Ed Parsons, the Geospatial Technologist of Google, has indicated in a recent talk at Google PinPoint London 2012 that “about 1 in 3 of queries that people just type into a standard Google search bar are about places, they are about finding out information about locations. …this isn’t Google Maps just people normally looking at Google”.
The number of searches with local intent at Google has long been a topic of interest to marketers, directories and SEOs. In December of 2010, Google indicated that searches with local intent were 1 in 5 of all searches. Recent research by Chitka indicated that the number was closer to 1 in 4. Ed Parson, who should know, says that the number is 1 in 3. Based on Comscore’s September Core Searches that puts the total number of Google searches with some local intent is in the ballpark of 3.6 billion searches a month. Clearly not all of those show pinned results. It is not clear from Parson’t talk but it would appear that the 1 in 3 number applies to the desktop. If one were to then include mobile the % would obviously be higher.
Yesterday afteroon, I put this question to Ed Parsons on Google Plus to get a better understanding:
I was wondering if you add some detail to your quote at about 2:16 where you said: “about 1 in 3 of queries that people just type into a standard Google search bar are about places, they are about finding out information about locations. …this isn’t Google Maps just people normally looking at Google”
Is that both desktop and mobile? What percentage are Map/Driving direction related? What are the other categories of query types?
It’s a composite figure both Mobile and Web, we don’t have an exact number but it’s between 30-40% – These also [are] not always [as] explicit [as] ‘Find me a pizza restaurant in Chelsea’, a more generic search request say for Football Teams would be framed geographically to highlight teams local to the individual searching..
Google has added a new feature (props to Matt Gregory for pointing this out) to the Google+ Local pages that allows a user to add custom fields to any given business listing. You can add things like the name of the person you deal with at the business, their birthday and unique contact information. The final output, a private, personalize contact card, is similar to the details from Google contacts that shows on a G+ personal profile of someone in your circles.
Perhaps I have a lack of imagination but this is one of those features for which it is hard to see its regular use. It could conceivably be part of a CRM system, it probably integrates with GMail and perhaps is a way for Google to draw relationships between the social graph and the business graph. But one has to ask why?
Did you ever ride in a car that had chrome pipes & fancy spinner hub caps but you always felt lucky when you arrived at your destination? And then the owner, for the next upgrade, added mirror dice rather than fixing something substantial? Well that’s what seems to have happened to your Google+ Local page.
Google+ Local pages have plenty wrong with them, significant and substantial problems. This is true whether with you are working the +Local page via the old and decrepit dashboard or attempting to manage it via Plus… but now Google has added an ability that you are unlikely to use. Go figure.
At a recent Local University, Googler Joel Headley indicated that Google desired to increasingly show local results whenever pinned results were appropriate and Google was able to show them. One area where this has become apparent is in Real Estate which are once again showing a broad range of pinned blended and pack results.
However, at least since August, these searches are once again returning local real estate firms in the results. When Google does not have strong web + local inventory but thinks that there should be a local result, they will return a three pack. When there is solid inventory of local business listings that are doing well on both organic and local, Google is now consistently returning blended results.
Earlier this summer, Google removed a large number of residentially located service area businesses (SAB) from the index for not hiding their address. While Google was trying to clean up the index, a number of these SABs were removed in error. It turned out that Google was unable to restore many of those erroneously removed to the index. Some business listings have been restored but others have been waiting now for a number of months.
Google updated their guidance on this issue last night:
Here’s the state of these listings now (October 8):
Sevice-area businesses who are experiencing the “We currently do not support this location” message should –
1.) Check to make sure you comply with the quality guidelines, particularly hiding your address, if appropriate.
2.) Once you’re sure you comply, contact the support team (select the last option).
3.) If possible, the team will reinstate listings that are OK.
4.) Sometimes, the support team cannot reinstate a listing, even if it’s OK. These listings cannot be brought back because of an issue that we’re still working on fixing. The support team will send an email back saying the listing is down due to a technical glitch. When we have an update, we will follow up with all of the people who got the message about the technical glitch.
What’s the status of listings in #4?
For listings in #4, there isn’t much course of action other than waiting. Please know that our team’s doing everything we can to get them reinstated when possible.
Good news — we’ve been able to bring back some of the listings that incorrectly had the “We currently do not support this location” error. Many previously deleted service area businesses that had their addresses correctly hidden a few weeks ago are back.
If your listing’s not back yet, please know that we are still working on it. In the meantime, please review the quality guidelines and this article on service area businesses. Make sure your listing complies.
For those of you still experiencing this problem, there is only one option. File your request for reinclusion via the Google for Business Help files and wait. Note that if Google is unable to recover your listing quickly then you have no choice but to wait for their engineering solution. Businesses that followed Google’s original advice to recreate their listing have not had any success.
This recent email from Google support sent to me by Kane Jamison of Hood Web Management clearly indicates that Google is working on these listings on a first come first serve basis:
0:16 Listings take a week to go live, a few weeks for link from Google Places dashboard to work
It might take longer than a week depending on their internal build cycles.
0:40 Verified social pages now showing message if edit not accepted
This message appears:
0:59 Fewer categories displaying because uncommon categories no longer appearing
Choosing from the list of auto generated categories increases the likelihood that a category or two will show. Maybe speculation in Linda Buquet’s forum about categories changing dramatically is in fact the case? Clearly the missing categories is NOT a bug but an intentional decision on the part of Google.
1:18 International phone number formatting issue with verified social pages
1:28 Formatting not appearing on owner descriptions
HTML tags are no longer showing but some rich text formatting is not showing although some is. Google has had problems showing rich text on local listings in the past and they finally seem to be fixing this issue. See above image.
1:45 Google+ Local best practice: edit verified social pages via Google+
What happens if a page is edited via the Dashboard? Not sure but I am sure it isn’t pretty.
We are nearing capacity for the Local U Advanced in New York next Monday but there are still a few seats left if you want to join us. Would love to see you there. Be sure if you are coming to introduce yourself so that I can put a face to your name.
This afternoon Rocky Agrawal tweeted out about this plaque he had noticed hanging in a restaurant. He (and I ) were completely fooled by the plaque and were convinced that it was really from Google. I even thought that perhaps it was an experiment on Google’s part to migrate away from Zagat signage.
I am not sure who I think less of in this situation, the restaurant that was trying to appear more than they really are by leveraging Google’s name and their review product or the company that soaked them $300 for the “privilege”. A restaurant or hotel can order a sign that touts their good standing with just about any review company including Yelp, TripAdvisor, Zagat, Frommers and many more.
When businesses that are looking for a quick fix deal with companies that are willing to accommodate them, the customer inevitably loses. And in this case so does Google, Yelp, all the other companies whose name can be put on the plaque and every one else in the local space.
The local ecosystem is a complex web of interrelations with Google having positioned themselves at its center. Given this complexity, just how long does it take for data to move through the various parts before it makes it into Google’s index. And from the main index into their local index and the cluster of data they have about your business? Just why does fixing error or changing a listing detail at InfoUSA take so long to impact your Google listing?
David Mihm and I have been working on detailing the time it takes for any given citation creation to impact the Google cluster for your business.
Our goal is to provide a broad stroke as to the range of times it might take for citation data to show up in a desktop Google search. The ranges are estimates only based on our experience and do not reflect comprehensive empirical data. As such, you might find discrepancies with our assessment of any given citation tactic. That being said, we think that the information is broadly accurate and provides insights into the delays at various points in the local ecosystem.
Depending on where the data enters the system it can take more or less time to finally make it into Google’s cluster of data in their local index and depending on where it hits in any given cycle along the way it can make it there more or less quickly.
For example, in the case of Infogroup they might take 2 months cycle to vet a new listing and another month before the data is fed to one of their customers for display in a local directory. Thus the range of times, depending on when the data hits their cycle could be as long as 180 days before (blue) the time for it to first appear live on the web. Depending on the importance of the page and its visibility where that data is shown it might take anywhere from a day to sixty days for Google (orange) to include the data in their main search engine. From there Google then needs to re-build their local index and include the new citation data into the Google+ Local cluster (Green) which occurs every 4 to 6 weeks.
The circle thus represents an educated guess as to the average time to inclusion in the Google+ Local cluster for data that started at any given point.
Historically, as I have noted previously, a listing that went through a list broker, onto a primary list supplier like InfoUSA and then off to Google had a number of time delays before it would hit paydirt in the business cluster in the Google local index. This data could, if it hit every cycle just wrong, take as long as 9 months from beginning to end.
Since Google started clamping down on review solicitation, particularly in the dental and auto dealer worlds, many businesses have expressed fear, dismay and discouragement about reviews in general and Google’s review policies in particular.
Comments like “At this point I am ready to give up and ask my customers to avoid Google and go to Yelp. it is not worth all of the brain damage. does anyone at Google care enough to help? or should I just move on?” or “I’m completely moving away from encouraging customers to leave reviews on Google.” were all too common in my post on Google’s newest “guidance” in the arena.
My suggestion? Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water. Google may be frustrating and they may be opaque but they are still generating 60-90% of your leads. Endorsements on the front page of a search result are still very valuable. The issue is finding a way to continue to get reviews around the internet, including Google. You may need to test a few tactics until you find one that works but it is worth the effort.
But you say: How can I possibly ask a customer to leave a review there if Google is going to throw it away and waste their time. I say: Tell you customers what to expect, give them choices and let them decide.
The reality is that you don’t need 10 reviews a week at Google. In fact you don’t need 10 reviews a month or a quarter there to succeed. Most businesses need to accrue one review every month or two so that at the end of 3 years you will have 30. You need to ultimately get more than 10 so you get Zagat rated and you need to stop fretting about how many you have there and how many you have lost. You need to keep putting one foot in front of another, keep gaining endorsements across the internet. In the end if you run a good business and have loyal customers you will get your share of reviews at Google and elsewhere.
If you have had massive review take downs at Google you need to review your processes and procedures and acknowledge that what you were doing was not working and will not work. If you are a car dealer you need to stop spiffing your salesmen to hustle a customer over to an on-sight review work station. If you are a high volume dentist you may need to simply hand out a piece of paper explaining the review process rather than actively soliciting reviews of 20 clients a day via email. And if you were buying reviews or using a review service to enter comment cards well DUH!, time to stop. If you were helping folks sign up for a Google account, that probably needs to end as well.
So what is left for a business to do that wants to gather reviews? The same as has always been the case. Put in place a review process that gives customers lots of choice, generates reviews at a wide range of sites in addition to Google and is easy for your staff to implement. Keep it ethical, keep it simple and you will find that you get the enough reviews at Google and lots of reviews elsewhere.
Here is a sample email/letter that I have crafted for a client. It was written for a legal client but the logic of it can be used for any business. (more…)
With the help of Annie & Lisa Kolb from Acorn, I became aware of a new bug affecting Google’s local index where the URL of the listng’s site and occasionally the telephone number are stripped from the search result and the G+ Page. The URL is replaced with the plus.google.com URL in the search results. It seems to strike listings that have been claimed via the dashboard as well as merged listings that have been verified via Google+.
The problem seems to reside in the final local index as there is no indication of the problem in the respective MapMaker records or the Places Dashboard. The problem is fairly widespread. Google has acknowledged and is aware of the problem and has started a thread to collect reports of the issue.
Here are some links that Acorn discovered in their research if you want to see other examples. (more…)