Category Archives: Google+ Local

Should You Add City to Your Business Name at Google My Business?

Should you add city to your business name at Google? This question recently came in from John Simonson from Webstream Dynamics at the Local U forum (paywall):

A (small) multi-location retailer who just starting using Yext was told by a Yext rep to append to their business name their city so to distinguish between their various locations.

[Business Name] + [City]
[Business Name] + [City]
[Business Name] + [City]

Note: Addresses and phone number are different for each location.

Do you agree or disagree with that local seo strategy?

My answer:
Currently it is against Google’s GMB guidelines.

And currently Google is not in any way shape or form enforcing those guidelines. It is an active discussion on the Google GMB private forum but Google has not yet responded with clarification.

What do you do as a Local SEO? How do you counsel the client?

The question confronting a client is, given the lack of enforcement, will Google punish the business in some way if they decide to enforce this? If you think that Google will not punish the business then its fine to do this. If you think that they will punish the business for rule violation, then it should be assessed on a risk reward basis. I have no idea which way Google will land on this.

From where I sit, the obligation of the Local SEO in this situation is to inform the client of the facts, the possible downside risks and let them decide as to the course of action.

Here are the Google guidelines as they currently are written in reference to adding City name to a listing:

Including unnecessary information in your business name is not permitted, and could result in your listing being suspended. Refer to the specific examples below to determine what you can and can’t include in your business name.

Throughout the examples below, names or parts of names in italics would not be permitted.

Your name must not include:

  • Service or product information about your business, unless this information is part of its real world representation or this information is needed to identify a department within a business (see “Departments”). Service information is best represented by categories (see “Categories”).
    • Not acceptable: “Verizon Wireless 4G LTE”, “Midas Auto Service Experts”
    • Acceptable: “Verizon Wireless”, “Midas”, “Best Buy Mobile”, “Advance Auto Parts”, “JCPenney Portrait Studios”
  • Location information, such as neighborhood, city, or street name, unless it is part of your business’s consistently-used and recognized real-world representation. Your name must not include street address or direction information.
    • Not acceptable: “Holiday Inn (I-93 at Exit 2)”, “U.S. Bank ATM – 7th & Pike – Parking Garage Lobby near Elevator”, “Equinox near SOHO”
    • Acceptable: “Holiday Inn Salem”, “U.S. Bank ATM”, “Equinox SOHO”, “University of California Berkeley”

As you can see the current written guidelines explicitly prohibit the practice and suggest suspension as the penalty.

Current Google practice in this situation, when the name violation is reported by the public or a local guide, is to change it back to the normal name and do so without any penalties.

Unfortunately this is leading to a whack a mole situation with smaller, spammier players who then go and change it back. And so the snake chases his tail.

Google has generally looked the other way with larger players and has also often rejected edits to smaller businesses.

Google’s stated goal is to create a map product that conforms to the real world. Thus the initial and clearly stated reason for the ban on using city in the name if it isn’t normally there.

BUT the real world is a bit messier than that.

And when you view a list of locations under a brand search for a multilocaion business, it might be helpful to the searcher to see more clearly where each of the stores is located. That same argument however does not really apply to plumbers who are looking to manipulate for their personal gain.

And to a large extent these folks are, in my opinion, creating a situation that Google is likely to respond to with increased enforcement. Whether they, in that scenario, ignore or make an exception to large brands is another question.

Obviously the problem is much larger than just whether a business should add a city to a business name. All too often businesses also include everything in their business name including the kitchen sink. And all too often, as Joy Hawkin’s has recently pointed out, it’s a quick way to success at Google.

This case though interested me as even large scale providers, like Yext, are encouraging the practice. And on the Google side, this has been going on, in one form or another since its inception (see my 2006 post on the topic).

What do you tell your clients?

What do you think Google should do?

This is cross posted here and at Localu.

Google Local Restaurant Tests: Reservation Answer Box & Visual Attributes

Google Local has been on a tear lately with tests being reported on a regular, almost daily basis. Two that really caught my eye were local restaurant results found by Sergey Alakov and the other by Kevin Indig (h/t Megan Hannay).

These many tests are a testament to Google’s continual effort to gain audience and more importantly, keep that audience at Google long enough to complete a transaction. From Google’s POV,  the transaction will hopefully be monetized but if not then one that further leverages Google resources to gather data and user time like a click to call or driving directions.

Google has been actively collecting and collating attributes about all sorts of businesses but particularly restaurants. These have largely been buried in the depths of the Knowledge Panel and few clicks away from the front page.

These new visual attribute representations are front and center and colorful. According to Sergey he has seen as many as eight showing at once in the Knowledge Panel.

More transactional but equally interesting is Google showing a “reservation answerbox” on the desktip that allows for a table booking directly with OpenTable.

 

Mike B around the Web

Here are some places that wrote/spoke/recorded last week on the inter webs:

Google and Local Search Success – a great conversation with Joy Hawkins about Google Local, tips for success, editing and rank as well as a discussion about her new Expert’s Guide to Local SEO,

Also available as a podcast.

Video: Last Week in Local May 8th, 2017 – we discussed all the local news from the previous week. Also available via email subscription or podcast.

Here are some of the salient articles:

Should You Make It a Page or a Post? | LocalVisibilitySystem.com If your content has “commercial intent” and you want it want to convert it should probably be a page, rather than a post.  People expect posts to be educational. Phil Rosek does a good job of creating a “decision tree” for what can be a complicated decision.

The Yext IPO and the triumph of local SEO – The article seems to overstate the value of local listings and how much folks are willing to pay for this service.

Many Local ‘Angie’s List Certified’ Contractors Unlicensed = The dark under belly of virtually all of the sites that show listings whether Yelp or Angie’s list is that many of the listings are not certified or licensed to operate in the markets in which they list.

Google Rolling Out Integrated GMB Update

Brian Barwig of Integrated Digital Marketing has pointed out that Google has been rolling out a number of updates to the Goggle My Business Dashboard. The latest is one that provides an improved, easily accessible menu to the left had side of a the listing view.

The new menu surfaces both listing and account specific tasks like making it easier to switch between business accounts. Things like user management are now more obvious.

The business account functionality, long in the product, has also recently (last month?) been elevated in visibility, making multi account management that much easier.

There has also been a small update to the photo section that now shows individual views plus how long the photo has been uploaded to the dashboard.  I go into this section so rarely that I have no idea when those metrics showed up. Continue reading Google Rolling Out Integrated GMB Update

Mike B Around the Local Web

Here are some other articles and podcasts from last week that appeared elsewhere:

Constructing the Enterprise Priority List for Local Search – Streetlight Magazine – In our biweekly chat with David Mihm and I discuss a local tactics for enterprises.

“I think some local managers in corporations are getting pushback as to why their local traffic is falling, and if it is why should they maintain local pages? What is hard to explain is that those pages DO feed Google,”

Video Deep Dive: The real world pillars of local brand-building, and how they relate to digital Mary Bowling and I discuss how the real world local branding and Google ranking factors are becoming one and the same. Also available as a podcast here.

And don’t forget that Last Week in Local (week ending May 1)  is now available as both an email newsletter and a podcast in addition to the video.

How Accurate is Google My Business Insights?

The scuttlebutt in the world of Local SEO has long been that Google Insights was inaccurate and unhelpful as a guide to consumer behaviors. But is the newish Insights a better guide? How accurate is it and how can we test it?

Prior to the rollout of the Google MyBusiness dashboard in June of 2014, the original version of Insights was most certainly a piece of crap. Data would disappear or change, the product would not report for weeks on end, it would display spurious and unbelievable spikes. In fact at one point years ago, when I inquired of Google about the old Insights as to how some given data point was measured, I was told that the person who had coded it had left and they had no idea.

The Insights that rolled out in 2014 seemed to me, at least anecdotally, more robust and reliable if not perfect. I had gained at least enough confidence to use the information as a directional guide and felt comfortable that it was accurate enough for client consumption and for decision making.

But was it accurate? Many in the industry continued to diss the product but no one has really bothered to test it. Most of the data that is shown in the dashboard is captive to Google’s environment and largely unknowable. Only they really know what goes on with users interactions with search, the Knowledge Panel, the Local Finder and maps. If they don’t share it, we can’t really know.

How could we test Insights?Last week I asked myself the question: Was there a data point within the dashboard that could be measured in some other way?

The answer is yes, there is one (and one only as far as I can tell) Insight metric that can be externally measured and that is Customer Actions: Visit your website.  With a campaign tracking code you could at least compare Google’s value for that metric in Insights with their value in Google Analytics1.

What did I find? That the accuracy of Google Insights seems to be quite good. The number from the GMB dashboard for Visits is very close to the Analytics number for that campaign.

The GMD Dashboard showed a figure of 1.14K while Analytics for that same period showed 1,147 sessions occurring from that campaign source.

So I have several questions for you.

Firstly are you seeing the same thing in terms of web visits being the same? Now that we have 18 months of Insights data you should be able to go back and look over a long period.2

Secondly can you think of another way to externally measure the accuracy of Insights?

Thirdly is your faith in GMB Insights increasing or do you still distrust the product?

Does a strong showing in one area (web visits) mean that the other areas like click to calls and driving directions can be trusted?

 

1 – Certainly there are issues using this as the benchmark.  If they are cooking the books then they would have to do so across two products. While not impossible, it is much harder. It is conceivable that they are using the same exact data as Analytics.

2 – I do not have a long data set to share unfortunately. 

Just How Long Can a Google My Business Name Be?

Update 5/8: And the answer is 100! I continued testing and determined that if attempting to use 101 characters, the edit gets rejected with a Please enter fewer characters message:

My exploration inside the Google Spam Hall of Shame made me curious exactly how long a business name could be. While I have yet to find the absolute limit I have determined that it is somewhere between 97 and 107 characters. Not sure how I have lived this long without that piece of information.

Armed with this knowledge you can now go modify your business name to your heart’s content.

Poster Ewan Kennedy of Adduce SEO in Surrey is getting into the spirit of this challenge. He hit 97. Do I hear 98?

Google Spam Hall of Shame – A Well Deserved Group Award

This week’s second Google Spam Hall of Shame award goes to not one deserving business but to a group, who have worked hard and persistently to achieve this honor (drum roll please….)- the personal injury lawyers of the City of Orlando.

This achievement, of having every listing(ok two out of three1) in the 3 Pack and the top six Local Finder results be spammy,  took both persistence and a great deal of cooperation of spirit.2

So a word of warning to searchers in Orlando… don’t slip and fall outside your apartment building looking for your lost keys. Your Google search for locksmiths and injury attorneys will both only add cumulative insult to your already injured person.

Who knows what lurks in the reviews, marketing listings and virtual offices, I didn’t even bother to look but the frequency of suite #’s gives a clue.3

1- I have learned that listing number 3 is actually using a filed DBA, which brings up the whole issue of the world changing their business names to satisfy a “feature” in Google’s algo. Which makes the whole situation even more absurd. 

2- Hmm. I get that personal injury cases are profitable and worth a little stretch to get them but is it really worth the rough digital equivalent of ambulance chasing? So much for ethics boards. 

3- These results, even though anecdotal, are clear evidence of the sheer lameness of Google’s spam white paper conclusions.  All I can say is, its a good thing that only 1/2 of 1% of all of the Google listings are spammy and have been removed by them. Although I am not sure what you call what is left. 

Google Spam Hall of Shame

This week’s Google Spam Hall of Shame nominee achieved a double double score in the race to be nominated and secure this week’s nod. The offender has 13 words (96 characters)1 in his business title and somewhere north of 20 fake reviews.

I discovered the listing via my on-going review spam research and I loved his name so much that I had to give him this week’s award. Let me know if you agree.

With a name like “Photo Experts, Los Angeles Headshots Photographer Scanning Lab, UPS Shipping, Notary, Money Order“, how could you NOT do business with them?

And their incredible review profile, seals the deal.

Many of the reviewers fit the clear pattern that I identified in my review spam article. If it isn’t obvious, Google didn’t dig very deep with the data that I originally provided them2.

Andy B. Brian is among them. One can only surmise, given how obvious the pattern is and how easy it would be to take down the whole network with a little bit of code, that Google currently just doesn’t give a s&!t.

Given the number of fake Google reviewers, one has to be somewhat suspicious of his Yelp profile as well.

The Runner Up this week was Window Cleaning Company Houston (Window Washing Company), while they got extra points for squeezing the word “window” AND the word “company” in twice, and for having 78 fake, five star reviews, the fact that their business name was only 56 characters left them out of the victory circle.

1 – Am I going to have to go and figure out the field limit? Sheesh… you folks are falling down on the job.

2– It’s amazing how trusting and naive that I am. Having given Google 100 obvious spammers, with an easily coded rule to find more of them, I just assumed that they would spend a few minutes, write the code and zap 20,000 reviews. Although I was hoping that the number might be as high as 100,00. Heck I had done the hard lifting. Boy am I gullible.

You would think that I would have learned by now. I remember, I think it was 2008, when the then head of Google Maps told me that they had left the spam in so that they could “train their system” who the bad actors were and that soon (very soon) they would have a handle on it. Good thing I didn’t hold my breath. 

Mobile Knowledge Panel Tab Test

Sergey Alakov, Toronto SEOshared a new mobile Knowledge Panel test that shows the use of tabs to hold the reviews and separate them from basic business information.

Obviously Google does a ton (and a half) of these tests, most of which never go further. But Sergey pointed out several other interesting tests last week.

This one, however, particularly interested me because it highlights reviews AND because it is one more of the Google”down the rabbit hole”, keep them here or nowhere type tests. Google either wants a users time or their action. And doesn’t want other sites to get credit for the activity.