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.

 

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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.

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Google Local Announces New Local Product and Promises Better Communications

The newly appointed head of Google Local Product Manager Brian Fitzpatrick today announced the rollout of a completely revamped local product to replace the Places dashboard. As written about in the Wall Street Journal in June, 2012 the product is called “The Business Builder”. With the rollout of the Business Builder Google Local is announcing a totally rebuilt local product that offers the best of local and social as well as easy to use self provisioning of sophisticated Couponing, Adwords, Offers and other paid options.

National multi-store brands as well as single storefront businesses will be able to take advantage of this new functionality with the free local and social products as well as the easy to deploy paid products for their locations. Local analytics have been totally revamped as well. With the rollout of the new couponing product Google will be able to offer search to sale tracking analytics in an easy to use reporting format that can grow in sophistication with the business user and use cases.

Fitzpatrick, a dynamic multi skilled developer in the world of Maps, noted “It was a great relief to finally get the merged and updated product out the door. The reason for its long delay was our commitment to make the product bug free the first time and not have to push weekly updates and bug fixes. We think we have met that milestone. The days of lost reviews, lost listings and unfounded closings are behind us.”

“More importantly we will be holding public monthly briefings going forward laying out upcoming developments in our local products. This will allow for businesses, big and small, that depend on our Business Builder products to better plan their SEO and SEM activities in Local.”

Brian Fitzpatrick is a the newly merged head of the Local & Maps division within the web search team. His duties, roughly akin to those of Marissa Mayer who left for Yahoo last July, had previously been filled by a troika of individuals.

 

Google+ Local Bug: Service Area Business with Address Hidden Showing Address

Screen Shot 2013-03-31 at 9.18.16 AMIn Google+ Service Area Businesses (SAB in Googlespeak) that are in a residential area or do not accept walk in traffic are required to hide their address in the Places Dashboard. Normally this results in the address being hidden in Maps and Plus and a round pin showing

However since mid March there have been repeated reports of SAB addresses selected to be hidden that have their addresses showing up the Maps and Plus results. This was first reported by Linda Buquet but I continue to get inquiries about it and see new postings in the forum. This is a known bug and Google is aware of it.

The danger of course is that a listing might be deleted due to non-compliance with the rules. Google has indicated that ‘MODERATORs’ won’t be deleting listings now due to the bug. That being said there are powerful volunteer MapMaker editors (RER in Googlespeak) that seem unaware of the bug as indicated  by this recent comment:

 If the address appears to be a SAB from the satellite/street view image or the website and the address is not hidden in Places, I have no problem marking the listing for removal. Rarely will I waste my time or cellular minutes to call a business to confirm.

It’s (85-90% of the time) quite apparent if you have a business reception area or office and see customers at your location. Google Maps (and by extension Places) are for people to visit locations and a business that is primarily a SAB is of little use to someone on a mobile device looking for a business or service.

MapMaker editors, while often well meaning and hard working, often function autonomously and one wonders given their zeal and black and white view of the mapping world whether they are becoming the DMOZ editors of the new millennium. I am all for stomping out spam and making map data more accurate and marvel at the endless hour that RERs put in policing maps. But when the greyness of the real world is removed from judgement and there is a lack of over site bad outcomes will result.

Google’s Local Primary Data Suppliers Around the World

Google’s Local Search sits at the center of an ecosystem of local web sites and data providers and they use this ecosystem to assemble their business listing data. This is true in the US and the basic structure and process is replicated on a local in every other country in the world using different local resources. In each country Google identifies a one (or two maybe) primary data supplier(s) upon which to base their local business list. This primary data supplier provides a starting “ground truth” which is then added to and enhanced by data from MapMaker, the Places Dashboard, leading local sites and the web in general to create the results that we see in search.

Sometimes, like in Canada, this primary data provider is noted directly in the Maps listing but often the information is not readily available. In many countries of the world, it is not easy to ferret out who is the trusted source of business listing data to Google.

Google does however publish a Legal Notice for Google Maps/Google Earth and their APIs that includes some of this detail. In this document Google identifies their primary sources of underlying map data and business listing data as required by their contracts.

While not comprehensive the list does have some interesting tidbits. Two notices that stood out were the one for the US and the one for France, Germany, Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark and Israel.

 

5 Business Listings Data.

5.1 Google Local Business Listings in France, Germany, Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark and Israel

When you search for local listings in France, Germany, Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark and Israel, your search results may include content (including business listings and related information) which has been supplied by Kapitol S.A. (trading as Infobel) (the “Infobel Content”). The intellectual property rights in the Infobel Content are owned by Kapitol S.A. or its licensors. The Infobel Content may only be used in accordance with these Terms of Service and the applicable terms and conditions of Kapitol S.A. If you know that your business listing is supplied by Kapitol S.A., and you have any questions about it you should contact them directly.

5.2 Google Local Business Listings in the United States

When you search for local listings, Google displays business listings which may be supplied by Acxiom Corporation and/or infoUSA Inc. (“Axciom” and/or “infoUSA”). This information is proprietary to those corporations and is protected under U.S. copyright law and international treaty provisions. This information is licensed for your personal or professional use and may not be resold or provided to others. Except as permitted through the Products, you may not distribute, sell, rent, sublicense, or lease such information, in whole or in part to any third party; and you will not make such information available in whole or in part to any other user in any networked or time-sharing environment, or transfer the information in whole or in part to any computer other than the PC used to access this information.

France and the related European countries were of interest because this information, despite the public web page, was not widely known.The note in reference to the US stood out because it has been widely thought that their primary suppliers were InfoUSA and Localeze. From the above it is clear that it is InfoUSA and Acxiom. Localeze might still have a data relationship with Google, we don’t really know but it points out why, in the US, it is necessary to be sure that your data is accurate at all three of the primary data suppliers.

In addition to those countries mentioned above Google also notes their business listings sources are Brazil, Turkey, Kenya, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Bulgaria. If you have identified Google’s primary list suppliers in your country and it is not on this list, I would love to hear from you.

Video Snippets Vs. Author Images – Which Have Higher Click Through Rates?

Matt reached out to me last week with interesting data on the relative value of video snippets vs author photos in search results. This work compliments the research done on lawyer author photos and how consumers find a specialty lawyer last year. The research has implications for local as we have have seen pinned results in the wild that include them. Obviously the relative merits there have not yet been tested.

About the authors: This survey and corresponding write-up were
executed by SEO strategists Matt Green (@MChuckGreen) and John Van Bockern (@JohnEVanBockern) from Ethical SEO Consulting.

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The Reeves Law Group has invested heavily in video creation for their website, and have seen a measurable rise in conversation rates as a result. Although the videos have a positive effect on users once they are on the site, the stakeholders at the firm were skeptical that the presence of video snippets in search results would in fact have a similarly positive impact on click though rates (so, actually getting the user onto the site). Accordingly, they commissioned our team to answer this question:

What is the true impact of video snippets on click through rates in searches for specialty lawyers?

Answering this question would allow the firm to make an informed decision on whether or not to implement structured mark-up on their site (which causes the video snippets to be displayed along-side their listings in search results) rather than simply assuming the snippets would have a positive effect, possibly to the determent of CTR’s. Our assumption was that they would increase click through rates, in a similar way that authorship images have.

To that end, we conducted a survey with the intention of discerning the sway that video snippets hold over users searching for local specialty lawyers. The results from the test that we conducted through Usability Hub, which provided an effective survey interface, rendered a glimpse into the impact of these snippets in the highly competitive specialty lawyer market.

The Survey

We wanted to maintain the look and feel of a Google search result page as much as possible in the test, and then let the familiar process of searching guide the survey taker to make their own choice. This way, the design enabled us to keep as close as possible to the look of a search results page in order to most accurately represent click through rates. There were three separate images presented to a total of 300 respondents.

Any media snippet used was placed in the third search result, and only in the third search result, in order to discern the impact of a media rich snippet as compared to a standard, non-media search result.

First, a survey taker was given a brief introduction to the test:

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Developing Knowledge about Local Search