Google+ Pages for Local – Which One Is It?

Google is slowly moving towards a G+ local world where there will be two types of G+ Pages for local; claimed and unclaimed.

There will be subtle differences between the claimed pages depending on owner configuration (social or no, video or no, owned by a person or a company) but all G+ Pages for local that are claimed will have the same options available to them. Whew… this reality has been a long time coming but with the recent rollout of the “auto-merge” capability we can start to see the “end game” for these pages (as if Google works with end games).

In the meantime there is a transition going on and many G+ Pages for both in the US and internationally are caught in some intermediate state; old dashboard, new dashboard without social, merged social page with old dashboard etc. It’s important to understand the state because some things are possible in one situation and not in another and some bugs seem to be a function of what the page is and how it was created. For example a business claimed into the old dashboard can be reclaimed by another account but one claimed into the new dashboard can not. That has implications for all sorts of situations now and in the future.

To help you clarify the status of any give page from the outside view I have written a new blog past at Local U to help clarify (yea right clear like mud) the situation :  What Kind of Google+ Page Is It? – A Visual Guide to Google+ Local Pages.

Google Now Auto-Merging Google+ Pages Into Google Places Dashboard Listings

Updated 6:30 am 8/21

Screen Shot 2013-08-21 at 6.43.27 AMFirst spotted on Linda Buquet’s forum earlier today on Monday, Google has announced that they have started auto-merging G+ social functionality into basic (upgraded) Dashboard listings. Here is the Google announcement (bold is mine):

Starting today, some pages managed in the new Google Places for Business dashboard will be automatically upgraded to have social features. We will send out emails to users whose pages are automatically upgraded letting them know. Users who have upgraded pages will see a link to Visit your Google+ page in their dashboards. A personal Google+ account is not necessary in order to utilize social features on local Google+ pages that are automatically upgraded.

If the listing for your business is not automatically upgraded and you are interested in social features, you may be able to use the Google+ widget to upgrade the page manually. (You can read more about the Google+ widget in the update from April 11 on this post — scroll up.)

Please first make sure you follow these criteria:

  • You must have verified your business in your Places account.

  • Your Places for Business email address should also have a  Google+ profile.

  • Your page must be in a category that is eligible for Google+.

If these apply to you, you will see a Google+ widget in your dashboard inviting you to upgrade. Simply click Get your Google+ page to upgrade. This will create a local Google+ page in Google+ that is tied to your Google+ account. You will be able to update this page from both Google Places for Business and Google+.

If you do not see the Google+ widget yet, or don’t have the upgrade link in your widget, sit tight while we work on getting a smooth upgrade process in place for you.

To clarify Google’s somewhat imprecise communication: Google is saying that if you wait and just have a generic Google email or corporate email BUT not a G+ account, your dashboard will be upgraded automatically to be able to have a social presence and video capabilities. My understanding is that if you don’t not post any social content to your stream then your listing will continue to not show the posts tab and likewise with videos.

If you want to to have a social presence for your business before that new capability hits your account you can initiate the upgrade from within the new dashboard if your login email for the dashboard is already a G+ Plus account.

The bottom line is that if you sit and wait your new Places for Business Dashboard will bring all of the social and video features of Plus to your business without the need for an individual to have a Plus persona. You can continue to use a generic or corporate email address to manage the listings.

This is obviously a second, continuing step in creating an integrated system where all listing management can occur from within the Places Dashboard and where a business will have the ability to manage the whole system as a branded entity rather than as an individual, an obvious necessity for large businesses as well as small.

While the listing management picture is clearing up, there are still some questions around how the bulk upload feature set will be integrated into this picture and how a single brand with many locations will be accommodated so to not need to produce social streams per location. Hopefully the wait will not be interminable but this change dramatically simplifies management of listings for both agencies and a range of businesses that struggle with arbitrarily putting one individual face forward as a claimant of the brand.

Google Places Guidelines No Longer Prohibit City in Your Category Field – Should You Add It?

Joy Hawkins of Imprezzio Marketing, alerted me to this post in the Google forum where a business noted that the Google Places for Business Guidelines do not prohibit the use of city in the category field . Apparently Google has recently changed the Google Places Quality Guidelines and removed the prohibition against the use of geography in the category field.

Should you now add your city to a custom category?  The short answer: No. Google knows where you business is located.

Old Guidelines New Guidelines
Provide at least one category from the suggestions provided in the form as you type. Aim for categories that are specific, but brief.

  • Categories should say what your business is (e.g. Hospital), not on what it does (e.g. Vaccinations) or things it sells (e.g. Sony products or printer paper). This information can be added in your description or as custom attributes.
  • Categories should not contain location-based information (for example,Dog Walker Los Angeles is not permitted).
  • Only one category is permitted per entry field. Do not “stuff” entry fields with multiple categories.
Select at least one category from the list of available categories.

  • Categories should depict what your business is (e.g. Hospital), not what it does (e.g.Vaccinations) or products it sells (e.g. Sony products or printer paper). This information can be added in your description.

Here is the long answer.

The Google Places Guidelines have apparently been rewritten to apply to the new Google Places for Business Dashboard. In that environment there is no option to create a custom category nor any ability to add a geographic modifier to a category. Businesses can only choose from a predefined list of categories so the rule becomes irrelevant. The option to add custom categories is only possible in the old Google Places for Business Dashboard which will soon be going away.

Those of you in the old Dashboard still have the capability to add custom categories but I would strongly urge you not to add city to your category field, even if competitors are doing so. The reason that Google originally banned the practice was that it gave companies an unfair edge in the search rankings and was widely abused. In response Google at first wrote a guideline to prohibit it. However some months thereafter they implemented an algorithm that punished those listings using geographic category modifiers by dramatically reducing their rank and preventing them from showing in their primary category searches.

That algorithm change is still in effect even though the rule isn’t. As happened to the poster above, a business that was using this sort of modified category called me, desperately wondering why their listing was no longer visible. Within 48 hours of removing the geo modifiers from their business name AND categories, the business bounced back onto the front page listings.

In Search of The Purchased Google Review. Yours for $1.40 ea.

Last night I went in search of the purchased Google review. I was curious what the high ranking results were for phrases like buy Google reviews and how much a review would cost.

Far and away the most compelling was from the number 1 ranked exact match domain: buygooglereviews.com. Reviews started at $2 each when buying 5 but got down to $1.40 when buying 50. You have to love their proclamation of integrity that jumps out upon arriving at the site. I suppose that the people are real… its the reviews I am worried about:

Screen Shot 2013-08-09 at 12.46.58 PM

The second ranking result was an eBay search result that offered reviews from $3.48 ea when buying a quantity 5 of them to $10 a review that included a 30 day guarantee.

The vendor providing the guaranteed results used only “professional writers genuinely based in the US, Canada and the UK”. Unfortunately they only served “Vegan and Family friendly sites only”… hmm strange set of values that. No burgers while we craft an illegal review. Well at least the cows are safe.

This eBay reseller’s total command of the English language was reassuring: Continue reading

Google Continues Test of Local Call-Out Box

Phil Rozek of Local Visibility shared these two screen shots of a Google test that highlights the sitelinks display on a branded local search with card like outlines.

The treatment, first spotted by Moz on a local search in late July, has evolved from a single box around the complete result to a number of smaller boxes around the individual sitelinks in the context of the large box. Regardless, it is very striking display.

Do you think this test will become the defacto sitelink display?

(Click to view the full page)

new-onebox-crop

 

Here is another example from Phil: Continue reading

Google Rolling Out Review Distribution Charts for G+ Page

Update 6:45 pm: Google has confirmed the review distribution is going live and will be visible across all browsers and desktop machines shortly. It also appears that only listings that show Stars are seeing the distribution graph. For the most part that results when a listing has at least five reviews. Although in rare cases a few listings with 4 reviews garner the stars and get the review distribution graph.

Mary-Kelly Gaebel of ADP Digital Marketing Solutions Group pointed out a new feature that Google seems to be testing (or perhaps rolling out): A review star distribution chart. I had noticed this feature the other day but before I could do a screen capture, it had disappeared.

It seems odd to me that they would be adding new features to the Plus review page while simultaneously making it more difficult to get to the review page…. but hey this is Google. Its all part of some grand plan, right? I actually like the presentation and it provides users with  meaningful data but if it isn’t brought to the main search page it is unlikely to be seen by many.

Although I am now seeing this in Safari for Mac but NOT Chrome or Firefox. Are you seeing it?

I would love to see the distributions of this data, in aggregate, by industry.

In related news, Google has announced that they have added Canada and Spain to the new dashboard rollout. Wonder when they will finish rolling it out in the US?

 

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Google Upgrades New Dashboard with ‘Remove This Listing” Option

remove-listingThe new Places for Business Dashboard has for the most part been a significant improvement over the old Dashboard in most regards. That being said, it was missing one critical feature: you couldn’t remove a listing from the dashboard once you had started the claiming process. That self evident feature has finally be added (just reported by Dan Leibson this via Twitter as well. Google just updated the Places Dashboard post in the forums and the Help Files:

Users of the new Places dashboard can now remove listings from their accounts. Please note, you cannot undo removing a listing from your account.

If your business is closing, make sure you first report it as closed using Report a Problem. If you’d also like to remove the business from displaying in your dashboard, first access the dashboard for the business you wish to remove. Select the Gear icon, then select Remove this listing.

Note that Google may continue to show businesses that have been removed from your account on Google Maps, Search, and other Google properties as closed, moved, or open, depending on the information we’ve received about the business.

The action removes the listing from the Dashboard in real time with the following message:

Are you sure you want to remove this listing from your account?

Please note:

  • This action cannot be undone and you will no longer be associated with this listing.
  • This will stop any campaigns in Google Offers or AdWords Express for this business.
  • LocalU Marketing Seminars may continue to appear in search results on Google, Google Maps, and Google+ Local. Learn more

You will no longer be able to use this listing with these services:

  • Offers

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