Category Archives: Google+ Local

Google Local Adds New Troubleshooter to Move Reviews When a Business Relocates

house-moving-3Google has announced in the forums their ability and willingness to now move reviews when a business has moved locations and to remove reviews with significant brand changes for a given location. The request by the business to do so is done via a new troubleshooter form.

The guidelines that will apply to requests to move reviews can be summarized as follows: same business at a new location, reviews will be moved; New business at the same location reviews will be removed.

This new (and welcome) capability in no way affects the policy or procedure around removing inappropriate individual reviews –  flagging the review as inappropriate via the G+ Plage and if dissatisfied with the lack of response then filing a troubleshooter report.

Here are the specifics of the guidelines:

Change of ownership

If you are the new owner or manager of an existing business that hasn’t changed it’s name, reviews will not be removed. You can use owner responses to respond to previous reviews and clarify any changes/improvements to the services your business is providing.

Change in name

If you are the new owner or manager of an existing business that has changed its name, reviews may be removed if your business meets specific criteria.

  • Rebrand: Reviews can be removed from the listing if there’s been a significant change in well known, distinct brand name changes. Hotels or fast food establishment that switch franchise affiliations or car dealers that specialize in a different makes of cars would qualify for review removal.
  • Name changes related to change in underlying services: For instance, a business that switches from Jade’s Chinese Garden Restaurant to India Palace Restaurant, or Al’s Sporting Goods Store to Performance Bike Repair, would qualify for review removal
  • Partners or other business affiliations that disassociate: For example, if Perkins and Rogers, Attorneys at Law becomes Perkins, Attorney at Law because Rogers has left the practice to form his own, all reviews would be detached. Note that all reviews would be removed, not just the ones that refer to a particular practitioner

Name changes that don’t reflect core changes to the business’s services aren’t eligible for review removal. For example, if Dasha’s Dry Cleaner becomes Dasha’s Super Dry Cleaner, or JFK Limo Service becomes Super JFK Limo, reviews will remain in place.

Out of business

If your business closes, reviews will remain attached to the closed listing.

Physical location (address) move

If your business moves from one location to another and keeps the same business name, Google will generally move the reviews to the new location. There are some exceptions for businesses heavily tied to their locations, like hotels, golf courses or scenic attractions.

Submit a request for us to move reviews using this form. Currently this is only available for users of the new Google Places for Business dashboard, but we expect to expand its availability soon. I will update this post when it is available more widely.


How Many Reviews Are Needed to Show Stars in the New Map List View?

Peter Troast of asked a great question in the comments to my post about the new visuals for the (now named) Maps List View -aka Places Search- result:

Also seems like the # of reviews threshold is shifting for display. For zero reviews, “Be the first to review” appears right under company name. From 1-__, it looks as if nothing appears at all (in contrast to the old “3 Google Reviews.” I’ve seen a couple 5 review listings that displayed the new stars (yeah!), and several 8’s and 9’s, so it appears the 10 review threshold is coming down. Anyone figured out what the new threshold is? Certainly seems like nowheresville for 1-4.

The answer is 5. It takes 5 reviews for Google to show the stars. On these searches for restaurants surfaces results with a range of lower review totals. Obviously we do not yet know how or when they will update the main search results display to stars and whether this will apply.


Some Tidbits from Google’s Rollouts Yesterday

The weird stuff from yesterday has come into clearer focus. New Maps, Back to the Future on Review Rating Stars (although red this time), New G+ (argh)….but here are some tidbits that might make all of the once and future changes a tad more understandable:

  • The new Google Maps is currently available by invite only. You must go here and request an invitation as it is still considered a preview.
  • However there is some leakage in the preview. To see the new Maps list view of local search results add the search parameter “&tbm=plcs” to a local search result. Even though the URL parameter indicates that this is the Places page (whose link was removed last week from the main search page), it currently is only visible to the public via the new Google Maps to those that have access to the preview.
  • Whether this view will ever be visible via the main search results is unknown. Certainly retaining the old url parameter makes it confusing. But it appears so far that local isn’t so much being rebranded as being absorbed into Maps and Plus. Still no real clear name for it. I guess that entitles us to make it up. Nominations are open.
  • Google is abandoning the Zagat rating system. I guess they are planning on selling it to Yahoo. Regardless, in another visible leak of the coming upgrade, you can see the new rating system on your Place Page G+ Local Page uh your (local and perhaps social) G+ Page by adding this search parameter “&rfmt=s” to the G+ Page URL.
  • In the current iteration of the G+ Page for Local with the new review notation, it appears that there is a bug that prevents owner comments from displaying. (Hat tip to Dave…welcome back btw)
  • If you are like me, and find the new, improved G+ layout to be way too distracting and hard to follow you can change it most of the way back by using this tip from David Fuchs:

Go to your home page
– Click “More” on top
– Scroll all the way to the bottom
– two icons choose the left one.

To fix the profile page


[x] Change the presentation of some pages to work better with screen readers and other accessibility tools.

Access Your Local G+ Page with the New 5 Star Treatment

The new local result list display that was discovered today makes more sense when viewed in context of the newly updated Maps. Select the “Go to list of top results” link from the refinement pane and you will arrive at the new page. For those of you that don’t have access to the new Maps view yet, you can get to this list view by adding the parameter “&tbm=plcs” to a local search result URL as in this search for Jewelry Design Buffalo NY

Once there you can click on the Google Reviews link for any listing to see how the newly formatted G+ Page for local will look with the new red 5 star motif. Adding the parameter “&rfmt=s” to the +Page URL: will take you directly to the G+ page showing the new review stars.

Note the bold use of red number in summary at the top of the review sections that is significantly more obvious that the stars and immediately draws the eye down the page. I am sure that no one will miss the arbitrary 29 that was often given to those with averages of 30. Click the image to view it at full resolution. Or better just go there yourself. 🙂





Google Rolling Out New Places Results Page? Or is it a Test? Visible World Wide

Updated: Linda points out that review STARS seemed to have returned in this interface. And they are red.

I was first alerted to this change by Radina Sisheva of Google appears to be rolling out a new Places (whatever it will be called) search result page that is visually much more attractive. Apparently this display is world wide and has been reported to be visible in Europe by Myles Anderson at Bright Local. It may be a test but if it is it is a very large one and it appears to me to be a worldwide rollout to bring the visuals of the results in line with Google’s newisgn aesthetic.

With no links on the home page it is not clear how a user will be accessing these results. Interestingly the Map notes “Back to Map for”… the search. I assume for those doing ranking of Places results this might break their software once again. 🙁

You can see the page live by using the Places search modifiers “&prmdo=1&tbm=plcs” on a given search result. I have highlighted some of the visual queues on the page. There is but one large photo associated with a listing and when that listing is rolled over their is box outlining the listing, a single red pin on the map and a call to “see photos”. All in a an attractive display:


A Guide to Call Tracking and Local Search

Update 11/25/2014: With the help of CallRail, we have written a new, expanded and authoritative guide to Call Tracking for Local.

The question of call tracking keeps coming up in local search. Should it be used? Why or why not? The answer is often posed in stark terms of either you should or you shouldn’t use call tracking.

The reality is, as is usual, more nuanced and subtle than that. It is a technology that has incredible power but that is easy to use improperly and when done so it can cause on-going problems in local and a great deal of damage. All too often it is suggested as a tactic to unsuspecting businesses by companies that offer little of real value and use the technique to take credit for calls that the business would have received any ways. Often these businesses are not made aware of the disasters that can possibly ensue.

Given that the first dictum of search optimization is (or should be) do no harm it is easiest, when given 3 minutes to answer the question, to say that call tracking should not be used.

What harm can come of using call tracking numbers? There are actually several situations that can lead to long term problems.

The first is that Google assembles all local listings via a machine. That machine looks to match name, address and phone number of information it finds across the internet with a cluster of similar data about a business. If the match is made with data that Google finds across the net and the cluster, that business is credited with that citation. If it is not possible for the machine to make the match due to the fact that a call tracking number is being used then it is possible that Google will create a new cluster for the data. Not only is a given listing NOT given credit for a citation but it is possible that dupes will appear that will “steal” strength from the main listing. Effectively phone number is the glue that holds the cluster together. If the cluster becomes unglued your listing will very likely rank poorly at Google and it could take months to do the recovery work necessary to make it whole again.

Secondly, call tracking numbers are frequently “loaned” to a business for the duration of the contract and then put back into use for a different business. Unfortunately these numbers are very persistent in the online local ecosystem and may stay at various sites attached to your listing. If the number is no longer in your control it means that the customer attempting to call you will be getting through to some business but not yours! The solution to this issue is simple: NEVER use call tracking numbers if the numbers can not be transferred to you at the end of the contract.

The subtler answer to whether call tracking numbers can be used is that they can be in some very limited ways but the guidelines to proper use are complicated and they need to be implemented in such a way as to not cause damage. If the guidelines can not be followed to a T then it is far better to not use call tracking at all as the damage will far outweigh any benefits.

There are four places that a call tracking number can be used:

Continue reading A Guide to Call Tracking and Local Search

Google Local SAB: How to Move Closer to the City

I frequently get the question of how a business in the burbs can compete in the adjoining major metro area. Obviously, one tactic is to do really, really well organically and appear above the local search results. As a tactic that is roughly akin to drawing to an inside straight in poker… not impossible but very, very difficult.

I have stumbled upon another technique that might just work for service area businesses that hide their address: adjusting the list of areas served to shift the circle location on the map.

I was asked to determine why an SAB, even though located in the major town, was not showing up in Maps for the search Service+City. It turned out that in setting up his Dashboard and hiding his address he had selected zip codes for the list of areas served to the west and north of the primary city. Apparently the location of the location circle uses some form of polygon weighting and Google Placed the pin far outside and to the west of the city. Changing the values repositioned the circle close to the city and resulted in his listing being returned for the Service + City search.

Here are two screen shots to demonstrate the idea of moving an SAB closer to the nearby town even when located in a suburb. My wife’s at home business is located in Allegany NY but her primary business occurs in Olean, 8 miles to north and east of our home. The original choice of radius located the listing to the north of Olean. By changing from the radius to specific zip codes, it effectively moved the pin location to be within the city of Olean. Note that it will take up to 6 weeks for the changes to be reflected in the local search results. Mileage may vary.

I am curious if others have used this technique and whether it worked to increase your searches in the major metro you were targeting?

Screen Shot 2013-05-12 at 12.54.50 PM

Screen Shot 2013-05-12 at 12.54.58 PM


Google Local Tidbits- Dashboard Going World Wide/New Hotel Restaurant Carousel Being Seen

Several items of note.

1- Firstly Google has announced in the forums that the new Places for Business Dashboard is now available for NEW users in UK, Ireland. It is nice to see this staring to roll out internationally. That being said the rate of conversions of existing dashboards is not at all clear. None of mine seem to have converted. Yours?

2-Joel Headley of Google noted at today’s Local U in New Orleans that Google was no longer deleting listings from their local index that failed to hide their address. He indicated that Google was flagging them, apparently with no ranking penalty, for later automatic removal of the address if the owner failed to hide it. This solution seems vastly superior to the fiasco of businesses being permanently deep sixed into the hell of “currently we do not support” for the infraction

3- Google is currently testing a soon to be rolled out revamp of the Maps interface. Barry Schwartz noted at SEL:

The new interface is a complete and major overhaul of the current Google Maps user interface. The design and interface changes touch everything from the map colors, icons and text formats to dropping the navigation elements on the left hand side and adding in Google+ integration.

For example, you can filter local search results specifically to friends in your Google+ circles. The navigation seems to have been moved to button like methods, similar to how mobile apps work, with ad overlays hovering below the navigation menus.

4-First noted by Pete Meyers and equally interesting is is the increasingly seen display of the the carousel results for Hotels and Restaurant categories around the US.



Whither Places Search? Is Plus Search Next?

Update 1:00 pm EST: Googler Jade has just confirmed that some changes of some sort are on the way. Here is their statement:

We’ve seen some questions about the small update to local search user interface on Google (removal of “More results near…” link) — 

Thanks for your feedback about the small update to the local search user interface on Google. This is one of several updates we’re working on to improve the local search experience, with the goal of more seamless exploration of places and more integration of local data. Stay tuned for more updates soon.

Where Has Places Search Gone? What’s Next?

1)Last week Nyagoslav Zhekov did a nice write up on the Google’s proposal as to what Local search results will look like in Europe in an effort to comply with the EU anti trust settlement.

2)Recently Google removed the links for “More Places near by” and and references to Places search in the main search results.

3)Google has been attempting to rebrand G+ Local as Google+ Pages. This was clear with their communications around the release of the Places for Business Dashboard.

4)Google designs the front page results for scale and wants a single display world wide.

EHG, a top contributor from Germany in the Google for Business & Maps Forums, has asked me the interesting question what I made of these changes and whether they are related. He seems to think so and I agree.

When you combine these facts with the current lack of branding (or rather the effort to rebrand Local as Plus) and Google’s desire to have a single universal display for the whole world it becomes plausible to speculate that changes to the display of the 7-Pack that comply with an anti-trust settlement in Europe and solve these other issues are in the wind.

As a part of that settlement Google will include links in the Pack display to their product as well as to competitors. Where will these new internal Google links in the main search results take users? There are two choices: Maps or Plus.

Currently the local search inside Plus is a 2 search box affair that doesn’t offer a map view of the search area specified by the user which makes it a less than an ideal search experience. Thus the current version of Maps with a single search box and Map view port is a more obvious choice.

That being said it would be very like previous efforts of Google to use local listings to boost traffic of a secondary property. In the era when Google was competing against Mapquest, Yahoo AND the IYPS for market dominance in local, they used their business listing to boost their Maps traffic and their Map traffic to boost their listing traffic by combining the two products.

Adding 50 million+ visitors a month to Plus would go a good way to boosting the apparent usage levels of Plus. What local search in Plus will exactly look like I have no idea but my money is that the links take users to the Plus local search results. Whether that means an upgrade to the search capability in Plus or not I can’t say.

Here is the screen shot (from Nyagoslav’s blog) of the changes that Google is proposing in the EU: