While the image that you chose as a profile photo might show, now when you click on it, you are taken to Google Image search, rather than to the businesses chosen photos for that business that were uploaded via the Google My Business Dashboard.
If the listing no longer notes “see photos” in the lower right of the Knowledge Graph profile image then the images, when clicked will take the user to Google Image search.
The images showing in Google Image search may or may not be very relevant. In my case I am seeing images for my long dead father, a politician named blumenthal, a uniform stored named Blumenthal, some images from blog posts and who knows what else.
If this is a new feature, I can sum up my thoughts on it very succinctly:
A business should be able to put photos of itself and they should have some measure of control over those photos. Taking users to random photos is bad for everyone. Do businesses need one more reputation management/(stupid) SEO task on their plate?
If this is more than a test then shouldn’t businesses be advised? At some point, this change MIGHT make sense.
But businesses that have focused on uploading images to the GMB now need to think about being sure that their images on their website are actually the ones that Google should show. It seems a lot to ask of most small businesses. And they need to be aware that images from around the web could be showing thus creating both a new SEO obligation PLUS a new reputation management concern.
The change has not occured to hotel Knowledge Panel images nor big brands like Target and Best Buy. And for now, images in the Local Finder still reference the GMB and Maps images. The change seems to be impacting SMB Knowledge Panels only at this point.
The wild uptake of Pokemon Go over the weekend demonstrates in a show not tell way the power of these sorts of virtualsegmenteddetachedalienated “augmented”* reality experiences to create real world buzz and traffic.
If you are not familiar with it (hard to believe that it was actually competing for news cycles), it is essentially a version of Pokemon layered over Google Maps that takes place in the real world by allowing you to capture Pokemon, level up etc by throwing a ball at a Pokemon figure that has been over layed on the real world in front of you on your mobile screen ….
Google (actually John Hanke’s Niantic Labs) is collecting a ream of local geo data, Pokemon, with its stock at a long time high, is collecting money with in app purchases and you (or hopefully your customers) are collecting virtual Pokemon in proximity of your business. Near perfect symmetry that portends the coming age of virtual gamefication of life in a (dystopic?) consumer world.
OK so its weird, its social, it takes place in a nether world between the screen and reality and it might be hard to get the attention of someone whose eyes are glued to their screen but it is worth thinking about, perhaps jumping on the bandwagon and at least being Pokemon friendly if not Pokemon alluring.
And thinking about how and how soon Google will figure out a way to insert local AdWords units into the game play.
I am curious if anyone has actually tried it in their business? Or if you have ideas on how you might use it in your business? Please let me know.
*Augmented? Augmented my ass. What marketing double speak for being engaged in something other than reality. A brilliant term for an experience that is anything but “augmented”.
Google has added a new help page Create a link for customers to write reviews which explains in detail how to use the Google Maps API to generate a URL that can be used to solicit reviews. (NOTE: this page has been removed as of 7/11.)
The page is interesting for two reasons.
One it explicitly provides a Google approved way of generating a URL string for asking for reviews. While Google has acknowledged in the forums that is ok to ask for reviews there has never been a specific help page nor an “easy” method for generating the review URL.
Two, the method doesn’t work very often and only appears to work on the desktop some of the time. Go figure.
The steps Google recommends generate the review URL (these steps still work even though the help page has been taken down):
To create a link, you’ll need to get the Place ID for your business. To get your Place ID:
Unfortunately, at least for now, the URL that Google is providing doesn’t always work or doesn’t work in different browsers or doesn’t work in mobile. Exactly when and why it fails is not clear.
For example the example link (for Kaplan Insurance Agency) above works in Chrome on my Mac but not from Safari and not on my iPhone in either browser. On Safari on the my desktop it generates the Knowledge Panel but not the review box. This is likely due to Safari’s poor handling of redirects which this URL does.
I hear from Helmut that the URL does work on Android. I still can not get it to work on iPhone on either Safari or Chrome but it does appear to be working on Google Now for Android. Would love others to test.
I have observed in the past that features and new search parameters (like /local/writereview?placeid) do not necessarily roll out to all browsers simultaneously. If we are lucky Google will be fixing this and rolling it out across all browsers on all platforms. For now it just as easy to copy the URL that Google generates from the Knowledge Panel or use one of the many tools to generate the URL.
Local Guides will be able to have photos that they are taking of local businesses “automagically matched” and added to the business listings from their Google Photos collection. The feature, first released on Android but soon available on iOS, only requires you to “turn on the back up and location features in Google Photos to have your photos of places appear in the Contribute tab of Google Maps.”
When Google Photos was introduced a year ago I noted in my article Google Photos- A Visual Graph of People, Places and Things. Can It Become Their “Everything Graph”? : Almost every photo these days comes geotagged so Google knows, at least within a 100 feet or so of where it was taken. They don’t yet auto assign a specific [business] location but they show incredible accuracy in auto assigning the photos to a city level. I assume that Google has more granular insights but has not yet turned them loose for fear of a privacy backlash.
So much for that fear.
Google Photos is one of those brilliant tools that shows Google at its very best and its very creepiest with its use of AI, machine learning and the ability to dig deep into your phone to surface additional details about businesses that you are frequenting.
And now with a little gamefication (Local Guide points), the offer of some free storage and some very sophisticated technology Google has unleashed one of the worlds most amazing geo-photo crowd sourcing projects ever.
I have been involved in local search marketing and local seo for much of the last 16 years. I love local seo and would never declare it dead. It has lots of life.
But it has never been harder, once you have nailed the basics, to get an appropriate ROI. The many changes at Google Local, the increasing fragmentation and competition, the every shifting technology and rapidly evolving new interfaces should force every business and agency to assess the role Local SEO plays in your overall marketing plan.
Join Mary Bowling and myself as we discuss the varied and many influences that are impacting the ROI of local seo. Let me know what you think and how businesses and agencies should respond.
Update: Jennifer Slegg has confirmed with Google that this new ad format is actually rolling out.
Last week while in SMX I noticed a new hyperlocal, very contextual ad unit that appeared above the Local pack and looked more like the local pack then an ad. Google has been on a tear monetizing local of late with the new ad units in Google Maps and Joy Hawkin’s uncovering of their plan to monetize the pack as well as possibly removing additional information from pack results.
This new ad display, for nearby businesses, is perhaps a test. And one that pushes the boundaries of identifying the ads as such with just the single notation at the top of the display.
There is obviously a distance factor in what displays but I also noticed that the business had to be open to appear. When I did this same search after 6:00 pm when several of the businesses had closed, they were no longer included. So in addition to ad quality and relevance, Google is adding proximity and open hours as factors in choosing which ads to display.
As Joy Hawkins pointed out in the Local U Forum: I think it’s definitely possible to show in surrounding cities but not as likely if there are lots of good competitors who are actually in that city with great AdWords accounts.
This new ad display though does give some clues about where Google is going with local ads, what pack ads might be like AND provide an indication as to how far out of the radius of the local pack they might be.
With the advent of Pigeon, Google dramatically decreased the radius within which a business might show in the Local Pack. Google effectively started showing different search results every 5 miles or so thereby increasing the absolute number of businesses that displayed in the Pack results and reducing the opportunity for domination by a few companies. By adding radius and open hours, Google dramatically increases the potential inventory opportunities for themselves to display local ads. And one assumes that over time the reach of these ads might mirror the radius of the Local Pack post pigeon.
I was curious in this first go exactly how far afield the Nearby Ads reached so I mapped the area of both the Local Pack and the Nearby Ads to get a sense of that. The Local Pack, in typical Pigeon fashion, showed the furthest result from my location at about 2 miles. The Nearby Ad on the other hand displayed the furthest location nearly 17 miles away. By the same token the nearest business in the ad to my location was only 1 mile away indicating that with more inventory a much tighter display radius is very likely. It will be interesting to see how Adword quality and relevance are valued compared to distance and open hours. And how these types of ads will impact spammy local results like locksmiths and movers (and botox and law and….).
Clearly both these Nearby Ads and the coming Local Pack ads will allow for early entrants to get increased urban and suburban exposure. But as the value of the ads become more obvious and there is more inventory I assume that not only will the cost go up but the radius and display port will become much much smaller.
And Google will continue its growth in Ad revenue. Even if searches do not increase.
Critical to any complaint plan is figuring out the who, when and where of responding to them. I wanted to understand the consumer perspective so I asked two questions:
When you complain to a local merchant how long is reasonable for them to respond & resolve?
If you have a complaint with a local merchant how would you prefer to express it to the business?
I was surprised by their answers. I guess that national firms have conditioned too many consumers to not expect a quick response. That strikes me as a huge advantage for smaller, more agile firms that can respond quickly and effectively.
I think complaint resolution has a huge ROI and the ability to directly impact your future sales. Figuring exactly how your clients deal with it, will make your job much easier.
Ozzie’s Premium Frozen Yogurt and Gelato is an ice cream shop in Santa Maria, CA that has recently changed hands. And also recently managed to attract both bad reviews and press around the issue.
The press handled their situation with equanimity but the reviewer, feeling scorned, did not.
Who knows the actual facts (like why didn’t the reviewer complain when it happened? and why did the ex-owner chime in at Yelp?) but we do know what they are saying. And its bound to have a negative impact.
First from The Sun Biz spotlight article on June 15th:
A similar review from what appeared to be the same person emerged on Facebook around the same time and was shared many times, Tina said.
The postings stem from an incident on May 28. Tina was working at the restaurant that night when two female customers came in and ordered frozen yogurt and boba tea. They both dined inside the restaurant for a little while before leaving. Later that night, Tina remembers getting a phone call from one of the customers complaining they found two pieces of thin metal inside the boba tea. The pictures posted to Yelp showed two bent pieces of metal—each about the size of a finger—that looked like they came from a wire brush.
This is impossible, Tina said, because a loud rattling noise coming from inside the blender would’ve been apparent. Also, Tina had made the tea herself.
The next evening, Tina said the woman who placed the call returned to the store with another woman, and a heated argument ensued. Tina said that while one woman was arguing, the other appeared to be recording with her smartphone.
Tina believes they were trying to bait her into doing something she didn’t want to do.
“She never gave us a chance to explain anything,” Tina said. “She wouldn’t let me or my husband explain.”
The police were called and things got smoothed out. But Tina claims the negative review impacted her business.
The female employee welcomed me and recognized me from last night. I greeted her probably much more calmly and nicely than most people in this given situation would have. I told her I needed to speak to her about an issue with the drink I ordered last night. When I showed her the wires in the baggy and told her they came out of my boba tea, she blew up on me. She denied everything I was saying, called me a liar and attempted to take the baggy out of my hand to throw it away. She called out the male employee from the back and told him that I put the wires in my drink and that I was just looking to get them in trouble. They both began to yell at me in front of my young sister and they immediately called the police on me, which I was fine with. I knew I hadn’t done anything wrong apart from just walking in there and expressing my concern over their negligence.
I reacted calmly in this situation and with respect for them and their business, whereas I believe most people would have reacted much worse than I. All I wanted was to express myself and my experience that I had with going into their shop for the first time last night, and maybe have them apologize to me for having gone through it; maybe even have them take responsibility for it. But I can understand why they’re wary and didnt apologize or take responsibility for it. To them, I could have manipulated the situation. But I know that the honest truth is from my side of this. I received metal wires in my boba tea that I purchased from this business. They could have damaged my teeth or gums had I chewed them, or if swallowed, could have caused internal bleeding for sure.
As you may (or may not know) I am writing a series about complaints at GetFiveStars. A topic I was hoping to write about was how to “resolve” the “unresolvable” complaint. Any and all good ideas on the topic will be liberally (that’s code for a link) credited.
Whether fact or fiction, this situation of the wire in the tea clearly falls into that area of unsolvable complaints. There was not an easy solution but what transpired, apparently triggered by the owner’s fear, seems to have been the worst of all possible outcomes.
If you were the owner, behind that counter and you were feeling the pain of this complaint, what would you have done to attempt to resolve this? How would you have tried to respond to this customer?
You would hope that most customers would speak up and communicate the problems that they experienced. Unfortunately that’s not what happens. Most of them will just remain quiet, you never know of their problems or dissatisfaction and they stop doing business with you.
In my third post in the Complaint series (soon I will be getting complaints about the many posts….) I address the question of how many people in fact do complain when things go wrong and how many would if you asked…