When Google rolled out G+ Local with Zagat reviews they changed the ordering of review content from time based to most helpful. As part of that ordering they added a new category of reviewer known as a Top Reviewers. These were folks that had reviewed a large number of locations. Google also added the ability for a business (and I presume its many managers) to leave reviews of other businesses.
Like all things Google the Most Helpful ordering of reviews is algo based and includes elements like the quality of the reviewer (in terms of followers on G+ and number of reviews), the language of the review, the recency of the review and who knows what else. One of the attributes of reviewer quality is the Top Reviewer assignation. According to this post to become a Top Reviewer one needs lots of reviews, a significant number of followers and a reviews that have been found helpful by others. It is not clear whether being reviewed by a Top Reviewer increases rank but there is every reason to assume that a review from a Top Reviewer is carefully watched by Google for other signals and content.
What never occurred to me until this morning was that one way to become a Top Reviewer was to do so as a Google+ Page for your business rather than an individual. A business page can have as many as 50 managers so reviews would aggregate more quickly and ease the burden of any individual reviewer. Obviously this business recognized the opportunity and has leveraged it.
0:16 Listings take a week to go live, a few weeks for link from Google Places dashboard to work
It might take longer than a week depending on their internal build cycles.
0:40 Verified social pages now showing message if edit not accepted
This message appears:
0:59 Fewer categories displaying because uncommon categories no longer appearing
Choosing from the list of auto generated categories increases the likelihood that a category or two will show. Maybe speculation in Linda Buquet’s forum about categories changing dramatically is in fact the case? Clearly the missing categories is NOT a bug but an intentional decision on the part of Google.
1:18 International phone number formatting issue with verified social pages
1:28 Formatting not appearing on owner descriptions
HTML tags are no longer showing but some rich text formatting is not showing although some is. Google has had problems showing rich text on local listings in the past and they finally seem to be fixing this issue. See above image.
1:45 Google+ Local best practice: edit verified social pages via Google+
What happens if a page is edited via the Dashboard? Not sure but I am sure it isn’t pretty.
We are nearing capacity for the Local U Advanced in New York next Monday but there are still a few seats left if you want to join us. Would love to see you there. Be sure if you are coming to introduce yourself so that I can put a face to your name.
This afternoon Rocky Agrawal tweeted out about this plaque he had noticed hanging in a restaurant. He (and I ) were completely fooled by the plaque and were convinced that it was really from Google. I even thought that perhaps it was an experiment on Google’s part to migrate away from Zagat signage.
I am not sure who I think less of in this situation, the restaurant that was trying to appear more than they really are by leveraging Google’s name and their review product or the company that soaked them $300 for the “privilege”. A restaurant or hotel can order a sign that touts their good standing with just about any review company including Yelp, TripAdvisor, Zagat, Frommers and many more.
When businesses that are looking for a quick fix deal with companies that are willing to accommodate them, the customer inevitably loses. And in this case so does Google, Yelp, all the other companies whose name can be put on the plaque and every one else in the local space.
The local ecosystem is a complex web of interrelations with Google having positioned themselves at its center. Given this complexity, just how long does it take for data to move through the various parts before it makes it into Google’s index. And from the main index into their local index and the cluster of data they have about your business? Just why does fixing error or changing a listing detail at InfoUSA take so long to impact your Google listing?
David Mihm and I have been working on detailing the time it takes for any given citation creation to impact the Google cluster for your business.
Our goal is to provide a broad stroke as to the range of times it might take for citation data to show up in a desktop Google search. The ranges are estimates only based on our experience and do not reflect comprehensive empirical data. As such, you might find discrepancies with our assessment of any given citation tactic. That being said, we think that the information is broadly accurate and provides insights into the delays at various points in the local ecosystem.
Depending on where the data enters the system it can take more or less time to finally make it into Google’s cluster of data in their local index and depending on where it hits in any given cycle along the way it can make it there more or less quickly.
For example, in the case of Infogroup they might take 2 months cycle to vet a new listing and another month before the data is fed to one of their customers for display in a local directory. Thus the range of times, depending on when the data hits their cycle could be as long as 180 days before (blue) the time for it to first appear live on the web. Depending on the importance of the page and its visibility where that data is shown it might take anywhere from a day to sixty days for Google (orange) to include the data in their main search engine. From there Google then needs to re-build their local index and include the new citation data into the Google+ Local cluster (Green) which occurs every 4 to 6 weeks.
The circle thus represents an educated guess as to the average time to inclusion in the Google+ Local cluster for data that started at any given point.
Historically, as I have noted previously, a listing that went through a list broker, onto a primary list supplier like InfoUSA and then off to Google had a number of time delays before it would hit paydirt in the business cluster in the Google local index. This data could, if it hit every cycle just wrong, take as long as 9 months from beginning to end.
Since Google started clamping down on review solicitation, particularly in the dental and auto dealer worlds, many businesses have expressed fear, dismay and discouragement about reviews in general and Google’s review policies in particular.
Comments like “At this point I am ready to give up and ask my customers to avoid Google and go to Yelp. it is not worth all of the brain damage. does anyone at Google care enough to help? or should I just move on?” or “I’m completely moving away from encouraging customers to leave reviews on Google.” were all too common in my post on Google’s newest “guidance” in the arena.
My suggestion? Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water. Google may be frustrating and they may be opaque but they are still generating 60-90% of your leads. Endorsements on the front page of a search result are still very valuable. The issue is finding a way to continue to get reviews around the internet, including Google. You may need to test a few tactics until you find one that works but it is worth the effort.
But you say: How can I possibly ask a customer to leave a review there if Google is going to throw it away and waste their time. I say: Tell you customers what to expect, give them choices and let them decide.
The reality is that you don’t need 10 reviews a week at Google. In fact you don’t need 10 reviews a month or a quarter there to succeed. Most businesses need to accrue one review every month or two so that at the end of 3 years you will have 30. You need to ultimately get more than 10 so you get Zagat rated and you need to stop fretting about how many you have there and how many you have lost. You need to keep putting one foot in front of another, keep gaining endorsements across the internet. In the end if you run a good business and have loyal customers you will get your share of reviews at Google and elsewhere.
If you have had massive review take downs at Google you need to review your processes and procedures and acknowledge that what you were doing was not working and will not work. If you are a car dealer you need to stop spiffing your salesmen to hustle a customer over to an on-sight review work station. If you are a high volume dentist you may need to simply hand out a piece of paper explaining the review process rather than actively soliciting reviews of 20 clients a day via email. And if you were buying reviews or using a review service to enter comment cards well DUH!, time to stop. If you were helping folks sign up for a Google account, that probably needs to end as well.
So what is left for a business to do that wants to gather reviews? The same as has always been the case. Put in place a review process that gives customers lots of choice, generates reviews at a wide range of sites in addition to Google and is easy for your staff to implement. Keep it ethical, keep it simple and you will find that you get the enough reviews at Google and lots of reviews elsewhere.
Here is a sample email/letter that I have crafted for a client. It was written for a legal client but the logic of it can be used for any business. (more…)
Google has confirmed a new bug for G+ Local pages this afternoon: Many uploaded photos are missing in action. They are looking for additional examples so if this has happened to you please report it in this post at the Google for Business Forum. (Thanks to Dr. Paul Parker of Parker Center for Plastic Surgery of NJ for the heads up.)
With the help of Annie & Lisa Kolb from Acorn, I became aware of a new bug affecting Google’s local index where the URL of the listng’s site and occasionally the telephone number are stripped from the search result and the G+ Page. The URL is replaced with the plus.google.com URL in the search results. It seems to strike listings that have been claimed via the dashboard as well as merged listings that have been verified via Google+.
The problem seems to reside in the final local index as there is no indication of the problem in the respective MapMaker records or the Places Dashboard. The problem is fairly widespread. Google has acknowledged and is aware of the problem and has started a thread to collect reports of the issue.
Here are some links that Acorn discovered in their research if you want to see other examples. (more…)
Getlisted Local University is in full swing for this fall with a range of events in Minneapolis, NYC and Tarrytown, NY. Hopefully I will see you at one of them. If you are a reader and do come, be sure to take a moment and introduce yourself.
MN SEARCH PRESENTS LOCAL UNIVERSITY – TWIN CITIES, MINNESOTA
Friday, September 28 Deluxe for Business, Google and the Board of Directors at MN Search has invited the Local U faculty to the Twin Cities for a presentation to their clients and membership, respectively. The event is most definitely open to the public, however, and both the agenda and tickets are available from EventBrite using the link above. This event offers the basic 4 hour intro session in the AM and more detailed topics in the PM so a you can come for either half or the full day. To receive a discount use the code MB2012.
LOCAL UNIVERSITY ADVANCED AT SMX EAST – NEW YORK, NEW YORK
Monday, October 1 Super-excited to present another Advanced edition of GetListed.org Local U the day before SMX East with David Mihm, Matt McGee, and all the other regulars! Like Seattle the day is chocked full of advanced content …we also added birds-of-a-feather roundtables to allow for more 1-on-1 questions from attendees–ask your questions & get a look at real client issues directly from Google +Local’s support guru Joel Headley!
There is no discount code available for this one. Seating is limited to 50 but there are still a few seats left if you are thinking of coming
LOCAL UNIVERSITY – TARRYTOWN, NEW YORK
Tuesday, October 2 The following morning, in conjunction with Google and Progressive insurance, we’ll be presenting our standard small business-oriented edition of Local U at the Doubletree Hotel in Tarrytown, NY for businesses in Westchester County and Northern New Jersey. This is a morning only session and speakers will include myself, David Mihm, Joel Headley from Google, Mike Ramsey, Mary Bowling and Ed Reese. If you know of SMBs or those new to the Local SEO field that would benefit from this crash course give them my discount code of MB2012.
For more information on any of these events feel free to email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) or visit the Local University site. If you have a group of clients that you would like to bring or a number of staff members we can provide a group discount as well.
We are now in the process of working out the winter/spring schedule for 2013 and if you are interested in helping to sponsor an event in your market we would love to hear from you.