Category Archives: Google+ Local

LocalU Advanced Santa Monica

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.

The agenda is not quite finalized, so we are offering a great deal on admission at $549.

We will be announcing the agenda and topics on September 12th. The pricing goes up on the 12th but even without an agenda you can count on it being a great event.


Which Cities & Categories Currently Have Google Home Service Ads & Advanced Verification

Google provided me a comprehensive list of cities and the categories that are currently under the Home Service Ads & Advanced Verification banners in those cities.

This program is hard enough to keep track of with it’s many changes and the recent increase in rollout that I thought the list would help you understand more about the markets that you are working in.

For some of the practical implications see Joy’s article: Is Google Going to Remove the 3-Packs? What You Need to Know about Home Service Ads (HSAs) (the answer is no but…)

San Francisco Bay Area:

locksmiths, plumbers, house cleaners, handyman, general contractors, electricians, HVAC contractors, painters, overhead door, auto glass repair, roadside assistance


HVAC contractors, plumbers, electricians, locksmiths, auto glass repair, general contractors, roadside assistance, house cleaners, handyman, painters, overhead door


HVAC contractors, plumbers


plumbers, HVAC contractors, electricians, locksmiths


plumbers, HVAC contractors, electricians, locksmiths, overhead door


plumbers, HVAC contractors, electricians, locksmiths, overhead door


plumbers, HVAC contractors, electricians, locksmiths, overhead door

Los Angeles:

HVAC contractors, electricians, overhead door, plumbers, locksmiths

San Diego:

HVAC contractors, electricians, overhead door, towing, auto glass, plumbers, locksmiths

Upload Video to Google Maps Listings – New Google Local Feature

The ability post video to a business listing or place listing was mentioned last week and appears to be released. H/T to Phillip Barnhart, Director of Marketing at Nehmedia in Austin, for pointing it out.

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.

From the announcement:

If you’re a Local Guide on Android, you can get started right now.

How to create a video when you’re at a place:

  • Search and select a place on Google Maps
  • Scroll down and tap “Add a photo”
  • Tap “Camera” and hold the shutter button for up to 10 seconds

How to upload a video you’ve already shot:

  • Search and select a place on Google Maps
  • Scroll down and tap “Add a photo”
  • Tap “Folder” and select a video. Only the first 30 seconds of a video can be added.

Visit the Help Center to learn more about sharing videos.

Mike B Around the Web

Here are other articles that I wrote this week that might be of interest:

Google As the New Home Page – One Big Tactical Guide – This one had to percolate a long time and while I was writing Google kept changing the rules. Take a look and let me know what you think.

Video Deep Dive: How to rank in cities where you don’t have a physical location – Darren Shaw of Whitespark and I discuss this perennial question for local search.

Google Advanced Verification & Home Services Ads – An Update

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:

What’s happening?

  • 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.

Advanced Verification:

Here is the where and what of the City and category expansion tests:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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:

  1. 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
  2. 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
    • Philadelphia: plumbers, HVAC, electricians, Iocksmiths
    • Atlanta, Phoenix, Seattle: plumbers, HVAC, electricians, Iocksmiths, overhead door
  3. Pure service area businesses are been moved from the local search results (“B-pack”) to the Home Services unit in those cities.

Other recent articles that you should take a look at for a complete understanding of these changes:

Is Google Going to Remove the 3-Packs? What You Need to Know about Home Service Ads (HSAs) by Joy Hawkins at Whitespark

Home Service Ads Alert – Read this Post

How Google Home Services can Affect You – by Dave Squires

Google Local Questions & Answers Rolling Out to Mobile Browsers

Google Local’s Q & A feature is now rolling out to mobile browsers on the iPhone and Android. On the iPhone the feature is visible on both Safari and Chrome.

Sergey Alekov, an SEO specialist in Toronto, was first to notice the products increased visibility.

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.

Home Service Ads Alert – Read this Post

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.

You need to read this post in the forum: Service area businesses no longer ranking?

Items to note.

  •  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.
The new HSA Finder places non paying SABs at the bottom of the list at least a click and a scroll away from any visibility. More like HSA loser.

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. 

Mike B Around the Web This Week

For those of you that just can’t enough of me, here are other posts that I have helped create or worked on or appeared in.

Channel7 Investigators uncover fake online reviews of Detroit businesses – I am the “expert” (or one of them) that helped with research and understanding for Channel 7 Detroit to file this on-air broadcast. Watch my 30 seconds of fame… or is it 15 seconds?

Can Yelp Extend Its Moment in the Sun? – Streetfight Magazine, with David Mihm. We discuss the recent Yelp quarterly results and the many headwinds that they still face.

Video Deep Dive: New from Google — Questions & Answers Mary Bowling and I discuss ways for businesses to not just cope with but to achieve success with Google Local’s newest product.

Video: Last Week in Local August 14th – Mary Bowling and I discuss major news events from last week including articles on strategic and tactical issues affecting local search.

Help Us Write Barbara Oliver’s Content for the new Google Questions & Answers

Barbara Oliver and her staff

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.

She agreed that she needed to get out in front of the crowd sourced aspect of Google Question & Answers  and asked her staff to write down the most common questions that they received on the phone.

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.

Jobs for WordPress – A Plug-in that Every SMB & Agency Needs

Walter Schärer, Director of Marketing & Business Development at BlueGlass Interactive in Zurich alerted me to a newly created plug-in that they have recently developed: Jobs for WordPress.

The plug-in easily formats (using Schema markup) your job listings to be compatible and readable by the new Google for Jobs search engine.

Click to view larger

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 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.