Google Places has rolled out a new Google Places Bulk Upload Tool. Here are two videos, the first is for already bulk upload verified users explaining differences from the current tool and the second is a tutorial for new users explaining the tool in detail:
Google has upgraded their local search results and the Grey pinned results are now live. Note in the screen shot that the branded One Box search now shows either 4 images or a streetview and 2 images. The grey “Feedback” link at the lower right takes the user directly to the Report a Problem input screen.
With the rollout of the new grey pin local search results, Google has continued to increase the amount of information from your Places page that is visible in the main search results.
Google is prepared to turn over to your company the better part of the information above the fold and with a little work and some luck you can maximize what the searcher sees about your business.
Click to view larger:
Here are 8 tips that help you maximize “your ad” on the front page of Google:
1)Select the title tag of your home page with care. If you service only one city, it is no longer necessary to include the city in your title tag of your home page. Google is using other location signals to ascertain this information. Personally, I think that brand often trumps keywords in local markets. When that is the case I put I put the company name first which creates a strong, clean branded visual for the user. The brand is front and center in the results.
2)With the addition of Sitelinks Google provides 6 (it can be 12 but I have yet to see that many in local) or more additional opportunities to engage the customer. It is important for the pages that display to front load the description tags with the call to action and keep them short as there are very few characters (54?) that actually display.
3)Which pages show and title tags show and why is a bit of mystery so you want to be sure to monitor what is actually showing. It means that you want to be sure to NOINDEX pages that you definitely don’t want Google to have, like your 404 page. If a page does show up that you don’t want showing in this display but you don’t want to NOINDEX the page it might be necessary to demote the page from Sitelinks via the Webmaster tools. REGARDLESS, it means that even pages that you didn’t think would see much light might need to be updated with more relevant Titles and Description tags. Google changes what shows so review the display periodically.
4)Know what other IYP or Local Directories are doing a good job on the long tail branded search for your business name and be sure that you have maximized your presence with them. That might include data, photos and if appropriate reviews.
5)Google puts their reviews front and center so including Google in your review management process goes without saying. But since Google will be showing other review sites as well it makes sense to include them in your process.
6)Google also might surface rich snippet testimonials from your site. If you have testimonials be sure that they are marked up and the testimonial page has enough internal links that Google sees the page as a prominent one.
Onsite “Review Stations” AOK with Google
Several weeks ago, I attended a Google GetYourBusiness online seminar and I was surprised to hear the speaker strongly encouraging SMBS to install a computer at their places of business to use as a station where clients, immediately upon completing a transaction, could easily leave a review on their Google Place’s page.
Clearly if training, sales and support at Google all say it is OK, then it must be OK to have on site workstations for the purpose of generating reviews. And one can infer from all of this is that the review filter would not block the review based on location (IP) alone.
Yelp and Tripadvisor long ago put in place bans on reviews generated onsite from the place of business. In the case of Yelp, the reviews get filtered. TripAdvisor goes so far as to flag/punish the business with a Red notice questioning the integrity of the hotel. Avvo will allow the practice by prior approval and an explanation as to the need. Google’s policy is clearly contrary to the industry norms. Allowing and even encouraging the behavior of using a review station is questionable at best.
While there is nothing against practice in the Google Places review guidelines it is a practice that I have discouraged in my consulting and writings.
Firstly it seems coercive. If a customer is in your store, they can’t very easily say no and more importantly, they might not feel free to leave a fully honest or negative review. It is on the business owners turf and it creates an unequal power dynamic that seems contrary to the spirit of fair, honest and useful reviews.
Secondly, the practice of allowing these reviews make abuse by business owners even easier and more likely.
Apparently, Google doesn’t agree with me. For now, at least with Google, you can solicit reviews in your place of business without worry of losing them to the filter if they are otherwise ok.
Should you gather reviews from a work station on your premises? That depends on a number of factors specific to your business. Despite Google allowing the practice, I am not comfortable with it in many situations. Because of ethical concerns and the obvious, location centric footprint I have never suggested the idea to clients.
There may be reasons why it makes sense for your business. Here are some things to consider:
-Certainly all of the ethical issues are at play and if you do encourage the use of an internal workstation you need to take them into consideration.
-There will still be logistic issues with user accounts and the likely need for the business to provide many users with help.
-I have said it before and I will say it again, DO NOT put all of your review eggs in one basket. This should not be the only way you gather reviews and Google should not be the only site you ask for reviews on. They could easily change their mind on this policy and all of the reviews gathered this way could disappear in a puff of smoke.
I think it an error on the part of Google to encourage reviews be captured in this way. Regardless of whether it is an intentional act on their part or an oversight in their policy, I think it will further degrade the quality of reviews in Google Places and make spamming easier and more likely to occur.
Neither you nor I have the ability to change which way the winds blow. If at the end of the day it makes sense for your business to implement the practice, do so cautiously. Recognize that any benefit may be short lived and the reviews may go more quickly than they came. Most importantly of all, respect the customer and their needs in the transaction.
We know that Google has been integrating author results in the main search for a while and late last month tweaked those results with the addition of circles . But Google is now linking the Author Information image in the main search directly with recent Google Plus posts in a results much like the Plus Places integration seen earlier in the week. Unlike the local results which were in Places but not the Main results, this integration is occurring in the main search results.
To see the results search on an author with author information like Matt McGee and then click directly on the author photo to see the integration with the Posts in the search results: