Google+ Adds Improved Multi Page Mgt Interface

First reported by Google Plus Daily and highlighted by the always observant Matt Gregory on Twitter, Google has rolled out an improved interface for those of you managing multiple G+ Pages social local pages (G+SLP?).  The interface allows you to quickly view all of the Pages that you are managing, provides a single view of ALL notifications across all of your pages and allows quick access to each page’s settings.

The URL for the interface  is telling: https://plus.google.com/dashboard. This new Dashboard appears to be part of an overall redesign of Plus elements as well as a future part of the coming replacement for the current Places Dashboard.

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Suspension and Reinclusion on social G+ Local Pages

This is a good news bad news Google story. At least there is some good news.

The good news? It appears that Google has dramatically improved the messaging around a listing suspension on a merged social G+ Local listing and is offering a direct link to a reinclusion request within the context of the suspension notice on the local Google+ page. No more hunting around trying to figure out whats next.

The bad news? There are an increasing number of suspensions in the social G+Local environment and there are now TWO sets of rules (the Google G+ Local Places (?) Quality Guidelines & the User Content & Conduct Policy) that a business needs to comply with to be sure that the listing is in compliance. It isn’t always clear which guideline has been violated either. I suspect that language use that a lawyer might view as categorical, the algo views as inappropriate (ie drug cases or DUI).

Update 1:30 pm: More good news. This particular client that requested reinclusion yesterday, heard back already that they were accepted. Good that they heard so quickly and good that the news was positive. It makes me think that an algo has been unleashed that might be overly aggressive.

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Click to see the reinclusion request form:
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Yelp: Real People. Real Reviews. Deceptive Sales Tactics.

deceptive-yelpIn my talks, I have often said that Google is the print Yellow Pages for the new millennium. But as Rocky Argawal has pointed out that title really falls to Yelp. He has noted that Yelp, in charging some local advertisers $600 per 1,000 impressions,  “despite ostensibly being an Internet company, [their] business model is closer to that of yellow pages companies: sell a questionable value proposition to many who don’t understand what they’re buying. 

It is not just their pricing model that mirrors the old yellow page companies but their selling techniques as well. I was recently pitched by them on behalf of a client. The sales person I dealt with, like the well trained ATT Yellow Page salesman of yore, was well spoken, persistent, organized and supremely confident in the product. The sales person would set up an appointment, call to me remind about the appointment, call to double check I would make the appointment and then remind me that I had missed it. It was if he was channeling my yellow page salesman of 30 years ago.

The pitch was persuasive and well organized trending strongly towards the hard sell and not the least bit consultative. The sales rep provided a list of 5 links referenced during the phone call that built the case from the top down that Yelp is the leading online directory, that they uniquely understand the internet and that you as a business person can only ignore them at your own peril. Hey if Steve Jobs says they are important who are you to disagree? You are asked to affirm these points along the way as they make the final point that their advertising makes sense. If you agreed to all that went before you can’t very well disagree on that one, final eensy weensy point.

The problem? Like the Yellow Pages, Yelp uses FUD (fear, uncertainty & doubt) and more than a little slight of hand to make their point.

  • When asked about ROI they respond that since your average selling price is $x then it will only take one sale to make this pay (yea right).
  • When asked about conversion tracking and analytics you are are told how good their dashboard showing impressions is.
  • When they are going for the close they point out that by taking out an ad you guarantee that your competitor’s ad will not show up on your listing. What SMB can refuse charging that red flag?
  • When asked if they had an offering that required less than a 12 month, the rep noted that yes but the best returns occur in month ten (hmm I wonder why that is?).
  • But the biggest slight of hand is their use of Google Trends to “prove” that they are the leading online business directory

This last bullet actually moved the pitch from slight of hand directly into the art of deception. And it was the foundational first point for the whole sales pitch. To demonstrate Yelp’s prominence they compared the searches on the term Yelp in the Buffalo market to searches for a number of online business directories. Here is the chart from Google Trends that “proves” Yelp  is the leading local opportunity for SMBs:

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When I asked again because I wasn’t sure that I had heard the sales person correctly the rep said: “This [Google] trends chart is a measure of the popularity of directories, which directory is used the most. It shows that Yelp is the most popular online directory.

Claiming that the number of searches on Google for “Yelp Local” is a reasonable metric to assess importance of Yelp is, as Rocky pointed out, obviously preying on the uninformed. And who, pray tell, would be searching for “Google Places” on Google? Using Google Trends to graphically portray absolute traffic and market dominance is the ultimate in misleading sales tactics as it demonstrates nothing of the kind. I doubt that one in a thousand SMBs would catch Yelp at their effort to close at any cost.

The question of whether their pricing model ultimately succeeds is up in the air but I can say that these tactics, like their use in the era of the Yellow Pages, will come back to haunt them.

Here are the reference links that the provided for their sales call:

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Google Local: Improved Messaging on Moved Businesses Now Showing

Starting in December Google started rolling out improved instructions & listing messaging on pages for businesses that Google knew had moved locations. Instead of stating that the business was closed Google will, if proper procedure is followed, indicate that a business has relocated. This new messaging is starting to appear in the wild. While still not perfect and the moving process is still too complicated, it is an improvement.

Google Maps

 

 

 

Here are the instructions to mark a place as moved:

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Google+ Local Now Suggests Places to Review Based on Your Search History

Google may no longer allow SMBs to run client contests  for money or charity to gather reviews. That doesn’t slow Google down from encouraging G+ Local users from leaving more reviews by digging into a users search history.

The Google Plus Daily noted several days ago that Google+ Local Now Suggests Places to Review. Google is using your search history and checkins to inform the nag.

Clearly Google is exploring one more way to “close the search to sale loop” and determine when a searcher actually makes a purchase. When you combine this with Offers, Check-Ins, Driving Dirctions, Wallet, Zavers (Coupons), various iPhone apps and the use of Android, Google is clearly going to triangulate their way to conversion information if they can’t get it directly and they are obviously looking across all of their software to find it.Screen Shot 2013-01-18 at 5.21.18 PM

 

Do Review Contests that Donate to Charity Violate Google’s Review Guidelines? Yes

Earlier this week when I reported that Review Contests Violate Google’s Guidelines, Dave Squires, Contractor’s Online Access asked this question

Review contest incentive

HI Mike, In Seattle last year I was in local U when I asked Joel Headley during his presentation about indirect incentives. We have a system that provides an incentive to customers by offering to make a monetary donation to 1 of 5 local charities the company owner selected, if the customer would donate some of their time to leave a review–good or bad.

We did this so that the customer had no direct gain from it and it fit within the Google “do no evil” mission statement. We wrote the program that managed and tracked this for our customers because we liked the idea that it could potentially generate thousands of dollars to worthwhile charities around the country. At local U Joel specifically said that Google would never have a problem with a program that donates to charity to ‘incentivize’ a customer to take the time to leave a review. I am curious if this is still true.

Personally, I would love to see Google endorse this concept since we learned it does very well as an incentive for customers to take the time to leave a review without any direct reward to them… and it would generate a lot of money to many great local charities if others ran with our idea as well.

Google’s response: “Any incentive offered in return for a review of a specific business is against our policy.

I guess that you can conclude that any incentive of any sort for a review on Google is not allowed.

 

Loci 2012 – Lisa Barone

photoA new contributor to the Loci series this year is Lisa Barone. Hired in September by Overit, she oversees Overit’s marketing consulting, social media and content divisions and serves on the agency’s senior staff. She is known internationally for pioneering many of the best practices and strategies for social media, marketing and content in the online, digital world.

OK that’s the official version. My version? Lisa is a unique voice that never fails to put the whole mishegas of internet marketing into perspective for both SMBs and marketers. She is a fearless observer in a world that is all too often full of fear. If you can’t tell, she is one of my favorite writers in the industry. Her current writing can be found at Overit and SmallBizTrends.

On her G+ profile she notes that “I save brands. Most often from themselves” and takes what should be a self evident position in saying: “I am morally opposed to this. All of this”. The same could be said of her relationship to marketers. She saves us from ourselves and often provides a compass to follow.

Here are some articles that influenced her thinking about local in 2012:

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How to Optimize Your Business For Local Search and Social Marketing

This super-meaty post from Neil Patel serves as an incredible resource for small business owners. Whether they’re just getting started marketing their business on the Web or if they’ve been doing it for years, there’s still something to take away from this post.

Local and Mobile Domination: Harnessing the Changing SERPs

During December’s BlueGlassX event, Michelle Lowery blogged an awe-inspiring presentation from Michael Dorausch about how to absolutely dominate local search. With his presentation, Michael walks SMBs through the process of generating links through content and opens everyone’s else eyes on HOW and WHERE to find unique content inspiration. Stuff you haven’t even thought of! What I love about Michael is that he’s not an SEO. He’s just a really, really smart business owner who is doing amazing things to conquer the SERPs and grow an engaged customer base.  Michael’s slides are also included in Michelle’s session recap.

Running a successful business means becoming a master at earning buzz and bringing eyeballs to what you’re doing.  Here, Startup Nation compiles a great list on how to get media coverage for your startup. It’s a Must Read for all local business owners. You can’t wait for press to come to you. Go get it.

Developing Knowledge about Local Search