Category Archives: Google+ Local

First Reports of 5-Stars Returning to the Main Search Results

Update: We now have screen shots of the 5 Star treatment in the new Local Carousel

The last bastion of Zagat has finally been breached and reports are showing up of 5 Stars returning to the main search results page in the Pack. Poster Valesence shared her sighting of the new display at the LocalSearchForum.

Google announced the return to the 5-Star system in mid-May at the I/O Conference, along with the rollout of the new Google Maps. Phil Rozek reported their return to the Google+ Pages for local last week. The stars have not yet been reported on the new Local Carousel. But they are obviously undergoing testing and while they are are not universally visible  it is only a matter of time before both the Pack and Carousel results both show 5-Stars.

Google replaced the yellow stars with the Zagat system in May, 2012 when Google rolled Places pages into Plus. It was clear from August of last year that Google was testing a return to the 5 Star system and they were never removed from local AdWords display.

Here is the screen shot of a 7-Pack with the “new” star treatment:

Screen Shot courtesy of Valesence/LocalSearchForum

 

Should You Do Linkbuilding to Your G+ Page for Local?

equityMiriam Ellis of Solas Web Design asked me the other day to revisit the question of whether one should “build links to their G+ Page for local“.

Often this question is asked from the wrong frame of reference.

Unlike the Google Places page, a Google + Page is indexed and CAN have page rank. The page can appear in the Google index and Mark Trapenhagen has documented cases where a + Page has achieved a PR of 8. As such it is tempting to ask the question of whether  one should do link building to G+ Plus page.

“Should I link build to my Google + Page” carries with it an implicit premise in the question that a business will benefit from arbitrarily building links to a given page. In that is the simplistic assumption that ends up focusing efforts on the wrong target. An example of this thinking is the corollary question: “Will linking to the page help my local listing rank better”?

The simple answer to that question is no as the local algo looks at the strength of the “authority document” to assess ranking and that authority document is the business website. And if having a higher PR for G+ Page for local provided any value in that regard it would be a tangental benefit as a citation that passes some location strength back to your website.

A different way to ask the question that may frame it more effectively: Is there a benefit to my marketing or my readers to include a link to my Google + Page?

And the other question that puts it in the bigger context: Should I build the strength and presence of my Google + Page via Google’s social network? Will marketing my company on G+ enhance my overall marketing effort?

Continue reading

A Compilation of Over 300 Keywords & Phrases that Trigger the Local Carousel

Gregg Gifford, Adam Dorfman and Dan Leibson have each put together lists of keywords that trigger the new Local Carousel. I noticed that while there was some overlap between the lists there was also a number of unique words on each list. I assembled them into one list and with some additional research on my part expanded the combined list to over 300 words. 

As with all things Google there are obvious trends and always a few oddities. For the most part the phrases do revolve entertainment, recreation and leisure activities. And there are a few outliers that don’t fit into that category so well. Gluten Free Produce Store hardly seems a leisure time pursuit and nor does piano tuning. But its very difficult to imagine what fun one might have at a Gas Station (props to John Denny for that one). Particularly one near Buffalo.

You can add additional trigger keywords below. But I am also making the list available as a Google Docs Spreadsheet so that you can add additional search phrases that you find that trigger the Local Carousel directly to it, if you prefer.

Screen Shot 2013-06-29 at 12.39.17 PM

 

Here is the list to date:

Continue reading

Local Carousel Reporting from Around the Local Web

05carousel5Here are articles from around the web and myself that I found of value in understanding the new Local Carousel. If you have any others that you also found useful please let me know.

Overarching Analysis & Commentary
Google’s ‘Local Carousel’ Comes to PC with Mixed Results – Greg Sterling
Google’s Local Carousel – Trapped in Google’s World? – Mike Blumenthal (MB)
New Local Carousel – Aaron Wall

User Behavior Analysis:
10 Random People’s Reactions Mike Ramsey, NiftyMarketing
Google’s New Local Carousel: Where Will They Click? John Van Bockern, Ethical Consulting
A Heat Map Click Study For Google’s Local Carousel Results – Mike Ramsey, Local U
Dueling Local Carousel CTR Studies: 48% vs. 30% vs. 10% – Greg Sterling

Tactical
Say Goodbye To Non-branded Keyword Traffic If You’re In The Local Carousel – Greg Gifford, AutoRevo
Local Carousel Ranking – MB
Why the Local Carousel Make Local Branded AdWords More Important  – MB
54 Keywords Triggering Google’s Local Carousel – Adam Dorfman, Sim Parnters
Google Users May Determine Which Photos Represent Your Business in the Carousel – JSO Digital

Miscellaneous
Some of the More Bizarre Local Carousel Results from Google – MB
Distinguishing the Local Carousel from the Knowledge Graph Carousel – MB
How Many Results Are Required for the New Local Carousel to Display? At least 5 – MB

Announcement (often with tactical tidbits)
Google Rolls Out Local Carousel Display in US for Dining, Nightlife, Hotels, and Other Attractions – MB
New Layout for Local Searches in Google – Greg Gifford, AutoRev
Google Officially Launches the Local Carousel: What You Need To Know – Mike Wilton
Google Local Carousel – OFFICIALLY Launched! – Linda Buquet
Google Introduces New Carousel Display for Local Results – LocalU

Google Survey Adds Free Website Satisfaction Survey

Screen Shot 2013-06-26 at 8.47.09 AMYesterday on Plus Google Survey announced a new (and free) survey tool to assess visitor satisfaction with your website. From their post:

If you are like most business owners, you know how important a healthy online community is to your business’s success. Traditionally, collecting user feedback has been an expensive and time-consuming process, but now you can hear from your site visitors for free using Google Consumer Surveys.

Website satisfaction surveys allow you to easily create customer satisfaction surveys in order to stay in tune with what your customers think. All you have to do is paste a small snippet of code in the HTML for your website. This will load a discreet satisfaction survey in the lower right hand corner of your website so you can get immediate feedback from your users.

Users will be asked to complete a four-question satisfaction survey. Surveys will run until they have received 500 responses and will start again after 30 days so you can track responses over time. This is currently limited to US English visitors on non-mobile devices.

The default questions are free and you can customize questions for just $0.01 per response or $5.00 for 500 responses. By using Google Consumer Surveys to measure website satisfaction you automatically get aggregated and analyzed responses, provided to you through a simple online interface.

Creating a website satisfaction survey is simple, just go to< a href=”http://www.google.com/insights/consumersurveys/publishers” rel=”nofollow”>http://www.google.com/insights/consumersurveys/publishers to get started.

The process of starting a survey is dead simple. You simply follow these 4 steps: Continue reading

Some of the More Bizarre Local Carousel Results from Google

Google has always been a somewhat “agnostic” resource for local results returning the good with the bad. But when combined with a total waste of good time and Twitter it can produce some interesting results.

Dan Lieibson noted some “unusual” results that Andrew Shotland and I could not resist pursuing to their (ill)logical conclusion.

With their help we were able to surface some carousels that seem to take the cake for tasteless.

Please do not shoot the messenger.

Screen Shot 2013-06-25 at 5.09.59 PM

Screen Shot 2013-06-25 at 5.10.18 PM Screen Shot 2013-06-25 at 5.10.09 PM

Google’s Local Carousel – Trapped in Google’s World?

trappedThe new Local Carousel is certainly going to change user behaviors. Exactly how is still to be determined. To some extent whether ads do better or organic does better depends on what users see in any given “industry + geo” search. It also depends on how they respond to the (thinly?) populated knowledge panels or whether they move on to a well branded and respected site like Yelp or Tripadvisor to get their answer. I think though after analyzing these displays the answer as to what is really going on is somewhat more obtuse and well… self serving.

One thing is for sure, the geography above the fold is radically changed. Besides the Local Carousel, over the past year Google has been making a number of changes to the main search page that include the additional menus (2x), the bright red sign in button and the grey bar. I think we need to assess the Local Carousel in view of all of the changes on the main search page. I wanted to look at a “typical” desktop screen and understand exactly what was visible to searchers above the fold in this new context.

To analyze these searches I took screen shots of a full screen on a 1440 x 900 pixel display. I removed as much extraneous material from my screen as possible to give Google the benefit of the doubt in this analysis. I removed the dock, used Google Chrome, turned off any additional features that would take up screen real estate and entered full screen mode. Somewhere on the order of ~54% of desktop users see this much or less vertical and horizontal space when they view Google local carousel result.

In addition to the Local Carousel for Hotels NYC I looked at displays for Restaurants NYC and Pool Halls NYC in an effort to get a range of ads, organic content and different Google insertions. I then counted how many visible links there were and where they pointed. I highlighted the areas that corresponded to each link type.

Hotels NYC (click to view larger):

Hotels NYC - 1440x900 resolution - click to view larger
Hotels NYC – 1440×900 resolution – click to view larger

For the purposes of analysis I grouped the links as follows and noted the results at the bottom of each screen grab. For the hotels here are the numbers listed out:

Paid Links Pointing Offsite – 7
Paid Links Pointing Onsite to other Google products – 2
Links to Additional Google Search Results (this includes Carousel images and pins on the Map) – 30
Links to Other Free Google Products Incl Menus & Maps – 19
Links to Other Sponsored Google Products – 5
Links to Offsite (off Google) Websites – 1

Continue reading

Distinguishing the Local Carousel from the Knowledge Graph Carousel

The Knowledge Graph Carousel was first introduced in August of last year. The Local Carousel was introduced formally last week although it had been appearing regularly before that. While there are similarities between the two types of carousel, they do not return quite the same information or display and it might foster some confusion on results that one thinks should be local that are not and vice versa.

How can you tell them apart?

Here are two carousels, one of each type, for roughly the same search result (one was misspelled).

Top level search differences:

Knowledge Graph Carousel Museums NYC

Screen Shot 2013-06-23 at 8.17.38 AM

 

Local Carousel Musueums NYC

Screen Shot 2013-06-23 at 8.18.32 AM

 

Differences: The traditional Knowledge Graph Carousel typically displays logos and the right side panel is for the first, most popular result. The Local Carousel shows a map on the right side panel, typically does not display logos and does display photographs. Most importantly the Local Carousel displays Zagat rating and total reviews.

Interior view differences:

When you click into one of the results there are subtle differences as well.

Continue reading

Google Local Tidbits from LocalU and Beyond

At the last Local U Advanced we were fortunate to have two Googlers present; Joel Headley of Customer Support and Dan Pritchett, the lead engineer on the new Google Places for Business Dashboard. The environment was very open (with cameras and tweets off) and it was an incredible opportunity to get questions answered about Google Local. I picked up a few very interesting tidbits during these sessions that I can share.

– Custom Categories are going away. Except in the bulk upload environment where they can still be used (hmmm).

– The new Google Places for Business Dashboard had a recently imposed 25 business limit. But Dan Pritchett, hearing the sigh of dismay in the room, returned to Mt View and had the limit upped to 100. (wow)

– As a result of this inquiry I learned (since I don’t deal with very many service area businesses) that SABs can not use the bulk upload tool and are relegated to having to claim each listing (Thanks to Linda Buquet). Thus the 25 business limit meant endless account creation for SABs with 100 listings or more. And still does if you have more than 100. (grr)

– During LocalU I received an inquiry from a local SEO that wanted to report some spammy service area businesses but as you may or may not know, since SABs have been pulled out of MapMaker, the report a problem link does not work. The solution? (thanks to Keenan Glass for this tip.) Search for the business on the main page results and click on the “Feedback” link at the bottom of the Knowledge panel. This sends reports directly to the Google quality team rather than into MapMaker. (cool)

– Joel noted during the presentation and reiterated via post yesterday: “if you’re calling my support team for verification, have the listing’s account email posted somewhere on the website of your business”. Thus if the account is under a generic gmail account instead of the domain email Google can verify that the listing actually belongs to the account. This protects both the account holder and Google and provides them with one more tool to resolve disputes. Worried about spam? Put the information on an obscure page that isn’t indexed and as an image. (nice to know)

– And for those of you NOT in the US – Google announced that the the new Places for Business dashboard will be rolling out to new users in the following countries: Germany, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Austria, Norway, Croatia, Finland, Singapore, Switzerland, and Liechtenstein. (Liechtenstein?)

-Not related to LocalU but the link at the bottom of the 7-pack has returned although now it goes to Maps view with the list and not to the Places search (egads…what happens when you have the new Maps?)

– I also made an inadvertent discovery  as  how to allow for Google reviews on the iPhone and iPad. (Let me know via email if you need this information).

-Those that attended LocalU noted how refreshing and useful it was to actually hear from Google themselves about the realities of Local. In fact at both SMX Advanced and LocalU applause broke out spontaneously several times when the discussion of Google local support came up. Now thats a change. (Its about time. Nice to see Google finally growing up. :) )

The joke was that perhaps some day soon Matt Cutts would be referred to as the Joel Headley of Web Search.

And the required caveat: Google is one of the sponsors of LocalU (although not this one).

 

Local Carousel Ranking = Maps Ranking = Location Prominence

As Dave Rodecker pointed out the other day in his comments on the roll-out of the Local Carousel, the ranking algo that Google is using is the same location prominence algo used in the current/old Google Maps. There does not appear to be any blended/organic influences in the results that I have looked at so far and the ranking matches pin for pin in both Maps and the 7-Pack display for the same search results. This pattern has held true across every search that I have examined so far.

That being said, it is not at all clear to me that a first, left position is all that advantageous and the jury is still out as to user behaviors with this new display. It is likely that clicks will be more evenly distributed.

A comparison of Carousel, 7-Pack and Map ranking on the query "Pool Hall NY NY"
A comparison of Carousel, 7-Pack and Map ranking on the query “Pool Hall NY NY”

The implications?

1-Traditional Location prominence factors of citations, reviews, branded links etc are more important than pure web rank.

2- It also means that if you have a strong ranking web page for the same search it will also show.  And for those users that move down to the organic results that will be very important. Authorship in this context would be hugely valuable.

3- The photo is going to have a huge impact on click through.

4- Given that Google might choose a different photo than you provided it is necessary to be sure that ALL of your photos around the web are as good as possible.