Mike B Around the Interwebs

I have been heads down for the past several months exploring the ins and outs of Google Questions & Answers. Out of that came a ton of research* and finally some articles:

At Local U, Mary Bowling and I discuss Q & A:

Video Deep Dive: Google’s Q&A – Questions and Answers examined

A three part series on the ins, outs and outcomes for Google Q & A at GetFiveStars:

Part #1 – Google Q & A – Get To Know Google’s Latest Local Feature – The basics and why it matters.

Part #2 – The Big Guide To Google Questions And Answers (Q & A) – The ins and outs, how does this new brand hazard really work.

Part #3 – 5-Step Plan For Success With Google Q & A – How to succeed in this newest solcial, local environment.

At StreetFightMag, with David Mihm (always a fun discussion):

Two Big Facebook Moves in the First Two Weeks of 2018

And to my great honor, not something that I wrote but something I am very proud of:

Mike Blumenthal – The Search Community Honors You

  • And of course a new feature at GetFiveStars that allows agencies and brands to monitor it. This feature so alarmed me when it came out that Don, Aaron, Thomas and I decided to build a feature to allow locations, brands and agencies working on their behalf a fighting chance in the battle for location reputation.

Google Updates GMB Websites to Include Posts as They Pass 1.25 Million Sites Created

Google has announced an update to the Google My Business Website product to now integrate Google Posts into the website content.

This is an obvious first move as Google moves Websites from a minimal viable product to something more full featured but still easy to use. The inclusion of Posts creates allows a business to add additional relevant content over time, a win for the business and Google.

Simultaneously they announced the ability to add up to 9 photos distinct from your GMB photos and a quicker time to publish. It would appear that means that the rendering of the final HTML is not done until you visit the site the first time.

Click to view actual site

Since introduction Google has sustained a build rate of over 5000 new sites per day and they currently have 1.25 million sites created. While many of these are in the developing world, a significant percentage are showing up in the US and Europe. The inclusion of Posts should cement that trend.

The product is still missing basic SEO features like Title Tags but for a business that has chosen to only have a Facebook page this product could offer significant impact and value.

Google My Business Now Officially Supports Video

Colan Nielson of Sterling Sky spotted the video option in the Google My Business dashboard starting to appear last week. Google has now officially announced that every dashboard now has the feature to see what videos consumers have uploaded and to upload your own.

How it works:

Videos will appear in the overview tab of the Google My Business Dashboard Customer uploaded videos can be found in the ‘customer’ tab Merchant uploaded videos can be found in the ‘by owner’ tab All videos can be viewed together in the ‘videos’ tab After upload it could take up to 24 hours for the videos to appear. Once live, they will display where local photos do.

In addition to uploading videos, merchants will have the ability to flag inappropriate videos through their dashboard. Native mobile support and notifications for new customer videos are coming soon.

The feature is available via the Photos tab:

Videos on Google Maps first seen on the consumer side of Maps in late August and added to the API at the time of the last update.

Google Adds Insult to Injury as They Enter the Google Hall of Shame in 2018

In late October I reported of widespread name abuse in the jewelry industry near Toronto. I even flagged it on Google thinking that it was so very obvious that even with their collective spam fighting head stuck so deeply into a dark, posterior orifice they would be able to correctly identify it and remove it.

Ah but I am ever the optimist.

My suggestion, despite all evidence and common sense, was NOT applied:

And the category is still rife with abuse:

Google GMB Strategy & The Role of SMB Outreach

2017 was the year for the Google My Business Center. There was a massive rollout of paid, free and improved products for Google Local this past year (Posts, Websites, Messaging,  Local Service ads, Q & A, Bookings, API 4.0) and a raft of updates to both the usability and functionality of the GMB.

This came after years of neglect, the messy integration into Google Plus, the subesequent even messier pull away from Google Plus and a year or two to clean up the mess. Regardless, this current raft of updates reflect the reality that Google Local is at the core of Google’s mobile strategy going forward.

Local is receiving significant corporate support and is a moat that Google is defending. Critical parts of that moat are the extensive business knowledge graph database with deep and increasingly refined attributes and the direct to SMB and the growing agency (functioning on their behalf) relationships that Google has.

These “parts” offer a source for the data that Google values at the core of Local as well as a low cost DIY sales channel that can take advantage of their ever improving self serve ad products.

For the overall strategy to succeed Google needs direct and on-going SMB engagement. Historically this has been a problem for Google where many SMBs would set and then forget the Local Business Center and the Google My Business Dashboard.

From where I sat, this often was the result of Google thinking, like they did with their search engine: “Build it and they will come”.  It did apparently happen for Facebook with their simpler and more intuitive post boosting. But that never happened for Google in local.

Google though, with rolling out a vast array of products that appeal to a variety of local verticals and markets*,  seems to have finally gotten the message of simple and straight forward value for the SMB.

But Google is not assigning GMB uptake to chance and they are leaving no email stone unturned in their efforts to increase SMB engagement. They finally get that they can not wait for the SMB to arrive giggly at their dashboard, data in hand.  Google seems to understand the need to actively draw them into the GMB and keep them there. Email seems to be at the core of that tactic.

David Mihm and I have mentioned the near spam levels of email that Google has been sending. But my impressions were created from the many emails from the different local listings that I manage.

This Gmail account that I recently set up for one of my GMB accounts though captures the sheer volume of emails that Google has been sending and is a reflection of their forceful efforts at SMB engagement. This email account has no other purpose than receiving communiques from Google. I deleted any Google message that wasn’t related to local in some way. Note that this client is not doing posts which would have delivered a number of additional emails:

* Websites is designed for developing markets, Messaging targets the local service professional as does Local Service ads,  Posts is for locations that are into brand building and story telling, Bookings is initially targeted for the spa and salon industry and the API is targeted to agencies that currently deal with a lot of small local businesses. Q & A, well, that is targeted towards consumers. Any business that finds pleasure in it, is obviously a masochist.


Google My Business Verification Whitelisting Update

I recently received these details about the yet unannounced Google My Business Whitelisting program that I wrote about last month. The program allows large agencies to not have to go through the normal postcard verification process and to have the listings instantly verified.

The writer asked to remain anonymous. I have been unable to verify some of the details with a second source. That being said, the writer was knowledgable and creditable.


  • It executes in the new GMB dashboard not via the API as I previously stated.
  • There are certain categories (most you know but there are few surprises) that are excluded and still need to be manually verified.
  • It supports both individual and bulk uploads.
  • From other sources I have learned that the program has a minimum of 10,000 listings to participate.

His communications with minor edits for clarity:

We received the [Google whitelisted] account this past fall.

The account looks like anyone else’s and has the same functionality. The only difference is, that we don’t have the normal verification process. Sometimes the [new] GMB listings goes live immediately, sometimes they are pending review and sometimes we have to verify locations the normal way, because some categories are not available for instant verification.

Pending review:
I realized that locations with no information in the entry itself and a weak web presence (no or bad website) more often goto the pending review status than others. Also bigger companies with several departments (hospitals, universities) which have the same address, very often go into pending review (the first 50% go live and then the rest move to pending in review, but I don’t know if it works in the end or if they want pictures or anything else like normal, because at this point I just don’t to know).

Very often locations which I bulk upload go into pending review, when there is an existing unverified Maps listing, but Google didn’t offer as a choice of locations from a list of already existing unverified listings with similar names after the upload like normal. I didn’t try it with single locations I put into the account.

When I look for the location which is in pending review status, and take the correct name and put it as an single location to my account, it goes live instantly.

The instant verification used the new layout for adding new locations into the account.

Oh and because of the instant verification I forgot something else that doesn’t work.

When you have a verified account and nobody answers your request for access, Google gives you the option to verify the GMB listing newly with PIN, phone, … after one week. These GMB listings are also not available for the instant verification, the system shows them still as verified profiles.

Categories which are not allowed for instant verification (which we got from google +1 we found out by ourselves):
1. Locksmith & plumbers
2. Car Services (taxis, limos,etc)
3. Towing services & Auto glass repair
4. Garage door repair
5. Moving companies
6. Adult businesses
7. Computer & appliance repair
8. Cable & internet providers
9. Alcohol and drug abuse recovery services
10. Home or office cleaning service
11. Bail Bond providers
12. Pest control services
13. Insurance providers to individuals or small busineses
14. Lawyers and legal services
15. Personal and small business loans
16. Contracting service for home or business work and repair
17. Electrical repair, installation and inspection services
18. Flower shops and flower delivery services
19. Real estate agents

Thoughts About Local Knowledge Panels Not Showing for Branded Searches

Last week a number of agencies noted that theirs and their client’s Knowledge Panel were not showing on a non- geo-modified brand search when they had been previously.

I don’t doubt that Google changed something. The reports were too pervasive to think that it was just a Google brain fart.

What I think that they changed was the relative importance of Knowledge Panels vis a vis the other universal results.

Google has stated that they have a relevance value of disparate types of results (ie video, organic, KP, etc) that orders search results to any query.

I assume that for any query there is a threshold for any given type of answer (ie video etc) to make in into the results.

Have you ever seen a local website outrank a KP result for a brand search? Last week we saw a number of them.

That implies to me that all of the sudden that number that was applied to the KP that dictates when and where a KP shows was lowered compared to the website.

A similar logic applies in the missing branded KP results: the newly ranked KP entity does not now meet the threshold value required to appear for that given value due to its lower relative value.

Obviously my hypothesis is just that. But for a start it is consistent with the facts.

Next step would be to test my hypothesis and see if with some combination of tactics you can escalate the relative importance of the entity for a simple name only brand search.

Ideas to test:
– reviews at Google and Yelp and around the web that include the brand name
branded mentions at high profile sites
– more branded anchor text across the web
– increasing the use of brand name in title tags and headlines of the web the website – ie lead with brand on your home page title tag
– perhaps some internal branded links back to the home page from the about us or contact us page

Another source of ideas to test would be to do a local comparison of your location’s attributes to those of local entities that did not lose their KP

Like I said, it’s just a hypotheses. But it is one that at least offer a path to testing to see if some of these can be recovered.

Alternative ideas? Suggestions? Let me know.

Google Local Realtor Search Result – On Steroids

Marci Weiche is a realtor in Buffalo Mn. And a good one whose husband cares about her website and is making sure her digital presence is up to snuff.

I am not sure if this is a test or the new normal for realtors but this search result is really up to snuff.

Note the placement of her website above the knowledge panel and the inclusion of her photo. And the many photos in the organic results. Cripes she even managed to get in that cute family photo.

In addition to photos from her site, photos were grabbed from Zillow, Yelp and Realtor.com.

Is this the new norm for realtors and other professionals? Or just a test?

Google Updates GMB Home View for Businesses

Google has updated the home view of each business so that each business is presented with a view of their Google data that is unique and important to that business. Depending on activity and busness type the calls to action and features highlighted will very on a business by business basis.

Previously the home view offered each bus from a standardized card view that was consistent across different locations.

While this could be a test, it has the feel of a rollout to me. But who knows.

Here are three examples of the new home page highlighting different calls to action for different businesses (jeweler, restaurant, doctor):

Click to view larger
Click to view larger

Along with this new view, arrived a new spam email from Google that I had previously seen encouraging inactive businesses to confirm their data:

Mike B around the Interwebs

I have been traveling a lot and writing less than I would like… hopefully I will be able to get some more content out the door over the next few months….

Here are articles/interviews/podcasts where I have add my 2 cents of late:

Voice of America Interview with Kimberli J. Lewis: Business Growth through Presence and Reputation Management (podcast)

Video Deep Dive: Why are reviews being taken down by Google? (also available as a podcast)

Video: Last Week in Local Dec. 4, 2017 Important articles in Local last week with Mary Bowling (also available as a podcast)

How Far Can Google Local Services Expand? My b-weekly convo with David Mihm

Developing Knowledge about Local Search