In July of 2015, Google rolled out a test in the Bay Area of their Home Service Ad that used “extreme vetting” of local plumbers & locksmiths. In October & November of 2016 they started testing a less extreme Advanced Verification and a purge of the local listings for any plumber or locksmith that didn’t have a storefront or meet their increased scrutiny as a local service area business. With this they rolled out additional front page map based pack like local ad units and/or started selling pack visibility.
Google’s tests in San Diego initially dropped just less than 90% of the locksmith listings from the local database and Maps. While some of those dropped have made their way back into Google Maps, the number of listings in that market declined significantly. As part of the move to Advanced Verification, Google has rolled out a number of new test ad units based on this verification.
According to Google the test of Advanced Verification in Los Angeles has started this week and by end of the month any locksmith or plumber not meeting the criteria will be purged from Google Local.
Like in San Diego ad shown above the HSA will be a “blended unit” and will include both advertisers who passed verification and that pay as well as those that passed but did not pay. Those paying will receive “additional benefits” like the Google guarantee.
Also like in the San Diego test and the ad shown above, service area businesses will be removed from the 3-pack and only businesses with a storefront will be shown in the Local Pack. Bricks and mortar locksmiths & plumbers are eligible to purchase an ad in the HSA unit and can thus be shown twice.
Apparently the verification process being used in Los Angeles will be easier. Some locksmiths and plumbers were “pre-verified” based on available information and no action was required on their part. The application for those not pre-verified has also been shortened.
By mid February the Home Service Ad unit will launch in LA and on Feb 27th listings that have not advanced verified will start to be removed.
Apparently, Google is now partially supporting temporary business closures with a process and an appropriate messaging on the business Knowledge Panel.
Currently there is no public facing interface for this and the only way to get this done is to create a post in the Google My Business Forum with full business details and then get a top contributor to escalate the problem.
It requires that the business be closed for more than 2 weeks and that their website clearly supports the closure. Note that the change is only currently visible in the Knowledge Panel but that in Maps the business will still be shown as permanently closed. Here is a location showing that status:
Thibault Adda, the Internet Marketing Coordinator at Roar! Internet Marketing in Altamont Springs, FL, shared an interesting search result with me.
Google is apparently testing a new, direct to the Knowledge Panel call to action from local business owners. It is similar to, but different than the Google Posts (aka Podium, aka the product that shall not be named) that allows businesses to post directly to their branded search results. This KP Posting product posts directly the Knowledge Panel directly above Reviews from the web.
The test is currently visible on this search for Theme Park Connection in Orlando.
The current iteration seems only half baked as a click on the call to action to learn more takes the user to driving directions. Unlike Google Posts, this product seems to be more commercial in nature and includes discounts, pricing and a call to action. Those behaviors were explicitly prohibited in the Google Posts tests.
Update: I did confirm from Google that this is a follow test for the Google Posts platform with different positioning and a more liberal approach to commercial messaging.
It is not clear how wide spread the test is, whether its available beyond local businesses or within other types of Knowledge Panels. It is also not clear whether it is intended to be free and an ad unit.
Yesterday, David Mihm highlighted an article in his Tidings Newsletter about a dentist that had legally changed his last name from Draper to Better so that he could change his practice name to Better Dental and rank better. Matt Marko pointed out the “shortsightedness in his leaving the obvious opening for Dr. Best”.
At GetFiveStars I just penned a post: Can 5-Star Reviews Backfire? And based on research published in the Harvard Business review I think it very likely that having a review profile that is “too perfect” can be bad for business.
Ive just logged into my account to see that there is no longer a contact us under the support tab. It just states “Need More Help?” and that does not let me fill out a form to contact and a “Send Feedback”. Have they cut off phone support for us who need it?
Well all support is not lost but it sure has been buried very deeply within the bowels of the Google My Business Center and signs seem to be pointing towards a desire to cut down on support phone calls.
Even after the public form was removed two weeks ago you could still go into the GMB, select support from the drop down and fairly quickly both find the correct button to get a call back.
Google now seems to hasve buried it at least two levels deeper and offered fewer support choices.
Here is the new instructions I wrote to now find it:
To get in touch with Google My Business Support ou need to:
1- log into your Google my business dashboard http://www.google.com/mybusiness
2- select support from upper left hamburger menu
3- a help screen will appear to the right
4- It used to be just a scroll down to contact us
5- But now you have to dig into the specific problem
6- Click though to the appropriate help page
7- Read the help page and then
8- Scroll to the bottom of the page and choose most appropriate contact method for you (some are not always available)
At the end of that path, once you dig deep enough, you MIGHT see something like a contact request at the bottom of the help page. I did see one screen that offered a call back but after hitting it once, it disappeared on me. So while I think they may still offer limited call backs, the availability seems to have been dramatically decreased.
Could this be a bug in their support or a fluke in the phone system? Sure. I am waiting to hear whether these are mistakes or intentional actions to reduce call volume. I fear the latter.
This week’s Deep Dive at LocalU, with Mary Bowling and myself, looks at the data behind a discussion between by myself and David Mihm for StreetFight magazine about Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and local.
We dig into the details of a case study for a single location and ask the questions:
What are the critical KPI’s for a location-based business?
How can you measure conversion?
Where do new customers come from?
Join us at LocalU for the video and a complete transcript!
Google has significantly upgraded the interface and functionality of the photos section within the My Business Dashboard.
The new interface replaces the arbitrary categories with tags and allows for a simpler interface for the cover photo, the profile photo and a business’s logo. Although there is no ability to add custom tags, it is a simpler and easier interface that the previous one.
While the profile photo interface is easy to use, it is still not clear whether Google will use that photo or override it with their algo based preferences.
In addition the interface surfaces customer uploaded photos so that a business can see what user generated content exists without the trouble of going into Maps. They do not yet allow inappropriate photos to be reported or removed via the interface but one can hope.
Photos come pre-tagged in set categories. It behooves you to scan each tag result as there are the occasional errors. To edit the tag simply click into the image and select the info button upper right to change the tag. As noted there is no custom tagging at this point.
Click the info icon in the far upper right and the info panel will appear allowing for easily retagging the photo
Deleting a photo is equally simple. Just select the trash can. Google will then confirm the deletion.
In a recent case study, I found that 70% of web based actions leading to a sale occurred on Google, either in the Knowledge Panel, Maps or the search result. Photos seem to play a huge roll in both the first impression and the subsequent user action. Google research (found here in pdf) has indicated significant click through improvements on listings with photos vs those without:
Having great photos is one controllable step that can facilitate that initial client interaction. With this improved interface there is no reason not to take advantage of this bump.
Update: As a note different business types and different photos generated different tags. Given that I have not seen Local Guides asked about these I assume that they are machine learning generated. And I also assume that they will be editable when Google has in place a way to prevent abuse. Continue reading Google My Business Photos 3.0 Launches→