Google has finally released functionality to allow bulk Google My Business dashboard users (users with 10+ bulk verified locations) to upload identity photos via bulk spreadsheet and to set their preferred photo. Identity photos include the cover photo, profile photo, and the business logo. The preferred photo is the photo that business owners recommend that Google display first for the listing on Google Maps and Search (though there are no guarantees that the preferred photo will actually be the first photo shown).
Today Google has released new API functionality for managing listings in bulk verified accounts. Previously, the API allowed businesses to edit only individually verified listings and those edits would be eligible to to go live on Google Search and Maps.
Google has released a long-awaited and requested feature in the Google My Business Locations dashboard. The bulk dashboard interface now allows for an easier upload of updates to existing locations. Now, when uploading files to the dashboard, businesses are only required to upload those fields that have changes.
Google My Business has launched a new feature that allows bulk-verified users to quickly pre-set special hours for holidays and special events. When you enter special hours in Google My Business, Google will tell customers that they’re seeing holiday-specific opening hours. This should remove all of the guess work in having to push holiday hours updates to Google and hope that they go live within the appropriate time frame.
Position Technologies and Factual Partner for Business Listing Data
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 24th, 2014
Geneva, IL – Position Technologies announced the addition of Factual Inc. to the network of sites for which they manage and distribute local business listings for Fortune 500 brands.
Jim Stob, founder and CEO of Position Technologies said, “The ecosystem for local business listing information is constantly evolving. The complex network of web sites, services and data relationships that make up this ecosystem are very challenging to navigate. Position Technologies’ products and services enable brands to proactively manage their business listing information across the entire ecosystem.”
With the launch of Bing’s new Places Dashboard, Bing claims that they are making “claiming bulk listings quick and hassle-free.” Business owners now have two options for bulk uploading their data on Bing: they can either upload a file in Bing’s feed format (which has not changed significantly from the previous Bing Business Portal version), or upload in Google’s feed format (which is admittedly less comprehensive).
Google has rolled out some improvements to the Places bulk upload tool. From Google’s Blog:
“We’ve made many improvements and now enable the following actions:
- Edit one or more of your listings’ data at once
- Search through your listings, filtering by specific information or for listings with errors
- Upload new listings using a data file or by adding them individually within the interface
- Tell us how we can improve this new interface by clicking the “Give Feedback” link”
Google is rolling out some changes to the OneBox display for local results that continue to the push the integration of local listing with the main search results. While this may just be another Google UI test, it is certainly consistent with their push to make local an integrated part of the main search experience. For brands and small businesses, this just reiterates the importance of having a local listing and reputation strategy. See a few examples below.
Photo from Places Now Included in the OneBox
Store With Optimized Places Listing vs Store Without
In the example below, you can see how the Sephora results compares to the Mac Cosmetics result. Competing brands in the same city but Sephora is taking advantage of the Google push to bring local content to the forefront by getting their storefront, hours and reputation front and center.
Implicit Local Queries Impacted
Even in cases where the user is not including a local modifier in their query, Google is pushing local content if they think they know your location and their is a local store. See the example below for Pottery Barn Kids.
These changes continue to demonstrate the importance of local content to Google and continue to demonstrate the opportunity both national brands and small businesses have to deliver a branded, rich and actionable experience directly on the Google.com first page.
Part of what we do at allLocal is help national and regional businesses understand how their brand is viewed at the local level. Based on this work, we have developed a rich set of data around the local review space and we thought it was time to shape this data into a bit of retrospective on the space. The earliest local review we have analyzed for our customers is from May 2002 and comes from Citysearch. In the almost 9 years since this review was written the local review space has grown…but has not really changed. The only real innovation in the space is the community / vanity aspect that Yelp brought to the table in 2004. While the number of reviews and the pervasiveness of them in the local search experience has grown, there has been no dramatic shift in the space. As for the future, I think our best bet lies with the social networks and their ability to passively collect this information as part of a conversation as opposed to the explicit ‘user writes a review’ model that we have today. After all, local reviews are so valuable because they are taking information that typically does not exist in a digital form and digitizing it…making it crunchable by an algorithm. Who says this digitization has to be done actively and can’t just be something that happens as a user lives their digital life? Enough prognosticating though, let’s get down to the data:
About The Data
- ~2,200 locations distributed across 4 general verticals: 45% travel, 40% retail, 13% services and 2% restaurants
- Analyzed the number of reviews written at Yelp, Google, Yahoo, Citysearch and Yellowpages.com. We specifically focused on review sites that intend to have a broad appeal and because of this we left sites like TripAdvisor out of the mix. We will evaluate them in the future when we take a more vertical specific look at reviews
- For each engine we looked at the number of reviews written for any of the 2,200 locations on each day between January 1, 2005 and January 30, 2011. The numbers you see tracked here are the 14 day moving average of the total number of reviews we saw written each day, divided by 2,200 to get the daily reviews per location and then multiplied by 100 to get a more readable number. Basically, we took the 14 day moving average of this: New Reviews / 2,200 * 100
The 5 Year Retrospective
Some observations based on this:
- The number of new reviews created each day across the 5 engines as a whole has grown by ~10x over the last 6 years
- Yahoo! had the early lead in the space but did not capitalize on it (I was able to copy and paste that line from other articles that I have mentioned Yahoo! in…)
- Yelp had a slow burn in the beginning and then really broke out in the later half of 2008
The 2 Year Retrospective
When we zoom into a 2 year range, some other interesting observations emerge:
- The trend is Yelp’s friend
- Google permanently passed Yahoo! based on new local review growth in early 2010
- Citysearch and Yellowpages continue to struggle in getting user participation on their sites (i.e., getting people to write reviews)
- The pop in Google reviews in the middle of November 2010 is interesting…
The 8 Month Retrospective
Looking at the last 8 months give us a few more things to consider:
- In a relative sense, Citysearch had a good holiday season and generated a bunch of new reviews from their users…though they are still far behind in an absolute sense
- Yahoo! had two peaks in review activity in late 2010…and based on a quick review the bursts seems to be very methodical and almost robotic in nature. Activity like this stands out when you are dealing with what is still a relatively small data set at 2,200 locations
- That Google pop is worth discussing further…so let’s add some commentary to the graph
Ahh yes, Google Hotpot went live on November 15th. Looks like they got a nice pop from the launch but then quickly settled back into their (flat) trend line. Ouch….but to be fair, this analysis is not restaurant centric and Hotpot, while available across all types of business, is certainly angled towards the restaurant industry. But then the same could be said for Yelp. And speaking of Yelp, their trend line either got a nice boost from the holidays or from the Hotpot launch reminding everyone to go write some more reviews on Yelp.
This trend needs to be watched as the success of Hotpot is critical to Google. Their review aggregation approach has crumbled under the weight of Yelp and now TripAdvisor not always playing nice with Google. However, even if they do play nice a review scraped off some 3rd party site will never provide the insights that a review written directly on Google will. All the meta-data that comes along with a direct review (i.e., the history of the person who wrote the review) allows Google to place much more (or less) trust on the authenticity of the review. For scraped reviews, Google either needs to rely on the 3rd party sites to police their reviews effectively or has to make the decision themselves based on much less data. We continue to see the importance of review text rise in Google Places ranking but access to fresh and trusted reviews is needed to make that model work. Without Hotpot, Google may lose the local digitization race which, in my opinion, will ultimately decide who wins the local search race.
Thanks for taking the time to review some local reviews with us. Lots more to look at in this space and our next post about reviews will dive into either a vertical specific or a geographic specific look at the review space as both provide some interesting data.
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