As many of you know I live in upstate NY about 70 miles due south of Buffalo. You may not know that I am flying home today from Denver after speaking at the Hospitality Marketing Conference.
You also know that there has been a boatload of snow in Buffalo and that people have died. And that the storms are continuing. You may not know that most snow fall throughout all of Western New York is caused by the lake affect of the cold westerlies passing over Lake Erie, picking up moisture and then dropping snow in very narrow west-east bands. These bands are often only a mile or two wide north to south so if you get through it is often clear on the other side.
You probably know that a number of roads have closed in the Buffalo area and that includes the major north south routes that parallel the lake that I take to get home, routes 400 and 219. You probably don’t know that the airport is open and only got a few inches of snow and that where I live in Allegany, NY 70 miles south of Buffalo is about 10 miles outside of the snow belt and also has very little snow.
As I was getting ready to start my day, I was wondering if there was a route home from the airport that somehow avoided the many road closures and perhaps navigated to the east of most of the snowfall. I checked both Apple Maps and Google Maps and got two very different but interesting answers.
You also probably know that I would rather spend the night in my own bed rather than in Buffalo tonight. Or maybe not. It will be interesting to see “ground truth” when I land this evening.
Accurate driving directions obviously can be a matter of life or death. Heading off into a serious winter storm can be dangerous but sometimes it makes sense. Google says no go, but Apple could very well be correct in this situation.
I am not sure if I will test the directions to find out. Although if you live or work near the Buffalo Airport I would love to hear from you.
Update: After battling Waze with its overly invasive privacy settings, it surprisingly confirmed Apple’s routing. Curious that Waze, which is owned by Google and often supplies data to Google Maps, is not used in this situation.
Some thoughts & observations on the new [Hamburger] Pak from Google which for now, like the Carousel, is US only.
1-The local carousel is still in use and shows when you select a result delivered by “People also search for” in a 7-pack result. Will we soon see its demise as well? Currently Google shows five competitors, not three, below the brand Knowledge Graph. Not sure how that would work with the new [Hamburger] Pak.
2-Obviously that question raises the related question of whether the traditional 3/7 Pack is on the future chopping block as well. The new Pak targets the same leisure and entertainment activities as the carousel; music, hotels, restaurants etc. These “do and see” experiences are both more popular in local search and likely to be more profitable to Google than the results returned with “traditional” Pack results. The Local carousel, introduced in June, 2013, had a time to death of little more than 16 months. And since its inception there has been the general belief that the traditional pack would be replaced. I guess it will, someday. Or not.
3-The new Pak is consistent with both Google’s material design language and mobile first approach. The design even lifts the hamburger menu icon from the mobile design arena.
4-Like the carousel before it, there is no phone #, address or map associated with the display of the listing in the [Hamburger] Pak. To see those things it is necessary to click through to the Knowledge Panel. And if you want to see the details of another listing it is necessary to go back out and then in again. This is one of the worst local users experiences that Google has rolled out to the desktop in a long time. It really should not be that difficult to ferret out a phone number or see comprehensive information for a list of results.
5-This contrasts to the mobile experience. Once you choose Map view on a phone, and view any given equivalent of the Knowledge Panel display, you can swipe forward and backward to easily move through the full details of any single listing. It still makes the phone number too many steps away. What is mobile all about if not clicking to call?
6-One of the biggest changes from my POV is the loss of diversity in the display. The carousel, even though it was ranked, showed no obvious rank in its horizontal display and essentially made position 5 as valuable & visible as position 1. It was relatively easy to scroll to see spots 10-20. This display picks 3 winners and makes those in position 4-10 significantly less visible.
7-In about 3-4% of keyword searches where one would predict that the new [Hamburger] Pak would show, Google showed a branded One or three Pack instead. Obviously the brand predilection of Hummingbird and Pigeon is still in play and is no way affected by this.
8-On “average” screen sizes on the desktop, there is little else that can be seen besides ads and the new Pak. Thus in many search results that return a new Pak, only 3 listings are returned. If there are two ads at the top then only 2 results are visible above the fold.
9-I would love to hear what happens to web traffic for the directory type sites that seemed to be doing well when shown below the Carousel. Clearly this was prime space for TripAdvisor, Yelp etc and this can not have been good for their traffic. In unpublished user research that I did, a number of users would flat out ignore the carousel and move right to a branded website like TA or Yelp. I doubt that behavior persists with this display.
10-Interestingly even though the new [Hamburger] Pak almost always returns at the first position after the ads, it doesn’t always do so. In the searches done so far that trigger the new Pak, it shows at position two, following either images, an answer box or a web result with site links about 4% of the time with no geo modified queries (2% of overall queries). The non geo modified queries are obviously more ambiguous than the geo-modified ones and it makes sense that Google might slot something above the Pak. .While is hard and rare, it does seem possible to “dislodge” the new Pak. Images, answer boxes, really strong web site and, of course, branded results all do so.
On “average” screen sizes on the desktop, there is little else that can be seen besides ads and the new Pak. Thus in many search results that return a new Pak, only 3 listings are returned. If there are two ads at the top then only 2 results are returned. And in the case of hotels those are monitized. Thus 100% of the area above the fold is monetized.
This is screen capture on a 1440 x 900 display. 62% of all users have this size display or smaller displays. Even on a very large display there are only 2 additional “organic” results.
Unlike the ads that do take a user to a website, these results take users back to Google. Thus the only way to get measurable traffic is via Adwords if you are in a leisure type industry that returns the new Pak. This is certainly one way to filter out the cesspool that is the internet.
Perhaps it is time that we begin to think of Google as an ad engine that also returns some search results.
The new carousel replacement, like the carousel, shows for entertainment and recreational searches. This entertainment pack almost always (but not quite always) starts at position one right below any ads. I wanted to see which terms that previously showed the Carousel were now showing the new Entertainment Pack.
I ran 100 searches with my location set to New York, NY (to be sure that there was always enough inventory) and searched on 50 terms both with and without NYC as a geo modifier.
33 of the 50 geo modified search terms now showed the entertainment pack instead of the carousel. Of the Non Geo modified terms 29 now showed the new pack. Thus of the 100 searches that originally showed carousels, 52% were showing the new display. Of the 48 that weren’t showing the new pack, 17 were showing a traditional pinned pack of some sort (1,3, 5 and 7). Of those 17, 5 appeared to be branded packs results.
In 3 of the 100 searches performed, the new Entertainment Pack showed in position two on the page. So while it usually shows in the first position below the ads, that is not always case. Once it showed below a definition, once below an image result and once below a website result with site links. This was the case only on non geo modified queries.
Ypou are welcome to test some of the terms that generated the original carousel to see if they are now generating the new Enterntainment Pack. Here is the spreadsheet with the search phrases.
Update 7:00: Greg Sterling notes that Google has confirmed that this is now being rolled out.
Per James Gibbons and Brady Callahan on Twitter, Google is testing another variation of their Carousel Replacement. I was able to see the test in Safari on my Mac but not in Chrome or Firefox. Mileage may vary.
It is similar to the display first seen in August but with three differences. One, the display is only showing at position 1 of the organic results and two, there is no embedded map.
The striking third difference though is that when you click through one of the list results you are presented with only a Knowledge Panel that appears dead center in the results and not off to the side. Depending on the KP content, virtually all other information can appear below the fold.
Last night I saw the same test being run on Safari for the iPhone.
Google is in the middle of a transition for bulk users from the Places Bulk dashboard to the My Business Bulk dashboard. Like the single location transition before this, it is frustrating and appears to a bulk user in the old dashboard to move excruciatingly slow*.
But the technical aspects of the transition are not easy, even for Google. This transition is made even harder by the vast difference in “ownership” rules between the old and the new dashboard and the many states that any given listing (let alone a group of bulk listings) might be in.
Under the old Bulk environment, bulk data was viewed as a data feed not as an actual “ownership” privilege. Google would accept data from all verified comers and essentially publish the most recent or most trusted data. Any given location might have been verified in multiple bulk and individual dashboards that could have been both historic and current. This led to massive conflicts between franchisors and franchisees and between owners and management groups. It was not helpful in a large number of settings.
In this new environment an agency could make the primary claim, each brand could have access to and manage their own listings and the store manager or franchisee could still control and enhance any specific or group of locations. It might even lead to a situation where Franchisors and Franchisees can actually get along and team up to manage their listings (god forbid). I do think that it is a harbinger of a social future where the best companies will figure out how to share responsibilities for the most productive outcomes in local
Here is a schematic of a current possible bulk “arrangement” with me being the owner and allocating management privileges to either regular or Plus Google accounts via a single Business account:
But this is a simple scenario that doesn’t begin to demonstrate some of the possible combinations of management that can account for more complex real world situations which the new Business accounts can handle
In this following example a single company that owns multiple brands (for example KFC and Taco Bell) can distribute management privileges at both the bulk and even the individual store location levels:
Likewise, a similar construct might apply across departmental or regional responsibilites. An example of this might be Sears and Sears Auto Centers:
Google has just announced several updates to the mobile capabilities of My Business.
Business Owners can now respond to reviews via the MyBusiness mobile app (Android today, iOS very soon)
Call Analytics from within MyBusiness – this was a feature that was rolled out temporarily last month, but is now (permanently) available in mobile and desktop analytics.
Another major feature just rolled out is the ability to receive active notifications of newly received reviews within Google Android App. This feature appears to also be imminent but not yet released on the desktop.
According to Google help files: Every time you get a new review on Google, you’ll get a notification in the top right corner of Google My Business. You’ll also get notifications on your phone if you’ve installed the Google My Business app.
This system uses the G+ notification system so it appears that you can toggle on email notification if you so desire. I am attempting to confirm that as the feature is not yet showing in my settings panel
Concurrently, Google is releasing AdWords Express to 20 additional countries. Adwords Express has continued to improve on the client side, offering better value than originally and apparently, given this broad rollout, is providing Google with the success that they were looking for as well.
Moses and Rooth Attorneys at Law is a two location criminal defense practice with one office in central Orlando and one in New Smyrna Beach on the coast. I wanted to do a visual mapping comparison of pre and post Pigeon impacts like I did with Barbara Oliver Jewelry & Co. to see the impact of Pigeon both locally and regionally and to see how these changes were distributed geographically. I examined the period from July 27th to October 25th and compared it to a similar length period that ended July 26th.
Being in a bigger city than Barbara and having two locations, I thought it might offer an interesting comparison for better understanding Pigeon.
On the surface the post Pigeon report card for Moses and Rooth was not good, showing overall web traffic and web traffic in the state of Florida both showing a decrease of sessions in -10.5% range.
However all was not bad. When you dig in and look at a more granular level you find that in Orlando sessions were up 23.93% and in New Smyrna Beach they were up 45.45%. In their greater metro area of Orlando-Daytona Beach-Melbourne FL Metro traffic was down 1.73%. About even.
When you look at the change across cities you see a chart that is very similar to Barbara Oliver’s.
There is however a difference. In both cities where Moses and Rooth have their office located they saw an increase in traffic. In some sense, I think that this was what Pigeon was all about. As Google has gained a better understanding of searcher location on the desktop, they have increased localization of searches increasing the likelihood that those searchers closer to the business have an increased chance of seeing that business. This isn’t so much about proximity to a centroid as proximity to the searcher.
It makes sense that Google would reduced visibility of Moses and Rooth across Florida but increase their visibility in the specific markets in which they reside. It also appears that while out of market traffic was down, in market traffic was about flat.
While this might reduce some opportunities for Moses and Rooth, it frees up Google local search inventory for other businesses that are closer to the searcher as Google currently understands it. Thus if you are located within an area where more searches are taking place (i.e. dense urban centers) you will have likely improved your specific local traffic but you may have lost more regional traffic for which you were showing. As Adam Dorfman pointed out in SearchEnginland, this may not result in increased conversions. Although I don’t think that will always be the case. It would be business, location and searcher dependent. It appears to be much more complex than just a proximity to centroid issue.
Here is a view of the change by city data plotted geographically. Note that their offices are the Black pins and that while their cities of office location showed the biggest increases some nearby cities showed some decreases:
Update: We have sold out of the early bird ticket special. Stay tuned.
The most comprehensive and advanced Local Search conference.
Advanced LocalU is the only conference of its kind and provides you with the knowledge and tools you need to help your business and the businesses of your clients to prosper in local search. It focuses solely on issues, techniques and practices in the local search marketing space.
For the inaugural event in 2015 we are partnering with Moz to make the event even better and are calling the joint event: LocalUp.
Take advantage of early bird pricing! The first 25 tickets at $200 off registration.
Local U Subscribers: $699 $499
General Admission: $999 $799
This first Advanced LocalU of 2015 is a private event where we will debut all-new material. The details of the agenda are being planned now and will be released in the Thanksgiving timeframe. But they are shaping up to provide an incredible day.
Presenters will include the Local U regulars (David Mihm, Mike Blumenthal, Aaron Weiche, Mary Bowling, Ed Reese, Will Scott, Mike Ramsey) PLUS Darren Shaw, Dana DiTomaso, folks from Google, Rand Fishkin and Dr. Pete Meyers of Moz.
You’ll enjoy a great setting, concise presentations, plenty of Q & A time & complete access to the presenters.
Join all of the Local U regulars and their colleagues as they share their insights, tactics and resources. Nothing is held back!
PS There will only 25 tickets available at the rate of $499/$799 rate. To get the lower rate you need to be a member of either the Local U Forum or Moz.
PPS The Local U forums cost $129/mo and the first month is only $59 so if you are planning to attend this conference you can save between $300 and $500 by becoming a member. You will be glad you did.
PPPS If you miss out on this special you will still be eligible for the regular LocalU forum subscriber rate of $699 (a $300 savings). So join the Local U forums now and then head over to the LocalUp sign up page to save your spot at the best local search conference in 2015.
Justin Mosebach an Internet Marketing professional with YDOP – Internet Marketing just sent in the very helpful tip for Apple’ Maps Connect:
Interestingly, if the phone call with the code doesn’t work the first time, you have to wait 1 minute until you re-try it. If that next try doesn’t work, you have to wait 5 minutes until the next try (and then 25 minutes after that).
However, I discovered a trick that if you log out and log back in, the wait time goes away and you can immediately try again.
After trying around 9am (with no success), I was able to claim our listing a few minutes ago. You just have to wait like 5-10 minutes or more for the call to come through with the verification code. I assume it’s slow because of everyone and their uncle trying to do this at the same time.
I was not given any type of option to verify the listing by an email address with the same domain as the business (as the Search Engine Land article alluded to).