Safari iOS Adds Click to Call to Direct Search Answer

I have no idea when this was added but when you are searching via Safari, it is now showing a direct Yelp or TripAdvisor answer with a click to call option immediately available.

It is not clear who is providing the click to call services. My money is on Yelp and TripAdvisor. Does anyone know?

It also isn’t clear why or when this result is shown rather than an Apple Maps result which are still frequently seen on similar searches.

Talk about disintermediating a Google search. Here are some screenshots:

A Yelp result. Click to view larger
A TripAdvisor result with click to call. Click to view larger


Google Local Shopping Ads Showing in Pack Style Layout

This morning I spotted a new Google Local Shopping ad that places local inventory in a pack like display with a Map. This new ad unit is obviously a display test of their shopping campaing local inventory ad unit as it is not visible by many. For the history see Jennifer Slegg’s write up here.

It is not particularly well marked as an ad and it fills the whole screen above the fold on my iphone.

It is immediately followed up by another ad with site links which takes up a fair bit of space and then finally, the 3 pack. By this time, the user is 2400 pixels down the screen.  Oh yes and  local organic results below that.

Lots of scrolling and scrolling and scrolling and did I mention scrolling? The page is ugly to boot. I have added a pixel ruler to give you a sense of the height of the ads before any local or organic content is seen.

Andrew Shotland pointed out an equally cluttered search result on Twitter the other day with a butt ugly screen shot of a search result showing an HSA verified pack plus local pack. Here’s the search result screen shot from Andrew: Continue reading Google Local Shopping Ads Showing in Pack Style Layout

Google & Confederate Memorial Day Hours

Confederate Memorial Day is celebrated as a public holiday in Alabama, Florida, Mississippi, South Carolina and Texas. Although in Texas it seems to be referred to as Confederate Heroes Day and is celebrated on January 19th. Apparently there though it is considered an optional state holiday  “meaning some state employees will come to work while others do not”.

Obviously it is a day with deep and to many, abhorrent symbols of our history. And many would contend unnecessary and hurtful as we  already have a Memorial Day to remember all fallen soldiers.

And Google seems to be in the middle of it. Read this post in their forum:

Hi, it seems that every business in Texas, including ours, has a “Confederate Memorial Day” holiday within their hours listed on Google. Our business absolutely does not want to be associated with this “holiday.” Can Google please address this?


As reader Tom Waddington points out below, in those states that have a state holiday for Robert E Lee’s Birthday, that state event trumps the federal holiday of Martin Luther King Day.

Although it appears that bulk uploads from national accounts have some control over the labeling of the holiday.

And this example being discussed in the Google Search Community (h/t to Thomas P below):

Your thoughts?

Update Monday 4:30 CST: In states like Alambana that celebrate Robert E Lee Day, Google has apparently updated the display to jointly note both days.

They have not updated Texas’s Thursday holiday: Confederates Hero’s Day. They retain the mislabeling indicating that it is called Confederate Memorial Day. Google knows the actual name as indicated in this answer box:

And clearly even agencies are open that day so it is not clear why there is any notation needed at all. 

Last year the Dallas News ran an editorial: Confederate Heroes Day has no place on the state’s official calendar where they noted: I’m sure some members of the Confederate army behaved heroically in defense of their fellow fighters and their ideals. That should not make them heroes in the eyes of any government entity.

Google GMB Website Builder Beta First Look

Village Dental Care, a general, cosmetic dentistry, and orthodontic dentist in Bowral,Australia, had access to the beta trial of Google new SMB website builder pop up in their Google My Business Dashboard and their dental marketing company, Smile Marketing1 kindly shared access to the account for me to take a look at the product.

It is essentially a super simple single page website builder with very little opportunity for customization or change. Upon access to the Website tab in the GMB, it comes up with a default category specific background image and theme image:

Creation – Default View

Added Photos and Content

Photos and info are added via the standard GMB interface. There appears to be a bug where the background image, once selected does not allow replacement. If you don’t upload enough images they will replicated one of the images for display.

Theme Options

I didn’t explore these options so I can’t really speak to the specifics.

Edit Options

There are only four, very limited content areas of the page to which you can add text; Headline, Description, Summary Header & Summary body. There is no opportunity to affect title tags or meta descriptions. I did not test any limits that might be imposed on the various fields but upon re-edit there was a bug in the summary body field that doesn’t show all of the content added to the field. You can see only the first line. No ability to add links and the opportunity for spammy content is limited.


The one button publish process first asks if you want to use this as your new site at your existing URL or as a secondary site. The URL of the live site is

Live Site

Obviously there are still some quirks. I was unable to change the background image once it was added to the profile image. It self selected a segment of the profile image and did not give me control over that. Adding photos and info (basic business details) jumps the user back to the original pages of the GMB for those inputs and it feels a touch cludgey. There is no ability to control title tags or meta description tags and no ability to link out to other properties. And if it isn’t obvious there is no way to include updated content from Posts or Plus.

What isn’t clear either is how these pages are to be integrated with Maps or the Knowledge Panel.

Looking at a site command: reveals some interesting (albeit unreliable) data about the countries where the test is taking place. Obviously this at the base domain only and while the numbers that the site: command returns I think that they might be directionally correct.

  • There currently appear to be about 122,000 sites using the Google domain.
  • English language based sites are roughly 1/2 of that number.
  • And the bulk of those in English are located in India.
  • 29,000 appear to be located in Indonesia
  • Another 24,000 are in Portuguese and come from Brazil
  • Australia seems to have just a few more than 100 sites
  • Only 1300 or so are in Spanish and seem to be mostly in Mexico2

Obviously it is a large scale test clocking in north of 100k participants. And to get to that scale it must have been present for a while.

In its current form it really is more like a fully formatted profile page than a website. That being said it is significantly easier to create than a G+ page ever was and unlike G+ is fully integrated with Maps and the verification process. Although if the verification process were even simpler and didn’t require the GMB process that might be appealing and at least for this test that might be the case.2

Calling this page a website seems like a touch of overselling. But I suppose it is easier to “sell” a “free mobile website” than to sell the concept of “verify your business listing on Google”. It effectively has the same outcome for Google of allowing them to “know” the business.

But a long standing SMB issue that Google has is that there is still no compelling reason for the business to return to dashboard to engage or up-purchase an ad campaign. In that regard it would make more sense to me to integrate this and the Posts product in testing into a more compelling package. Although even that might not be enough without customers ultimately driving their engagement ala Facebook.

1 I really want to thank Village Dental Care and Smile Marketing for their assistance in this first look. I particularly want to give a hat tip to Alicia Hardy for alerting me and assisting with the details of this review.

2 This is an odd search result that I uncovered in my site: explorations. Here is the new “website” for el rincon de la hacienda in Iztapalapa, Mexico. And here is a Google brand search for that same restaurant. The local listing is not yet verified. I suppose it is conceivable that in these situations that the website creation tool exists independently of the GMB verification process?

Google Testing Website Builder Within Google My Business

Update: For a more in-depth look at the new product see: Google GMB Website Builder Beta First Look.

It seems that the day has finally come when Google is going after the many small businesses in both the developing and developed world that don’t yet have a website or at least a good mobile one. No intermidiary, no third party, this product is a a Google native web builder that looks simple and easy.

Last week the Wall Street Journal reported that Google was going to be testing a moible website building product in India. It was reported to be free and targeted to the many business that are just now starting to get online.

Apparently that product is also being tested in the Australia as well. Alicia Hardy, a marketer with Vortala, sent me a screen shot via Twitter of the product from within an Australian GMB listing.

Not much is known at this point as to which countries are in the test or the capabilities of the product but I will be asking Google for more information.

Is this a back to the future moment for Google in their battle for SMB share of mind or another miss step in their battle with Facebook and Amazon? Let me know your thoughts.

Google GMB Site Creator – Click to View larger

Yelp Dramatically Improves Mobile Search Experience*

Yesterday Google announced that they were starting to finally roll out their interstitial penalty. Meant to improve mobile user experience when accessing a site the penalty targets sites that:

  • Show a popup that covers the main content, either immediately after the user navigates to a page from the search results, or while they are looking through the page.
  • Displays a standalone interstitial that the user has to dismiss before accessing the main content.
  • Uses a layout where the above-the-fold portion of the page appears similar to a standalone interstitial, but the original content has been inlined underneath the fold.

Yelp was particularly guilty of the above the fold interstitial behaviors. In fact this is what led to my twitter tete-a-tete with Mr. Stoppleman. He suggested that I delete my account when I noted how consumer unfriendly Yelp’s attempt to drive app usage was.

Today I see that the Yelp mobile experience has dramatically improved.

* Big surprise that, despite Yelp’s complaining about the Google interstitial penalty as anti-competetive, under pressure of their own penalty, finally fixed their mobile experience. Sort of. Unfortunately while it works better from Google to the mobile web result, the Yelp Open App button always takes me to the App store rather than directly to the app.

Google Releases GMB API 3.2 with Insights

Google has update the Google GMB API to v. 3.2 this afternoon and included in the update is full access to 18 months of Insights data.

Essentially the same data currently visible in the GMB Insights is available via the API and you can now subscribe to real-time notifications for new Google Updates. This release fills one of the major gaps in the API and provides extended history of data. This will allow dashboards to do month over month comparisons as well as aggregation of multi-locaiton data. It could also be integrated with Google Anallytics in the same dashboard. Unfotunately Analytics does not itself access the data.

The calls include values for:

How customers find your listing

  • Direct queries: How many customers searched for your business name or address directly.
  • Discover queries: How many customers searched for a category, product, or service that you offer, and your listing appeared.

Where customers find you on Google

  • Views on Maps: How many customers found your business on Google Maps.
  • Views on Search: How many customers found your business on Google Search.

Customer actions

  • Visits to Website: How many customers visited your website.
  • Clicks to Phone: How many customers called your business. (This metric can be further broken down to see number of clicks by time of day and day of week.)
  • Clicks for Driving Directions: How many customers requested driving directions to your business. 

Driving Directions Requests

  • This report provides the top 10 places from which customers request driving directions  to your business location.

 All of the above metrics (with the exception of driving directions requests) may be available for the last 18 months as daily or total aggregates. Driving directions requests will only be available as an aggregate over a 7, 30, or 90 day period. Also, insights are currently limited to a batch size of 10 locations per call.

What is this api and data good for? Besides significantly more historical data you now might be able to:

  • Create month over month, quarter over quarter or y/y (once you have archived enough data*) comparisons for the location
  • Aggregate multi location data into a single overall report
  • Provide m/m, q/q or y/y view of the multi location data
  • Compare one location or more locations to other locations performance
  • Compare percentage/relative gains by location and across multiple locations
  • Consolidate this data with data from Google Analytics and other data sources into a dashboard for a better understanding of overall kpis for your locations both in aggregate and individually

This sort of data analysis would allow for a multi-location business or agencies to do split testing of marketing efforts to see which led efforts led to the greatest gains in which markets.

Essentially it means that an agency or service like Moz/Yext or a multi-location business can now build out more sophisticated analytics that allows businesses to make more data based decisions about their local marketing. About time!

From Google’s POV it will tightly integrate the GMB into the marketing efforts and mindshare of the largest multi location chains and agencies.

More information can be found in the forum, at the developer blog and in the documentation.

Releases to the API have occurred regularly every 4 to 6 months.

Google GMB V 1.0 API Becoming More Available 

Google My Business Releases V2.0 of the GMB API 

Google Releases GMB API V3.0  

Google My Business API Gets Updated to V3.1 

* I am not sure what the API Terms of Service are and whether you can save historical data beyond the 18 month window.

Bricks & Mortar Stores Getting New Local 3 Pack Treatment at Google?

It appears that Google is either broadly testing or perhaps rolling out (or maybe they did this last week and I missed it) a more visual 3 pack with fewer direct contact CTAs for bricks and mortar locations. It appears, at least for now that professionals like lawyers, doctors, insurance agents and service businesses like plumbers and locksmiths and hair dressers are still receiving the neo-classic treatment with an option to visit web site and click to call. This new 3 Pack style is similar to the restaurant 3-pack that has been around for some time.

Like most recent Google pack developments, this new style provides fewer ways for customers to move off of Google and onto the business website from the main search page. And in the absence of information like address, website url and directions forces users into the Local Finder with great frequency.

Whether this is a test or a rollout I am not quite sure but the fact that it appears on certain industry groups but not others is unusual. Are you seeing the new pack? Are you only seeing it on certain types of businesses?

Pack I am seeing for retail stores, car dealers etc
Pack I am seeing for lawyers, doctors, insurance agents, salons, plumbers and locksmtihs

Google Upgrades Mobile Restaurant Display with New Features

Google has recently rolled out a number of upgrades to their mobile restaurant search results:

  • Speedier Menu Data in an AMP like form
  • More visual card like Local Finder results
  • Addition of Happy Hours

Speedier Menu Data in an AMP like form

With the rollout of the updated Google search app, Google is starting to include AMP like menu content attached to the restaurant Knowledge Panel. This is a mobile only feature as on the desktop it still links to the menu website.

If look at this search on the desktop it shows the website menu but on mobile it takes you to a Google hosted menu page. Clearly this is part of Google’s on-going strategy to speed up mobile AND keep users on their site longer.

More visual card like restaurant Local Finder results

I spotted this yesterday but Sergey Alakov, a Toronto SEO, highlighted it on Twitter. If an interior StreetView is available that seems to show first.

Addition of Happy Hours

These were first noted in the Forum for 169 Bar in NYC with a report of them being wrong and NOT being editable in the Google My Business dashboard. It appears from conversations with Google these are primarily being scraped from bar/restaurant websites although it is also likely that Google has a 3rd party data source.

Point being, its critical that you have them in an easy to read, preferably schema, format on your site noting both regular and happy hours. Google has not indicated when they will support the direct GMB input of these hours either via direct input or possibly API. It seems that the API access is likely to show up first though.

In related news Sergey also reports that, at least in Toronto, all Knowledge Panels have been changed to a full image and no map. I have yet to see this on my mobile device or desktop.

Clearly the obvious calls to action here are to either write a review or add a photo and the ones that are most important to the business of driving directions, calling or a website visit have been somewhat reduced in visibility.

Developing Knowledge about Local Search