Local U Advanced New Orleans – Early Bird Special Ending 10/7

LocalU AdvancedThe LocalU Advanced conference in New Orleans on October 20th (networking party) and 21st (all day conference) promises to be an incredible event. The line up of speakers is amazing BUT the EARLY BIRD Pricing is ending on October 7th so you will need to sign up soon to get the lower price.

We don’t have another advanced event scheduled for anytime soon, so don’t miss one of the best Local Search line-ups ever. If you have any questions about getting your money’s worth by attending, just listen to  the videos we’ve done with some of the event speakers – Cindy Krum, David Deering, Darren Shaw, Joy Hawkins and Ed Reese. And speaking of money, grab your tickets before the price goes up at midnight on October 7th and save $200. Or bring your whole team (3 or more) and get a special group discount.

To get a screenshot-2016-09-28-17-15-37sense of the quality of speaker we will have take a few moments to watch these videos from our Local U Advanced Speaker Series:

See you in NOLA!

Google My Business API Gets Updated to V3.1

Google has just released the Google MyBusiness API V3.1 . The update brings real time push notification for the ever changing listing updates AND when a new review is written for a location.

These real time updates with push capabilities will allow businesses monitoring their listing via a dashboard to be actively notified of status changes, data updates and incoming reviews without having to make a call to Google for that information. It should allow businesses to respond more quickly to any of these changes.

According to Google additional features for V3.1 are be released in the coming weeks and will provide support within the API for additional attribute types including things like a menu URL and payment methods.

This is an expansion of attribute data beyond simple yes/no states previously collected via the API and shows Google’s ever increasing desire for this additional, structured data. The menu URL will remove a huge pain point that many restaurants have confronted by showing an old 3rd party link and they have not been able to update it.

There are three additional features in this API that will be of interest:

  • Maps URL in location response allows for easy navigation to the location on Google Maps
  • Additional Location States provides a better understanding of the action required on a location
  • New category service allows developers to get up to date list of GMB supported categories by country and language

The Map URL will create a universal URL to use that will allow users to easily navigate to a location (and possibly leave reviews). The creation of a category API will facilitate 3rd party understanding of categories world wide. The tool will be available with categories for each language and country and will be updated continuously making it easier for 3rd parties to explore and choose Google categories.

The critical piece still missing is the Insights API. Google has noted in conversations that they are aware of the demand for accessing and aggregating location insights. Given that it was recently updated and rewritten from the ground up, one can assume that giving access to the API was considered in the rebuild.

While the features provided are going to be useful the real story of the update is the demonstration of Google’s ongoing and regular committment of development resources. We first heard of V1 of the API in mid October 2015. Google subsequently released V2.0 of the GMB API in mid December, 2015 and they released 3.0 in May of this year. That is a release update schedule of once every 5 or so months. Google also noted that V2.0 of the API would be deprecated on Dec 6, 2016 and sunset a month later.

This will be their 3rd product release for GMB in September and while none of the releases have been earth shattering, they continue to reinforce my observation that they are in fact taking a more “mature” approach to development.


10 Years Ago Today -The 7 Steps for Local Listing Success at Google (& Yahoo)

A Google Local result from September 26, 2006

This week, 10 years ago, I published my first post. My blogging has directly led to 3 new careers1 and a bevy of new and wonderful friends.   During that time I have written over 2100 posts here, at  LocalU and now at GetFivestars. Early and trusted friendships with Matt McGee, Bill Slawski and David Mihm helped me learn a lot and “earned” me my first link. 🙂

Despite all that I have learned from the many people that I have come to love and respect over the years, it strikes me how my third post2,  dated September 27th, 2006 and named3  The Basics of Listing for Success, demonstrates how the more things change the more they stay the same.

Google may cancel business programs faster than I can change underwear but at least in terms of the Google Local algo  they NEVER throw anything away,


 The Basics of Listing for Success

Here is a simple list of what is I have discovered is necessary to start improving your ranking at Google Maps and Yahoo Local.

As I have worked with local listings over the past year I created this small check list for achieving some measure of success. These points may be self evident or they may require additional clarification which I will be attempting to provide over the next several days. They all need testing and examination.

1)Be sure to edit the local listing and include the relevant business categories

2)Enhance the title of the Business to include the key phrase(s)

2a)Craft the categories and the description to reinforce the key phrase(s)

3)Get lots of web references (these are like links but not as rigidly defined) that reference the main key phrase and location of the business

4)Be sure that your own site has lots of references to your local address and key phrase

5)Join the Better Business Bureau/Mobile Travel Guide/Talking Phone Book etc. etc. that Google uses to provide details

6)Be sure to get some good reviews from the reviewing services that Google & Yahoo uses

Unlike optimization for organic search, optimization for local search at the major engines is in a much less developed state. It seems to have many fewer people poking, prodding and testing the hypothesis of local search and coming up with a definitive set of best practices. This is list is an attempt to create that model that we can all test. Have a go and let me know.


Please let me know what you think.
Continue reading 10 Years Ago Today -The 7 Steps for Local Listing Success at Google (& Yahoo)

Video: Local U Advanced Speaker Series – Cindy Krum on the Latest Trends in Local Mobile

screen-shot-2016-09-20-at-8-17-53-amWhere is Local Search going? How do you get there? Join us at LocalU Advanced where we will take a deep dive into the nuts and bolts of the bleeding edge of local search.

The upcoming LocalU Advanced takes place the night of October 20th and all day October 21st. To give you a sense of the topics we will be covering, we have interviewed some of the speakers that will be there, including Darren Shaw (Citations), Joy Hawkins (Google My Business Data Issues), David Deering (the ins and outs of schema for local) and most recently Cindy Krum..

Cindy Krum is CEO and Founder of MobileMoxie, a mobile SEO consulting firm. Cindy will be both keynoting and running a workshop where she will provide insights and compelling ways to understand and assess the mobile web of now, the mobile web of the future and how to prepare your company for the journey. She will show you what you need to know to improve your brand’s mobile representation in and out of map results — and how you can make the most of your brand’s presence there. Whether you are an agency or an enterprise SEO, you are guaranteed to learn a lot.

In this interview we discuss the emerging trends in local mobile search, Google’s approach to data and control, conversational- and text-based assistants and what leading edge technologies we should all be thinking about.

Money Grows on Trees with Google

google_email_tw_033009If you ever are thinking that there isn’t opportunity in Local Search Optimization just head over to the BBB and do a search for Google.

More opportunity than you can shake a stick at and with some very original names too!

You can’t fault Chris the Google Guy for trying but if it were me I would Make Google Fast Cash using The Google Backdoor to get on the Google First Page.

After I tired of Growing Rich With Google I would write a book on Google Secrets so that others could join the Google Revolution by selling my Google Home Business Kit.

I would suggest caution with this plan for Google Riches as clearly some of these ideas like Google Money Tree (aka “Google Pro” and “Google Treasure Chest”) were targeted by the Federal Trade Commission in 2012 and required to refund checks totaling nearly $2.3 million to consumers who allegedly were charged hidden fees tied to a bogus work-at-home product. So much for his (isn’t it always a he?) plan for Google Wealth International. 

Here is a partial list of names that have been already taken. I am partial to Money Grows on Trees with Google1 :
Continue reading Money Grows on Trees with Google

Why is Yelp Failing at the iMessage App Game? Because They are Choosing To

As a consumer I like and use Yelp. I don’t like their business practices but as a consumer it’s my goto restaurant resource these days when traveling. I also like messaging, particularly iMessage, as my way of communicating with the 15 or so people I love and work with and often travel to see. So I was baffled shocked flummoxed disappointed amazed dejected but in the end not surprised that Yelp had chosen to so mangle their iMessage App experience.


I am fascinated by the new capability of iMessage as a platform and an ecosystem. One   that can be upgraded with third party apps and now has its own App Store. Like every idiot American adult, I was initially attracted to the idea of doing silly stickers and gifs. Surprisingly they ultimately did offer a benefit. They greased the skids to discovery.


I soon started exploring the local app world and was surprised and delighted how useful, functional and seamless some of these apps were. I could identify, share1 and purchase tickets to a movie with Fandango. To my children’s delight I could quickly and easily gift them $20 each from Square Cash or Venmo without exiting to the app.

OpenTable turned out to be an eye opening experience allowing me to easily search a location for spots to eat, identify several restaurants, share them, even allow myself and friends to vote on them and then book one of them all from within iMessage. And I don’t even have the app on my phone.

Easy peasy.  Until I got to Yelp. Continue reading Why is Yelp Failing at the iMessage App Game? Because They are Choosing To

Apple iMessage for iOS10 Rolls Out Conversational Commerce with Transactional Local Apps

Apple started shipping iOS10 with a new version of iMessage yesterday to the installed base of iPhone users. Welcome to the new era of conversation commerce for local.

And with the new version of iMessage comes an App store and the ability for third parties to integrate directly into the messaging flow. When initially announced Apple focused on the ability to add Mario stickers.

My first foray into integrating these apps was to try JibJab with a great deal of “success”. You can see another one here. At the introduction event there was a fair bit of buzz around stickers and such and the fact the Mario would be available as would a number of Disney characters.

But in poking around the iMessage app store it became quickly and abundantly clear that Apple, via third party integration with the likes of OpenTable,  Fandango & Square Cash, offers a near mature local transactional platform. And it is a platform that will gain scale quickly because of the large installed base, user familiarity and the ease with which a user can add this additional functionality.

img_1970The apps, once installed are easy to use and more importantly easy to share all from within iMessage. In the case of OpenTable they have added a very appealing ability to allow folks in the messaging thread to vote on a choice of restaurants prior to booking the table.

img_1971Likewise Fandango allowed me to share a possible movie with chat partner(s) prior to quickly buying tickets. If the user on the other end doesn’t have the iMessage App installed, they click on the image and its quickly put in place.

Nothing like fast, transparent and easy to facilitate uptake particularly if one person gets the ball rolling.

The experience was not without a few sticking points. I couldn’t get Yelp to do anything nor could I get Square Cash functioning (much to the chagrin of my son who would have been on the other end of the test).

But all of this bodes well for a rapidly increasing usage. And for a significant place in the burgeoning conversational commerce marketplace.

As of this afternoon 15% of the existing user base had already upgraded to iOS10 and thus the new iMessage.

Given that the installed base of iOS devices capable of running the new iMessage will be somewhere in the range of 1 billion users worldwide with the release of the iPhone 7 and iOS10, iMessage penetration could quickly reach 800 million installs within a fairly short period of time.

This transactional capability first took off in China and Asia but the US Facebook took the early initiative with the release of Messenger in April. Facebook created a scalable development environment that was available to both small businesses and larger more sophisticated companies. At the time I notedit’s a very scalable solution that can start as a human CRM, but then move into integration with your existing systems, as well as a more full AI-driven or partially AI-driven process down the road. 

Facebook has only one real barrier to success and that is that users had to install the app and switch behaviors from their current messaging app or at least add an additional app to their usage pattern. No small barrier that.

Unlike Facebook Messenger, iMessage is an existing product (now a platform) that has a very loyal and entrenched user base. Thus its reach for text based conversational local commerce could quickly turn iMessage into a leading platform if not the leading platform for this sort of commerce.

Welcome to the era of conversational local commerce.

29 Prime, SubPrime, Bankrupt

screenshot-2016-09-13-12-38-56As many of you know 29 Prime has not been a favorite Local SEO of mine. They lied, dissembled, prevaricated and misled thousands of small business folks. They have now gone into Chapter 7 Bankruptcy.

I was alerted to their bankruptcy by Regina Martinez, with whom I had been corresponding over the past year about how badly she had been taken advantage of by 29 Prime and the status of her resulting lawsuit:

Hello Mike,

My name is Regina Martinez, I communicated a little over a year ago (as you can see from the email thread below) about 29 Prime.

I finally filed a lawsuit and after they delayed things for over a year they went and filed for bankruptcy. They are stating the company is worth $0 has $0 income and 0 employees. I’m just reaching out to my network of others who are familiar with their business practices hoping they can point me in a direction so that (and I’m being incredibly honest) I can stop this fraud of a bankruptcy because they should not get to skate away after everything they’ve done.

Kind Regards,
Regina A. Martinez

In early 2015 Regina had first contacted me to request permission to use my 29Prime – Would you Buy a Used Car From These Guys Let Alone SEO? article as an exhibit in her suit.

Apparently Regina’s suit was not the only as Leonard Law in Boston had also filed a class action suit regarding their abusive robo calling techniques that was winding its way to victory in a Massachusetts court (despite 29 Prime’s effort to try to get it moved to California).

We won’t whether it was the likelihood of failure against these lawsuits or the accumulated weight of their deception or just a desire to, as Regina thinks, hide their assets that caused their ultimate demise we won’t know.

They were sure a fun target for me though and I wrote several articles about them:

Ah but life goes on. I guess I won’t have them to kick around any more. Although as the founder of 29 Prime has proven, he has more lives than the proverbial cat and I am sure that we will hear from him again.

Some Recent Posts, Articles & Videos – Or Why is Dad Hunched Over a Keyboard?

Subtitled: Q: Mike, Oh Mike? Would you take out the recycling? A: As soon as I do a word count and proof this article.

I have been busy writing over the past week, sometimes on the weekend when you might not have seen the article and other times at other sites that you might not have in your feed.

Here is the rundown of articles since September 8th in case you are feeling a burning need to waste an hour or two or to get all geeky about local. Be sure to read these during your work day. Just tell your boss its worth the time.

9//8 Why A Business Needs Reviews Everywhere – Including Your Website (GetFiveStars)

9/9 Google Updates Schema Review Guidelines – Again (GetFiveStars)

9/10 Stoppleman to Google: “Delete It” – Yelp Reviews Gone from Knowledge Panel (here and with a great comment stream that are worth a read in their own right)

9/10 Google Updates Mobile Rich Snippet Display with Pricing Information (here)

9/11 Exploring Oddities of Reviews from the Web with Joy, Sergey & Priya (here)

9/11 Thoughts on the Recent Rollout of Aggregate Reviews, Snippets & Critic Reviews in Google SERPS (here)

9/12 Is Google Doubling Down on Local? Yes, Now What (here)

9/12 As Google Pushes for Users to Stay on Its Platform, What Are the Effects for Local Search (Streetlight with David Mihm)

9/12 Video: Local U Advanced Speaker Series – Darren Shaw on Enterprise Level Citations & Local Ranking (LocalU Video with Darren Shaw & Mike Ramsey)


Is Google Doubling Down on Local? Yes. Now What


Has Google finally committed to Local? Has Local finally been elevated to the big leagues within Google as a starter instead of being relegated to filling the role of pinch hit competitive enhancer? Is Local receiving both the financial support and more importantly front page Google love that it needs to really succeed.

It would appear so. Will they succeed? Maybe, lets hope so.


This is an 1100 or so word piece. It takes roughly 6 minutes to read. Let me know if the time was well spent.

The Trigger that Got Me Thinking

The upgraded KP edit function now allows input on the quality and appropriateness of the images including StreetView and other fields as well as edit to maps & social icons

Last week during the rollout of the Reviews from the web, Sergey Alakov pointed out that the editing of information via the Knowledge Panel by the business owner had been slightly enhanced. The feature has been around for awhile but it now allows feedback on a few additional fields.

Not a big deal in the scheme of things but it struck me that Google was in fact chewing gum and walking at the same time vis a vis their local product rollouts. And it appeared that the efforts were both within the GMB division and cross departmental with the organic search team.

The (sordid) History

Coming off of the old Google Places, when Marissa Mayer was demoted to head Google’s local effort, there was a bold and ambitious plan in place for accelerating feature development. There were goals of creating an SMB CRM solution with capabilities that stretched from pre-sale to post sale management.

GPlus came along and with it, the forced march to the integration of Local and Plus began and then Marissa was force marched to the door (or whatever). Development efforts were aimed at integration and feature recovery not moving forward.

In the middle of all of this, in moving local to the Knowledge Graph, Google totally restructured the architecture of local with new plumbing, pipes and processes.1

In 2014, GPlus and Vic Gundotra were then marched to the door and all efforts seemed to be focused on dissolving the many links that had formed between Local and Plus and not focusing on moving forward. Most efforts seemed to go into things like creating a stand alone Local product.

For example in April of this year, Google made reviews finally work again without the multiple logins required by Plus. In early August, with the last nail, the GMB team put the tortured description field out to pasture and separated out Plus from an upgraded Local analytics.

The above five paragraphs sums up 5 years of lost local feature/benefit development. They were 5 years of patching and putzing with a few Local/GMB features coming (but mostly going). There was no sustained focus on developing useful features (other than web wide review monitoring) and more importantly no vision for making Local work better for the local business.

The Very Recent Past of the GMB

But this August and the early part of September have been busy months for Google My Business. During this time the number of product previews with the Top Contributor GMB group were numerous with inklings of more to come. Importantly, we saw a number of developments in the GMB:

9/1/2016 – Add multiple owners to individual locations or business accounts.
8/31/2016 – Use the new map view to see all of your locations plotted on the map.
Help Center
8/24/2016 – Accept or discard Google updates for individual fields in bulk.
8/19/2016 – Google Expanding SMB Test of “Write Directly to Search” Feature
8/9/2016 – New GMB Analytics Module created with expansion and additional features in mindnew-gmb-feature2

Google, has been reporting out a number of these developments in the GMB help area2 and I was curious to see if the trend of product development I was noticing had any merit.  When looked at over time it’s impressive.

The Very Recent Past of  Changes in Local Search Results in the SERPS

But the pace of development isn’t just fast within the confines of the GMB, Google has clearly been working at integrating more aspects of local into the main search results. We have seen the introduction of Critic Reviews, Top 10 Lists, Reviews from web and enhanced review snippets. In the main search results Google is even testing allowing SMBs to “Write Directly to Search” with their new Posts feature.

For Local business listings to truly “become all they can be” they need the front page. They need the front page for the exposure and retention of users and they need the front page so that business owners can see its benefit and be funneled into a more comprehensive relationship with Google.  And all of that needs to be obvious and apparent to the SMB (like KP editing and Posts).

Since the early days of Local those in the industry have wondered why Google didn’t use this incredible front page “bully pulpit”  power to bolster Local. We asked it about Places and we asked it about Plus.3 But for many of us, Local within Google was always a day late and a dollar short of meeting expectations.

The Bottom Line

These recent activities and trends imply an incredible (and perhaps increasing) amount of coordination between the search and local groups at Google. It implies an increase in resources allocated to local. Programming is hard, making changes to a big product like Google Local search with numerous system wide dependencies and hooks in and out to all parts of Google takes commitment. Adding new features and capabilities takes planning and coordination.

This amount of effort and human power does not come without it being prioritized within the organization and paid for with real dollars and opportunity costs. This sort of aggressive development support can only be coming from the very core of Google.

The Tea Leaves4

If this new found commitment to Local at Google  persists and the  development keeps apace, it should make for fun times.

Google has long sent most SMBs the bulk of their traffic. All too often these very same SMBs weren’t aware of it or if they did know it, found Google to frikken’ hard to figure out. But Google, like no other, can have an amazing influence on local business marketing if they can make Local accessible on top of being useful.

And that’s a big if as over the years Google has, despite numerous half hearted attempts, not really grown the SMB dashboard beyond the basics. In that time, they have given up a great deal of SMB mindshare to Facebook,

They have been demonstrating that they can finally walk and chew gum in Local at the same time. They have demonstrated over the past 6 months that they can execute tactically and do development along multiple paths simultaneously. That’s the good news.

Can they take the long view? Google manages to shift folks in and out of departments and local like clock work. Christ, I am a component of their institutional memory for local. They certainly need continuity.

And they need easier to use, more intuitive and more helpful SMB products, they need consistency (oh god do they need consistency), they need a solid vision and they need long term persistence.

Do they have the chops internally to plot a path to a successful SMB future, I think so. If Google has finally taken off the gloves and made the commitment to local maybe we can stop asking when Local will get the love it deserves.

1- The transition of Local Search results from a web indexed result to a database driven result is one of the all time impressive big data feats. Google, managing somewhere on the order of 125 million business listings, switched out the way that information was gathered, stored, updated and displayed, all of the pipelines into and out of the data, the assorted relationships of that data with all of its other products like Mapmaker, Maps & Plus all the while continuing to provide some semblance of normality on the Search results pages and within Maps. It’s akin to replacing the engines and tires and painting the bus while its moving down the road and maintaining the speed limit. With no one falling off the bus…. ok so a few fell off the bus but thats a small price to pay, no?

2- Just the fact that Google is reporting these developments, publicly tracking them and even making an RSS feed available for newly announced features is a sign from on high that at least there IS something happening

3- Why Plus never got the love it needed on the front pages of Google is an interesting question. Its fate may well have been different. In the end search engineers seem to still “rule the roost” and without their support and active engagement most Google products will stay in a small(ish) niche.  

4- I love teas leaves. I mean its the future so I CAN’T be wrong or if I am no one notices except David Mihm who, if you bet him a beer, will remember something like this for years!

Developing Knowledge about Local Search