Whither Google Maps Traffic? Are Google Maps and Mapquest Once Again Vying for the Lead?

From the moment that Google Maps became Google Maps there has always been strong growth in the numbers of unique visitors. For period in from 2007-2009 it was growing at rates of 50 to 60% year over year. During that period it quickly passed Mapquest and Yahoo as the leading Mapping product.  Often Google would increase traffic to Maps by changes to the main page of the results page.

According to Compete.com, things,  at least for the .com desktop traffic, have changed dramatically. Google’s Maps has shown a mostly steady decline (despite a summer season uptick) for the last 11 months.

The reasons for a decline in desktop maps.google.com traffic is not totally clear. Certainly there has been a growth in the use of Maps via mobile Apps and we know that the Maps API provides a significant number of Map views across the greater web. But I doubt that either make up for the decline of 35% from  the peak of 64,979 million visitors in Jul ’09 to 42,200 million visitors in June of this year. Current uniques visits have not been this low since July of 2008.

Continue reading Whither Google Maps Traffic? Are Google Maps and Mapquest Once Again Vying for the Lead?

Responding to Negative Reviews – Your Prospects are the Real Audience

Things though can go wrong with the response process if your business does not have a good response plan in place. To get a sense of how far wrong things can go when an SMB decides to respond to negative reviews see Inc’s You’ve Been Yelped detailing how bookshop owner Diane Goodman, was “booked for battery and remanded to San Francisco General Hospital for a mental health evaluation.”

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So you got a negative review about your business.  Although it stings right now, what you do next has a bigger impact on the ultimate outcome of this situation than the negative review itself.  Your actions will determine if this event enhances your reputation or becomes an embarrassing smudge.

Should you Respond and What to Say

As much as you might want to, you can’t profitably respond to all negative reviews.  Never respond to a review unless you can do Step 1 and Step 2 below (Step 3 is optional).

Step 1:  Own the issue.

Your first objective in a response is to communicate that: you are paying attention to the issue; the issue is important to you; and that you are sorry the reviewer had a problem.  Your prospects will be reading your reply with rapt attention.  Write this for them. Tell them that when someone has a problem, your business will hear them.  It doesn’t matter if the reviewer lied or only told half of the story – own whatever issue they wrote about.

Step 2:  Describe how future customers will not have this issue.

A critical part of any response is to tell your prospects that something has changed and this issue will not happen to them.  This is a golden opportunity to market your business.  For example, writing that ‘we have put a new process in place…’ tells your prospects that your company is good and is getting better.

Step 3:  Offer to fix the issue

Your business will spend a lot of time and money on sales and marketing.    Although you can’t always fix every issue (sometimes you don’t want to), your offer to fix a reviewer’s problem is a great marketing investment.   In the response, suggest that they contact you directly so you can try to resolve the issue.

Guidelines for your Response

Write it with your prospects in mind.  Before writing your response, think about who your audience is.  Although your response should be addressing the reviewer, the vast majority of the readers of your response are likely to be your prospects. Writing your response with the majority of your readers (a.k.a. your sales prospects) in mind will help you set the right tone.  For example, write about your company’s commitment to customer satisfaction.  Your response should not try to change the reviewer’s mind or dispute the facts as set out in the review.

Don’t be defensive.   One suggestion we often give to our clients is to send a draft of your response to someone that doesn’t work at your company.  Ask them to delete anything that sounds defensive.

Take your time.  A negative review most likely made you angry.  Resist the temptation to reply quickly because, unless you have superhuman emotional control, the reply is likely to sound angry.

Keep it brief.  Resist the temptation to “set the record straight.”  The surest way to ensure that your response never gets read is to give your side of the story.

Avoid the corporate happy talk and respond as you would face to face and with feeling and sincerity that is you.

Writing a short, non-defensive reply to a review that owns the issue, describes how the issue has been resolved (maybe includes an offer to fix the issue) will earn you the trust of your future customers.

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Several other good resources for responding to negative reviews are:
-Miriam Ellis: Edit, Remove and Respond To Reviews – Tools For Conflict Resolution
-Scott Clark: 15 Tips for Responding to Google Place Page Reviews
-Matt Mcgee: 5 Ways Negative Reviews are Good for Business-Google’s advice on how to respond to reviews in their Help section is, of necessity, too brief to cover the topic thoroughly.

 

Google Upgrades Google Places Monthly Performance Update

Allowing SMBs to add responses to reviews posted on Google Maps is not the only olive branch that Google is handing to businesses. They have also upgraded the monthly Places Account Performance Update to include more information, to educate and market new features and to promote their Tags product.

The report is very useful as it includes the bulk of information that a business would need WITHOUT requiring a visit to Google Places. Kudos to Google!

How Google Has Handled Reviews Reflects a Long History of a Tin Ear and Little Action

Google’s recent introduction of the ability for SMBs to respond to reviews is a welcome and surprising turn of events in the Places arena. Reviews have long been a sore point with businesses that often feel wronged by the review procedures at Google. Many SMBs think of the current arrangement as unfair and they rarely understand the why or how of Google’s non response to review issues.

I asked Cathy Hillen Rulloda, a florist from Anaheim active in local marketing, what she percieved as issues with the way that Google handled reviews and she noted that while the ability to respond to reviews was long overdue, other serious issues remained:

– No ‘Amazon-like’ “real name” indication to add credibility to reviews.
– Unlimited sock puppet accounts are being created by malicious folks and spammers.
– No simple/easy way to get malicious reviews (where folks made no purchase and/or are competitors) removed. I realize a reader will likely detect a review like that as ‘inappropriate’ but far more eyes go to the overall star rankings than to the individual reviews.
– Too long an update period from third-party review sites. A malicious/bogus review can get deleted from the original site (CitySearch, Yahoo, etc…) but still display on Google for up to three months. This has happened to me and it was completely frustrating.

Clearly she is not alone in her thoughts on reviews. If you peruse the forums you will find a multitude of complaints about reviews in these areas:

How to Remove Reviews
Missing Reviews/ Where have my reviews gone?
Flagging Reviews
Fake Reviews

It is amazing how little has changed. What is fascinating about her responses is that they are many of  the same issues that I ranted about in September of 2008: Continue reading How Google Has Handled Reviews Reflects a Long History of a Tin Ear and Little Action

Google Place “Error on Page” Preventing Editing of Listings with IE

A reader alerted me to a problem with Google Places (aka LBC) where a record is currently unable to be created or edited and the lister receives the message: “Error on Page”. A number of posters (~30) have noted the problem in the forum over the past 36 hours.

Here are a sampling of the posts taken from my RSS feed:

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Google’s Joel Headly has responded to the posters, acknowledged the issue and consolidated the postings here.

Apparently, the problem is IE specific and a switch to Chrome allows the editing to continue:

Thanks for letting us know. This issue may be unique to Internet Explorer. We’re currently looking into a fix now. You can consider it a known issue at this point. It may take us a bit to put a fix into the product. For now, the best work around mentioned is to use another browser (people have reported success with Chrome & Firefox).

I’m going to merge other threads with this one.

We already can reproduce the issue in Internet Explorer 7. If folks see it in other browsers, please let us know.

This issue though brings to light a larger issue: The search function in the forums suck. The reader who asked about the problem was surprised that I was able to identify so many with the same problem so quickly. She noted: “Hmmm I went to the help section and searched on “error on page message” and returned items from 2009. I’ll have to check and see what I’m doing wrong here.” Continue reading Google Place “Error on Page” Preventing Editing of Listings with IE

Will Reviews Become Google’s First Successful Foray into Social?

Small businesses are engaged (and often enraged) with reviews on their Google Places Pages. Understandably, the SMB posters at the Places Help forums have a great deal invested in their businesses and the reviews about their business. As a result they often respond with great passion about Google’s handling of them. The forums are rife with over the top pleas, cajolings and complaints about reviews on their Places Page.

Many SMBs don’t really like reviews. For many it is the first time they are accountable to outside forces over which they feel that they have no control but wish that they did. Historically they have responded to this tension by lashing out (sometimes justified and others not) at Google with their frustrations.

In my sales days, I was taught that objections were in fact buying signals. Complaints by SMBs about reviews seem to fall into that category and to me indicate that they are ready to actively engage with Google’s new feature allowing them to respond to customer reviews.

It is my sense that they won’t just respond but that they will actively respond. The passion that SMBs have about reviews will lead them to engage their customers in Places for better or worse. This engagement will incent more of them to claim their listings and monitor their reviews in a more active and even compulsive way.

Reviews have always been social in nature. In some respects they may be a business’s best social forum as the (hopefully happy) customers do most of the work. Yelp and before them others like CitySearch created social platforms around the review process and the business response. But because of the visibility of the 7 – Pack,  Google Places will capture the attention of SMBs in a way and with a volume that quickly become significant. It will lead to an ongoing, interesting (and possibly often bizarre) interchange between businesses and their customers.

Because of the potential for volume and visibility it may make reviews more “social” than ever and could very well become a primary territory for SMBS to interact with the world around them. Has Google possibly created their first successful foray pushing Maps to become a Social platform?

Google Reviews – Business Owners May Now Respond Directly

Reviews have long been a sore spot between SMBs and Google. But Google Places has added a new feature that will go part of the way in providing SMBS salve for some of their “review wounds”. Google is now allowing business owners to respond directly to reviews.

Starting today, if you’re a verified Google Places business owner, you can publicly respond to reviews written by Google Maps users on the Place Page for your business. Engaging with the people who have shared their thoughts about your business is a great way to get to know your customers and find out more. Both positive and negative feedback can be good for your business and help it grow (even though it’s sometimes hard to hear). By responding, you can build stronger relationships with existing and prospective customers. For example, a thoughtful response acknowledging a problem and offering a solution can often turn a customer who had an initially negative experience into a raving supporter. A simple thank you or a personal message can further reinforce a positive experience. Ultimately, business owner responses give you the opportunity to learn what you do well, what you can do better, and show your customers that you’re listening.

Before writing your first response, we recommend reading our handy tips on how to respond to reviewers. Then take a stab at responding by following these instructions. If you have not yet verified ownership for your business on Google, please visit Google Places to claim your listing.

If the business listing is claimed and you are logged in as the same user that claimed the listing you are now presented with an option to respond directly to users reviews.

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Hopefully this is a first step towards providing business owners both more understanding of how reviews work as well as tool for dealing with them in a positive way. It is a feature that will be widely accepted by business owners and moves Google’s Places one step closer to the ideal of a SMB reputation management environment.

Responding to reviews is a double edge sword and can, if not thoroughly thought out, cause many more problems than it solves. A well planned approach to responding to reviews is absolutely critical.

Google Now Calling to Confirm Google Places Community Edits & Verification Issues

Over the past few months a number of clients and readers have emailed me and asked if Google ever called to check on listings. Apparently callers (often from India) would ask the business for information like street address. The callers when queried would claim to be from Google but would refuse to provide call back information to the businesses.  The calls struck an odd note with the businesses and when asked I advised them that historically Google had never made such calls and that the calls were likely from scammers.

In May, in an effort to be clean up business listing quality, Google  announced that community edits would require verification before they would be integrated into the listing results. Apparently these “consumer calls” looking for location information are in fact from Google and part of this program. Google has confirmed that as part of that additional level of verification, they have been calling businesses to find out business name and address. Google noted the following to me:

In some cases, to verify business information, we’ll make phone calls to find out the business name and address. However, we will never make an unsolicited call asking you to provide specific account information, passwords or other sensitive information over the phone.

If asked, the person will identify themselves as calling with Google Maps.

Getlisted Local U: Denver is Next

We are very happy to announce that the next GetListed Local University is going to be in Denver and will be held Thursday, October 21 at the Sheraton Denver Tech. Pricing for the event is $129 and with the discount code: MBDenver your cost will only be $89. There will be morning and afternoon events and you may sign up for single tickets here.

The event is being coordinated by the folks at seOverflow and sponsored by Bing, Localeze, UBL and Deluxe. The speaker line up includes the usual suspects of great speakers: David Mihm, Matt McGee, Mary Bowling, Maryam Gholami (Bing), Ed Reese and myself.

Like all previous Local Universities, this event is specifically targeted to local small businesses. One of our primary goals is to connect attendees with reputable local marketers to help answer questions and improve their visibility long after the conclusion of the seminar. We realize that when we are long gone from Denver, these folks will still often need the assistance of professionals in their local market.

To serve this need we are offering a great opportunity for local agencies to expose potential clients (and junior staff) to the concepts and ideas of Local University with a specific package targeted to their needs: the Local University Group “7-Pack”.

Local University Group “7-Pack”

Tickets for each of our Local University events are available in blocks of seven at the discounted price of $399 per block ($57* per ticket).

    7-PACK BENEFITS

  • • Over 50% off each ticket (normally priced at $129)
  • • Increased credibility among clients & attendees
  • • Inclusion of your logo & website mention as a Local U partner
  • • Special reserved seating at event
  • • Inclusion of your company/organization logo in rotating partners deck
  • • Networking with presenters and other attendees

Reserve Your 7-Pack Today »


*Larger blocks of tickets are also available at this same $57 rate. Inquire for more information

I am looking forward to meeting you in Denver!

Google Tags – Do They Help? An Anectdotal Review

Google Tags rolled out nationally at the end of June. Several questions that have been often asked about Tags are: How well do they perform? & How do searchers respond to them? Do they attract additional business?

I have one client, Moses and Rooth Attorneys at Law in Orlando, that added the tags immediately after their national rollout on June 28th. We now have 4 weeks of before and after data so as to be able to compare results. While it is only a sample of one and should not be construed as representing a general truth, the results seem promising.

We chose the “coupon” Tag not so much for the coupon value but so as to be able to add content to the listing. While the coupon itself didn’t generate very much direct activity,   the overall “actions” were significantly higher on fewer “impressions” . The listing received more than a 100% increase in the number of actions while the listing received ~20 % fewer impressions.

Time Frame 5/31-6/28 6/28-7/26
Impressions 2586 2001
How many times users showed interest in your business listing 35 76
Clicks for more info on Maps 3 12
Clicks for driving directions 0 12
Clicks to your website 32 52

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I would caution that this result can not be taken as a general guideline for success. It is a single month’s comparison for only one listing and the reliability of the statistics in Places are erratic at best.

The results are likely to be different in different industries. It is also very early in the life of Tags so very few other lawyers in market had yet taken advantage of them (only one other showed in the search results). That all being said, it does appear to have had a positive influence on end user actions.

What have been your experiences with Tags?

Developing Knowledge about Local Search