Local U Advanced is my favorite conference of the year. Not that I speak, or even that I contribute to the organization but because it’s a time and place where folks that are really interested in Local SEO and Local Marketing get together.
And not just get together in a spirit of collegiality and sharing. Everyone comes willing to learn and and everyone seems to leave knowing that they are not alone. More than one attendee has found new employment and everyone has a good time.
The venue is the historic Santa Monica Bay Women’s Club, a short walk from the beach and the Santa Monica Pier. We’ ll be staying at the Marriott Courtyard Santa Monica and have negotiated a nightly room rate of $220 for attendees if booked by November 2nd.
Speakers include Darren Shaw, Joy Hawkins, Mary Bowling, Mike Ramsey, Will Scott, Ed Reese, Megan Hannay, Joel Headley and myself.
For now the video can only be uploaded by Local Guides using Android Maps but the videos will be visible from search everywhere. A 10 second video can be captured with the Android Google Maps app or a 30 second video can be uploaded.
Apparently the feature is rolling out gradually so you might or might not see it right away.
The top contributors met with Google and we were educated as to the changes that are taking place in both the Advanced Verification programs and the Home Service Ads program.
Both are evolving from the model rolled out in San Diego which required all local listings to be advanced verified.
One big change is that only businesses that will advertise will be required to go through the advanced verification process that involves independent background checks.
The other is that service area business listings in markets where the test is now arriving, will be pulled from any 3-Pack display and only shown in the new HSA finder.
Here are notes of the meeting:
The Advanced Verification pilot in San Diego and Los Angeles is changing for Google My Business service area merchants and expanding to new geos and categories for AdWords and AdWords Express customers.
The Home Services pilot in San Diego and Los Angeles that includes both paying and non-paying service professionals is expanding to new categories and cities.
From Google’s point of view:
Advanced verification helps reduce fraudulent listings on Google and ensures that local listings and local ads are relevant and legitimate.
Home Services – tailored for service area businesses – makes it easy for consumers to discover, connect and hire local service professionals directly from Google, and connects local professionals with new customers when they need them the most.
Key takeaways from Tests of both programs:
Independent verifications has been successful at identifying bad actors.
Deeply managing advertising and targeting corresponding GMB listings is effective and scalable.
Highest impact in locksmith and overhead doors, plumbing vertical has less risk (ATM). Actively testing auto glass repair and towing to determine its value.
Google expects things may change over the coming months. As bad actors shift their behaviors, so will Google.
Here is the where and what of the City and category expansion tests:
Locksmith and Plumber merchants signing up for Google My Business in San Diego and Los Angeles no longer need to complete Advanced Verification to be listed on Google.
Based on their pilot results, Google can effectively address Map spam with less impact on merchants.
Instead, Google is leveraging a behind the scenes approach to combat fraudulent businesses in these categories.
AdWords and AdWords Express customers promoting auto glass repair, overhead door repair and towing services in the San Francisco Bay Area now need to pass advanced verification.
In addition, all AdWords and AdWords Express customers promoting locksmith services across the whole of California need to pass advanced verification. It is expected this expansion will continue outside of California in the coming months.
Home Services expansion updates per city and category:
New categories have been added to San Diego and Los Angeles:
Los Angeles: HVAC, electricians, overhead door
San Diego: HVAC, electricians, overhead door, towing, autoglass
The pilot experience that includes both paying and non-paying service professionals is being extended to the San Francisco Bay Area, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Phoenix, and Seattle:
San Francisco Bay Area: Iocksmiths, plumbers, house cleaners, handyman, general contractors, electricians, HVAC, painters, overhead door, auto glass repair, towing
When Questions & Answers was released for local Knowledge Panels earlier this month, it was only visible from within Android Maps and only editable by business owners. Earlier last week editing was opened more broadly.
The feature has not yet rolled out to the iOS Google App or Google Maps but I assume that it will at some point show up. Probably sooner rather than later. I also assume that as Google gets more comfortable with the product it will ultimately show up on the desktop as well.
The rollout to mobile browsers and iOS make the feature significantly more visible to the public and thus much more likely to attract crowd sourced content to your Google local listing.
Now is the time to start posting your own Questions & Answers to your branded Knowledge Panel. For some ideas on how to proceed see my see my post 11 Tips to Optimize the New Google.
As Google’s Home Service Ads rolls out to more verticals and more markets1, more and more service area businesses are going to feel the impact. While some of the details are changing it appears that Google is charging forward with Home Service Ads2. The impacts go beyond those covered by in this great article: How Google Home Services can Affect You – by Dave Squires.
It appears that when HSA is introduced to a market, that all service area businesses in the affected verticals are removed from the 3- Pack display.
If they pay for HSA and Advanced verification they can move to the top of the new Ad unit and show “Google guaranteed” notation.
If they don’t, they are shown way down the new Ad unit’s equivalent of the Local Finder. Perhaps we can refer to this display as the “HSA Finder” although it might be better named Local SAB Hider or perhaps the “SAB Loser”.
Many of the affected SABs are marching forward with getting an office, either real or imagined, to deal with their predicament. An interesting example of how Google pushing in one direction creates unintended (but predictable) consequences mucking up index quality. They just got the SAB stuff squared away.
1 – The verticals have been expanded from locksmiths and plumbers to include HVAC, electricians, garage door, roadside assistance, auto glass, painting, handyman, home cleaning and even appliance repair categories. And now includes the Los Angeles, San Diego, Sacramento, Stockton, San Francisco, Philadelphia, Atlanta markets (and perhaps more).
2 – I know that a lot of folks speculate that HSA type pay to play will reach all categories. While I do see Google increasing Ad inventory & exposure across the whole of the local ecosystem I see the HSA as a unique response to categories that had both high spam in their listings and in their local Adwords campaigns. The problem was so egregious that Google is going to the length of Pinkerton background checks on employees of businesses in the program. That has to be expensive. And it is an indicator of the level of problems in these categories. Imagine the press and lawsuits when one of these spammers killed or robbed someone? It was a mess and Google chose to offset their costs with an pay to play approach much like in Shopping ads.
When Google Questions & Answers came out last week, I reached out to Barbara Oliver Jewelry (who doesn’t have any street level presence in Williamsville, NY and is hidden on the third floor of an office building) and advised her on how to deal with the new product.
I am posting them here in the hopes that all of you will help me make suggestions to her.
Are there too many questions? Is it the right voice? How would you change them to be more compelling to her potential customers?
1) Do I need an appointment to look at engagement rings?
You are welcome to stop by any time during our shop hours. No appointment is necessary. (We are just not that snooty!) With that being said, if your schedule doesn’t allow you to come in during our regular hours, please give us a call and we will be happy to accommodate you after hours.
2) Do you do jewelry repairs?
Yes, we do all types of jewelry repairs including resizing rings, replacing missing stones, fixing broken parts, and more.
3) Will you send my jewelry out to be repaired?
No. All repairs are done by our in-house goldsmith Dan who is a master craftsman.
4) Can you resize my ring if I didn’t buy from you?
Yes, we will gladly size your ring even if you didn’t buy it from us.
5) What is the charge for an appraisal?
It depends if you need a verbal or written appraisal. If you have a piece and would just like a verbal review to determine how much the piece is worth or exactly what it is, this is a complimentary service. If you need a written appraisal for insurance with complete documentation, there is a $45 charge per piece.
6) Do I need to leave my jewelry to be appraised?
Typically we do appraisals on the spot, so you don’t have to leave your jewelry pieces. There are some exceptions. For example, if you have numerous pieces that need to be appraised for an estate, we may ask you to leave those pieces with us. Please note: We are a walk-in shop, so we do appraisals in-between customers. If you can come during the week instead of a Saturday, our busiest day, that would be greatly appreciated.
7) Are you in an office building?! Do you have parking?
Yes, we’re on the third-floor in the Caldwell Building (a six story red brick office building) at 5820 Main St. in Williamsville. There is a large parking lot at the back of the building where the entrance is located. We look forward to seeing you!
OK, sharpen your pens, pencils, keyboards and thinking and let us know how YOU would improve these.
The plug-in easily formats (using Schema markup) your job listings to be compatible and readable by the new Google for Jobs search engine.
Every business small and large needs more exposure for their job listings. In the context of local, a jobs page is always a good ranking page that can potentially attract new employees, readily attract links and build some page strength.
Here are the features:
Add, manage and categorize job listings using the familiar WordPress UI
Preview of your job listing before it goes live – the preview matches the appearance of a live job listing
The job listings are automatically formatted with structured data or schema.org Markup with JSON-LD or Microdata
Job postings are easy to implement via shortcodes or PHP function
Job postings can be saved in PDF format
Each listing can be customized with drag-and-drop – in terms of modules, structure, paragraph namings and order etc.
Applications can be easily clustered and filtered for a comfortable navigation
Each listing can be tied to a particular application recipient / e-mail address
Developer friendly — Custom Post Types, Single job template, a lot of hooks and filters implemented.
Caveat: I have not yet tried this plug-in, it’s new and only has one review. If you try it, let me know as it appears to be a great way to build out a jobs page that maximizes exposure for both attracting job seekers and link.