Category Archives: Google Places (Maps & Local)

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

Is the Google+ Local Dashboard Moving Towards a Freemium Model?

That Google has finally added some semblance of human support to G+ Local raises a number  of questions that are still unanswered:

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  • Is it worldwide or US only?
  • Can agencies call in on behalf of their clients?
  • Will it be extended beyond the verification process to other aspects and problems that occur with Google+Local like merges?

But an even bigger question for me is:

  • Why now?

Google has always known of the unsatisfied demand for phone service that existed in their local product, why add phone support now? As far back as Maps Guide Jen, Google has always said that local was a free product (free my ass..free as in you only pay with data, suffering, time and eyeballs) and that free Google products did not receive phone support.

My speculation: A revived dashboard will include numerous paid products that will be able to be used as upsells during a “support” call. Google is likely moving toward a freemium model of local where the basic service is free but many of the add ons that will offer highly visibility will have a fee associated with them.

The G+ Dashboard for Business has been in a state of “under construction” disarray for many, many months. Yet as I noted in Google Local: Train Wreck at the Junction:

…the product sports a renewed Offers interface, an upgraded Adwords Express AND a recently rebuilt bulk upload interface. The dashboard is account based rather than individual based. Certainly that is a superior solution for a multi-location brand yet it is steadfastly single user. It is the ultimate contradiction and any attempt at reading the tea leaves as to its future gives one a serious case of heartburn. But given the fact that parts of the product HAVE been upgraded its hard to conclude that it is in fact going away.

You can’t very well sell Offers, Adwords Express and who knows what future products if the business can’t get their listing verified. And Google already has an SMB support team in place for AdWords Express. It is a trivial task to cross train them to a new Dashboard (that works).

Just the other day, Google increased the visibility of Offers by surfacing them in Google+ Local search results. The product has long carried the caveat that “it’s free, for you during a limited-time trial period”.

Last June, the Wall Street Journal noted about the “coming” replacement for the dashboard that

The project combines several products and services aimed at small businesses under a single banner. It is based on a mix of internally developed software and recently acquired technologies that the company hopes eventually will bring in billions of dollars a year in new revenue.

American business is not known for its altruism. Google is no exception and as a market leader is under huge pressures to increase revenues. With somewhere north of 8 million businesses registered in the dashboard they have a huge opportunity for monetization in local like no other.

While it is extraordinary that Google is implementing human support for local after many long years of having absolutely none, I think this move is part and parcel of a grander strategy to monetize their Local product as they upgrade and enhance the Dashboard.

Google Local Now Providing Phone Support for Verification Issues

Update 10:00 pm: Google has confirmed that this is a permanent feature.

Update 01/09/12 11:09 am: Google has confirmed that phone support is US- only and just English at this point if an agency is managing the listing, they should be able to get support.

Google+ Local had a rough 2012. But it appears that at the start of 2013 there has been at least one upgrade that is worth shouting about (here’s hoping its permanent).

Google is actually providing phone support when a business runs into verification issues.

Just to be sure that you read that correctly, I will repeat it:

Google is actually providing phone support when a business runs into verification issues. And not just phone support but support that is staffed (at least currently) by US based, English speaking personnel.

To initiate a call in go to the Google Places for Business I’m having a problem verifiying my listing(s) troubleshooter and select the option “I tried PIN verification for a single listing” and indicate that you asked for a postcard and have waited the requisite 15 days. At the bottom of the form you will a link to “Please either call us or complete the following form:”

When you select the call us option you are taken to a call back form. I tested it to see if it was actually working and within 10 seconds of filling it out Google rang me up, an automated attendant asked me to press one for support and Darrel answered. He said when I asked: “This line is primarily to provide support for verification issues”. I would suggest that this quote should be filed along with Neil Armstrong’s “One small step” quote if not for its eloquence at least for its significance.

After I picked my jaw up from the floor I thanked him and let him go on with his day. Needless to say I was shocked.

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Google Local Video Listing Spotted in the Wild

Plamen Barzev alerted me to the existence of a local listing display that includes a video. The display showed for the search term plumbing charleston sc on the listing for Tamsberg Plumbing. Their site is a single page site done by Localedge.

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plumbing charlston sc   Google Search

Whether this is a test or a new display type is unclear. When you look at the underlying code and compare the video listing (C) with the B listing you can see that Google is using a different display class. When you examine the underlying HTML most of the listings share a class of “g”, the video listing however shows a class of “g videobox”. Why it is missing the address and pin though is unclear.

Service Area Business with a verified social local Google+ page? Delete It

NOTE: The article is outdated.

Update 10/3/2013: The relationship between the social page and the new dashboard is different and Google’s rules about how they handle businesses with hidden addresses are different.

If the social + page is associated with a new dashboard listing, deleting the social page will delete the listing.

If you have a listing that was at one time suspended for not hiding the address then you need to call Google support and have them deal with it.

*****

From the rollout of the G+ Local Social merge and bugs showing up when service area businesses attempted to hide their address, Google has said that service area businesses (SABs) should NOT merge their Places listing with their G+ social page. Well, some SABs did not get the message (big surprise eh?) and the question is what should they do now. The answer: Delete the Merged page and rely solely on the dashboard to manage the listing.

Google posted this sticky in the forums:

Are you a Service Area Business (SAB) that has created and verified/merged a social local Google+ page for your business? Read on!

If you do not accept customers at your location, then your address should be hidden. At this time, Google+ currently does not support hidden addresses. You should delete your social local Google+ page from within Google+ (Click on Pages on the ribbon on the left, go to the Settings of your page, and scroll to the bottom and click Delete page).

Don’t worry! You can still manage your business’ presence on Google. Here’s how:

  • If you’re a verified business owner in Google Places for Business…
    • Manage the listing via the Google Places for Business dashboard. Be sure to hide your address.
  • If not, but a listing for your business exists…
    • Find the listing for your business and become a verified business owner by clicking on Manage this page on the right-hand side.
    • Then, manage the page via the Google Places for Business dashboard
  • If no listing for your business exists…

We’ll share updates with you on this thread when we have them.

Google Updates Review Content Policy

Google has just updated the review content guidelines to explicitly prohibit review stations AND employee reviews.

The changes to the policy are noted in italics:

For instance, as a business owner or employee you should not review your own business or current place of work. Don’t offer money or product to others to write reviews for your business or write negative reviews about a competitor. We also discourage specialized review stations or kiosks set up at your place of business for the sole purpose of soliciting reviews.

What Makes for a Good Author Photo in the Local Results? (Part 1)

What makes for a good Author photo in the Local results?

Author photos are increasingly showing in Google’s local search results. Since first appearing in local results in February of this year, author photos have slowly and steadily increased in frequency. In most markets you may only see one author photo in the local results but in some markets a preponderance of results display them. This blended result from a legal search in the Orlando market, with its variety of images, put the question front and center as to what makes for a good avatar in local results.

The interesting variety in the array of photos in this particular search result – some old, some young, no women, bordered, without borders, bright colors, muted colors, looking left, looking right – immediately elevated for me the idea that click through rates AND conversions would in all likelihood be influenced by differences in these photos. In looking at the results perviously, I had encouraged my client, Moses and Rooth Attorneys at Law, to use an open, friendly close up photograph. But after showing these results to several people I realized it likely that there was more to avatar photo preferences than met the eye. And that the role of an author photo in local might be different than in general search results.

I wanted to better understand the issues with these photos so I embarked on an effort to learn how other experts might address the situation and how consumers might evaluate these photos. I invited Cyrus Shepard, who has done thorough testing of his own author photo, AJ Kohn who has written extensively about authorship and Matt McGee, an editor at MarketingLand that has written broadly about social (and who has the best avatar of all time), to give their opinions as to which of these photos were most effective and why.

The second prong of my effort to understand how these images might influence results was to create a consumer survey using the Google survey tool to ask 1500 adult internet users the question: If you were selecting a lawyer based on these images, which would you select? The results of the survey with comments from Cyrus, AJ and Matt will be published in the very near future.

My goal in doing this exercise was not to profile the ideal avatar photo but to start a conversation to get myself and others thinking about what questions we should ask when creating these photos, how might the role of avatar photos for local differ than that of regular author photos and how to get started advising a client as to the direction they should take. In other words, what is a good starting point for your local author image.

I gave Cyrus, Matt and AJ the following charge:

1) Which avatars in the above search result do you prefer and why?

2) What makes for a good avatar. Are there design principles or other general guidance to use when creating one?

3) I am going to do a Google survey and see what consumers say about this specific group of photos

4) And then show you the results of the consumer survey so you can comment and add additional insights

Before I share the initial, pre survey impressions of Cyrus, AJ and Matt with you, take a moment to examine the avatars yourself and decide which ones you like best, which ones you think would perform best in the real world and why…..

Continue reading What Makes for a Good Author Photo in the Local Results? (Part 1)

Local Onebox Display Now Upgraded to New Universal OneBox Display

Ol’ Eagle Eye, Matt Gregory, caught a change that I had anticipated. The Local OneBox has been upgraded to the same format as the other OneBox results.  The Onebox display, in general, was upgraded earlier in the week in the week to match the mobile display. Note that the user now needs to click into the photo to see more. Whether part of the change or not, fewer review sites are now showing as well.

Getlisted.org is Joining Forces with SEOMoz – Local U is growing up!

Good friend and advisor, David Mihm, has just announced that Getlisted.org is joining forces with SEOMoz. From the Getlisted Blog:

It’s a great day for us, but we’re equally excited for you guys, our users and audience. Everything GetListed has been about so far–giving away a ton of knowledge and as much great functionality as we could–is about to get super-charged with SEOmoz. With their technical expertise and design-savvy, we’ll be able to scale way beyond what we’ve been able to do as a two-person company. It is awesome to have this firepower behind our site, our product, and our Local Search community. The overlap between organic, social, and local has never been closer, and it’s only going to continue in that direction. It’s phenomenal to have a ready-made team in place that already has some great tools that address those first two areas. And then there’s SEOmoz’s amazing Help Team. Their knowledge and speed is going to help us scale our knowledge to the community so much better than we’ve ever been able to before.

This is an incredible opportunity for David and it is wonderful to see the success that has made for Getlisted. What does this mean for Local U? As David said:

We’ve operated Local U as a collaborative, cooperative, total team effort under the GetListed.org brand. We are all REALLY pleased with the brand that Local U has built on its own, and it will continue to operate independently. While Local U was not part of the acquisition, it’s safe to say that:

– SEOmoz will be involved on a sponsorship level on an extremely regular basis

– David will still be speaking at most/all of the events

– David will continue to offer input on content and logistical considerations and generally be a part of the team

We have already been planning several events for Spring 2013, including return visits to Austin and Seattle, and new events in Corpus Christi, Baltimore, New Orleans, and Houston. So if you’re in any of those markets, email questions@localu.org for more details.