Starting late last week we saw weirdnesses in using the location setting option in Google organic search.
Initially it was throwing off errors that it could not recognize cities like New York and Chicago.
That error disappeared and you could change the location. However weird results started cropping up with the local pack results reflecting the new location setting but the organic listings reflecting Google’s understanding of your browser location regardless of the location settings. Here is a Google + discussion joined by John Meuller that looked at the issue: Have Google switched off location settings in Search Tools?
Last week Andrew Shotland noted some traffic declines for a number of local directories that he associated with the Door Way Page Algo update.
In that post, Phl Rozak of LocalVisibility noted in the comments to that post that he had simultaneously seen an increase in pack results not just for real estate but for other search terms like “DUI law, water damage restoration, and possibly like Botox and liposuction”. I finally got around to looking and saw the clear increases in real estate searches.
Late last week Dr. Pete of Moz alerted me to a dramatic uptick in the Moz Cast count for local results. I have been following them since and they seem to clearly mirror what Phil had noted and the observations in real estate searches.
In fact they show a jump in the number of Local Packs being returned from 10% of all searches to now being shown in 12%, an increase of 20%.
I think it unlikely that this was a coincidence. The removal of doorway pages could have allowed what local web pages were there to move into the top 3-5 positions in the search results thus triggering more packs. Or perhaps there was some other local change. For example if Google started trusting some new locally prominent sites that added enough relevance to the local listings to facilitate their showing. Regardless, there are now more packs appearing for search terms that until recently had none.
Once again, local results for real estate and realtors are back in the Google search results.
Google Local Real estate results have had a tortured relationship in the Google search results. Having most recently gone MIA at the time of the Pigeon update. I noted in November 2012:
In 2009 Google rolled out an expanded real estate listing product. However that product was dropped in January of 2011. Before that period and until very recently, Google did not return any blended results for most real estate searches and the only local search in real estate that returned pack results was the very specific “realtors + city” search. Searches like homes for sale + city and houses for rent + city did not return 7 packs. Even the search real estate + city did not return pinned results.
They seemed to have returned for real estate + city, realtors + city and those same terms without geo modifies. But they not appear to have returned for “homes for sale” or “houses for sale” (as far as I can tell) searches.
Google has recently removed links from the Local Knowledge Panel in search to the Google Plus Local Page. Nicolai Helling now reports that the last links standing in Google Maps, to read and or write reviews on the G+ Page for Local, have now been redirected as well.
The read reviews link now redirects to the Review Box that has been presented on the front page of search and the write a review link redirects to the write a review box in the same area.
When viewed with the rumors of a restructured G+ and the removal of links from the Knowledge Panel to new posts, it certainly raises questions about Google’s direction with G+ as a small business marketing platform.
As Nicolai points out it also puts the final nail in the coffin of using Maps for listing diagnostics and finding duplicates. My goto resource on that has been Michael Cottam’s G+ Business Page Finder reviewed here with some tips.
The other minor tactical factoid is that the link in Maps to write a review includes the full name, address, zip and country as well as both the CID and the FID for the listing. The 7,2 attached to the end of the URL string opens the review edit box and could be used in a review email campaign (although it doesn’t work on the iPhone or iPad).
Recently Google+ posts stopped showing up in the knowledge panel and Twitter content started showing up in real time in Google mobile searches.
The only value to an SMB of using Plus and the only reason I recommended it was that it put messaging and an image on the front page of Google search. That post conveyed a positive brand message AND pushed “people also search for” competitors below the fold on many displays. It was a once a month, easy to implement tactic where an SMB could simply cross post content from Facebook.
It would seem that Twitter content can now provide a similar and perhaps even better alternative for local businesses to push their marketing message into Branded search results on Google mobile search results. It seems like it would be a simple matter to cross post from Facebook as way to achieve some additional, controlled exposure on a Google branded search.
Minimally it makes great sense as a way to control front page content on Google for reputation management.
I have never recommended Twitter for local before. This might be enough reason.
One compelling reason for an SMB to use Google Plus was the fact that their most recent G+ posts and photo would appear on the Knowledge Panel for branded search results. First noticed disappearing by Mary Bowling about a month ago, it is now gone for good.
Google confirmed its passage by saying: “We’re always mixing things up on Search, and this change is no different. We’ve found that most people care about seeing hours of operation, directions, and photos when they search for businesses, so we’re making that information the most visible. You can still find all this info in Google+ of course.”
Here is a previous knowledge panel showing a G+ post and image and a current view showing its absence: Continue reading Google+ Knowledge Panel Messaging Gone
The Google My Business Forums and most other Google product forums as well are in the process of being upgraded to a totally new forum software. Like with every Forum upgrade that Google does, its one step forward and 2 (hopefully) back. Here is the Google My Business Forum announcement and they note:
Our new design is focused on making it easier for you to find the answers you need and ask questions in Google Product Forums.
There are two main types of pages:
Topic pages that focus on the content you need to see: the question, any best answers, and all replies.
Lists of topics that you can browse, filter, and search to find the information you need.
They are promising rapid iteration to add missing features but promise that this new forum will be faster and less filling.
Pinned topics will be significantly more visible as they reside at the top level of the forum (a good thing):
And new posts will from across the forum will also be highlighted at the top level with the ability to segment them if needed. They will also show whether other top contributors have already replied minimizing the work of finding posts needing answers:
The biggest shortcoming for frequent posters will be the missing saved answers that can dramatically improve top contributor efforts. Apparently users will be able to return to the previous format until Google is confident that the major bugs are quashed.
The new format is only available for desktop and tablets with a mobile version TBA. In the meantime mobile users will be stuck with the current, can’t replace it soon enough version.
Local U Advanced Training is coming to Minneapolis this June 27th. Scheduled the day after the MNSearch Summit so you can attend both, it promises to be a great event.
Duane Forrester from Bing and Jade Wang of Google will both be at Local U as will Darren Shaw of Whitespark, Mary Bowling, Aaron Weiche, Dana DiTomaso and myself. The day is structured to provide a deep dive into the skills necessary for an agency to execute a local search campaign with lots of time for questions and answers.
The event is limited to only 60 attendees and we have already sold half of the tickets. The advanced purchase pricing for Local U Advanced is $799 (forum members save an additional $100) by itself and $1039 with a ticket to MNSearch. Bring your whole staff with our 5-pack for only $3500 (goes to $4000 on 6/1).
The price includes a meet & greet before and after the event and enough food to keep you fat and happy for the day. It will be a small, personalized event where there will be plenty of time to interact with the presenters and each other.
The $799 advanced purchase pricing ends on the first of June l so you want to sign up now to get the best price.
Here is the full agenda:
Continue reading Local U Advanced Training Minneapolis – June 27th – Ticket Price Increases 6/1
In 2013, with the loss of Places Search, I wrote a post titled Is Google Debranding Local? where I posited that Google was deemphasizing Local as a consumer facing brand. I also noted that Google would make sure that local would “persist as a service feeding critical contextually relevant data to the many current Google products that use local data”.
I would contend that this has in fact occurred and that the basic trend of removing Local branding and local specific features in other products has continued. In June of last year, Google rebranded the backend of local as Google My Business. This allowed Google to create a stand alone app by that name and further integrate the data collection back end needed for local into G+ Pages.
The recent removal of G+ Local search and the Local link from Google Plus further reinforces the idea of removing locally focused forward facing branding and functionality and I think that we may see more changes along this line. When it was announced Google positioned the change to their most active local review writers as a way to make life simpler:
We are making some changes to streamline the Google+ experience, including removing Google+ Local from the navigation bar. You will still be able to see and edit your content under the Reviews tab on your profile, in addition to searching and reviewing local places on +Google Maps, Google Maps for Mobile and Google.com. We look forward to rolling out more features and improvements based on your feedback in the future.
I would suggest that with mobile now the dominant platform for searching and user time, that the future of Google’s focus on local will be as a value added content for the Google Maps App(s) and to a lesser extent browser based mobile search. I don’t think we will see any forward facing “Google Local Brand” any time soon if ever.
While I think we will continue to see local data as an integral part of Google desktop search we may see even less of it elsewhere (like on G+) as Google uses local data (business listings & review content) to further their goal of positioning Google Maps as a dominant mobile destination.
Michael Wallace () of Ethology has alerted me to a new, shiny interface for the Google My Business Locations (i.e. bulk) dashboard.
Announced in the Help Files with the interface conventions detailed here, the interface appears to improve what has been a product frequented with bugs and inconsistencies. Google has now posted in the forum as well where they note that time to live has improved. .
The new interface provides meaningful error states and the options to fix the errors as well as the ability to sort locations by Status, Store Code or location Name. There is also a “to-Do” list option that quickly shows you listings that require updates. Hopefully the many idiopathic error messages that had no resolution have been banished as well.
There is a pull out window that allows multiple ways of filtering the listings by different state so that you can view & hopefully repair listings that are in various states of well being or disrepair:
- Formatting errors
- Duplicate store codes
- Duplicate locations
- Duplicate addresses
- Different owner
- Google updates
- Missing store codes
- Pending review
- Unverified locations
- Live locations
Unfortunately analytics & review management are still on a per location basis with no opportunity to view them collectively and there is no option to add photos to the Plus Page without the owner/manager returning to each location’s page level editor in Plus. All three gaping productivity sinks that will some day be fixed. It is also unclear whether Google has fixed the annoying 200 character limit on description although since this is mostly a cosmetic upgrade it seems unlikely. Oh and there is still no phone support.
The interface is a definite improvement for bulk users. But there is still a long way to go.
Updated AM, May 13 with minor details.