Category Archives: Local Search

General information about Local Search techniques, technology and trends

Does Google Helpouts Indicate a New Direction For Local Transactions?

Will Google Helpouts replace the Business Listing Places Page G+Local Page G+ Page for Local as the transaction platform for local commerce?

What is Helpouts you ask? It is a (not so) secret Google project that turns Hangouts into a commerce platform/marketplace  “that enables individuals and small and large businesses to buy and sell services via live video”.  According to TechCrunch who broke the story last week about the product:

With the capacity to connect merchants and consumers on both an immediate and scheduled basis, .. the platform will allow sellers to .. take advantage of reputation management, scheduling and payment features, while offering robust search and discovery tools for consumers.

Google has also apparently partnered with a number of brands during internal testing, including One Medical Group, Sears, Weight Watchers and Alliance Frances, for example. At launch, the platform will also reportedly include an array of individual merchants and instructors as well, from yoga gurus to fitness teachers — all of whom will be able to offer both free and paid services to consumers via Helpouts.

According to our sources, with Helpouts, Google is looking to remove some of the barriers that have traditionally stood in the way of the seamless delivery of live services. For example, using Helpouts, a Spanish tutor from Argentina could offer language training to students in Japan, while a Yoga instructor in New York would be able to provide classes to a stay-at-home mom in Wyoming and an appliance repair shop could walk a customer through fixing a broken fan in their laptop — with an Internet connection being the only requirement.

Screen Shot 2013-08-02 at 9.15.51 AM

Does this product indicate a totally new direction for Google in local? By leveraging their Hangouts product and going after the trainer, consulting, support niche with a marketplace, they are able to refine and develop local tools like scheduling in a market that is underserved while using technology where they have a technical lead (Hangouts). As Ted Paff of Customer Lobby, pointed out, this learning on the part of Google could lead to their very disruptive engagement in a number service businesses that need low cost scheduling and easy to use CRM. This would all be happening on top of G+ and not the local business page.

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Next LocalU Advanced – NYC September 30


Update: We have just learned from the folks at Third Door/SMX that we can offer a discount for your admission. The code WS-LUA10 (case-sensitive) provides a 10% discount off prevailing rate.

We just finished up a LocalU Advanced in Seattle and the feedback was great. It seems to early too be talking about the next one but here I am talking about the next one because the early, early bird special is ending in less than a month. Hope to see you there.

September 30th Local University Advanced will be held the day before SMX East 2013 at the Jacob Javits Center in NYC.

Whether you run an agency that serves brick-and-mortar businesses, work in-house for a large brand or Internet Yellow Pages publisher, or are trying to find the hottest opportunity in the bloodiest of all bleeding edges in search marketing, you won’t want to miss Local U East.

 

Pass Options Super Early Bird
Ends Jul 27
Early Bird
7/28 – 8/24
Regular Rate
8/25 – 9/30
On Site
With All Access Pass $795 $895 $995 $1,095
Workshop Only $895 $995 $1,095 $1,195

 

These sessions will be action-packed, presented at an advanced level and feature ALL of the most up-to-date information about what’s working and what’s not in Local Search Engine Optimization.

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Is Google Debranding Local?

Screen Shot 2013-06-16 at 10.26.40 AMLocal, like many developments at Google, has always been many things; a brand (G+Local, Places), a product (Places Search, the +Local App) and an internal & external API service (local data in Now, Earth or 3rd party products).

And as David Mihm has pointed out, Google’s branding of local has always been muddled and caused confusion in the market place. But now it would appear that the confusion will someday end and that both the local brand and the forward facing search product (Places Search) are falling by the wayside.

Local will persist as a service feeding critical contextually relevant data to the many current Google products that use local data and the many that are likely to be coming rapidly down the pipeline.

Local as brand & product – a History

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Yelp Successfully Sued in Small Claims Court

Screen Shot 2013-05-25 at 11.32.21 AMAccording to the Wall Street Journal, a bankruptcy lawyer took Yelp to small claims court in San Diego and won a judgement of $2700.

….the judge describing Yelp’s advertising contract as “the modern-day version of the mafia going to stores and saying, “You wanna not be bothered?”

The case will be taken to a higher court on appeal.

The McMillan Law Group, which brought the claim against Yelp, agreed to an advertising deal with the site after it had become “a good source of new clients for us,” said attorney Julian McMillan, representing his firm in the court.  The deal involved the firm paying Yelp $540 per month in return for 1,200 ad impressions per month on the site. An impression is counted each time an ad is displayed to a user.

Mr. McMillan claimed Yelp did not deliver the 1,200 monthly impressions, leading to his firm cancelling the contract and asking for its money back. The site’s representative in the court, Bradley Bohensky, said the claim was based on a misunderstanding of how such impressions are measured, and that Yelp in fact “over delivered” on the ad impressions promised.

Several thoughts:
-The Wall Street Journal, and to a lesser extent the lawyer making the claim, rehashed the Yelp conspiracy theory of pay to play but this case seems to revolve around the one-sided and coercive nature of Yelp’s contract and whether impressions were properly delivered.
-Rocky Agrawal has pointed out the extremely high pricing of Yelp’s advertising and the often irrelevant impressions that they provide. This would seem to me provide another avenue for a small claims court action.
-The lawyer bringing the case has clearly understood that winning in small claims court is the best link generating scheme ever conceived of. And it appears that he is still running a Yelp deal. Hmm…

Local Weekend Update

page-wont-load

What Else is New Dept: There is a new bug with the Google Report A Problem for SABs: If a user selects the report a problem link via Maps or G+ Local they get a “This page won’t load…We’ve tried everything” message. At least its cute. Although that sad face icon is eerily reminiscent of my first Mac when it had a hard drive failure.

Can You Imagine That? Dept: This came to via me Google Forum  Top Contributor (an unsung hero who you should be sure to follow in the forums) Treebles. “Google received an ultimatum Thursday from German consumer organizations that want it to start answering questions from its users via email. Germany’s Telemedia Act requires businesses to provide an email address to allow customers to contact them quickly. But, said Elbrecht, “It is not enough to just provide an email address that leads into emptiness, you also need to be able to communicate over it.” Responding to users attempting to get their questions answered with automatic replies, as Google does in Germany, is not sufficient, she said“.

Maybe There will Be A Local Competitor to Google Yet Dept: Apple Insider reported that Apple’s iOS Passbook app was used to drive a successful coupon campaign for a UK restaurant chain. “The campaign allowed customers to get £5 off their bill when spending £30 or more. Harvester issued almost 16,000 vouchers in two weeks of campaign operation. Of those, almost 700 were redeemed during the course of the campaign. Overall, the campaign had a cost per action of £3.41. The solution gave a frictionless consumer experience, as with two-clicks a unique voucher code was delivered straight to their device, within Passbook. The voucher was then redeemed whilst  paying the bill, directly from the EPOS terminal, giving the restaurant additional insight into campaign effectiveness.

Thank God for Small Favors Dept: Google, in the fine print of the T&C’s for Glass Developers, are apparently banning ads in products for the new Glass product. Its hard to imagine relevant ads with an always on wearable eye glass computer. Its not so hard to imagine irrelevant ones.

Google Maps 1.1 for iPhone Not Well Received

reviews-onlyEarly last month, Google released a 1.1 upgrade to their iPhone mapping product that was faster, integrated Google contacts and included more countries. Apparently though the upgrade has not gone over well with users as the bad reviews seem to be flowing into the App store at a significant clip.

Since its release 5 weeks ago there have been 1,179 reviews of which a great many were negative. The initial release was greeted with instant savior status and 10′s of thousands of positive reviews. Complaints about the new version included high levels of data usage, increased difficulty of use, screen dimming issues, directions failures and usability problems.

There is more than a little irony in this. I suppose that there is some possibility of a review smear campaign, although that seems unlikely, it does point out how hard mapping is. Even when you are Google.

google-maps-for-iPhone-reviews

Local Weekend Update

Several items of interest.

Dates & Scores No Longer Showing on Google Reviews. Chris Campbell on Twitter and Jack Thornburg on G+ pinged me that date and scores on individual reviews on the business G+ Page had stopped showing. It had been reported on April 4th in the forums. Google has said that they are looking at this. It could be a bug or it could be a new feature. Always hard to tell with Google. Update: These seem to have returned. Here is a screenshot of what they looked like over the weekend.

Google Review Filter Turns the Screws Once Again. A bug or an update, again it is not clear. But there have been numerous reports of reviews having gone missing since April 5th. We have not seen this many complaints in the forums since the filter was relaxed in late January.

Canadian Businesses May Show Up in the New Dashboard. Last week Google noted that the new Places for Business Dashboard was US only. There were however several reports from Kerry Fager of them showing up for Canadian businesses. Google’s Joel Headley made this comment at Linda Buquet’s forum:

New users — with US-based IPs — may be granted access to the new interface as it rolls out more broadly. If these users happen to have a non-US business already created in Google+, it may appear in their dashboard; however, new listing creation is limited to US-based addresses. 

Also, Offers and AdWords Express may not be ready for prime time for non-US listings. If you’re seeing issues, feel free to send us feedback by clicking the Send Feedback link at the bottom of the page. We’ll review all these reports for any potential bugs.

Better Business Bureau Sucks – So What Else is New. This came to me via David Mihm: Why the Better Business Bureau Should Give Itself a Bad Grade.  Apparently Time Magazine has figured out that besides outright corruption that there is an intrinsic conflict of interest involved in the way that the BBB is paid for by businesses but theoretically handles complaints as an independent agency from consumers. Review sites can not put these guys out of our misery soon enough.

How Consumers Find a B & B

We recently completed a basic Local U seminar for bed and breakfast owners attending the MidAtlantic Innkeepers Conference in Baltimore. To augment the seminar I decided to create a large scale consumer survey using Google Survey as to how consumers find a B & B and what online resources that they use to do so. The survey mirrored the specialty lawyer survey that I conducted on behalf of Moses and Rooth last December.

During the last week of February, 2013, we surveyed a representative sample of ~1300 American adult internet users that were 18 and older to better understand their behaviors when making a decision about choosing a B & B. The methodology created survey results with a margin of error of less than +/- 2.8%.

We asked three questions that moved from the broader question of where visitors started their search, offline or online, and examined their behaviors as they moved through the decision process. The specific questions were:

If you were looking to book a Bed & Breakfast where would you start your search?

If you were to search for a Bed and Breakfast on the Internet what would be most important to you?

If you searched for a Bed & Breakfast on Google, what would you do first?

Where do consumers start their search for a Bed and Breakfast

It seems self evident that the bulk of activity when looking for a bed and breakfast starts (and likely ends) at the search engines. The decline of print is articulated in these results as is the low usage of Facebook and other social networks. Like in the lawyer study, Facebook usage for this task was more than 10 x less than the use of search. More interesting to me is the apparent importance of “pimping out” your Google listing as searchers are much more likely to look the visuals and map at Google and at not just the reviews. One possible tactic suggested by the survey would the use interior StreetView to gain a visual edge in conversion optimization of the Google business listing.

You can find the complete study at LocalU’s blog and download a PDF of the study there as well.

These results offer an interesting contrast to the lawyer survey. To a certain extent these two industries are at the opposite ends of the local search spectrum. In one (the lawyer search), consumers need to develop knowledge about truly local resources while in the other (the B & B search) consumers need to develop knowledge about a distant local resource.

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Siri: When did you start working?

Siri

Last night I was driving to Baltimore for an upcoming LocalU seminar. I heard the ding of a received text while listening to a podcast and I was curious. I asked Siri to read it to me. She did. She asked if I wanted to reply, I said yes. She sent my response flawlessly.

A while later I was heading down the highway and glanced at my email and wanted to send off a quick response to one ( I know, I know…it’s dangerous. Do not try this yourselves). I dictated, she understood me and inserted my response correctly into the email.

At 9:30, just outside of Williamsport and dog tired, I pulled over to the side of the highway and asked her to recommend a few nearby hotels as I couldn’t see any signs off  of the exit. She asked me which of the several choices I wanted and if I wanted to call one or get driving directions. I indicated that I wanted driving directions and  she guided me to the next exit and through a maze of service roads to a decent night’s sleep.

Hmm… it wasn’t until this morning that I realized with a start that she was 4 for 4. Was it an aberration and the Siri brain farts will start again today? I think she was showing off.

Slowly, ever so slowly, it seems that Siri is getting smarter. When did that happen?