Category Archives: Google+ Local

Google GMB Website Builder Beta First Look

Village Dental Care, a general, cosmetic dentistry, and orthodontic dentist in Bowral,Australia, had access to the beta trial of Google new SMB website builder pop up in their Google My Business Dashboard and their dental marketing company, Smile Marketing1 kindly shared access to the account for me to take a look at the product.

It is essentially a super simple single page website builder with very little opportunity for customization or change. Upon access to the Website tab in the GMB, it comes up with a default category specific background image and theme image:

Creation – Default View

Added Photos and Content

Photos and info are added via the standard GMB interface. There appears to be a bug where the background image, once selected does not allow replacement. If you don’t upload enough images they will replicated one of the images for display.

Theme Options

I didn’t explore these options so I can’t really speak to the specifics.

Edit Options

There are only four, very limited content areas of the page to which you can add text; Headline, Description, Summary Header & Summary body. There is no opportunity to affect title tags or meta descriptions. I did not test any limits that might be imposed on the various fields but upon re-edit there was a bug in the summary body field that doesn’t show all of the content added to the field. You can see only the first line. No ability to add links and the opportunity for spammy content is limited.


The one button publish process first asks if you want to use this as your new site at your existing URL or as a secondary site. The URL of the live site is

Live Site

Obviously there are still some quirks. I was unable to change the background image once it was added to the profile image. It self selected a segment of the profile image and did not give me control over that. Adding photos and info (basic business details) jumps the user back to the original pages of the GMB for those inputs and it feels a touch cludgey. There is no ability to control title tags or meta description tags and no ability to link out to other properties. And if it isn’t obvious there is no way to include updated content from Posts or Plus.

What isn’t clear either is how these pages are to be integrated with Maps or the Knowledge Panel.

Looking at a site command: reveals some interesting (albeit unreliable) data about the countries where the test is taking place. Obviously this at the base domain only and while the numbers that the site: command returns I think that they might be directionally correct.

  • There currently appear to be about 122,000 sites using the Google domain.
  • English language based sites are roughly 1/2 of that number.
  • And the bulk of those in English are located in India.
  • 29,000 appear to be located in Indonesia
  • Another 24,000 are in Portuguese and come from Brazil
  • Australia seems to have just a few more than 100 sites
  • Only 1300 or so are in Spanish and seem to be mostly in Mexico2

Obviously it is a large scale test clocking in north of 100k participants. And to get to that scale it must have been present for a while.

In its current form it really is more like a fully formatted profile page than a website. That being said it is significantly easier to create than a G+ page ever was and unlike G+ is fully integrated with Maps and the verification process. Although if the verification process were even simpler and didn’t require the GMB process that might be appealing and at least for this test that might be the case.2

Calling this page a website seems like a touch of overselling. But I suppose it is easier to “sell” a “free mobile website” than to sell the concept of “verify your business listing on Google”. It effectively has the same outcome for Google of allowing them to “know” the business.

But a long standing SMB issue that Google has is that there is still no compelling reason for the business to return to dashboard to engage or up-purchase an ad campaign. In that regard it would make more sense to me to integrate this and the Posts product in testing into a more compelling package. Although even that might not be enough without customers ultimately driving their engagement ala Facebook.

1 I really want to thank Village Dental Care and Smile Marketing for their assistance in this first look. I particularly want to give a hat tip to Alicia Hardy for alerting me and assisting with the details of this review.

2 This is an odd search result that I uncovered in my site: explorations. Here is the new “website” for el rincon de la hacienda in Iztapalapa, Mexico. And here is a Google brand search for that same restaurant. The local listing is not yet verified. I suppose it is conceivable that in these situations that the website creation tool exists independently of the GMB verification process?

Google Testing Website Builder Within Google My Business

Update: For a more in-depth look at the new product see: Google GMB Website Builder Beta First Look.

It seems that the day has finally come when Google is going after the many small businesses in both the developing and developed world that don’t yet have a website or at least a good mobile one. No intermidiary, no third party, this product is a a Google native web builder that looks simple and easy.

Last week the Wall Street Journal reported that Google was going to be testing a moible website building product in India. It was reported to be free and targeted to the many business that are just now starting to get online.

Apparently that product is also being tested in the Australia as well. Alicia Hardy, a marketer with Vortala, sent me a screen shot via Twitter of the product from within an Australian GMB listing.

Not much is known at this point as to which countries are in the test or the capabilities of the product but I will be asking Google for more information.

Is this a back to the future moment for Google in their battle for SMB share of mind or another miss step in their battle with Facebook and Amazon? Let me know your thoughts.

Google GMB Site Creator – Click to View larger

Yelp Dramatically Improves Mobile Search Experience*

Yesterday Google announced that they were starting to finally roll out their interstitial penalty. Meant to improve mobile user experience when accessing a site the penalty targets sites that:

  • Show a popup that covers the main content, either immediately after the user navigates to a page from the search results, or while they are looking through the page.
  • Displays a standalone interstitial that the user has to dismiss before accessing the main content.
  • Uses a layout where the above-the-fold portion of the page appears similar to a standalone interstitial, but the original content has been inlined underneath the fold.

Yelp was particularly guilty of the above the fold interstitial behaviors. In fact this is what led to my twitter tete-a-tete with Mr. Stoppleman. He suggested that I delete my account when I noted how consumer unfriendly Yelp’s attempt to drive app usage was.

Today I see that the Yelp mobile experience has dramatically improved.

* Big surprise that, despite Yelp’s complaining about the Google interstitial penalty as anti-competetive, under pressure of their own penalty, finally fixed their mobile experience. Sort of. Unfortunately while it works better from Google to the mobile web result, the Yelp Open App button always takes me to the App store rather than directly to the app.

Google Releases GMB API 3.2 with Insights

Google has update the Google GMB API to v. 3.2 this afternoon and included in the update is full access to 18 months of Insights data.

Essentially the same data currently visible in the GMB Insights is available via the API and you can now subscribe to real-time notifications for new Google Updates. This release fills one of the major gaps in the API and provides extended history of data. This will allow dashboards to do month over month comparisons as well as aggregation of multi-locaiton data. It could also be integrated with Google Anallytics in the same dashboard. Unfotunately Analytics does not itself access the data.

The calls include values for:

How customers find your listing

  • Direct queries: How many customers searched for your business name or address directly.
  • Discover queries: How many customers searched for a category, product, or service that you offer, and your listing appeared.

Where customers find you on Google

  • Views on Maps: How many customers found your business on Google Maps.
  • Views on Search: How many customers found your business on Google Search.

Customer actions

  • Visits to Website: How many customers visited your website.
  • Clicks to Phone: How many customers called your business. (This metric can be further broken down to see number of clicks by time of day and day of week.)
  • Clicks for Driving Directions: How many customers requested driving directions to your business. 

Driving Directions Requests

  • This report provides the top 10 places from which customers request driving directions  to your business location.

 All of the above metrics (with the exception of driving directions requests) may be available for the last 18 months as daily or total aggregates. Driving directions requests will only be available as an aggregate over a 7, 30, or 90 day period. Also, insights are currently limited to a batch size of 10 locations per call.

What is this api and data good for? Besides significantly more historical data you now might be able to:

  • Create month over month, quarter over quarter or y/y (once you have archived enough data*) comparisons for the location
  • Aggregate multi location data into a single overall report
  • Provide m/m, q/q or y/y view of the multi location data
  • Compare one location or more locations to other locations performance
  • Compare percentage/relative gains by location and across multiple locations
  • Consolidate this data with data from Google Analytics and other data sources into a dashboard for a better understanding of overall kpis for your locations both in aggregate and individually

This sort of data analysis would allow for a multi-location business or agencies to do split testing of marketing efforts to see which led efforts led to the greatest gains in which markets.

Essentially it means that an agency or service like Moz/Yext or a multi-location business can now build out more sophisticated analytics that allows businesses to make more data based decisions about their local marketing. About time!

From Google’s POV it will tightly integrate the GMB into the marketing efforts and mindshare of the largest multi location chains and agencies.

More information can be found in the forum, at the developer blog and in the documentation.

Releases to the API have occurred regularly every 4 to 6 months.

Google GMB V 1.0 API Becoming More Available 

Google My Business Releases V2.0 of the GMB API 

Google Releases GMB API V3.0  

Google My Business API Gets Updated to V3.1 

* I am not sure what the API Terms of Service are and whether you can save historical data beyond the 18 month window.

Bricks & Mortar Stores Getting New Local 3 Pack Treatment at Google?

It appears that Google is either broadly testing or perhaps rolling out (or maybe they did this last week and I missed it) a more visual 3 pack with fewer direct contact CTAs for bricks and mortar locations. It appears, at least for now that professionals like lawyers, doctors, insurance agents and service businesses like plumbers and locksmiths and hair dressers are still receiving the neo-classic treatment with an option to visit web site and click to call. This new 3 Pack style is similar to the restaurant 3-pack that has been around for some time.

Like most recent Google pack developments, this new style provides fewer ways for customers to move off of Google and onto the business website from the main search page. And in the absence of information like address, website url and directions forces users into the Local Finder with great frequency.

Whether this is a test or a rollout I am not quite sure but the fact that it appears on certain industry groups but not others is unusual. Are you seeing the new pack? Are you only seeing it on certain types of businesses?

Pack I am seeing for retail stores, car dealers etc
Pack I am seeing for lawyers, doctors, insurance agents, salons, plumbers and locksmtihs

Google Upgrades Mobile Restaurant Display with New Features

Google has recently rolled out a number of upgrades to their mobile restaurant search results:

  • Speedier Menu Data in an AMP like form
  • More visual card like Local Finder results
  • Addition of Happy Hours

Speedier Menu Data in an AMP like form

With the rollout of the updated Google search app, Google is starting to include AMP like menu content attached to the restaurant Knowledge Panel. This is a mobile only feature as on the desktop it still links to the menu website.

If look at this search on the desktop it shows the website menu but on mobile it takes you to a Google hosted menu page. Clearly this is part of Google’s on-going strategy to speed up mobile AND keep users on their site longer.

More visual card like restaurant Local Finder results

I spotted this yesterday but Sergey Alakov, a Toronto SEO, highlighted it on Twitter. If an interior StreetView is available that seems to show first.

Addition of Happy Hours

These were first noted in the Forum for 169 Bar in NYC with a report of them being wrong and NOT being editable in the Google My Business dashboard. It appears from conversations with Google these are primarily being scraped from bar/restaurant websites although it is also likely that Google has a 3rd party data source.

Point being, its critical that you have them in an easy to read, preferably schema, format on your site noting both regular and happy hours. Google has not indicated when they will support the direct GMB input of these hours either via direct input or possibly API. It seems that the API access is likely to show up first though.

In related news Sergey also reports that, at least in Toronto, all Knowledge Panels have been changed to a full image and no map. I have yet to see this on my mobile device or desktop.

Clearly the obvious calls to action here are to either write a review or add a photo and the ones that are most important to the business of driving directions, calling or a website visit have been somewhat reduced in visibility.

Google Pack Adds Ability To Segment Results by Rating & Hours

Sergey Alakov, an active local SEO from Toronto, just noted on Twitter that Google has finally rolled out the ability to segment all local rpack esults on both the desktop and mobile by ratings and by hours. The feature had been first spotted in tests in early September and the tests have recurred since then. It has been available for restaurants (only) since April.

The buttons drop down at the top of the Local Pack and when selected provide a view of the results within the Local finder increasing the likelihood of those folks that meet the criteria more likelihood of being seen even if they are not a top of pack result.

There currently are typically ratings and hours to choose from. Although is some verticals, like cars, there is also distance.  There may be other filters and there may be times when it varies from desktop to mobile. If you spot different filters besides ratings, hours and distance  please let me know.

If there are no ratings or only one business with ratings, like this search, then only hours are offered and no option is given to chose by rating. Likewise a search for “best” something in a city seems to occasionally remove the ratings option as well although not always.

With the advent of an increased focus on attributes it is conceivable and likely that the options for filtering will increase as well as Google gets broader and deeper attribute details. I can imagine that one of the first might be accessibility.

Obviously this new feature encourages users to look at the higher rated businesses and stay at Google longer. Google once again comes down on the side of higher rated businesses getting a leg up in the search results. It also obviously favors Google reviews and Google site visits over third party reviews site.

Here is a mobile screen shot:

Continue reading Google Pack Adds Ability To Segment Results by Rating & Hours

Google My Business Expanding Wheelchair Accessibility Attributes

When Google rolled out the ability to add attributes to single locations earlier this month, they excluded professionals from adding attributes.

I noticed yesterday that now all professionals (doctors, lawyers etc) are encouraged to add the attributes relating to wheelchair accessibility. Unfortunately this is the only attribute that they are allowed to add at this point.

Most listings for which Google knows the information have been autoupdated to include the information. This entails an alert to the business to accept the update. 

Clearly Google is looking to enhance their knowledge of the real world’s accessibility. It’s a very positive step.

Google is using the attributes to return local results indicating both the value of attributes and the importance of this particular one. See this search for:  wheelchair accessible jeweler Williamsville.  Google seems determined to understand that attribute about every business.



Google My Business Really, Really, Really Wants Your Photos – Will They Really Send You More Website Visits?

Over that past 6 months Google has gone to great lengths to get businesses to post most photos in the My Business Dashboard….

For months Google has encouraged business with the promise that (and I quote): Businesses with recent photos typically receive more clicks to their websites.

Offering up ranking gains or at least more site visits is not typical Google behavior and it seems unlikely that they would say it if they actually didn’t provide some boost. 

Click to view larger.
Google promising up more sites visits in return for some photos? Hmm….

But I just noticed these new reports (who knows when they appeared I have been paying that close of attention) in Google Insights where Google exhorts you to: Post more to stay ahead. Stay ahead of whom? Businesses like you? If you and they both have images does adding more give you some extra bump?

Click to view larger. Stay ahead of your competitor! Interesting messaging.

Just to be sure that you noticed the red cape that they are waving,  they directly compare you to some mythical cohort. And they don’t just want one photo uploaded, they want multiples over time and set up a weekly chart showing you how poorly you are doing.

Click to view larger
Of course you can’t just do it once. Keep em coming!

What is clear is that Google wants you to load more photos. They seem to be offering up ranking gains or increased exposure in return or maybe just more visits because you have photos.

Google never talks rank and yet here they are offering some sacrifices on the altar of additional data and increased engagement.

Are you going to provide you provide additional photos and do you think that it will really impact your web visits from Google?

Menu Attributes – Why Your Services Page Just Got More Important

It’s time for every business to take a second look at their services page and be sure that it is a great page that converts your local customers.

Last week Google added Attributes to the Google My Business Dashboard. Earlier this week they added the ability to add menus via the Google My Business API. They simultaneously updated the Google Guidelines to provide guidance on what is an acceptable menu and made clear that a menu of services (in addition to a restaurant menu) are welcome.

Unfortunately many businesses that offer menus do not have access to the API.

But a solution appears to be nearly at hand. Today I am seeing an option in the Google My Business to allow single locations to add a menu directly via the Card Interface for single locations via the Attribute fields:

Unfortunately as of this AM it is still throwing off an error message and doesn’t provide a field for entering the site’s menu link. Regardless it would appear that the feature is soon coming.

Giving this feature directly to the small business owner will solve one of the persistent and annoying problems that crops up in the GMB forums IF owners are given enough control over their menus AND 3rd party order options that Google auto loads. Few businesses want an outdated SingPlatform page as a default, uncontrollable link in their Knowledge Panel.

With the release of the API feature to add menus, Google updated the Google My Business Guidelines to delineate the two types of menus that can be added; food and services.

From a tactical point of view it means that the services page of any business that is offering a range of services has just become significantly more important and might become a frequented entry point to your site. Google will be linking to the “menu” page from the Local Finder and the Knowledge Panel.

Whether you are a spa, a jeweler or any business offering a range of repair or personal services you should take some time to be sure that your services page is clear, enticing and offers clear calls to action. While any page can now function as the home page due to the nature of search, some pages are more important than others. By linking to your page from local results, Google might just have elevated your services page from obscurity.

What we don’t know at this point is whether Google will limit the availability of the attribute to certain businesses or certain businesses types. As of now, while the Menu URL is visible in restaurant listings it is NOT visible among some of the service business listings that I have access to. Regardless it appears that it is likely on its way and you should take the time to enhance your services page.

Here are the guidelines vis a vis menus for restaurant and service businesses. Continue reading Menu Attributes – Why Your Services Page Just Got More Important