Google Places Related Searches and Place Page Search Navigation


This week everyone in the “local” world is impatiently anticipating the big event of the year – the issue of this year’s “Local Search Ranking Factors“. In the meantime Google launched Google Offers and “+1″ button for websites. Surprising enough, neither seems to be quite what most expected (especially the button, which seems to be taking excessively long time to load). Besides the big news, some small changes in the layout of the Place pages were spotted by Mike Blumenthal.

This new navigation feature is only available when one accesses a Place page through a Google Maps search and not through a regular organic search list. Initial opinions are split depending on the point of view – although this innovation definitely adds ease to the user interface of potential customers, it seems like business owners do not enjoy seeing all their major competitors’ names on their own Place page. Together with the AdWords results on the right and the Related Places section near the bottom, the new feature is the third region in a Place page where a business’ client could encounter the names of rivals.

I spotted another interesting feature – something like Google Places Related Searches:

At first I thought that this is some kind of “substitution” for the organic Related Searches, but then I spotted this:

As observed above, the “local” Related Searches at the bottom of the page are still there even when the organic Related Searches are displayed at the top.

To give you a little bit of background on the development of the feature, I like this version better than a trial of Related Searches that Google launched a few months ago. The current feature seems to be better at bringing relevant suggestions, as they include different areas and suburbs of the city that the primary search targets.

June 2, 2011 at 12:24 pm 1 comment

Interesting Google Places and Local Search Articles (22-29 May)


I proceed gathering all the interesting articles from the past week, related to local search, Google Places and the social-local. You can see the previous editions here:

Articles 15 – 21 May
Articles 7 – 14 May
Articles 1 – 7 May
Articles 23 – 30 April

I’d say the most interesting even of the past week was the discovery that the businesses which used rich snippets for their testimonials are now rewarded, as they get reviews on their Place pages directly from their own websites. Furthermore, a new feature of Google Places was discovered (by me) – “Featured review”. I wrote 2 articles on what it is and how it could be used. Linda Buquet also picked the topic and wrote a 2-piece post on the same feature. There were also numerous great articles on Yelp and Google Places reviews.

Google Places and Local SEO:

hReview Testimonials from SMB Sites Starting to Show in Places
Using hReview on Your Website
Google: 40% of Mobile Searches Local
Yelp’s Community Strategy and Google
How Yelp Crushed Citysearch & Yahoo Local … & Why Google Is Stealing Yelp’s Playbook
Study: Yelp has More Productive, Less Extreme Reviewers
The Growth of Reviews In Google Places (aka Hotpot)
Check-ins and rating places get easier with Google Maps 5.5 for Android
Google Places Mobile: Is a Broad Rollout of Check-In Offers Imminent?
10 Unorthodox Ideas For Local Citations & Links
Locksmith Spam Listing Issue
Google Places Big New FEATURED Reviews – Make that Place Page Stand Out from the Pack
Google Places BIG New FEATURED Reviews – How To – Part 2
Online Reputation Management: 10 Fighting Tips!

Social-Local for SMBs:

Have Deals ‘Jumped the Shark’? Unlikely
Survey: 44% Buy Daily Deals at Least Monthly
14% Of Groupon/LivingSocial Subscribers Respond To Push Notifications
Location-Based Marketing: The Convergence of Social and Mobile
For Small-Business Marketers, Are Fewer Channels Better?
Everyone Should Hire ‘Social Media Experts’
Friend Recommendations Drive Local Business Visits
Discover more places you’ll like based on people who’re like you

Have a nice weekend reading!

May 29, 2011 at 3:52 pm 4 comments

How to Use Google Places Featured Review


A few days ago I wrote about an interesting new feature I found out by chance – “Featured review” on Google Places. Unfortunately, I struggled to uncover more about it as I don’t have an Android phone and the people in Google seemed not to be willing to give away some information on it. However, I spoke with Linda Buquet on that and she picked up the topic and wrote a two-parts article on the feature. Her blog is probably followed by Vanessa Schneider, who is Community Manager for Google Places and she clarified how these “Featured reviews” appear (she gave me the same answer as in the comments under the post of Linda, on the Facebook page of Google Places):

When a Google Places user posts their rating or review to Twitter using Google Maps for Android — more info on how to here: http://goo.gl/ohmqF — their followers receive a tweet containing a shortened URL. The URL directs followers to the Place page for the business, where the recently tweeted rating or review appears in an easy-to-find section called “Featured review.”

What new information did Linda discover and what more was brought by this answer of Vanessa:
- only Android users retweeted reviews are being shown as “featured”
- when you go to the Place page via organic search or via Google Maps you don’t see the “Featured review”, you can see it only if you follow the short URL sent with the tweet
- this feature most probably exists since the announcement of the option to tweet your reviews and ratings from March 3rd, 2011

What did I come out with from all this:
- “Featured reviews” do not expire
- every review from a Google User can be featured, using the correct URL direct
- this could be helpful only for businesses that use buttons such as “See our reviews on Google Places” on their websites, so it isn’t useful for the spammers

Here is how to create a “Featured review” out of any review:

1. Go to your Google Places Place page and click on “Link” in the upper right corner:

2. When you get the link, delete the bolded parts:

http://maps.google.com/maps/place?oe=utf-8&client=firefox-a&ie=UTF8&q=hotel+las+vegas&fb=1&hq=hotel&hnear=0x80beb782a4f57dd1:0x3accd5e6d5b379a3,Las+Vegas,+NV&cid=5442487001343959034&z=14

so that it looks like this:

http://maps.google.com/maps/place?cid=5442487001343959034

The numbers after the “cid=” are the unique ID number of each Place page, so they will be different for your particular Place page.

3. Save this link somewhere and scroll down to the “Reviews by Google users” section. When you go there click on the nickname of any of them. A new page will open, whose URL will look something like that:

http://maps.google.com/maps/user?uid=215234974382015503873&hl=en&gl=US&ved=0COoCEIUK&sa=X&ei=XgDgTZWLDZemsQbrx8TfDQ

4. From this link, take just the numbers after “uid=”. In this case the numbers are “215234974382015503873

5. Go back to the URL of your Place page (in this case: http://maps.google.com/maps/place?cid=5442487001343959034) and add the following at the end of it: “&cad=source:gmm-twitter&ppht=review_permalink&author=“. The URL should look like this:

http://maps.google.com/maps/place?cid=5442487001343959034&cad=source:gmm-twitter&ppht=review_permalink&author=

6. Add the UID number of the user that you have chosen in step 4 (in this case: “215234974382015503873″) to the end of the URL that we just created in step 5. The URL should look like this now:

http://maps.google.com/maps/place?cid=5442487001343959034&cad=source:gmm-twitter&ppht=review_permalink&author=215234974382015503873

*Note: the numbers after the “cid=” and “author=” in this pattern URL are unique and they will differ when you create a “Featured review” URL for your own business Place page.

The “Featured review” section should appear right under your description on your Place page. In our example it looks like that:

Some examples how you could use that:

A) On your website, if you put a link leading to your Google Places page. The “Featured review” pops up almost on the top of the Place page, so that potential click-throughers (new word?) could immediately notice your great review.

B) Create a QR code leading to that “Featured review” Place page. As Linda Buquet noted, not only the “Featured review” section contains a great, clearly visible review, together with enlarged stars bar, but also a good call-to-action: “Local recommendations powered by you and your friends. Start rating“. This could potentially help you get more reviews from your customers that you do not directly ask for review.

C) Use it in your email review gathering campaign the same way as you are using the link to your Place page. This time you could link to the upgraded “Featured review Place page” (also a new term?)

These are just a few examples, but using your imagination, you can definitely think of something interesting. I’d be happy to hear some thoughts.

May 27, 2011 at 11:12 pm Leave a comment

Google Places Featured Review


I just discovered by chance a new feature on Google Places. Did you know that you can tweet your reviews on Google Places? If you didn’t know – now you do, but if you did – I have something interesting for you. Check out the “Featured review”:

In the beginning of March 2011, Google announced that anyone could tweet their Hotpot reviews via their Android phone. That’s one of the reasons which is making me unsure if this feature is a new one, but I should repeat – today was the first day that I spotted it. New or not, after checking around I understood one sure thing – the featured review is one that has been tweeted. Unfortunately, currently I cannot say if it is the newest tweeted review, or just a random one, but this is definitely of huge importance for the local businesses. The featured review is showing up right under the main section of the Place page, which makes it instantly visible when someone enters. Moreover, the stars are much bigger than the ones in the normal “non-featured” reviews. This review is also going to show on Google Maps:

What does that mean for the SMBs? Even if you have hundreds of shiny 5-star reviews, both from Google Places users and third-party review websites, one “featured review” can take you down instantly. I am still not sure how this review is chosen to be “featured”, but if this is the only special “feature” of this review, than it widely opens the doors for a new portion of headache for each local business owner. Especially if it looks like this:

A few questions I couldn’t find the answer of:

- how is the featured review chosen (other than being tweeted)
- is it a recent review or could be an old one
- if the business owner replies to it, will the reply appear at the “Featured review” section too
- when did these reviews start appearing

May 22, 2011 at 12:48 pm 1 comment

Interesting Google Places and Local Search Articles (15-21 May)


Here are the interesting Google Places and local search articles from the past week. In case you’ve missed some of these, every week I will be posting a list of the ones that I consider the most valuable and informative. This week the biggest event was definitely the SMX in London, where specialists from all over Europe gathered with colleagues from the United States. That is why I will start with a few items related to that topic.

SMX London (Local Search):

What’s new in Local and Mobile Search – London SMX – Day 2
What’s new in Local Search and Mobile – SMX London
State of Search radioshow – episode 55: local Search with David Mihm, Lisa Myers and Martijn Beijk

The other hot topic of the week is definitely the check-in features and how they could be used by businesses for marketing purposes. Google Places rolled an update which allows Hotpot Google Places users to import data via Foursquare feeds for Places they have checked-in for.

Google Places and Local SEO:

Google Maps & Places Tidbits
A Brief History of Features in Google Local, Maps and Places
Closer Look at Local Revenue Numbers
Confessions Of A Yellow Pages User
Google Places Rich Snippets Finally Working?
Quick Tips: Optimizing a Site for Local Search
Announcing New Bing Maps & Local Features
Local marketing alert: Facebook Pages with Places function boosts social referrals
Nokia India to release a Google Places competitor?
Using Semantic Markup To Strengthen Your Local SEO Efforts
The “Right Way” to Delete a Google Places Listing

Social-Local for SMBs:

MerchantCircle’s New Lead-Gen Service
Social Media Use by SMBs Exploding
Core Foursquare Users Like Badges
6 Ways to Use Social Media to Boost Local Search Results
Facebook, LinkedIn More Popular Among SMBs Than Twitter, Survey Says
Better access to your content is, well, better
18% of Smartphone Subscribers Use Mobile Check-in
1 in 3 Smartphone Shoppers Often Accesses In-store Coupons
Location Based Services (LBS): Who’s Checking In Now? [Chart]
Infographic: A Look At The Size And Shape Of The Geosocial Universe In 2011

May 21, 2011 at 3:32 pm 1 comment

Interesting Articles from the Past Week (7-14 May)


This week was not as full of nice articles related to local search, Google Places and local-social as it was during the previous one. The biggest event was the Google I/O where a lot of innovations were announced, but only very few regarding local. However, let’s see what I’ve chosen for you to read during the peaceful weekend evenings.

Google Places and Local SEO:
Google Places Help – Verification Problems and Tips for Consultants
Hot Google Places Citations Source for Tier 1 Citations
Yelp Segues into Spain
YPG: 30% of Our Searches Come from Mobile
A Little Light Reading On Google Maps Ranking Factors
The Future of the Yellow Pages
Bing Quietly Adds Bulk Uploads to Local Business Listings
Yellow Pages Opt-In & Opt-Out in Seattle and San Francisco | 2011
Ten Things I Hope Google Places Fixes in 2011
Google Going Places With Local SMB Marketing Swag
Google Opens Places API to the Public
Citation Theory – Higher Rankings in Google with Google Places
Genbook Customer Reviews Now Published to Google Places

Local-Social:
A “real life” example of social media marketing
Social Profiles: It’s Quality, Not Quantity

May 14, 2011 at 7:51 pm 1 comment

Google Giving Tips for Places


It seems like Google has really heard of the problems and numerous complaints of all the users of Google Places and started taking some action to provide them some truly valuable tips. Here is what I saw today when I tried to join the Google Places “Create New Listing” Page:

These tips address some of the most common mistakes made by the newbie Google Places users, which are mostly small business owners, who have no idea what problems are awaiting them. Google says:

Before you create a business listing, think about which Google Account you are using. In the future, you may want to share this account with other people at your business.

This is a very often encountered problem, because usually after the small business owners realize that they need professional help for their Google Places, they mostly need to give away their Google Account’s password, which hides potential threads, the least of which is that someone could intrude their private business information and the worst being that someone could steal their Google Account, including not only the Google Places page, but also Gmail, AdWords, Docs, Blogger, GTalk, etc. so you can imagine what the harm could be. Such cases started popping up more and more with more frauds showing up and pretending to be helpful specialists, but instead cheating the money or worse – blackmailing the business owners. It is nice of Google that they address the issue, and it is at least some kind of start. But one could speculate if the real reason is not that Bing included in their Bing Business Portal a multilevel system for managing the account. Let’s talk about that later.

The second thing that Google shares as a tip is:

Enter your business’s main phone number to see if Google Maps already has some information about your business. You’ll then be able to edit any existing information and add new details, including photos and videos.

This is also important as most people are not aware that Google is actually scraping business information from the web and creating its own Place pages for their business. Most of the owners would never think of that, but would rather directly create a new Place page, an act which hides a lot of troubles if there is another Page already created for their business. When you search by phone number and Google does not find any listing using that phone, it automatically redirects you to the page where you could start creating it. However, if there is already a page for this business, the following screen appears with the map on the right side:

The third tip seems to me to be giving the answer to the question I was wondering about above – what is the real reason for these Tips to appear:

Have more than 10 business listings?
Add them quickly by using bulk upload.

You wonder why? Because as Matt McGee noted yesterday, Bing added bulk uploads to Bing Business Portal.

Whatever the reason is, this is a first step to improving the service of Google Places and providing at least some helpful tips for the millions of small business owners wandering out there and pulling their hair about the hundreds of problems that Google Places might cause.

May 13, 2011 at 8:03 pm Leave a comment

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