October 30, 2013
Last Thursday, Google shifted the pack display (Blended Results) from mostly blended with large pins to the smaller pin display (Map Packs) with locally driven ranking (ie Maps order) rather than organic driven ranking. Last night they switched (thanks to Nicolai Helling) the display of the pack back to a larger pinned display. So far at least, Google has retained the local, map based rankings rather than driving the results order from organic rank (Blended Map Insertions). The switch last week and the switch last night were apparently world wide.
Because the blend is not occurring, home (authority) pages are still able to show as a separate organic result in the SERPS and not be merged into the local result. Because the current results are not blending you are also NOT seeing author tag or title tags integrated into the local result.
This type of display (Blended Map Insertions), looking like blended results but being primarily based on Maps order, have been ever present over the past two years constituting roughly 24% of pinned results. They were seen mostly in the restaurant searches and to some extent in the locksmith searches. Today at least they are displaying at 100%.
The positioning of the pack under blended results typically started anywhere in the first four results. With the current state of the local display most of the pack results are inserted at postition four. In a small sample of ten searches, eight started at position 4, one search started at position 2 and one started at position 6. I assume that a larger search sample would show a similarly broad distribution with the bulk of pinned results starting at position 4.
Are Blended Results going away? If you had asked me yesterday I would have said yes. Today, I am not sure so of anything other than that we are in the midst of both display and ranking shakeups and where it will settle is anyone’s guess. Its hard to know exactly what is going on and even more so why. This change which started last Thursday seems to be continuing.
Nicolai pointed out in the comments that Branded searches for multi location entities, that have been shown as the small Map Packs forever, are also now using this same format:
October 25, 2013
Yesterday Google has once again announced an upgrade to their self serve Offers product.
Ok that isn’t that interesting in itself given the long (it is almost as old as I am) and mostly invisible history of Google’s couponing product but there are some interesting aspects to this upgrade. Besides an easier, slicker to use set up process, the changes that could be significant are the move to performance based pricing and the promise of improved distribution
For the first time Google is charging for the product and making claims about the number of times that it will be downloaded. The pricing model is a pay per download instance. In the coupon I set up, Google is estimating that the Offer will be downloaded between 120 and 160 times per month for a cost of $30 at a cost between $.19 and $.25 per download.
Is it $.19 or is it $.25? It is not at all clear if the pricing is somehow bid based or fixed and more transparency in this arena would be useful. The product retains a free pricing option which one assumes will mean less aggressive distribution or perhaps none if there is a paid coupon alternative. This also reinforces Google’s developing fremium approach to it’s SMB products.
An Offer, highly visible in the new Maps, will be taking on increased visibility in the upcoming Plus page update and retains visibility in Google’s Offers search engine (who knew right?). What is different in this release is the fact that since you are paying, Google will be motivated to highlight the inventory more and has a direct stake in the resultant outcome. Whether the increased visibility in the new Maps is enough to get the kinds of views they are hoping for is unclear, at least you won’t be paying unless the coupon is actually downloaded.
When a user saves an Offer they recieve an email copy of it and are encouraged to download the Android or iPhone Offers App. If they do so they will get geofenced notifications, alerting them that they are near the location of the coupon provider. At least on the iPhone side, the app has very little visibility and low distribution minimizing the value of that feature. It would make more sense to me to use Google Maps and the Plus apps to increase mobile visibility.
Google self serve Offers (aka Coupons) has been Google’s ugly step child of products. Like that step child that sits on the couch watching TV all day and that you can’t bring yourself to kick out the door, self serve Offers has somehow avoided the hatchet over the years despite its long and
storied sorry history buried in the bowels of local.
The current version of the product was introduced as a beta in the Places Dashboard and in May, 2012 but it has existed in a very similar state since its introduction in 2006 . Offers was strictly a self serve, free, stand along coupon, Places based product until April, 2011 when Google rolled out a full blown competitor to Groupon that they also named Offers. The self serve coupon version has stayed in beta as a free product with caveats and with minor upgrades since that time. The main caveat noted at last year’s major refresh was that “Currently, you can create offers from within your Google Places account at no cost during this limited time trial period. You will be notified about pricing details before the trial period concludes.”
The bugaboo with Coupons/Offers has always been distribution. Or rather the lack of it. The coupon inventory has always been buried deep in a custom search engine or lost on a Plus (Places) page. As such, it never has had much adoption by either the public or SMBs. I always thought that it was just one front page placement away from success. Perhaps some day it will make it to the big leagues. In the meantime, it seems that Google is planning on keeping this step child around for a bit longer and hopefully bragging about it to at least the relatives if not the neighbors.
These new Offers can be created in any of the local management environments (Old Dashboard, New Dashboard, + Page for Local, Android Places Dashboard App) but appears to be rolling out now so it may not be visible in all dashboards.
Here are screen shots of how a self serve offer is created and of the end user email notification: (more…)
October 23, 2013
Google is testing a new enhanced “card” layout for the About page on local listings. The new layout, visible to me in Firefox only, was pointed out by Mary Kelly Gaebel of ADP.
The big difference is that the page now can be displayed in either a single, two or three column layouts depending on browser window width as opposed to the current fixed two column display. Reviews will now follow the same columnar structure as the rest of the page and will not be limited to a current one column display. While this view is not yet visible in mobile, one assumes that if the view were to become universal it would likely push to mobile as well.
The page adds three iconic based calls to action near the top; review, directions & photos. The review summary has been moved up the page and photos have been moved down the page. Geo information including street address, category, hours, description and map are now consolidated into a single card near the top titled “Contact Information. “Similar Places” from around the web no longer show and “reviews from around the web” have been moved up the page to be nearer the top.
The real question about this change is why here, why now. The About Page of the local listing has become virtually inaccessible on Google. Since reviews were pushed to the front page and Places search was replaced with a the new Google Maps, it takes searchers anywhere from 2 to 4 clicks to get to the page. I am confident that visitation has plummeted. It is hard to understand a visual makeover of this page when there appears (at least to an outsider) that there are so many other more critical issues to deal with… Makes one think of Nero fiddling while Rome is burning.
Here is a screenshot of the three column width view (click to view larger):
September 26, 2013
Lot’s has been happening at LocalU. We have an advanced LocalU coming up Monday in NYC that has just 5 seats left. If you do sign up be sure to use the discount code WS-LUA10 for 10% off. If you are already signed up be sure to reach out to me and introduce yourself.
We will be announcing our (very busy) winter & spring speaking schedule shortly and it looks like we will be in Dallas, Springfield (MA), Valley Forge, Harrisburg and hopefully the Cupertino area (and perhaps a few more places as well). We are now scheduling for May and the fall of 2014 so if you are interested in having us come to your city, let us know.
We hope to have our full video tape of the LocalU advanced session in Seattle available for purchase shortly and some other cool content as well. We will keep you posted.
We have been busy at the LocalU blog as well with some great articles over the past few months that you might have missed:
Where Should a New Business Create a Listing: Google+ Page or Google Places for Business Dashboard? - Mike Blumenthal
The Real Truth About SEO & Call Tracking - Mary Bowling
Is Your Website Ready for the Holidays? - Mary Bowling
What Kind of Google+ Page Is It? – A Visual Guide to Google+ Local Pages - Mike Blumenthal
How Long Should Your Business Description Be in the Google Places for Business Dashboard? - Mike Blumenthal
Have You Tried Google Support for Local Lately? - Mary Bowling
How To Segment Local Search In Google Analytics (with Free Dashboard!) - Ed Reese (I particularly like the free dashboard that Ed created that gives some incredible insights into where your local visitors are coming from. And what is better than free?).
There will be light postings next week due to travel. I hope to see you in NYC next week.
September 25, 2013
We have just upgraded the Google Places Category tool with categories for the new dashboard from:
UK - United Kingdom contributed by Andrew Loy, Occupancy Marketing
NL - Netherlands contributed by Eduard de Boer
FR - France contributed by Ken Fagan
Aus - Austria contributed by Petra Kraft
IT - Italy contributed by Andrea Scarpetta
CA - Canada contributed by Darren Shaw
Norway has been contributed by Aleksander Steinsvik, Crosspath Media but is not yet loaded.
Here are the countries that have been added to the new dashboard for which I do not yet have categories and am asking for volunteers:
||United Arab Emirates
If you would like your 15 seconds of fame and a link and live in one of the above countries here are the instructions to gather the categories from the new dashboard (obviously I wold appreciate it if you sent them along):
September 24, 2013
Update 9/28: I had myself taken off as a manager of Barbara’s page and my review instantly lost the notice and showed back up on the listing.
Historically at Google Local, if a review triggered the spam filter, the reviewer would still see the review associated with the business if they were logged in and other users would not. The reviewer would have no clue as to why the review wasn’t showing.
This “technique” for handling “spammy” reviews led to many, many posts in the forums inquiring about why a given review wasn’t showing. Google has now implemented at least a modicum of communication in this regard and is tagging flagged reviews with an alert.
Is this enough communication and enough transparency? I would suggest that while it is better than before it still misses the mark.
1) Google has chosen to make the announcement in a users review section which I assume is infrequently visited
2)The complaints are still coming into the forum with regularity
3)The explanation given provides little in the way of helping the user understand what is going on if they do happen to see the notice.
My review of Barbara Oliver & Co. Jewelry was flagged because I am a manager of her G+ Page. Perhaps a legitimate reason to not show the review but if I were to read the help file that would not be at all clear.
Filtering reviews is a difficult dance between users and a complicated algo that is at best imperfect at identifying spam. Google has always erred on the side of opacity to prevent spammers from learning too much about their techniques.
The problem with that approach is that spammers figure it out anyways and regular users and businesses are inevitably punished. This occurs without any understanding of how or why on their part. Yelp, while imperfect in many things, handles their spam classification in a much more transparent way that while not ideal at least does a better job of communicating to the reviewer that their review will not be displayed. I believe that Google could learn from that example and with some careful thought do even better at solving this problem.
September 20, 2013
Once a listing in the Places Dashboard has been upgraded to G+ Page social functionality, Google inextricably intertwines the listing with the social Page with both (mostly) positive and (some) negative effects. For example deleting the G+ Page will now delete the Dashboard listing and changing owners of the Page will transfer ownership of the listing.
Google has just announced that this also means that you can add managers to a listing in the Dashboard:
Update – September 19
Starting on September 19, new Places dashboard users with upgraded local Google+ pages will be able to invite other users to manage the page. You can read more about admin roles for pages here.
Please note that only pages that have been upgraded to have social features will have this multiple manager functionality. Owners of eligible pages will be able to invite others to manage a page, or remove other managers.
To add a manager:
- 1.From the listing dashboard, click on the gear icon on the upper right and select Manage listing access.
- 2. Select Add Managers and enter in the email address of the desired new manager.
Please note that managers must accept the invitation via email before being able to manage a page.
To remove a manager:
- From the listing dashboard, click on the gear icon on the upper right and select Manage listing access.
- Click on the X associated with the person you’d like to remove.
Please note that removing a manager means that account will no longer be able to edit, post, or act as the page. That account’s former actions will remain intact.
To transfer ownership:
- From your listing dashboard, click the gear icon in the upper-right corner of your screen and choose Manage listing access.
- Click dropdown arrow on the card for the Manager you’d like to promote to Owner, and select Transfer ownership to…
This integration of functionality is the fruition of the vision that most in the industry had when Google first rolled out the G+ Pages for local in 2012. It has been a long time in coming and we are still waiting for many existing old Dashboards to be converted.
Meanwhile Google has slowly and steadily been adding new countries to the list where new claimants will be directed to the new dashboard automatically. Those include: Russia, India, Mexico, Ukraine, South Africa, Israel, Malaysia, Indonesia, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Greece, Slovakia, Korea, Egypt, Morocco, Japan, Brazil, Argentina, Taiwan, Colombia, Chile, Hungary, Romania, the Philippines, Poland, Bulgaria, Hong Kong, Pakistan, Kenya, and Macau.
There is still work to be done by Google, like upgrading the bulk upload and integrating it into the new Dashboard but these new changes seem to imply that that upgrade will occur sooner or later. Having recently transferred some clients from Bulk to the new Dashboard in an effort to speed data updates, I have found that the interface, while not quite as fast to work with as the Bulk interface, has potential to get to that point.
Compared to the incredibly confused mishegas that is the G+ Page management interface, the Dashboard is a pleasure to work in and with. Essentially now any new business can work in either the dashboard or the G+ Pages management interface and expect the exact same outcomes for their local data. I would, for a number of reasons, suggest that going the Places for Business Dashboard route is the preferable choice. For more details on this logic see my most recent post at LocalU.org: Where Should a New Business Create a Listing: Google+ Page or Google Places for Business Dashboard?
September 19, 2013
The question is: what are the implications of this for local marketing? Will the post get more pages views and thus rise in Google search? Will it drive traffic to Google and away from your site? Or it will allow for more engagement on your site and the opportunity to both track and convert clients?
Yesterday I posted my Web Equity Infographic there and it generated a fair bit of conversation so I am embedding it here as an example and trying to wrap my head around the importance of this.
What will the search implications be of replicating here? Your thoughts?
September 18, 2013
When a new social network takes off I inevitably read about how one should abandon (your pick) blogging/website/other social platforms and solely write via the incredible new platform (again you pick) G+, Tumblr, Medium.
I also recently received this comment from am attendee at the last LocalU Advanced after having a correspondence about the importance of a website in local search:
Despite what you say, IF the website is still considered to be important, you my friend do not write about it!
Perhaps I don’t speak of the importance of your website frequently enough or loudly enough. I sometimes get tired of hearing myself talk.
But to both of these commentators I say: Make your website and your blog the center of your marketing strategy and don’t give it up. Be on any and every social platform but use them to build the long term equity of properties that you control. Then you will realize the full potential of online marketing in the local space.
In that vein I have updated my Web Equity Graphic to reflect my view of how a small business should focus their online marketing efforts. Feel free to share this graphic with your colleagues and clients. The embed codes can be found here.
Web Equity by Mike Blumenthal is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at www.blumenthals.com.
Here is my thinking on why I included what I did. I would love your feedback on both the graphic and copy with suggestions for missing pieces and possible improvements.
September 17, 2013
With the help of Darren Shaw of Whitespark, we have recently added the list of Canadian categories from the new Google Places for Business Dashboard to our searchable Google Places Category Tool.
The new Places for Business Dashboard is country specific and the categories that one sees are IP & country specific. Thus I need to ask your help in gathering the categories for the countries that now have the new dashboard.
If you would like to volunteer 10 minutes of your time to help me gather categories in one of the following countries to which you have access please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will send you instructions. Not much glory in this job besides public recognition, a link and knowing that you have helped others better understand Google Places.
Countries for which I need help obtaining the category list: