March 9, 2012
Wanting to get across the point that SMBs need to read the Google Guidelines in a recent seminar, I worked with Margaret Shulock, a nationally syndicated cartoonist who lives down the road, to develop this comic. If you would like to share this with your readers please do. Over the next month I will be creating a series of these cartoons named Google Places False Negatives and they will be archived there and available for your use.
Feel free to Grab the code snippet below to add the comic to your site.
“Google Places Enforcement Plan”by Margaret Shulock is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License. Based on a work at blumenthals.com.
March 7, 2012
The last 3 or 4 months in Places have been quite erratic. Some data that had been posting from Places in moments had gone to weeks. It seemed that things like descriptions could take 6 to 7 weeks. Google has just announced a new speedier update cycle of “usually a few days” for most data and “about a week” for photos in this forum post. It will still take a number of weeks to resolve dupes and merges. Here is the full body of the post:
There have been a lot of questions in the forum lately about verifying new listings and making updates to existing ones, and we wanted to clear up some of that confusion. We’ve been doing some work on our backend, cleaning up the pipes in order to make more improvements to Google Places over time. Here are the typical turnaround times for updates you make in your Google Places account.
What will usually update in a few days:
• Newly verified listings (even though it reads “Active” in your dashboard)
–> This includes newly verified bulk uploads (and any attributes, as noted below)
• Business titles
• Phone numbers
• Website URLs
• Pin marker moves
What will update in about a week:
What will typically take several weeks to resolve:
• Merged listings
• Duplicate listings
The Post to your Place page feature (http://goo.gl/f8bCp
) should update to your listing near instantly, but we’re experiencing some technical issues with that right now. Expect a fix soon.
Also, please note that reviews are not affected by these new changes. If you’re experiencing technical issues with the reviews on your listing, please see this Help Center article for more information: http://goo.gl/emQsE
While waiting for your listing to go live after a claim it will likely show the “We do not currently support this location” message for the duration of the waiting period. During this “waiting period” the standard “tickle your Places record with an edit” fix for this problem will have no affect. Going forward it is not clear if the fix will still be needed or not on records that go south after verification with the error.
Some updates seem to take a few days longer than a “few” with some taking 6 to 7 days but it seems that has been improving over the past week.
Note that Vanessa said: We’ve been doing some work on our backend, cleaning up the pipes in order to make more improvements to Google Places over time. Hopefully we will continue to see improvements in a range of the problem areas and Places bugs of the past.
Let me know how long your updates are taking!
Frequent contributor Plamen has pointed out a new “behavior” in how Google is handling the main search display of new Google reviews showing up on the Place page; adding a link to the location in the “around the web” review section. Whether this is a bug or one more way to insert another link to an additional Google property in the main search results is unclear.
Here is the Places listing: Custom Shoe Repair that I added the review to if you want to explore my sample more closely. But it seems to add the links to the search results in near real time so you should be able to add your own review to a Place page and see the results quickly.
Oddly the link heads off to Google Maps and generates loc:search showing the location and place. As more reviews get added the url is updated to include a new author flag ID but the content does not change.
What is your opinion? Bug or just one more attempt to drive users sideways to a different Google page?
March 6, 2012
March 1, 2012
Yext is doing local differently. I don’t normally write reviews of commercial products but when they offered me two free listings I decided to explore the value of the service for local SEOs.
In local citation building we have come to expect that it might take 8, 16 or even 20 weeks for a citation to make its way into the search engines. The local ecosystem, a complicated web of relationships and feeds, is to some extent a technology mired in the last millennium. Much of the delay in a citation winding its way through the system has been due to the time it takes the data collectors and aggregators to create their own data builds and move the list to the next point in the local chain.
UBL for example might send data to Infogroup only once every 4 weeks. Infogroup could take as long as 4 to 8 weeks to process and verify a listing. This is particularly true of a new business. Infogroup would then assemble their complete list and feed it to their customer sites periodically, perhaps once a month or even once a quarter depending on the plan that the local directly had subscribed to. Even if the upstream data supplier processed the information more quickly the local directories that utilized this data might only integrate the new listings into their index once a month, once quarter or perhaps only twice a year.
Google, because of their desire to “organize all of the world’s information”, is one of the more proactive local sites at updating their local index and integrating new listing data. But even for them, with all of their processing power, their internal data “pipeline” would take 4 to 6 weeks for data to be pushed into an updated Places index.
Thus if you hit the timing just wrong it might take 20 weeks (or more) for a new listing citation to wend its through the maze that is the local ecosystem and appear in Google’s Places index.
Yext has taken a different path to data distribution. They have built technology that pushes local listing data and its enhanced content to its participating directories in near real time. With their product a local business or an agency can claim and enhance their listing with photos, hours and offers and expect to see it at a number of top tier directories and local search engines within hours or a few days. Participating directories include names like Yelp, Yahoo, Superpages, Mapquest and CityGrid and 28 other directories, IYPs and local sites.
Yext also provides a single login and dashboard, a very fast and functional user interface for data entry, mulit-level management of the listings and some reporting of listing views from the sites that use its service.
Compared to entering the listing data at these many sites by hand, it is both more accurate and a big time saver. But it comes at a fairly steep price. Yext’s business model is to charge $495 per listing. To incent their participating directories roughly 50% of that fee is shared. The service is efficient and there is a certain thrill to watch listings pop up so quickly.
Here is a some of my findings.
February 29, 2012
Over the weekend I reworked Barbara Oliver & Co Jewelry’s publisher & authorship Rich Snippets. Previously I had only had the rel=author snippet on the home page but based on other examples that were showing in Local I added the rel=publisher rich snippet to the home page only and left the rel=author snippet on the home page and every other page. I had previously added review rich snippets on both the review and home pages.
As Linda Buquet had reported all of the rich snippets AND her Google reviews are now showing in the blended local results and the branded search result. Note that the testimonial page with rich snippets shows as a review source as well. Also the author image is smaller than previous example. I think that is due to having the rich snippet review included.
The code I use was as followed:
February 22, 2012
David has just created an update to the great chart describing the mishegas that is the Local Search ecosystem. The chart elegantly captures the flow of data from the top tier data suppliers through the directories and into Google and the other search engines. The complete set of charts detailing the relations can be found at A Closer Look at the Local Search Data Providers.
If you ever wondered why it takes so long for a citation to show up in Google, this should answer the question.
The PlusBox is now once again being seen more widely in the search results. When Google strated manipulating local search results by reducing their footprint and removing the description several weeks ago, the PlusBox feature appeared with increasing frequency. I have received a number of emails alerting me to the “new feature” so I assume that many of you are not familiar with it.
The PlusBox is a local interface convention first introduced into the main search results in December of 2006. It really was the first “blended result” and it essentially added geo information and an optional map to an organic search result. Even though Matt Cutts indicated at the time that its data could come from the Places Dashboard (then known as the Local Business Center), it was typically algo generated and frequently showed erroneous information that was difficult to fix.
Bill Slawski first covered the PlusBox patent application in 2007 (and again in 2011) and it was a fairly common feature at the time. As Google pushed more 7-packs and then the Blended Places results into the main search results, the PlusBox was rarely seen over the past 2 years.
In many ways, the “new” PlusBox display is preferable to the new “no description” local display and begs the question whether a business owner can “do something” to cause its appearance instead of the currently sparse local result. The answer: I don’t know.
The PlusBox has always gotten its geo clues from a range of sources but it often appeared to be most influenced by website associated with a geo location rather than the Places Dashboard. It makes sense, if you want it to show, to be sure that your site gives the Google bots as many geo signals (kml files, rich snippet address formatting, location specific pages, geo rich contact us and about us pages, claimed listing) as possible. If I were a betting man, I would put my money on a KML file and geositemap as a very trusted signal but there are likely multiple signals that Google can use to generate the result.
As you can see from this screen capture, it has benefit of showing a longer title tag, a robust meta description and an address. Its reappearance highlights the importance of a well crafted description tag that possibly includes the phone number.
Obviously Google Local universal results are in a great deal of flux. Changes have been occurring on a regular basis of late and the only normal seems to be change. The reappearance of the PlusBox is just one change amongst many and who knows if it will last. The integration of search and social has just begun and this may end up just being a way station rather than a destination. That being said, it always makes sense to have a website that uses best local practices and clearly signals the Google machine where you are located.
February 20, 2012
Does the Google Places “Report a Problem” Work to Remove Spam? In the past reporting, spam via this mechanism has been roughly akin to peeing in the ocean… satisfying but hardly ever changing the salinity let alone warming the ocean around your feet. I am curious whether, along with other improvements in service level, “Report a Problem” is now a functional solution for dealing with spam in your marketplace.
Google has been slowly and steadily improving their service in Google Places. Given its very low starting point, service levels could have only gone up and while they are not anywhere near a level that one would call excellent the service situation is clearly better than it was 6 months ago and steadily improving.
The forums are staffed and real solutions are offered. There is now a way to get in touch with staffers in Mt View to solve complex problems created by the system like merges via the Google Place Help troubleshooters. The emergency messaging, needed when Google self inflicts turmoil in the Places index, has improved. Mapmaker, although complex and ugly, has been a help for do-it-yourselfers and “Report a Problem” has been a somewhat successful path on issues like dupes for those that don’t want the excessive complexity and bad UI of Mapmaker.
But spam has been and remains a huge problem in Places and the main way for most to report it has been via the “Report a Problem” process. I am curious: Are you finding that it works to remove the spam that you are seeing?
Have you recently reported spam via this path? Has it proven successful? Was Google’s email correspondence back to you meaningful or non-sensical? Did it still seem like like an exercise in urinary futility or was there a sense that you had actually impacted the outcome?
If you haven’t recently reported spam, I am asking everyone to take part in a grand group experiment. Find an egregious piece of Places spam, report it via “Report a Problem” today and report back if you see any results within the next 10 days.
February 16, 2012
Over the past two days a raft of posters noted in the forums that their listings were now showing the dreaded “We Currently Do Support This Location”. For most of these listings the fix of “poking the listing” with an edit/submit in the dashboard did not return the listing to the index. Google posted this note in the forums and attempted to consolidate the many postings into this post.
At 2:41 AM EST Joel Headley, head of Places customer support posted this update noting that Google had fixed the problem:
Best answer – Joel_H (Google Employee)
We’ve just finished making some changes to restore listings. Sorry for the issue and thanks all for your patience.
Could you check again and let us know if the issue persists?
I think for most listings it is likely that they have returned. A number that I checked had returned but not all.
This is not the only “quirk” in Places and the Places Dashboard this week. There have been many and I presume that there were will be more as Google rolls out incremental changes. I would suggest that you postpone any work you may have in Places for a few days and let the dust settle.