A Plug-in for Adding Google Reviews to Your WordPress Blog

Update: I just heard from David Deering about the plug-in’s use of Schema. Firstly the schema is not done correctly. More importantly however (which I suspected but didn’t investigate as I thought the schema was reserved for the paid version… mea culpa) marking up reviews and ratings that were created on another site actually goes against Google’s guidelines for rich snippets (ed note: I am looking for that guideline).  It would be a much better plugin if it didn’t create schema markups, although the data sent through the API could still be considered duplicate/scraped content, since it does end up in the page’s HTML code.  But I don’t think/hope that Google is too strict about that, although they’ve never really come out with something definite on that subject.

Here is the relevant guideline from Google: Be of original content that you and your users have generated and is fully contained on your page.

Many have asked for a way to post their Google reviews on their site. This plug-in seems to solve many of the problems associated with doing that and seems to provide a useful solution.

Google Places Reviews, installed at the right, allows a WordPress site to relatively easily embed up to the 3 most recent Google reviews in a sidebar as a widget or if you purchase the pro version, up to 5 reviews on any page using short codes. With the pro version you can filter by star rating as well.

Screen Shot 2014-08-04 at 6.12.27 PMFrom their WordPress page:

Plugin Features

  • Google Business Reviews – Display up to 3 business reviews per location.
  • Detailed Business Information – Show the business name, website, Google+ page and more.
  • Versatile Widget Themes – Choose from a selection of stunning widget themes that fit light and dark color schemes that make integration with your website design effortless.
  • Google Places Autocomplete – Easily lookup businesses in your area through the widget interface using the power of Google search.
  • Actively Supported and Developed – We are a team of expert developers based in San Diego, California and we stand by our work. Got a problem? Hit us up.

Google Places Reviews Pro Version Features

Google Places Reviews Pro is a significant upgrade to Google Places Reviews that adds many features to the core plugin:

  • More Reviews – Display up to 5 reviews using the Google Places API
  • Powerful Shortcode – Display reviews in your post and page content
  • Schema.org Tags for SEO – Help search engines find the information quickly and display reviews of a company’s product and services on search engine results pages
  • Review concatenation – Some reviews returned by Google may be very long which could result in a very long widget. The Pro version includes a customizable feature for collapsing and expanding long reviews with “Read more” and “Close” links.
  • Fast loading – Optimized widget caching included within the plugin ensure you save on load time and API calls

Setup requires that you obtain a Google API Free for up to 1000 uses per day) and configure the widget.  Set up was relatively straight forward and took about 10 minutes once I understood exactly what needed to be done.

My assessment? Since it uses the Google api I assume (but am not positive) that it avoids duplicate content issues. It is free for showing three reviews and only $20 if you want the pro version to allow more reviews and filtering options.

Set up was relatively painless and the free version seems to work well. I find the idea that the pro version would support schema for this use somewhat strange and I doubt that Google would see the content as part of the page but it might. Someone needs to test and let me know.

Update: David pointed out to me that the basic version in fact does use schema both improperly and in violation of Google guidelines. Until that is fixed this is not a plug in that I would recommend.

All in all what appears to be a slick solution to a question that is often raised.

Here is the screen shot for the widget configuration: Continue reading

“Nearby” – A Proxy for Voice Based Mobile Search?

Search modifiers, both those used by Google and those frequently used by searchers are interesting. In the case of the former, a change in how Google handled the phrase “near” led to some overstated numbers. In the case of the latter, I wondered whether any of them are effective proxies for measuring the increase in voice based mobile search.

The one that came to mind in this scenario was the modifier: “Nearby”. At least for me it is a phrase that I only use when searching on my phone via voice and when I am away from home. It is a modifier that I rarely ever use in desktop search (although I can imagine its use in Maps). Who knows whether that is true broadly but I was still curious.

In that vein I proceeded to Google trends and queried on the frequency of the use of the phrase Nearby in the US as to what I would see and what it might show.

overtime

This chart is interesting in several ways.
Continue reading

Pigeon – An Anecdotal Impact Report

The recent Google Local Update (aka Pigeon) was very disruptive. Although as I wrote at the time and reiterate, only when we actually look at measurable results can we both understand its actual impact and perhaps understand more of what was happening and what changes Google has made.

There were two main parts to the update as expressed by Google:
- Local search results that are tied more closely to traditional web search ranking signals.
- The new algorithm improves their distance and location ranking parameters.

My tea leave translation of that?
- We are moving the algos that dictated page and location prominence closer together. We are integrating brand preferences and entity rank into our main algo and using more of that as a common ranking process across both the web and local results.

-We are better able to ascertain location in both mobile and desktop environments and have, for the most part drawn smaller radius around the presumed location of the searcher from which to draw the local search results.

From where I sit, the first part of this change has been happening for a while and as David noted at SEL was largely seen first with the Hummingbird roll out.

It also appears to me that the improvements to their distance and location ranking parameters  and the attendant redrawing of the local boundaries, at least on the desktop, is actually causing the more dramatic shifts in measurable desktop results.

Barbara Oliver & Co Jewelry (and others that I have looked at as well) was strongly impacted by that second change. The search radius, which had previously expanded to include the shopping suburbs of Buffalo (Williamsville, Amherst etc) had once again contracted to just include the city of Buffalo proper. You can see this when you do a search like Jewelry Buffalo. Google had effectively reduced the diameter of the search radius from 12 to 6 miles

new-radius

The impact of the reduction in local Pack visibility for Barbara is obvious in Google’s My Business Insights with reduced impressions:

Insights

Continue reading

Most Excellent! A Compendium of Greatest Hits from my Back Library

Have you ever thought: I really want to spend tonight reading Mike’s back library but I just don’t know where to start?

Phil Rozek thought you might and wanted to make your job easier. He pored through the 2400 articles I have written since day one, drove them through the absolute best local algo (Miriam Ellis, David Mihm, Dave Oremland, Andrew Shotland, Nyagoslav Zhekov & Phil himself) to come up with a list of The Best of Blumenthal (so far).
jan-and-dean
So if you really ever did think that you actually did want to spend some time perusing my back library this is probably the place to start….. a list of articles curated by some of the best in the local search. And people that I am lucky to have met along the way and become friends with.

Now me? I am off to listen to the greatest hits of Jan & Dean.

Google MapMaker Nukes Custom Categories

Custom categories, long missing from Google Maps, had retained their presence in MapMaker.  That distinction has now ended. MapMaker has announced the end of custom categories and that MapMaker would now use the standard 2500+ categories that have been available to My Business and Maps.

Hello Mappers,

Firstly, a BIG thanks for your continued support to improve Google Maps!

Google Map Maker offers you a detailed menu to add the most relevant category by providing a wide range of 2500+ categories to choose from. While we continue to expand this list, we’ve removed the ability to manually type-in the category of your choice.

Henceforth, any existing free-form categories will only be visible to the mapper who originally created them.

Once again, your understanding and patience is tremendously appreciated.

Thanks, and Happy Mapping!

Sneha

 

Google Adds Instant Listing Verification Via Webmaster Tools for Most Business Categories

Googler Jade has announced in the forums that they are now going to allow instant verification via webmaster tools for many businesses.

From the announcement:

Good news — starting today, if you’re verifying a page for your business, you may be instantly verified on Google My Business if you’ve already verified your business’s website with Google Webmaster Tools. The verification will happen automatically, if applicable, when you attempt to verify a page for your business.

If you’d like to try instant verification, please make sure you’re signed in to Google My Business with the same account you used to verify your site with Webmaster Tools

Not all businesses with websites verified using Google Webmaster Tools will have instant verification, since not all business categories are eligible. If that’s the case, please use one of our other methods of verification (https://support.google.com/business/answer/2911778).

From the My Business Help page on verification:

 Instant verification

You may be instantly verified to manage your business if you’ve already verified your business’s website with Google Webmaster Tools.

Make sure you’re signed in to Google My Business with the same account you used to verify your site with Webmaster Tools. Note that some business categories may not be eligible for instant verification.

If your business falls into one of the categories that doesn’t allow webmaster tools verification, it will still be necessary to use the other offered choices of postcard and phone when it is available.

Yelp Reports $0.00 per Share Earnings

Yelp has just released their June ending numbers. I wanted to lead with a realistic headline before the other pundits did.

While profit has never been something that Yelp crows about there are some interesting numbers:

  • Cumulative reviews grew 44% year over year to approximately 61 million and and approximately 40% of new reviews were contributed through mobile devices.
  • Average monthly unique visitors grew 27% year over year to approximately 138 million* and average monthly mobile unique visitors grew 51% year over year to approximately 68 million**
  • Active local business accounts grew 55% year over year to approximately 79.9 thousand

It is interesting to note the traffic growth and the fact that Yelp didn’t seem to mention whether it was desktop/mobile search or their mobile app growth. Given Yelp’s incredible performance in the Google desktop SERPS, one has to assume that they are getting an increasing number from Google as opposed to their app.

Developing Knowledge about Local Search