Phil Rozek has just published a great piece at his blog: Top Local SEO Myths. Phil asked me and 9 others for 3 myths about local marketing. Never one to be shy, lack for things to say or follow instructions I sent along four. Here is a sampling of my responses:
When you verify your listing data in Google (Places, Places for Business Dashboard, Google Plus) you are claiming your page.
Fact: Google views local as a syndicated service that uses local data stored in and retrieved from a canonical record in their Knowledge Graph. The data that you provide to them is stored in that record along with data that they get fromMapMaker, Community Edits, third party sources, web scrapes of your website etc etc etc.
The data that your provided them may or may not be considered the authoritative data in this scenario and the page that you thought you owned may show data that they think more trustworthy than what you provided.
Google will take any of the authoritative data that they have in this canonical record and show it where they think it makes the most sense. Some will show on the front page of Google search results, some will show on the Google Plus Page for your business, some will show in Maps, some will show Glass. What shows is determined by them.
Moral: Your local data is seen in Google’s main search results seen many orders of magnitude more often than your data shows on any other Google local output. In fact it might be more than the total of all of the other views in their other products and services. Thus you should focus on what your data looks like there.
You own nothing in this environment, least of all “your page” at Google.
When a new social network takes off I inevitably read about how one should abandon (your pick) blogging/website/other social platforms and solely write via the incredible new platform (again you pick) G+, Tumblr, Medium.
I also recently received this comment from am attendee at the last LocalU Advanced after having a correspondence about the importance of a website in local search:
Despite what you say, IF the website is still considered to be important, you my friend do not write about it!
Perhaps I don’t speak of the importance of your website frequently enough or loudly enough. I sometimes get tired of hearing myself talk.
But to both of these commentators I say: Make your website and your blog the center of your marketing strategy and don’t give it up. Be on any and every social platform but use them to build the long term equity of properties that you control. Then you will realize the full potential of online marketing in the local space.
In that vein I have updated my Web Equity Graphic to reflect my view of how a small business should focus their online marketing efforts. Feel free to share this graphic with your colleagues and clients. The embed codes can be found here.
The new Places for Business Dashboard is country specific and the categories that one sees are IP & country specific. Thus I need to ask your help in gathering the categories for the countries that now have the new dashboard.
If you would like to volunteer 10 minutes of your time to help me gather categories in one of the following countries to which you have access please contact me at email@example.com and I will send you instructions. Not much glory in this job besides public recognition, a link and knowing that you have helped others better understand Google Places.
Countries for which I need help obtaining the category list:
Yelp receivedalot of attention in the online world last week for suing a bankruptcy lawyer (who had previously sued them and won) for leaving fake reviews. Suing a single practitioner may have some value in terms of the publicity and alerting businesses to the risks of creating fake reviews. But given the scale of this particular fake review problem it must largely be seen as a symbolic move on Yelp’s part if not retribution.
However the recent less publicized fake review suit and settlement by Edmunds seems to be more substantial and significantly more interesting. It was brought to my attention on Twitter by Ellen Edmands, a content manager for a car dealership marketing company in New York:
According to the lawsuit Edmunds accused Texas-based Humankind Design Ltd. of “registering nearly 2,200 fake member accounts on Edmunds’ website to post positive but bogus ratings and reviews about 25 dealerships in an attempt to influence consumers’ opinions”. Edmunds in their press release noted that Humankind, as operator of Glowingreviews.com blatantly identified “15 review sites on which it is prepared to post fake reviews; the list includes Google+, Yelp, Foursquare, Citysearch and local.yahoo.com. Edmunds.com is proactively providing each of the listed sites with a copy of its filing to further support online consumers who might otherwise encounter such fraud”.
Humankind claimed that they did not post fake reviews via GlowingReviews.co, but transcribed and posted reviews left on comment cards at dealerships. In the GlowingReviews.com FAQ recovered from the Web Archive they note that “Every business plays in this grey area and this service just lets you do it much more efficiently”. Regardless, as part of the settlement it appears that GlowingReviews has been shut down.
Update: 12:30: I have changed the title of the article from saying “Account” to “Listings” as what is being transferred is the G+ Page ownership NOT the account.
I learned the hard way this past week that a business listing in the new Google Places for Business Dashboard that has been upgraded to social functionality, is intimately tied to that social presence. Delete the social page and you delete the business listing forcing you to reclaim the listing. The upshot of this is once you go social you can’t go back. At least not without some aggravation.
Dan Pritchett, who plays a significant role in the dashboard development at Google, said this:
To be clear, with the new dashboard the G+ page and the listing are tightly associated. Every G+ Local page is backed by a listing and once you get a G+ Local page, your places listing is tied to it. Removing one always removes the other.
But like all Google “features” there is a flipside to this. Since the business listing is intimately associated with the social G+ page it’s ownership can now be transferred via the G+ Page ownership transfer option. This seems like a simple function and so self evident that one might ask why I am even writing about it. Despite the obvious nature of the feature, it has has never before been possible.
Again according to Dan who responded in the same G+ post:
Okay, just clarified, that once you have a G+ page, transferring ownership of the Local page also transfers ownership of the listing.
Obviously the steps necessary to being able to transfer a listing that is not yet social are probably more cumbersome than just deleting the listing from your account (again with not without some scary verbiage). But if the listing is already social then the process is relatively straight forward via the G+ interface. Here are the instructions:
Step 2 of 3 Click Managers associated with the page you’d like to transfer.
Step 3 of 3 Click the dropdown arrow on the card of the person and select Transfer ownership to _name of user_.
OK class. To summarize where and when one can transfer ownership of a listing. There may be a pop quiz later in the week.
If the business listing is in the new Google Places Dashboard AND the listing has been upgraded to the have social functionality, you can transfer it via the Google Pages ownership transfer technique.
If it is in the old dashboard it can be reclaimed by another account without the need for a transfer. Although leaving the listing in the old dashboard may impinge on your ability to leave review responses so you probably want to delete the listing from the old account.
If it is in the new dashboard but not yet social, it would need to be deleted and then reclaimed to effect a transfer
Now if Google would just have one solution, improve the language of these processes and offer some degree of granularity in the delete function, we might be getting someplace.
Helpouts offers up the possibility of an incredible new platform for SMBS to share their knowledge and skills and a new way of marketing those via a Google Helpout Marketplace. Signing up is a snap.
It also offers up an appealing platform for spammers and scammers and con artists. Will Google succeed in keeping it family friendly or will they be excoriated as the new hall monitors (no slouching, no kissing, tuck that shirt in)?
And like with all new markets and marketplaces, some “creative destruction” will take place. Who will be negatively impacted?
The Helpout help files and terms & conditions are now online and here are the highlights:
Google will be providing free phone support for Helpouts
Helpouts requires that Providers on the platform pay a transaction fee for each completed Helpout. If transaction fees are not paid according to the Helpouts Terms of Service, access to Helpouts may be suspended or terminated.
Once you submit a Helpouts listing, it’ll go through an apparently individual review process before the listing is public.
If you are a providing a medical service (advisory or informational medical services; counseling or therapy services; medical consultation services; or other professional medical services) as a regulated healthcare professional, a third party also will check your certificate or licensure.
Your listing will be reviewed and Google will contact you to meet you over video to learn more about you, to discuss setting up a Helpouts listing and to make sure your video is working well.
Third party providers, Infinity Contact, Capita Customer Management, and VXI are apparently performing this vetting service.
Ask them to send you an email to verify their credentials. Google representatives, like those at these companies, will always have an @google.com email address
You only need to be 13 to use the product but need to be 18 to offer services.
Helpouts has a 100% Money Back Guarantee within 72 hours of the end of the Helpout.
If the Helpout Provider does not issue a satisfactory refund, and the user has complied with Helpouts Terms of Service and policies, Google will issue the refund.
Google will use the recording of a Helpout to review each 100% Money Back Guarantee request, if you opt out of having your Helpout recorded, you forfeit your eligibility for the guarantee.
Offering services in exchange for positive feedback or other non-financial compensation or using a listing primarily to gain a social network endorsement from the user is forbidden.
As are “Scammy, spammy, or otherwise questionable business practices”.
Since Google has allowed business listings created via the (old) Places Dashboard to merge with and take on attributes of a G+ Page for local, it has been standard procedure in certain problem cases to delete the G+ Page and return the listing to a non-social listing. I had done so on numerous occasions with no ill effects.
So when I when I was demonstrating to a client exactly how easy it was to create the social features for a business listing from the new Places for Business Dashboard, I assumed that there would be no issues if I deleted the social pages and reverted the listing back to a basic listing until they were ready for a more social listing. Well the old saw, “if you assume you make an ass out of u and me” definitely applies in this situation.
If you delete a business’s social page of an upgraded listing, the listing will also be deleted from the new Places for Business Dashboard and require reverification to add back. The process will also delete any other Google+ entities that you may have created.
Here is the Google messaging when you go to delete the social page of an upgraded business listing:
When Google says all Google Services, they mean ALL GOOGLE SERVICES including your business listing from your dashboard.
What can you do if you or your client has an upgraded business listing and don’t need or want the social tab? As far as I can tell, nothing. While Google offers up the ability to shut off the video, photos and business reviews (of other businesses) tabs they do not offer any facility, once a business listing in the new dashboard has been upgraded to social & video, to shut of the social stream on the listing.
Google Helpouts holds out the promise of allowing local consultants, instructors and trainers of projecting to a world wide market and of allowing national vendors of providing individualized support for the customers. As Phil Rozek pointed out in my post highlighting their new marketing effort there is a lot that can go wrong from conception to success not the least of which is Google’s propensity to start a project only to abandon it the next quarter when it didn’t scale to their expectation (despite the fact that they did ZERO marketing…can you say PunchD?).
That being said I thought I would click on the exclusive invitation and see if it let me sign up. It did. I went through the sign up process and I have to say: I am impressed. It literally is a less than 10 minute process and makes getting started very, very easy. (You can request an invitation here.)
If Google can deliver customers via their Helpout marketplace it will open up a whole new way for knowledge workers to deliver value across the world.
Here are the screen shots of the simple 3 step process to set up a Helpout listing (you can apparently have more than one):
Google Helpouts, a G+ based product “that enables individuals and small and large businesses to buy and sell services via live video” first came to light in early August. It is a fascinating product that creates a video based marketplace that allows local trainers, national support personnel and consultants to engage a much larger market. It has “the capacity to connect merchants and consumers on both an immediate and scheduled basis, .. the platform will allow sellers to .. take advantage of reputation management, scheduling and payment features, while offering robust search and discovery tools for consumers”.
Apparently Google is now starting to invite highly rated local businesses to learn more about the product. It is odd that the invitation is not to set up or try the product, just to learn more about it and that the invitation was exclusive and based on review ratings. You can request an invitation here.
Microsoft bought Nokia today for $7.2 billion dollars. Nokia, you will recall, bought Navteq in 2007 for $8.1 billion in what was hailed at the time as pivotal move by Nokia into location based services.
But as Horace Dediu pointed out, by late 2012 Navteq had been losing about $1 billion a year for Nokia and the purchase effectively had cost Nokia’s stock holders $11 billion in total since it had been acquired. He notes that Google is rumored to be spending a similar $1 billion a year to maintain their Maps data. Tomtom, now worth about $1.5 billion in total, appears to have done little better with their $4 billion TeleAtlas purchase.
Neither company has kept up with Google in the pace of map development and certainly not in the pace of mapping updates. If you have ever had to suggest a map change to either TeleAtlas or Navteq and anticipate the map update, you know that you can get very, very old waiting. Both Google and OpenstreetMap have the ability to get updates through their systems in weeks not months or years. Neither Navteq nor TeleAtlas seem to.
Owning a mapping company has not provided much if any value to the purchasers. And it would appear that the expense of running them has constrained their ability to compete with Google.
Will that continue to be the case going forward? Can Microsoft/Nokia and TomTom extract enough value to continue their expensive and not very successful efforts to maintain the maps? It would seem that the world is not a big enough place to support 3 mapping companies even when the maps are used to support the other sales efforts of their owners. As reader Marc points out, this leaves Here as part of Nokia’s network infrastructure business and a likely drag at that. Hardly a long term match and likely to be spun off and perhaps more appealing to Apple or Samsung. What value could it possibly bring?
And where does that leave Apple? Buying a TeleAtlas a mapping company is one thing, maintaining it is quite another.