Google announced this afternoon that they will be shutting down their Places Dashboard self-serve Offers product.
The product was updated with performance based pricing in the fall of last year and given a new interface in 2012 but like the coupon product upon which it was based, has toiled in obscurity.
The product and the output was actually quite nice. There were two problems with it. Google buried the resultant coupons, never showing them in the mains search results and never promoting the program. The product was renamed Offers in Novemer of 2010. At the time I noted:
Google Coupons had been the Rodney Dangerfield of Google local products, always hidden, never talked about and for years, after anoptimistic start in 2006, they languished.
Google owns some incredible couponing technology that they purchased in late 2012. Technologies that offer incredible end to end tracking and simple creation that many SMBs would find incredibly valuable.
It is a shame that Google has not yet succeeded in the space. One can only hope that the phoenix will once again rise with new life in some future product.
There are only 9 days left until our next Local U Advanced, just outside of Philadelphia, at the DoubleTree by Hilton in King of Prussia, Pa.
This year we have limited the total ticket sales (including sponsor seating) to just 65 folks. As of yesterday afternoon there were only 16 spots 11 seats left. Its only $899 and the rooms can be had for $129.
The event starts with a mixer (with great foods and drink) Friday the night before and continues all day Saturday. We cover your day of breakfast, lunch and post even refreshments. It’s a day and half full of all things local.
Google is sending Derek Wetzel so you can ask him your most daunting question (off the record of course) as well the full compliment of Local U folks including David Mihm, Mike Ramsey, Aaron Weiche, Will Scott, Mary Bowling, Ed Reese and myself. So whether you have an agency related, process related or technical question we will have you covered.
It’s an incredible event with great conversation, great presentations and great learning. The keynote this year will be by Will Reynolds of Seer Interactive sharing some of the most effective strategies for driving local customers.
Last week Greg Sterling noted: … Yelp and Google. They’re like Spain and Portugal in the 15th Century — rivals trying to carve up the local globe.
The analogy seemed wrong to me as Spain and Portugal were to a large extent equal in their strength. I noted in the comments that “I see the analogy as more like the US vs the Taliban or perhaps Grenada rather than one of equals like Spain vs. Portugal“.
Is Yelp, as Greg portrays, a powerhouse in local search? Or is their position more one of a far distant second to Google as a general local search site with little hope of competing? Or is the answer more complex than that?
On the surface, my recent consumer survey would indicate that Yelp is running a far distant second (or third or fourth) to Google with little chance of competing:
Yet the answer is more nuanced and complex than that. When you parse the data by age, region and urbanicity the picture changes. Much more favorably for Yelp but even with those changes does the data rise to level of proof of Yelp as a general local search engine?
As you know I have been a fierce critic of the badlocalresults that came out of the Hummingbird update. Search terms that should have returned lists of local businesses would often return a branded one box that often would be complete spam.
When it was critical for a client, I reported the bad results and they would disappear after the second or third report. Often after writing an article, some would magically disappear. But I was tracking several as markers that I hadn’t reported and those are now gone.
I am curious if others are seeing the same thing. Have the s$%%^&y Hummingbird One Boxes disappeared for you? Has Google final solved this problem? Can I finally put a lid on (at least for now) the toilet humor?
Or was it just the few that I was monitoring have disappeared and there is still the problem of brand being such a strong signal that spam will surface?
Can you let me know if you are seeing fewer of the Hummingbird precipitated branded one boxes?
Update Friday 2/21 7:30 PM: Some comments that Google has noted that we care share about the Canadian Places Warning:
The February 21 deadline only applies to users to whom Google has sent emails.
If a user sees the message in the dashboard (but no email), deep breaths. It will be okay. There is no imminent threat. Just follow the instructions and the scary message will go away.
If a user didn’t get an email nor does he/she see a message in the dashboard, there is no action required.
To all my friends in the 51st state: Everyone stay calm. The Placopalypse is not about to descend.
Chris McCreery has reported in Linda’s blog that Canadians with the new dashboard may be receiving the “To Keep your listing live” message from Google. This is the same message that was received in Australia earlier in the month.
Colan Nielson the Local SEO Manager Imprezzio Marketing noted: “Saw my first example. Hit the Submit button. Message went away”. Chris McCreary noted that his listing went to an “In Progress” status.
These sorts of messages from Google, given the lack of detail and color, seem to cause a certain hysteria. For whatever reason Google rarely tells the whole story and rarely explains these things well to the public which seems to further the hysteria.
I speculated at the time of the Australian email that “whether it is an effort to clean up listings after the upgrade or has something to do with local licensing issues, no one really knows“.
Regardless all that is necessary is that when you receive the email (or before) visit your dashboard, do the null edit and move on.
Question for those of you with Canadian dashboard and who have received this message; What verticals are you getting the message in?
I feel safer with potential competitors than I do with the incredibly incompetent Google, who can’t manage to maintain fairly static and benign listings without them ‘accidentally’ disappearing and reappearing with no explanation (as happened to a friend of mine over the weekend), while at the same time they’re doing everything in their power to encourage the proliferation of spam.
I think there’s an element of good faith and fair play, when the marketplace is fair. No one is out to screw you if everyone feels like the “cops” are working to resolve and prevent crimes. You can compete on your own merits. That is not the current state of affairs. Google doesn’t care about your listing, they certainly don’t care about you, you’re the product they’re selling to their advertisers.
That being said, I don’t anticipate that they’ll make it any harder than it is. I think they just need to tighten up their guidelines and actually enforce them, particularly for business segments that are incredibly spammy. Locksmiths listings are 95% spam. Lawyer listings are 70%. That is bad. They can all be verified fairly easily. I think I can say with some confidence that I have about a 99% success rate in identifying spam. I have taken down good listings by mistake, but I worked incredibly hard to get them back up as soon as I realized or was made aware of my mistake.
Let me put it another way: what’s to stop a competitor from bombing your listing with bad, fake reviews? You can retaliate, of course, which is the risk they take, but most of the bad faith I can see in previous situation isn’t between legit business owners, it’s between Google and the business community they purport to cater to. They’re coddling the spammers and destroying our confidence in their reporting mechanisms. If they want to fix it, they can, as easily as they removed the spam POIs.
Google has announced an update to their Places Guidelines and now is explicitly allowing owners to add a descriptor, via the Places or Plus Dashboard, that helps people locate the business or describes what the business offers. From the post (bold is mine to highlight the significant change):
Your title should reflect your business’s real-world title.
In addition to your business’s real-world title, you may include a single descriptor that helps customers locate your business or understand what your business offers.
Marketing taglines, phone numbers, store codes, or URLs are not valid descriptors.
Examples of acceptable titles with descriptors (in italics for demonstration purposes) are “Starbucks Downtown” or “Joe’s PizzaDelivery”. Examples that would not be accepted would be “#1 Seattle Plumbing”, “Joe’s Pizza Best Delivery“, or “Joe’s Pizza Restaurant Dallas”.
Obviously for Google to make this change, they must think that they can control the inane and insane abuse that is likely to occur. Either businss name is no longer so important in defining search results or the descriptor (which can only be added via the dashboard) is ignored or Google is so confident that they know what the business name is that they can penalize abusers.
Or none of the above and the recent decline in the quality of their local index will continue to new lows.
Update: Google has taken these down. My sense is, in speaking with him, that @maptivist views that as a challenge.
Nyagoslav Zhekov wrote a blog post yesterday detailing a long standing MapMaker abuse vector. The person claiming to be responsible, @maptivist, reached out to Darren, Nyagoslav and myself with some more examples of his MapMaker “work” which I present to you here:
If you don’t the borg’s machine will vacuum up whatever it finds and will show what it thinks is relevant; like this photo from one of the business’s wordpress content sub directories on their website.
On January 20th, I completed a consumer survey (n=~2500) asking: Which of the following on-line sites have you used regularly to find local businesses? The obvious winner was Google with the YellowPages.com making a surprisingly strong showing.
In a recent article by Greg Sterling, YP.com noted that they were going to compete directly with Google and Yelp as a general purpose directory.
On the surface the results show that YP.com is a contender in people’s minds as a resource for local discovery, with marginally more mindshare than Yelp and roughly the equivalent of Bing & Yahoo combined. In this survey it would even appear that almost 1/4 of the US internet adult population, in choosing none of the listed sites, would possibly be possible targets for YP.com as well.
However when you dig into the details of the survey YP.com’s problems are much deeper than they appear on the surface. The headwinds that they face may make the goal of competing with Yelp and Google unrealistic.