Reviews about a business are one of the key jewels in the bag of online marketing tools available. Businesses work hard to get good reviews and benefit from the positive word of mouth when the shopping community lauds them. Google has had on-going trouble keeping track of these jewels, losing their own and those from 3rd parties all too often. Now with recent changes, Google seems to have added new problems and bugs to their handling of reviews.
With the rollout of Hotpot and user ratings, Google appears to have made massive internal changes to their review process. Reviews with Google have always been flakey but now they are even more so with half baked changes that make providing reviews on Google Places more friction laden then ever.
I think this screen, shown when you click in Places to see the reviews provided by an anonymous “Google User”, says it all:
Apparently, Google is attempting to make anonymous review histories available for perusal but there have been serious flaws in the process that have not been fixed for well over a month. The error message above has been visible for over 3 weeks but even worse is that reviews from new anonymous reviewers are often not posting at all onto Places leaving reviewers and businesses confused. Continue reading When Will Google Places Fix Reviews?→
Last week in This Week in Startups, Jason Calcanis had a great interview with Lior Ron (who like hotpot has his name backwards 🙂 ),the product manager for Google Hotpot. The interview is interesting, gives insight to the technology and Google’s thinking about its role going forward and its relationship to personalized search.
The interview is longish but well worth watching and chock full of gems. It is refreshing to hear candid remarks from the Maps team.
The actual interview with Lior starts just around minute 4:58 and trust me you will want to start there…
Update : A spokesperson from Google just sent me the following;
Just saw your post from today and wanted to let you know that we do have some improvements to the Places dashboard coming, but they may not make it onto Santa’s sleigh for delivery by the holidays. 😉
Google recently pushed out an upgraded Places Dashboard analytics view that included significantly more detail, mobile information and viewing options. As of last night, the new analytics have disappeared in the US and the UK and reverted to the old style analytics. Whether we were seeing a test, a final product that was not yet finished or someone pulled the switch too early is unclear.
How soon or whether we will see the new view is not known.
Yesterday was a seminal moment in Local. It largely went unnoticed but it reflects the rapid monetization of location pages by the major search engines.
Bing* announced a number of local, map and mobile upgrades that improve an already good, but under rated and under used product. Clearly, they are battling toe to toe feature wise with Google Places and will be giving as good as they get. It is nice to see their staying with Local and keeping in Google’s rearview mirror with a general purpose Local platform.
But the part of the announcement that caught my attention was the following:
Check-in: Share your current location with friends and family via Facebook, foursquare or Windows Live Activity Stream.
Plans: From the Bing homepage or a local search result, people can plan a night out and share the plan with friends via Facebook, who can comment or join the plan.
Opentable and Grubhub integration: With the integration of Opentable and Grubhub into Bing for Mobile, once you find your restaurant of choice, you can reserve a table on OpenTable or order takeout from Grubhub without leaving the Bing app.
OpenTable will be integrated into the local search vertical, allowing people to book reservations from the restaurant details page in Bing.
FanSnap will be integrated into the local search vertical, allowing people to purchase tickets to a concert or sporting event through the events details page in Bing.
For the first time for the SMB, Google is providing human interaction in the form of the Tag and Boost teams. Google, to their credit, recognized the need for both outbound calling and some level of support in the SMB market place.
But in an effort to cram every business and every problem into the same scalable system, a not small number of businesses are getting very upset. Unlike most businesses that put in place processes with a goal to satisfy every customer, Google has always taken the perspective that if you scale worldwide there will always be some statistically acceptable low level of failure in every process including customer service. Their business processes and algo’s do not seem flexible enough to ever achieve “customer delight” in say the manner of an Apple.
Here are two recent examples that demonstrate the problems that Google is facing on the customer service front. The first being predicated on quirks in their algo and the second on a lack of flexibility and clarity in their promotional efforts.
The Bayfront Westcott House Bed and Breakfast, has had a Tag promoting his bed and breakfast in St. Augustine Fl. Unfortunately, his listing has merged with that of the B&B right next door. Given how Google’s algo works and some bad luck on the phone number choice when he bought his business, it is understandable from a technical sense. It is not understandable in the very real sense of him running his business. He and I called Tags #800 a number of weeks ago and were told that the problem was being elevated. Weeks may be moments to Google but they are years to the typical SMB. Continue reading Google Places: Problems in Tag land- Hell hath no fury like an SMB scorned!→
Yam Regev (PureSheer) sent along this new view visible in Google Maps that moves StreetView front and center in the Maps results. It is not clear if this is a test or not as I was able to see it at work but not at home :
Thanks to e-mphasis Internet Marketing for pointing out the increased detail that Google Places is now including in the Dashboard Analytics.
Google is not only providing a breakout of desktop vs. mobile activity but is showing a great deal of additional detail in the mobile environment. Note the inclusion of “Add as Contact” and “Reservation”. Is Google planning a reservation service near term?
They have changed the layout, making QR codes and the event posting option more obvious by moving them to the left upper screen quadrant.
There are more date ranges for summary analysis including the ranges today, yesterday, this month, last month and different starts to the week. The implication of this is that this data will be in near real time, allowing for a much more timely view of the affects of promotions.
Most of the analytics also have an added +Show More Search Queries feature that allows the showing 10 results for each segment rather than 5.
In addition to showing where driving directions were requested from Google is also showing locations used in searches for your business which offers a more granular (if still not complete view) of the geo modifiers used in the search phrase. The map showing locations has added more visual detail as well
The new analytics is a welcome improvement over the old one. There are still things that could improve (why only show 10 keywords? why show keywords separate from geography?). Accuracy is still suspect as in my example Impressions and Actions were highest on the desktop but the numbers for terms used were shown as significantly higher on mobile.
Certainly having the granular mobile information, the apparent real time or near real time information, the more flexible date ranges and dramatically improved maps are significant upgrades. Not only do the changes provide an SMB with better understanding of the actions of her clients, they clearly point out the every increasing role of mobile and make its impact both numerically and visually obvious for all to see.
And just what does the word “Reservation” refer to?
Google Places has a word filter in place that prevents the use of certain terms and phrases in a listing. It is a particularly “nasty” filter as it doesn’t allow the record to be verified and offers no way of working around the ban other than removing the “offending” word. Even hospitals get swept up in its reach. If you are a Sex Therapist (XXX Therapist?) it becomes kind of awkward but what are you supposed to do if you live on Pine Street or your last name is Martini?
Begging in the forums in the hopes that a Googler will lift the flag is the only way to have this particular penalty removed . I, in a fit of ecentricty, started catologing these banned words. Now in an effort to provide the transparency that Google lacks I am sharing my secret list of naughty words with the world.
In September, Danny Sullivan wrote a post on the The Five Words You Can Never Suggest On Google Instant. Places, not happy with 5 is going for broke… here is my list of 253137 55 banned Places words from the past 4 or 5 months that I have cataloged. I am sure that there are many, many more, so feel free to add to the list:
Over the weekend, we reported that TripAdvisor reviews, while not showing up in UK, were returning to US listings. Apparently, it is just a fluke as TNooz reports that TripAdvisor is continuing their restrictions on Google using Reviews in Places. From TNooz and TA:
“Despite the rumours, we are continuing to restrict TripAdvisor content on Google Places as we don’t think it benefits users at this time with the experience of selecting the right hotel.”
The company adds that it is in “constant discussions” with Google – details of which are not disclosed.
TripAdvisor has also responded directly to my query; “There are reports of reviews showing in the US but NOT in the UK….Has there been any change in position? Are you still not allowing your reviews back into Google?”
There has been no change in position. We are continuing to limit the TripAdvisor content on Google Places at this time, as we don’t think it benefits users with the experience of selecting the right hotel.
I have only been tangentially following the development of Google Instant on Mobile. As Barry pointed out upon its release in early November, on the iPhone it is not a natural search strategy and thus I only use the Google search field on my phone occasionally.
Yesterday, though, I noticed a result that made bells go off given the on going dispute raised in the recent WSJ article about Google sending traffic to itself. I am with Lisa Barone on this issue of whether Google is or should be Santa Claus, they are not. This is capitalism boys, stop your whining. Its a tough game that puts demands on all of us but particularly on stock held companies. If you don’t like it, join me in the revolution.
In the meantime it was still striking to see this Google result on my iPhone that provides not just a link to themselves as a result but as a suggestion. How long before Google starts showing Places results as a suggestion? Talk about search results before you search… this is certainly a step in that direction.