Category Archives: Google+ Local

Google Maps: Feature or Bug? Web Link Opens New Window With No Tabs and It’s Annoying

On Friday, Justin Mosebach of Improve and Grow , Lancaster PA  pointed out some new, very annoying behavior happening within Google Maps.

When the business listing shows a business URL in Chrome, it now opens a new window “without any tab bar, bookmark bar, etc”. It does not happen in Mac Safari but according to Justin, he has seen this new behavior on all other browsers.

Bug or feature? It seems like a bug but who knows.

Click to view larger. Image courtesy of Justin Mosebach


11 Tips to Optimize the New Google Questions & Answers

The new Google Places Questions & Answers offers a lot of potential for both helping and hurting a business. Here are some thoughts on how your business should approach this new and untried feature in the local Knowledge Panel.

1- Get out in front of them.
Crowd sourcing can be intimidating to the typical business but it’s best if you approach this, like reviews and photos, proactively. Having good Q & A’s posted will somewhat limit the opportunity for mischief.

Used with minor revisions and permission of brett jordan under a Creative Commons License. Some rights reserved

2- Start now.
Write out some questions that you can post to your listing. Review them to make sure they meet consumer’s needs and get them posted. This will give the early postings a chance to be upvoted more over time.

3- Make sure that they really are Frequently Asked Questions1.
I have advised several clients to listen to incoming phone calls and list out the actual questions that callers ask before they come into the store. This will save you and them time which is one of the things that purchase funnel optimization is about. The obvious candidates here are the very real concerns about parking, special hours, appointments and other conveniences.

4- Think long tail as well.
Once you have identified the low hanging fruit, brainstorm some of the less frequently asked questions (but asked) about some of your less well known services.  “Does this bakery offer gluten free choices?” I am NOT saying to treat this as a keyword spamming opportunity. It isn’t but going niche can be helpful.

5- Plan for scanning.
Consumers are a busy lot and you want to be sure that both the questions are easy to read and the answer are brief but accurate. Be brief and too the point. These need to be short answers to real questions.

6- Write them using your customers voice.
These are meant to be accessible and easy to understand, not marketing pieces.

7- Make them useful to both parties; your business and the customer.
Obviously the goal here to facilitate interactions between the right kind of customer and your business.

8- Control yourself and don’t over do it.
Its best if there are fewer rather than more. (I am not yet sure what that means but…)

9- Plan for disaster.
This is a crowd sourced environment after all and we all know that weird and unpleasant things can arise. Write down a plan so that in the heat of the moment you don’t do something stupid. Usually the first step is to take a breath and call a trusted advisor (to talk you off of the cliff).

10- Monitor your Knowledge Panel for new questions.
If they are legit be the first to answer. Use your GMB login and the answer will be noted as from the business owner. This is likely going to be a problem for multi location chains as their is no API or in dashboard notification but it is necessary. Hopefully Google will prioritize the development of tools to deal with this both proactively and at scale.

11- Learn the process for removing unseemly questions and/or answers.
This involves:

  1. Reading the TOS of service and guidelines for content.
  2. Familiarizing yourself with how to flag them for Google’s attention.
  3. Understanding how the forum works so that if automated or human Google curation fails you, you can take the next step. That involves waiting at least a week, providing clear documentation and links about the problem, and articulating why they should come down. It helps to @ one or two top contributors via the forum to be sure that it gets their attention.

Like reviews, there is no way to hide from this. You are better off being proactive and getting ahead of it. It may be hard but take a deep breath and start planning now.

Fortunately Google is rolling this out slowly and on a single platform (Android Google Maps only). It will take some time for consumers (and worse competitors) to become aware of it. Be ready.

I am sure that I missed a few points. What would you add to the list?

1 – Credit to 10 Tips for Creating a Killer FAQ Page where I “stole” many of these ideas. 

Google Rolling Out Questions & Answers

Update: See my post 11 Tips to Optimize the New Google Questions & Answers to help plan your approach.

Google has announced and started to roll out Questions & Answers, a crowd sourced and business sourced Q & A product for local Knowledge Panels places listings. Tim Capper has a great summary as well that is worth the read.

Essentially the product is designed to allow Google to offer additional FAQ type content via the Knowledge Panel that answers consumers most frequent and “long tail” questions about a Place.

The product is initially rolling out on Android Google Maps only. At some point in the near future it will be available on all mobile browsers as well.

Here is Google’s description of the product that was provided during a preview of the product:

Questions and Answers allow business owners to answer questions directly from potential customers. Merchants can also anticipate FAQ’s by adding commonly asked questions and their answers.

Merchants and other users can both thumb up content to boost its ranking and flag content that is incorrect or spam.

Users have many place-specific questions that are going unanswered right now. By allowing them to ask the business owner and each other, we can help them make decisions more quickly.

Example questions our users have about places:

  • “What dishes should I try?”
  • “What should I definitely do/see?”
  • “How much seating is there for large groups or special events?”
  • “Is there space to park a baby stroller?”
  • “What’s the lighting like inside?”
  • “Is delivery or take-out offered?”
  • “Which credit cards are accepted?”
  • “Is this a good date night restaurant?”
  • “Are service animals allowed?”
  • “Can I bring my kids here?”
  • “Where should I look for parking?”
  • “Do I need reservations for a Friday night?”
  • “Are there coupons?”

What does it look like?

Great in concept for Google and perhaps the consumer, but the devil is for sure in the details as to whether it will be good for the business.

Google has said that moderation will be much like reviews in being mostly automated with some human curation. If the product fails the failure is likely to be in the moderation and more importantly, spam moderation details.

If antagonistic competitors figure out the moderation rules, I see it as very likely that passive aggressive negative information could easily be posted. Will staff in India be able to understand the subtlety?

And of course there is always the “lets turn everything into an ugly promotional tool” mindset that many have that could pollute the waters with incredibly spammy content.

As the product is currently designed (it feels given the very limited release and limited interfaces more like a beta,) it puts the difficult task of monitoring directly on the shoulder of the business owner. They need to continually goto their Android Maps app and check to see if the questions are meaningful and if they need to answer the question or whether the consumer answer is adequate.

Posts and Websites “felt” very business friendly. This on the other hand will feel like a poke in the eye to most businesses. Being required to regularly go back and check the crowd sourced status of a listing due to fear of the “crowd” might be off base, is one more task that appears to offer little of value to the business and will take additional (and very limited)time.

Like reviews, I don’t doubt though that effectively embraced and managed it can help a business. I am just not sure most of them will see it that way.

On a more strategic level for Google, this product is one more piece of content that will be residing within the Knowledge Panel for the business… first NAP and photos, then reviews, reviews from the web, then Posts and now “Places Q & A”.

Like Google Destinations in the travel industry, it is an effort to create ever more granular content that will keep consumers within Google’s subtly “walled garden” and further limit the likelihood of their visiting your website.

Short haul it could increase conversions, if properly handled, and that would be a good thing… until the gate keeper starts charging more for the privilege or sends the traffic elsewhere.

Here is a FAQ with details that we know about Questions & Answers (assembled with the help of the many TCs in Google’s My Business Forum).

Q: Places? That sounds like back to future. Continue reading Google Rolling Out Questions & Answers

How to Add Your “Under Construction” Business to Google Maps

Google is quite explicit in their guidelines that you can’t verify a listing via Google My Business prior to it opening. Apparently though, there is a new option within Google Maps Android to add a business under construction and indicate the date in the future that it will be open.

Here is the relevant “rule” from the guidelines that clearly prohibits a business from attempting to verify a business before it is open:

Ineligible businesses

The following businesses aren’t eligible for a business listing:

  • Businesses that are under construction or that have not yet opened to the public.

While the Add a Place feature in Google Maps doesn’t offer as much control as the Google My Business dashboard verification, it does offer a way to be sure that your soon to open business is visible on day one. Whether this feature will be rolled out to the desktop, iPhone or the Dashboard is not clear.

Mike B Around the Web This Week

Here are some posts/interviews from around the web:

I did an incredibly enjoyable interview with Stephan Spencer of Marketing Speak about Reputation, reviews and local ranking.  The link to the shownotes, transcript, and audio is here and the iTunes link is here.

Last Week in Local with Mary Bowling and Ed Reese covered the recent news. Also available as a podcast.

IN this week’s Deep Dive, Mary Bowling and I look at Google Posts, how it relates to search and how the SMB can manage & leverage it.. Also available series or directly on iTunes as a podcast.

Google My Business Expands Optional URLS for Appointments, Reservations & Ordering Ahead

Joel Headley of PatientPop pointed out on Twitter that Google had added the ability to add a “make an appointment” URL to physician listings and other verticals, It appears that they have expanded these in various verticals and not just physicians as well as adding vertical specific options.

Professionals such as lawyers, doctors, insurance agencies, consulting firm & psychologists as well as construction, computer repair, flooring and plumbing companied have the ability to add the make an appointment URL. I am sure that many other categories do as well. The only listing where I didn’t see an option was a bricks and mortar lawn and garden location.

Restaurants are also now allowed to add both a reservation and an order ahead URL to their listings. 

Update 4/10: Google has published an updated Help page: Local Business URLS. On it they note that there are the following types of URLS available:

  • Booking an appointment
  • Placing an order
  • Reserving a table
  • Searching for items
  • Viewing the menu

They also note that “In some cases, links to certain third-party booking services will appear automatically on business listings. These links cannot be edited in Google My Business“.

I have not seen the searching for items option, if you have I would like to know what the context was. It also isn’t clear to me if the business already has a 3rd party booking service link whether they can add their own book an appointment link and whether they will co-exist or not. Please let me know.

Google Upgrading Front Page GMB Editing Test

Early in July I wrote about a test that increased the presence of the Google My Business Dashboard via the front page of a Google branded search.

Thibault Tadda alerted me via twitter of an upgrade to the test that now includes a to do list.

If the business or a manager is logged in and executes a brand search they will be presented with this large call to action that now includes things not done.

Once completed those CTAs disappear leaving a large empty space. It might serve everyone better if that space collapsed when there are no tasks to be done.

Click to view larger

Why is this important… well its further proof that Google CAN chew gum and walk at the same time AND that if they are going to build a lot of cool stuff into the dashboard then they are going to have to keep working to get businesses to keep coming back. Both things that many of us had thought Google wasn’t capable of doing.

Mike B Around the Interwebs

Here are articles that I published over the past week some place other than here:

LocalU: Video: Last Week in Local July 31

Every week at LocalU Mary Bowling and I and the occasional guest discuss the news from the world of local. We look at strategic as well as tactical pieces that can inform your marketing. Available as a blog, email newsletter or podcast. You can sign up via the links in the left sidebar <–.

LocalU: Video Deep Dive: Google as your new Home Page

More and more traffic is coming from Google. While a brand search may occur very low in the purchase funnel for most users, the branded search results provides a view of how a business will look across many of the searches in which they might show. Google really is becoming the new home page and this discusses how you can leverage that.

GetFiveStars:  Cool Google SMB Review Marketing Tool

If you haven’t seen this tool that allows locations to create posters of their best reviews from Google, you owe it to yourself to take a look. One of the more thoughtful marketing tools Google has created.

StreetFightMagazine:  The Place of Newspapers in the Local Marketing Ecosystem

Join David Mihm and myself as we take our bi-weekly jaunt around small business marketing. This week we discuss the possible role of community newspapers in helping the SMB improve their marketing.


Careful When Sleeping with Elephants – Are Google Websites a Threat to the Agency?

Google Websites is not a “blow your socks off” web building product. At least not by standards in the United States. That being said, should you as a web designer or SEO ignore it?

That’s a good question.

Scott Davis noted this about Websites on G+ in response to my noting that Google had hit 250,0001 websites created within a month:

If bots could SEO, we’d all be out of a job… Fortunately that isn’t the case. Build your Wix style site… I’ll crush it in search.

My answer:

+Scott Davis as it is currently configured and construed, this product is designed and targeted at the Indias of the world where very few businesses have websites and where very few businesses can afford websites.

That being said it does demonstrate the power with which Google can release and get uptake in a DIY world…

Typically these Google efforts start out lame… sometimes its just s%!t thrown at the wall and someone ultimately cleans it off. Sometimes they are fixed frequently and often and become market dominating products.

Click to view larger. Cartoon created by Margaret Shulock. Copyright Mike Blumenthal & Margaret Shulock. Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License

Adwords Express is an example of that… When first released it was very, very lame. It has gradually become a very good DIY product… to the point where a small agency selling $300-600 adwords packages can’t really compete. Will Google keep improving it and go after the $600-1200 a month level? I think so.Can the same thing happen with Websites?

Interestingly Google bought a company called Appetas in 2014. Appetas had a very sophisticated, build your own website product for the restaurant industry that had multiple pages, decent SEO, tight integration with reservation tools, payments, delivery etc. There is a lot of DNA shared between the 1.0 version of Website  and that product.

As to your original question, I am not saying that you currently can’t out SEO them, I am saying keep your eyes open and realize that you are sleeping with elephants…. elephants are generally benign but when you and they are sleeping be very careful that when they roll over that it’s not you they crush.

1 – As of today, Google now has had 303,000 websites created using the tool. It’s been 6 weeks since introduction and they continue adding at roughly the same pace.