Google My Business App Receives Major Facelift

New Interface has familiar search look
New Interface has familiar search look

Google is releasing a new app today on Android and shortly on iOS that upgrades the mobile Google My Business experience.

The goal of the upgrade was to make the interface and visuals more similar to Google search and provide better feedback as to error states.

New features:

  1. Improved Editor
  2. Easier to find your listing on Maps and search
  3. More Detailed pending and error states
  4. Listings that are Permanently Closed are now visible via the App
  5. Improved Hour entry and better support for 24 hour business days
  6. Creating a service area display is more intuitive and the Service area display now matches Maps
  7. Help is more visible

The upgrade is elegant and from the demo I saw, it seems to work well. It makes the app fully functional and on par or better than the desktop interface.

That all being said, it hardly seems enough to recharge Google’s local efforts and attract more SMBs to its platform

Given Google’s recent reduced visibility of local results, the ever present complexity of doing well in search, the rise of Facebook as a small business resource and the demise of Plus as an SMB communication platform, this upgrade, while welcome, seems to be bit of chair shuffling on the deck of the Titanic.

While this tool is likely to be easy to use by the SMB it does nothing to highlight the benefits of Google local search and make it clear to the business owner how a business will really benefit from participating in the project and what they need to do to succeed. And it fails, as the Google GMB has done right along, to provide a reason for ongoing engagement with the product. Outside of answering and monitoring reviews Google has yet to come up with a compelling reason to visit the GMB app or dashboard on a regular basis.

See the screen shots from the new product: Continue reading Google My Business App Receives Major Facelift

Google StreetView App Upgraded to Allow Photo Spheres – Not Yet Ready for SMB Prime Time

Google just released several iOS app updates including the Google Plus app which now supports Collections, Google Maps with an improved review flow and most significantly Google StreetView which now allows both the creation and uploading of PhotoSpheres.

PhotoSpheres are the poor man’s version of Business View (as of today called Street View | Trusted), Google’s professionally driven interior, virtual tour product. The feature in the new Google StreetView app is easy enough to use to create interior and exterior views of a business and get them uploaded to Google Maps in a very short time.

But compared to Business View, there are some limitations both in terms of quality and exposure such that if it is really important for you to increase a potential visitor’s understanding of your interior then Business View, despite its cost, is a better choice.  These limits include quality issues, the current apparent lack of the  ability to embed the resultant image elsewhere and most importantly the lack of search and Maps visibility.

IMG_1946The interface to the mobile app is very slick allowing you to quickly shoot the complete sphere surrounding you, indicating where to point the camera  that it then auto stitches into a PhotoSphere. The interface to assemble and upload it is not as well designed and leads you astray but once you are familiar with it you can shoot, create and upload a sphere to any given location in under 10 minutes. And most of that time is the rendering and uploading it.

If you are shooting inside of very small spaces, the program has difficulties stitching accurately and getting good alignment. Whether that could be solved with more precise camera positioning via a tripod I am not sure. The quality of the stitches improves dramatically when you give the program “more room to breath” and shoot in a larger space.

Here are two of my first business related photospheres: the interior of my office and the interior of the bank that houses my office. As you can see there are a number of gaps and missing pieces of the one shot inside my 15′ x 15′ office that make it less than ideal. I would have embedded them here but alas no embed code was yet available as far as I could see. Screen Shot 2015-09-03 at 3.44.44 PM

Like all wide angle immersive photography you have to practice getting the angles and view point correct. Unfortunately I could find no easy way to delete an image once uploaded even if it was not of optimal quality.

However the biggest problem that I see is that once uploaded to Google Maps, the image becomes buried amongst the other photos inside of Google Maps attached to a location. The image is immediately available in the photos section of Maps for the location but it did not show within the hour in the photo sub section of the Knowledge Panel.  Although it might show there with time. Even then it would be somewhat buried. Update 9/6: the image is not visible in either a mobile browser search result OR in the mobile iPhone Google Maps app making current visibility even less than I originally imagined. 

If the purpose of this exercise is to highlight what a beautiful facility you have for potential customers then Business View wins hands down by being highly visible in the search result Knowledge Panel and from within the Local Finder via the new 3 Pak.  To say nothing of the better quality control and quality of imagery, which is better in Business View.

Is it worth the time for an SMB or an agency to do this for a business? On the plus side, it doesn’t take long once you learn how to create a good image and it does no harm (the Hypocratic oath of local seo). I suppose if you were calling on a business location and wanted to “wow” them, it could be a freebie that you offered.

But its severe lack of visibility and the inability to easily remove seem to make it a non starter in most situations.


Google Testing Place Actions Forms via Demand Force to Initiate Scheduling

Google is testing Knowledge Panel feature, Place Actions Forms, to allow scheduling via Intuit’s Demand Force with appointment based businesses. You can test it yourself via this search: cahaba valley animal clinic. (h/t Mary Bowling of Ignitor Digital).

According to Demand Force “By completing the business forms earlier in the search process, your clients will have a better, smoother experience from discovery to booking.”

book-appointmentThis test is consistent with previous rollouts for adding things like restaurant reservations via Open Table and taxi booking via Uber to the Knowledge Panel and Maps that started late last year.

Screen Shot 2015-08-18 at 3.57.05 PM

Booking requires selecting from a list of pre-determined services to initiate the service and then takes users over to the Intuit Booking Page for that business.

FAQ from Demand Force:

What is happening?

Continue reading Google Testing Place Actions Forms via Demand Force to Initiate Scheduling

Google Adds (Or is Testing) Organic Results in Local Finder Knowledge Panel

Update: some interesting observations about differences between the organic results and the 5 pages in the new Lical Finder panel. I am heading out for a few more days vacation so please keep the conversation going. 

It appears that Google has upgraded the Knowledge Panel that is visible in the new (early August) Local Finder, with the addition of 5 web search results for the business selected. I am seeing this across browsers so I assume but am not sure that it is a rollout. Given the many changes it could be a test. I first saw this early this AM but it has been spotted by Dave Minchala on Twitter.

The web results are particularly obvious is a given listing has not review snippets or reviews. It becomes less visible and appears below the fold if there are reviews. The results do not show review rich snippets and show the same five web results that appear on a brand search for the listing. Obviously, you should take a look at those top 5, which, are most likely to be seen, and be sure that they reflect well. One can only assume that these are intended to increase engagement with the new Local Finder.

Screen Shot 2015-08-18 at 2.50.52 PM
Click to view larger
Screen Shot 2015-08-18 at 2.55.58 PM

6 Good Things About Negative Reviews

Did you know that the star ratings are of less importance than the content of reviews and that readers are more inclined to convert if there are some negative reviews?

Those are not the only good things about negative reviews. Read my recent post at 6 Good Things About Negative Reviews for a whole list of reasons that negative reviews should not only not be feared but should be embraced.

Thoughts About the New Local Stack Display

Note: I am heading out for a 5 day vacation. Responses might be limited. Please fill in the blanks for me and keep the conversation going. Dave would get lonely otherwise.

Google seems to have completed the roll out the new local search result with reports of its visibility from Western Europe, Eastern Europe, UK, Australia, South Africa and even Canada (which is usually last in these sorts of things).

I would suggest for the sake of clarity and expediency that we name the new display the Local Stack to distinguish it from the Snak Pak that is used in the hospitality searches. Regardless Dave Oremland has special dispensation and can call it the Crap Pack.

Some thoughts:

Screen Shot 2015-08-07 at 8.13.56 AMThe simultaneous world wide release is different than many previous local display rollouts. I am wondering if that is due to the fact that the European anti trust issue around local has dissipated or if it was viewed as important to put the final nail in the coffin of G+ Local with one fell swoop.

The new display certainly provides an increased opportunity for organic results. I am not sure what will happen on clicks for Adwords but those businesses that were lower in the old display may feel compelled to double down on their Adwords activity.

The display aligns neatly with the new Home Service Ad booking tests and could easily be replaced in those market segments that rely on bookings. Obviously complaints about Google not showing answers and being evil will be heard. Google, being driven by the capital markets, has one overriding interest that supersedes all others regardless of their happy talk and that is profits.

This reduces opportunity in the pure local display on the front  page but the total local opportunity may not be less as ALL links that previously went in disparate directions now head off to the new Local Finder (operative word is may) . That includes links that went to G+ but Maps as well.

The roll over that used to produce the Knowledge Graph now goes to the Local Finder. In that display there are 20 opportunities for visibility.

The lack of phone numbers will necessitate additional click throughs to the Local Finder. So much for Google surfacing answers on the first query but at least it increases local opportunities.

I am not convinced that exposure will come close to what has been possible in the 7-Pack but here’s hoping that the dashboard analytics (unreliable in the best of times) have been upgraded to handle the new display and can provide meaningful comparisons.

Clearly every link to G+ has been removed. This has been a long time in coming as has been in play for quite a while. Concurrently Google will also be removing “shell” pages, those auto created pages for non verified listings, from G+. Google+ is becoming Streams and as of now, its value as a local social platform is minimal.

Reviews, long disassociated from Plus are not really affected as they continue to display in the shadow box wherever they are selected from search, Maps or the new Local Finder. They continue as an element of the local Plus page but I doubt those ever got many views and will get fewer now. And seeing reviews is now a two click process into the Local Finder and then another click on the reviews. Not easy and not friendly.

A single location branded search still brings up the Knowledge Graph with phone number BUT a search for a brand that has multiple locations shows this new pack with NO phone number and requires what should have been a quick recovery search into a two click two step. Very bad form on that one.

There are some oddities in the display around service area businesses and those without websites as those two prominent icons are missing. As Phil Rozek has pointed out the current Local Finder seems to expose the exact location of those who have hidden their address. Not good for those seeking a modicum of privacy.

Screen Shot 2015-08-07 at 8.14.48 AMI would love for folks to send me their Local Analytics a week and a month from now as well as report on their traffic.


7 Pack Becoming 3 Pack with Mobile Like Snak Pack Rollout?

I woke this morning to reports of the new mobile styled Snak Pak being seen via Safari in the Netherlands and to it now being seen nationwide in my Firefox browser.

Given its increasing visibility across the US and internationally, I would suggest that this is likely a rollout not a test. I have asked Google for a comment.

I would also note that on the many searches where I am seeing it in Firefox, many previous 7-Packs are now showing as the 3 listing Snak Pak. I was unable to elicit a 7 Pack regardless of geography or search phrase.

Obviously with the reduction of the 7-pack to only showing 3 listings, organic and adwords both will take on increasing importance.

Tip: If you want to see the Local Finder for any given local search that is not yet returning the new Snak Pak add the operator “&tbm=lcl” to the end of the search.

Eduard de Boer, long time local specialist now with Whitespark noted their appearance in the Netherlands on a range of searches:


As a note, this test/rollout would complete the total removal of Plus from local as not only do non verified pages not link the G+ page but verified listings with active pages show no link.

Screen Shot 2015-08-06 at 8.10.43 AM

Note the TOTAL ABSENCE of any links to the Google Plus page!
More screen shots from around the country in varying categories showing the new Snak Pak: Continue reading 7 Pack Becoming 3 Pack with Mobile Like Snak Pack Rollout?

Google Testing Different Pack Layouts with the New Local Finder

Barry Schwartz noted (via Ryan Schilling at a Google 3 Pack experiment that removed the Google Plus links.

For that same search I am seeing a different, new mobile 3 pack like display test (using Firefox) on the desktop. Interestingly the mobile like three pack comes  with links to the new Local Finder that rolled out with the Snak Pak update in the third week of July. This new display is consistent with Google’s Material Design standards.

As Google + continues down the debranding path, I assume that we will see the complete disassociation of local results from it and the integration of the Local Finder instead.

The Local Finder essentially replaces the old Map list view with a light weight business listing focused display that works much better than Google Maps for discovery type browsing. It makes sense to me that it would become integrate with all local results and not just the snak pak.

Screen Shot 2015-08-05 at 9.21.32 AM
Physical Therapy San Antonio (Firefox)
Screen Shot 2015-08-05 at 9.23.01 AM
The “More Physical Therapy” links to the new Local Finder display

Screenshot captured by Ryan Schilling:

What I see when searching on Safari or Chrome:
Screen Shot 2015-08-05 at 9.35.16 AM

Yahoo & Reviews & Support, Oh My!

Jeff Overmyer of MerchantCentric, who noticed the missing Yelp reviews at Yahoo, dug deeper and (gasp) actually got a response from Yahoo on Reddit:

“Thanks for pointing this out! I work for Yahoo, and I’ve reported this to our Yahoo Local team*. They’ll be taking a look at this for sure. Yahoo Local doesn’t use the Yelp API, rather we have a data feed from them that we merge into this feed. They’ll be examining this to see if and what the problem may be. Thanks again for pointing this out to us!

If you have any further examples of this problem (or any other Yahoo problem), please feel free to send me a PM, tweet us @YahooCare[1] , or ask us on Tumblr[2] !”

As Andrew Shotland suspected the missing reviews appear to be just a Yahoo Local brain fart (aka a YLBF). We shall see if that is true but what is amazing is that Jeff was actually able to get some measure of support at all. Even more amazing was the promise from pkonink on reddit of future support. Does he know where of he speaks?

I would love to hear if any of these routes actually result in an answer (and ideally a solution) from Yahoo Local.

* Team in this context I take to mean team as in tennis doubles team… i.e. 2 people.

Developing Knowledge about Local Search