy contributed by Andrea Scarpetta
CA - Canada contributed by Darren Shaw

Norway has been contributed by Aleksander Steinsvik, Crosspath Media but is not yet loaded.

Here are the countries that have been added to the new dashboard for which I do not yet have categories and am asking for volunteers:

Argentina Liechtenstein
Brazil Malaysia
Bulgaria Mexico
Chile Pakistan
Colombia Poland
Croatia Romania
Egypt Russia
Finland Saudi Arabia
Greece Singapore
Hong Kong Slovakia
Hungary South Africa
India Switzerland
Indonesia Taiwan
Israel the Philippines
Japan Ukraine
Kenya United Arab Emirates
Korea

If you would like your 15 seconds of fame and a link and live in one of the above countries here are the instructions to gather the categories from the new dashboard (obviously I wold appreciate it if you sent them along):

Continue reading

Canadian Categories from the New Dashboard Now Added to Google Category Tool


google-places-iconWith the help of Darren Shaw of Whitespark, we have recently added the list of Canadian categories from the new Google Places for Business Dashboard to our searchable Google Places Category Tool.

The new Places for Business Dashboard is country specific and the categories that one sees are IP & country specific. Thus I need to ask your help in gathering the categories for the countries that now have the new dashboard.

If you would like to volunteer 10 minutes of your time to help me gather categories in one of the following countries to which you have access please contact me at mike@blumenthals.com and I will send you instructions. Not much glory in this job besides public recognition, a link and knowing that you have helped others better understand Google Places.

Countries for which I need help obtaining the category list:

Austria
Belgium
Croatia
Czech Republic
Denmark
Finland
France
Germany
Ireland
Italy
Liechtenstein
Netherlands
New Zealand
Norway
Portugal
Singapore
Spain
Sweden
Switzerland
UK