July 22, 2013
The Knowledge Panel sucks much more than Google Local these days. Its like “Déjà vue all over again” (for those Googlers and other readers too young to know the reference go here).
With the Knowledge Graph, like local, Google is attempting to reflect real information about the real world in their search results and, like in local, the disconnect between the real world and Google’s understanding of it can lead to erroneous results and bad outcomes.
Here is how Google described the Knowledge Graph upon its release in May of last year:
It’s not just a catalog of objects; it also models all these inter-relationships. It’s the intelligence between these different entities that’s the key.
The Knowledge Graph enables you to search for things, people or places that Google knows about—landmarks, celebrities, cities, sports teams, buildings, geographical features, movies, celestial objects, works of art and more—and instantly get information that’s relevant to your query
Knowledge results seem to suffer from many of the same fates as local listings such as merging and duplicates. And like Local in the days of old, there are very limited support mechanisms, no support team and no dedicated UI to feed trusted info. I suppose if the Grand Canyon has a wrong fact no one is likely to be hugely impacted but a certain percentage of Knowledge Graph entities are also real world businesses and brands and misinformation can be costly for them.
Typically the Knowledge Graph Panels seem to have different content than a local listing and it is more based on the structured data of Freebase, Wikipedia entries, the CIA Factbook and other sources that are NOT clearly identified. However if an entity already has a local listing then the Knowledge Graph Panel will draw some information (address, phone, reviews) from the canonical local data as well. It is at this intersection of landmarks and local where the impact of mistakes are obvious and the lack of full fledged support options become problematic for a business. And it is at this intersection of a business as cultural icon and local where the search volume is very high and the implications of even a few errors can impact a huge number of searchers and have a significant economic effect on the business.
The process for repair of a Knowledge Graph panel is simple enough. Perhaps too simple so as to be not very obvious. One only has to click on the small, grey “Feedback/More Info” link at the bottom of the panel to report bad information. The panel then offers the opportunity to flag any field of information as wrong.
Why is this problematic?
- First and foremost a business has to understand that there is a difference between a Knowledge Graph Panel result and a purely Local Panel result. Right. They have trouble understanding how Google handles a local listing so this level of knowledge seems unlikely.
- A business then needs to learn another new interface to report erroneous information to Google. Keeping up an accurate local listing given Google’s propensity to insert unwanted or old information is hard enough. But now some of them have to worry about a new way that Google can misrepresent them and a new way to fix it.
- The repair process does not allow for the input of the correct information so subtle errors can not be explained. It just allows you to mark something as wrong.
- The report process is slow if there is more than one field in error. You need to keep clicking on the feedback link for each error of the possibly several errors on the panel that you wish to report. And there is no way to fix an erroneously selected field once you have done so.
- There is no end-user feedback after fields have been marked as erroneous. Not an acknowledgment nor an indication that Google
gives a rat’s ass cares. Like in the early days of “Report a Problem” it feels like the report is going into a deep, dark and silent well. It would seem that an email or response from Google that they are looking at the data would provide some comfort.
- No “time to fix” is indicated. Again a business that needs the high volume of potential visitors to view correct information in the main search results is clueless whether it will be a day, a week or never before Google gets around to a fix.
- The repair process is distinct from the local repair process. What business really needs a totally new way to interact with Google?
- There is no support team to call and explain the nuances to. If you call the Local team for support about a local Knowledge Graph result with problems you are told, variously, that Local support doesn’t handle “front page results”, that it will need to be referred to an engineer or that you should go to Wikipedia and correct the information yourself (hello?).
- Some of the data clearly comes from local, some from Wikipedia and the like but some data comes from sources unknown and there is no obvious way to even track that down even if you did want correct it yourself.
- With results that are also local, the Knowledge Graph panel shows up in an arbitrary way and only on certain searches. Very similar searches for the same entity might result in the Knowledge graph result or pure Local Panel results.
How are businesses supposed to know or appreciate the difference between one panel type and the other? And then deal with a totally different set of rules for fixing it? A daunting task becomes even more so for most businesses desirous of showing accurate information and helping Google show that accurate information.
Here is a recent case study in a Local Knowledge Panel hybrid and the problems that I have encountered in attempting to get it correct:
July 19, 2013
More folks are reporting the visibility of the 5-Star system on the main search results that Google has been rolling out. I am seeing them at work in Chrome on my Mac but not in Safari or Firefox and I am still not seeing them at home. There were also reports of them being seen in the Netherlands so they are obviously going global simultaneously.
I was surprised to see that the same orangey color was being applied to both rich snippet reviews AND to AdWord reviews. The orange is very visible on the Local Carousel but less so against the white background on the main search results. It would be interesting to see an eye tracking study to see if they disrupt searcher behavior as much as the yellow color does.
The 5-Stars have been permanently moved onto the G+ Page and the new Maps and are still intermittent on the desktop. They have not yet been spotted in mobile search or on the old Maps yet.
(click to view larger)
July 17, 2013
Max Minzer captured the first screen shot of stars in the Carousel. The stars are shown with the stars AND ratio in the same red color but when contrasted with the black background they become very, very, very obvious. The reviews are much more obvious than in the 7-pack reported earlier.
(Click to view larger):
For reference here is the same screen shot that most folks are seeing with the Zagat notation:
Update: We now have screen shots of the 5 Star treatment in the new Local Carousel
The last bastion of Zagat has finally been breached and reports are showing up of 5 Stars returning to the main search results page in the Pack. Poster Valesence shared her sighting of the new display at the LocalSearchForum.
Google announced the return to the 5-Star system in mid-May at the I/O Conference, along with the rollout of the new Google Maps. Phil Rozek reported their return to the Google+ Pages for local last week. The stars have not yet been reported on the new Local Carousel. But they are obviously undergoing testing and while they are are not universally visible it is only a matter of time before both the Pack and Carousel results both show 5-Stars.
Google replaced the yellow stars with the Zagat system in May, 2012 when Google rolled Places pages into Plus. It was clear from August of last year that Google was testing a return to the 5 Star system and they were never removed from local AdWords display.
Here is the screen shot of a 7-Pack with the “new” star treatment:
Screen Shot courtesy of Valesence/LocalSearchForum
July 2, 2013
Miriam Ellis of Solas Web Design asked me the other day to revisit the question of whether one should “build links to their G+ Page for local“.
Often this question is asked from the wrong frame of reference.
Unlike the Google Places page, a Google + Page is indexed and CAN have page rank. The page can appear in the Google index and Mark Trapenhagen has documented cases where a + Page has achieved a PR of 8. As such it is tempting to ask the question of whether one should do link building to G+ Plus page.
“Should I link build to my Google + Page” carries with it an implicit premise in the question that a business will benefit from arbitrarily building links to a given page. In that is the simplistic assumption that ends up focusing efforts on the wrong target. An example of this thinking is the corollary question: “Will linking to the page help my local listing rank better”?
The simple answer to that question is no as the local algo looks at the strength of the “authority document” to assess ranking and that authority document is the business website. And if having a higher PR for G+ Page for local provided any value in that regard it would be a tangental benefit as a citation that passes some location strength back to your website.
A different way to ask the question that may frame it more effectively: Is there a benefit to my marketing or my readers to include a link to my Google + Page?
And the other question that puts it in the bigger context: Should I build the strength and presence of my Google + Page via Google’s social network? Will marketing my company on G+ enhance my overall marketing effort?
June 29, 2013
Gregg Gifford, Adam Dorfman and Dan Leibson have each put together lists of keywords that trigger the new Local Carousel. I noticed that while there was some overlap between the lists there was also a number of unique words on each list. I assembled them into one list and with some additional research on my part expanded the combined list to over 300 words.
As with all things Google there are obvious trends and always a few oddities. For the most part the phrases do revolve entertainment, recreation and leisure activities. And there are a few outliers that don’t fit into that category so well. Gluten Free Produce Store hardly seems a leisure time pursuit and nor does piano tuning. But its very difficult to imagine what fun one might have at a Gas Station (props to John Denny for that one). Particularly one near Buffalo.
You can add additional trigger keywords below. But I am also making the list available as a Google Docs Spreadsheet so that you can add additional search phrases that you find that trigger the Local Carousel directly to it, if you prefer.
Here is the list to date:
June 26, 2013
Yesterday on Plus Google Survey announced a new (and free) survey tool to assess visitor satisfaction with your website. From their post:
If you are like most business owners, you know how important a healthy online community is to your business’s success. Traditionally, collecting user feedback has been an expensive and time-consuming process, but now you can hear from your site visitors for free using Google Consumer Surveys.
Website satisfaction surveys allow you to easily create customer satisfaction surveys in order to stay in tune with what your customers think. All you have to do is paste a small snippet of code in the HTML for your website. This will load a discreet satisfaction survey in the lower right hand corner of your website so you can get immediate feedback from your users.
Users will be asked to complete a four-question satisfaction survey. Surveys will run until they have received 500 responses and will start again after 30 days so you can track responses over time. This is currently limited to US English visitors on non-mobile devices.
The default questions are free and you can customize questions for just $0.01 per response or $5.00 for 500 responses. By using Google Consumer Surveys to measure website satisfaction you automatically get aggregated and analyzed responses, provided to you through a simple online interface.
Creating a website satisfaction survey is simple, just go to< a href=”http://www.google.com/insights/consumersurveys/publishers” rel=”nofollow”>http://www.google.com/insights/consumersurveys/publishers to get started.
The process of starting a survey is dead simple. You simply follow these 4 steps: (more…)
June 25, 2013
Google has always been a somewhat “agnostic” resource for local results returning the good with the bad. But when combined with a total waste of good time and Twitter it can produce some interesting results.
Dan Lieibson noted some “unusual” results that Andrew Shotland and I could not resist pursuing to their (ill)logical conclusion.
With their help we were able to surface some carousels that seem to take the cake for tasteless.
Please do not shoot the messenger.
The new Local Carousel is certainly going to change user behaviors. Exactly how is still to be determined. To some extent whether ads do better or organic does better depends on what users see in any given “industry + geo” search. It also depends on how they respond to the (thinly?) populated knowledge panels or whether they move on to a well branded and respected site like Yelp or Tripadvisor to get their answer. I think though after analyzing these displays the answer as to what is really going on is somewhat more obtuse and well… self serving.
One thing is for sure, the geography above the fold is radically changed. Besides the Local Carousel, over the past year Google has been making a number of changes to the main search page that include the additional menus (2x), the bright red sign in button and the grey bar. I think we need to assess the Local Carousel in view of all of the changes on the main search page. I wanted to look at a “typical” desktop screen and understand exactly what was visible to searchers above the fold in this new context.
To analyze these searches I took screen shots of a full screen on a 1440 x 900 pixel display. I removed as much extraneous material from my screen as possible to give Google the benefit of the doubt in this analysis. I removed the dock, used Google Chrome, turned off any additional features that would take up screen real estate and entered full screen mode. Somewhere on the order of ~54% of desktop users see this much or less vertical and horizontal space when they view Google local carousel result.
In addition to the Local Carousel for Hotels NYC I looked at displays for Restaurants NYC and Pool Halls NYC in an effort to get a range of ads, organic content and different Google insertions. I then counted how many visible links there were and where they pointed. I highlighted the areas that corresponded to each link type.
Hotels NYC (click to view larger):
Hotels NYC – 1440×900 resolution – click to view larger
For the purposes of analysis I grouped the links as follows and noted the results at the bottom of each screen grab. For the hotels here are the numbers listed out:
Paid Links Pointing Offsite – 7
Paid Links Pointing Onsite to other Google products – 2
Links to Additional Google Search Results (this includes Carousel images and pins on the Map) – 30
Links to Other Free Google Products Incl Menus & Maps – 19
Links to Other Sponsored Google Products – 5
Links to Offsite (off Google) Websites – 1