Will the Real Google LBC Ad Please Stand Up!

I am not an Adwords expert and do not follow closely the issues around brand integrity etc with Adwords. I do know that Google has been criticized in the past for being too liberal in allowing others to leverage a brand and also they have been criticized (although exonerated) for allowing deceptive ads to be shown.

I find it ironic that they should in fact suffer the same fate with their ads promoting the Local Business Center. When you do a search for something like Google Maps Place Rank you are now shown ads that look like they might be from Google. What do you get from these Google Wannabes (both are in fact owned by the same company) for $299?


Impressive claim eh? When I showed the ads to my wife (a small sample indeed but the only civilian at hand), she was angry that Google would claim the top two spots for themselves.

It does appear that these ads do violate Google’s Trademark policy. I guess someone at Google should report this violation to Google so that potential users of Google’s LBC are not deceived.

Yelp Announces Transparent View of Filtered Reviews to Increase Trust

I received this email from Yelp today announcing increased transparency around filtered reviews, the end of the “Favorite Review” option for advertisers and a SMB advisory council.

Here is the email that was sent:

This Week: About that Review Filter…

A few weeks ago, we directed you to a detailed explanation ( http://bit.ly/=
YelpFilter ) of the process Yelp has in place to only display reviews written by the most established users. Known as the Review Filter (or spam algorithm), it’s been a big part of Yelp’s explosive growth over the las=
t 5 years.

But keeping Yelp a trusted resource for 30 million people per month isn’t an easy task, and we’re constantly exploring ways to keep Yelp truly helpful for both business owners and consumers. Today, we announced ( http=://bit.ly/bSLwHb ) that we’re now providing users with the option to view those filtered reviews.

We’re hoping that giving people the ability to “look under the hood,”so to speak, will offer additional validation and transparency to the mechanisms that keep Yelp useful and relevant to consumers. Have your own thoughts about this? Email us at outreach@yelp.com and tell us what you think!

In addition to be able to view filtered reviews, Yelp is eliminating the “Favorite Review” option for advertisers and creating an SMB advisory council. From their blog post:

Additionally, in an effort to more formally integrate feedback from the business community, we’ve created a Small Business Advisory Council whose members will provide Yelp management with guidance and perspective regarding the concerns of small business owners.

Being able to view all of the information that is being kept about a business is a valuable and useful option. It is something that Google Maps should provide in regards to their cluster. It would help immensely in dealing with niggling problems that algos so often create. A decent interface to this information allows a business to see and understand why a listing is the way it is. It would be better yet, if there would be some sort of review and correction process that would additionally allow the SMB to request that the status of this information be changed. Maybe, just maybe, the algo was in error.

Kudos to Yelp for beginning this process.

Google to Offer Local Business Center Webinar to SMBs

The Google Maps team will be offering a brief 45 minute webinar about the basics of the Local Business Center with a focus on Local Business Center for small businesses. It will cover:
– adding and verifying your local business listing to Google
– creating a great listing
– frequently asked questions

You will need to sign up on this form so that Google can send you an email invitation. Sign-ups close Friday, April 9, 2010.

Since last year with the rollout of the Favorite Places campaign, their Favorite Places Poster Campaign & sponsorship of GetList.org Local U, Google Maps has been involved in more efforts to reach out to SMBs and educate them about the Local Business Center and its potential. Its a welcome communication strategy that can only increase SMB participation and understanding of Local.*

Full Disclosure – Google Maps is one of the primary sponsors of GetListed Local Univeristy of which I am participating instructor and organizer.

Newest Getlisted.Org Local U to be in Cleveland June 30th

Getlisted.org Local University is rolling into Cleveland at the end of June! In partnership with the Karcher Group, NEOSA and Anita Campbell, it promises to be a great event.

The Karcher Group, a strong web development & marketing group in the Akron/Canton area, contacted us in January shortly after Spokane was announced. Anita Campbell, an incredible small business consultant and blogger, agreed to help out shortly after and Brad Nellis of NEOSA, North East Ohio’s premier technology promotion group, has also stepped in as a major sponsor. All three have been great in developing this session and it’s incredibly exciting for me to be able to work with them.

Local University: Northeast Ohio (aka neo) will take place on June 30, 2010 at the Educational Service Center of Cuyahoga County, featuring two identical half-day sessions (8am – noon and 1pm – 5pm).

To sign up, head over to the GetListed.org/neo page to reserve your seat. If you use the discount code mbNEO you will only pay $79.

If you’re coming in from out of town, the Holiday Inn of Independence, OH is offering a special rate of $89/night for conference attendees and provides free shuttle service to the venue. Simply mention that you are attending GetListed.org Local University when you make your reservation.

As with our Spokane and upcoming TwinCities events, we are committed to educating the small business community in each city we visit. 10% of all ticket sales for this event will be donated to a local educational charity. If you’d like to nominate one, please email us at neo@getlisted.org.

I hope to see you there.

Citizens of Rogers Demand that Google Be Renamed After Lost Town

Apparently the citizens of Rogers, MN have created an on-line petition requesting that Google, renamed Topeka in honor of April 1, be renamed as Rogers until the town has been found on Google Maps.

Their petition states:

We, the people of Rogers, MN are looking to be found on Google Maps. Google seems to have misplaced us.

If Google finds the job too difficult then we would demand equal time to the wannabe town of Topeka and request that Google changes their name to Rogers in celebration of our existence.

Whether Rogers will change their name to Google is open to negotiation.

Rogers, Mn, lost since March 17, seems to have been joined by several other “lost” communities including Wickliffe, OH & Imperial Beach, CA.

This just in. The towns are dropping like flies. It appears that Woodstock VA has now gone missing as well.

Review Solicitation – Dumb and Dumber

Yesterday I highlighted a review service that was managing the review process for SMBs and posting the good ones into Google, Yahoo etc… an idea that is sure to have a short shelf life and one that is not a good long term strategy. Well here is another.

Aggressive marketers often engage their mouth long before any cognitive activity has taken place. This is an example of that and makes one realize why the process of review gathering is often referred to as “solicitation”.

Ben notes on his website:

Chiropractic Marketing Exposed: We’ve launched a breakthrough new Google Booster Experiment on the Forum in which members promote each others Google Maps listing to get very high rankings on Page One of Google. Watch this Video explaining the whole thing and how to get involved. Watch it NOW!

If you don’t have time to watch the whole video or happen to find the the presenters enthusiasm overbearing, essentially he is recommending that Chiropractors that frequent his forum leave reviews for each other on Google Maps……

Chris Silver Smith had this to say:

Review-swapping, like vote-swapping, strikes me as wrong for the same reasons, albeit on different levels of scale/seriousness. In my opinion, this is a thinly-veiled attempt to exploit reviews for ranking purposes, despite his suggestion of not putting false reviews. I believe Google Maps would perceive it that way, too, which makes it a dangerous tactic to be involved with.

I believe that Google Maps is either not been weighting reviews and numbers of reviews all that heavily (in favor of other ranking factors which I’ve recently been writing about), and they also have means of telling when exploits of this sort are used. I have heard stories of people having their accounts disabled due to detection of exploits in Google Maps reviews.

And Will Scott, Search Influence in New Orleans noted:

We work with a couple chiropractors and there is some serious snake oil out there. These guys are well educated, with years of rigorous training, but they seem overly susceptible to shortcut marketing.

Will’s phrase “shortcut marketing” really says it all. Any review process needs to be part of a well thought long term effort to improve your company’s visibility across the whole local ecosystem.

Reviews – Do Positive Only Review Services have a place?

Over the past few weeks, I detailed several successful ways to generate reviews. I promised at the time to detail some ways that I think are ultimately bound to failure. Here is one.

ReviewBoost claims to “Authenticate and Publish positive reviews across the Internet, maximizing online reputation for businesses of any size.” They claim to “publish reviews on partner sites like Yahoo, Yellow pages, Super pages, City Squares” and to do “review syndication and broadcasting on Google search Network” (whatever that might mean).

At the Google Maps forums, a poster (obviously another marketing company) wonders “Is this a legitimate use of Google Reviews?” and goes on to note:

We were approached by a business that provides review submissions on behalf of clients. I have linked to a sample of their work. They approach businesses and offer to post client reviews on their behalf. They are easy to find and follow since they tag the reviews as posted “By Review”. Is this a legitimate service? If not, how can Google address it?

Link to the map or business listing in question if applicable: http://maps.google.com/maps?cid=1868467862308158144&hl=en&gl=us (look at user reviews)

Here are some reviews from the Places Page referenced:

Clearly, the era of outsourced, positive reviews is upon us. Efficient for the business yes, perhaps even an easy sell. It is also clear that these types of services will soon be spoiling the bed in which we all sleep. The footprint is heavy and ultimately, the process is predicated on the deception of both the participating business and the consumers that only good reviews can get through.

How do you think Google will respond? How would you respond in the forum post? How long before reviews become totally untrustworthy and not worth the bits they are written in?

Did Google Really Say this?

According to the NY Times (http://s.nyt.com/u/Q6T), Alan Davidson, director of United States public policy for Google, while testifying before congress, is noted as saying:

“censorship had become more than a human rights issue and was hurting profit for foreign companies.”

Is Google so self focused that they would elevate even $1 of their profit over human rights? Did the NY Times misquote him? Was this really his position? That Google’s profit was more important than human rights?

If this was in fact said and what was meant, this man either needs a basic lesson in Enlighment thinking or a new speech writer. Better yet perhaps he should be looking for a new job.

Google Now Cross Promoting Other Web Services Directly to LBC Users

I recently received this email from the Google Local Business Center:

Google Apps helps you focus more on your business, less on IT hassles
As a small business owner, you don’t want to spend additional time, money and energy on IT hassles. That’s why the Local Business Center team would like to introduce you to Google Apps Standard Edition, our suite of free, easy-to-use online messaging and collaboration tools for businesses like yours. Apps is hosted by Google so you don’t need to install or maintain any hardware or software, and you can access your account from just about any computer.

When you sign-up for a Google Apps Standard Edition account, you can:

  • Get customized email for your domain with Gmail for Business
  • Seamlessly share and manage schedules with Google Calendar
  • Quickly create websites as easily as drafting documents with Google Sites
  • Easily create, share, and collaborate on documents, presentations, and spreadsheets withGoogle Docs
In just 3 easy steps, you can sign-up for your FREE Google Apps Standard Edition account

Click Here

The Google Local Business Center Team


Last week it was reported as well that Google UK is offering free websites AND free domain registrations to small businesses. If you had any doubt about Google going after the very small business with a complete list of internet services, this should make it perfectly clear.

Which Review Sites Should You Use?

I am frequently asked: Which reviews sites should I send my clients to? Which one should I pick?

My answer: think about your customers needs first (easy, choice), think about your business needs second (leverage) and consider using as many sites as make sense.

I asked this question of David Mihm, Local SEO expert, and his response was:

The syndication value of reviews on well-spidered portals like Citysearch, InsiderPages, and DexKnows appears to me to outweigh any special ranking given to Google’s own reviews (which are of course not syndicated). Additionally, I think Google places extremely high trust in reviews it finds on leading vertical portals like TripAdvisor, Healthgrades, and Avvo.

I strongly agree with David’s premise. Citysearch by virtue of its extensive syndication and still strong visitation puts its reviews almost everywhere (for a list see the end of this article). Citysearch uses Facebook Connect for its login making guaranteeing that most of your clients have a login at the ready and its reviews show up regularly and quickly in Google Maps. By virtue of pervasive syndication, Citysearch reviews have as much as 15% more exposure than a review written in Google Maps.

I would also recommend adding Yahoo Local to David’s list. Many users already have a Yahoo login making it easy for them. More importantly Yahoo Local reviews are the only reviews that show in the Yahoo Universal results. If maximum exposure is the objective then showing in Yahoo Universal (plus Google & Google Maps) results in far greater visibility that even the total exposure to review provided by Citysearch.

Should you use Yelp or Google? Continue reading Which Review Sites Should You Use?

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