October 19, 2011
I found this post in the Google Places forum of interest. I hear many stories in the Local SEO world of half truths being used to confuse or obfuscate what is being done. What is your take in this case?
|Can ezlocal delete my places page when I stop using their services even though I am the one that created it prior?
Topic of your question (reviews, categories, duplicate listing, etc.):I am a small business owner and I had created a places page a couple years ago. last year I hired ezlocal to manage it, but want to stop using their services now. They informed me that if I terminate with them, they will delete my account and I will have to start my places page all over.Can they do this even though it was created by me with my username/pw long prior to me allowing them to manage it?Is there anyway to prevent them from deleting my account without having to basically pay them off every month?
October 18, 2011
The “grand daddy” of geo sitemap generators has recently included some new features. Geo Sitemap Generator, first released by Arjan Snaterse in 2009, has added the ability to generate either a schema.org file or a microformatted file of your contact information. In addition to the features in the geo sitemap tool from 51Blocks that I reviewed last week, Geo Sitemap Generator supports multiple locations and now provides a preview of the KML file locations on a Map.
The benefits of multiple locations are obvious if you need them. The benefits of the map preview are not so obvious but very real. KML files require a mapping API to generate the lat long info included in the file. Sometimes the information from the API, even from the same map provider, renders the location differently than reality or differently than the public mapping program. It has always been a good idea to check the KML file’s lat-long accuracy by loading it into something like Google Earth to be sure that it pins the locations correctly. Now Geo Sitemap Generator previews the pins on a Map for you when you go to download your files saving you a necessary step.
October 17, 2011
Thursday’s announcement that Google Places would autmatically update Places data more quickly if Google thought they had more trusted information generated a fair bit of dismay. The words used to describe Google’s action, while occassionaly positive in nature, generally reflected fear and anger:
Unnecessary, Bugs me
Headache, Impending doom
REALLY CONCERNS ME
BACK ASSWORDS!!!!, STUPID!!!! STUPID!!!! STUPID!!!!
Clusterf***, Very dangerous
This is terrible, Absolutely scary, insane decision
Like death and taxes their is a certain inexorable nature to Google. I have noted in the past that most SMBs are from Venus and Google is from Mars and so it is easy to misinterpret Google’s intent. Sometimes you can fight the reality they have created but usually it is wasted energy. On occasions such as this it might be worth plugging in the universal translator and trying to not just understand what the machine is saying but seeing what you can learn from it.
The computational machine that is Google Places doesn’t pull data out of thin air. The data that Google has in their cluster about your business comes from someplace. In this case it is coming from a source that Google trusts more than they trust you or at least they trust enough to want to corroborate it with you. Whenever Google is willing to share that information with us, there are insights to be gained.
OK, you say, what can I possibly learn from Google mucking with my listing? Well lets look at a few scenarios. (more…)
October 16, 2011
I speculated that Siri, or something similar, would become the norm for interfacing with smart phones and in doing so it would define the future of local search (and everything else). Well it seems to have succeeded on the everything front but just not on the local search front. The Siri natural language interface is a metaphor for interaction that will supplant the need for typing and can provide a hands free way to interact with smaller devices when typing is dangerous (ie driving) or awkward (ie all the time).
It works incredibly well and as John Gruber noted: “I wouldn’t say I can’t live without Siri. But I can say that I don’t want to.” It is that good.
It is hands down the best way to speedily create and send text messages regardless of whether you are driving or sitting. It is the best way to get driving directions detailed on the iPhone Google Map app. It is the best way to search the web whether you want to use Google, Yahoo or Bing. In fact it even fixes what was so miserably wrong with voice search in the Google app.
Its ability to understand what you want and what you are saying is uncanny. Even with background noise. I am a convert and while I will most definitely use it while driving, it may very well become my preferred interface for many other things as well.
It truly is a harbinger of a new level of functionality for interacting with your phone (and any small device for that matter). I won’t leave home without it.
EXCEPT FOR LOCAL SEARCH.
October 14, 2011
Yesterday Google Places announced on the LatLong Blog that they would automatically update claimed listings more quickly with information from trusted third parties and end users if Google thought the information was more accurate than information that was in the Places Dashboard. They noted:
But now, if a user provides new information about a business they know — or if our system identifies information from another source on the web that may be more recent than the data the business owner provided via Google Places — the organic listing will automatically be updated and the business owner will be sent an email notification about the change.
The policy of changing claimed listings to match what Google claims is more accurate information is not new. They implmented this program late last year with a 60 day window. Now however the speed with which Google will do the update apparently is.
The previous letters, which also would included notification of impending status changes like “Permanently closed”, were not sent reliably.
Here is a copy of the letter that is being sent. In this example, it appears that the only information change is to add the last 4 digits of the zip+4 number. In another instance I received, Google was suggesting changing the listing to an 800 instead of the local number that was in the Places dashboard:
|Your listing on Google Places will soon be updated
|Dear Google Places user,Google will soon update your listing data on our consumer properties such as Google and Google Maps to more accurately reflect the latest information we have about your business.We use many sources to determine the accuracy of our listing data and to provide the best possible experience for business owners and consumers who use Google and Google Maps to find local information.
Below is a summary of what your listing(s) will contain once it’s updated in the next few weeks. This will be visible on your Place page and listings across Google properties, but it will not be reflected in your Google Places account:
201 North Union St # 307, Olean, New York, 14760-2740, US
If the above information is not accurate, please sign in to Google Places. You may prevent any of these changes from being made on your Place page and listing by selecting “Edit”, and then pressing the “Submit” button to confirm the correct information about your business.
If you submit data to Google via a feed, please ensure that the data in your feed is accurate and current. Note that you must update listing data in your feed to prevent changes from being made to the above listings.
Note that if you are an AdWords or AdWords Express customer, your ads will be unaffected by this change and will continue to display the listing information you have provided in Google Places. To manage your online advertisements, please sign into Google Places or Google AdWords.
For more information about updates to claimed listings, please visit: http://www.google.com/support/places/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=1318197
The Google Places Team
(c) 2011 Google Inc. 1600 Amphitheatre Parkway, Mountain View, CA 94043
You have received this mandatory email service announcement to update you about important changes to your Google Places product or account.
The program’s goal is to improve index quality. If implemented carefully it can work. It is not clear how abuse proof the program is and how much trust Google will put in end user edits. Obviously many of those, if not properly vetted, could create a whole new spate malicious activity.
There is also some irony that a Google forced change to a listing could occur significantly faster than an owner change to the description or category fields.
I for one though will be grateful to stop receicing those stupid emails indicating that a problem I just reported via the report a problem link on my own record might not be updated because:
You should know, however, that XXXX is an owner verified listing and some updates require the approval of the business owner before they can take effect.
October 12, 2011
As part of the changes to Google Places that took place in early August, Google’s Jeol Headley noted on Google + (in response to a question by Linda Buquet) that an update to a business’s description could take a long time. It appears possible that the alternate phone number field is under the same regime.
Joel Headley – Aug 12 – Regarding the description not appearing — we did a change that forced descriptions to go through a longer update pipeline than other information on the Place page. So, just like a new listing that doesn’t appear in searches when they’re first added vi Google Places for business, description require a longer update.
Linda – Aug 13 – So does that mean that if edited, a description will take 6 – 10 weeks to show up? Can you confirm that’s the current average update cycle?
Joel Headley – Aug 13 – That’s is correct. We’re working on improve the update cycle now, though.
I was curious exactly how long it would take so I made minor changes on August 16th to my description and started tracking. So as not to have to visit my Place page every day, I set up an Page2RSS feed of the Place page that showed any changes to the page directly in my email InBox where I could take a quick peek to see what was new. (The Page2RSS set-up also spots new reviews, sentiment snippet changes and other updates but it generates a lot noise and gibberish every day).
So how long did it take? My changes finally showed up on October 4th, exactly 7 weeks to the day after the change was made to the description content.
So the question is what is the Google filter for that Joel H speaks of? And why does it take so long? We know that if Google wants to a change to a Places page that new content can show up almost immediately (think the “Share an update on your place page” feature).
My guess is that in addition to running the description through some sort of quality assessment Google added a time delay to slow down abuses by black hat local SEOs.
I doubt that many legitimate businesses are negatively affected by the change. Once the description goes live, most SMBs change it infrequently if at all. If you are doing Places on behalf of a client, the only negative is that it is necessary to let them know of the delay.
I am curious if anyone else has tracked the time for the update to occur and if so how long it took.
October 11, 2011
Did you know that the Google category synonym “all you can eat” is associated with Chinese & Japanese restaurants in the US but only with Japanese restaurants in Australia? That and other amazing facts can be gleaned from a recent upgrade adding international categories to our Google Places Category Tool
We have finally added categories for some of the international country and language combinations available in the Google Places dashboard.
This is a work in progress and there is still addiitonal work to upgrade the interface so that it is clearer which countries the results are from and there are a country/language combos still missing. Please let us know of any other bugs or quirks you find and which countries you most would like to added next.
The new functionality is easy to access. Using the Category Search Tool, simply select the language and country from the drop down menu to change to any of the following international categories.
The countries/languages for which you can find Google Places Categories:
US English (US)
CA English (CA)
AU English (AU)
IE English (IE)
GB English (GB)
NZ English (NZ)
MX English (MX)
DK Danish (DK)
DE German (DE)
AT German (AT)
CA French (CA)
FR French (FR)
NL Dutch (NL)
NO Norwegian (NO)
BR Portuguese (BR)
PT Portuguese (PT)
RU Russian (RU)
ES Spanish (ES)
MX Spanish (MX)
SE Swedish (SE)
We have also implemented an API to access the data so let me know if you are interested in using it.
October 10, 2011
I just received this email from Netflix. Hmm… lets change, piss everyone off and back off…
It is clear that for many of our members two websites would make things more difficult, so we are going to keep Netflix as one place to go for streaming and DVDs.
This means no change: one website, one account, one password…in other words, no Qwikster.
While the July price change was necessary, we are now done with price changes.
We’re constantly improving our streaming selection. We’ve recently added hundreds of movies from Paramount, Sony, Universal, Fox, Warner Bros., Lionsgate, MGM and Miramax. Plus, in the last couple of weeks alone, we’ve added over 3,500 TV episodes from ABC, NBC, FOX, CBS, USA, E!, Nickelodeon, Disney Channel, ABC Family, Discovery Channel, TLC, SyFy, A&E, History, and PBS.
We value you as a member, and we are committed to making Netflix the best place to get your movies & TV shows.
The Netflix Team
Nyagoslav of Optilocal was first to highlight this recent Google Places Quality Guideline update:
You also can’t create a Places listing for an ongoing service, class, or meeting at a location that you don’t own or have the authority to represent. Please coordinate with your host to have your information displayed on their Place page as a custom attribute or within their Description field.
The driving class that meets at the local club, the AA meeting at the local church, the Yoga class that meets at community centers, the Lamaz birthing class that meets at the medical center, the farmer’s market at the Mall parking lot…even if independently owned and operated are now explicitly prohibited from having a Places page.
Does the rule make sense? Certainly these types of businesses fall into a grey area and have long been a problem in Google Places. Is Google Places about a Place or about a business?
Given that Google has long contended that Places is supposed to be about a place then I suppose the rule has a logic to it. It is the same logic that would dictate a computer service organization that makes regular visits to the local university should not claim the university as an address.
That being said it points out another hole in Google’s ability to service this whole category of business. Google’s suggestion to leverage the Place page of the location where a class is held to mention your event makes little sense, particularly since the Place page has become much more sparse. The only real opportunity to highlight a service like this on the location’s Place page would be the “Share an update feature”. Unfortunately that is as buried as the coupon feature. Using the now hidden extra details as Google suggests would be useless and there is not enough space in the 200 character description. Not a helpful suggestion at all.
The other question that comes up is how is this sort of business different than a container business (ie an independent eye glass store that is located within a Walmart)? I think that Google would contend that the container business has a permanent presence and physical infrastructure reflecting their brand where the mobile class does not.
While I feel for the sort of business that is affected by this decision, on average I agree with it and look forward to Google developing a better way for a business that operates like this to present themselves.
It appears that on certain search results that Related Places, that have been typically showing at the bottom of a business’s Places page, are being moved to the main search results and showing up under “similar pages” results at the bottom of the page.
The new results are not widely returned. I was only able to see local “Pages similar to” on a limited number of locally branded searches for bed and breakfasts in St Augustine & San Francisco but not on similar searches in other markets. Whether this is a test or a permanent feature is unclear.
The searches for Chateau Tivoli Bed & Breakfast San Francisco and Bayfront Marin House St. Augustine both show the Related Places removed from the respective Places page (here & here) and have them turning up at the bottom of the main results. Searching for other specific B&Bs in SF and St Augustine returned similarly missing related places on their Place’s Page. But similar searches in many other markets do not.