The product that was originally called Podium and is often referred to as Posts, continues to be tested as a small business tool that allows a business owner to post directly to their branded search result.
We saw the “Posts” like test in late January that included a call to action and posting on the right. Recently, Barbara Oliver Jewelry, a testing participant since last fall, saw her posts move from the main body section of the search results to the interior of the Knowledge Panel.
Here is the new test that Barbara is involved in (you can also see in this search result):
To a large extent, a great deal of consumer activity like click to calls & requesting driving directions now takes place either in the general local search results or from within the Knowledge Panel in the branded result.
In a recent unpublished case study for a hotel, spa and restaurant with great brand recognition, 50% of their total click to calls across all of the internet came directly from the Knowledge Panel or a direct look up in Google Maps. Being able to speak directly to the consumer in this way would be a powerful and visible tool that I think would have rapid adoption.
As Glenn Gabe noted in early March utilization of the product seems to be growing world wide.
When I checked today there were over 30,000 indexed posts. That is a doubling in the past month. I am not sure whether that is a result of increased usage from the same businesses or more businesses creating posts. Regardless that is a lot of content that is being created directly on Google’s servers.
When it is finally introduced, it would be the first Google response to Facebook that makes sense from an SMB perspective and might shift some SMB mind share back to Google.
I am guardedly optimistic that it will make it out of beta into the hands of the world of SMBs. How long it stays there and stays free are open questions.
In related news, Google has announced the expansion of the Posts tests to organizations and individuals:
Starting today, in the U.S. and Brazil, we’re taking it to the next step and opening up the application process so that organizations and people within specific categories can post directly on Google.
Now, when you search for museums, sports teams, sports leagues, movies and, in Brazil for now, musicians, you can find content from that participating organization or person, right on Google. So if you’re searching for the Henry Ford Museum in the U.S. or for Vanessa da Mata in Brazil, you’ll see updates directly from the source with relevant information, like new exhibits, timely updates and interesting facts. Beyond these categories in the U.S. and Brazil, we’ll continue to experiment globally and look forward to making Search even more useful and timely.
Although announced today, it is clear that the Henry Ford Museum has been a participant since September of 2016 and Vanessa Darlene Mata since the first of February this year. While the program may or may not have been expanded today, Google’s publicity about it has.
Google has started to roll out a new feature to the Google My Business Dashboard that automates the process of regaining control of a listing that is in another account.
Besides verification issues and the inability for a business to easily get rid of inappropriate photos this has been one of the huge problems that small business owners have confronted. Historically it required requesting access and then waiting, praying, waiting some more and then trying to get in touch with support. The old system was not for the faint of heart.
Making this part and parcel of the dashboard will go a long way towards minimizing the time and expense of resolving these.
If you’re a small business owner, time is your most valuable asset. That’s why when it comes to managing their Google My Business account, some small business owners choose to get help from employees, friends, family or other third parties. Sometimes when the people who manage the account move on, we don’t always remember to take back control of the account until they’re gone and it’s too late.
This week we’re launching a new feature to enable users who can’t get in touch with the current verifier of a listing to start the verification process themselves. This will allow you to prove you are the current representative of the business and take over the location without having to track down the previous manager.
Just follow the steps to sign-up and request access from the current listing owner and then follow the instructions you’ll be emailed if the current listing owner is unresponsive.
I just ran through the process and it is very straight forward. I am not sure once a rejection happens what the appeal process looks like but one hopes that it is rational:
Some notes from Google:
Currently only available only applicable to users who verify listings individually, no bulk verification listings will be eligible for this new process.
After the claimant verifies as the new owner the original owner’s listing will become a duplicate. It will be unverified and their edits will not be live on maps.
Unless access is granted anything provided by the original owner, like photos and review responses, will not be transferred over.
Reviews and customer provided photos will remain attached to the listing.
Apparently if the requestor is initially rejected, he/she may request and appeal (again within the dashboar). Although it appear that there will be times (when, who, why is unclear) where in some circumstances Google will not be able to offer the option to appeal a rejection from the current listing owner.
The update is rolling out now and will over the next few days be available to all if there are no glitches found.
Over the past six months we have seen numerous tests in the pack display. Today we are seeing a widespread (re) appearance of the snack pack type display that shows images instead of the click to call icon. (H/T to Zachary Palmer of Divot Agency in Seattle who pointed this out on G+)
Previously this display was exclusive to restaurants and hotels but today (anyways) is being seen across most types of retail and service industry results. Although NOT on lawyers or doctors.
We have seen this style before (see this 1/17 screenshot) but the rollout today seems more broad based. A test? The new normal?
The imagery persists across the local finder requiring at least two clicks in to get to driving directions or click to call….. the rabbit hole appears to be getting ever deeper.
One feature in MapMaker that has been useful is the ability to edit business listings that you didn’t control. This could be used to note name or hour changes for listings that you didn’t have direct control over but for one reason or another needed to change. With the imminent closing of MapMaker how to get those edits of business listings approved was a question mark. Google is starting to address this eventuality by giving Level 5 Guides the ability to approve these edits via Google Maps on the desktop. Apparently this feature which has been available on Android will also soon be available to iOS users and allow for advanced road editing as well.
From the post:
Today we begin the process of expanding this feature by rolling out the ability to “Verify The Facts” on desktop Maps for all Level 5 Local Guides.
Try out moderation on desktop:
Navigate to maps.google.com on a desktop device (make sure you’re logged into your Local Guides account).
Open the = menu on the side, and click “Your Contributions”
Click the “Check the facts” banner under your profile to see a list of places with pending edits awaiting your local expertise.
Choose an edit you would like to moderate and select “Yes,” “No,” or “Not Sure.” You can also click the place’s title a second time to see the information Google has about the place, or click “Search This Place On Google” to find web results.
Over the next few weeks you can look forward to Missions for iOS, the ability to report issues on multiple road segments at once, and the option to report locations on the map that are missing roads.
LocalU and Moz have just completed a two day local workshop in Seattle. Day 1 was a LocalU Workshop and day 2 provided a day full of keynotes. Both days included great content, new ideas and great networking opportunities.
Cindy Krum (@Suzzicks), the diva of mobile and a frequent LocalU speaker*, has produced an interesting tool: a Mobile Search Simulator. It provides the ability to perform local searches in a specific zip code and then compare the results across two different mobile devices.
While the product and interface are not yet tuned for any volume and require a fair bit of input for any one search (Cindy tells me that it is actively being developed for better productivity) the tool captures some of the nuances of local mobile search and highlights the differences that Google might present between different mobile phones.
The results are interactive and you can dig into a result to understand a given listings visibility on different display sizes and at different points in the search journey:
I am still waiting for a tool that would allow me to track mobile search results across a linear range of zip codes (for example the line between the city and a suburb) and help me understand where on that transect one could hope to find the appropriate demographic profiles for a given business. And automate that process by exporting those searches to a rank reporting tool.
The ability to dial phone that presented itself in Google search has been around since 2014.
I saw tests of it in 2015 in the Local KP. At the time, it was obviously visible to some and not others.
That being said I had not seen it broadly integrated into the Local Finder before. Could be I am just blind and its been there forever but since it new(s) to me, I am documenting it. One more data point that Google can collect to learn how customers interact with your business; call length and other meta data. While the convo itself is encrypted I am sure that Google extracts other data points as well.
When you click on a phone number from within the Local Finder or the Knowledge Panel on the desktop, I now regularly get shunted to Google Hangouts for call completion:
In November, Google announced that MapMaker would “graduate to Google Maps”. That’s corporate speak for close. But what’s good for Google and the bulk of their users is not such a smooth transition nor offer as many benefits to the professional Local SEO practicioner.
At the time of the announcements I noted that it made sense for Google if not for the SEO community for the following reasons:
1- It will create a single unified interface to be maintained going forward.
2- Google will have a single source for changes so that things like categories and address standards can be handled in a unified way.
3- There is one less data pipeline feeding their local database keeping the whole (complicated) system simpler.
4- There will be one less spam vector.
5- They will have a unified community management process. This means fewer support people, fewer forums etc. and lower Google costs and reduce their code base maintenance.
Right on schedule, I received this email detailing the end date:
Map Maker Will Close on March 31
Dear Mapper,As announced in November 2016, Google Map Maker will close on March 31 and many of its features will integrate directly into Google Maps. You will still be able to make edits until then, but we encourage you to focus on reviewing pending edits to make sure contributions are published to Google Maps before March 31.Since 2008, the Google Map Maker community has edited and moderated millions of features to improve the Google Maps experience for users worldwide. The Google Maps team has since brought Map Maker capabilities, such as adding and editing places, to our desktop and mobile products to make it easier for more users to keep their communities up to date while at home or on the go. These changes have empowered many more users to update the places they care about, view the status of their edits, and moderate other users’ edits.
This change will enable us to focus on providing the best editing and moderation experience within Google Maps on both desktop and on mobile. We will continue to roll out new features on an ongoing basis.
But like with all Google “transitions” its one step forward and in this case at least one step (or maybe .8 of a step) back. Things like listing history, alternative names, additional categories and hidden listings are not currently being surfaced in the Maps interface and we don’t know if they ever will be. The problem with a lowest common denominator interface is that information that is useful for diagnostics will disappear.
The reality is that MapMaker was a kludge with a butt ugly and arcane interface to things like adding roads. It was quirky and a pain to work with. Hopefully by adding its features to a modern platform some of that can be mitigated. And hopefully some of the tools that gave more insight into a listings inner data points and history might some day be revived. I am not holding my breath.
Google unfortunately doesn’t prioritize the types of tools and data that Local SEO’s need to do their job. But our job always was and has been to do our job with the tools that we have available. That won’t change.