Google Places Moving Help Closer to the Dashboard?

Google has been upgrading the verification process with both more strictness and more opportunities to communicate problems with Google. These communcation forms are somewhat buried in the Help Files and it is not clear that Google is handling requests with any dispatch but they are positive if weak signs of a movement towards more support in Places.

These screen shots were passed to me by Mary Bowling, a great local seo with SEO Overflow and seem to indicate that Google will further upgrade support. This option to allow the end user to communicate to Google about verification problems started showing up late June & early July in a few dashboards. They have not yet been seen widely in the wild but it appears to be an effort on the part of Google to push problem solving further out to the smb rather than forcing them to hunt it down. Hopefully we will see this option in every dashboard going forward not just a select few and there is a timely solution to legitimate problems after the submission.

It can’t come soon enough from my perspective.

Screen Shot 1:

Screen Shot 2:

Jobs: Rant or Reason – iOS4 vs Android, You Decide

Steve Jobs took the unusual step of talking at Apple’s Q4 earning announcements (full audio here). It is being widely characterized as a rant (blistering, impassioned attack, trash talk) across the internet. I found it to be both a well reasoned and convincing articulation of Apple’s and Job’s point of view. Not necessarily correct, not necessarily a winning strategy but well articulated and not in the rant mode. Am I just listening with gilded ears or is it really a rant?

Rant or Reason, you decide:

Jobs - IOS4 vs Android - Trash Talk or Reason?

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Here is the segment of Steve Jobs detailing why he thinks Apple’s integration is preferable to Google’s open approach to smart phones.

Google Places And Their New Rejection Algo – It is like 7th Grade All Over Again!

Many years ago, on a Saturday night bus ride home from a 7th grade basketball game, I experienced the first, most exciting & most memorable make out session I can remember. It was with Mary G. I had always liked her but just never imagined that I could rise to “her level”. All of that weekend I was floating high with the excitement and expectation. On Monday morning, in first period class, I gave Mary my class ring and we were officially going steady… My high extended throughout the day with visions of the “future” titillating my imagination. I was successful beyond my wildest dreams.

But all good things come to end. Sometimes more quickly than we hope. In 8th period, a gofer/friend of Mary, her proxy, gave me back my ring. Rejection was hard. As fast as I had climbed the ladder of 7th grade “success”, I came crashing down.

In June of this year, Google Places introduced a new, much more aggressive listing level spam review process in the Places Dashboard. Your once flying high listing that was bringing in customers by the droves now may be buried deep within the listings or worse, banished from the listings altogether. Rejection is hard now too.

The new review can occur if you touch your listing for some reason and bring it to the attention of the new system. But it also seems that it can even occur if you don’t touch your listing. The new algo apparently is being applied on a rolling basis to every listing in Maps.

Andrew of SQLPerformance, a local listing consultant, has done an excellent job of summarizing many of the attributes of this new rejection review system in the forums and I am reproducing his post here. Continue reading Google Places And Their New Rejection Algo – It is like 7th Grade All Over Again!

Google Places Upgrades Review Display, Yelp Reviews Back

Yesterday afternoon, Google upgraded the display of reviews on the Places Page. The new display aggregates reviews from third parties with an icon and a  link to the the review site and continues to show individual Google reviews below that display.

The aggregate display shows the third party site with the most reviews at the top of the list and displays 2 recent reviews from them as well as the aggregate star rating and total number of reviews and one review for each of the other two sites. Only the top three review aggregators are shown on the first screen with additional review sites visible at the More from around the web » link. This puts a real premium on volume of reviews from review providers because if the Places Page gets moderate traffic after 2 clicks, the More from around the web » gets far less.

The new display shows below the sentiment analysis if there are enough reviews or just below the business details & photos if not:

As David Mihm points out, this is likely in preparation for the influx of testimonials as reviews to the Places page. It would allow them to be easily deprecated to only show in the more from around the web section if need be.

This display is consistent with the review display in Google’s test of organic-local listing integration in the main serps, with the review sources being given more visibility and a link rather than showing all of their content. It is the first recent development in Places that moves users away from Places. That being said it still spawns a new window, leaving the Places page open on your desktop.

In a TechCrunch interview at the end of July, Jeremy Stoppleman of Yelp noted in talking about Yelp’s review spat with Google:

“And then yeah, we found our content was showing up there and it is ranked dead last right now. I don’t think that’s sort of a permanent situation from what we gather from talking to Google, they are sort of headed in a new direction that which hopefully will be more positive.”

Clearly this display of summary review information, a high placement on the page and a colorful icon seem to put more emphasis on the review source and will likely lead to more traffic for them. WhetherObviously, this treatment is enough to bring Yelp reviews back into the fold of Places is yet to be seen but the above statement indicates Stoppleman’s willingness to allow Google to include Yelp’s reviews as they are now again showing.

One interesting design element related the new display is the handling of the destination a user is taken when clicking on the the Review link in a OneBox. If the user selects the review link they are taken to the Google reviews, effectively hiding the 3rd party reviews.

Update: Here is the Lat Long announcement on the new review display and here is TechCrunch’s take on the Yelp reviews once again showing up.

Google Maps Rich Snippets for Local FAQ: Testimonials to be Treated as Reviews

When Google announced support for Rich Snippets for Local 3 weeks ago, there were a number of unanswered questions. A number of these are now answered in the Rich Snippets for Local Search FAQ:

– Currently Google (FAQ #3) only recognizes microformats (hCard, hReview) for Rich Snippets for Local Search. Thus, until Google expands support for microdata and RDFa formats, you should stick with hCard and hReview formats.

-You (#4) should only provide the actual phone number for the location and should not include call tracking numbers.

-If you (#6) provide precise geo-coordinates Google will use them but if not then address alone is okay.

-Structured data (#9)should not be used as an alternative to verifying your Places listing but in conjunction with it.

The big surprise for me though was FAQ #10:

How will Google treat businesses posting testimonials with review mark up on their own site? Will these be treated as a review by the Place Page?

Testimonials will be treated as business reviews on the Place Page.

This means that site owners will be able to contribute testimonials from their site to their Places page. The implications of this are profound in terms of the impact that these testimonials will have on review count. The impact that they will have on tone of the reviews, sentiment analysis and rank are yet to be seen but if they are handled exactly as current reviews are, this too will be profound. Webmasters will be busy tonight! 🙂

Here is the complete list of links to the questions answered in the FAQ: Continue reading Google Maps Rich Snippets for Local FAQ: Testimonials to be Treated as Reviews

Google Places Reviews Being Lost – Houston We have a Problem!

Google Places seems to have again misplaced reviews in significant quanties. The forums are loaded with complaints particularly during the past 24 hours with 5 of the last 10 postings in the forums being about missing reviews (here, here, here, here, and here).

Reviews for a small business are a very sensitive area. Initially most SMBs are hesitant to engage in the process for fear that they won’t be liked and their warts will be visible for all the world to see. Once they do engage in the review process they become the ultimate proud mother hen, protecting their reviews as if they were the palace guards and the reviews were the crown jewels. It in area of great angst for many and Google’s poor handling of them brings down a stream of complaints and insults like no other area in the forum.

Google Places has a long history of loosing reviews. It usually occurs when there are large changes occurring. Often times they return after several weeks although in my case it has been 3 months without seeing them on my listing.

Exactly why reviews are lost but business listings are not, implies that the information is kept in a different index. When there is a major upgrade  they end up needing to be reassociated with the cluster. (At least this my theory and for what it is worth, publicly embraced by Google).

Regardless of the cause, it appears to be a systemic weakness in the architecture of Places. It is also a weakness that is noted by many a business who readily point it out. It is strange to me that Google would leave such a weakness so visible if for no other reason than a fix would quiet the rioting hordes.

So, what exactly can a business do if their reviews go missing? What tactics can help in this situation? Continue reading Google Places Reviews Being Lost – Houston We have a Problem!

Google Gets a Barely Passing Grade with the BBB – For the Want of a Nail…

Like many other SMBs, I have no love lost on the Better Business Bureau. Paying them to vouch for what I always considered my basic responsibility of being honest seemed inappropriate. They strike me in the same vein as our current political system: you have to pay to play.

But they do sit in the middle of the swirl of complaints about companies and can provide the consumer with some sense of whether a particular company has an unusual number complaints or perhaps has settled with the government . Thus while I refuse to pay them, they are not completely without merit. The BBB can spot trends and provide some relative idea about the quality of customer service that a company offers (how many complaints) and how the company handles them when they do get them (resolved or not). Google has also “blessed” them as a citation source for local (although an expensive one).

So when a reader sent me the link to Google’s BBB rating I approached it with my typical objectivity towards Google ( 🙂 )  and the aforementioned caveats. I decided to compare Google to a range of tech companies (Apple, Hewlett Packard & Microsoft) and several companies in mobile (Verizon, ATT) to see how they faired and so you can put Google’s customer service level in perspective.

Drum roll please… Here are the results in order of the BBB grade: Continue reading Google Gets a Barely Passing Grade with the BBB – For the Want of a Nail… & Unique Vistors: Would the Real Number Please Stand Up

While there may be some dispute about the origins of the saying: “there are three kinds of lies, lies, damned lies and statistics” there is little disagreement about its general truthfulness. It seems particularly appropriate in regard to Yelp’s unique visitors.

Yesterday announced at SMX East that they had 38 million uniques on the desktop and it picqued my curiosity. has done a great job of generating reviews and adding value around them and I have been following them over the years as both a user and a professional, watching thier efforts to move from a niche restaurant site in the major markets to a broad based general site. Have they moved out of the niche and into the mainstream? Certainly 38 million uniques would indicate so.

But I was curious for some verification of Yelp’s numbers so I went to Quantcast, Compete and Comscore to see if I could independantly confrim them. The results, far from enlightening, illustrate the many ways that unique visitors can be counted.

Source Yelp Uniques Chart (click to view larger)
Yelp 38 Million
ComScore 24 Million
Quantcast 12.6 Million
Compete 10.1 Million

Your thoughts?

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