Category Archives: Google+ Local

Google Local Events: Immersive Experience or Endless Loop?

My nephew and his fiancee recently moved back to Buffalo NY from San Francisco. Their dream was to help create and foster the art scene in the reviving Buffalo urban culture. So they created the Buffalo Institute for Contemporary Art (aka BICA)1

They bought some gallery space and put up a somewhat inadequate  SquareSpace website2. They did, upon my advice, add events  to their site3.

And after some nagging4 on my part, they verified their Google listing. And despite Squarespace cocking up the schema, Google added their events to their business profile. 

Google has long spoken about the immersive search experience as a way to give the user the answers they are looking for. Without leaving Google. Probably not a bad idea in general for much of local.

But in this case, while a searcher may get immersed in looking for event details from the business profile ( aka Knowledge Panel) it really is more like an endless loop of idiocy.

Selecting the obvious links once a user has clicked through to the event on Google to get to the Institute’s website doesn’t take the user to the website at all. Google takes the user back to the business profile to try again.

What kind of crappy experience is that?

Head over to Google to try it: Buffalo Institute of Contemporary Art

Click on an event and try it yourself5.

1- the least I can do is throw them a link. Is nepotism the same as buying links?

2- Kids just don’t listen. I tried to tell them that there were better alternatives than SquareSpace but did they listen? Noooo.

3- OK, they listen sometimes.

4- Who? Me? Nag?

5- Some brand searches couldn’t hurt either

Is Google Sunsetting the Local Finder in Favor of Google Maps?

Yesterday, I was doing some spam research and noticed that in Safari, when clicking the More Places link at the bottom of the desktop 3-Pack it was taking me into Maps. 

Thinking it a temporary glitch I switched to Chrome and the behavior was normal and it took me into the Local Finder. 

Today, both Safari & Chrome, when logged in on my Mac, are directing me to Maps when I select “More Places” but when not logged in, it directs me to the Local Finder.

On the search car insurance salisbury md when logged in I am take to this URL: https://www.google.com/maps/search/car+insurance+salisbury+md/@38.3663222,-75.6638575,12z/data=!3m1!4b1

When not logged in I am taken to this URL:

https://www.google.com/search?q=car+insurance+salisbury+md&oq=car+insurance+salisbury+md&aqs=chrome..69i57j69i60l2.864j0j0&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8

When logged in I am directed into Maps from the More Places link
When not logged in I am directed into the Local Finder from the More Places link

Why does it Matter?

The Local Finder, rolled out during the summer of 2015, as a listing view that replaced the single listing view that had been rolled out during the fall fo 2014. It has been a fast reliable and lightweight way to explore more listings related to the primary search without the overhead of going into Maps. In fact, on mobile, I am still be directed into the Local Finder.

I have, in some accounts, seen a tremendous jump in Map views in their Insights of late and this could very well be the reason.

Google, in their recent positioning of Maps as both a better local discovery and social play, may be trying to grease the skids of Maps ascendancy by directing more traffic to that subdomain.

Maps historically been less capable of searching for and identifying spam at scale as well.

And I would imagine that this change could affect traditional rank trackers as well.

Google Local Shows Photos to Match the User Query – And what it Means to You

Google Local has always been aggravating when it comes to showing your photos. Google would swap out your photos seemingly randomly. Your carefully chosen profile photo would suddenly disappear and be replaced with a skanky alternative of Google’s choosing. There never seemed to be rhyme or reason. 

But I have noticed that changing. Not the fact that they are swapping out photos. No Google can’t resist that.

This Local Scroll Pack clearly illustrates that Google is attempting to identify photos that match the user query.

But the fact that there appears to be a rhyme or reason. Or at least the beginnings of one.

Google has the best image recognition technology of the major players and that seems to be finally impacting local results. 

In this screen grab of the new Local Scroll Pack this use of image recognition to match the user query is both obvious AND accurate. The query was about engagement rings and Google showed an engagement ring instead of the profile photo for Barbara Oliver’s listing.

What does this mean for your business? Well given Google’s penchant for wanting to answer a users query and their belief that they can pick a photo better than you, it means the same thing that it always has. It means you need to upload lots of great photos so that no matter which one Google chooses it is a good one.

But now it also means that you really need to be thinking about photos that reflect the broad range of products and services that you deliver and that users might be searching on. If you carry wedding bands and engagement rings and earrings and necklaces you will want to be sure that you have great photos of each. And that they are easily identified in the image.

Will Google continue to screw up your images? Yes.

As you can see in this research by Eric Enge at Perficient Digital Google (and the other tech giants) has made great gains in being able to tag photos. That being said, they still are not as proficient at it as you and I.

Thus you will have to continue to spoon feed great photos and lots of them to the machine that is Google if you want a fighting chance of looking great to searchers.

But expect that Google will continue to try to match your photos to user queries and will hopefully be improving as they go.

Just how accurate has Google gotten? Take a look at this chart from Perficient Digital’s research:

Why Brands Should Be Worried About the Local Scroll Pack

On mobile, local brand searches on Google have long been mundane affairs largely focused on the brand that the consumer searched for. They delivered up nearby locations, a logo, an about tab and typically highlighted pages from the brand site.

It was a straight up recovery search by a customer that your brand owned. 

Even with the recent tests that displayed tabs for Brand Packs (ht/ Sergey Alakov), there are few distractions from the searchers task at hand, finding the location of the brand they were looking for. 

But the new Local Branded Scroll Pack changes all of that.

A simple recovery search becomes a discovery search allowing consumers to explore outside of their normal habits.  Google is actively highlighting related searches that might entice the brand searcher otherwise entrenched in their comfort zone.  Similar businesses that might serve what your favorite brand does  but cheaper, better or with fuller service are now readily highlighted front and center in the Branded Scroll Pack result.

Starbucks is a case in point.

With the new calls to action and bright red pins in the most recent versions of the Scroll Pack, searchers (or at least I was)  are actively guided to the red pins offered below the brand locations.

All of the sudden, Starbucks  isn’t necessarily the best coffee, isn’t the only one offering ready wifi and temp office space and is but one amongst many coffee shops. 

As Dan Leibson of Local Seo Guide noted in a conversation discussing these results: “I’m curious how this will net out. I would imagine for retail brands that focus on diverse products e.g. big box, they could theoretically net out ahead”.

I think that is largely true IF a brand is surfaced for the categories/attributes of the suggested search that are offered.

But for every brand that is rewarded there are going to be ones that won’t be. And while it might in the end be a zero sum game from Google’s perspective, it will not be seen as such from the point of view of the Starbucks of the world.

All of a sudden they have one more search result that they have to worry about and try to compete for just to keep their existing customers that are searching for them in the fold.

To see the current styles of brand packs ….

Continue reading Why Brands Should Be Worried About the Local Scroll Pack

Google Tweaks Local Scroll Pack Yet Again

Last week, we saw Google updating the as yet not fully rolled out Scroll Pack with stronger and more obvious calls to action for user engagement.

This week I am seeing yet another, subtler, update; Google has added more and more colorful icons for each section of the Scroll Pack result. This is the second UI update since the Local Scroll Pack was first seen in late May

While that sounds inconsequential as I write it, on the mobile display it dramatically increases the visibility of the pack and is quite eye catching. Clearly Google is tweaking the Local Scroll Pack to drive engagement the Local Finder.

 

On restaurants, the full range of attribute icons are visible on various searches.

On non-restaurant searches, the suggested alternative categories show the bright, red Maps pin instead.

Note the use of bright red pins in place of attribute icons.

When the suggested alternative search categories are expanded, the Local Scroll Pack becomes a rainbow of seductive color. With the first rollout, I worried that users would not interact with the local listings as frequently. But, while we await full rollout, this weeks and last’s upgrades have made the new Scroll Pack highly visible and likely to increase user interaction.

Continue reading Google Tweaks Local Scroll Pack Yet Again

Google Updates As Yet Unannounced Scroll Pack with Stronger CTA

The new(ish) Local Scroll Pack, which remains with very limited visibility, has been updated with a bolder call to action to view more locations. In addition it now includes additional personalization gleaned from Maps and greater detail if a user is looking for more categories related to the search. 

The arrows indicate areas that have changed over the past month.

In the initial preview, it was a concern whether users would be willing to both scroll AND click to see more locations. The default view only showed 1.5 locations and a scroll only surfaced 3. If the user wanted more they needed to click either the main selection view more button or choose one of the drop downs. One commenter on Twitter, only half kidding,  referred to it at the “Local 1.5 Pack”.

With as many as 5 ads seen above the pack, Google seems to have realized that users were not, in fact, digging deeper. You can see images of the previous displays here, here and here

Note also the inclusion of the Google Maps set, favorites choice in the display. A minor update has been to delineate which additional categories would be visible on the last drop down. 

I am still only seeing this new display when logged in on my iPhone on either Safari or Chrome. It appears to showing based on my Google user as if I emulate a different phone on my Chrome desktop browser, I also continue to see this new display. 

I have been seeing this new Scroll Pack almost continuously since late May.

I am curious how many of you have also seen it or currently see it and if you have seen it on Android?

 

Here is a gif showing how the CTA displays when multiple sub categories for related searches are selected: Continue reading Google Updates As Yet Unannounced Scroll Pack with Stronger CTA

Mike B Around the Interwebs

Here are some other articles, podcasts and writings from me around the interwebs:

TextBack Case Study: Driving Big Reviews For A Small Restaurant – is a case study of a small local lunch restaurant that I discovered on my bike ride to work that just opened a year ago  serving breakfast and lunches. I am a sucker for a good diner in Olean

Last Week in Local-june-10-2019 I have a great conversation with Joel Headley discussing this past week’s new.

Google Antitrust: Is It Enough for Yelp? – My bi-weekly conversation with David Mihm. We discuss the changing user behaviors and other headwinds that might keep Yelp from returning to its former glory, even if there is an anti-trust settlement. 

Found Bytes – with David Mihm I had the pleasure of being interviewed by David Mihm on his new ThriveHive Podcast, Found Bytes on the topic of Google as the New Home Page. 

SCrolling Local Brand result

I have been seeing a test of a new Local Scroll Pack result when logged in on my iPhone and using Safari. There is a different style presented for retail/restaurants than for service business. Brand packs have a slight variation as well.

In the brand results, there is the card style scroll pack below the ability to follow or learn more about the brand. However when one of the query suggestions is selected then the photo style result is presented. The net result of this proximity is that the user is immediately presented with competing alternatives. 

It is interesting the obvious and highly visible call to action to “follow” the brand.

This is the view of this new look when a multi-location brand is queried:

It is interesting that this new Brand Scroll Pack is being displayed and obviously tested simultaneously with a segmented display that splits the results of a typical, single location brand search into multiple segments in the results. See Joy Hawkin’s write up on the Local Search Forum.

Local Scroll Pack Spotted on Retail, Restaurants & Professional Service Searches

The Local Scroll Pack, first spotted last week, has now shown up in a greater range of categories including retail, restaurants, ERs and lawyers. Last week the new pack design  was spotted in searches for the moving companies, HVAC, locksmiths and garage door companies. 

In retail and restaurants the Local Scroll Pack includes large image thumbnails and included 5 results in the right to left scroll. The restaurant Scroll Pack included NO calls to action in the first view or second views. It required a click to the profile in the Local Finder and then another into the Business Profile to call or get driving directions. 

The lawyer Local Scroll Pack, like those for service area businesses, did not include images. In these however, the only visible call to action without visiting the Local Finder, was a click to call option.

The retail/shopping oriented Local Scroll Pack, like the restaurant result required the user to click twice to get through the Local Finder and into the Business Profile (Knowledge Graph) before being presented with any call to actions.

Obviously, this is being tested and retested across multiple categories. The frequency of the test across these many categories implies that the feature is being prepped for release. How soon and with what changes, we can’t know. 

Here is a an Gif of the the full interaction with the retail Local Scroll Pack where I scroll down the full screen and then back up before entering the Local Finder. As a note, all searches were performed on my iPhone while in Chicago.  Continue reading Local Scroll Pack Spotted on Retail, Restaurants & Professional Service Searches

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