Will Facebook Salvage QR Codes from the Dustbin of Local Marketing History?

QR Codes never took off in the US. It was an offline to online play that always required too many apps,  took too many steps, was too obtuse and ended up not solving any problems. I once used them to learn the history of the streets a small town in Hungary – the only time I ever really used it.

But Facebook with it’s Messenger ScanCode is ready to replay the story and this time I think that it has a compelling context  which, for me, portends the return of the QR code as an effective small business tool – in the form of a compelling customer communication channel that most, if not all, businesses will want to participate in.

Imagine standing in the aisle of your local grocery store, getting ready to be pissed because they have moved the fish sauce once again. Instead of the endless wandering the aisles in search you point Messenger at ScanCode and you ask: Where is the Fish Sauce?  And the response whether from a person or perhaps even an AI bot says: Aisle 10 half way down.

The client side is super easy, very fast and puts you in nearly instant “Messenger touch” with the business. They simply open Messenger, click on “people” and “scan code”. They instantly are put in touch with the business.

The business side is equally easy. It couldn’t be easier, they only have to take these simple steps:

1– Pop into their Facebook messages page and download their Scancode:

Screenshot 2016-04-14 13.45.41

Screenshot 2016-04-14 15.57.34

2– Post it in store (or use the URL on your website)

Feel free to ping me
Try it. Point Messenger at the above and feel free to ping me

3-Prepare a few canned responses in Settings/Messaging

Click to see more
Click to see more

4– Have a human and/or a bot monitor their messaging channel in Facebook.

And you have in place a customer channel that is already used by 900 million people monthly and growing. You have an app, Messenger, that is on nearly every phone, already used by most consumers and most businesses and a compelling need – creating an immediate connection between a customer and a  business.

I never thought that I would be saying this but it appears to me that QR Codes  (in the form of ScanCodes) might just have been salvaged from the bin of technological abandonment. What had been missing was the ready made platform with enough scale and purpose for this to work.

Its like Back to the Future time for QR codes… or maybe deja vue all over again.


Gas Prices Added to Local 3-Pack

Google appears to be  rolling out local gas prices to the mobile Local 3 Pack. The pricing is also visible on the Local Finder and the location Knowledge panel. Spotted last night by Dr Pete on the desktop and  Adam Humphreys of Making8  and reported this AM by Barry Schwartz it is visible to me on iPhone Safari and iPhone Chrome but not yet the Google search app. On the desktop I am seeing on Safari and Chrome.

It is not clear if Google is sourcing the data from Waze or one of the 3rd party gas price aggregators although it doesn’t appear to be GasBuddy as their pricing is more comprehensive than Google’s. Nor is the speed with which updates appear obvious.  During times of slow price change speed would not be an issue in this market but I could envision times when operators would be screaming in the pricing were not near real time and historically Google has not been great at updating these detailed attributes for a business in a timely fashion.

This update is consistent with Google attempting to add vertical information to local that provides the answer on the front page of search without the user needing to look any deeper.

IMG_1036 IMG_1037

Here are the desktop screen shots:
Continue reading Gas Prices Added to Local 3-Pack

Google My Business Guidelines – MIA

Update: 5:00 PM Eastern They are once again online

The Google My Business guidelines, the bible for what is and isn’t acceptable behavior when listing a business, seem to have come up missing from the Google My Business Help Files. (H/T to Helmut Geissler, Google Maps and Google My Business Top Contributor).

The page URL that previously linked to them now shows an error message. Whether this is just an oversight on Google’s part or something else, we don’t know yet.
Screen Shot 2016-04-10 at 1.11.20 PM

The page URL continues to show in the Google search results and it is still visible via the Google cache.

Screen Shot 2016-04-10 at 1.22.56 PM

(cache of the full guidelines captured here for reference purposes) Continue reading Google My Business Guidelines – MIA

Senate Hearings on Google and their Behavior in Local

Senator Blumenthal (no relationship) interviewed Professor Tim Wu, who last year came out against Google’s Local Universal results as opposed to an alternative result, and Prefessor Meamed as to whether consumers have been harmed by Google’s behaviors, particularly in local.

To paraphrase Prof Wu starting at 01:59 in the video: There was not strong evidence of consumer harm during original case. But subsequent research, particularly in Local, there is evidence that Google is manipulating search in an anti competitive way. There is stronger evidence of consumer harm now. Particularly in local.

Prof Melamed noted that consumer preference for a different product would not in and of itself be a reason for anti-trust enforcement.

Let me know your thoughts. I have trouble seeing how Google controlling their own search site actually does consumer harm. Even more so with the dramatic switch to apps in the past two years.

That being said I have seen concrete indications that Google relies on sites like Yelp to strongly inform Local Universal results to Google’s advantage.

Google Testing Enhanced Buy Buttons for Movie Ticket Purchase

Last week when I was discussing the new Google approach to immersive mobile search I noted that if Google didn’t get you on the click they got you on the clock. This definitely falls under “the click” category.

Google, in what is clearly a test*, is offering movie purchases up with a bold, call to action for each movie time available that takes you directly to Fandango. This screen was visible for several hours this afternoon.

Google has long had a transactional relationship with Fandango, what is different in this test is the presence on the front page of big, fat buy buttons.

This test shows the lengths that Google is contemplating in order to gain transactional “traction” in local.


*Test or not? This new layout has been coming and going for the past 24 hours. It’s now visible again. So perhaps it is rolling out. Perhaps not. Are you seeing it in Europe? On Android? On iphone? Please let me know.

Here is what it looks like regularly:
Photo Apr 02, 5 10 10 PM

Google My Business Updates “Improve your local ranking on Google” Page

Google My Business updated their help file page: “Improve your local ranking on Google” Page.  And surprisingly, after a slow start, actually added some real ranking information (this does not appear to be a April 1 Joke):

Prominence is also based on information that Google has about a business from across the web (like links, articles, and directories). Google review count and score are factored into local search ranking: more reviews and positive ratings will probably improve a business’s local ranking.

Your position in web results is also a factor, so SEO best practices also apply to local search optimization.

I am archiving the page as a PDF for future reference.

What Does Google’s Immersive Search Experience Look Like via the Mobile Pack Results?

img_0740.jpgOn mobile, Google has been slowly moving towards “immersive search” as the local search experience. Google’s goal is to allow the user to get all of the information that they need via Google, never having to leave for another site. We saw this very dramatically last week with the introduction of Google Destinations. We see another example of this immersion in the current Local results on mobile.

To do this Google is providing their own and other’s content (but hosted on Google for speed of course), multiple paths and numerous related carousels so that once a searcher has moved down the proverbial rabbit hole by entering the Local Finder, every piece of information about the local search is immediately available to the user until such time as they have made a choice and either executed a transaction, called or visited the website of one of the search results.

The logic appears to be that if they can’t monetize via adwords on the first screen in the mobile search results, they will keep the user engaged ever deeper and longer in the local results and thus gather viewer and conversion data. If they can’t get you on the click they will get you on the clock.

Watch this video to see how a user, once they select entrée to the Local Finder on mobile is first presented with an infinite scroll, and then as they dig into the results numerous alternative paths to explore including the new expanded “People also search for” functionality as well as StreetView, interior Streetview Trusted, reviews, leave a review etc.

In the restaurant industry there are assorted calls to action for transaction completion available to the user as well including booking a table and ordering food to go. Most significantly note how Google has totally sucked up Menu content and is now presenting that content completely within the context of the local Knowledge Panel not on a 3rd party site and the content is hosted on Google.

While not as “immersive” even standard local searches offer much of the same experience although with obviously less detail. I recorded this video as I was looking to see where Independent Motors, a car repair facility in Boulder, showed in the search results on behalf of another client.

Google Local Restaurant Search Autofilters on Best, Cheapest Like Phrases

Several weeks ago Mary and I had a discussion at the Deep Dive at Local U about whether Google was using review sentiment in ranking. While I noted that the new patents for entity rank seemed to indicate that professional reviews might influence rank, that I had not seen any indication that sentiment as expressed within a review influenced ranking or that ranking for a good review corpus comparatively had a strong influence.

That all being said within Google restaurant search, Google is now autofiltering results based on phrases like good, best, cheapest etc.  (As a note, while I just started noticing this recently it may have been present for quite some time).

The searches for things like “Best Restaurant NYC” works on both the desktop and mobile but the results are more obviously labeled in the mobile result. “Best” as a modifier returns only 4 star listings or better and “cheap” returns one $ sign listings. You can combine these modifier words and see results for Best Cheap Restaurant NYC:

Best restaurant nearby
Cheap restaurant nearby
Good cheap restaurant
Best cheap restaurant near me open now


Developing Knowledge about Local Search