ebay On the Wrong (and self serving side) of the Sales Tax Issue

I received this email from ebay this morning. I think that ebay is on the wrong side of this issue.

I was in retail for many years and struggled with sales tax issues at every turn. “Struggle” is putting it mildly as at one point the NY State government came after me with guns a blaring. I have no love lost on sales tax but not because of those struggles but because it is an intrinsically regressive tax that hits poor people more than it hits the wealthy AND it puts the small business in the middle of tax collection and compliance. That being said it is a reality of the current day tax structure.

If you assume that it is reality and it is going to be then the question should be how to make it as fair, easy and equitable as possible for ALL businesses. As it currently stands it is none of those things. And it is an issue that affects all bricks and mortar retail businesses big and small. There should not be artificial product pricing variations in the market created by sales tax policy.

ebay should either be promoting alternative, more progressive taxation or promoting making this tax fair and simple. Advocating exemptions for certain businesses or sales volumes,as ebay does, only makes the sales tax more complicated, not less. At its best it then appears to be position that seems to be very self serving and not in the interest of all small businesses.

eBay
Dear Mike,Congress is considering online sales tax legislation that is wrongheaded and unfair, and I am writing to ask for your help in telling Congress “No!” to new sales taxes and burdens for small businesses.Whether you’re a consumer who loves the incredible selection and value that small businesses provide online, or a small-business seller who relies on the Internet for your livelihood, this legislation potentially affects you. For consumers, it means more money out of your pocket when you shop online from your favorite seller or small business shop owner. For small business sellers, it means you would be required to collect sales taxes nationwide from the more than 9,600 tax jurisdictions across the U.S. You also would face the prospect of being audited by out-of-state tax collectors. That’s just wrong, and an unnecessary burden on you.Big national retailers are aggressively lobbying Congress to pass online sales tax legislation to “level the playing field” with Amazon. And, as they compete with big retail, Amazon is advocating for this legislation too, while at the same time they are seeking local tax exemptions across the country to build warehouses. This is a “big retail battle” in which small businesses and consumers have a lot to lose. But eBay is fighting, as we have for more than 15 years, to protect small online businesses and sellers and ensure healthy competition, value, and selection that benefit consumers online.

The solution is simple: if Congress passes online sales tax legislation, we believe small businesses with less than 50 employees or less than $10 million in annual out-of-state sales should be exempt from the burden of collecting sales taxes nationwide. To put that in perspective, Amazon does more than $10 million in sales every 90 minutes. So we believe this is a reasonable exemption to protect small online businesses. That’s what we’re fighting for, and what big companies such as Amazon are fighting against.

I hope you agree that imposing unnecessary tax burdens on small online businesses is a bad idea. Join us in letting your Members of Congress know they should protect small online businesses, not potentially put them out of business. Click here to make your voice heard. Together, I believe our voices can make a difference.

Sincerely,


John Donahoe
President and CEO
eBay Inc.

 

 

 

 

Local Weekend Update

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What Else is New Dept: There is a new bug with the Google Report A Problem for SABs: If a user selects the report a problem link via Maps or G+ Local they get a “This page won’t load…We’ve tried everything” message. At least its cute. Although that sad face icon is eerily reminiscent of my first Mac when it had a hard drive failure.

Can You Imagine That? Dept: This came to via me Google Forum  Top Contributor (an unsung hero who you should be sure to follow in the forums) Treebles. “Google received an ultimatum Thursday from German consumer organizations that want it to start answering questions from its users via email. Germany’s Telemedia Act requires businesses to provide an email address to allow customers to contact them quickly. But, said Elbrecht, “It is not enough to just provide an email address that leads into emptiness, you also need to be able to communicate over it.” Responding to users attempting to get their questions answered with automatic replies, as Google does in Germany, is not sufficient, she said“.

Maybe There will Be A Local Competitor to Google Yet Dept: Apple Insider reported that Apple’s iOS Passbook app was used to drive a successful coupon campaign for a UK restaurant chain. “The campaign allowed customers to get £5 off their bill when spending £30 or more. Harvester issued almost 16,000 vouchers in two weeks of campaign operation. Of those, almost 700 were redeemed during the course of the campaign. Overall, the campaign had a cost per action of £3.41. The solution gave a frictionless consumer experience, as with two-clicks a unique voucher code was delivered straight to their device, within Passbook. The voucher was then redeemed whilst  paying the bill, directly from the EPOS terminal, giving the restaurant additional insight into campaign effectiveness.

Thank God for Small Favors Dept: Google, in the fine print of the T&C’s for Glass Developers, are apparently banning ads in products for the new Glass product. Its hard to imagine relevant ads with an always on wearable eye glass computer. Its not so hard to imagine irrelevant ones.

Google Maps Quality Calls: Improving But Still Confusing

Adrew Forster of Adster Creative recently received and recorded a call from the Google Maps listing quality team.

The calls are improving in quality over previous calls that we have heard. For example the caller clearly introduced herself. A definite improvement. But the call was still confusing. The intent of the call was not clear and the questions asked were not asked in a way that lead to mutual understanding.

If they are confusing to Andrew, who knows about the Google calls and expects them, imagine the confusion still on the part of the SMB. Still some room for significant improvement.

Google Category Tool Updated To Include new Places for Business Dashboard Categories

Screen Shot 2013-04-15 at 4.19.40 PMWe have upgraded the Google Places for Business Category tool and added our categories from the recently released, new Google Places for Business Dashboard.

The new list is designated as Google English (US) (PfB) to distinguish it from the list for the old and still predominant dashboard. Note that the new categories themselves DO NOT have synonyms in the new dashboard but where there was a 1 to 1 match with the old category we have added them from the existing list to facilitate searching.

We have also made the country selection default to the previous country choice selected to make additional searches easier.

In analyzing the category differences between the two lists,  the most obvious change was some clean up work with a number of plural categories having been removed. Approximately 243 categories were removed from the old list. These were mostly either plurals of already existing categories or non-compliant categories. An example of the former was the removal of the category “bakeries” while the category “bakery” remained. An example of the later was the category “rv”. Here is the complete list of categories removed in ascii text: in-old-not-in-new1.

There were 88 additional, non restaurant categories added to the new Google Places for Business list: in-new-not-in-old-others1.

Some were minor changes like “personal injury attorney” became “personal injury lawyer”. Some were cleaned up to be in compliance with the Google Quality Guidelines standards. For example “jewelry” became “jewelry store”.

Given the clean up in some categories, it was odd to still see newly added categories that do not comply with the Category guidelines like beauty, car rental. culture, hair care, laundry and logistics showing up in the new list.

The biggest change in the new list, as I have noted previously, was the inclusion of 168 new restaurant categories, many of which are quite unusual like “kushiage and kushiyaki restaurant” or “okonomiyaki restaurant”. Here is the list new restaurant types added: in-new-not-in-old-restaurants1.

Regardless, the restaurant list is intriguing. Either Google is attempting to create a master list of restaurants for world wide use (as opposed to just the US) or they have broader plans for the list in existing or new restaurant related products.

Hopefully the tool will continue to be useful to you. Please visit the newly updated Google Places for Business Category Tool and let me know what works and what doesn’t in the tool and how you are using it.

 

Google Maps 1.1 for iPhone Not Well Received

reviews-onlyEarly last month, Google released a 1.1 upgrade to their iPhone mapping product that was faster, integrated Google contacts and included more countries. Apparently though the upgrade has not gone over well with users as the bad reviews seem to be flowing into the App store at a significant clip.

Since its release 5 weeks ago there have been 1,179 reviews of which a great many were negative. The initial release was greeted with instant savior status and 10’s of thousands of positive reviews. Complaints about the new version included high levels of data usage, increased difficulty of use, screen dimming issues, directions failures and usability problems.

There is more than a little irony in this. I suppose that there is some possibility of a review smear campaign, although that seems unlikely, it does point out how hard mapping is. Even when you are Google.

google-maps-for-iPhone-reviews

Authorship Brownouts Due to “FaceRank”?

Screen Shot 2013-04-12 at 9.02.15 AMSeveral months ago my author photo stopped showing on my articles in the Google search results. I double checked all of my settings several times and they appeared correct.  I didn’t really have time to fool with it until the end of last month when I reached out to Matt McGee, AJ Kohn and Aaron Weiche for guidance. The bottom line? Google Authorship apparently has some sort of face recognition filter (or as Aaron Weiche called it: FaceRank) that pulls down images it doesn’t like.

Who would have guessed? Here is the email thread between us:

March 29

Me
1)My author photo used to show on my article like this one: web equity
2)It no longer does
3)It tests properly on the rich snippet tool
4)Do I need to implement publisher as well? something else?

AJ Kohn
You’re probably not doing anything wrong. I’ve had a number of folks getting Authorship brownouts lately. I’m trying to follow-up with the team to see if there’s a bug in the presentation layer (which has happened repeatedly).

It could be the face recognition if you’re not getting Authorship on any of your posts. In all, the mark-up is very brittle right now as Google tries to find more and more ways to extend Authorship (aka – indirect Authorship) while preserving accuracy.

Matt McGee
Two possibilities:

1) Google doesn’t like your profile photo anymore.
2) Google is just being its normal wishy-washy self about authorship.

Go in to Google+ and change your profile photo to something that shows you facing forward (like a mugshot) and maybe even in color. If it likes your new image better, you should see it start to show in search results again almost immediately, but not as comprehensively as before (at first).

I lost authorship a couple months ago when Google suddenly decided it didn’t like my half-face avatar in its search results. Ergo I know have the boring full-face on Google+.

If changing your photo doesn’t work, this is just Google being wishy-washy. It’s pretty common for authorship to come and go in my experience,

Aaron Wieche
Seriously? We now have to think about “Face Rank”!!!??!

March 31

Me
I switched to a color full frontal image. Maybe just act of switching toggles their collective conscious. Will let you know.

AJ Kohn
Agreed. Poking the bear to make it stir and reevaluate is always a good idea in these instances.

April 2

Me
The change from my beloved B & W photo to a color one has made the difference. Matt (as usual) seems to have identified what the issue was… a photo that the software didn’t like

April 12

Me
OK. McGee nailed it. I changed out my photo several times over the past week with frontal color photos & all was good for a number of days. Changed it yesterday afternoon (4/11) to my b & w, slightly side view photo and poof its gone as of this morning.

Update April 12 10:00 pm

I replaced the B&W photo at about 9:00 am this morning with my color profile photo and it is now showing 12 hours later.

Screen Shot 2013-04-12 at 10.22.24 PM

 

So the question remains. Why is one photo NOT acceptable to Google and other photos are?two-author-images

—-

Google was kind enough to notify me that I had qualified with my B & W photo last fall. But they did not have the courtesy of doing so when they suddenly stopped showing my photo. What SMB has time for these sort of horse crap er, outcomes? In fact what normal webmaster does?

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

Developing Knowledge about Local Search