December 13, 2011
Last week Google while rolled out new Talkbin features and also reduced its price for the month of December by 80% The monthly price for the anonymous feedback service was lowered from $25/mo per location to $5/mo. per location. Tonight in my inbox I received notice of an new promo, pricing the product at $1/mo. per location…. a 96% reduction.
The product, a very slick text based customer feedback tool, is positioned by Google as the next generation of customer service and at a dollar a month becomes a no-brainer for any bricks and mortar business looking to improve customer feedback.
December 6, 2011
Last week I reported out a discovered Google Places Help page (since taken down but visible here) that discussed using the Places Coupons as a Check-in Coupon for Google Plus. This afternoon the folks at VentureBeat received a confirmation from Google that check-in offers from Places will be coming to Google+ next week:
“While prepping for a test of a new check-in offer feature, we published a support center article a little early and have since removed the article. We apologize for any confusion this may have caused. Please stay tuned for roll out of this feature for merchants, which we’re targeting for next week.”
Hints of a Places based check-in offer surfaced as far back as May when it appeared that they would be heading to Lattitude. Obviously the roll out of Plus shortly after that changed Google’s plan.
Offers have a long and sorry history in Google Places. Originally introduced as Coupons in 2007, they were largely hidden from public view for most of their existence. Google Coupons saw some successes during 2007 and 2008 having partnered up with ValPak but by early 2009 Places coupons had completely tanked due to lack of visibility. They made a brief reappearance in the main search results along with the Google’s fixed price local ad product Tags in June, 2010. In November of last year, Google changed the name of the free Place based Coupons to Offers just before the failed acqusition talks with Groupon and the subsequent roll-out of Groupon like deals called, confusingly, Offers.
Will the oft maligned Places
Coupons Offers finally get their day in the sun? A free, easy to use check-in offer might give the feature much needed exposure and a new life, motivating smbs to revisit the Places feature and perhaps also leading them to think seriously about a Google Plus business page.
Onsite “Review Stations” AOK with Google
Several weeks ago, I attended a Google GetYourBusiness online seminar and I was surprised to hear the speaker strongly encouraging SMBS to install a computer at their places of business to use as a station where clients, immediately upon completing a transaction, could easily leave a review on their Google Place’s page.
Last week, Scott Falcone sent me a link to a copy of an email from the Google Dealer Jumpstart Team endorsing the idea of review stations. Thinking that maybe the sales side of the house might not be on the same page as the Places team, when the question came up in the forums, I raised the issue with the Places support folks. Their response was that as long as there was no direct incentive involved, it would be an acceptable practice.
Clearly if training, sales and support at Google all say it is OK, then it must be OK to have on site workstations for the purpose of generating reviews. And one can infer from all of this is that the review filter would not block the review based on location (IP) alone.
Yelp and Tripadvisor long ago put in place bans on reviews generated onsite from the place of business. In the case of Yelp, the reviews get filtered. TripAdvisor goes so far as to flag/punish the business with a Red notice questioning the integrity of the hotel. Avvo will allow the practice by prior approval and an explanation as to the need. Google’s policy is clearly contrary to the industry norms. Allowing and even encouraging the behavior of using a review station is questionable at best.
While there is nothing against practice in the Google Places review guidelines it is a practice that I have discouraged in my consulting and writings.
December 5, 2011
29Prime is easy to spot as a deceptive local seo company that preys on unsuspecting small business folks eager to “be on the first page of Google”. Like many low-life firms of their ilk, they have a number of “aliases” (aka 29Live, 29Maps, 29SEM, 29Search, Locallistings.com etc, etc.) they use to make tracking them a little more difficult.
Their robo calls ring into my office no less than 4 times a week with pitches like “Select one now to claim your free listing on Google”, “We are Google’s 6th largest provider of data”, “We guarantee first page placement, “We are Google Authorized to claim your listing”.
As coffee break sport, I often select 1 on the dial pad just to hear the pitch and see how befuddled I can make the salesman by asking for verification of the claims… and of course to learn that free is relative. In this case it means $399 a month.
If there is any doubt in your mind about how despicable 29Prime is you can check out some of these online resources that should quickly convince you.
* their D+ rating at Better Business Bureau and the many disputes.
* More than one independent 29Prime is a scam website or
* this article about the roving reporter in Gilbert AZ claiming to have helped a small preschool get their erroneously charged $1500 back from 29Prime.
But this article isn’t about wondering how a business like this can continue to operate in our lax regulatory/enforcement environment. It isn’t about the myth of efficiency in the markets or how SMBs could continue to be duped by them. It isn’t about how is it conceivable that a company like Google has yet to have their lawyers muzzle 29Prime’s claims to be Google or act on their behalf. Or about how a company like this could be mentioned in the SF Chronicle as a top ranked Local SEO firm.
These are all interesting stories in their own right but not the focus of this article.
This story is about comparing how Yelp and Google handle 29Prime’s star rankings and present the results to the public. This story is asking how, after 4 years in the review business, Google gets it very wrong and Yelp seems to get 29Prime’s review standing right.
December 3, 2011
While perusing the Google Places Offer Help files I found a page discussing Check-in Offers via Google+. It notes:
If your customers have to visit your locations in order to do business with you, you can request that they check-in on Google+ in order to redeem your offers. They can choose to share the check-in publicly or with some of their circles, which helps spread the word about your business on Google+. They can also choose to keep their check-in private and still redeem an offer.
If your customers do not have to visit your location, for example if you serve homes or businesses by delivery or by callouts, you can keep this option off (set to “No”) and customers will not be asked to check-in when they redeem offers. We use the Service Areas and Location Settings setting on your listing to determine if you have a service area for offers that have already been created. When you create new offers, you can choose whether to allow a check-in during redemption.
The option is not yet visible within the Places Offers tab. Google recently started purging the free Offers created in Places if they did not offer a real discount of some sort. Perhaps that was in anticipation of Google + integration of check-in.
Google has started rejecting Offers from Google Places for quality and policy violations. Business owners that have had Offers rejected will receive an email with a clear indication of which guideline was not satisfied. Offers that do not provide actual % discounts or dollar value off will be suspended. Google has upgraded their Google Help with a Troubleshooter Your Offers Form if an a business owner feels that an offer was rejected inappropriately. Here is a recently sent rejection email:
Date: December 2, 2011 5:27:40 AM EST
Subject: Important: Some of your offers on Google have been marked as suspended
Thank you for creating an offer for your Google Places page. We’ve found that one or more of your offers does not meet our guidelines. These offers have been suspended and are listed below. Your Google Places listing is not otherwise changed and remains active.
Offer with summary: Free Consult w/ Attorney, created: Dec 11, 2009.
Reasons for suspension:
Offer does not include a monetary discount or an additional good or service that is not normally included.
You can review the Offers Guidelines in the Places for Business Help Center here.
To create a new offer, visit Places for Business.
Offers that violate policy will be suspended. Please ensure that your new offer follows the offers policies listed in the Help Center. You cannot edit an offer once it has been suspended.
This message was sent from a notification-only email address so email responses will not be seen. If you have any questions, please review the Google Places for Business Help Center.
The Google Places Team
From the guidelines:
November 28, 2011
Awareness of Google’s new, aggressive & annoying Bubble ads has been creeping into the SMBs field of vision since their introduction 10 days ago. Articles have been posted at a number of sites (here, here & here) questioning their purpose. On Saturday alone, there were 4 posts in the Places Forum from SMBs specifically about Google advertising against a given place (here, here, here and here). And as you can imagine the posts were hostile and fearful.
Here is one of the posts:
It’s a bit disheartening to go to the trouble of creating a good Google Places business listing only to see an ad for a competitor prominently placed right smack in the middle of your map pin bubble – with a highlight color, to boot!
I understand this is probably How Google Wants it to Work. So how do you fight it? Does Google let you buy “Anti-Adwords” to prevent this from happening? Or do I just go for retaliation by buying Adwords that place my ad on my competitor’s listing?
If the ads were only on the side of the page with the listings I guess I could live with it, but right in the middle of my bubble – it just strikes me as mean.
I have been strongly opposed to the ads on broad social grounds and have not touched on the SMB perspective vis a vis these ads as much. Google has made it clear over the past 18 months that they perceive the Place Page and now the business’s Info Bubble their property to do with as they wish.
That’s the current reality. They own the sandbox and they can do what they want. But should they?
November 25, 2011
I know that Google has been integrating author results in the main search for a while and late last month tweaked those results with the addition of circles . But Google is now linking the Author Information image in the main search directly with recent Google Plus posts in a results much like the Plus Places integration seen earlier in the week. Unlike the local results which were in Places but not the Main results, this integration is occurring in the main search results.
To see the results search on an author with author information like Matt McGee and then click directly on the author photo to see the integration with the Posts in the search results:
November 24, 2011
Several additional instances of Google Plus integration into local search results have been found by Renan Cesar, a Brazilian search marketer. It has also been brought to my attention by Sebastian Socha that examples are now visible in Germany.
In both of these examples, the images, when clicked, go to an intermediate search result highlighting the appropriate Plus Page with an option to add them to your circle. In the first instance the intermediary result shows a recent post. In both cases the Plus page is correctly identified. The intermediate results page that you are taken to offers a somewhat awkward, beta like experience as it is neither a Plus page or a true search result.
At this point, Plus results for local are only showing in the Places Search, one click away from the main search results and thus less visible then they might be. If these results were to show in the main results, the opportunity to enhance a business listing with a large, juicy logo or image would be irresistible. As it is, this current rollout might convince some additional businesses to try Plus. It certainly seems to be pointing to much more visible exposure of Plus Business Pages.
My recommendation? Claim your Business Place Page to avoid squatting (which is all too easy at the moment), associate it with your website and minimally add a few compelling logos and photos.
On this Places Search example for Cake Box New Jersey you see a correctly integrated profile photo on all of their results from the business’s Google Plus page. The image clicks thru to an intermediary search result of a recent post on their Plus Page:
In second example the Plus page for Manta has been integrated into the organic section of Places search for NEC Store Manhattan.
November 23, 2011
The ever observant Plamen and his friend Stacy sent along a Places Search screenshot that clearly shows a Google Plus Page icon next to a Places search result:
When you click on the icon it shows a Google Plus Page for a different Transmission service.
It makes sense that Google would integrate Google Plus pages with their Local results. What better way to both allow a business to highlight the Page’s presence and incent other businesses to claim their Google Plus Page and keep it updated with meaningful information.
I assume that this is test but it is an interesting one.
(click to view larger)