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

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

Google Websites’ Uptake Accelerates as they Pass 1.1 Million Total

It’s been six months since the worldwide introduction of Google Websites, their free, single page web builder for Google My Business listings. Google has confirmed that the total number of websites created has surpassed 1 million some time in early November.

The number of sites created is impressive and should give pause to companies that are creating websites, what is even more interesting about that number is that since the last time I checked in mid September, the pace has accelerated from just under 6000 a day to over 7000 a day.

Websites created since introduction vs Projected websites based on first 3 months trend. Click to view larger.

Initially from June through July, Google was adding slightly over 6000 sites a day. I assumed at the time that was due to introduction buzz.

From mid July, when Google had hit 250,000 Websites, until mid September they were still adding 5800 or so a day. While a slightly lower rate, still significant. However since my last check in September over two months ago, Google has been adding 7300 a day.

On a country by country basis India and Indonesia continue to lead the total count with both having more than doubled in slightly under 3 months.  Turkey has pulled into 4th place with a 134% increase bypassing Brazil which seems to have stalled.

15-Jun 15-Sep 5-Dec
Country Total Pages Total Pages Total Pages Increase since 9/15
India 44,600 96,400 196,000 103%
Indonesia 30,400 85,500 196,000 129%
United States 16,200 39,700 86,400 118%
Türkiye (turkey) 9,115 19,900 46,500 134%
Brasil 15,800 37,700 43,100 14%
Italia 6,280 12,500 29,300 134%
日本 (Japan) 6,870 12,800 27,700 116%
France 4,560 10,100 25,000 148%
Россия (Russia) 5,120 11,300 23,400 107%
Deutschland 4,300 9,400 21,600 130%
United Kingdom 3,570 8,250 18,600 125%
Polska (Poland) 3,285 6,740 16,000 137%
Argentina 7,820 13,500 15,500 15%
Canada 2,720 6,490 14,300 120%
Viet Nam 2,880 6,370 13,300 109%
Australia 2,620 5,870 12,200 108%
Espana 5,270 9,810 12,100 23%
Mexico 3,470 8,030 11,000 37%
Malaysia 1,730 4,600 10,300 124%

And while the product was designed to attract small businesses in the developing world, it has continued to gain ground in the developed world as well. Note that the United States, Italy, Japan, Germany, the UK, Poland, Canada and Australia show in the top 20 with most gaining gaining more than 125% since the last count.

Google Assistant Now Recommending Local Services – Particularly Their Own

Today Google has announced on their blog that the Google Assistant will now start helping you find local service providers.

In the U.S., this feature will start rolling out over the coming week, so help is just around the corner. In many cities the Google Assistant will suggest providers that have been prescreened by Google and companies like HomeAdvisor and Porch so you can feel confident they’re ready to take on the job. And if you’re in a city that doesn’t have any available guaranteed or screened providers, you’ll still get an answer from the Assistant with other nearby results.

But as Joy Hawkins of Sterling Sky  pointed out on Twitter, the example that Google is showing are not of HomeAdvisor or Porch but of the new Google Local Services ads.

If you wondered how Google was going to monetize Home, this provides a good framework for that with its ability to facet the search into discreet elements and provide a single answer if needed. It mirrors closely the conversation David Mihm and I had on Streetfight at the beginning of the week where we asked How Far Can Google Local Services Expand?

Now we know the first baby step.

According to Google it’ll be available for eight different categories at launch, including:

  • Plumbers
  • House cleaners
  • Locksmiths
  • Heating and air conditioning services
  • Electricians
  • Garage door repair services
  • House painters
  • Appliance repair services

For businesses within the above categories, local services on the Assistant is currently free for any business that can pass the Local Services by Google vetting process. Businesses that want to participate can fill out this interest form and someone from the Local Services team will reach out to help them onboard after validating their location and category. Businesses do not have to pay to go through the background check process.

Homewdvisor, in their pre-release about this feature noted:

The experience includes the option to instantly connect users with a HomeAdvisor pre-screened professional through HomeAdvisor’s Instant Connect technology. The experience is available via the Google Assistant on eligible Android phones, iPhones and on voice activated speakers like Google Home.

If anyone tries it, please update us!

Google Q & A Rolling out to the Desktop

Google Q & A, periodically visible on the desktop, seems to be finally rolling out full force to both PCs and Macs.

Earlier in the week, after the feature had largely gone missing even on mobile.  Danny Sullivan (now of Google) noted that it was but a temporary bug. It would seem that it was a precursor to the full roll out which appears to be happening now.

As you can see, it is viisble in the Knowledge Panel AND the Local Finder.  It is not yet visible in Google Maps.

First rolled out this summer with a mobile only visibiliy, desktop visibility will increase both how easy it is to find them as well as make it easier to have them created. I am seeing a surprising number of them both rurally and in urban environments although the questions are not always valuable or appropriate.

The feature is not yet visible in Google Maps nor in the Google My Business Dashboard. Google has though recently started alerting business owners to their existence by way of the newly expanded Search Dashboard. We are hoping to see more active alerts via the full GMB dashboard at some point.

Developing Knowledge about Local Search