Category Archives: Google Places (Maps & Local)

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

Adwords Express Changing Ad Titles Depending on Search

Adwords Express has generally improved since its initial nationwide rollout in January of 2011 and its name change in July of last year. It was initially dogged with poor targeting and huge spikes in monthly cost per click that often made their use untenable. I have continued to test it in a range of local situations and for some low dollar value campaigns in some markets it has worked very well. My relationship with Express has moved from wildly bipolar to only mildly bipolar.

One of the annoying aspects is the lack of control. For example Google adds review stars to your express ad and takes viewers directly to your Places page whether you want them to go there or not. The flip side of that is that they automatically provide click to call for your ads in a mobile environment. Another big downside is the inability to direct a user to a specific landing page. But it turns out to be a quick and relatively inexpensive local keyword research tool where it is sometimes hard to get a great list otherwise.

One of the big improvements has been the ability to create your own Ad Headline. Initially the product would ONLY show the business name in that field. The ability to correctly title your ad has improved targeting and increased the value of the ad for specific niches. But… and this is a big BUT …. along with that improvement Google is now apparently changing the ad title ON THE FLY. Not only are they changing the title to the business name they are shortening the business name to fit in the allowed 25 characters!

And Google does so without warning you that this might occur. As far as I can tell this behavior is NOT documented.

The assumption that Google knows best might be backed by reams of data, that doesn’t mean that I should not be given the option to either allow or disallow this behavior. Nor does it mean that Google should make these changes without asking my permission. Simplicity without explanation becomes duplicity in the eyes of the SMB.

Here is an ad that I recently found showing in the search results. Note the Ad Headline:


Here is the content that was created in the Places Dashboard:

Continue reading Adwords Express Changing Ad Titles Depending on Search

RSS Feeds To Google’s New Places Support Forum Courtesy of Barry Hunter

Barry Hunter, Top Contributor in the Google Maps & Places forums and Maps expert, took the matter of the missing RSS feeds for the Places forum into his own hands and crafted these feed URLS.

All Topics in Google and Your Business Forum

Topics in Need advice?

Topics in Technical issue?

And these feeds should work in Google Reader only – probably wont elsewhere. Right click and ‘Copy shortcut’ then paste into the new subscription box in GReader:

New Messages

New Topics

The “msgs” (new messages) feed is with an entry per post, and “topics” (new topics) is just for the first post per topic.

Update: John Muller just posted this RSS feed for the forums on Google +

Webmaster Forum Topics Feed
Webmaster Forum MSGS Feed

.. just swap out “webmasters” with the appropriate part of the forum URL. The “topics” feed is per thread, the “msgs” feed is per message. The downsides to these URLs is that the body of the post is cut off at a certain length, and that you can’t look at these on a per-category basis (it’s awesome that Barry’s feed is per category).

So here are the two feeds (not sure the difference between the two). And both seem to require Google Reader:

Google Places Business MSG Feed

Google Places Business Topics Feed

Google Updates Blended Display on Desktop AND Mobile


At the end of February I reported that Google was including both rich snippet reviews AND authorship images and links in blended results on the desktop. At the time these features had not appeared in the mobile results. Starting yesterday Google has once again updated the Blended display on the desktop to not show the rich snippet reviews in the blended results (they still show in organic results) nor the author links as much. Google also is now including a larger authors image and including additional links to their reviews.

Compare this screen shot from this morning to the one taken on February 29th:


More interesting to me is that Google has added Author photos to the blended and organic mobile results. This creates a very strong visual queue on the much more constrained mobile desktop:

Continue reading Google Updates Blended Display on Desktop AND Mobile

I Can See the Future of Your Reviews – New Google Places Comic by Margaret Shulock

Here is the second comic in the Google Places False Negatives Series from Margaret Shulock. Google’s update on reviews was the inspiration for this comic. The snippets to share this and the previous cartoon on your site is below.

I Can See the Future of Your Google Reviews

“I Can See the Future of Your Google Reviews”by Margaret Shulock is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License. Based on a work at

Google Places Transitioning to New Support Forum – Removing All Previous Posts By Thursday

Google has started the final transition to the new Google Places Forums.

When Google says shut down, they mean shut down. They will be closing down the current Places forum and taking all of the existing material off line. All existing posts will be redirected to the home page of the new forum by Thursday of this week. All current and past posts (there are 39699 of them) will be taken down and will no longer be accessible.

This will effectively be the 5th move for the Place’s forum in 5 years. Originally part of the Maps forum on the GoogleGroups Platform, the Places Forum (then known as the Local Business Center) was moved with Maps to the current forum and then split from that forum into its own forum several times before this most recent move. Google transitioned most of their other products over to the new platform over the past 6 months with this being one of the last to move to the new platform.

The Google Places Guidelines Enforcement Plan

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.

The Google Places Rejection Meister
“Google Places Enforcement Plan”by Margaret Shulock is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License. Based on a work at

Code snippet:

Google Updates Places Time to Live for Dashboard Data

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:

Hey all,
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
• Addresses
• Phone numbers
• Website URLs
• Pin marker moves
• Descriptions
• Hours
• Categories
What will update in about a week:
• Photos
• Videos
What will typically take several weeks to resolve:
• Merged listings
• Duplicate listings
The Post to your Place page feature ( 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:

Several notes.

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!

Google Places: Review Bug Or New Link to A Google Property?

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?

Mid-Altlantic Innkeepers Conference Keynote

Monday, I am presented the keynote, Google is From Mars and You are From Venus – Or how I learned to stop worrying and love Google at the Mid-Atlantic Innkeepers Conference in Williamsburg.  It was an incredibly well run and fun conference. Meeting with both aspiring and successful bed and breakfast owners was educational and inspirational. Although I think I will keep my day job.

For those that were in the presentation these links will provide background information and details for a pathway to dig deeper into the world of managing your listing in Google Places and ethically approaching the review process. For those of you that were not in attendance, the links provide a good overview of critical base line ideas and tactics that every local campaign should embrace.

Slide 1 – Small Business Alert: Google is from Mars and You are from Venus

Slide 4 – How Google Got its name

Slide 5/6 – Jan 2012 Search Engine Market Share / Local Search %

Slide 17 – How to maximize your branded presence in Google search

Slide 18 – Rich Snippets in Local Results

Slide 19 – Local Search Eye Tracking Study

Slide 20/21 – The Importance of Page One Visibility 

Slide 26 – A Closer Look at the Local Search Data Providers

Slides 27 – How the Google Places Cluster Works

Slide 41 – NAP Consistency

Slide 42- Google Places Policies: Quality guidelines

Slide 44- Choosing the Right Category – A Tool

Slide 44 – Writing a Great Business Description

Slide 45 – Checking for Problems – NAP Audit

Slide 46 – Creating a GeoSitemap – A tool

Slide 48 – Providing a Baseline Presence

Slide 53 Local Search Ranking Factors – the many variables

Slide 53 A brief list of 10 Ranking Factors – somewhat old but still valid and a quick read

Slide 54 Thinking about your Business Name in the Internet Era

Slide 55 – User Generated Content – Geo Tagged Photos

Slide 56- The Importance of Citations

Slide 60 – 20 Citation Sources in the US

Slide 61 – Finding Citations

Reviews – Jumping Into the Void

Slide 72 – Trust in consumer reviews – Nielson

Slide 72- How consumer Reviews Build Trust in Your Brand – Harvard Business Review

Slide 75-77 – A case study – Garnering Reviews – A Mom & (no) Pop Shop finally Hops on Reviews

Slide 81- 7 Tips on Avoiding Bad Reviews

Slide 86- Where to Gather Reviews

Slide 87 – Responding to Negative Reviews – Your Prospects are the Real Audience

Slide 88 – Principles for a Review Plan: Considerations in encouraging customer reviews

Slide 89 –Reviews: Lipstick on a Pig Leads to User Backlash

Slide 91 – Google Places: Onsite “Review Stations” AOK with Google

Slide 92 – Asking for Reviews – UMoveFree Finds the Groove

Slide 94-95 – Removing Friction from the Review Process – Crafting a URL

Slide 98- A Listing management & Review montior tool

Slide 100- Allocating Online Marketing Resources & Building Web Equity

Yext & Local SEO

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.

Continue reading Yext & Local SEO