Google on Missing TripAdvisor Reviews: “Our team is working to resolve the matter”

On December 4th, TripAdvisor reviews disappeared from Google Places. They are still missing in action but a Google spokesperson has noted the following in relation to the lost reviews:

We’re aware of a technical issue in which TripAdvisor reviews are sometimes not appearing in results for Google Places, and our team is working to resolve the matter.

Illusory Laptop Repair – A Most Elegant Google Places Hack

This story of intrigue comes to you via a discovery of Eric Petreska, the quite brilliant head of of Maximum Results Marketing, a local search marketing firm in Spring Hill Fl.


When you search for virus removal Olean NY you see an interesting result.

Not our listing for a service my brother provides…. no, the other one…for Illusory Laptop Repair. A quick drive by or Streetview look-see would soon convince you that 154 Main St, Bradford, is anything but a vibrant downtown location. It is however, smack dab at the centroid of the Bradford.

What is this? MapSpam creeping into the hinterlands? Not to worry, I am on it…

Well rather I am it. OK I admit it, I created it. I couldn’t resist. You know scientific protocol testing, that sort of thing… all for the good of humanity. I couldn’t very well report on it, if I hadn’t tested it.

The truth? It is such an elegant hack, so simple yet so powerful, I really wanted to prove to myself that this one was in fact real.  The local area code phone # rings into my office via Google voice, the record was secured via a PO Box that I have access to in Bradford PA. Sometimes the most powerful hacks are really not hacks at all, just a simple creative use of an existing feature .

Here is Eric’s description of how it works in his own words (bold mine): Continue reading Illusory Laptop Repair – A Most Elegant Google Places Hack

TripAdvisor Reviews Missing from Google Places – Bug or Kerfuffle?

Noun:  A social imbroglio or brouhaha. An organizational misunderstanding leading to accusations and defensiveness.

Since December 4th, there have been a number of reports (here, here and via email) that TripAdvisor reviews are not showing in Google Places. A quick search of the Maps index shows this in fact to be the case with TripAdvisor reviews not showing on the Places page for any hotel or B&B searched.

Obviously TripAdvisor plays a huge role in the hospitality industry and the syndication of their reviews to Google has a big impact there as well. I received this email from Su at the Inn at Tanglewood Hall in York Harbor, ME.

Any more word on this?  The missing TA reviews are HUGE for the lodging industry.  Trip Advisor makes up almost 75% of our reviews (we personally went from 76 to 21).  Many places have gone from triple to low double digits, even single.  Example:  TA #1 ranked B&B in the entire state of Maine:  Bayberry House in Boothbay Harbor with 237 reviews, is now down to 4 on Google Places, no  longer even makes the cut when Googling Boothbay Harbor Bed and Breakfasts.  Place results have been drastically altered for all Lodging.

It is unclear whether we are seeing a bug in Places that is preventing reviews from showing up or whether TripAdvisor and Google are having a disagreement about Google’s right to show them. Both possibilities have their precedence, with 3rd prty reviews coming and going due to both bugs and battles… I have emailed both TripAdvisor and Google for clarification but as of publication had not heard back.

Google Places Search – Before and After Dashboard Analytics Comparison

specific listing changes in actions for those business showing increasesGoogle Places search was released on October 27 with a great deal of fanfare and commentary. It has been available for over a month and the Places Dashboard analytics data can now provide some insight into the impact of the new display.

I have assembled an overview of the impressions and actions based of the Dashboard analytics for 45 listings for the 4 weeks prior to the rollout and the 4 weeks after the rollout.

I recognize that these numbers are, by design, superficial and are on occasion buggy (showing fewer impressions than actions). We also don’t know if the analytics kept up with the main search results page. However in aggregate, they do provide some general insights about the switch. The business listings represent a range of industries, locales and business size so the sample should represent a reasonable cross section of reality.
Continue reading Google Places Search – Before and After Dashboard Analytics Comparison

Google Micro SERPS: Only 4 (Places) Results Showing

Rasmus Himmelstrup, of SeoAnalyst, and Sebastian Socha, of KennstDueinen.de, are both reporting from Europe a new Places Search Everything result that is showing only four search results on a page. In Sebastian’s screenshot all four of those results were blended results while in Rasmus’s 3 of the 4 were blended results

I had to look at the screen shot twice before I realized that it was NOT a cropped image:

Continue reading Google Micro SERPS: Only 4 (Places) Results Showing

Daniel Tunkelang Leaving Google Maps to Join LinkedIn

Daniel Tunkelang has announced on his blog today that he is leaving his position at Google Maps for an exciting research position at LinkedIn. Daniel was hired at Google about a year ago. There he worked on authority pages and the of mapping businesses to their official home pages.

When Daniel was first hired at Google as an engineer he did something that was amazing and delightful. He reached out to me, looking to understand issues and concerns that I had with Google Maps and their approach to Local. We initially had several detailed email exchanges and a long telephone call. He was gracious, inquisitive and forthright. All things that I respect and honor. He reached across a chasm that typically exists between Google and me and was sincere in his efforts to understand my critiques. Google could learn much from his outreach efforts (although as he pointed out personal contact doesn’t scale well 🙂 ).

We have stayed in touch, off and on throughout the year and I have appreciated the occasional communications and (personal) assistance that he has provided. Even though I don’t know him in a truly personal sense, I consider him a friend and wish him well at LinkedIn.

Google Places Search – 8, 9 or More Local Results to a Page – This is not a test, I repeat, this is not a test…

It appears that Google is willing to fill the results page with local Places Search results if they are in fact the most relevant results on a given search.

Mike Ramsey, our intrepid Idaho local marketer, alerted me to the occurence of 9 local results showing on the search: Boston Personal Injury Lawyer. I ran the search against Safari Mac, Firefox Mac, IE 8, Chrome PC and all are showing 9 local search results.

All of the results had reasonably optimized websites and claimed Places pages. The fact that the results are showing in Idaho and NY and are visible across major browsers on different platforms indicates that this is unlikely to be a test. It seems clear that Google is now not arbitrarily limiting local results to a specific number on the page if there are relevant blended Places results for the query. For the Boston lawyer search, a directory site was not visible in the first two pages of results with Superpages and Avvo respectively showing results at positions 5 and 6 on page 3.

As recently as the end of October, Andrew Shotland was seeing strong IYP traffic on sites he was monitoring and wrote the post Maybe Local Directories Aren’t Dead After All?. He noted that “rumors of the Yellow Pages death have been greatly exaggerated”.

Clearly, there are opportunities still for IYPs but they also seem to be becoming smaller as time moves on.

Here is a screen shot…. Continue reading Google Places Search – 8, 9 or More Local Results to a Page – This is not a test, I repeat, this is not a test…

Why Groupon Makes Sense (to Google)

David Mihm has an excellent piece (that I happen to agree with) on why Groupon in a broad sense is synergistic for Google. I think coupons and the new twist that Groupon brings to them will be a successful  and profitable advertising medium. John Battelle thinks it worth significantly more than $2.5 billion. Greg Sterling though argues that it isn’t worth $5 billion and that very well could be true. But Google may be the only company for which the purchase makes sense at these levels.

I would like to add the following thoughts to the discussion. Greg has estimated  to me that only 25% of all SMBs will ever be willing to participate in self serve internet advertising. The leaves the vast majority of local businesses not participating in and unaffected by most of what Google offers (Tags, Boost, Adwords) today.

I have estimated that Boost with a 10% adoption rate and an average $100/mo spend would generate $500 million a year in income. If it approached the 25% cap it would reach $1.2 billion with current adoption levels of 2 million claimed businesses. I have estimated that Tags, at a fixed spend of $25/mo and the same 10% has a much more limited short term potential of  $60 million. Even as claimed listings grow, there is a very real top side expectation for both products in a self serve world.

Enter Groupon. It is a product that is already generating $500,000,000 in annual income. If Google did nothing else but add the revenue stream to Tags and Boost when it rolls out nationally, they would be at a $1 billion dollar in local ad revenue.

But Groupon also has staff on the ground trained in selling new media. The portfolio for these sales people would immediately increase with a buyout. And an impressive portfolio it would be. These folks could lead with a Groupon deal and then lock in a monthly recurring revenue source with Boost or Adwords. If their selling efforts for Groupon were a bust initially, they could still start folks with Tags and demonstrate the significant benefits of local internet advertising and of claiming their listing in Places and move on to Boost and Groupon down the road.

This purchase would not just give Google a successful, easy to explain coupon product for SMBs (and national players to add to the Adwords revenue stream) but it would give them an on the ground sales force with an actual foot in the door of the other 75% of businesses that would never self serve. It is conceivable to me that just by adding these products to the portfolio and pitching them in person Tags and Boost sales would skyrocket immediately.

Google would have in place Free (Places, Offers), Good (Tags, Tagged Offers), Better (Boost, *?) and Best (Adwords, Groupon) product offerings in both a self serve and full service model that could scale from the single shop to the national retail chain, nationally and internationally. It would cover 100% of the opportunity, have huge upside potential and start out of the gate with a roughly $1 billion highly profitable, income stream and a defensible position …

Investors may not like the economics and analyzed singly Groupon might not in fact make sense. But if Google could use the purchase to jumpstart and grow Boost, Tags and Adwords for local in the rest of the world, the potential of Groupon to them at least, is big.

Here is a chart of Google’s free and paid products for Local that shows how Groupon would fit in the mix…
Continue reading Why Groupon Makes Sense (to Google)

Google Places Verifying Business Listing Discrepancies with Owner

A number of users have sent me copies of a recent email communication that Google Places is sending to claimed business where there is possible problem with the listing. The emails detail potentially conflicting information with the listing when compared to information that Google has about the business in the “cluster”.

In one email example sent to the owner of a merged record, Google suggested a category that Google thought was more appropriate. The category was obviously for the other business in the merge and was inappropriate for this business. It was fascinating that Google was not accepting on face value the categories entered by the business owner.

In another example noted in the forums, Google couldn’t verify the street address that the business was using, perhaps because of the improper abbreviation of the word terrace. Google noted:

You provided:   20814 Houseman terr, Ashburn VA 20148, United States
Google was unable to identify the correct physical address for this business. This address is required for verification. Please edit your listing, and add the real, physical address. You can later choose to hide it from your Place Page, if your business doesn’t have a storefront or office.

Here is the copy of the email I received this evening for a listing that I manage:

Please review your listing

Hello from Google Places,

To help people searching for businesses like yours, Google is always working to improve the accuracy of local business listings. While reviewing your Places listing for Sundahl & Co Insurance, we found that this business may be permanently closed.

Is this place closed?

Sundahl & Co Insurance
58 Derrick Rd.
Bradford PA 16701
United States

Please log in to your Places account and let us know if this business is still open. If we don’t hear from you before January 31, 2011, we may remove this listing.

Thank you,

The Google Places Team

© 2010 Google Inc. 1600 Amphitheatre Parkway, Mountain View, CA 94043

Email Preferences: You have received this mandatory email service announcement to update you about important changes to your Google Places product or account.

The email is a refreshing effort to verify discrepancies with the cluster BEFORE a drastic, business affecting change takes place. It is also an effort to align the content of the Places page with Google’s best known information about the Place.

In my case, there has been a persistent record popping up for the business at their old address which was marked as closed. It is possible that the information from the old address, although closed, merged into the cluster for the current listing. Google’s misunderstanding in the situation is understandable.

This new outreach allows Google to double check information in the cluster against the person or people best able to suggest its accuracy… the business owners. It is a welcome step and one that should minimize improper closings, mergings and other errors and use owner provided data at lest when Google trusts the owner’s input.

Props to Google Places!

Here are the screen shots from the process of providing Google from the owner’s point of view… Continue reading Google Places Verifying Business Listing Discrepancies with Owner

Developing Knowledge about Local Search