Google 3 Local Pack – New Display – Test or Rollout?

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?

View of the new 3 Pack from search. Click to view larger.

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.

View from the Local Finder. Click to view larger.

Here is a comparable screen shot taken last week that shows the same search result and comparable screen : Continue reading Google 3 Local Pack – New Display – Test or Rollout?

Moderation of Business Listing Changes Now Available to Level 5 Local Guides

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: 

  1. Navigate to on a desktop device (make sure you’re logged into your Local Guides account).
  2. Open the = menu on the side, and click “Your Contributions” 
  3. Click the “Check the facts” banner under your profile to see a list of places with pending edits awaiting your local expertise. 
  4. 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.

click to view larger

Moz Local 2017 Presentation – Are Words the New Links?

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.

To get a sense of my 10,000′ thinking about the Google Local algo read this article that Davi Mihm and I did at Streetfight: How Does Google Determine the Authority of Local Entities?

To get specifics of how I think it is working review my presentation from day 2:

MobileMoxie Mobile Search Simulator

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:

Click to view larger

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.

An intersting gleaning is that Google consistently presents results differently across iOS and Android devices:
Continue reading MobileMoxie Mobile Search Simulator

Desktop Click to Call via Hangouts from the Local Finder & KP

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:

Final Curtain Call – MapMaker Closing March 31

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.

If you have any additional questions please check our post on the Map Maker Help Forum.

Thank you,

The Google Map Maker Team

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.

Google Testing New Mobile Local Finder

Google is testing a new mobile local finder.

The Google iPhone Search App is often a proving ground for large scale tests that precede rollouts to browser based mobile search.

This test/rollout is an interesting one because of its dramatic shift from the focus on the business listing to the focus on the map.  And in moving to a horizontal scroll bar at the bottom of the screen, there is a shift from a ordered rank view to one that is more egalitarian in presentation.

This presentation is the same across both restaurants, hotels and all other listings unlike the current displays that are different in those groups. Here are the current browser based mobile Local Finder displays:
Continue reading Google Testing New Mobile Local Finder

Google Rolling Out Configurable System Wide Alerts

Last week Google started replacing the alerts that each of their applications provide with what appears to be a system wide alert system that will ultimately include all of their applications.

Previously Google search only offered G+ but it appears that there is a new scalable system that will place a common and consistent system across all of their products.

Currently the expanded notification system only includes G+ and Photos and only works where the previous G+ notification system worked. For example it doesn’t work in YouTube or Analytics.

But a system wide, granular system that allows for more nuance in what notifications you receive where makes all kinds of sense to keep users engaged (longer) with Google. And is very consistent with their current “rabbit hole” strategy of providing both sticks and carrots to be sure that Google users have better than even odds of staying somewhere in their ecosystem.

I am speculating but think that this will be a welcome GMB development when it arrives as it will allow Google to highlight new reviews, data changes and other notifications front and center in Google search to business owners. Currently these are buried in the GMB interface or poorly implemented in the App.

Super Bowl Search Result – A Turkish Bazaar of Ambiguity AND Google’s Intentions

Given my love of professional sports, at least once a year I post a sports oriented post … of sorts. It was recently noted that Google was now including a faceted interface on mobile recipes to allow a user to select a specific type of recipe.

In honor of the Super Bowl I searched for chicken wings on my iPhone and got this Turkish Grand Bazaar (bizarre?) search result. It includes just about every new & old search result possible…. all on one page. It has more facets, amps, carousels, universal search results, articles, knowledge graphs and discover more places than one sports fan can take in.

Positions 1,2*,3,5,7, 10, 11, 15, 16, 17 (depending on what you count) take you to additional Google results or Google hosted content. Yelp got positions 4 and 6 while part of 2, 8,9, 12-14 also went off site.

A count of the links shows that 37 went elsewhere on Google. In addition there were 7 carousels which could be swept left for more Google results. 1 link allowed you to share a Google result on other services. 13 of the links, most without photos, went off site to another website. And this count does not include the any left to right scrolling that takes place in the carousels which would add additional clicks for Google.

I am sure that if you analyzed this result on a % of space allocated basis the bias towards Google hosted results would be similar or even greater.

This result certainly falls squarely into the category of turkish bizarre. Maybe Google does in fact understand my ambiguity vis a vis the Super Bowl and chicken wings?

Regardless these search results send the very clear signal that Google “owns” the mobile organic results. The opportunities in these sorts of results are diminishing unless of course you are Google.

*2 – I counted the faceting as a separate search result (#1) and the carousel at position 2 could take a user off site or back to Google depending on their choice.


Developing Knowledge about Local Search