One Very Strange Survey – Is Google Getting Into the Data Distribution Business?

This survey from Ipsos, a market survey company, claims to be on behalf of Google. If that is true then the questions are quite bizarre and really makes one wonder what Google is up to. Is Google looking to replicate what Yext has done with real time data distribution? Or just shooting an arrow across their bow? Update:  Google has confirmed that they in fact did send out this survey.

I asked Yext if was their survey and they said that it wasn’t theirs but they had heard of it from some of their clients.

If the survey is in fact not from Google then it would seem that the survey world seems to following in the footsteps of 29Prime and just claiming its from Google to increase participation.

Either way very strange. I am sure you will agree when you look at some of the questions:


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See more of the survey questions:
Continue reading One Very Strange Survey – Is Google Getting Into the Data Distribution Business?

Pack Tests Continue

Here is a slight variation on the Pack results that Google has been testing. It was visible yesterday on IE (which I don’t have on my machine so I can replicate).

The “more” links take the searcher to a brand search rather than a knowledge panel. In being more explicit than the current roll over it will do two things – be a more obvious call to action to the user and thus more likely to be seen AND count as another search on Google thus providing one more opportunity to show an ad>


My Business Locations Business Accounts – A Tool to Manage Social in Bulk

Google has just announced the availability of My Business Locations (i.e. bulk) Business Accounts. Essentially this feature allows for an easy secure way to add social managers in bulk and to transfer the ownership of the bulk account or parts of the account to another users.Business accounts provide a safe way to share management of your locations with multiple users. “Business accounts are like a shared folder for your locations–a simple way to share access to a set of locations with coworkers.”

Screen Shot 2014-10-14 at 7.41.17 AMIn the past ownership and management has been associated with the location. Google has abstracted ownership from a listing level to an account level and the listing locations or a group of listings locations can be associated with that account. And that business account can have an owner and managers.

Perhaps this goes without saying but maybe not. The bulk accounts needs to have been upgraded to the My Business Listing status before these new business accounts can be implemented so if your account has not yet been upgraded, you need to continue waiting.

Forum post
Help Center Articles
Create a business account

Creating a business account is straightforward and quick with two straightforward steps. Note that the business account needs to be verified for the locations.

1- Select the link to create the account and add a name

Screen Shot 2014-10-14 at 7.41.34 AMScreen Shot 2014-10-14 at 7.42.17 AM2- Request verification of that name for the email account if it has not already been granted.

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Free Google Local Duplicate Listing Finder Tool

Finding duplicates for the same listing with the Google local index is critical. Unfortunately the new Maps is terrible at it and G+ creates too many false positives. You can revert to the old Maps and its increasingly quirky behavior or MapMaker to find the duplicates in the Google Local index but both of those are slow and somewhat clunky. Michael Cottam has recently released a lightweight duplicate Google Page finder tool to do just that.

He developed it for a large medical clinic that that had a huge mess on its hands between the clinic’s, Google’s and the practitioner’s handiwork. It uses the Google Places API and the “Geocode API to get a lat/long from a postal code, to narrow down the results from the Places API text search to a 10km radius around the zip”.

It works on both business name and phone number even though the interface indicates just business name. Is fast, simple and does one thing well. Give it a try.

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Google Local Pack And Carousel Tests Continue

Last week Dr. Pete from Moz shared a new type of carousel replacement that was starting to show in some browsers. It was seen yesterday as well by Daniel Klotz of YDOP and by Max Minzer. It is similar to the test of the carousel replacement from early August but with the Map missing.

Darren Shaw of Whitespark also shared a new 7-Pack that DOES include the Map embedded in the results as opposed to floating to the right.



Obviously testing continues. If and when, if ever, we will see changes is anyone’s. Given the persistence of the carousel replacement test, I think we will see a change but it is not clear the final form.

Your Google My Business Performance Report for September 2014

Google is sending out a new My Business Report via email to verified owners of listings. The report is attractive with meaningful calls to action to visit the My Business or to contact Google Help even if the report is glaringly inaccurate. On the several reports that I have received so far, the review number for the month over counts the number of reviews received on Google by anywhere from 3 or 5. You would think that Google could count better. This lack of accuracy on the review received calls into question the other stats as well or at least makes them suspect.

The links to email, calling and the help center are a welcome and clear messaging that should drive folks to those support options before they go to the forums. I love the idea of monthly reporting if that is what this is. In the past Google has sent these types of reports out one month but then never again. Thumbs up for sending and the clear call to action, thumbs down for the inaccuracy. Judgement pending on the regularity.

Update: Linda Boquet pointed out a post in the forums that really highlights a signficant issue with the report for multi location businesses:

Since the company name is the same at each address the emails we received were all identical. The subjects are all the same and the content of each email is the same (save for the number of people who saw the business and asked for directions). There is no information contained that would allow us to quickly ascertain which location we are reviewing data for without clicking the link to view details. As you might imagine, when you have 450 locations that isn’t terribly practical.

Obviously, correctly identifying which location the report applies to is critical. Equally important for businesses in this situation would be some sort of roll up report. That assumes that Google will do this report more than once.

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Post Pigeon Geo Assessment – How Did Traffic Change by City

It has been a little over 2 months since the Pigeon update. And while quality issues continue, with some listings taking a hit and others gaining, Barbara Oliver & Co Jewelry seems to have netted out with slight gains in web traffic similar to what she saw immediately post update. Her total web traffic was down but her in-market traffic has shown a 5% uptick in the cities surrounding her in NY State and 13% gain in nearby markets in Canada that frequently shop in the US.

It is difficult to impossible to assess her MyBusiness analytics to know how things worked out on that end, given the inability to compare time periods and the lack of detail in the reports (boo to Google on this front).

As I noted immediately post Pigeon, Barbara had stopped showing in the 7-Pack on strong Buffalo centric head term searches in Local Pack like Jewelry Buffalo (although she and 2 other strong jewelers continue to show above the pack in organic). Thus I was curious to dig into the geo data to see where exactly the increases were and if there was a discernible geographic pattern to the increase.

You can see from this chart that web traffic on from Buffalo has decreased by 37 uniques when comparing the time period before Pigeon to the time period after, dropping from 258 visitors to 221. That was more than offset by increases in visits from suburbs just to the south (Cheektowaga) and north (Tonawanda) which saw 154% and 52% increases respectively.


Using the new My Maps, I exported the differences by city and plotted them.

It is somewhat easier to see the major shifts geographically if you zoom in although even there it is difficult to ascertain an obvious pattern. Given the lack of keyword data it is impossible to tell exactly what terms are driving the traffic in each city.

It seems likely that the extremes (Buffalo, Tonawanda and Cheektowaga) seem to be driven by new geo results within Pigeon. Those cities with smaller changes could just be normal variation or could be driven by changing results due to the update.

Screen Shot 2014-10-05 at 5.45.52 PMKey –

Purples Stars = Plot cities that increased

Red/Orange circles = plotted cities that decreased.

Barbara’s location is the black pin.

One of the “features” of Pigeon was to localize results down to neighborhood level. This meant a narrowing of reach so that those in the suburbs were often left out of city wide searches. This, for some, was offset by searches in in the nearby suburbs or neighborhoods. Cheektowaga is a mostly residential area with little high end shopping. It is likely that Barbara Oliver is one of the closest jewelers in that context. Clearly the decline of Buffalo based searches was due to the decreasing radius of Buffalo based searches. But that assessment raises the question of why did Barbara loose traffic from her “hometown” of Williamsville that has both residents and high end shopping and the even bigger drop in the next neighborhood to the east, Harris Hill?

I think plotting this geo information can additional nuance and understanding to your search results. I am not sure that it better helps to understand Pigeon although it does demonstrate some of its affects.

Google Carousel Eye-Tracking Study: The Big Winner is AdWords

In addition to the Local heat maps & CTR studies that I shared yesterday , Mediative also looked at the behaviors around the Carousel in their study: The Evolution of Google Search Results Pages and Their Effects on User Behaviour”.

As with the 7-pack information yesterday, there are limits to this study. The CTR are particularly suspect given the lack of a representative audience and the very small sample size. And the study doesn’t explore post Carousel click behaviors like calling.

Screen Shot 2014-09-30 at 1.46.10 PM Screen Shot 2014-09-30 at 1.46.41 PM

There are some interesting take aways in these results:

  • The highest performing Carousel Placements are those to the far right; not positions 1,2 or3
  • 11.1% of the clicks went to postions 4-7 on the Carousel while only 1.4% went to positions 1-3
  • 89% (ie almost all) participants fixated on the Carousel
  • Ads did particularly well a 136% increase in time spent looking at them and a 60% increase in clicks compared to other SERP results
  • Ads captured 21% of the clicks on the page
  • The top four organic results, all strong brands, did very well capturing 52% of the clicks

Obviously, if these results bear out, then Adwords is the big winner with the Carousel. Its bold presentation attracts eyeballs to the upper left but not the clicks which accrue to the ads. I think the likes of Yelp & TripAdvisor might need to be careful what they wish for in their European anti-trust crusade.

But all is not lost with the Carousel. Their ability to capture eyeballs (if not clicks) has significant branding implications. From their report:

Impressions vs. clicks

3 out of the 5 new elements covered in this study—Carousel, Knowledge Graph and Local Listings—don’t necessarily require the user to click on the listing/ placement to get the information they are looking for. Impression data should therefore be measured as a success metric. Given how much information can potentially be garnered about your business without a user having to leave the SERP, the listings have a similar effect in terms of brand awareness.

Local Heat Maps – Lots of Attention, Not So Much Clicking

Mediative has published results of their recent eye-tracking and click through research performed last spring that included local pack and carousel results:  The Evolution of Google Search Results Pages and Their Effects on User Behaviour”. They discuss the local implications in a blog post today.

While the study has some methodological issues the results are interesting and worth exploring.

Local Listing Below the Pack:



  • 13% of time spent on the pages was looking inside the Local Listings box.
  • 38% of participants look at the Local Listing box.
  • 6% of page clicks were to the local listings.
  • The top organic listing garnered 41% of page clicks
  • The top two organic listings garnered 53% of page clicks.

Listings Above the Pack:


  • 18.5% of time spent on the pages was looking inside the Local Listings box.
  • 76% of participants look at the Local Listing box.
  • 11.5% of page clicks were to the local listings.
  • The top organic listing (below the local listings) garnered 30.5% of page clicks.
  • The top two organic listings garnered 45% of page clicks.

Power of Organic: While most users clicked on the organic results, it is not clear whether that was the brand affect of having major brands there or the placement. Most likely both. In previous limited research that I have done people often scan the page and frequently will stop on a well known site that they know does a good job curating, like Yelp or Tripadvisor.  Regardless, if you are blocked out of the pack due to Pigeon, there are still clearly organic opportunities.

Visual Distractors: Even though Google has removed many visual distractors from the results those that remain are highly attractive to users. Thus rich snippet reviews for example, even if lower on the page, can attract views.

Chunking. One of the things that Ian Everdell of Mediative pointed out was the existence of visual chunking. People look at the top results in any subset of results. They effectively create visual groupings of results of which they do a quick scan and look for relevancy in the given sub group. In any of these groupings (ie Local or organic or ads), the top two results get the most attention. Thus being 1or 2 in the Pack is significantly more valuable than lower.

Limits of the research. While the eye-tracking sample size is more than adequate to give an idea of where searchers were looking that is not the case with the click through study. On many of these results the click through study was based on a sample size of between 50 and 150 clicks. In addition the cohort was not randomized in any way. All were from the Toronto area with no knowledge of income or other behaviors.

The study, in an effort to provide a consistent result to users, was forced to present searchers with a static image and to focus solely on clicks. Thus there is no data on whether or how frequently users cursored over local results to explore the Knowledge Panel.  Nor whether users would have stopped and called some of the local results.

Here are some additional heat and click maps from Mediative: Continue reading Local Heat Maps – Lots of Attention, Not So Much Clicking

Facebook Reviews Should Be a Part of Every SMB Review Plan

If you had any doubts as to whether Facebook has a place in your review strategy, news this past week from Bill Bean that Facebook reviews were now showing in the Google “Reviews from Around the Web” should put them to rest.

I was curious how widespread this was and whether it was just a one off or if Google had started including links to Facebook reviews on a widespread basis. A number of folks noted to me that they had seen links on their reviews from around the web .
This search at Google ( “verified local business” AND “” AND “Reviews From Around the Web”) indicates that Google has indexed a large number of Facebook review pages and is including them on the business’ G+ Page for Local.

Facebook has snuck up on us in the local review space over the past 12 months to become a significant player. Facebook rolled out reviews across all of their business pages last November but earlier this year limited reviews to just pages that were for local businesses.

My research clearly indicates that Facebook has become a strong contender as a favorite amongst users as a place to leave local reviews.Screen Shot 2014-09-28 at 8.37.24 AM Continue reading Facebook Reviews Should Be a Part of Every SMB Review Plan

Developing Knowledge about Local Search