The New Adwords Express


Google’s Adwords Express. For a business with more than 2 reviews and greater than an 4 star rating, it will show your star rating with the ad. One of the things I hate is that, unbeknownst to the business placing the ad, if the stars are clicked, it is a billable event and the searcher is taken to your Places Page NOT the web page that you had opted for when you purchased the ad.


On the Places Page, the searcher is subjected to the normal indignities of seeing both additional ads AND a list of nearby competitors. Perhaps a reasonable trade off if the business was aware of the quid pro quo or could opt out, but neither is the case. Regardless it hardly seems reasonable that a business should be paying for the privilege of showing a searcher additional ads on Google.


There are a number of other issues I have with the practice besides the indignity of paying to have users to see more ads and learn about your competitors:

1- There are no analytics of the event. It is impossible to see how many ads that were clicked went to the Places Page instead of your website thus it is difficult to asses the value of the ad. A click on the stars shows in the Places analytic as an action and exactly the same as a visit to your website.

2- A corollary to the above is that there is no ability to track the campaign accurately. Since the click never makes it to your website there can be no measurement of conversions or goals in Analytics or the value of the click.

3- There is no indication in the Help files that you are paying when a user clicks on the star. I had to confirm the practice by contacting Google.

4- More importantly, as most Express users do not make it to the Help files, there is no indication in Places that your ad will show your review stars or that a click on them is billable.

5- When you place the ad, there is no indication that the user might be sent to your Places Page even though you explicitly selected the option for sending the user to your web page.

6-If a business has no reviews or a low star rating they are not paying this extra fee. How is that fair? Only better businesses are thus taxed?

With Adwords and location extensions you have the option to enable clicks to call. You pay if the searcher does in fact call. That is a reasonable option in that it is both a choice to turn it on or not and it is an event that is measurable and likely to lead to a conversion.

The other Adwords case where Google will show review stars is with the seller ratings extensions option. In that case you are also “automatically opted in to showing seller ratings with your ads”. (Where is a good copywriter when we need one? Does “opt” not mean choice? Oxymoronic at best.) In this seller ratings case however, when the searcher is taken to the product reviews, it is not a billable click. While it may disrupt your purchase funnel, the pros seem to outweigh the cons.

While a review highlighted Adwords Express ad is more visually attractive, the total lack of knowledge, control and tracking makes this one of those options that is easy to hate.

Google Places: Making Information More Visible

Google has just released a new browser plugin (Chrome & IE) tool, Google Related that provides information that Google thinks is relevant to a given website that you are visiting. The tool, while working across a range of e-commerce, information & local websites, is of particular interest in the local space as it provides direct access to information drawn from your Google Places page.

When Google noted last month that they would be making buried information in Places more visible, they were not kidding. The plug-in presents maps, reviews and related places front and center in a tool bar at the bottom of your website. It may also reference videos and additional web sites and will show these if 1)the info is available AND 2)the viewing screen is wide enough. The video, unlike the other options, plays in place and offers no click through option. As the screen resolution drops fewer options are displayed.

The new plugin provides a user with two additional links to your Place page, one link to your Google Places review page, links to 3rd party review sites and links to the Places page for businesses that show up in the Related Places section of your Place Page.

The feature set, while of likely use to the searcher, is most likely to benefit Google and their properties, driving page views and ad revenues.

In pushing Google Places information out to the greater web, Google is once again putting review management at the fore of both the searcher and the business’s mind. The use of Related Places is sure to raise the ire of many an SMB, much as it did when the feature was rolled out in early 2010. At the time it was referred to as Places Nearby You Might Like and was the first obvious indication to SMBs that they did not control their Places page but that Google did. It also demonstrated that Google was developing a sophisticated “business graph” that was capable of mapping out a web of similar local businesses across the local market.

It also raises a number of other questions. Will Google provide any analytical information about the information that is attached to your website? How many times folks viewed the review summary? How many visited your Place page or better visited a competitor site? If Google is going to attach this sort of information to a business website, they should have the analytics in place to help the business understand how to improve things.

Here is the same screen shot as above captured on a wider screen. Note how the web pages and videos now show:

Interestingly if you click on the Map pop up it will take you to a new Map view that by default shows reviews and related places as you scroll down the page:

If there are no reviews it shows related places in the new map view:

If you click on one of the last 4 reviews highlighted in the reviews tab it will feature that review in a custom view of your places page, elevating that specific review:


This display of hours is something that I have only seen on a few of the websites and it is not clear why it shows sometimes and not others.

Google Hotpot Recommendations Now Surfacing on Places Page and Maps

Hotpot, Google’s new recommendation engine for local, while still in its infancy is already influencing results in Places and Maps. In Maps, when a searcher sees a listing that has a review from a Hotpot friend, Google will surface that friend’s snippet in the list view. As such, in this case, it is the most relevant snippet I have ever seen in Maps view. It was surprising to “see a friend” and it was attention grabbing seeing Stever’s icon there. In that regard, it is very rewarding and likely to feed back into the social success of Hotpot…

The friends snippet is not yet showing on a pure Places search but it is showing up prominently on the Places Page. I assume once there is more data and the quality has been confirmed you will see it there and at some point showing in the organo local blended results as well. (click to see full size)

In some regards, Hotpot does not need widespread social adoption to succeed. It just needs enough input to start improving search results for folks and it can do that with limited social circles and but a few reviews by the searcher. In the end, Google may not care as much about being a social power house as a marketing power house. Better, more relevant and more focused search results that come from personalization is one path there.