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Google Business Profiles to Become Un-Free?

Eyebrows are raised.

The sheer timing of recent changes to Google Places (reported here) and the introduction of Google+ (reported here) is suspect.  Google strips a considerable amount of information from Places profiles in the same month as they release Google+, which enables rich social interactions for users.  A coincidence?

Local Search experts are reading between the lines.  Previously, Google encouraged all business owners to edit information about their business for free, in order to provide consumers with details on the businesses nearby.  Will Google soon charge business owners for enhanced profiles, data-rich and infused with flashy features from Google+?  Will business owners pay for this?

Previous attempts from Google to encourage local business owners to advertise have NOT been wildly successful.  Products like Google Boost have come and gone, as business owners did not see the benefit of paying to display their hours and photos.  How better to force business owners into advertising, than requiring payment in order to create a business profile at all!

As we anticipate Google Business Profiles (an unreleased product), many theorize that Google Places will become the equivalent of a bare-bones Yellow Pages listing.  Meanwhile, paid Google Business Profiles would become big and colorful display ads with lots of interactive features.  There is certainly a demand for business owners to control information out there about their business.  That is really their right!  If data control becomes un-free, Google seeks to reap considerable rewards.  Stay tuned.

Google Places Updates

Google Places listings are looking different from week-to-week, as Google actively tests different profile displays.

Last week, Google axed 3rd party reviews from Places listings (reviews from sites like Yelp.com), and removed the “More About This Place” feature where business citations were listed.  What’s next?

After researching and following these changes closely and anxiously anticipating what will happen in the near future, we stumbled upon a forum post by a Google Places Community Manager (i.e. Google employee) that confirms additional display changes in Google Places profiles.

Vanessa from Google states:

Seeing a lot of questions in the forum, let me just clarify a couple things about the new Place pages. The following info you provide may not appear on your Place page, but it’s all still used to help us understand more about your business:

  • Email address
  • Menu
  • Reservations
  • Optional attributes / Additional details
  • Service area toggle “Show service area”

So just because we’re not showing it, doesn’t mean it’s not helpful for us to have – it helps our system ensure that your organic listing appears and ranks appropriately on Google and Google Maps when potential customers perform searches related to your service.

At this point, we can only theorize as to why Google would un-display helpful data provided by business owners. Mike Blumenthal, a known Google Places guru, seems to think Google is making room for more paid local features. Whatever the case may be, we expect more changes to surface. Until then, as they say: “keep calm and carry on”!

Google+ (A New Social Platform)

Google+ is a new social platform which many see as Google’s answer to Facebook. There are several components to the free product, launching now and over the next several months:

1) CLICK TO SHARE The first feature (available now to all Google users) is the ability to “+1” Google search results. Enable this feature, and you will see a +1 button to the right of each Google search result. It’s similar to ‘liking’ on Facebook– when you click the button, other participants in your Google social network will see what you +1 in their own search results. See screenshot:

Sign up for the ability to “+1” specific Google search results, the new form of social sharing. (Log into your Google account first.)

2) HOOK +1 UP ON YOUR WEBSITE Most likely, Google will eventually factor the amount of +1s a webpage receives as a ranking factor. Currently, the amount of tweets and Facebook shares a page receives is a ranking factor; so this is the next logical step. According to your comfort level, we recommend you add the +1 sharing button to your webpages:

Add the +1 button to your website, to enable visitors to share your webpages and blog entries with their Google networks.

3) ADDITIONAL FEATURES Google has a whole world planned with Google+. For example: ten-person video sharing, management of Facebook-style social profiles, and easy mobile sharing. Currently, only a select few Google users have access to these features. Read one user’s experience of the new features.

Sign up to be notified when additional Google+ features are rolled out to the public.

More to come on Google+ in the coming weeks and months!

Google Tags Expires – Need a Boost?

After only one year, Google is discontinuing Google Tags.  Tags was a tool that enabled local businesses to promote specific areas of their business for $25/month.  Are you running a Tag currently?  Here are examples of how these bright yellow call-outs appear in local Google results:

Announcement

An excerpt from Google’s brief email notice to Tags users: “We are retiring Google Tags for all users on April 29, 2011. No action is required on your part, and your Places account and listing will continue to work as usual. Effective today, no new tags can be created, but all active tags will keep running to the end of April for free.

Reasoning

Many argue that the axe of Google Tags is simply a transition in lieu of Google Boost, which also supports local small businesses.  Like Tags previously, Google Boost enables business owners to create online search ads from their Google Places account.  The main difference is that Boost ads use a unique blue pinpoint marker, and ads are eligible to appear both within Google Adwords sponsored listings and beside the map in local searches:

In addition, its payment plan differentiates Google Boost from Google Tags.  Boost bills users on an automatic pay-per-click basis, versus a monthly standard cost.

Resources

  • For setup instructions and to read pros/cons of Google Boost, please click here.
  • For Google’s official Google Boost manual, please click here.

List of Banned Terms in Google Places

Are you a small business owner who’s seen this ominous message in Google Places?


Eeek, it’s scary looking right?!  The Google Places forum is full of posts from people who have received this error after using correct, official business data in their listing.  They do not understand which terms within their listing are banned.  We may never know why certain terms are banned, but we now have a pretty definitive list of banned terms.

All thanks to our friend, Local Search guru Mike Blumenthal…we present:

The Comprehensive List of Banned Terms on Google Places

Enjoy, and avoid using any of the banned terms in your Google Places listing.  If you find any others not on the list, please comment below.

Does Google Voice Speak to Your Needs?

Google VoiceFor the last few weeks, U.S. fans of the search engine giant, Google, have been trying out its VoIP telephone service, Google Voice. Over a million people have signed up for this free service, which joins a cornucopia of Google goodies. With the wide range of communication features offered through Google’s Gmail interface, sorting them out get a little confusing, especially for the non- tech savvy. Basically, you just need to look at what new capabilities Google Voice offers, and decide if they can help you. (more…)

Google Updates Search Algorithm Daily

Look past the tee shirt– Google principle engineer Matt Cutts is legit.

In the video below, Cutts explains the phenomenon of continuous changes to Google’s “algorithm”, stating that it was updated between 350 and 400 times–in batches– during the year 2009. Talk about constant improvement.   Search Engine Watch defines algorithm as “the technology that a search engine uses to deliver results to a query. Search engines utilize several algorithms in tandem to deliver a page of search results or keyword-targeted search ads.”

What can we learn from this? Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is like trying to hit a moving target. You can’t be precise enough in your efforts to affect an exact ranking because the algorithms change every day. Even if you were able to figure out an algorithm and make a change on your site, the algorithm would be different by the time you uploaded your changes.

We do our best by not trying to focus too much on efforts that cause us to try and hit this moving target- focusing on hitting a moving target won’t work. We have to use our knowledge, experiences, and best practices.

While the algorithms change, there will always be a place for good content & good user experience. Obsessing on where to put a keyword in a heading tag is not as important as building the bigger picture- creating useful content that attracts visitors and links.

Google Maps Finally Supports Service-Based & Home-Based Businesses

Google Maps has added a new feature that enables those in the service industry to include their “service areas” as well as allowing those working from home the option of excluding their home office address from the listing.

In the past, companies like plumbers and window retailers could only include the address of where their business was located, however, Google now allows you to include a range of cities that your industry serves, giving you more of a chance to be found when your prospective customers are looking for you.

When logged in to your Local Business Center account, users will see a new option called “Service Areas and Location Settings.”

Service Industr

(more…)

Google Places – Become a Favorite Place (Like Upright!)

Last week, Upright Communications received great news from Google. Have you, too? 2009_12_22_Google_Favorite_Places3.pdf (page 1 of 2)

A letter stated that in 2009, thousands viewed the profile of our Cincinnati, OH headquarters in Google Places (formerly Google Maps). Now, Google Places considers our main office a solid recommendation for local users. This notice comes at a perfect time, as we are gaining experience in local SEO strategies for our clients.

The first step to becoming a favorite place?
Claim your business locations on FREE Google Maps.

Oogle Favorite PlacesOnce your business achieves “Favorite Place” status, what to do with the enclosed window decal Google sends (shown to the left)? Put it in your storefront window, and announce your business locations to a digital world.  This Google-produced video shows why you’ll want to:

Bing: Features We Can All Use

Have you felt it?  The world’s new #3 search engine, Bing, is making real waves. UTalkMarketing.com reports Bing has increased user activity 45% since its June launch, stealing significant usership from search leaders Google and Yahoo. We will keep you aware of Bing’s growth trend over the next few months, as it may affect our overall search engine strategy. In the meantime, let’s catch you up to speed…

4 Quick Facts on Bing:www.bing.com

1) launched June 3, 2009
2) created by Microsoft as a rebranding of MSN Live Search, their previous search engine
3) nicknamed the “decision engine”, with an algorithm revised to benefit local search
4) replaces MSN in Advanced Web Ranking Reports prepared for Upright clients
(more…)

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