New Local Listing Ad Layout & Whatever Happened to the 7-Pack for Web Designers?

Ross Jones, of 2 the Top Web Design, sent along a new layout for Local Listing Ads that he spotted on the search Web Design San Diego. Notice the lack of 7 Pack, Map & Pins and the display of the Local Listing Ads placed completely on the right side of the screen (click to view larger):
Picture 126

Obviously, if there is no 7 Pack, the ads need to go someplace.

The question that many designers, search firms, web hosting companies and advertising agents are asking is: What happened to the 7-Pack for all of those industries? The missing 7-packs have been reported world wide and has affected many internet and marketing related searches. There are two active threads in the Maps forums, here and here

For example none of the following show a Map or Local listing results:
Marketing Firms Boston MA
Local Search Marketing Portland OR
Web Hosting Denver Co
Web Design Los Angeles Ca
Advertising agency NY NY

Google is apparently aware of the issue and has classified it as a bug. It appears that it was related to the previous problem of the OneBox showing too much. Here is Google’s response on 11/18:

Hi Everybody,

This looks like it’s closely related to the issue going on at the thread I’ve linked below. We realize there’s something going on here, and we initially pushed out a fix a while back. There was a little hiccup with the fix, which is probably why the results in Fresno may have gone back up and then back down as addoctane mentioned above.

The team is working on this issue. Stay tuned to the thread below where I will post an update as soon as I hear one.

Thank you all for your persistence!

BB

References:
[1]
www.google.com

So now all you web designers and search marketing firms whose heart skipped a beat when you thought that your keyword crammed title had been finally dinged, can now sleep easy and worry another day. 🙂

Google Upgrades Maps Forums – Will It Solve Support Issues for SMBs?

Today Google is changing the category structure and posting process in the Google Maps Help Forum in an effort to reduce miscategorization of topics and improve the quality of the help provided. All posts since the new forum was rolled out in January have been apparently been placed into the new categories:
Problems and Errors —> Map Won’t Load
For Business Owners —> Verification Issues
How Do I? —> Base Map Data

The move, while a big step in the right direction, will not really solve the customer support issues that Google faces in the SMB world.

In the current forums users typically mix questions across the categories and often cross post as they are unsure as to which category a query belongs. This move to upgrade the forums with more granularity has apparently been successful in other Google forums.

Google noted that “We’re hoping to also generate more discussion around the various features of Maps rather than simply providing a forum for transactional questions and answers”.

In the new layout, Google first asks users to identify themselves as either a business owner or not a business owner as to allow a choice to see all posts by business owners only.

The user is then asked to select one of the many new, more specific categories to post their question.   Google’s hope is that this will make it easier for them “to identify issues, find resolutions, and circle back in a more efficient way”.

-Maps User Categories:

Business Owner

Not a Business Owner

Topic Categories:

-Verification Issues
For business owners having difficulties verifying listings in the Local Business Center.

Local Listing Issues
For users with questions about editing, adding, or removing business listings.

-Loading Issues
For users who are unable to use Google Maps because the map won’t fully load.

Feature Requests
A place to share your ideas to help us improve Google Maps!

Base Map Data
For users to discuss the current base map data for Google Maps.

Driving Directions
For users to discuss best practices for getting driving directions, or to report driving direction issues.

My Maps
For users creating personal, annotated, or customized maps.

Street View
Discussions surrounding all things Street View!

Having spent a great deal of time in the forums, I think this change is very positive and will generally improve the overall environment of the groups and their usefulness. In many of the categories it will improve the ability of users to help each other and create more of a community feel as MyMaps users congregate or geeks talk of packet problems or firewall settings in the Loading Issues category.

But there is a limit to this strategy to improve the self help nature of the forums. When it comes to small businesses with problems in the Local Listing & Verification process, it is unlikely to be as successful as in the the other categories in changing the transactional nature of the Maps problem solving cycle. The reasons for this are several.
Continue reading Google Upgrades Maps Forums – Will It Solve Support Issues for SMBs?

Will Google Maps Coupons Rise From the Dead with the New Mobile Option?

Coupons in Google Maps have long been the forgotten step-child with little promotion on the part of Google and even less visibility in Maps and in the main search results. The result has been that they have been of little real value to anyone. Is that about to change?

The Google LatLong just announced that Google has added a new option for Local Business Center users in the US to display their coupons on mobile devices. Additionally, they’ve the display of coupons on your desktop. From the post:

coupons1
“If you add a new coupon to your business listing in Local Business Center, by default it will now be available on mobile devices. To make your existing coupons available on mobile, edit them and check the box for Mobile Distribution, as shown here”:

coupons2
On a mobile device users looking at local business listing will see a section that lists the available coupons which if clicked will present specially-formated page which shows all the coupon details.

While a mobile presentation of the coupon might someday offer a useful and popular coupon redemption means, it appears to me that the Google Maps Coupon will remain hidden from potential users for a while. The coupons also do not show in Google Maps on the iPhone which seems like a 10 foot high barrier to adoption in the mobile world. On the desktop due to Google having buried them deep within the interface and on mobile due to lack of penetration and searcher knowledge.

That being said, if you have a coupon in the LBC it is worth going in and upgrading it to present in the Mobile environment. As part of the upgrade and when you modify the coupon, you will be required to add an end date to the coupon if one was not previously added.

Looking for a Legend In All the Wrong Places

Zebedi recently posted this comment on my Get a Virtual Office With a Keyword Stuffed Maps Listing article. I thought it worth highlighting and responding:

As a small business person, I cannot find an SEO that can tell me how to genuinely appear in search results in the areas we genuinely service. Why is it called SPAM if it is genuine?

People like us go to clients, rather than them coming to our workshop. (antique and furniture restoration and custom furniture etc. etc. in case you are curious). We are talking about relatively rare service skills and a large client catchment district to gain the higher class of items which are our niche. This is the way it always has been, since 1983, and the way it always will be. We are in a metropolitan region but not in the major city. Nor are we in the two sister cities that we service. We are in an in-between city area. Our workshop is in between the main city and one of the sister cities, and because of highways, about 1-1.25 hours from the other sister city.

We are not alone in this issue. Lots of service providers are in this situation, particularly if they target the top end of their skill/ items, and even more so if the equipment or the skill is rare. Also, it is not unusual for people like us to have workshops or acreage to handle the noise and the land required for specialist vehicles and equipment and often, economically, we choose in between sites for our business for land price benefits – yet still good access to client catchment areas. Have a look where most industrial estates are. It is no point of chance that it happens to be between cities rather than in them.

SO if you want to catch some work – solve the problem.

Looking for a legendary SEO ….

Here is my response to Zebedi. What would you add?
Continue reading Looking for a Legend In All the Wrong Places

Google Local Listing Ad Heatmap

Like all in the industry, I am curious about how a user might view and respond to the new display that Google is presenting when the Local Listing Ads are included. Between the Adwords, new Local Listing Ads & the 7 Pack organic results have been pushed very far down the page and user behavior is obviously impacted.

Not having a budget for this project I used one of the new algo generated online heatmap products, AttentionWizard to see what the results looked like. According to their own description there is a 75% correlation between this type of heatmap and a real heatmap. So what you see should be viewed with a few grains of salt. That being said, it is interesting. Click the image to view it larger.

Local Listing Ad HeatMap - Click to View Larger

What do you think?

Here is a screen shot of the original search for comparison purposes:
Continue reading Google Local Listing Ad Heatmap

Is Google AdWords Testing a New Local Adwords Display Type?

In July, Google upgraded AdWords to allow advertisers to add the full address to their search ads through location extensions. It appears that they are now testing a new ad layout similar to the one developed for Local Listing Ads.

Tim Coleman of A Second Opinion, sent along this screen shot from last week of a search for “garage door repair denver” that displays a new local AdWords ad type. (Click the image to view larger)

denver-local-adwords

Has anyone else seen this type of Ad?

Google Maps Local Listing Ad Spam & Other Notes

As Google Local Listing Ads rollout it is no surprise to see spam creeping in and potential trademark questions once again coming to the fore. Pierre Kairouz has shared a screen shot with me for the search taxi San Francisco which brought up this Local Listing Ad. It is interesting in two respects, the use of PO Box for the address and the obvious business title manipulation. The domain taxicabcalifornia.com leads to a website with the business name of Yellow Cabs CA and a whois address in Mountain View. The taxi industry is not a new comer to mapspam but it will be interesting to see how Google enforces its guidelines on PO Box and business name going forward as the ads become more common.

Local Listing Ad Spam - click to view larger

The keyword crammed business titles are notable in this result as well:

Picture 120

The other interesting issue presented by business name keyword cramming and Local Listing Ads is the possibility of trademark violations. This search for computer repair San Francisco Ca brings up the following ad:

copyrightviolatons-LLA (click to view larger)

The ad, while in likely violation of Google’s listing guidelines, is not in violation of Google’s Adwords US Trademark rules as the lister is an active seller of Microsoft products. The ad which goes to the lister’s Places page, does however raise the question of appropriate trademark use in both the business title, categories and descriptions.

It also appears that the Local Listing Ads are rolling out across more and more categories in the San Francisco & San Diego markets including salons, plumbers, auto parts and even locksmiths. However it is not yet available in all categories. Cathy Hillen-Rhulloda recently noted that florists in these markets have not yet been offered the Local Listing Ad opportunity.

Get a keyword stuffed Google Map listing with a virtual office thrown in for free!

Creative abuses of Google Maps for profit always intrigue me and this “ad” is one that certainly wins an award for chutzpah. PanzerMike, never one to let a potential spamming competitor sneak through & frustrated by Google’s spam fighting efforts, sent me this example.
Picture 111

Apparently with the real estate business in a downturn, an enterprising real estate company needs to turn somewhere for new leads.
Picture 113
With a little searching, you can find this Map listing in every major market, each located in a building offering virtual office space. One even offered the space up free for 90 days to the recently unemployed.

The phone numbers listed in the Map’s listings, ring into Anthony & Co. who according to their website are “one of the largest, oldest and most experienced commercial real estate service companies in North Carolina”.

I found these paragraphs from their About Us page rich in irony:

ANTHONY & Co. is recognized by corporate, institutional and individual clients as the “consummate insider,” and now with four locations, ANTHONY & Co. has greater reach to serve you in more local markets.

With timeless values and expert professionalism, we build Real Value and Real Community for local investors and companies. We are pioneers in consulting, development, transaction and management services, applying our knowledge with wisdom to achieve Real Results for our clients.

It seems that in this case, you get a virtual office with a keyword stuffed Google Map listing thrown in for free. Or is it a keyword stuffed Map listing with a virtual office thrown in for free? Leave it to the real estate business to redefine timeless values, expert professionalism and wisdom.

Google Maps LBC Local Listing Ads: Additional Details & Interface Review

The Help Pages for the Local Listing Ads have been “beefed up” and now total 32 pages of instruction with ad policy details, and payment timing and much, much more. Several of the help pages did answer previous questions and provide some nuggets of interest :

Will my monthly fee change?
Your flat monthly fee is unlikely to change. In the event that we need to change it, you’ll be given 30 days notice of this change both via email, and on the homepage of your Local Business Center account

What is call tracking? Is it optional
In order to drive calls to your store and help you keep track of them, Google Local Listing Ads offers free call tracking to all Local Listing Ads advertisers. We will offer each ad listing a unique call tracking number that will forward calls to your listed business phone.

The number of calls you receive is listed in your online report. Additionally, each time a customer calls, you’ll hear a voice announcement – ‘this caller brought to you by Google’- before the call connects. That way, you get a better sense of what kind of customers are being driven to your business by your ad. This can help you make more informed decision about your advertising spend. For now, this call tracking feature is an integral part of Local Listing Ads. We’ll be listening to your feedback on how useful this feature is, and whether or not we should make it optional.

Will my ads show less often as more advertisers join?

Yes. This reflects the fact that as more advertisers sign up for the same business type in your location, on average each advertiser will get less user attention. That said, our team is working on ways to make sure the spread of user attention stays within reasonable range, we’ll update this topic to reflect these.

Brett Burlison, a San Francisco Personal Injury Attorney, agreed to share some screen shots of his Local Listing Ad interface.

In the main list view a third tab has been added that provides access to the Local Listing Ad details. (Click any of the images below to see them larger.) The interface is clean and very easy to use.

google-local-dashboard1

One you have chosen the tab you are brought to a summary page of the ad where you can see the ad statistics and have links to edit the ad or to view the billing history.

Note the low click thru rates…
Continue reading Google Maps LBC Local Listing Ads: Additional Details & Interface Review

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