Are Phone Numbers Returning to the 3 Pack?

Jennifer Slegg of theSEMPost is reporting the return of phone numbers to the Local 3 Pack results. I am not yet seeing them on my Mac with Safari, Chrome or Firefox although some others are reporting seeing them. Update: As of about 5:00 pm eastern they were showing world wide. 

Certainly their return would prove a boon to those dependent on calls for their sustenance like emergency plumbers etc and from a user POV I welcome them. It isn’t clear to me if this is the new normal (whatever the f%&k that means) or a broad test. Are you seeing them? If so what browsers?

I only wish I were a fly on the logs of the search results so I could see and know what Google sees and knows about user behaviors.

Courtesy of theSEMPost
Update: In small surveys across Google Plus and Twitter as to whether and where 3-pack with the phone # is being seen or not:

They were seen by folks searching from/located in in Calif, NV, AZ, Japan and Austria.

They were not seen by those searching in FL, NY, Pa, Seattle, Austin, Chicago, DC area, Toronto or the UK.

The results are dependent on physical searcher location NOT the location setting in search. However given the spread and frequency of visibility my current money is on a rollout not a test. Rollout in the sense of testing for the next 3 months or so as opposed to testing this week.

Google Testing HSA display + Local 3 Pack

Service businesses have been in a tizzy of late worrying about the possible demise of the local pack and its replacement by the Home Services Ad format. This would effectively monetize all of the prime real estate in local search and interject Google into their quoting process.

Maybe this screen shot will provide a small safe harbor in an otherwise stormy Google.

David Rodecker of Local Splash just shared this screenshot for the search: Plumber Emerald Hills which includes both the home service ad pack PLUS the new Local 3 -Pack.

Screen-Shot-2015-09-23-at-5.55.44-PM

Clearly this layout is a test as while it is currently returning this result for the Emerald Hills plumber search, it does not return for a San Francisco plumber search. As a side note, the Home Service Ad is now showing as far south as plumber san jose (that seems to be an expansion?).

I get why service area businesses are worried but I have, after many years of dealing with Google, learned that all you can count on with them is the NOW. Google is what Google does, today (only). They test so fast, change so quickly that their rate of change is quicker than you can ever respond as a business.

Thus the only offense is a good defense. Diversify, diversify, diversify. Diversify your search strategy to go after more organic and long tail opportunities plus video and Adwords. Diversify your advertising into other avenues besides Google even if the ROI is not as high as search.

But most importantly diversity your customer relations and retention. The best customer is one you already have not one that you have to find anew.

Make sure that you are taking care of every customer in a way that makes them want to share your information with their friends. Make sure you are staying in touch and get their buy in on how they want to hear from you in the future whether that is email, text or Facebook. Figure out a way to measure their satisfaction and if it isn’t the best in the market figure out how to change your approach so that it is.

Only then will you have some immunity from the vagaries of Google local search.

Personal Assistants & the Changing Nature of Local Search

Join Mary Bowling, David Mihm and me for the newest Deep Dive in Local Video. Each week we share our thoughts about the critical news and events in the past week in local. In the second half of that weekly video  we take a deeper strategic and tactical dive into one interesting area that caught their attention during the week and publish this weekly dive on the Local U Blog. We recently posted our newest installment:Video: Deep Dive into Personal Assistants & the Changing Nature of Search

These segments will typically be about seven minutes in length and be posted one to two weeks after their posting in the forum.

The complete video is posted in the Local U forums (paywall). In 15-20 minutes each week you can learn about the important events in the week that impacted local and potentially your agency. If you are a typical agency and are strapped for time to stay on top of critical events, the Local U forums is worth the price of admission for this reason alone.

An Updated List of Apple Business Listing Data Providers

Interested in who provides business listing data to Apple Maps? With rollout of iOS 9 Apple is becoming ever more important in local search.

This fact struck home early this year when a major theme park contacted me and said that people were piling up at their service entrance instead of their front gate. Turned out it was a routing issue on Apple Maps and surprisingly Apple was able to fix the issue within 24 hours. It did point out the need to have accurate POI information in Apple Maps

They source their data from many more sources than Google and the list is long. In fact I think that currently in the US alone they are likely sourcing data from 18 firms. Head over to Local U for the complete read:

A Updated List of Known Apple Maps Business Listings Data Providers

 

Details of Google’s Robo Calling Lawsuit Against Local Lighthouse

Screen Shot 2015-09-16 at 2.41.27 PM
From the front page of the Lighthouse website

Earlier today Google announced an educational and legal attack on deceptive robo calling that has and continues to run rampant in the local space.

Google mentioned in their blog today that they had filed a lawsuit. I have just read through the filing and it reads like one of my rants against this sort of thing. Maybe Google is serious this time around.

The suit was filed in the US District Court for Northern District of California against Local Lighthouse, a Tustin, CA based local SEO. The filing is a 3 part complaint for Federal Trademark Infringement, Unfair Competition and False Designation and False Advertising.

Here are some of the juiciest highlights from the filing detailing the tactics that we are all too familiar with:

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  1. Google is informed and believes, and based thereon alleges, that Defendant makes extensive, unauthorized, and misleading use of the GOOGLE mark and other marks that include  or incorporate the GOOGLE mark
  2. That Defendant’s sales  agents have made and continue to make various false and misleading claims during Defendant’s  telemarketing calls to confuse consumers regarding the true source or nature of Defendant’s services and the relationship between Google and Defendant. These include: (i) claims that Defendant’s sales agents represent Google or are calling on behalf of Google; (ii) claims that  Defendant is affiliated with Google or has been contracted by Google to provide SEO services;  and (iii) other claims designed to obfuscate Defendant’s identity and foster the mistaken belief  that Defendant and its services are approved, sponsored, or endorsed by Google.
  3. That Defendant  exploits such confusion to induce consumers to enter into contracts costing hundreds of dollars in recurring monthly bills.
  4. Evidence of such confusion is reflected in online consumer complaints and  pending lawsuits by consumers against Defendant. In addition, some consumers have directed their complaints regarding Defendant’s sales practices at Google.
  5. On July 29, 2014, Google sent Defendant a letter after receiving several complaints regarding Defendant’s telemarketing calls. Google told Defendant that consumers had complained about incessant, unsolicited automated telephone calls, misrepresentations of Defendant’s relationship with Google, and false guarantees of first-page placement in GOOGLE search results.
  6. Google demanded that Defendant immediately cease all such actions and bring its  practices into compliance with Google’s Third Party Policy. Google also demanded a copy of Defendant’s sales script.
  7.  On August 12, 2014, Defendant responded to Google’s letter by denying that it  used “robocalls” to market its services or that it harassed consumers with unwanted phone calls. Defendant claimed that it would “take quite a thorough look through the Sales Force Compliance to further our employee training to make sure all policies are being adhered to.”
  8. Defendant also denied that it guaranteed certain placement in search engines. Despite these representations however, Google received additional complaints.
  9. On January 9, 2015, Google sent Defendant another letter informing Defendant that it had received further complaints regarding Defendant’s telemarketing calls, including reports that Defendant’s sales representatives were introducing themselves as “Google Local Listing representatives.”
  10. The letter demanded that Defendant stop such misrepresentations and  bring its practices into compliance with Google’s Third Party Policy.
  11. Google continued to receive complaints from consumers indicating that Defendant’s sales representatives harassed them with multiple, unwanted telemarketing calls, misrepresented Defendant’s relationship with Google, and made false and misleading statements
  12.  For example, Google is informed and believes, and based thereon alleges, that Defendant’s sales agents have made statements such as: “We’re a Google subcontractor,” “we’re working for Google,” “the $100 fee [to initiate Defendant’s services] goes to Google,” and Defendant’s customers’ webpages “will show up multiple times on the front page and get what’s called ‘Front Page Domination.’”

Here is the filing if you would like to read it yourself: Google Complaint Against Lighthouse.

Not to pile on but their Yelp reviews make for good reading as well.

Robo Callers – Google is not going to take it any more – Files Lawsuit

Update: Details of Google’s Robo Calling Lawsuit Against Local Lighthouse are now available.

Apparently Google is not going to take the abuse from robo callers any more. Today Google is publicly starting to educate the public about rob caller’s abuses in Google’s name AND has apparently initiated its first law suit against a search marketing firm that has apparently been at the forefront of SMB abuse.

Robo callers have long been more than a thorn in the side of small businesses, often calling the same business 6,8,10 times in a week with a common refrain. Masquerading as Google, they inveigle, threaten, cajole or otherwise bullshit the small business into parting with their money.

The reputations of the search industry and Google have been the collateral damage in the robot caller’s battle to profit from ignorance. All too often you would find reports of these characters in the Google My Business Forums, asking how to get Google to stop harassing them. Despite the efforts of many noting that it wasn’t in fact Google, the posters continued to believe that it was Google harassing them or worse, stealing from them.

In today’s post in their “Safety Center”, titled Report Robocall Scams (cross posted to Google and Your Business) Google, provides tips to protect oneself  and is also providing a form to report robo callers directly to Google.

More significantly they have reportedly have taken one company to court.  Although I have yet to confirm the specifics of this.

Continue reading Robo Callers – Google is not going to take it any more – Files Lawsuit

Google Rolling Out Consolidated Interface for My Business & AdWords Access?

Scott Hendison of Search Commander in Portland, reported some strange goings on with Google My Business today for clients that were using location extensions in Adwords – a consolidated interface using the current bulk upload interface that presented both the local listing and the AdWords account.

From Scott’s post: TWO of three clients that I’ve spoken with today got redirected here after logging into Google.com/mybusiness – Apparently it’s called “Google Business Accounts for location extensions.”

When he was asked if the user had inadvertently gone to the Bulk interface he noted: “That’s what I thought too for the first one, but an hour later, another guy was automatically redirected while we were on the phone together. Also, each of them have that “business account” that uses their Google Adwords ID as the name – you can see that in the photo – really weird…“.

I have no idea exactly what is happening but it makes perfect sense for Google to start consolidating their local interfaces between Google My Business, Bulk and Adwords for local businesses (ie those that use location extensions) into a single unified interface.

Given Google’s propensity for testing this seems more likely a test than a brain fart on their part. Have you seen this?

In reading the help file that Scott referenced it appears that this is in fact rolling out. In the help article called Business Accounts for location extensions they noted that Google My Business Locations is now the source for business information used in AdWords location extensions.

They go on to note:

Locations in business accounts and in accounts that haven’t been verified are not currently visible in the Google My Business dashboard on Google+. Therefore, Google My Business Locations is the recommended tool for managing locations used in AdWords. 

For fewer than 10 locations of the same business or a service area business, we appreciate your patience; we’ll have a solution ready for you soon. For now, please contact us.

 

Negative Review – How Would You Respond?

Negative reviews are the one of the hardest issues that SMBs have to confront. Learning how to respond to them effectively is best learned by sharing amongst ourselves and with these same SMBs.

So I wanted to try some participatory blogging to tap the collective consciousness about what makes for a good response to a negative review.

On LocalU blog I am sharing an example of a an actual negative review and I then ask you to write a response to that review as if you were the owner. I will then share the actual response with you and ask you to critique it. Maybe together we can find just the right combination of words that will best serve the business.

Here is a real negative review from the post.

I’ve been seeing Barbara for years … long before she opened her own business. She had always been warm and friendly, happily meeting my every need and with awesome jewelry. I have sent many friends to her. Of late, Ms. Oliver is not the same person I once gladly recommended. Unless I’m willing to spend large sums of money per visit, it seems she can’t be bothered. My last encounter with her resulted in a promised follow-up that never came. It’s important that a merchant always show respect and courtesy to all, especially those who helped make your business. Maybe it’s just my impression, but Barbara seems to forget where she came from and those who knew her “back when”!

Here is some backstory:

Barbara initially had no idea who the poster was. She was not a recent customer and did not show up in any recent transaction. After some back and forth and a number of revisions to a response, Barbara remembered the person and estimated that it had been almost three years between the visit and the response.

Please take a moment to head over to the Local U blog post let us (and everyone else) know how you would have responded and what you thought of the real world response that was given.

Survey: Why do Customers Leave Reviews for Local Businesses?

I have always wondered about triggers and motives that lay beneath consumer’s desire to leave reviews for local merchants. Fortunately large scale consumer research is now relatively cheap and easy with Google Surveys.

I just published the first summary of my search into the question, When and Why do Consumers Leave Reviews for Local Businesses at the GetFiveStars blog.

Using Google Survey filtering question, we first surveyed 2685 consumers to ascertain their review frequency. We then asked the 30% that indicated that they have leave at least one review in the past 12 months for a local business to answer in their own words as to why.

The results are interesting and are the first in a coming series of consumer and business research as to attitudes towards reviews that we will be running at GetFiveStars.*

*Disclaimer: I am a founder, owner and employee of GetFiveStars so any pride or other bias is to be understood.

 

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

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