Google MapMaker Nukes Custom Categories

Custom categories, long missing from Google Maps, had retained their presence in MapMaker.  That distinction has now ended. MapMaker has announced the end of custom categories and that MapMaker would now use the standard 2500+ categories that have been available to My Business and Maps.

Hello Mappers,

Firstly, a BIG thanks for your continued support to improve Google Maps!

Google Map Maker offers you a detailed menu to add the most relevant category by providing a wide range of 2500+ categories to choose from. While we continue to expand this list, we’ve removed the ability to manually type-in the category of your choice.

Henceforth, any existing free-form categories will only be visible to the mapper who originally created them.

Once again, your understanding and patience is tremendously appreciated.

Thanks, and Happy Mapping!

Sneha

 

Google Adds Instant Listing Verification Via Webmaster Tools for Most Business Categories

Googler Jade has announced in the forums that they are now going to allow instant verification via webmaster tools for many businesses.

From the announcement:

Good news — starting today, if you’re verifying a page for your business, you may be instantly verified on Google My Business if you’ve already verified your business’s website with Google Webmaster Tools. The verification will happen automatically, if applicable, when you attempt to verify a page for your business.

If you’d like to try instant verification, please make sure you’re signed in to Google My Business with the same account you used to verify your site with Webmaster Tools

Not all businesses with websites verified using Google Webmaster Tools will have instant verification, since not all business categories are eligible. If that’s the case, please use one of our other methods of verification (https://support.google.com/business/answer/2911778).

From the My Business Help page on verification:

 Instant verification

You may be instantly verified to manage your business if you’ve already verified your business’s website with Google Webmaster Tools.

Make sure you’re signed in to Google My Business with the same account you used to verify your site with Webmaster Tools. Note that some business categories may not be eligible for instant verification.

If your business falls into one of the categories that doesn’t allow webmaster tools verification, it will still be necessary to use the other offered choices of postcard and phone when it is available.

Yelp Reports $0.00 per Share Earnings

Yelp has just released their June ending numbers. I wanted to lead with a realistic headline before the other pundits did.

While profit has never been something that Yelp crows about there are some interesting numbers:

  • Cumulative reviews grew 44% year over year to approximately 61 million and and approximately 40% of new reviews were contributed through mobile devices.
  • Average monthly unique visitors grew 27% year over year to approximately 138 million* and average monthly mobile unique visitors grew 51% year over year to approximately 68 million**
  • Active local business accounts grew 55% year over year to approximately 79.9 thousand

It is interesting to note the traffic growth and the fact that Yelp didn’t seem to mention whether it was desktop/mobile search or their mobile app growth. Given Yelp’s incredible performance in the Google desktop SERPS, one has to assume that they are getting an increasing number from Google as opposed to their app.

Moz Updates Local Query Set – Revised Data Show 23.4% Drop Post Pigeon Update

MozCast has now updated their query set to better reflect what searchers are seeing. Even though their methodology was different than that of Whitespark, the new results showing a decline in 7-packs due to the Google Local algo update are much the same: a 23.4% drop.

It is interesting to note that one of their observations which correlates to what I am seeing, is a number of “these queries now have authoritative one-boxes instead of packs”. That is consistent with an Google’s statement to be using more web signals and in this case demonstrating a predilection for brands and one boxes ala Hummingbird. This brand preference might also lead to additional 3 packs often seen on brand queries.

MozCast_Feature_Graph

Here is the communication from Cyrus regarding the MozCast update:

So, the fix to MozCast seems to have worked, and it’s as we expected – there was a drop, but less than originally reported. On July 23, before the decline started, we measured local packs on 12.06% of localized results. Today, we’re seeing 9.24%.
Interestingly, this is a 23.4% drop, almost exactly what Darren saw in his data (just read that this morning). Could be a coincidence, but since we used different methods, different data sets, and had no idea what each other were doing, I’d say that 24% number is pretty close to the truth.
Here are some queries that seem to have legitimately lost local packs (at least in the regions I’m checking them:
  • jet ski
  • condos
  • house rentals
  • money gram (misspelled – interestingly, “moneygram” returns a pack)
  • homebrew
  • wheels
  • subway store locator
  • resorts
  • apartment rentals
  • custom cars
  • gardening
  • jeeps (“jeep dealership” does get a pack)
  • wedding makeup
  • bed and breakfast
  • train tickets
In a few cases, these queries now have authoritative one-boxes instead of packs. In a few other cases, I’m still seeing packs on manual inspection, and I can’t account for the mismatch. Our code shows no pack for “used car” in Hartford, CT, for example, but manually setting location in Google does. So, this could be volatile.

Clearly the Local algo update (note to Matt McGee: can’t we do better than naming it after a pigeon?) has had an impact and a large one.

The more important questions though revolve around the real world impact on local businesses. Is there a decline in call? Is there a decline in driving directions? Are their fewer web visits? Over the next few weeks as we learn more about these real world impacts we can hopefully better understand how to advise clients.

Whitespark Reports a 24% Decline in Local Packs

Last week I reported that MozCast was showing a decline of over 60% in display of the Local Pack on Google after the recent local algo update. Moz was gracious enough to share their data and it was determined that their search queries had been obsoleted  by the update. So while their data was internally consistent they were likely overstating the drop.

I reached out to Darren Shaw at Whitespark and he agreed to analyze their historical ranking data on any decrease in display of the Local Pack as 1)they have a larger data set and 2)they set location differently (not using the near parameter).

Whitespark’s results? A 24% decline in display of the pack during the two day peak drop (using the same date range as Moz). Not as large of a drop as indicated by Moz but a significant drop none the less.

Like Moz, their data show a small recovery subsequent to the initial multi day drop .

localpackdrop

Terms that appear to have been dropped:

From Darren’s postTerms that appear to no longer be triggering local packs (based on our rank tracker data and some manual testing): 

  • mold removal
  • dui lawyer
  • dui lawyers
  • dui attorney
  • dui attorneys
  • real estate
  • realtors
  • emergency plumber
  • commercial * (painting, construction, remodeling, etc) – anything with commercial preceding it seems to have stopped returning a local pack.

Comments and notes.

What is reality? We won’t ever know exactly how many Local Packs Google has stopped showing nor do we have any way to easily validate any of the methods used.

We have determined that the Moz methodology, while internally consistent, is likely over reporting the drop. Whitespark is setting location differently and is thus able to overcome the limit of the Moz report. Google though, has a great many tools at their disposal and we have no way of knowing how either data set measures up against searcher realities.

Discussion:

Moz’s data are meant as a real time directional view of the data and in that sense served their purpose. Whitespark’s data, on the other hand, is a retrospective review of actual ranking reports.

Whitespark used a search parameter than did not change as much and has a larger data set than Moz. While Whitespark’s sample is larger, it too could deviate from reality as the phrases used are keywords chosen by businesses as “money terms” worth tracking and don’t necessarily reflect the full reality of search.

Moz’s data served it’s intended function of validating observed changes in real time.

That all being said Whitespark’s number is probably closer in size to reality than the Moz data as both anecdote and methodology seem more consistent in their results.

Conclusions:

There was a big drop. Phrases that previously returned a pack do so no more.

We will not ever know the exact size of the drop but it was likely not as large as originally reported. It is still big.

A number of businesses will be affected.

The changes are probably still occurring although at a much slower pace.

 

Crap Google Results & Yelp

Yelp is obviously very, very good with their SEO. They apparently have the ability to sculpt their internal link values to highlight what appear to be the most popular local businesses in the Google local results.

Apparently their ability to do that in their strongest markets is even greater than elsewhere.

These results, first highlighted by Matt Storms on G+ (h/t to Max Minzer)  well before the current local algo update and they are still seen in the SERPS. They reflect on Yelp’s ability to manipulate the search results and reflect poorly on Google’s acceptance of those practices. Yelp, though, needs to be careful of soiling the bed in which they sleep. Although I suppose they could fall back on their all too successful (but BS) cry wolf strategy if Google were to clamp down.

Look at these searches (I am sure you can find more):

Developing Knowledge about Local Search