Several interesting and developments last week from Google in the Local space.
Google declares the end of Panoramio and the rise of Google Views: With the release of Google Views, the new Map integrated photo application, Google has declared that they will wind down Panoramio as they wind up Views.
Of course there is an uproar in the Panoramio community and the founders have created a petition to stop the closing. Not only will the many comments from Panoramio be lost but the strong community there will be as well. Google has never been very good at keeping these niche communities alive when they integrate the functionality directly into their mainstream products. I wish the founders the best of luck in their petition drive but if history tells us anything its that the axe is a common tool in Google’s tool box. They have nothing on the Game of Thrones.
Google Tests Call Reporting in Local: A feature that has long been requested and one for which Google has long had the data, it was noted last week by Owen Kane that Google was showing Call data in the Google My Business dashboard last week.
Apparently the feature is not yet finalized as Google noted: Nice catch! We’re constantly testing out new features for Google My Business. This one hasn’t officially launched yet, but we’ll share new feature updates when they become more permanently available in the dashboard.
This is a feature that was longed for as far back as 2007 and one that Google even tested in the 2009 timeframe. I suppose better late than never.
“Edit Details” Feature Gone? No More Mini-MapMaker?: Colan Nielson of Imprezzion Marketing has noted on Linda’s forum that the “Edit Details” link now directs users over to the much more limited Google Maps report a problem feature rather than to the MapMaker interface that has been in use since February, 2013.
The change means that the edits are going directly to Google for editing and are no longer going to be handled within the MapMaker community. This is one in a long line of recent “demotions” to the volunteer editors at MapMaker. And a return of the the black hole where there is no public accountability of the edits. Can Google really respond to each report? Seems unlikely. “Pissing in the ocean” is the maxim that comes to mind.
Facebook now showing in the Google “Reviews From Around the Web”: Google is obviously scraping and now showing on the G+Page and the Knowledge Panel, links to reviews from Facebook Local Pages. If you had any doubt about whether you should use Facebook in your review strategy, you should doubt no longer. More tomorrow.
When Dan Leibson showed me this Google Answer Box I thought either that the Google Answer Box had a wicked sense of humor or maybe, just maybe, it knew something that I didn’t.
Given the recent court decision in Germany ordering Google to “stop ignoring customer emails and start offering a way to communicate with the company” I thought that perhaps they had implemented some form of systematic phone support. Given that Google had in fact implemented real support in Local was just possible across all of their product lines? Hope springs eternal when you are an optimist.
I decided I had better call and see. And after having to listen to the number for Adwords 3 times and getting to the end of the menu I thought- dam they did just say press 5 for support? So I did.
Spoiler: it was, for the most part, a bait and switch.
As you can guess the Answer Box “don’t know nuttin”.
PS Whatever you do, DON’Tdialzero thinking that you will get a human. The phone system has an even more wicked sense of humor than the search results.
We live in amazing times. And there is nothing more amazing to me than a technical breakthrough like Hyperlapse, the time lapse iPhone app from the Instagram folks. The app does two things – it provides sophisticated image stabilization even when hand held and it allows you to choose the speed to the time lapse – and it does them incredibly well.
The answer? Not hard. I am blessed by living in beautiful country and today was more beautiful than most. I decided to hyperlapse the bike ride that I take to work ever day.
This 3 minute video took about 20 minutes to film and another 20 to assemble into a final product. I hand held it while riding my bike (and I am sure that Matt McGee will chastise me for that).
My conclusion? Hyperlapse, when combined with some music and iMovie, is a great way to create some very sharable local content.
The end of the local marathon, the local fair, perhaps a day at the car races or the highlights of the highschool game. There are a lot of local topics that would lend themselves to this treatment. If you use it for that, please let me know.
Some production suggestions:
1-The app does a great job of auto exposure in both low and highlight situations but it doesn’t auto adjust if you change lighting. So either keep your lighting consistent or remember to touch the area of the screen that you want properly exposed. Obviously while riding a bike I was unable to do that.
2-Since you are speeding things up, you need to hold scene endings and transition shots longer than you normally would.
3-The app doesn’t do audio so you need plan to create something interesting to go along with
PS the soundtrack is by Enchanted Mountain Green, a blue grass band that my brother played in in the 70’s and 80s.
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Yesterday while doing training I noticed that Google was dropping the review shadow box from the main search results and taking users directly to the business Plus page. Today others are noticing this as well. Nicolai Helling pointed the new behavior out on G+.
As Nicolai mentioned and I agree this change “seems to be preparatory to release a new way to insert the Google+ Local results into the main Google-SERPs” that I wrote about early in the week with the total absence of review links in the new mini pack results.
Currently the review shadow box STILL shows for brand searches on both the link under the One Pack and in the Knowledge panel. But on Pack results users are directed to the Plus About page. On the current Carousel a click takes the searcher to a brand search.
While it is possible that the 7-pack will survive the carousel transition to newly seen Mini Pack, all of this behavior would be consistent with changing all local results to the new mini pack as well.
Kaleh Kohler, a top contributor in the Google And Your Business Forum and a very astute student of all things Google Plus, has pointed out a new feature of Google My Business (aka Google Pages Dashoard) that allows the user to recover (undelete) and manage pages that have been deleted.
It would appear that it only works on Pages that are deleted subsequent to the rollout of this feature and it doesn’t seem that page deleted earlier are seen (I could be wrong about this). Once a request is made to undelete a page, the page reappears in the dashboard almost immediately.
This is welcome one to anyone that has inadvertently deleted the wrong page.
Google is apparently testing a mobile style 3 pack as a replacement for the carousel.
Whether a test or not, this test search result is quite amazing. I have a fairly large Thunderbolt display with a resolution of 2560 x 1440. That is more vertical resolution than 66% of all computers on the market as of January, 2014 according to w3schools.com. Even so this result is quite incredible in just how absolutely awful it is.
With my browser window stretched to the full height of the display, above the fold there are 11 ads, 1 organic directory listing, a map and 3 2.5 hold your nose stinky local results. The move away from a carousel which had a certain balance to the ranking and possibly away from the 7 pack towards just 3 results is jarring enough. But the amazing preponderance of paid and the near complete absence and terrible quality of the organic and local results leaves one’s jaw on the floor.
I guess that Google has finally given up on any form of local listing or organic page relevance and has decided that relevance is a function of payment.
Last week, Dr. Pete Meyers of Moz, posted on Twitter that he had seen a new deskop pack result that seemed to be replacing the Carousel. He has emailed me to note that he is now seeing it on a number of broad queries “including “chicago restaurants”, “restaurant reviews”, “chinese menu”, and “vegas hotels””.
James Gibbons also reported a search result where the carousel had been replaced with a 7-pack,
As Pete noted in his email most of the new results that he was seeing were in place of the carousel AND the result mirrors exactly what is currently shown in mobile.The mobile change over occurred last April.
Will Google change away from the carousel? I am not a betting man and Google does do a lot of testing but my gut says that they just might move towards this new display. They have been on a toot to “clean up” the visuals on the main search result page (fewer packs, no author photos, fewer video and review snippets) and this change fits that mold.
Have you seen this result? What browser were you using? What phrases?
Update: I am now seeing this result using Firefox on my Mac searching for “vegas hotel“:
We’ll remove content that violates any of the content policies below:
Advertising: Don’t use reviews for advertising, such as adding links to other websites or phone numbers. Reviews should be a genuine reflection of your experience with a place – don’t post reviews just to manipulate a place’s ratings.
Spam: Please don’t spam. Write a genuine report of your experience with the place. Don’t include promotional / commercial content, and don’t post the same content multiple times.
Phone numbers or URLs: To help prevent advertising and spammy reviews, we don’t allow phone numbers or links to other websites in reviews. If you want to add an updated number or URL for the business you’re reviewing, use the Report a problem link to report that information instead.
Off-topic reviews: Don’t post reviews based on someone else’s experience, or that are not about the specific place you’re reviewing. Reviews aren’t meant to be a forum for general political or social commentary or personal rants. Wrong location or the place is closed? Use the Report a problem link to report that information instead of writing a review.
Keep it clean: Don’t use obscene, profane, or offensive language. We’ll also remove reviews that represent personal attacks on others.
Conflict of interest: Reviews are most valuable when they are honest and unbiased. If you own or work at a place, please don’t review your own business or employer. Don’t offer or accept money, products, or services to write reviews for a business or to write negative reviews about a competitor. If you’re a business owner, don’t set up review stations or kiosks at your place of business just to ask for reviews written at your place of business.
Illegal content: Don’t post reviews that contain or link to unlawful content, like links that facilitate the sale of prescription drugs without a prescription.
Copyrighted content: Don’t post reviews that infringe other’s rights – including copyright. For more information or to file a DMCA request, review our copyright procedures.
Sexually Explicit Material: We don’t allow reviews that contain sexually explicit material. Also, we absolutely don’t allow reviews that sexually exploit children or present them in a sexual manner. For this type of content, we’ll remove the review, shut down the account, and send a report to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) and law enforcement.
Impersonation: Don’t post reviews on behalf of others or misrepresent your identity or connection with the place you’re reviewing.
Personal and confidential information: Don’t post reviews that contain another person’s personal and confidential information, including credit card information, government identification number, driver’s license information, etc.
Hate Speech: We don’t allow reviews that advocate against groups of people based on their race or ethnic origin, religion, disability, gender, age, veteran status, sexual orientation, or gender identity.
Obviously, most of the above policies have been integrated into the review spam algo and lead to auto flagging of reviews.
Google notes on the Flag and Fix Inappropriate Reviews page that a user can get their review to show by bringing it in compliance with the above:
If a review you wrote has been flagged and removed, you can fix it yourself. Edit your review to follow our policies (for example, remove a phone number or URL link). Your review will be automatically republished.
As Priya Chandra (a rising star in the Google Business forums) points out below, Google has also made a clear and unambiguous statement about not using reviews as a forum for political or social commentary on their Tips for writing great reviews page:
Reviews not General Commentary: At times certain locations may become the subject of larger public debate or conversation due to recent news coverage or current events. While we respect and value your opinion, Local Reviews are not meant for social or political commentary. We think there are other forums that are more suited to those kinds of conversations, like blogs or social networks. Please write about your firsthand experience with the place and not general commentary on the place in relation to recent news.
Gigaom reports that there is a new class action suit against Yelp for security law violations:
The complaint alleges Yelp violated securities law by committing “fraud on the market,” and claims that executive sold stock when the price was near a high of almost $90 in February; the price fell sharply shortly after this in light of the negative publicity surrounding the FTC complaints.
This suit, rather than attacking Yelp’s practices directly are alleging that Yelp made “false and misleading statements about their true business and financial condition” in regards to the “robustness of their algorithms designed to screen reviews” and the Company’s growth prospects and the “extent to which they were reliant upon undisclosed business practices”.
From the filing:
(a) Reviews, including anonymous reviews, appearing on the Company’s website were not all authentic “firsthand” reviews, but instead included fraudulent reviews by reviewers who did not have first-hand experience with the business being reviewed;
(b) Algorithms purportedly designed to screen unreliable reviews did not comprehensively do so, and instead, the Company allowed such unreliable reviews to remain prominent while the Company tried to sell services designed to suppress negative reviews or make them go away; and
(c) In light of the above facts, the representations concerning the Company’s current and future financial condition and prospects, and the extent to which they were reliant upon undisclosed business practices, did not have a reasonable basis.
It will be interesting to see if these new angles of “attack” on Yelp are any more successful than previous suits.