Posts Tagged ‘Google’

Google Officially Launches the Local Carousel: What You Need To Know

Tuesday, June 18th, 2013

Like Bigfoot, Google’s Local Carousel had been seen in the wild but aside from random sightings no one could verify it’s true existence.  That is, until today.

Earlier this morning, Google made an official statement about the update on its Google+ Page confirming that the “carousel” was in fact real, and was rolling out to English local search results in the U.S.

The initial tests I have run, along with observations from other local SEO’s seem to indicate that at the moment these results are only appearing for restaurant, nightlife, and hotels.  My take is that it is currently limited to verticals that people tend to want to get quick “on the go” results for.  This may be why many people first started noticing these results on mobile devices as far back as December.

Local Carousel for Mexican Restaurants in Corona, CA.

Jade Wang, the Community Manager for Google+ Local, offered more insight into the update with advice for businesses wondering how they can benefit from the update in a post in the Google and Your Business Forums:

How can I get my business to show up in the carousel?

While we can’t guarantee inclusion in search results, we can say that the carousel will show results from listings in Google Maps using categories. Just as in regular ranking, Google’s algorithms take into account many factors to select the places and results that are most relevant to the user. This algorithm based approach is also used to decide which businesses are in the carousel.

Why is this feature only available for some business verticals?

We’re committed to providing users a high quality search experience for every query. The carousel filtering experience is a good fit for some categories of local businesses. We will continue to experiment with different designs and interfaces to make sure that users get the information they’re looking for, fast.

My business is on the carousel, but I’d like to change the photo. How can I do that?

The Google business listing is one of several sources we use for the photos in the carousel, and making sure high-quality images are posted to it will help improve your photo. However the image selection, like the actual ranking of businesses, is primarily decided by algorithms and so we can’t guarantee complete control over the image.

What You Need To Know, TL;DR

  • Currently the local carousel is limited to certain queries and verticals
  • Like organic and local search results before them, carousel results are generated via the algorithm, as are the photos selected for the business
  • The number of carousel results you get in your search results is determined by your screen size.  My 19 inch Dell monitor at 1280×1024 gives about 10 listings, as you can see in the screenshot above.  However, at the office I was getting upwards of 15 listings on a higher resolution widescreen monitor.
  • The rating system for carousel listings use the Zagat rating system, and not the recently announced star ratings.
  • The type of information provided by the carousel will vary based on query
    • Food related queries provide a photo, name, Zagat rating, number of reviews, type of cuisine and price range
    • Hotel and nightlife queries provide photo, name, Zagat rating, number of reviews, and address
  • When you hover over a carousel listing the pin on the map for that listing will get bigger, however hovering over a pin on the map does not provide any visual representation in the carousel
  • Clicking on a carousel listing will take you to a branded search for the business with your currently detected, or selected location tacked on.  (e.g. When I click on Miguel’s Jr in my example above it goes to a search for “Miguel’s Jr Corona”) Managing your reputation and your branded search space just got that much more important
  • The carousel will remain at the top of the page regardless of what listings in the carousel you click on. Clicking on the carousel result you are currently viewing results for will return you to your original query results

Update: Hat tip to Alicia Celeste for pointing out to me on Twitter that you can also generate a carousel with queries for ‘colleges in ____.’  She has apparently been seeing the carousel for these queries for the last six months.  What’s interesting about this carousel however is that it doesn’t necessarily focus on local, in fact the heading on the carousel reads “Universities frequently mentioned on the web,” as opposed to “Universities in…” the way the local carousel does.  If available these queries provide you with the school logo, the name of the school, and the school’s location.

Google Announces Google+ Local Verification Rollout

Friday, August 3rd, 2012

Earlier today Googler Jade Wang announced on the Google and Your Business Group that Google has finally rolled out the verification process for local Google+ Pages.

By becoming a verified business owner of your Google+ Page, your business’ presence across Google Search, Google Maps, and Google+ will be unified and you’ll be able to manage your information from the Google+ Page admin.  Verifying ownerships will combine the page you created in Google+ with the page in Google+ Local (formerly Google Places).

For now, only businesses in the “Local Business or Place” category can proceed with verification.  Rollout to other businesses will be available in the future.

To proceed with the verification you will need to click on “Verify Now” on the right side of the page.  Google will then send out a verification post card to your business to verify your information.  Once verified  your presence across Google+ and Google+ Local will be universal.

UPDATE: 

Google is doing a great job at answering questions from local businesses about the update and has a running FAQ that is being updated every couple of days.  If you have issues with your verification or have questions about particular challenges you are up against you can follow the Google and Your Business Group thread.  Additionally, if you need further instruction on how to verify your listing, local search expert Mike Blumenthal has put together a stellar step-by-step guide to the Google+ Business/Local verification process.

Google’s Role as a Lone Sheriff in a Wild West of SEO Outlaws Apparent in Latest Algo Update

Thursday, April 26th, 2012

“Tomorrow hopes we have learned something from yesterday” ― John Wayne

Sheriff Matt CuttsAs the dust begins to clear from Google’s most recent algorithm update, its safe to say that Google is still trying to play sheriff in a wild west of SEO outlaws that simply have it outnumbered.

Grounds for Punishment

Both in his talk at SXSW and in the post announcing the recent changes, Matt Cutts made it clear that the new algorithm would be targeting at least some the following webspam techniques:

  • Keyword Stuffing
  • Reciprocal Linking
  • Spun Content with Unnatural Linking Patterns
There has also been speculation that exact match domains may be more heavily critiqued, a subject that Google’s Matt Cutts has alluded to being a focus of the company for sometime now.

Wait, Didn’t Google Already Enforce These Laws?

Yes, but as more shady SEO characters began to stake claim on the internet and come out on top, it left many of them to believe that Google didn’t quite have the chops to take on some of the outlaws moving into town.  As you can see in their public outcry:

So as any good sheriff would, Google stepped up to show off its true grit and lay down the law on some of the more obvious criminals in town as a means of making sure its townspeople (in this case webmasters and white-hat SEO’s) knew they had the situation under control and that they would not be overtaken by outlaws.

Smooth Criminals

But as we watch a number of sites hang at the hand of Google over these next few days a large number of sites will go untouched simply because they were a less obvious threat.  Sites that look like swindlers and bandits and have the evidence to support the case will hang quickly for their wrongdoing, but those sites that put on a charming front to hide their dark past will continue to roam this land of opportunity we call the internet at the expense of honest, hard-working webmaster and SEO’s.

I’ve done some digging in the verticals I work in and sites whose backlink profiles can easily be picked apart with a simple scan using Open Site Explorer show that Google still can’t properly identify an outlaw if they look clean on the surface.  In other words, if you look clean on the surface and people for the most part like you, Google really doesn’t notice what you’re doing behind the scenes.

It’s Time To Hire Some Deputies…

I’m not sure what its going to take to get Google to a point where it’s not making its laws harsher, but instead enabling itself to police its laws better and protect the hard-working, honest webmasters and SEO’s working and living on the internet.  Google’s algorithm still relies too heavily on signals attributed to links and anchor text, an element of its algorithm which got Google into this mess in the first place.  Social signals, semantics, author rank, localization, personalization and the like are all great ways to help Google better sort out the good guys from the bad guys.  The sooner Google employs the help of these elements the sooner I believe the web as we know it will start to finally see more qualified search results and fewer.

So how did you site fare in this recent update? Did it hang at high noon, or are you finally enjoying the land of opportunity?

Why Google Search Plus Your World Won’t Impact Local Search…Yet

Tuesday, January 24th, 2012

Yesterday I outlined why Google+ matters regardless of user engagement thanks to Google Search Plus Your World.  Today I want to look at how Search Plus Your World is impacting local search currently and why we probably won’t see much of an impact on localized search in the short term.

Earlier this month Greg Sterling did a post on Search Engine Land that talked about the limited impact of Google Search Plus Your World on Local.  As I mentioned in my comment on Greg’s post I think in the short term we will see little impact on local results, especially when it comes to some of the more obscure searches he ran like “Toyota Dealer” or “Window Replacement, Walnut Creek”.  I feel part of this is due to the fact that most of us probably don’t have a tight knit social network made up of users within close proximity to us, as Andrew Shotland pointed out yesterday in his post “Google Plus Connections Are the New Link“, but also because people simply aren’t engaging content around these topics.

The impact Google Search Plus Your World has on local search in it’s current state is fragmented and useless at best.  I ran a search for “Chinese Restaurants” on Google this evening and in the results I received a share frome a friend via Yelp for a Chinese restaurant nearly 45 minutes from my house.  Not exactly close enough for take out…  I ran another search for “night clubs” and received personalized results for for the top ten Los Angeles night clubs, the other was for dress codes in New York night clubs.  Not exactly relevant to where I am in Corona, CA nearly fifty miles away from the heart of Los Angeles and on the opposite side of the map from New York.

In order for Google Search Plus Your World to become relevant in the local search space, Google has to capitalize on what they did well with local in the beginning and focus on location, location, location.

Google Places+

In my predictions for local search in 2012 post, myself, Andrew Shotland, and Mike Blumenthal all agreed that 2012 will be the year that Google+ and Google Places would become integrated and I feel in order for Google Search Plus Your World to become relevant in local search, this has to happen sooner than later.  By integrating Google Places into Google Plus Business Pages, Google can ensure that the right local data is associated with a Page, making it more relevant to local searchers.  By having this information connected it would allow for local pages to have more clout than other pages in my circles.  Additionally, the most locally relevant businesses could appear in the Search Plus Your World page recommendations.

Friends In Local Places

Google+ profiles allow Google to know where a user lives.  It would only make sense for them to provide content from friends in the city I am searching from more prominent than someone out of the area unless the content directly relates to a local business or service.  If I’m doing a search for Chinese food in Corona, CA chances are users from that area are going to be the experts and ultimately have more relevant input that someone in Los Angeles, CA.

“We all turn to people we know and trust for great recommendations…”  

Straight from the horses mouth, Google says the focus of search plus your world is to turn to people you know for great recommendations.  Google put a significant focus on Google reviews on Places pages last year, I would imagine that along with integrating Places and Pages Google will likely showcase reviews of local businesses somewhere in localized search results from people within your circles.  Perhaps something similar to the share on Google+ from Todd Mintz below, but with the actual review instead of the Google+ post about it. On a side note, Beaverton is in a totally different state…way to go Google!

Excellent Chinese Food in Beaverton #rwx

Just Checking In

Another prominent feature Google could utilize is the check-in feature.  If individuals in a circle are checked in to a local business during the time of a related search, it could show up in the search results telling you that someone you know is currently at a location in your area.  Sure, it’s extra creepy/stalker like, but it’s also extremely relevant and engaging not only for Google, but for local businesses.  Knowing that someone you know is currently at a location may be enough to make you join them, or simply follow in their lead.

Ultimately nobody knows the next move but Google, but I can almost guarantee that Google is working on some strategy to strengthen Search Plus Your World in the local search space.  Local is the one area that Google still has a lot of pull with small businesses.  By making Search Plus Your World more useful to local businesses, they can help capitalize on the invovlement from local businesses and ultimately their customers.  Will it create more Google+ users or greater Google+ engagement?  Probably not, but as I outlined in yesterday’s post, perhaps it doesn’t matter.

Downplay Google+ User Numbers All You Want, They Still Have An Impact

Monday, January 23rd, 2012

Google I Love You So Much I'd +1 ThatLast week there were a lot of talks about Google+ and the questionability of actual engagement from it’s users.  Many questioned the 60-80% engagement numbers and wondered what specifically defined engagement.  As with anything Google related, the internet marketing world was in a tizzy about the announcement and the lack of clout behind the number, especially after discovering that engagement simply meant logging in and using a Google product.  I thought about this a bit and after experimening with Google Search Plus Your World a bit more, I realized that even if they aren’t engaging it doesn’t matter.

When I first signed up for Google+ the first thing I did was figure out my circles.  After all, what good is a social network without friends?  After that it was just a matter of posting, experimenting and familiarizing myself with all the features.  It is my guess that this is the path most novice Google+ users take when first starting out.  And it is because of this process that I believe Google+ is still having an impact.

Enter Google Search Plus Your World

Google Search Plus Your World relies on one element to function.  Your circles/friends.  As long as you have cirlces setup in Google+ you have the opportunity to see personalized results via Search Plus Your World.  Search Plus Your World injects photos, content, people, and related people and pages into your search results via your connections on Google+.  Even if you never use Google+ after your initial setup there is still a chance of seeing this content from people you are connected to that are using Google+.

What This Means For Google

Love or hate Google+, Google is doing a stellar job at making sure people know Google+ is there and making sure you will eventually have to use it.  First they are now  making Google+ the   By introducing Search Plus Your World, Google has basically guaranteed that users will engage Google+ content at some point or another.  Even if you never use Google+ there is a chance you will receive recommendations from your friends that are using Google+ and ultimately may clickthrough and engage via Google+ or at least view Google+ content.  In addition to hooking existing users that may not being using the social network, Google now requires a Google+ profile as part of signup, ensuring that all new users are injected into the Google+ ecosystem.

What This Means For Internet Marketers and Businesses

My wife is one of the probably thousands of users that signed up for a Google+ account early on only to abandon it a few days later.  Though she never uses the service she is an avid GMail, Google Reader, and Google search user.  As I look at some of her searches I see that even though she no longer uses Google+ her search results continue to be influenced by the users she initially added to circles.

Even if your audience isn’t active, it doesn’t mean they can’t be influenced.  Establishing a presence and making sure that you make it into that intial batch of circles could be crucial in your ability to influence the search results of your audience in the future.  Even moreso, creating content that may be shared by an inactive users inner circles could also create opportunities for you and your business.