April 16, 2013
We have upgraded the Google Places for Business Category tool and added our categories from the recently released, new Google Places for Business Dashboard.
The new list is designated as Google English (US) (PfB) to distinguish it from the list for the old and still predominant dashboard. Note that the new categories themselves DO NOT have synonyms in the new dashboard but where there was a 1 to 1 match with the old category we have added them from the existing list to facilitate searching.
We have also made the country selection default to the previous country choice selected to make additional searches easier.
In analyzing the category differences between the two lists, the most obvious change was some clean up work with a number of plural categories having been removed. Approximately 243 categories were removed from the old list. These were mostly either plurals of already existing categories or non-compliant categories. An example of the former was the removal of the category “bakeries” while the category “bakery” remained. An example of the later was the category “rv”. Here is the complete list of categories removed in ascii text: in-old-not-in-new1.
There were 88 additional, non restaurant categories added to the new Google Places for Business list: in-new-not-in-old-others1.
Some were minor changes like “personal injury attorney” became “personal injury lawyer”. Some were cleaned up to be in compliance with the Google Quality Guidelines standards. For example “jewelry” became “jewelry store”.
Given the clean up in some categories, it was odd to still see newly added categories that do not comply with the Category guidelines like beauty, car rental. culture, hair care, laundry and logistics showing up in the new list.
The biggest change in the new list, as I have noted previously, was the inclusion of 168 new restaurant categories, many of which are quite unusual like “kushiage and kushiyaki restaurant” or “okonomiyaki restaurant”. Here is the list new restaurant types added: in-new-not-in-old-restaurants1.
Regardless, the restaurant list is intriguing. Either Google is attempting to create a master list of restaurants for world wide use (as opposed to just the US) or they have broader plans for the list in existing or new restaurant related products.
Hopefully the tool will continue to be useful to you. Please visit the newly updated Google Places for Business Category Tool and let me know what works and what doesn’t in the tool and how you are using it.
April 15, 2013
Early last month, Google released a 1.1 upgrade to their iPhone mapping product that was faster, integrated Google contacts and included more countries. Apparently though the upgrade has not gone over well with users as the bad reviews seem to be flowing into the App store at a significant clip.
Since its release 5 weeks ago there have been 1,179 reviews of which a great many were negative. The initial release was greeted with instant savior status and 10′s of thousands of positive reviews. Complaints about the new version included high levels of data usage, increased difficulty of use, screen dimming issues, directions failures and usability problems.
There is more than a little irony in this. I suppose that there is some possibility of a review smear campaign, although that seems unlikely, it does point out how hard mapping is. Even when you are Google.
April 12, 2013
Several months ago my author photo stopped showing on my articles in the Google search results. I double checked all of my settings several times and they appeared correct. I didn’t really have time to fool with it until the end of last month when I reached out to Matt McGee, AJ Kohn and Aaron Weiche for guidance. The bottom line? Google Authorship apparently has some sort of face recognition filter (or as Aaron Weiche called it: FaceRank) that pulls down images it doesn’t like.
Who would have guessed? Here is the email thread between us:
1)My author photo used to show on my article like this one: web equity
2)It no longer does
3)It tests properly on the rich snippet tool
4)Do I need to implement publisher as well? something else?
You’re probably not doing anything wrong. I’ve had a number of folks getting Authorship brownouts lately. I’m trying to follow-up with the team to see if there’s a bug in the presentation layer (which has happened repeatedly).
It could be the face recognition if you’re not getting Authorship on any of your posts. In all, the mark-up is very brittle right now as Google tries to find more and more ways to extend Authorship (aka – indirect Authorship) while preserving accuracy.
1) Google doesn’t like your profile photo anymore.
2) Google is just being its normal wishy-washy self about authorship.
Go in to Google+ and change your profile photo to something that shows you facing forward (like a mugshot) and maybe even in color. If it likes your new image better, you should see it start to show in search results again almost immediately, but not as comprehensively as before (at first).
I lost authorship a couple months ago when Google suddenly decided it didn’t like my half-face avatar in its search results. Ergo I know have the boring full-face on Google+.
If changing your photo doesn’t work, this is just Google being wishy-washy. It’s pretty common for authorship to come and go in my experience,
Seriously? We now have to think about “Face Rank”!!!??!
I switched to a color full frontal image. Maybe just act of switching toggles their collective conscious. Will let you know.
Agreed. Poking the bear to make it stir and reevaluate is always a good idea in these instances.
The change from my beloved B & W photo to a color one has made the difference. Matt (as usual) seems to have identified what the issue was… a photo that the software didn’t like
OK. McGee nailed it. I changed out my photo several times over the past week with frontal color photos & all was good for a number of days. Changed it yesterday afternoon (4/11) to my b & w, slightly side view photo and poof its gone as of this morning.
Update April 12 10:00 pm
I replaced the B&W photo at about 9:00 am this morning with my color profile photo and it is now showing 12 hours later.
So the question remains. Why is one photo NOT acceptable to Google and other photos are?
Google was kind enough to notify me that I had qualified with my B & W photo last fall. But they did not have the courtesy of doing so when they suddenly stopped showing my photo. What SMB has time for these sort of
horse crap er, outcomes? In fact what normal webmaster does?
April 11, 2013
Google has just updated their dashboard post in the forum detailing the new Places for Business Dashboard with the following one button upgrade of your listing to the fully social G+ page.
Update: Alex Cordes of LocalSEOupdate.com uncovered an interesting tidbit. If you have a non verified local G+ Page at the same email as a business claimed into the new Places for Business Dashboard, it will automagically create a social local G+ Page with the need for the widget or any actions on the part of the claimant.
What does the Google+ widget do?
The Google+ widget allows you to upgrade from a Google business listing to a local Google+ page (with social features, like writing Posts, editing the cover photo, allowing users to add the page to their Circles, and adding videos). The upgraded page will be searchable in Google, Google Maps, and Google+.
What criteria do I have to meet to upgrade my page via the Google+ widget?
- You must have verified your business in your Places for Business account.
- Your Places for Business email address should also have a Google+ profile.
- Your page must be in a category that is eligible for Google+.
- You cannot have activated AdWords Express for your business.
- You should be managing no other pages in your Google+ account. If you have other pages which you wish to continue managing, you should hang tight until the Google+ upgrade is available to you.
Please note that the Google+ widget may not appear for users who do not meet these criteria.
If you meet these criteria and are interested in upgrading to have social features, just click Get your Google+ page to upgrade. After upgrading, you may use either Google+ or Google Places to manage the page.
This upgrade process is coming along to more and more users, so if you don’t see the widget yet, sit tight while we work on getting you your upgrade.
And, yes, service-area businesses who need to keep their addresses hidden and who otherwise meet the criteria above may use the Google+ widget to access social features. The business address will stay hidden in the upgraded page.
What if I’m already managing a verified local page in Google+ but have not yet accessed Google Places for Business with my account?
If you log in to Google Places with the same account, you should see the page that you created and verified in Google+ in your dashboard already. You should be able to use either Google+ or Google Places to manage the page.
I’m an existing Places user…
If you’ve verified your business in both Google+ and Google Places for Business, you might see the new Places for Business dashboard when accessing places.google.com. If you don’t, don’t worry, we’re working on bringing you over.
Again, we ask that existing Google Places or Google+ users continue to manage pages as before. Please see the first half of the first post on this thread for more details. We do not recommend creating new accounts just to try to access the new dashboard.
When we are ready to make the new dashboard available to existing Places users, we will come back with more details, including answers about how the Google+ widget will work.
The process of merging a social G+ Page with a non social G+ Page (AKA a G+ local listing, a Place Page, a non merged G+ page for local) was never intended for use by service area businesses (SABs in Googletalk) that were supposed to hide their address. That didn’t stop them and many of them merged their pages anyways. Google did alert those that did so to delete the +Page and return to a dashboard managed listing but many did not get the memo.
Google has announced in the forums that they have now upgraded the social local G+ Page management interface to include the feature to hide the address and that SABs that currently have local social pages should hide their address.
Top Level for SABs?
- If you have merged HIDE YOUR ADDRESS (or risk your listing being buried)
- If you are in the Dashboard with a Hidden address – STAY THERE
- DO NOT MERGE if you have not done so already
Here is the announcement:
SABs who already have verified/merged social local G+ page, hide your address:
- Log into Google+, click Pages on the left, and Manage the page in question
- Click on Edit business information on the page for your business
- Click on the pencil next to the address
- Check the box saying, “My business has service areas where I visit customers at their location.”
- Uncheck the box saying, “I serve customers at my business address.”
- Edit service areas as necessary.
Remember, businesses who do not serve customers at the business address should hide their addresses.
*** SABs with hidden address who do not already have verified pages that they created in Google+ should proceed using Google Places for Business at places.google.com. SABs with hidden address should not create new local pages in Google+. ***
April 10, 2013
Jade noted in the forums that:
Just letting you know that we’ve found a technical issue last week with reviews where some were incorrectly taken down. We’re working on fixing the issue, so sit tight!
This was in response to the spate of reports of reviews being taken down last week in what appeared like a reincarnation of the review spam algo from hell.
Barry Schwartz noted that he felt that Google was confirming a bug. A bug implies to me an error in underlying code that causes an error. These take downs looked so much like the previous level of take downs with the review algo last fall, that I think assuming it was a bug would be making too many assumptions. Note that Jade said “we’ve found a technical issue”. That could be anything from the janitor tripping over the cord to an engineer turning a switch that cut a new review algo loose again. A more likely explanation in my book is that Google was “upgrading” the algo and it was more severe than had been predicted.
Regardless it does appear that many of the reviews that were taken down will hopefully coming back similar to those returned at the end of January. Remember though that not all of them returned.
April 9, 2013
Google has just notified me that the new Google For Business Dashboard is now available to ALL NEW dashboard users in the United States.
Although I am not yet seeing it on the accounts that I manage. I missed the new dashboard users part and mistakenly thought it was all users. Mia Culpa… its late here. Sorry.
Last week when the product was rolled out Google announced that it would be phased rollout and said “Please know that the update will be gradually rolling out to existing Google Places for Business users like you in the coming weeks”.
Along with the new Dashboard, Google is changing their marketing message as well. In doing so they are making a clear distinction between free and paid premium services.
Given how fast this has moved, I would assume that the rest of the world is not far behind. I would also assume that there are more features coming sooner rather than later. It can’t come soon enough for me.
Other posts about the new Dashboard:
Google rolling out new update to Google Places for Business - Me
Visual Guide to the new Places for Business Dashboard - Me
Categories in the new Places for Business Dashboard - Me
Analysis: Google Places for Business or G+ Pages Lite? - Me
More details about the improved look and feel of Google Places for Business - Joel Headley
BREAKING! Brand New Google Places Dashboard – All-in-one Local Listing Management - Linda Buquet, Catalyst Marketing
10 Things SEOs & SMBs Should Know About New Google Places Dashboard - SearchEngineland
Google Upgrades Its Google Places Dashboard With Google+ Local Integration - SearchEngineland
April 7, 2013
Several items of interest.
Dates & Scores No Longer Showing on Google Reviews. Chris Campbell on Twitter and Jack Thornburg on G+ pinged me that date and scores on individual reviews on the business G+ Page had stopped showing. It had been reported on April 4th in the forums. Google has said that they are looking at this. It could be a bug or it could be a new feature. Always hard to tell with Google. Update: These seem to have returned. Here is a screenshot of what they looked like over the weekend.
Google Review Filter Turns the Screws Once Again. A bug or an update, again it is not clear. But there have been numerous reports of reviews having gone missing since April 5th. We have not seen this many complaints in the forums since the filter was relaxed in late January.
Canadian Businesses May Show Up in the New Dashboard. Last week Google noted that the new Places for Business Dashboard was US only. There were however several reports from Kerry Fager of them showing up for Canadian businesses. Google’s Joel Headley made this comment at Linda Buquet’s forum:
New users — with US-based IPs — may be granted access to the new interface as it rolls out more broadly. If these users happen to have a non-US business already created in Google+, it may appear in their dashboard; however, new listing creation is limited to US-based addresses.
Also, Offers and AdWords Express may not be ready for prime time for non-US listings. If you’re seeing issues, feel free to send us feedback by clicking the Send Feedback link at the bottom of the page. We’ll review all these reports for any potential bugs.
Better Business Bureau Sucks – So What Else is New. This came to me via David Mihm: Why the Better Business Bureau Should Give Itself a Bad Grade. Apparently Time Magazine has figured out that besides outright corruption that there is an intrinsic conflict of interest involved in the way that the BBB is paid for by businesses but theoretically handles complaints as an independent agency from consumers. Review sites can not put these guys out of our misery soon enough.
April 5, 2013
David Mihm just did a great Whiteboard Friday on the evolution of the local ranking algo. In the article he speculated about the future of local signals:
And just to speculate a little bit, because I love to speculate, going forward I also think we’re going to see Google potentially integrating some offline information into the local rankings. So what do I mean by that? As we get more and more comfortable, we as a society get more and more comfortable with things like Foursquare check-ins or Facebook check-ins, using our phones to make mobile payments, using Google Wallet, or companies like Square or LevelUp, these types of things, loyalty programs, Google has acquired a company several years ago that focused on digital loyalty cards, these types of offline signals about how we’re actually engaging with businesses in the real world, I think there’s no reason that they wouldn’t try to incorporate those into their local rankings going forward.
I would suggest that the future is now and that Google is currently using some mobile signals in their current ranking algo. Certainly, as David points out, Google has invested in a number of technologies (Coupons, Wallet, Offers, PunchD, Talkbing, check-ins) that will give Google on the ground signals as to whether a consumer actually visited a location and consummated a sale. Most of these have not achieved any sort of scale and are forward facing investments that attempt to close the “search to sale” loop for analytics. All could also provide popularity signals to Google when they do achieve some scale.
But Google has two very widespread highly trusted technologies, Driving Directions and Android, that function at huge scale and could be providing signals now.
Alex Garrido (aka Alex Webmaster) has done some interesting local research that seems to indicate that mobile click to calls do in fact affect ranking.
He worked with 5 local clients ranking in the lower spots on front page Google 7-Pack results. Over a two week period he had his 40 research participants do a keyword + city search on their mobile phones and click to call the specific businesses. Two clients were scheduled to receive 40 calls over that period, two were to receive 20 calls over that period and one was used as a control. His conclusion:
To our surprise it turned out to be a major ranking signal often improving the position of a local business by several spots.
Discussion: This is a small scale study and as is always the case in such situations it is hard to know that correlation is in fact causation. It is also the case that correlation studies are problematic in studying search results. There are a lot of moving parts in the local algo that we can not see and that could have influenced these results. Obviously it is worth carrying out this experiment in several markets over several time frames to see if their is similar impact on rank. Correlation if it happens enough and is consistent enough can then be assumed, with greater confidence, to have some causal relationship.
If it is causal, and the click to calls do in fact improve rank, is the effect permanent? Clearly these results need to be tracked over time as well. And similar work would need to be done in more competitive markets to see if the effective impact is similar i.e. if there are other strong signals maybe this one just doesn’t have much impact.
That being said there is every reason to think that Google might now be using mobile signals in ranking results. (more…)
April 3, 2013