Early today at Linda’s forum and the Local U forum it was reported that Google had rolled out a Google Trusted Verifier Program that allowed folks in the field to verify a business while on site, using an Android app. It now appears that the help files were released prematurely and they were all removed from Google or only made available to beta testers. .
We have posted some of high level details from the now removed documentation on the Local U Blog.
Google is looking for folks to test upcoming SMB products:
The Google My Business and Ads teams are working on several new product features in 2016 to improve overall merchant/advertiser engagement and value. Before releasing these products/features to the general public, we want to beta test them with a group of trusted business testers who are willing to use these features and provide detailed feedback to our product team to help them improve the experience.
We are looking to build a group of business Trusted Testers based in the US who meet these requirements:
Willing to test out early stage products and features, and use the products consistently
Have less than 100 employees
Willing to provide feedback to our product team
Willing to sign a confidentiality agreement
Preferred (not required) existing GMB or AdWords/AdWords Express user, a plus!
Google has noted that if you meet these requirements or know of a business that does, you can fill out this form, or send the form directly to the business. If the business meets their requirements, they will reach out with next steps and more information.
Google has confirmed that they are now allowing a business to directly edit their business information via the Knowledge Panel and the Local Finder on the desktop and mobile WITHOUT visiting the Google My Business Dashboard.
Prya Chandra reported earlier today on G+ a new Knowledge Panel interface that allows direct editing of a local listing to correct errors in the local information.
However, when you are logged into Google with an account that has the ownership or management of the listing, this edit mode allows for direct updating of your business information without needing to go the Google My Business Dashboard. The information will flow, in essentially real time, back to the dashboard and out the listing wherever it might show.
However, a listing owner is still unable to edit things like menu or booking links that frequently go awry.
This was first reported as a future feature by Barry Scwartz at SeoRoundtable based on a comment by Gary Illyes at State of Search in mid November.
This new edit capability is available in the Knowledge Panel and the Local Finder on the desktop AND mobile but is not available via Google Maps. One assumes that this same interface will make its way into Google Maps desktop and mobile in the near future.
I am curious to know if this has rolled out internationally. If you live in Canada, Europe, Australia please let me know. I assume that it has.
The real question about this change is what is the future of the Google My Business Dashboard? With its current limited functionality businesses will have even less motivation to visit it.
Imagine a world where multi location business no longer have to continually mess with the Google My Business bulk dashboard and could have a direct feed of their critical location data to the Knowledge Panel via their website with schema markup. Apparently that world is right around the corner.
Rohan Ayyar of E2Mpointed out on Twitter the fact that Google had recently moved the local schema page from Webmaster section of their website to a new Google Developer page and announced the pilot using schema to directly populate the Knowledge Panel and local database with location data :
The specification supports the standard array of schema options including address, lat-long and phone as well as the recently added place actions like reservations and ordering, special hours and departmental detail. For more examples visit this page.
With this direct schema to Knowledge Panel pilot and the broad rollout of the Google My Business API, Google is signaling a more open and flexible approach to allowing multi location businesses to provide detailed location information to Google.
It is a radical shift from the day of “do it our way, or the highway” approach that has long affected Google’s local efforts. The question remains as to whether Google’s crawling and populating the local database can keep up with updating the Knowledge Panel in time to deal with the messy world of not just opening hours but other changing realities. It would seem for example that it would work best with businesses that don’t change hours that frequently and use the special hours feature well in advance for those days that don’t fit the norm. Whether Google can keep up with the ever changing hour needs of the amusement parks of the world is another question.
If you are currently in the pilot or know of any companies that are, I would love to hear how it is going.
Today Google is releasing of V2.0 of Google My Business API and has just updated their website with new information about the open API.
The V1 was originally released in mid October to a limited audience and with a limited feature set. V2 is being opened up to anyone and comes with a number of new features. Unfortunately access to Insights, review or verifcation are not among them.
Features included in this release are the ability to:
Resolving issues with suspended or duplicate listings
Ability to query user generated content associated with the listing
Obviously these missing features make the API less useful in any business oriented forward facing dashboard an agency might design but the API should still facilitate managing the basics of listings at scale.
There are several other limitations including the fact that accounts that have not been bulk verified can only manage 100 locations. This will force agencies that manage a lot of individual locations to have multiple accounts to do so.
By default an API account (known as a basic account) allows for 1000 edits/creates per day, and 100,000 reads per day. Apparently application can be made for a standard account that has a higher daily edit rate of 10,000 edits/creates per day.
An interesting feature for those managing Adwords for clients but not managing their GMB listings is the ability to use the API to create/update listings and and then link unverified locations in the GMB to their Adwords campaigns.
In this video discussion at the LocalU forum David Mihm, Mary Bowling and I look at how the role of Google Local at Google and where does it fit vis a vis Plus and search.
In thinking about the role of Local at Google, going forward we look at a number of interesting recent developments as well as the forced separation from Google Plus and consider the implications of these moves. Has the importance of local decreased or increased at Google?
With Google having removed the location setting option in search a number of tools and tactics have hit the market to allow searchers to continue to retrieve location based search for areas other than the one in which Google thinks they are located.
Here are three that all seem to do the job one way or the other.
1- Chris Desrochers’ Search by Location Applet – It requires that the searcher drag the applet to their favorites bar (the bad news) but once they do it presents a dead on simple in browser solution via a pop up box to using the &near modifier in an actual Google search.
2- I Search Form uses the Google Adwords tool to allow a user to input location information and retrieve a Google search. It requires you to visit the website and, unfortunately, doesn’t search on every small town in the US and is a simulation not the actual search but does a good job.
3- A more complex but perhaps more accurate way to accomplish the job is written up by Go Fish Digital is to configure the Chrome browser to emulate a browser that is geo located differently. Its very accurate but somewhat complicated and a few steps to change the settings for each different geography.
Update: As of 12/13 Google has removed ~40 of these listings but somewhere on the order of 20 still remain.
I have been in the local space, in one form or another, for almost 15 years. Ten of those focused on Google Local. It is rare that I am shocked by my discoveries much these days but the spam reported in this forum post really caught my eye.
This speaks to Google’s failures in this arena as much or more as to his amateurish”marketing” efforts. While his chutzpah is impressive, it’s truly incredible to me that with all of Google’s spam fighting resources, their public bluster, all of the rules and all of the people and all of computer horsepower, this took a report in the forum to uncover.
And of course with many of these keyword laden business names/domains he’s getting a fair bit of 3 pack exposure.
An artifact of this whole process is some of the most amazing business names ever. I wonder what he says when we goes to the bank for a loan or when his mother asks how the business is doing? I have no clue what Pearly Penile Papules are but I can only imagine folks eyes bugging out if I were to hand it out on my business card.
With the recent divorce of Google Plus and Google My Business, they have once again thrown a Google monkey wrench into the review process. If you are not using GetFivesStars (where we get to worry about these details) you need to decide which review URL to give your customers going forward.
The link you give to your customer should just work all the time and make it easy for your customers to see and leave you reviews at Google. For most small businesses doing their own review requests you ideally want a link that:
Gets your customer very close to the place on Google to be able to leave a review with the fewest clicks and scrolls.
Works in both desktop and mobile environments (as mobile usage is reaching 50% of all web viewing).
Works whether the user is already logged in to Google or not.
And finally, is a link that you never have to change.
*Note that I am a co-founder and principal in GetFiveStars.com, an agency & SMB friendly feedback and review solution.