Google Announces Availability of a Google+ Widget for New Dashboard

Google has just updated their dashboard post in the forum detailing the new Places for Business Dashboard with the following one button upgrade of your listing to the fully social G+ page.

Update: Alex Cordes of LocalSEOupdate.com uncovered an interesting tidbit. If you have a non verified local G+ Page at the same email as a business claimed into the new Places for Business Dashboard, it will automagically create a social local G+ Page with the need for the widget or any actions on the part of the claimant.

What does the Google+ widget do?

The Google+ widget allows you to upgrade from a Google business listing to a local Google+ page (with social features, like writing Posts, editing the cover photo, allowing users to add the page to their Circles, and adding videos). The upgraded page will be searchable in Google, Google Maps, and Google+.

What criteria do I have to meet to upgrade my page via the Google+ widget?

  • You must have verified your business in your Places for Business account.
  • Your Places for Business email address should also have a Google+ profile.
  • Your page must be in a category that is eligible for Google+.
  • You cannot have activated AdWords Express for your business.
  • You should be managing no other pages in your Google+ account. If you have other pages which you wish to continue managing, you should hang tight until the Google+ upgrade is available to you.

Please note that the Google+ widget may not appear for users who do not meet these criteria.

If you meet these criteria and are interested in upgrading to have social features, just click Get your Google+ page to upgrade. After upgrading, you may use either Google+ or Google Places to manage the page.

This upgrade process is coming along to more and more users, so if you don’t see the widget yet, sit tight while we work on getting you your upgrade.

And, yes, service-area businesses who need to keep their addresses hidden and who otherwise meet the criteria above may use the Google+ widget to access social features. The business address will stay hidden in the upgraded page.

What if I’m already managing a verified local page in Google+ but have not yet accessed Google Places for Business with my account?

If you log in to Google Places with the same account, you should see the page that you created and verified in Google+ in your dashboard already. You should be able to use either Google+ or Google Places to manage the page.

I’m an existing Places user…

If you’ve verified your business in both Google+ and Google Places for Business, you might see the new Places for Business dashboard when accessing places.google.com. If you don’t, don’t worry, we’re working on bringing you over.

Again, we ask that existing Google Places or Google+ users continue to manage pages as before. Please see the first half of the first post on this thread for more details. We do not recommend creating new accounts just to try to access the new dashboard. 

When we are ready to make the new dashboard available to existing Places users, we will come back with more details, including answers about how the Google+ widget will work.

Thanks,

Jade

SABS with Social Local G+ Page – Hide Your Address Now

The process of merging a social G+ Page with a non social G+ Page (AKA a G+ local listing, a Place Page, a non merged G+ page for local) was never intended for use by service area businesses (SABs in Googletalk) that were supposed to hide their address. That didn’t stop them and many of them merged their pages anyways. Google did alert those that did so to delete the +Page and return to a dashboard managed listing but many did not get the memo.

Google has announced in the forums that they have now upgraded the social local G+ Page management interface  to include the feature to hide the address and that SABs that currently have local social pages should hide their address.

Top Level for SABs?

  • If you have merged HIDE YOUR ADDRESS (or risk your listing being buried)
  • If you are in the Dashboard with a Hidden address – STAY THERE
  • DO NOT MERGE if you have not done so already

Here is the announcement:

SABs who already have verified/merged social local G+ page, hide your address:

  • Log into Google+, click Pages on the left, and Manage the page in question
  • Click on Edit business information on the page for your business
  • Click on the pencil next to the address
  • Check the box saying, “My business has service areas where I visit customers at their location.”
  • Uncheck the box saying, “I serve customers at my business address.”
  • Edit service areas as necessary.

Remember, businesses who do not serve customers at the business address should hide their addresses.

*** SABs with hidden address who do not already have verified pages that they created in Google+ should proceed using Google Places for Business at places.google.com. SABs with hidden address should not create new local pages in Google+. ***

Google Notes That Recent Review Take Downs Might Be Reversed

Jade noted in the forums that:

review take down

Just letting you know that we’ve found a technical issue last week with reviews where some were incorrectly taken down. We’re working on fixing the issue, so sit tight!

This was in response to the spate of reports of reviews being taken down last week in what appeared like a reincarnation of the review spam algo from hell.

Barry Schwartz noted that he felt that Google was confirming a bug. A bug implies to me an error in underlying code that causes an error. These take downs looked so much like the previous level of take downs with the review algo last fall, that I think assuming it was a bug would be making too many assumptions. Note that Jade said “we’ve found a technical issue”. That could be anything from the janitor tripping over the cord to an engineer turning a switch that cut a new review algo loose again. A more likely explanation in my book is that Google was “upgrading” the algo and it was more severe than had been predicted.

Regardless it does appear that many of the reviews that were taken down will hopefully coming back similar to those returned at the end of January. Remember though that not all of them returned.

New Google For Business Dashboard Now Available For All New Users Nationwide

Screen Shot 2013-04-09 at 8.04.50 PMGoogle has just notified me that the new Google For Business Dashboard is now available to ALL NEW dashboard users in the United States. Although I am not yet seeing it on the accounts that I manage. I missed the new dashboard users part and mistakenly thought it was all users. Mia Culpa… its late here. Sorry.

Last week when the product was rolled out Google announced that it would be phased rollout and said “Please know that the update will be gradually rolling out to existing Google Places for Business users like you in the coming weeks”.

Along with the new Dashboard, Google is changing their marketing message as well. In doing so they are making a clear distinction between free and paid premium services.

Given how fast this has moved, I would assume that the rest of the world is not far behind. I would also assume that there are more features coming sooner rather than later. It can’t come soon enough for me.

Other posts about the new Dashboard:

Google rolling out new update to Google Places for Business - Me

Visual Guide to the new Places for Business Dashboard - Me

Categories in the new Places for Business Dashboard - Me

Analysis: Google Places for Business or G+ Pages Lite? - Me

More details about the improved look and feel of Google Places for Business - Joel Headley

BREAKING! Brand New Google Places Dashboard – All-in-one Local Listing Management - Linda Buquet, Catalyst Marketing

10 Things SEOs & SMBs Should Know About New Google Places Dashboard - SearchEngineland

Google Upgrades Its Google Places Dashboard With Google+ Local Integration - SearchEngineland

Local Weekend Update

Several items of interest.

Dates & Scores No Longer Showing on Google Reviews. Chris Campbell on Twitter and Jack Thornburg on G+ pinged me that date and scores on individual reviews on the business G+ Page had stopped showing. It had been reported on April 4th in the forums. Google has said that they are looking at this. It could be a bug or it could be a new feature. Always hard to tell with Google. Update: These seem to have returned. Here is a screenshot of what they looked like over the weekend.

Google Review Filter Turns the Screws Once Again. A bug or an update, again it is not clear. But there have been numerous reports of reviews having gone missing since April 5th. We have not seen this many complaints in the forums since the filter was relaxed in late January.

Canadian Businesses May Show Up in the New Dashboard. Last week Google noted that the new Places for Business Dashboard was US only. There were however several reports from Kerry Fager of them showing up for Canadian businesses. Google’s Joel Headley made this comment at Linda Buquet’s forum:

New users — with US-based IPs — may be granted access to the new interface as it rolls out more broadly. If these users happen to have a non-US business already created in Google+, it may appear in their dashboard; however, new listing creation is limited to US-based addresses. 

Also, Offers and AdWords Express may not be ready for prime time for non-US listings. If you’re seeing issues, feel free to send us feedback by clicking the Send Feedback link at the bottom of the page. We’ll review all these reports for any potential bugs.

Better Business Bureau Sucks – So What Else is New. This came to me via David Mihm: Why the Better Business Bureau Should Give Itself a Bad Grade.  Apparently Time Magazine has figured out that besides outright corruption that there is an intrinsic conflict of interest involved in the way that the BBB is paid for by businesses but theoretically handles complaints as an independent agency from consumers. Review sites can not put these guys out of our misery soon enough.

Google Local: Are Mobile Signals Actively used in Ranking Local Results?

David Mihm just did a great Whiteboard Friday on the evolution of the local ranking algo. In the article he speculated about the future of local signals:

And just to speculate a little bit, because I love to speculate, going forward I also think we’re going to see Google potentially integrating some offline information into the local rankings. So what do I mean by that? As we get more and more comfortable, we as a society get more and more comfortable with things like Foursquare check-ins or Facebook check-ins, using our phones to make mobile payments, using Google Wallet, or companies like Square or LevelUp, these types of things, loyalty programs, Google has acquired a company several years ago that focused on digital loyalty cards, these types of offline signals about how we’re actually engaging with businesses in the real world, I think there’s no reason that they wouldn’t try to incorporate those into their local rankings going forward.

I would suggest that the future is now and that Google is currently using some mobile signals in their current ranking algo. Certainly, as David points out, Google has invested in a number of technologies (Coupons, Wallet, Offers, PunchD, Talkbing, check-ins) that will give Google on the ground signals as to whether a consumer actually visited a location and consummated a sale. Most of these have not achieved any sort of scale and are forward facing investments that attempt to close the “search to sale” loop for analytics. All could also provide popularity signals to Google when they do achieve some scale.

But Google has two very widespread highly trusted technologies, Driving Directions and Android, that function at huge scale and could be providing signals now.

Alex Garrido (aka Alex Webmaster) has done some interesting local research that seems to indicate that mobile click to calls do in fact affect ranking.

He worked with 5 local clients ranking in the lower spots on front page Google 7-Pack results. Over a two week period he had his 40 research participants do a keyword + city search on their mobile phones and click to call the specific businesses. Two clients were scheduled to receive 40 calls over that period, two were to receive 20 calls over that period and one was used as a control. His conclusion:

To our surprise it turned out to be a major ranking signal often improving the position of a local business by several spots.

results

Discussion: This is a small scale study and as is always the case in such situations it is hard to know that correlation is in fact causation. It is also the case that correlation studies are problematic in studying search results. There are a lot of moving parts in the local algo that we can not see and that could have influenced these results. Obviously it is worth carrying out this experiment in several markets over several time frames to see if their is similar impact on rank. Correlation if it happens enough and is consistent enough can then be assumed, with greater confidence, to have some causal relationship.

If it is causal, and the click to calls do in fact improve rank, is the effect permanent? Clearly these results need to be tracked over time as well. And similar work would need to be done in more competitive markets to see if the effective impact is similar i.e. if there are other strong signals maybe this one just doesn’t have much impact.

That being said there is every reason to think that Google might now be using mobile signals in ranking results. Continue reading

New Google Places for Business: Articles From Around the Web

places-for-bus-headerLate yesterday, Google started rolling out the updated Places for Business dashboard to new claimants and they have simultaneously redirected some dashboard accounts to the new interface.

Here are some additional articles from around the web about the change:

More details about the improved look and feel of Google Places for Business - Joel Headley (must read)

BREAKING! Brand New Google Places Dashboard – All-in-one Local Listing Management - Linda Buquet, Catalyst Marketing

 - Qasar Younis, Senior Product Manager

Google Upgrades Its Google Places Dashboard With Google+ Local Integration - Matt McGee, SEL

 

Google Places for Business Help Files (thanks to Linda Buquet, note: the caps are all hers :) ):

What’s happening to Google Places for Business?

Insights for your business (New analytics)

Status of edits in your listing editor Explains edits that could be pending review. It NOTIFIES YOU NOW!

Service area businesses in Google Places for Business This is all changed and MUCH better!

Upgrading your business listing to a local Google+ Page ONE BUTTON UPGRADE TO G+ WIDGET

 

My articles from last night:

Google rolling out new update to Google Places for Business

Visual Guide to the new Places for Business Dashboard

Categories in the new Places for Business Dashboard

Analysis: Google Places for Business or G+ Pages Lite?

 

Analysis: Google Places for Business – Upgrade or G+ Pages Lite?

The upgrade to the Places for Business is an upgrade that is hard to get terribly excited about although it does give hope for the future and there are some plumbing issues that have finally been put to rest. The dashboard seems more focused on commerce than content and offers little in the way of allowing an SMB to really explain who they are and what they do.

Given that Google has had 7 (or is it 8 years?) to come up with a dashboard replacement it is hard to accept a replacement that contains fewer input fields than the broken dashboard that it is replacing. I have such high hopes for local and Google’s role in it that it is hard for me to find much excitement in the late arrival of such a limited product.

What is wrong, missing or otherwise lame with the update?

Categories: The removal of custom categories, while understandable from a taxonomic point of view, leaves a lot to be desired. Google’s limited range of categories leaves many businesses without adequate choices. This has always been more true overseas but applies to a large extent in the US as well. Google will now allow 10 categories and they are noting that they gather this information elsewhere on the internet. That however will put very small SMBs that can’t afford adequate SEO at a distinct disadvantage if Gooogle doesn’t expand the list of categories.

 

Continue reading

Categories in the new Places for Business Dashboard

Screen Shot 2013-04-02 at 4.04.05 PMOne of the big changes in the rollout of the new Places for Business Dashboard is a change with categories. Categories have long been a key factor in Google’s determination of relevance of a listing. Google has added some additional categories, changed how categories are handled as well how many categories a business is allowed to have.

The bad news? The big change,  predicted for some time, is the elimination of the option of custom categories. Google has moved to a fixed list of choices.

The synonym feature is also missing. Thus a user that doesn’t know exactly what they want in terms of categories will find it very hard to locate the correct categories.

The good news? Up to ten categories are allowed. Google has noted at the most recent LocalU seminar that categorical information about a business is retrieved from across the internet. Exactly what web based resources are likely to impact this are not totally clear.

The category list is a dramatic improvement over what is/was available to businesses that verified via the G+ Page local interface and the list is very similar to those categories previously available to users of the current Dashboard.

There appear to be some additional categories in the new list, particularly in the area of restaurants. Upon an initial and superficial check I could not find additional categories in other areas besides restaurants although there may be a few. In the previous category list there were 76 types of restaurants. In the new category list there are 230 restaurant types. For example Google added the following restaurant types (amongst others):

Tongue Restaurant
Uzbeki Restaurant
Southwest France Restaurant

I am curious whether a “Tongue Restaurant” is what it sounds like? Why exactly do we need the category “Southwest France Restaurant”?

The new list contains a total 2295 category choices. I am including the complete Places for Business category list (US only) here in HTML format and hope to have the list integrated with my Google Places category tool in the near future.

Related posts:

Google rolling out new update to Google Places for Business

Visual Guide to the new Places for Business Dashboard 

Analysis: Google Places for Business or G+ Pages Lite?

 

Visual Guide to the new Places for Business Dashboard

Here is a comprehensive visual overview, with comments, of the new Places for Business Dashboard. I was provided with a test account by Google.

The new interface takes “widget” approach to all functionality. Editing data is a widget as are G+, Adwords Express and Offers. That implies that many more “widgets” will make their way in the new Dashboard:

starting-page

Click through to see the full range of screens from the new product.

Continue reading

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