Pigeon Rolls Out in UK, Australia and Canada

Update: Barry reports that it is still rolling out to all English speaking countries except India (thus Indian tech support will not see what you see.)

After a week of rumors and spottings, Google has confirmed that Pigeon has rolled out across UK, Canada and Australia.

What to expect for those of you in those countries? Much of what we experienced here several months ago

    A total reshuffling of the Pack results

Narrowing radius around the search area

Crappy results including a lot of bogus One Boxes and too much emphasis on company name in the packs

Spam being highlighted in the search results

In the US, there was also a drastic drop in Real Estate 7 Packs

Fewer 7 Packs, more 3 Packs

We have seen in the US a certain rebound as well. Manny of the radius, which were very small to start have increased. Bad quality listings have started to disappear and the quality has slowly, slowly improved.

Get ready to use the report a problem button a lot in the coming weeks and months.

Example search “Mobile Phone Repair Southampton
Here is a before

beforeAnd after (still visible from Germany for example)
Screen Shot 2014-12-22 at 10.22.31 AM

Notice in the after the predilection of companies that have the word repair in their name over companies that actually do iPhone repair.

Yahoo: All I Want For Christmas is the Ability to Remove Dupes – All I Got was a Christmas Card

Yahoo sees fit to send me a Christmas card. My Christmas message to Yahoo: Save the Bandwidth and FIX YOUR PRODUCT.

There was a post in the Local U Forum the other day pleading for help with dupes at Yahoo. Here was Nyagoslav’s response:

There is currently no way to remove duplicate listings on Yahoo! Local in a straightforward manner.

The only two options would be:

1) Remove or update the incorrect listing on the source site (most frequently ExpressUpdate, Localeze, or Yelp). Wait for the new information to make its way to Yahoo’s local business database again, and hope that they will match this updated information with the outdated one, and will eventually update their outdated record. This might take… quite a while

2) Claim the incorrect duplicate listing and then cancel it (see here how to do that). This, again, might take some time, especially if the only verification option might be “by postcard”, but it could very well be faster and safer than method 1 above. Of course, you would still need to make sure the business information is accurate on all the data source sites, too.”

Screen Shot 2014-12-19 at 11.30.09 AM



Why Android in Car is Very Unlikely to Happen


Reuters has an exclusive report that Google’s next version of Anroid will be car ready for use without a phone. “Allowing drivers to enjoy all the benefits of the Internet without even plugging in their smartphones“.

I have a hard time seeing this happening.  For a number of reasons. Cars, like the iPhone, are integrated devices. Their value is in the combination of various hardware parts and increasingly of the software.

Car companies are well capitalized and self contained. They only allow silent sub contractors to build their components with rare exceptions. And the exceptions are usually when they own them or looking for upscale cache.

Like the retailers and the credit card companies didn’t embrace Google Wallet, the (very) entrenched car powers will keep Google at bay. I can think of a number of compelling reasons and I am sure that there are more.

1)They want to control the total car experience. A Ford is a Ford and Honda is a Honda. Putting Android at the center of that experience will reduce their uniqueness.

2)They want to control the data.They have all learned by now that data is valuable. Even if it isn’t monetized the way that Google monetizes it, they wouldn’t want to lose it or even share it.

3)They don’t trust Google. Google clearly has designs in the car market with self driving cars. Why would they let a potential competitor into their cockpit?

4)Rather than pick a winner they would prefer to
remain agnostic between Apple and Android and allow their customers to pick by allowing attachment.

5)Complexity and Reliability issues. Reliabilty and fit for service issues are huge in the car industry.  Sometimes having more features  just isn’t the right solution. From the NYT: “A survey that AutoTrader conducted this year found that nearly half of shoppers will walk away from a vehicle they otherwise like if the “technology is perceived as too difficult to use.””

6)Security issues. I have trouble seeing how a general, open source framework can achieve the level of security needed. Not that car systems are all that secure currently, but having one car OS at scale would become an incredibly tempting target. Imagine someone holding your car hostage until you submitted payment?

Ford recently jettisoned Microsoft in favor of QNX OS from Blackberry for many of the above reasons. It’s one thing partnering with Blackberry and quite another to do it with Google.

Do you think Google can succeed with an in dash version of Android?

Apple: Local Search Embedded in Spotlight as a Default – Can it Move the Needle?

More than one ambitious player in local has joined the walking dead in their battle with Google.

Google has long been the top dog in local search. Along the way they bested IYPs, Driving Direction sites and Mapping companies. Google left more than a few, like CitySearch and Yahoo Local, among the walking dead and severely limited the growth options for the likes of  the Groupons and Navteqs of the world. They have gone mano a mano to all comers.

It isn’t clear that this has resulted in great income but it has resulted in their dominant position in the local search market. And has put them in a position to send significant traffic to local merchants.

Mac Yosemite Desktop Local Search via Spotlight

Recently though there have been a number of orthogonal “attacks” on Google’s long dominant position in the local market. Apps and the on demand marketplaces have become high growth areas and potentially threaten Google’s place in Local.

And Amazon seems very interested in local. They have created a “local services” marketplace, are experimenting with local grocery deliveries and have developed a Grubhub local take out competitor.

But what about direct competitors in the space?

Facebook has rapidly become a dominant review site but seems to have otherwise ignored local search even when it would be obvious to include it.

iOS8 Spotlight Local Search
iOS8 Spotlight Local Search surfaces both places and apps as well as web searches from Bing.

Apple on the other hand has been making a slow, glacial move on mainstream local search. When Apple released Maps in September, 2012 there were high hopes for their aggressive entrée into Local but the Apple Maps fiasco seemed to push Apple into stealth mode in local search.

It also pushed Apple into serious fix it mode and I doubt that they have the desire to confront that s%$t storm again in Local search.

But recently we have seen some movement on the local search  front. Apple opened up to direct submissions of business listings, expanded their local business data partnerships significantly to improve data quality, appears to have created an inside Mapping project as well and rolled out Apple Pay.

But their most recent move, again in stealth, seems to me more significant long haul and has the potential to significantly impact Google’s monopoly in local search: baking local search into their mobile AND desktop OS Spotlight search function.

Continue reading Apple: Local Search Embedded in Spotlight as a Default – Can it Move the Needle?

Google Shows New Mobile Ad type for Auto Dealers

Brian Pasch of Mastering Automotive Digital Marketing noted that Google will be rolling out a new mobile ad type for auto dealers in January.

Initially it will be available in limited markets with a limited set of keywords. It is a mobile only ad format will not display on the desktop.

The Dealership Listing Ads (DLA) ads, shown in this example with Toyota dealers, will initially appear when consumers use explicit queries that imply that they are looking for a car dealer. Examples given by Google are:

– Toyota Dealer
– Toyota Dealers
– Toyota Dealership
– Toyota Dealerships

Image credit: Brian Pasch, Mastering Automotive Digital Marketing

Brian is positioning that ad as a replacement for the 7-Pack. And that very well could be true, or not. It could just be a replacement for local ads that are currently showing. And the pack may continue to show below the ads. I don’t really know. Regardless, the ad doesn’t include review data.

In mobile, the Pack has long been pushed down below the fold by ads as can be seen in this screenshot of a similar search.

Photo Dec 14, 11 10 07 AM

The ad format does reflect Google’s growing monetization of vertical, local markets, monetization above the fold and their strong emphasis on brand. And could very well foretell the demise of the Pack in high value local verticals sooner rather than later.

Google Expands Hours Worldwide for My Business Support

Google has expanded the hours during which they are now providing English language phone support through the Google My Business Help Center. Support is now offered from 1 AM – 5 PM PST, Monday – Friday. Previously support was offered from 6 AM to 5 PM PST.


Obviously, this is one of the benefits of having a team in New Delhi. When you compare these time zones Google has covered business hours in the US, the UK, most of Europe and mornings in Australia (although I imagine that Berliners get to work at 7 AM. :)) and part of the afternoon in New Delhi. This would confirm what poster Jitendra Gursingh pointed out, that Google is not yet very serious about local in India.

Times Open Around the World (as best I could figure, I am time challenged even though Google offers up this very cool time conversion answer box.)
East Coast 4 AM – 9 PM
UK 9 AM – 2 AM
Melbourne 8 PM to Noon
Berlin 10 AM – 2 AM
Delhi 2:30 PM – 6:30 AM

Google first introduced live support in January 2013 in the US and it received widespread acknowledgement that it was excellent within a few months.

My experience the other day was not ideal although with training and more confident staff many of the issues I dealt with (but not all) could be fixed. It isn’t yet clear whether Google is phasing out US based support or whether they are just expanding it and using Indian support to increase their hours and cover overflow to keep response times low.

Hopefully they can do so without sacrificing quality and pushing the added costs of time onto the businesses needing support.

Google Moves Local My Business Phone Support to India – Expect the Call Times to Be Longer


Google has moved My Business Phone support to India and, at least for now, expect your call times to take longer.

I noticed the changes to Google Local Support today. I haven’t called them in a while so it is not clear exactly when the changes were implemented.

1- It seems that a fair bit of the support for Google My Business  has been off-shored to India.

My experience on the call was less than ideal and it had nothing to do with the rep, who was ineffably polite, patient, well intentioned and well spoken.

The call took almost 1 hour. It was a fairly simple problem of merging an unverified and verified page but as is wont to happen with outsourcing there were several snafus not all of which were Deepa’s fault. In fact none of them really were. He was great.

There were some language issues as it was about a chiropractor and US personal names both of which required laborious, letter by letter spelling.

OK that happens but there were other issues that slowed the transaction down. For whatever reason it was difficult for him to find the listings. I had to spell out the URLs.

He didn’t seem empowered to make obvious changes. And had to wait a very long time for change to be approved upstream.

And the rules seem to be interpreted differently denying what should have been an obvious request but again only after a request to a supervisor and a delay.

Google may be able to fix the systemic issues and improve this process but then again maybe not. Plan on spending more time on the phone for now.

Update: At least for now, some calls are still going to the US call center. It isn’t clear how they are being divvied up or if all will go to India. See comments below.

2- Google now apparently offers a chat mode. Not my favorite way of getting problems solved but next time I will try it. Its got to be faster than the hour this call took me.

Google – Some Days I Just Shake My Head – Today is One of Them

You gotta love the privacy respect they shower on the iconic image of the Colonel.
You gotta love the privacy respect they shower on the iconic image of the Colonel. Click to view larger.

Over the past several days, a number of Google “annoyances” have cropped up…. sometimes it is amazing where a company like Google chooses to put its head…. that I wanted to get off my chest.

1- Did you know that Google’s bulk upload, even though upgraded multiple times with a raft of new ownership, management and social features still has a 200 character limit to the description field? Only known solution: open every G+ Page and upgrade the description manually. Even the few companies that have access to the G+ Plus API and that manage bulk uploads can’t affect this field.  How lame is that?

2- Google obviously put a lot of work into the new guidelines and the examples. And in many cases made things much more clear. Kudos.

But then why do they need to obfuscate things like virtual office guidelines?

  • If your business rents a temporary, “virtual” office at a different address from your primary business, do not create a page for that location unless it is staffed during your normal business hours.

That statement could have been written by Franz Kafka… and leaves one in awe. Just what does it mean? Was it intentionally meant to not inform so that it could be enforced only when desired?

Certainly they deserve scorn over the descriptor fiasco but it seems to me that there are new fiascos in the making with their “Two or more brands at the same location” guidelines in general their examples in particular.

  • Acceptable: “TCC Verizon Wireless Premium Retailer”, “U-Haul Neighborhood Dealer”

I don’t know about Verizon but I do know about U-Haul Neighborhood Dealers. These are gas stations, repair shops and used car lots that have added U-Haul as a product line. This U-Haul Neighborhood Dealer is also Cars Are Us. Same paluka answering both phones and as you can see from Streetview no obvious U Haul branding. Yet he gets two pages not one. Isn’t that what categories are for?

And somehow those tiny KFC/Taco Bell shops garner two pages while the Lebanese, Greek, American, Italian restaurant would be tagged a spammer if they had two.

Screen Shot 2014-12-11 at 11.45.37 AM3- And finally spam in general but DUI Lawyer spam in LA in particular. Name spam, location spam, spam, spam, spam.  Its on the front page, it’s in maps. It’s freakin’ everywhere. When you call many of these listings they often won’t answer with their company name just a “hello” and when you ask where they are located it will be any place but LA.

It isn’t just DUI, its in virtually every major category in LA. See this post by Linda. And this stuff has been around for ages, reported multiple times, through multiple channels…. hello?

Yelp Update: Free Bulk Upload and Yelp Proceeds with their Lawsuit

Screen Shot 2014-12-10 at 6.30.44 PM
From Social MEowDIA Explained by Avalaunch Media

Rarely do I have something nice to share about Yelp but this note from Justin Mosebach of YDOP Internet Marketing was a pleasant surprise:

Just found this out for a client yesterday. Client is a health system with a bunch of locations.

Yelp called me back (after I called support) and said that only in the past month have they started allowing free bulk uploads… it used to only be for advertisers (who had so many listings?).

However, the person from Yelp told me that they only do it once for free, so to make sure that we include all of the listings in the spreadsheet that she sent us. She also said that they don’t do any de-duping of listings (that we’d have to manually report the duplicates on Yelp.com).

Just so you don’t think that Yelp is getting all cuddly on us, ArsTechnica is reporting that the Yelp lawsuit over alleged fake reviews to finally move ahead.

A judge in San Diego, California, ruled Tuesday against a local bankruptcy lawyer who had attempted to put a stop to Yelp’s lawsuit against him.

Specifically, Julian McMillan asked the court more than six months ago to issue an anti-SLAPP ruling. A “SLAPP,” or strategic lawsuit against public participation, is a type of lawsuit meant to stifle speech—one where one party employs tactics against a smaller target by drawing out the suit in terms of time and money and intimidating the defendant.

Yelp sued McMillan in August 2013. The lawsuit, filed in San Francisco, alleges breach of contract, intentional interference with contract, unfair competition, and false advertising.

Specifically, Yelp believes that McMillan orchestrated fake reviews on the Yelp page for his bankruptcy law business—an accusation he emphatically denies. That larger case, which had been put on hold, will now resume.

The company had offered to settle the case back in 2013 for $5,000, which McMillan refused.

If you recall, McMillan originally sued Yelp in small claims court and Yelp’s lawsuit against McMillan was filed just days before a San Diego superior court judge was supposed to rule on Yelp’s appeal.

Bizarre and tortured. Tit for tat. Yelp is going for the jugular in this one. Hard to see how in the end they don’t look even more thuggish.

Google My Business Guidelines – A Detailed Comparison New & Old – Part 2 – Chains, Brands & Departments

Source: Teddy Kwok via Flickr Creative Commons
Source: Teddy Kwok via Flickr Creative Commons

On Friday I detailed changes in the new Google My Business Guidelines for Representing your Business that were general in nature and applied to all businesses or pertained primarily to single location businesses.

Google has also added a completely new section that applies to Chains, Brands and Departments within larger entities. In this Google is attempting to define standards of consistent naming and categorization within a given brand. While I think the goal is clear, there are enough ambiguous examples that additional thought might need to go into them or explanations provided.

Also I wanted to make available to you in Word format a complete copy of both the old guidelines and the new ones so that you can compare them for yourself if you so desire:

Original guidelines  (word doc)

New Guidelines for representing your business on Google  (word doc)

Here are my comments on these new sections: Continue reading Google My Business Guidelines – A Detailed Comparison New & Old – Part 2 – Chains, Brands & Departments

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