Video: A Look Back (& Forward) at “The Big 4” in Local

Join Mary bowling, Aaron Weiche and myself at as we discuss the past year and the major directions of Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon in Local. What are the trends and how should you respond?Screen Shot 2016-02-05 at 10.05.27 AM



The Deep Dive Video Series is a weekly discussion of an important aspect of Local. They are part of our weekly update (paywall) that appear first on the Local U forum.

Here are some recent previous Deep Dives that will give you a flavor of the ongoing discussions:

We hope you will join us at LocalU for this regular feature.

Google Trusted Verifier Program – What is it? Where is it?

Early today at Linda’s forum and the Local U forum it was reported that Google had rolled out a Google Trusted Verifier Program that allowed folks in the field to verify a business while on site, using an Android app. It now appears that the help files were released prematurely and they were all removed from Google or only made available to beta testers. .

We have posted some of high level details from the now removed documentation on the Local U Blog.

Become a Google Trusted Tester for New GMB/Adwords Products

Living_Crash_Test_Dummies_2Google is looking for folks to test upcoming SMB products:

The Google My Business and Ads teams are working on several new product features in 2016 to improve overall merchant/advertiser engagement and value. Before releasing these products/features to the general public, we want to beta test them with a group of trusted business testers who are willing to use these features and provide detailed feedback to our product team to help them improve the experience.

We are looking to build a group of business Trusted Testers based in the US who meet these requirements:

Willing to test out early stage products and features, and use the products consistently

  • Have less than 100 employees
  • Willing to provide feedback to our product team
  • Willing to sign a confidentiality agreement
  • Preferred (not required) existing GMB or AdWords/AdWords Express user, a plus!

Google has noted that if you meet these requirements or know of a business that does, you can fill out this form, or send the form directly to the business. If the business meets their requirements, they will reach out with next steps and more information.

Google Implements Direct Knowledge Panel Editing on Desktop and Mobile

Google has confirmed that they are now allowing a business to directly edit their business information via the Knowledge Panel and the Local Finder on the desktop and mobile WITHOUT visiting the Google My Business Dashboard.

Prya Chandra reported earlier today on G+ a new Knowledge Panel interface that allows direct editing of a local listing to correct errors in the local information.

However, when you are logged into Google with an account that has the ownership or management of the listing, this edit mode allows for direct updating of your business information without needing to go the Google My Business Dashboard.  The information will flow, in essentially real time, back to the dashboard and out the listing wherever it might show.

However, a listing owner is still unable to edit things like menu or booking links that frequently go awry.

This was first reported as a future feature by Barry Scwartz at SeoRoundtable based on a comment by Gary Illyes at State of Search in mid November.

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When you click on suggest an edit you are presented with a direct edit screen of basic information for a business.


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If you are logged in as a manager or owner of the listing edits get approved immiediately


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The edits show up in real time in the Google My Business Dashboard
Editing is also allowed in the mobile browser interface. Note that the hour change appeared there immediately as well
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upon completion of the KP edit I received this confirmation.

This new edit capability is available in the Knowledge Panel and the Local Finder on the desktop AND mobile but is not available via Google Maps. One assumes that this same interface will make its way into Google Maps desktop and mobile in the near future.

I am curious to know if this has rolled out internationally. If you live in Canada, Europe, Australia please let me know. I assume that it has.

The real question about this change is what is the future of the Google My Business Dashboard? With its current limited functionality businesses will have even less motivation to visit it.

Google Local: Direct to Knowledge Panel Updates via Schema

Imagine a world where multi location business no longer have to continually mess with the Google My Business bulk dashboard and could have a direct feed of their critical location data to the Knowledge Panel via their website with schema markup.  Apparently that world is right around the corner.

Rohan Ayyar of E2M pointed out on Twitter the fact that Google had recently moved the local schema page from Webmaster section of their website to a new Google Developer page and announced the pilot using schema to directly populate the Knowledge Panel and local database with location data :

Screen Shot 2015-12-21 at 7.26.02 AM

Google recommended the use of JSON-LD as the data format and to use the most specific LocalBusiness sub-type possible “e.g. RestaurantDaySpaHealthClub.”

The specification supports the standard array of schema options including address, lat-long and phone as well as the recently added place actions like reservations and ordering, special hours and departmental detail.  For more examples visit this page.

With this direct schema to Knowledge Panel pilot and the broad rollout of the Google My Business API, Google is signaling a more open and flexible approach to allowing multi location businesses to provide detailed location information to Google.

It is a radical shift from the day of “do it our way, or the highway” approach that has long affected Google’s local efforts. The question remains as to whether Google’s crawling and populating the local database can keep up with updating the Knowledge Panel in time to deal with the messy world of not just opening hours but other changing realities. It would seem for example that it would work best with businesses that don’t change hours that frequently and use the special hours feature well in advance for those days that don’t fit the norm. Whether Google can keep up with the ever changing hour needs of the amusement parks of the world is another question.

If you are currently in the pilot or know of any companies that are, I would love to hear how it is going.


Google My Business Releases V2.0 of the GMB API

API-V2aToday Google is releasing of V2.0 of Google My Business API and has just updated their website with new information about the open API.

The V1 was originally released in mid October to a limited audience and with a limited feature set. V2 is being opened up to anyone and comes with a number of new features. Unfortunately access to Insights, review or verifcation are not among them.

Features included in this release are the ability to:

  • Create business locations
  • Manage special hours
  • Mark a location as permanently closed
  • Manage business photos
  • Invite & remove managers on locations and business acounts
  • Read listing state to identify listings that are Google updated, duplicates or suspended
  • Filter locations by name, category or label
  • Set the service area by specifying a point and radius

Features that are not supported by this release of the GMB API and must still be done manually with the location dashboard:

  • Insights
  • Reviews
  • Verification
  • Creating Business Accounts
  • Resolving issues with suspended or duplicate listings
  • Requesting Ownership
  • Ability to query user generated content associated with the listing

Obviously these missing features make the API less useful in any business oriented forward facing dashboard an agency might design but the API should still facilitate managing the basics of listings at scale.

There are several other limitations including the fact that accounts that have not been bulk verified can only manage 100 locations. This will force agencies that manage a lot of individual locations to have multiple accounts to do so.

By default an API account (known as a basic account) allows for 1000 edits/creates per day, and 100,000 reads per day. Apparently application can be made for a standard account that has a higher daily edit rate of 10,000 edits/creates per day.

Screenshot 2015-12-14 13.40.01An interesting feature for those managing Adwords for clients but not managing their GMB listings is the ability to use the API to create/update listings and and then link unverified locations in the GMB to their Adwords campaigns.

Google has released a new set of documentation for the GMB API that includes guides, reference materials as well as samples and client libraries downloads for Java, C# & PHP and the Google API discovery service. Google has also made available a complete list of categories by country with this release. The FAQ can be view here.



LocalU Blog: Video Deep Dive: Google Local Gets a Promotion

In this video discussion at the LocalU forum David Mihm, Mary Bowling and I look at how the role of Google Local at Google and where does it fit vis a vis Plus and search.

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In thinking about the role of Local at Google, going forward we look at a number of interesting recent developments as well as the forced separation from Google Plus and consider the implications of these moves. Has the importance of local decreased or increased at Google?

LocalU Video Deep Dive: Local Search is Haaaaard

In this video discussion at LocalU , Mary Bowling and I look at how the Google Local Algorithm has changed and how that changes what a Local SEO needs to do to succeed. As a starting point we use an article that Casey Meraz wrote at Moz, called Stop Local SEO Tunnel Vision – Think Beyond the Basics.

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Three Tools to Retrieve Location Based Searches at Google

With Google having removed the location setting option in search a number of tools and tactics have hit the market to allow searchers to continue to retrieve location based search for areas other than the one in which Google thinks they are located.

Here are three that all seem to do the job one way or the other.

Screenshot 2015-12-08 11.37.341- Chris Desrochers’ Search by Location Applet – It requires that the searcher drag the applet to their favorites bar (the bad news) but once they do it presents a dead on simple in browser solution via a pop up box to using the &near modifier in an actual Google search.

2- I Search Form uses the Google Adwords tool to allow a user to input location information and retrieve a Google search. It requires you to visit the website and, unfortunately, doesn’t search on every small town in the US and is a simulation not the actual search but does a good job. Screenshot 2015-12-08 11.40.06

3- A more complex but perhaps more accurate way to accomplish the job is written up by Go Fish Digital is to configure the Chrome browser to emulate a browser that is geo located differently. Its very accurate but somewhat complicated and a few steps to change the settings for each different geography.

Screenshot 2015-12-08 11.44.55

Google Local Spam – An A for Effort, a Z for a Zillion & an F for Google

Screen Shot 2015-12-05 at 11.11.09 AM
a sampling from MapMaker

Update: As of 12/13 Google has removed ~40 of these listings but somewhere on the order of 20 still remain.

I have been in the local space, in one form or another, for almost 15 years. Ten of those focused on Google Local. It is rare that I am shocked by my discoveries much these days but the spam reported in this forum post  really caught my eye.

This dermatologist’s “entrepreneurial” efforts created a true sense  of awe with somewhere on the order of 60 spammy local listings and 60 or 70 spammy websites all at one location. And every last one was verified.

This speaks to Google’s failures in this arena as much or more as to his amateurish”marketing” efforts. While  his chutzpah is impressive, it’s truly  incredible to me that with all of Google’s spam fighting resources, their public  bluster, all of the rules and all of the people and all of computer horsepower, this took a report in the forum to uncover.

And of course with many of these keyword laden business names/domains he’s getting a fair bit of 3 pack exposure.

Screen Shot 2015-12-05 at 11.03.00 AM
His websites are truly “works of art”
Screen Shot 2015-12-05 at 11.02.49 AM
….truly “works of art”
Screen Shot 2015-12-05 at 11.02.32 AM
…truly “works of art”
....truly "works of art"
….truly “works of art”
Screen Shot 2015-12-05 at 11.05.30 AM
a sampling from Maps
Screen Shot 2015-12-05 at 4.14.25 PM
A sampling from search: Fraxel NYC (What is Fraxel?).
Search: Ethnic Skin Care NYC
Search: Ethnic Skin Care NYC
Search: Skin Doctor NYC (he gets 2 listings no less)
Search: Skin Doctor NYC (he gets 2 listings no less)
Search: Best Dermatologist NYC (I am sure that he is....)
Search: Best Dermatologist NYC (I am sure that he is….)
Screen Shot 2015-12-06 at 9.25.21 AM
No irony here… Medical office for lease..hmm none left, our good skin doctor took them all.

An artifact of this whole process is some of the most amazing business names ever. I wonder what he says when we goes to the bank for a loan or when his mother asks how the business is doing? I have no clue what Pearly Penile Papules are but I can only imagine folks eyes bugging out if I were to hand it out on my business card.

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Developing Knowledge about Local Search