April 2, 2013
One of the big changes in the rollout of the new Places for Business Dashboard is a change with categories. Categories have long been a key factor in Google’s determination of relevance of a listing. Google has added some additional categories, changed how categories are handled as well how many categories a business is allowed to have.
The bad news? The big change, predicted for some time, is the elimination of the option of custom categories. Google has moved to a fixed list of choices.
The synonym feature is also missing. Thus a user that doesn’t know exactly what they want in terms of categories will find it very hard to locate the correct categories.
The good news? Up to ten categories are allowed. Google has noted at the most recent LocalU seminar that categorical information about a business is retrieved from across the internet. Exactly what web based resources are likely to impact this are not totally clear.
The category list is a dramatic improvement over what is/was available to businesses that verified via the G+ Page local interface and the list is very similar to those categories previously available to users of the current Dashboard.
There appear to be some additional categories in the new list, particularly in the area of restaurants. Upon an initial and superficial check I could not find additional categories in other areas besides restaurants although there may be a few. In the previous category list there were 76 types of restaurants. In the new category list there are 230 restaurant types. For example Google added the following restaurant types (amongst others):
Southwest France Restaurant
I am curious whether a “Tongue Restaurant” is what it sounds like? Why exactly do we need the category “Southwest France Restaurant”?
The new list contains a total 2295 category choices. I am including the complete Places for Business category list (US only) here in HTML format and hope to have the list integrated with my Google Places category tool in the near future.
Google rolling out new update to Google Places for Business
Visual Guide to the new Places for Business Dashboard
Analysis: Google Places for Business or G+ Pages Lite?
Starting today at ~1 pm PST, Google Local is rolling out an upgraded interface for Places for Business that will replace the current dashboard*. The rollout is staged and will be initially made available to a small number of US businesses and businesses newly claimed via the G+ Local page.
Over the near future the rollout will accelerate to include all U.S. dashboards. The international rollout will then continue across the 136 countries that currently have the Places dashboard. The exact timing of the rollout is not being made explicit.
The rollout is one more step towards the integration of local with Plus. While the feature set is neither expansive nor comprehensive, the product release does account for service area businesses (SAB) who can now get a Plus page for the first time. The product is currently targeted for single location businesses with bricks and mortar storefronts and SABs but still has limited provisions for multi location businesses and does not support Bulk uploads.
Once an account is transitioned the dashboard account will be automatically redirected to the new interface. If that account has a Plus account the option to edit the Google+ page will appear in the interface. But a G+ profile is not required to interact with the business profile. All that is needed is the existing Google ID/email. The business will be required to obtain a G+ personal profile if they want to add the additional features (social stream, videos) of a full G+ Local page.
When this rollout is complete there will be only two types of local pages: verified and unverified. Each business can decide whether they need the social and video features or not.
Google has noted that the purpose of this rollout is to address usability issues for the SMB in terms of UI, data push speeds, better notifications, reduced data integrity issues and improved integration with other Google products.
The product will retain the current Places for Business name although it really is more of a Google Plus lite than a Places Dashboard equivalent.
For more information see these related posts:
Visual Guide to the new Places for Business Dashboard
Categories in the new Places for Business Dashboard
Analysis: Google Places for Business or G+ Pages Lite?
* Unlike yesterday’s post this is actually true. And I must admit I much prefer my vision.
April 1, 2013
The newly appointed head of Google Local Product Manager Brian Fitzpatrick today announced the rollout of a completely revamped local product to replace the Places dashboard. As written about in the Wall Street Journal in June, 2012 the product is called “The Business Builder”. With the rollout of the Business Builder Google Local is announcing a totally rebuilt local product that offers the best of local and social as well as easy to use self provisioning of sophisticated Couponing, Adwords, Offers and other paid options.
National multi-store brands as well as single storefront businesses will be able to take advantage of this new functionality with the free local and social products as well as the easy to deploy paid products for their locations. Local analytics have been totally revamped as well. With the rollout of the new couponing product Google will be able to offer search to sale tracking analytics in an easy to use reporting format that can grow in sophistication with the business user and use cases.
Fitzpatrick, a dynamic multi skilled developer in the world of Maps, noted “It was a great relief to finally get the merged and updated product out the door. The reason for its long delay was our commitment to make the product bug free the first time and not have to push weekly updates and bug fixes. We think we have met that milestone. The days of lost reviews, lost listings and unfounded closings are behind us.”
“More importantly we will be holding public monthly briefings going forward laying out upcoming developments in our local products. This will allow for businesses, big and small, that depend on our Business Builder products to better plan their SEO and SEM activities in Local.”
Brian Fitzpatrick is a the newly merged head of the Local & Maps division within the web search team. His duties, roughly akin to those of Marissa Mayer who left for Yahoo last July, had previously been filled by a troika of individuals.
March 28, 2013
Google’s Local Search sits at the center of an ecosystem of local web sites and data providers and they use this ecosystem to assemble their business listing data. This is true in the US and the basic structure and process is replicated on a local in every other country in the world using different local resources. In each country Google identifies a one (or two maybe) primary data supplier(s) upon which to base their local business list. This primary data supplier provides a starting “ground truth” which is then added to and enhanced by data from MapMaker, the Places Dashboard, leading local sites and the web in general to create the results that we see in search.
Sometimes, like in Canada, this primary data provider is noted directly in the Maps listing but often the information is not readily available. In many countries of the world, it is not easy to ferret out who is the trusted source of business listing data to Google.
Google does however publish a Legal Notice for Google Maps/Google Earth and their APIs that includes some of this detail. In this document Google identifies their primary sources of underlying map data and business listing data as required by their contracts.
While not comprehensive the list does have some interesting tidbits. Two notices that stood out were the one for the US and the one for France, Germany, Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark and Israel.
5 Business Listings Data.
5.1 Google Local Business Listings in France, Germany, Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark and Israel
When you search for local listings in France, Germany, Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark and Israel, your search results may include content (including business listings and related information) which has been supplied by Kapitol S.A. (trading as Infobel) (the “Infobel Content”). The intellectual property rights in the Infobel Content are owned by Kapitol S.A. or its licensors. The Infobel Content may only be used in accordance with these Terms of Service and the applicable terms and conditions of Kapitol S.A. If you know that your business listing is supplied by Kapitol S.A., and you have any questions about it you should contact them directly.
5.2 Google Local Business Listings in the United States
When you search for local listings, Google displays business listings which may be supplied by Acxiom Corporation and/or infoUSA Inc. (“Axciom” and/or “infoUSA”). This information is proprietary to those corporations and is protected under U.S. copyright law and international treaty provisions. This information is licensed for your personal or professional use and may not be resold or provided to others. Except as permitted through the Products, you may not distribute, sell, rent, sublicense, or lease such information, in whole or in part to any third party; and you will not make such information available in whole or in part to any other user in any networked or time-sharing environment, or transfer the information in whole or in part to any computer other than the PC used to access this information.
France and the related European countries were of interest because this information, despite the public web page, was not widely known.The note in reference to the US stood out because it has been widely thought that their primary suppliers were InfoUSA and Localeze. From the above it is clear that it is InfoUSA and Acxiom. Localeze might still have a data relationship with Google, we don’t really know but it points out why, in the US, it is necessary to be sure that your data is accurate at all three of the primary data suppliers.
In addition to those countries mentioned above Google also notes their business listings sources are Brazil, Turkey, Kenya, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Bulgaria. If you have identified Google’s primary list suppliers in your country and it is not on this list, I would love to hear from you.
February 3, 2013
There were a number of questions after I reported that a new Google+ Local claim of a business in Plus (not the Dasbboard) generated instructions to add the rel=publisher rich snippet to your website. Many asked whether rel=publisher should replace the rel=author snippet. The answer is that you should do both.
Daniel Berman explained it best in the comments:
Its not a matter of either or, its a matter of both and. You want to setup the rel=”publisher” to provide a context of identifying your business website to Google and especially giving you the chance to give them the categories that your business best fits, and then tying all of that back to your NAP information that Google has on file.
You want to setup your rel=”author” markup to recognize your contribution to the content as published by the business, but recognizing that your role as a human being is larger than just your position at that business. Maybe you also have a blog, and a hobby website. If you setup the rel=”authorship” formatting on all of those sites then your online identify or persona becomes clearer to Google as whole.
That said both are needed, just like getting a yellow page listing for your business and business cards for yourself are helpful so that people can find the business but also personally connect with you as a person.
Here is a good slide show by Ann Smarty detailing the differences.
January 26, 2013
First reported by Google Plus Daily and highlighted by the always observant Matt Gregory on Twitter, Google has rolled out an improved interface for those of you managing multiple G+ Pages social local pages (G+SLP?). The interface allows you to quickly view all of the Pages that you are managing, provides a single view of ALL notifications across all of your pages and allows quick access to each page’s settings.
The URL for the interface is telling: https://plus.google.com/dashboard. This new Dashboard appears to be part of an overall redesign of Plus elements as well as a future part of the coming replacement for the current Places Dashboard.
January 23, 2013
This is a good news bad news Google story. At least there is some good news.
The good news? It appears that Google has dramatically improved the messaging around a listing suspension on a merged social G+ Local listing and is offering a direct link to a reinclusion request within the context of the suspension notice on the local Google+ page. No more hunting around trying to figure out whats next.
The bad news? There are an increasing number of suspensions in the social G+Local environment and there are now TWO sets of rules (the Google
G+ Local Places (?) Quality Guidelines & the User Content & Conduct Policy) that a business needs to comply with to be sure that the listing is in compliance. It isn’t always clear which guideline has been violated either. I suspect that language use that a lawyer might view as categorical, the algo views as inappropriate (ie drug cases or DUI).
Update 1:30 pm: More good news. This particular client that requested reinclusion yesterday, heard back already that they were accepted. Good that they heard so quickly and good that the news was positive. It makes me think that an algo has been unleashed that might be overly aggressive.
Click to see the reinclusion request form:
Justin is the Founder and CEO of SupportLocal. He is recognized as a long-time innovator and leader in local search and social. In 2003, he founded LocalLaunch, a leading search engine marketing platform and products company. LocalLaunch was acquired by RH Donnelley/Dex One in 2006. Speaking around the world on the topics of local search and social, Justin has over 15 years of local search marketing leadership experience.
Justin is one of the smartest guys around and he thinks a lot about the big picture in local. His ideas are worth listening to.
TOP TRENDS IN LOCAL SEARCH 2012
GOOGLE AUTHORSHIP AS A STANDARD
Authorship must be part of the social search convergence dialogue as validated authoritative content mixes with our friend’s preferences in a dual for the best answer to user queries.
THE CONVERGENCE OF SEARCH AND SOCIAL
Today, the marketing funnel opens right back up post transaction (an hour glass) as the business has an opportunity to move the customer into a connection and potentially into an advocate – in turn, informing discovery.
SOCIAL SIGNALS BECOME CRITICAL COMPONENTS TO RANK AND PERSUASION
Increasingly social signals will affect discoverability and buying decisions, as one’s social network will provide us with a necessary qualitative checks and balances on the best answer. What was a sufficient product approach to local search discovery over the last decade is no longer sufficient.
THE BIRTH OF G+ LOCAL
As G+ Local converges with G Places pages, we are witnessing a new publishing format that seeks to solve both directional intent and social engagement functions. Combining discovery (pre-transactional activity) with engagement (post-transactional) activity, we have given birth to new forms of business profile structures and responsibilities for businesses and vendors alike.
SELF-PROVISIONING BECOMES A REALITY FOR SMBS WITH FACEBOOK PAGES
Hockey stick adoption of Facebook business pages amongst SMBs demonstrates willingness to self-provision but yields a non-qualitative data by-product and an “okay now what” demand for social marketing services.
SOCIAL ENGAGEMENT IS NOT TREATED EQUAL
We have come to understand that for businesses “social engagement” is a highly variant and for most, a discretionary condition. Tremendous use case differences lie in customer transaction types amongst verticals (ex. Repeat vs. recurring) that has a profound impact on the form and nature of social engagement strategies.
AND THEN THERE WERE THREE: GOOGLE, FACEBOOK, and APPLE
The rise of mobile usage in local search, the introduction of Apple maps and the meteoric rise of social for SMBs sets the battleground for years to come in local search.
THE DEATH OF DAILY DEALS
Need I say more.
THE RISE OF CONSUMER PREFERENCE FRAGMENTATION
Consumer preference as expressed by Likes, +1s, Check-ins, Reviews, Recommendations and more continue to splinter by type, medium, and site. Products of tomorrow will attempt to consolidate local preference of consumers and in turn will give the majors what they seek – a scalable local social layer to search.
2012 – ONE WORD – TRUST
Local search is no longer just about answers – it is about trusted answers.
January 21, 2013
In my talks, I have often said that Google is the print Yellow Pages for the new millennium. But as Rocky Argawal has pointed out that title really falls to Yelp. He has noted that Yelp, in charging some local advertisers $600 per 1,000 impressions, ”despite ostensibly being an Internet company, [their] business model is closer to that of yellow pages companies: sell a questionable value proposition to many who don’t understand what they’re buying.
It is not just their pricing model that mirrors the old yellow page companies but their selling techniques as well. I was recently pitched by them on behalf of a client. The sales person I dealt with, like the well trained ATT Yellow Page salesman of yore, was well spoken, persistent, organized and supremely confident in the product. The sales person would set up an appointment, call to me remind about the appointment, call to double check I would make the appointment and then remind me that I had missed it. It was if he was channeling my yellow page salesman of 30 years ago.
The pitch was persuasive and well organized trending strongly towards the hard sell and not the least bit consultative. The sales rep provided a list of 5 links referenced during the phone call that built the case from the top down that Yelp is the leading online directory, that they uniquely understand the internet and that you as a business person can only ignore them at your own peril. Hey if Steve Jobs says they are important who are you to disagree? You are asked to affirm these points along the way as they make the final point that their advertising makes sense. If you agreed to all that went before you can’t very well disagree on that one, final eensy weensy point.
The problem? Like the Yellow Pages, Yelp uses FUD (fear, uncertainty & doubt) and more than a little slight of hand to make their point.
- When asked about ROI they respond that since your average selling price is $x then it will only take one sale to make this pay (yea right).
- When asked about conversion tracking and analytics you are are told how good their dashboard showing impressions is.
- When they are going for the close they point out that by taking out an ad you guarantee that your competitor’s ad will not show up on your listing. What SMB can refuse charging that red flag?
- When asked if they had an offering that required less than a 12 month, the rep noted that yes but the best returns occur in month ten (hmm I wonder why that is?).
- But the biggest slight of hand is their use of Google Trends to “prove” that they are the leading online business directory
This last bullet actually moved the pitch from slight of hand directly into the art of deception. And it was the foundational first point for the whole sales pitch. To demonstrate Yelp’s prominence they compared the searches on the term Yelp in the Buffalo market to searches for a number of online business directories. Here is the chart from Google Trends that “proves” Yelp is the leading local opportunity for SMBs:
When I asked again because I wasn’t sure that I had heard the sales person correctly the rep said: “This [Google] trends chart is a measure of the popularity of directories, which directory is used the most. It shows that Yelp is the most popular online directory.”
Claiming that the number of searches on Google for “Yahoo Local” is a reasonable metric to assess importance of Yelp is, as Rocky pointed out, obviously preying on the uninformed. And who, pray tell, would be searching for “Google Places”? Using Google Trends to graphically portray absolute traffic and market dominance is the ultimate in misleading sales tactics as it demonstrates nothing of the kind. I doubt that one in a thousand SMBs would catch Yelp at their effort to close at any cost.
The question of whether their pricing model ultimately succeeds is up in the air but I can say that these tactics, like their use in the era of the Yellow Pages, will come back to haunt them.
Here are the reference links that the provided for their sales call:
January 19, 2013
Starting in December Google started rolling out improved instructions & listing messaging on pages for businesses that Google knew had moved locations. Instead of stating that the business was closed Google will, if proper procedure is followed, indicate that a business has relocated. This new messaging is starting to appear in the wild. While still not perfect and the moving process is still too complicated, it is an improvement.
Here are the instructions to mark a place as moved: