New Google Local Discovery: Search by Photos

On mobile, Google is showing a new image based search interface. It is currently a supplement to the 3 Pack for local keyword searches and it shows local results visually based on an image matching the search query.

The new mobile focused search method does not yet appear on the desktop. It is not clear how permanent this new feature is but it is interesting in a number of respects.

It appears well below the Local Pack and organic results on keyword searches and displays local listings with an image that matches the keyword query. If you search for engagement rings williamsville on mobile you will see the local listings showing engagement rings, their business name and a star rating.

If on the other hand you search for earrings williamsville, ny, it will show many of the same local listings but with images of earrings instead of engagement rings.

As has been Google’s typical behavior over the past few years, this new search interface heads rapidly “down the rabbit hole” into a totally immersive experience allowing the searcher three ways to enter the netherworld.

A given image can be selected and the user will be taken to that business’s profile. If the user selects “More photos” immediately below the image carousel or selects  “View All” when they scroll to the right the user is taken to a grid of images where the user can either view the locations in the Local finder list view or again click into the image to see the business profile. 

Some observations:

1- This is a highly visual search metaphor and is very engaging.

2- It obviously relies on Google’s ability to understand the content of an image that has been uploaded to the business’s listing. We have seen similar examples of Google’s image understanding recently  where we saw Google swapping out images in the local pack based on the user query.

3- Google is clearly using sophisticated image recognition in  this endeavor and is quite successful at it. 

For now this new search metaphor is buried down the page, several scrolls below the ads, the pack and the organic results. But if users accept this new way of interacting with local businesses it could at some point replace the Local Pack for discovery.

Minmally it should be seen as one more way that Google understands a business entity, what they do and what they sell. 

Once again Google is ringing the image bell and local merchants need to pay attention. Your listing will win or lose its conversion battle based on the images that Google chooses to show.

It means that not only will you need multiple images for every important product category that you sell and want to show for, but it means that the images need to be done so well that they stand out from the competitors in the battle for clicks. 

It’s time to start hiring a pro or learning how to take luscious photos yourself.

Google Local Tests Continue With New CTA and Related Searches

I seem to be hooked into Google’s test servers these days as I am seeing a lot of tests that include the good, the bad and the very ugly of local search tests. As well as the occasional WFT?

In this most recent test, Google has taken the larger call to action and the suggested search ideas from the Scroll Pack test and grafted them onto the 3 Pack (maybe we should start calling it the 4-Pack?).

This test is very interesting, taking elements of the Scroll pack test but applying them to the traditional 3 Pack.

The more obvious “View more” call to action would seem likely to attract significant user attention.

The suggested alternative searches likewise would get some traffic and those business that do well across multiple categories are likely to benefit from these results. Pay attention to HKM Employment Attorneys in the above example.

Also note also that the suggested searches, when expanded, show four local listings not three. Room for an ad?

The number of suggested alternative searches varies from a few to many depending the category searched with restaurants having the most.

Regardless, these suggested alternative searches, when selected, continue to push the organic results further and further down the page.

Want to Protest SeaWorld? Visit their Knowledge Panel for Details

We have long noted that you rent but don’t own your business profile at Google. As Tim Capper has previously pointed out that is no more true than with the careless scraping of event sites that Google pulls off to add events to local search results. 

You do though, just have to wonder when the likes of SeaWorld might start to give Google an earful about providing details on an animal rights protest on their Business Profile (aka the Knowledge Panel) when users search for SeaWorld events.

Or when the Dallas Petland might have a hiccup about the Dallas Puppylmill protests when you search for Dallas Petland events:

Continue reading Want to Protest SeaWorld? Visit their Knowledge Panel for Details

Google Local Testing Splitting CTA’s From Main Business Profile on Mobile

Google always tests a lot and for some reason I have been seeing a number of these tests on one of my accounts on my iPhone. Changes in the layout of the mobile branded result were spotted by Joy in June. Here is another albeit an obvious test as I am only seeing on one of my Google iPhone log ins and not the other. 

Google is testing splitting off the main Business Profile (aka Knowledge Panel) CTA’s like calling and driving directions and moving them further down the page.

And then inserting various organic and Knowledge Graph elements between the main profile info and the calls to action. How far down the page seems to be search dependent. As does where various elements of the Knowledge Graph gets placed. 

Look at the two searches, one for Anchor Bar near me and the other for Anchor Bar Buffalo NY and note the differences. 

On the Near Me result above, the CTAs are almost at the bottom of the page below the events and alternative suggestions.

While on the Anchor Bar Buffalo NY search below they are much closer to the top and above the events.

Continue reading Google Local Testing Splitting CTA’s From Main Business Profile on Mobile

Google Local Events: Immersive Experience or Endless Loop?

My nephew and his fiancee recently moved back to Buffalo NY from San Francisco. Their dream was to help create and foster the art scene in the reviving Buffalo urban culture. So they created the Buffalo Institute for Contemporary Art (aka BICA)1

They bought some gallery space and put up a somewhat inadequate  SquareSpace website2. They did, upon my advice, add events  to their site3.

And after some nagging4 on my part, they verified their Google listing. And despite Squarespace cocking up the schema, Google added their events to their business profile. 

Google has long spoken about the immersive search experience as a way to give the user the answers they are looking for. Without leaving Google. Probably not a bad idea in general for much of local.

But in this case, while a searcher may get immersed in looking for event details from the business profile ( aka Knowledge Panel) it really is more like an endless loop of idiocy.

Selecting the obvious links once a user has clicked through to the event on Google to get to the Institute’s website doesn’t take the user to the website at all. Google takes the user back to the business profile to try again.

What kind of crappy experience is that?

Head over to Google to try it: Buffalo Institute of Contemporary Art

Click on an event and try it yourself5.

1- the least I can do is throw them a link. Is nepotism the same as buying links?

2- Kids just don’t listen. I tried to tell them that there were better alternatives than SquareSpace but did they listen? Noooo.

3- OK, they listen sometimes.

4- Who? Me? Nag?

5- Some brand searches couldn’t hurt either

Is Google Sunsetting the Local Finder in Favor of Google Maps?

Yesterday, I was doing some spam research and noticed that in Safari, when clicking the More Places link at the bottom of the desktop 3-Pack it was taking me into Maps. 

Thinking it a temporary glitch I switched to Chrome and the behavior was normal and it took me into the Local Finder. 

Today, both Safari & Chrome, when logged in on my Mac, are directing me to Maps when I select “More Places” but when not logged in, it directs me to the Local Finder.

On the search car insurance salisbury md when logged in I am take to this URL:,-75.6638575,12z/data=!3m1!4b1

When not logged in I am taken to this URL:

When logged in I am directed into Maps from the More Places link
When not logged in I am directed into the Local Finder from the More Places link

Why does it Matter?

The Local Finder, rolled out during the summer of 2015, as a listing view that replaced the single listing view that had been rolled out during the fall fo 2014. It has been a fast reliable and lightweight way to explore more listings related to the primary search without the overhead of going into Maps. In fact, on mobile, I am still be directed into the Local Finder.

I have, in some accounts, seen a tremendous jump in Map views in their Insights of late and this could very well be the reason.

Google, in their recent positioning of Maps as both a better local discovery and social play, may be trying to grease the skids of Maps ascendancy by directing more traffic to that subdomain.

Maps historically been less capable of searching for and identifying spam at scale as well.

And I would imagine that this change could affect traditional rank trackers as well.

Google Local Shows Photos to Match the User Query – And what it Means to You

Google Local has always been aggravating when it comes to showing your photos. Google would swap out your photos seemingly randomly. Your carefully chosen profile photo would suddenly disappear and be replaced with a skanky alternative of Google’s choosing. There never seemed to be rhyme or reason. 

But I have noticed that changing. Not the fact that they are swapping out photos. No Google can’t resist that.

This Local Scroll Pack clearly illustrates that Google is attempting to identify photos that match the user query.

But the fact that there appears to be a rhyme or reason. Or at least the beginnings of one.

Google has the best image recognition technology of the major players and that seems to be finally impacting local results. 

In this screen grab of the new Local Scroll Pack this use of image recognition to match the user query is both obvious AND accurate. The query was about engagement rings and Google showed an engagement ring instead of the profile photo for Barbara Oliver’s listing.

What does this mean for your business? Well given Google’s penchant for wanting to answer a users query and their belief that they can pick a photo better than you, it means the same thing that it always has. It means you need to upload lots of great photos so that no matter which one Google chooses it is a good one.

But now it also means that you really need to be thinking about photos that reflect the broad range of products and services that you deliver and that users might be searching on. If you carry wedding bands and engagement rings and earrings and necklaces you will want to be sure that you have great photos of each. And that they are easily identified in the image.

Will Google continue to screw up your images? Yes.

As you can see in this research by Eric Enge at Perficient Digital Google (and the other tech giants) has made great gains in being able to tag photos. That being said, they still are not as proficient at it as you and I.

Thus you will have to continue to spoon feed great photos and lots of them to the machine that is Google if you want a fighting chance of looking great to searchers.

But expect that Google will continue to try to match your photos to user queries and will hopefully be improving as they go.

Just how accurate has Google gotten? Take a look at this chart from Perficient Digital’s research:

Why Brands Should Be Worried About the Local Scroll Pack

On mobile, local brand searches on Google have long been mundane affairs largely focused on the brand that the consumer searched for. They delivered up nearby locations, a logo, an about tab and typically highlighted pages from the brand site.

It was a straight up recovery search by a customer that your brand owned. 

Even with the recent tests that displayed tabs for Brand Packs (ht/ Sergey Alakov), there are few distractions from the searchers task at hand, finding the location of the brand they were looking for. 

But the new Local Branded Scroll Pack changes all of that.

A simple recovery search becomes a discovery search allowing consumers to explore outside of their normal habits.  Google is actively highlighting related searches that might entice the brand searcher otherwise entrenched in their comfort zone.  Similar businesses that might serve what your favorite brand does  but cheaper, better or with fuller service are now readily highlighted front and center in the Branded Scroll Pack result.

Starbucks is a case in point.

With the new calls to action and bright red pins in the most recent versions of the Scroll Pack, searchers (or at least I was)  are actively guided to the red pins offered below the brand locations.

All of the sudden, Starbucks  isn’t necessarily the best coffee, isn’t the only one offering ready wifi and temp office space and is but one amongst many coffee shops. 

As Dan Leibson of Local Seo Guide noted in a conversation discussing these results: “I’m curious how this will net out. I would imagine for retail brands that focus on diverse products e.g. big box, they could theoretically net out ahead”.

I think that is largely true IF a brand is surfaced for the categories/attributes of the suggested search that are offered.

But for every brand that is rewarded there are going to be ones that won’t be. And while it might in the end be a zero sum game from Google’s perspective, it will not be seen as such from the point of view of the Starbucks of the world.

All of a sudden they have one more search result that they have to worry about and try to compete for just to keep their existing customers that are searching for them in the fold.

To see the current styles of brand packs ….

Continue reading Why Brands Should Be Worried About the Local Scroll Pack

Google Tweaks Local Scroll Pack Yet Again

Last week, we saw Google updating the as yet not fully rolled out Scroll Pack with stronger and more obvious calls to action for user engagement.

This week I am seeing yet another, subtler, update; Google has added more and more colorful icons for each section of the Scroll Pack result. This is the second UI update since the Local Scroll Pack was first seen in late May

While that sounds inconsequential as I write it, on the mobile display it dramatically increases the visibility of the pack and is quite eye catching. Clearly Google is tweaking the Local Scroll Pack to drive engagement the Local Finder.


On restaurants, the full range of attribute icons are visible on various searches.

On non-restaurant searches, the suggested alternative categories show the bright, red Maps pin instead.

Note the use of bright red pins in place of attribute icons.

When the suggested alternative search categories are expanded, the Local Scroll Pack becomes a rainbow of seductive color. With the first rollout, I worried that users would not interact with the local listings as frequently. But, while we await full rollout, this weeks and last’s upgrades have made the new Scroll Pack highly visible and likely to increase user interaction.

Continue reading Google Tweaks Local Scroll Pack Yet Again

Developing Knowledge about Local Search