March 19, 2012
Adwords Express has generally improved since its initial nationwide rollout in January of 2011 and its name change in July of last year. It was initially dogged with poor targeting and huge spikes in monthly cost per click that often made their use untenable. I have continued to test it in a range of local situations and for some low dollar value campaigns in some markets it has worked very well. My relationship with Express has moved from wildly bipolar to only mildly bipolar.
One of the annoying aspects is the lack of control. For example Google adds review stars to your express ad and takes viewers directly to your Places page whether you want them to go there or not. The flip side of that is that they automatically provide click to call for your ads in a mobile environment. Another big downside is the inability to direct a user to a specific landing page. But it turns out to be a quick and relatively inexpensive local keyword research tool where it is sometimes hard to get a great list otherwise.
One of the big improvements has been the ability to create your own Ad Headline. Initially the product would ONLY show the business name in that field. The ability to correctly title your ad has improved targeting and increased the value of the ad for specific niches. But… and this is a big BUT …. along with that improvement Google is now apparently changing the ad title ON THE FLY. Not only are they changing the title to the business name they are shortening the business name to fit in the allowed 25 characters!
And Google does so without warning you that this might occur. As far as I can tell this behavior is NOT documented.
The assumption that Google knows best might be backed by reams of data, that doesn’t mean that I should not be given the option to either allow or disallow this behavior. Nor does it mean that Google should make these changes without asking my permission. Simplicity without explanation becomes duplicity in the eyes of the SMB.
Here is an ad that I recently found showing in the search results. Note the Ad Headline:
Here is the content that was created in the Places Dashboard:
March 16, 2012
Barry Hunter, Top Contributor in the Google Maps & Places forums and Maps expert, took the matter of the missing RSS feeds for the Places forum into his own hands and crafted these feed URLS.
All Topics in Google and Your Business Forum
Topics in Need advice?
Topics in Technical issue?
And these feeds should work in Google Reader only – probably wont elsewhere. Right click and ‘Copy shortcut’ then paste into the new subscription box in GReader:
The “msgs” (new messages) feed is with an entry per post, and “topics” (new topics) is just for the first post per topic.
Update: John Muller just posted this RSS feed for the forums on Google +
Webmaster Forum Topics Feed
Webmaster Forum MSGS Feed
.. just swap out “webmasters” with the appropriate part of the forum URL. The “topics” feed is per thread, the “msgs” feed is per message. The downsides to these URLs is that the body of the post is cut off at a certain length, and that you can’t look at these on a per-category basis (it’s awesome that Barry’s feed is per category).
So here are the two feeds (not sure the difference between the two). And both seem to require Google Reader:
Google Places Business MSG Feed
Google Places Business Topics Feed
At the end of February I reported that Google was including both rich snippet reviews AND authorship images and links in blended results on the desktop. At the time these features had not appeared in the mobile results. Starting yesterday Google has once again updated the Blended display on the desktop to not show the rich snippet reviews in the blended results (they still show in organic results) nor the author links as much. Google also is now including a larger authors image and including additional links to their reviews.
Compare this screen shot from this morning to the one taken on February 29th:
More interesting to me is that Google has added Author photos to the blended and organic mobile results. This creates a very strong visual queue on the much more constrained mobile desktop:
March 14, 2012
Here is the second comic in the Google Places False Negatives Series from Margaret Shulock. Google’s update on reviews was the inspiration for this comic. The snippets to share this and the previous cartoon on your site is below.
“I Can See the Future of Your Google Reviews”by Margaret Shulock is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License. Based on a work at blumenthals.com
411Locals is one of the more aggressive local seo firms in both their pre and post sale tactics, aggressive to the point of absurdity. This recent poster on my blog explains his experience with them. If true it should be illegal but like in the case of the computer repair shop in Phoenix there is no obvious regulatory action or enforcement to prevent this sort of behavior:
I used 411 Locals a year ago for about 3 months. I decided to leave them and they have done their best to ruin my company Image on line. They have changed my listings to several different companies, they have listed me under different company names and used bogus telephone numbers which in turn has mis directed my customers. When I spoke with them they informed me the web is a free domain and they can post what they like. I am 45 years old and been in business for 20 years. I have never seen a company that has the power to alter the outcome of my business income such as this company with absolutely zero regulation. I have now hired an attorney to look over all the info that I have and see if i can legally do any thing about it. They need to be hit with multiple law suits at the same time and force them to pay up for legal services and hit them where it hurts…
And in the ultimate bit of irony, it turns out the 411Locals has joined the Nevada BBB and they have a A rating. Only in America could these two have become partners in crime.
March 12, 2012
Google has started the final transition to the new Google Places Forums.
When Google says shut down, they mean shut down. They will be closing down the current Places forum and taking all of the existing material off line. All existing posts will be redirected to the home page of the new forum by Thursday of this week. All current and past posts (there are 39699 of them) will be taken down and will no longer be accessible.
This will effectively be the 5th move for the Place’s forum in 5 years. Originally part of the Maps forum on the GoogleGroups Platform, the Places Forum (then known as the Local Business Center) was moved with Maps to the current forum and then split from that forum into its own forum several times before this most recent move. Google transitioned most of their other products over to the new platform over the past 6 months with this being one of the last to move to the new platform.
March 9, 2012
Wanting to get across the point that SMBs need to read the Google Guidelines in a recent seminar, I worked with Margaret Shulock, a nationally syndicated cartoonist who lives down the road, to develop this comic. If you would like to share this with your readers please do. Over the next month I will be creating a series of these cartoons named Google Places False Negatives and they will be archived there and available for your use.
Feel free to Grab the code snippet below to add the comic to your site.
“Google Places Enforcement Plan”by Margaret Shulock is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License. Based on a work at blumenthals.com.
March 7, 2012
The last 3 or 4 months in Places have been quite erratic. Some data that had been posting from Places in moments had gone to weeks. It seemed that things like descriptions could take 6 to 7 weeks. Google has just announced a new speedier update cycle of “usually a few days” for most data and “about a week” for photos in this forum post. It will still take a number of weeks to resolve dupes and merges. Here is the full body of the post:
There have been a lot of questions in the forum lately about verifying new listings and making updates to existing ones, and we wanted to clear up some of that confusion. We’ve been doing some work on our backend, cleaning up the pipes in order to make more improvements to Google Places over time. Here are the typical turnaround times for updates you make in your Google Places account.
What will usually update in a few days:
• Newly verified listings (even though it reads “Active” in your dashboard)
–> This includes newly verified bulk uploads (and any attributes, as noted below)
• Business titles
• Phone numbers
• Website URLs
• Pin marker moves
What will update in about a week:
What will typically take several weeks to resolve:
• Merged listings
• Duplicate listings
The Post to your Place page feature (http://goo.gl/f8bCp
) should update to your listing near instantly, but we’re experiencing some technical issues with that right now. Expect a fix soon.
Also, please note that reviews are not affected by these new changes. If you’re experiencing technical issues with the reviews on your listing, please see this Help Center article for more information: http://goo.gl/emQsE
While waiting for your listing to go live after a claim it will likely show the “We do not currently support this location” message for the duration of the waiting period. During this “waiting period” the standard “tickle your Places record with an edit” fix for this problem will have no affect. Going forward it is not clear if the fix will still be needed or not on records that go south after verification with the error.
Some updates seem to take a few days longer than a “few” with some taking 6 to 7 days but it seems that has been improving over the past week.
Note that Vanessa said: We’ve been doing some work on our backend, cleaning up the pipes in order to make more improvements to Google Places over time. Hopefully we will continue to see improvements in a range of the problem areas and Places bugs of the past.
Let me know how long your updates are taking!
Frequent contributor Plamen has pointed out a new “behavior” in how Google is handling the main search display of new Google reviews showing up on the Place page; adding a link to the location in the “around the web” review section. Whether this is a bug or one more way to insert another link to an additional Google property in the main search results is unclear.
Here is the Places listing: Custom Shoe Repair that I added the review to if you want to explore my sample more closely. But it seems to add the links to the search results in near real time so you should be able to add your own review to a Place page and see the results quickly.
Oddly the link heads off to Google Maps and generates loc:search showing the location and place. As more reviews get added the url is updated to include a new author flag ID but the content does not change.
What is your opinion? Bug or just one more attempt to drive users sideways to a different Google page?
March 6, 2012