May 7, 2013
Several items of note.
1- Firstly Google has announced in the forums that the new Places for Business Dashboard is now available for NEW users in UK, Ireland. It is nice to see this staring to roll out internationally. That being said the rate of conversions of existing dashboards is not at all clear. None of mine seem to have converted. Yours?
2-Joel Headley of Google noted at today’s Local U in New Orleans that Google was no longer deleting listings from their local index that failed to hide their address. He indicated that Google was flagging them, apparently with no ranking penalty, for later automatic removal of the address if the owner failed to hide it. This solution seems vastly superior to the fiasco of businesses being permanently deep sixed into the hell of “currently we do not support” for the infraction
3- Google is currently testing a soon to be rolled out revamp of the Maps interface. Barry Schwartz noted at SEL:
The new interface is a complete and major overhaul of the current Google Maps user interface. The design and interface changes touch everything from the map colors, icons and text formats to dropping the navigation elements on the left hand side and adding in Google+ integration.
For example, you can filter local search results specifically to friends in your Google+ circles. The navigation seems to have been moved to button like methods, similar to how mobile apps work, with ad overlays hovering below the navigation menus.
4-First noted by Pete Meyers and equally interesting is is the increasingly seen display of the the carousel results for Hotels and Restaurant categories around the US.
May 6, 2013
Update 1:00 pm EST: Googler Jade has just confirmed that some changes of some sort are on the way. Here is their statement:
We’ve seen some questions about the small update to local search user interface on Google (removal of “More results near…” link) –
Thanks for your feedback about the small update to the local search user interface on Google. This is one of several updates we’re working on to improve the local search experience, with the goal of more seamless exploration of places and more integration of local data. Stay tuned for more updates soon.
Where Has Places Search Gone? What’s Next?
1)Last week Nyagoslav Zhekov did a nice write up on the Google’s proposal as to what Local search results will look like in Europe in an effort to comply with the EU anti trust settlement.
2)Recently Google removed the links for “More Places near by” and and references to Places search in the main search results.
3)Google has been attempting to rebrand G+ Local as Google+ Pages. This was clear with their communications around the release of the Places for Business Dashboard.
4)Google designs the front page results for scale and wants a single display world wide.
EHG, a top contributor from Germany in the Google for Business & Maps Forums, has asked me the interesting question what I made of these changes and whether they are related. He seems to think so and I agree.
When you combine these facts with the current lack of branding (or rather the effort to rebrand Local as Plus) and Google’s desire to have a single universal display for the whole world it becomes plausible to speculate that changes to the display of the 7-Pack that comply with an anti-trust settlement in Europe and solve these other issues are in the wind.
As a part of that settlement Google will include links in the Pack display to their product as well as to competitors. Where will these new internal Google links in the main search results take users? There are two choices: Maps or Plus.
Currently the local search inside Plus is a 2 search box affair that doesn’t offer a map view of the search area specified by the user which makes it a less than an ideal search experience. Thus the current version of Maps with a single search box and Map view port is a more obvious choice.
That being said it would be very like previous efforts of Google to use local listings to boost traffic of a secondary property. In the era when Google was competing against Mapquest, Yahoo AND the IYPS for market dominance in local, they used their business listing to boost their Maps traffic and their Map traffic to boost their listing traffic by combining the two products.
Adding 50 million+ visitors a month to Plus would go a good way to boosting the apparent usage levels of Plus. What local search in Plus will exactly look like I have no idea but my money is that the links take users to the Plus local search results. Whether that means an upgrade to the search capability in Plus or not I can’t say.
Here is the screen shot (from Nyagoslav’s blog) of the changes that Google is proposing in the EU:
May 2, 2013
A couple of days ago I received this email from Miriam at SolasDesign and my first thought was: what rich Google irony:
I was doing a search in Google today for ‘google+ local error 500′ and one of the results Google returned was this page of your site: Google + Page ’500 error bug’ work around.
Bizarrely, when I clicked on the link, I was redirected to a page of pornography at http://youdon’treallywanttoseeit.com. I immediately hit the back button.
Even stranger, when I re-clicked the link in the SERPs, I was taken to your page correctly. I am not terribly educated on the awful topic of hacking, and I’ve never encountered any information about something that could intermittently do malicious re-directs, but I wanted to let you know about this ASAP. I haven’t ever seen something like this happen before, but hopefully, your team can figure out if your site has been compromised in some way. So sorry about this. It’s awful.
My immediate second thought was that my down home farmland wp theme that Mike Ramsey loves so much had been hacked. When Linda Buquet and Brandon Monchamp contacted me with similar stories I was convinced of it. However none of the external malware test tools from Google or Sucuri could find anything.
I contacted Sucuri (who does a great job of site security by the way) and learned that the reality was worse. The cPanel server hosting my site had fallen victim to a new Apache kernel hack: Linux/Cdorked:
In fact, Linux/Cdorked.A is one of the most sophisticated Apache backdoors we have seen so far. Although we are still processing the data, our Livegrid system reports hundreds of compromised servers. The backdoor leaves no traces of compromised hosts on the hard drive other than its modified httpd binary, thereby complicating forensics analysis. All of the information related to the backdoor is stored in shared memory. The configuration is pushed by the attacker through obfuscated HTTP requests that aren’t logged in normal Apache logs. This means that no command and control information is stored anywhere on the system.
The only tell tale signs were the external reports of redirects to porn sites on Google searches. The symptoms that Miriam described are in fact diagnostic which is my reason for sharing them here. Forewarned is forearmed. Apparently this hack “exploits the fact that cPanel doesn’t use a packaging system to install Apache”.
Hopefully you will not suffer the same fate and if you do you will know what it was quicker than I. The servers were taken down last night for the patch and cleansed. Thanks to all that alerted me to issues.
May 1, 2013
Today, Google announce the closing of foreign language forums for Google Places as of May 13th. It is not clear if language specific support will be available via email. The announcements can be seen in these various forums:
Here is the Google translation of the Spanish language announcment:
Important Announcement: We decided to consolidate our resources Google Places Help and close this forum on May 13. The following resources are still available:
- Help Center Google Places
- Forum Help Google and your Business (English only)
- Google and your Business Blog (English only)
Last week Bill Slawski wrote about Google’s categorization of web pages for use in local search. The patent he writes about is one in a long line of related works that discuss this sort of web page categorization. That or something very similar to it appears to be occurring that allows Google to include multiple locations per brand search in these locallly generated site link results.
Danielle Owens of Powerchordsystem.com sent along these screen shots that clearly show that Google thinks these pages that include local information for nearby locations to be important.
I don’t look for these sorts of results that frequently so these may have been appearing this way for while. But if the message has not gotten through to brands both large and small with multiple locations this sort of display should make it clear: you need a stand alone local landing page for every location.
Google has never clearly indicated which pages they will include in their sitelinks display or why they will include them but here are some ideas that might help make these pages show for brand searches.
1- Have a local landing page for each location that is clearly Title tagged and optimized around location
2- Be sure that all locations are properly claimed and located in Google Places for Business and that it references the local landing page
3- Use that local URL in all directories and upstream providers
4- The location page includes complete address information that is marked up using Rich Snippets formatting
5- Reference each of these local landing pages in the sitemap and the KML file for the site
6- Make sure that the location pages are easily crawlable by Google and are not hidden by some search routine
7- The site architecture should relatively “flat” and the local landing pages are not too distant from the home page
April 30, 2013
Update from Darren Shaw of Whitespark: You can still access Places through a URL parameter: “tbm=plcs”. Not sure how long that will last though. For example:
This came to me from Andy Kuiper of Calgary and Vancouver: the Places search menu option has been removed from Google.
Google has been cleaning up and removing links from Google search and attempting to rebrand Places as a part of Google Plus. Last week they removed the related search option from the search menu. While Places has been retained as a brand on the business listing side, the branding of the consumer side is still not clear and Places has not really been replaced with any clear forward facing consumer branding.
Google has been discouraging the use of Google+ Local (coined by Marissa Mayer) and is attempting to shift the name of the business pages to simply G+ Pages (although there still is a dizzying array of page types). But the net result is that for the first time in many years there is no local search option available from the front page of Google other than the main search box. Users can only make it to Google’s local search options if they are in Plus. Equally significant is that there is no unique locally focused brand.
April 26, 2013
Laura Behny of Attaboy Plumbing and at least one poster in the forums have noted what appears to be a new bug when clicking on the the “Google reviews” link in the pack results. Either a blank page is delivered or these very weird results are shown instead of the local G+ Page. It is not happening on all results and appears to be focused on SAB results.
Update: The bug seems to show regardless of how the page is accessed with most SAB pages that I have tested showing a blank page that include only their business name at the top and no content. Google has been notified of the bug. If you want to chime in at the forums at your comment to the existing post that has been elevated.
April 24, 2013
I received this email from ebay this morning. I think that ebay is on the wrong side of this issue.
I was in retail for many years and struggled with sales tax issues at every turn. “Struggle” is putting it mildly as at one point the NY State government came after me with guns a blaring. I have no love lost on sales tax but not because of those struggles but because it is an intrinsically regressive tax that hits poor people more than it hits the wealthy AND it puts the small business in the middle of tax collection and compliance. That being said it is a reality of the current day tax structure.
If you assume that it is reality and it is going to be then the question should be how to make it as fair, easy and equitable as possible for ALL businesses. As it currently stands it is none of those things. And it is an issue that affects all bricks and mortar retail businesses big and small. There should not be artificial product pricing variations in the market created by sales tax policy.
ebay should either be promoting alternative, more progressive taxation or promoting making this tax fair and simple. Advocating exemptions for certain businesses or sales volumes,as ebay does, only makes the sales tax more complicated, not less. At its best it then appears to be position that seems to be very self serving and not in the interest of all small businesses.
||Dear Mike,Congress is considering online sales tax legislation that is wrongheaded and unfair, and I am writing to ask for your help in telling Congress “No!” to new sales taxes and burdens for small businesses.Whether you’re a consumer who loves the incredible selection and value that small businesses provide online, or a small-business seller who relies on the Internet for your livelihood, this legislation potentially affects you. For consumers, it means more money out of your pocket when you shop online from your favorite seller or small business shop owner. For small business sellers, it means you would be required to collect sales taxes nationwide from the more than 9,600 tax jurisdictions across the U.S. You also would face the prospect of being audited by out-of-state tax collectors. That’s just wrong, and an unnecessary burden on you.Big national retailers are aggressively lobbying Congress to pass online sales tax legislation to “level the playing field” with Amazon. And, as they compete with big retail, Amazon is advocating for this legislation too, while at the same time they are seeking local tax exemptions across the country to build warehouses. This is a “big retail battle” in which small businesses and consumers have a lot to lose. But eBay is fighting, as we have for more than 15 years, to protect small online businesses and sellers and ensure healthy competition, value, and selection that benefit consumers online.
The solution is simple: if Congress passes online sales tax legislation, we believe small businesses with less than 50 employees or less than $10 million in annual out-of-state sales should be exempt from the burden of collecting sales taxes nationwide. To put that in perspective, Amazon does more than $10 million in sales every 90 minutes. So we believe this is a reasonable exemption to protect small online businesses. That’s what we’re fighting for, and what big companies such as Amazon are fighting against.
I hope you agree that imposing unnecessary tax burdens on small online businesses is a bad idea. Join us in letting your Members of Congress know they should protect small online businesses, not potentially put them out of business. Click here to make your voice heard. Together, I believe our voices can make a difference.
President and CEO
April 19, 2013
What Else is New Dept: There is a new bug with the Google Report A Problem for SABs: If a user selects the report a problem link via Maps or G+ Local they get a “This page won’t load…We’ve tried everything” message. At least its cute. Although that sad face icon is eerily reminiscent of my first Mac when it had a hard drive failure.
Can You Imagine That? Dept: This came to via me Google Forum Top Contributor (an unsung hero who you should be sure to follow in the forums) Treebles. “Google received an ultimatum Thursday from German consumer organizations that want it to start answering questions from its users via email. Germany’s Telemedia Act requires businesses to provide an email address to allow customers to contact them quickly. But, said Elbrecht, “It is not enough to just provide an email address that leads into emptiness, you also need to be able to communicate over it.” Responding to users attempting to get their questions answered with automatic replies, as Google does in Germany, is not sufficient, she said“.
Maybe There will Be A Local Competitor to Google Yet Dept: Apple Insider reported that Apple’s iOS Passbook app was used to drive a successful coupon campaign for a UK restaurant chain. “The campaign allowed customers to get £5 off their bill when spending £30 or more. Harvester issued almost 16,000 vouchers in two weeks of campaign operation. Of those, almost 700 were redeemed during the course of the campaign. Overall, the campaign had a cost per action of £3.41. The solution gave a frictionless consumer experience, as with two-clicks a unique voucher code was delivered straight to their device, within Passbook. The voucher was then redeemed whilst paying the bill, directly from the EPOS terminal, giving the restaurant additional insight into campaign effectiveness.”
Thank God for Small Favors Dept: Google, in the fine print of the T&C’s for Glass Developers, are apparently banning ads in products for the new Glass product. Its hard to imagine relevant ads with an always on wearable eye glass computer. Its not so hard to imagine irrelevant ones.
April 17, 2013
Adrew Forster of Adster Creative recently received and recorded a call from the Google Maps listing quality team.
The calls are improving in quality over previous calls that we have heard. For example the caller clearly introduced herself. A definite improvement. But the call was still confusing. The intent of the call was not clear and the questions asked were not asked in a way that lead to mutual understanding.
If they are confusing to Andrew, who knows about the Google calls and expects them, imagine the confusion still on the part of the SMB. Still some room for significant improvement.