How Likely Is Google Maps to Approve That Anti-Spam Edit?

How Likely Is Google Maps to Approve That Anti-Spam Edit?

https://www.flickr.com/photos/oddwick/4499186005/

Fighting spam in Google Maps is an unpredictable, mushy part of local SEO, and it requires the patience of a monk.  Competitors ethical and unethical come and go, their rankings bob up and down, and Google flip-flops on policies, enforcement, and safeguards.  The least-predictable part of all is: what happens to the anti-spam “edits” you submit to Google in your attempt to clean up the map?

That depends.  An edit is not an edit.  You can make many kinds of anti-spam edits on Google Maps.  Whether Google rejects or accepts yours depends on the specific type of edit you make, on the particulars of the business in question, and on your history of submitting edits that Google ends up accepting.

Most Google Maps edits (or other requests) you can make are more likely to be approved if the business’s Google My Business page is unclaimed, if you’re a mid-to-high-level “Local Guide,” or if the page you’re trying to edit has a checkered past.  It also helps if your edits are based on the truth and you make them in good faith, rather than in an effort to hurt competitors who play fair and square.

Still, in fighting Mapspam there’s always a “I wonder what this button does?” component, which you probably want to avoid as much as you can.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/marklohmann/27521356233/

You’re more likely to get some of the results you want if you know where your patience is most likely and least likely to pay off.  I’ve observed a few things, based on many hours of making anti-spam edits on behalf of clients and businesses I’ve encountered in the wild.  My observations are based strictly on my experience. Here’s a breakdown of the different kinds of Google Maps anti-spam edits, and the general likelihood that each will stick:

Edits Google is most likely to approve

Remove a stuffed-in keyword from the “business name” field.

If a keyword or search term is not part of a business’s real name, and that’s obvious to you, there’s a good chance Google will agree.

Remove a stuffed-in city/place name from the “business name” field.
As with extraneous keywords / search terms in the name, you can probably get Google to remove the city name or other place name if it’s clearly tacked-on.

Remove a pile of keywords and/or place names from the “business name.”
Sometimes it’s obvious which part of the business name is “real.”  Often the spammy competitor will put the real business name first, and stick a bunch of keywords and maybe city names after it – perhaps separated by a dash or similar character.

If all the extraneous words are lumped together and you edit them out, Google is more likely to approve your edit.  If the real name is mixed into the keywords, your chances are still good, but Google is less likely to approve your edit right away, and slightly less likely to approve it at all.  That’s been my experience, at least.  My guess is Google has a harder time separating the wheat from the chaff.

Toss-ups: edits Google might approve, but might not

Remove a listing so spammy it could serve only as a lead-gen method for a “real” business.
If its name is an exact-match search term, and it’s got an exact-match domain name, and especially if the address is elusive or hard to find or you can’t pull up its business license, there’s a good chance it’s a lead-gen listing for a “real” business.  You may not know which competitor that is unless you call (and pretend to be a customer).  Just the same, Google may approve your request to remove the listing.

Change the site URL or landing page URL field.
Not an edit you’d need to make often.  Probably the most likely scenario is your competitor puts his/her Facebook page URL or other third-party URL in the “website” field.  (That’s an old way to game the Maps rankings, and it’s against Google’s “quality guidelines.”)

Flag down a negative review of your business from a non-customer.
Only expect Google to do something if the text of the review makes it clear the reviewer is a competitor (rare), or if it’s very un-PC, or if the reviewer has a fishy pattern of reviewing other businesses in your industry.  Getting other people to flag down the review seems to help get Google’s attention.

Mark a business as “Permanently closed”
This one’s murky.  I don’t know how* Google would corroborate or reject a claim that a business has closed.  I’d be tempted to say it depends on how many other people flag a business as “permanently closed,” if not for the fact that Google often approves that kind of edit instantly after I make it.

(*Unless the business is, say, Toys R Us.  RIP.)

Flag down irrelevant or inappropriate photos.
This is a rare time you can give Google specific details as to why you want the photo(s) removed.  Perhaps that’s why, on the relatively few occasions I’ve reported photos, Google’s pretty good about removing them.

Edit the “business name” field significantly, or change it completely.
Even if the name is complete BS, Google seems to consider complete name-changes major surgery, and usually won’t approve your edit right away.  Whether Google ends up approving it at all (days or weeks later) is a coin-toss.

Edits Google is least likely to approve:

Remove stuffed-in keywords or city/place names from the “business name” field when online branding is consistent.
If it doesn’t appear to be a pure lead-gen listing for a “real” business (see earlier point), getting the name fixed is a tough putt.  In my experience, it works out that way even if the name used on Google My Business differs somewhat from the name on the business’s license.  Probably the best time to escalate your request at the forum.

Remove a fake/questionable ratings-only review of your business.
Unless the reviewer has a pattern of crooked behavior, Google  probably will leave the rating up.

Remove a fake/questionable ratings-only review of competitor’s business
This one’s the inverse of the situation I just described: that 5-star rating of your competitor’s business probably will stand, unless the same reviewer left negative ratings of other businesses in the same line of work (like yours).  You can see the other businesses someone reviewed or rated by clicking on his or her username in the review.

Remove a listing at an ineligible address (e.g. employee’s home, UPS store, virtual office, etc.)
Google has all kinds of rules on the addresses you should and should not use, but does little to enforce those rules.  Unless you can upload a photo that makes it plain as day to the uninterested stiff at Google that your competitor is not at his/her stated address, that listing will probably stick.

Edits I can’t yet comment on (yet)

Move map pin.
I can’t remember the last time I needed to move a map pin, so I can’t say how likely Google is to accept that kind of edit.

Change categories.
Because most business owners get the categories basically correct, because you can only choose from a list (and not specify custom categories anymore), and because Google often “fixes” the categories automatically, very rarely do I ever suggest a different category.  Don’t remember what happened the last time I did, so I’d appreciate any fresh intel on this one.

Further reading

Can’t Fix a Spammy Google Maps Name? Try a Partial Edit – me

25 Hard Truths of Google Reviews – me

Interview with Bryan Seely: Google Maps Spam Fighter and Ethical Hacker for the Little Guy – me

How to Remove Fake Google Reviews – Jessie Low / Whitespark

The Ultimate Guide to Fighting Spam on Google Maps – Joy Hawkins

The Proper Way to Deal with Duplicates in Google My Business – Joy Hawkins

Local SEO Spam Tactics Are Working: How You Can Fight Back – Casey Meraz / Moz

Review Spam – Which Google Categories Are Worst? – Mike Blumenthal

The Largest Review Spam Network Ever or…Who Is Shazedur Rahman and Why Should You Care? – Mike Blumenthal

Spam in, Garbage out – Why Google’s Recent Paper on Map Spam Is Flawed – Mike Blumenthal

Any types of edits I missed?

What’s been your success with different types of edits?

What about the types of edits I couldn’t remark on?

Leave a comment!

How Likely Is Google Maps to Approve That Anti-Spam Edit?
Source: Local Visibility System

Why Clunky Sites (Often) Punch Above Their Weight in the Local Search Results

Why Clunky Sites (Often) Punch Above Their Weight in the Local Search Results

By “clunky” I mean a website of which you can say some or all of the following:

  • Doesn’t look smooth.
  • Not mobile-responsive.
  • Built on an old or less-common CMS, or is hand-coded.
  • Doesn’t have an SSL certificate.
  • Has some cruft, like pages with overlapping content, messy URLs, wordy title tags, etc.

At least in my experience, those sites often rank well.  Surprisingly well, and more often than you’d think.  When sniffing out a client’s local market and figuring out who’s up to what, naturally I’ll take a quick look at who’s #1 (and 2 and 3).  Half the time that business’s site is beautiful and seems to check all the boxes, perhaps because of a recent redesign.  But the other 50% of the sites are clunky.

How could that be?  Aren’t the Maps and organic rankings so competitive these days that even slight edges matter?  Why might a clunky site rank well in the local results?  A few possible explanations:

1. In-depth content hasn’t been scrubbed out (“Hey, nobody reads anymore!”) in favor of an “elegant” and more-visual design.

2. The site may have fewer slow-loading graphics and whiz-bang special effects. Better to be the Badwater snail than the finicky tropical fish.

3. The SEO person hasn’t wiped out or butchered the title tags.

4. The SEO person hasn’t 301-redirected any or many pages, perhaps losing inbound links in the process.

5. Google has had more time to digest the content on the site, and to evaluate how searchers behave on it. It’s not changing every day, and is more of a known quantity.

6. Most other businesses have sites that are clunky, too, and most of the few who have slick-n’-modern sites probably think that’s all they need to rank well.

7. The business owner doesn’t spend all his or her time on the site, and puts a little effort into other things that matter – like earning links, rustling up reviews, and working up enough recognition that people search for the business by name.

I’m not saying you should try to make your site clunky, or that you should never put work into it or reinvent it.  There’s a time to take it to the barber and the tailor, and there’s a time to take it behind the barn.

All I’m saying is that to rank well in Maps and in the localized organic results (1) your site doesn’t need to be perfect, (2) a redesign may not make it better, (3) the off-site work matters at least as much, and (4) tweaking your site shouldn’t be your nervous twitch when you want to improve your rankings.  Don’t be afraid of a little crust.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/61896505@N04/15267050363/

How well does your clunky site – or redesigned site – do in the local results?

Any first-hand experience that aligns or conflicts with what I’ve described?

Any war stories?

Leave a comment!

Why Clunky Sites (Often) Punch Above Their Weight in the Local Search Results
Source: Local Visibility System

Generic, Local-SEO-Friendly Business Names: the Pros and Cons of Using One

Generic, Local-SEO-Friendly Business Names: the Pros and Cons of Using One

https://www.flickr.com/photos/ftmeade/21716408891/

You’re considering a change of one size or another to the name your business, in the name of better local rankings.  The basic plan is to get a “keyword” and city or other place name into your name.

To make that change you might feel the need to keyword-stuff your Google My Business name, to use a fake name on your Google My Business page, to register a “doing business as” (DBA), to rename your business entirely, or to name your new business with local SEO in mind from the get-go.

The first two options aren’t wise, and the others may be wise.  Depends on your situation and on how you’ve weighed the pros and cons.  Here are the pros and cons you’ll want to weigh before you mess with your name:

Pros of a generic, “local-SEO-friendly” name:

  • You may rank for that search term (and maybe similar terms) more easily and quickly. The name of your Google My Business page affects your Maps rankings more than it should – partly because Google often isn’t good at telling brand-name searches from broader searches.  Your name also matters to your organic and non-Google rankings, to a lesser extent.
  • More-relevant anchor text in links. Any time the text of a link to your site is the name of your business, the link will contain a “keyword” and maybe your city naturally.  You won’t need to resort to shenanigans.
  • Some customers’ reviews will contain that search-engine-friendly name. The content of reviews seems to matter, in my experience.
  • For some search terms you might be the only business that appears on the local map (in a “local one-box” result, as it’s called).
  • Maybe you just can’t think of a good name.

Cons of a generic, “local-SEO-friendly” name:

  • It’s easy for your competitors to do the same. Most will not bother or simply will keyword-stuff their names but it may take only a couple of like-minded competitors to end your fiesta.  Easy come, easy go.
  • You may get competitors’ bad reviews. Their angry customers may confuse you with your competitors.
  • Competitors may get your good reviews. Your customers can get their wires crossed, too.
  • In general, more people may think you and your competitors belong to the same organization (maybe you’re part of a chain). That can lead to confusing phone calls, annoying emails, mixed-up coupons, bad press, and more.
  • You may be mistaken easily for spam. Competitors and do-gooders may submit Google Maps edits to your name.  Don’t assume Google will make the right call on whether to apply those edits.
  • You may be pigeonholed. Maybe you want to rank for other search terms and in other cities.  Then you’ll be at a crossroads as to how to do that.
  • Citation audits may be tougher. You (or a third party you work with) may find listings that aren’t yours, and miss listings that do belong to your business.
  • Google may have a harder time identifying searches specifically meant for your business – AKA brand-name searches. Because of your generic, broad name, Google likely will hedge its search results with businesses other than yours, just in case the person wasn’t searching for your business.  When in doubt Google includes junk.
  • You probably can’t trademark your name.
  • You miss out on the benefits of having a sticky, memorable name.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/aheram/3383179223/

How has the name of your business helped (or hurt) you?

To what extent did you think about the search-engine-friendliness before picking it?

If you had to do it all over again, what would you do differently?

Leave a comment!

Generic, Local-SEO-Friendly Business Names: the Pros and Cons of Using One
Source: Local Visibility System

Can’t Fix a Spammy Google Maps Name? Try a Partial Edit

Can’t Fix a Spammy Google Maps Name? Try a Partial Edit

https://www.flickr.com/photos/seanfreese/7185529293/

Let’s say you have a local competitor with a Google My Business page with a spammy name like “Your Best HVAC Company Cleveland.”  You know the real name of their business is “Harry’s Heating,” and you’ve submitted the real name as an edit in Google Maps, but Google didn’t approve your edit.  Google is too thick to recognize the fake name is fake – and against Google’s own policies – so the spam stands, and your spammy-named competitor ranks artificially well.

What now?

Try editing out only the name of the city.  It’s a baby step.  Google is more likely to approve your edit – and instantly – in my experience.  So, for a spammy listing like “Your Best HVAC Company Cleveland” you’d submit “Your Best HVAC Company” as the correct name of your competitor’s page.

Even if your first edit to the name has been “pending” for a few minutes or a few days (likely to be rejected by Google in the end), your newer, less-ambitious edit will be approved almost instantly if it’s approved at all.  It’s not stuck in a queue behind your earlier edit(s).

Why is a partial edit more likely to stick?  I’m sure there’s an algorithmic explanation (most edits are approved and rejected by algorithm), but I’d guess it’s simply because you’re asking Google to make a smaller decision.  You’re not asking Google to change the whole name of a business.

Wouldn’t it be better if Google fixed your spammy competitor’s name completely, so the business’s real name showed up on Google Maps, rather than the Keyword Spam Lite version?  Of course.  But there are many benefits to trying a partial edit:

1. Google may actually approve the partial edit. Clearly Google had a problem with your broader edit.

2. You’ll lessen your competitor’s exact-match-keyphrase mojo. A page with a spammy Google My Business name ranks well often not simply because it’s got “keywords” in it, but rather because Google’s terrible at telling when people are searching for a specific brand or company. Even when you type in a broad search term (e.g. “electricians in San Antonio”), Google thinks there’s a chance you’re searching for the spammy business that has a Google My Business page of that name.  Google would prefer to show you 3 businesses on the local map (including the spammer), knowing that 1-2 of those businesses won’t be what you want, rather than risk not showing you the specific company it thinks you might want to see.

3. Your competitor will have an ugly-sounding name show up in the search results. It may be more ugly or less ugly than the original version of the name (the one that included the city). But if it doesn’t rank as well (see point #2), even fewer people are likely to click, which in turn may put another damper on your spammy competitor’s rankings over time.

4. You’ll put another notch on your anti-spam belt. Your future edits will have a slightly better chance of being approved by Google.

5. Even if your competitors change their names back to include the city, you’ll become a pain in their necks. If they don’t just give up, by repeatedly adding the city back into their Google My Business name they’ll establish a longer history of spamming. That’ll be relevant information if you ever escalate the problem at the GMB forum.

6. Over time you might clean up your whole local market – at least a little bit. New would-be spammers will stick out even more, and some of the more-casual spammers may be deterred if they don’t see every other business use a spammy name. With luck, you can transform the local Superfund site into a mere town dump.

What’s a stubborn Google My Business “name-spam” case you’re dealing with?

Any war stories?

Any tips?

Leave a comment

Can’t Fix a Spammy Google Maps Name? Try a Partial Edit
Source: Local Visibility System

How Long Does It Take for a User-Submitted Yelp Page to Rank on Page 1 for a Branded Search?

How Long Does It Take for a User-Submitted Yelp Page to Rank on Page 1 for a Branded Search?

https://www.flickr.com/photos/jasonparis/4066106103/One week or less, from what I’ve seen.

A 7-Eleven opened nearby last year, but Yelp didn’t have a page for that location.  The locally-owned convenience store that used to be at that location had and still has a Yelp page.  (Nobody’s reported it as closed, and Yelp hasn’t de-duped.)  But the 7-Eleven didn’t have one for 9-10 months after opening.

I guess their SEO person is grazing in tidier pastures.

Anyway, I took it upon myself to submit a Yelp page for 7-Eleven, as I do from time to time.  I’m not big on convenience stores, and I’m even less big on pro bono enterprise local SEO, but my grand act was borne of curiosity: I had occasion to look up the hours.  Recently, a drunk guy crossed the street to ask if I knew how late the 7-Eleven was open.  I told Otis 11pm sounded right, but that I didn’t know for sure.  I looked it up when I got back from my stroll.  Turns out Google My Business didn’t have the hours, so I checked Yelp, which also didn’t have the hours.

On June 11th I created a Yelp page for 7-Eleven (minus the hours).  When I checked it on June 18th, a week later, it ranked #4 for a brand-name search. (It probably ranked on page 1 even sooner than that.  Wish I’d checked.)

So what?  Well, I suggest you patrol Yelp occasionally for “unofficial,” unclaimed, in many cases user-submitted (or competitor-planted) pages for your business.  You may or may not want that page, and it may or may not make your business look good, and it probably will be mighty visible when people search for you by name.

Keep an eye on competitors’ Yelp pages, too.  Those may rank well, even for competitive search terms, but you can probably get them removed or fixed without too much heartache.

How Long Does It Take for a User-Submitted Yelp Page to Rank on Page 1 for a Branded Search?
Source: Local Visibility System

Scraping Gray SEO Barnacles off the Local Spam Flotilla

Scraping Gray SEO Barnacles off the Local Spam Flotilla

https://www.flickr.com/photos/hotmeteor/4082689948/

“Barnacle” SEO, or the process of getting a page other than a page on your site to rank well in Google’s local organic search results, can be a great way to grab extra local visibility.  If your competitors get barnacle SEO to work for them, more power to ‘em – if they do it in a fair and square way.  If they don’t, you shouldn’t let it stand.

Yelp is the great-granddaddy barnacle site.  Your competitors may use it in a gray-hat way, though.  If your competitors use a fake or keyword-stuffed name in Yelp, and appear to have that page ranking well in Google as a result of that name, the chances are good you can scrape off some of that visibility.  You probably know the real name of their business (or you can find out easily), and you can be pretty confident that the name has propped up their Yelp rankings artificially if they’re outranking businesses with many more or much-better reviews.

I dealt with that recently for a client of mine.  One of his competitors had a Yelp page named simply “iPhone Repair.”  That was not the real name of the business, but that didn’t stop the Yelp page from ranking #1 in the local organic results for “iPhone repair.”  Well, I submitted an edit on that Yelp page.  In the optional “comments” you can include in your edit I mentioned what the real name was and how I knew (it was on their site).

Yelp fixed the name a couple days later, and the page ranked #1 for a while longer: It took Google probably 10 days to re-index the Yelp page, at which time it dropped from #1 to #6 in the organic results, and fell off of page 1 completely a few days after that.

Sure felt good to scrape that barnacle off.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/dickdotcom/13971900011/

For all of Yelp’s MANY flaws big and small, it is better at policing spam than Google is.  Plenty of spam still gets by Yelp, of course, but at least your anti-spam edits are less likely to be ignored.  As SEOs and business owners, our first impulse is to go after spammy Google My Business pages.  Which is fine and smart to do – as long as you also try to clean up spammy competitors’ Yelp pages.  May not work in your case, but your chances are better.

A few other, less-obvious upshots of trying to fix spammy Yelp pages:

1. Unlike in Google My Business, it’s harder for spammy competitors simply to change back to their fake or keyword-stuffed names. Yelp can and perhaps will lock the “name” field of their page, even if it’s been owner-verified. Less potential for whac-a-mole.

2. Those competitors are less likely to rank well IN Yelp’s search results.

3. Those competitors probably benefit from the same fake-o name in Google My Business. If you can get Yelp to fix the name, Google may be more likely to fix the Google My Business name, too.

4. Because Yelp is the main data-provider for Apple Maps and Bing Places, getting a competitor’s name fixed on Yelp may undo any ill-gotten rankings they’ve gotten in Apple or Bing. (For what that’s worth.)

Local SEO barnacles grow easily, but that also means they’re low on the food chain.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/trishhhh/2515019389/

What’s been your experience with anti-spam edits in Yelp – particularly of competitors’ names?

Any non-Yelp sites where you’ve been able to clean up competitors’ spam?

Any other war stories?

Leave a comment!

Scraping Gray SEO Barnacles off the Local Spam Flotilla
Source: Local Visibility System

What Kinds of “Contacts at Google” Can Local SEO Companies Have?

What Kinds of “Contacts at Google” Can Local SEO Companies Have?

https://www.flickr.com/photos/infomastern/12407730413/in/photostream/

Some local SEO companies tout “contacts” at Google who can straighten out problems (like competitors’ spam or a penalty you think you’ve received).  Sometimes that suggestion is plain untrue, other times it’s an exaggeration, and most times it’s irrelevant and won’t help you.

Knowing the specific type of “contact” your company has (or claims to have) at $GOOG can help you avoid wasting time, and it can help you determine how aboveboard your company or consultant is.

If your local SEO people (current or prospective) hint they’ve got any kind of “in” at Google, ask for specifics, like what department that person is in, and how your company or consultant knows him or her.  Your local SEO-er may be referring to one of several kinds of Google connections:

1. Google Analytics or AdWords Certified Partner status.  Based on the number of mangled local SEO campaigns I’ve seen run by “Certified Partners,” I can say with confidence that any benefits of working with a “Partner” company don’t translate into a better-policed Google Map.

2. Dedicated AdWords rep (unlikely).  If your SEO people do AdWords, and if they have enough ad-spend in the accounts they manage, they may have what resembles a relationship with an AdWords rep.  How’s that relevant to Google Maps and your plight there?  Well, you may have spent a chunk of dough on ads for keywords  for which your competitors rank well as a result of obvious Maps-spam.  In that case, an AdWords rep might escalate the issue with the Google My Business department more quickly than you (or your SEO company) could through the usual channels.  But that may happen even without a dedicated rep (see next point).

3. Random AdWords rep.  If your SEO company doesn’t manage Rubenesque accounts, they (and you) probably will probably get a different AdWords rep every time you’ve got a problem.  So your ability to contact a rep doesn’t mean your SEO-ers have what I’d call a “contact” at Google.  Still, that Googler’s limited usefulness for Google Maps concerns is the same as what I described in my “Dedicated AdWords rep” point (above). 

4. Google My Business support rep du jourMaybe your SEO people have tweeted at Google My Business support, or posted at the forum – maybe more than once – and perhaps got some issues resolved.  That doesn’t mean they’ve got a special “in” at Google, or that he or she can or will help you now or in the future. 

5. “Top Contributor” at the Google My Business forum.  For the most part, TCs are extremely generous with their time and provide a valuable service.  But they are volunteers, and not Google employees.  TCs interact with Googlers semi -regularly, but those Googlers have very limited power to work on Maps issues big or small, partly because the Maps department sees high turnover.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/stevenpisano/17255430203/

6. Googler acquaintance.  Does your SEO person play squash with a Google employee?  Did they go to high school together?  Did they have a 5-minute conversation at a conference?  That’s nice, but it’s not an “in” that will help you.  Google handles (or neglects) damn near every problem algorithmically, on a scale that can squash whole industries and local economies.  One lowly, Google-bus-riding employee can lob only so many thunderbolts from the skies.

7. No “contact,” but a good track record of getting Google Maps edits approved.  Even in full-on embellishment mode, your SEO people probably wouldn’t characterize a good edit-history as a “contact,” but rather as “having sway” or as “Google listens to us,” or some such thing.  Perhaps the SEO people don’t have that track record, but know someone who does.  In any case, though that kind of puffery would concern me, a good spam-fighter may be the most-useful “contact” you can have in this age of shrinking Google employees and planet-eating algorithms.

Is there a type of contact at Google I forgot to mention?

Any war stories about a Googler who was surprisingly helpful (or useless)?

Leave a comment!

What Kinds of “Contacts at Google” Can Local SEO Companies Have?
Source: Local Visibility System

5 Types of Google My Business Descriptions That Go Boom

5 Types of Google My Business Descriptions That Go Boom

https://www.flickr.com/photos/eggplant/6579003815/

Few business owners have used the Google My Business “description” field, now that it’s returned.  Even fewer make their description do any work.

Google wiped out businesses’ descriptions when it retired GMB descriptions a couple of years ago.  Most ranged from spam to clutter.  Given the cyclical nature of everything in Google Maps, I’m sure it’s just a matter of time before every business on the local map has a Cheez Whiz description again.

Until then, you can craft a GMB description that makes more of the right people more likely to take the next step you want them to.  Also, if users’ behavior matters to Google at all, a sticky description may help your rankings over time.

I can think of 5 basic types of descriptions I’ve seen (or helped create), each with different approaches to the same goal.  Here are 5 species of Google My Business descriptions that might work for you:

Kill-Shot

This type of description is brief, gets across your USP, and asks the searcher to take the next step.

Different call-to-action here – a baby step:

For a bricks-and-mortar store, you might want to deploy a “come on down”:

You and Me

The “You and Me” sounds like its name: in it you don’t talk about your business or about customers in the third-person voice.  It’ll sound less stuffy, if you do it right.

Saying “we” / “us” / “our” might also work.

The above example is from Mike Blumenthal’s most-visible client – often among the first to make good use of new Google My Business features.

Strength in Numbers:

Your GMB description is a good place to wheel out impressive numbers and other specifics.

Brass Tacks

Google gives you 750 characters, and shows the first 250 characters before truncating your description, but maybe you don’t need that many characters to say exactly what you do.

In this kind of description, you assume the right searcher knows what the next step is.  That’s one difference between it at the “Kill-Shot.”  The other difference is that the “Brass Tacks” description is more matter-of-fact and less emotion-driven.

Carpe Diem (AKA “The Homepage away from Home”)

The opposite of the “Brass Tacks,” in this type of description you don’t save info for your landing page.  You don’t assume people will make it that far, so you rip through your main selling points.  You see your description (and the whole sidebar it’s in) as some customers see it and as Google wants everyone to see it: as your new homepage.

What kind of description is yours?

Any great examples you’ve run across?

Leave a comment!

5 Types of Google My Business Descriptions That Go Boom
Source: Local Visibility System

Google My Business Description Gets the Catbird Seat

Google My Business Description Gets the Catbird Seat

Google appears to have moved the new-ish “description” field to the top of the right-hand sidebar (AKA the knowledge panel).

For the few weeks since Google reintroduced Google My Business descriptions, the description had showed up near the bottom of the sidebar.  Now it’s above even the most-basic business info, like the address and phone number.

Clearly Google wants people to see the thing.

Whether it’s a permanent change or just another test remains to be seen.  It’s also unclear how this might tie into Google’s ongoing push to monetize the local search results.

Still, you should make hay while the sun shines, and write the catchiest, hardest-to-resist description you can in the 250 characters you’re given.  (Google truncates the description after 250 characters.)

Where do you see the “description” field, in relation to the other info in the sidebar?

Are you seeing it on all devices

What do you think Google’s up to?

Leave a comment!

Google My Business Description Gets the Catbird Seat
Source: Local Visibility System

4 Ways to Read Google’s No-Cherry-Picking Policy on Google Reviews

4 Ways to Read Google’s No-Cherry-Picking Policy on Google Reviews

https://www.flickr.com/photos/bertknot/8942969294/

Google recently added the following to their seldom-enforced list of preferences policies on Google Maps reviews:

“Don’t discourage or prohibit negative reviews or selectively solicit positive reviews from customers.”

The basic meaning seems clear enough: Google doesn’t want you to cherry-pick reviews.  Fine.  Got it.

But what’s Google’s definition of “discouraging or prohibiting” a negative review or “selectively soliciting” a positive review?  Have you done either of those things without realizing it?  Is Google only trying to scare the serious offenders and put everyone else (like you) on alert?

Joy Hawkins did a helpful post about Google’s “review-gating” policy.  Here is her take on what Google now tells us not to do:

“Review-gating is the process of filtering candidates before asking them to leave you a review.  Normally this is done by sending all customers an email template and first asking them if they had a positive or negative experience.  If they had a positive experience, they are asked to leave a review on Google but if they had a negative experience, they are prompted to leave private feedback and are never sent the option to leave a review publicly.”

Google doesn’t call it “review-gating,” or specifically mention customer-outreach tools, but I’d say Joy’s conclusion is solid, and good advice to heed.

The only trouble is other review-encouragement practices may or may not be in the crosshairs of Google’s new policy.  You can interpret “don’t discourage or prohibit negative reviews or selectively solicit positive reviews from customers” in a few other ways.  You could hamstring your effort on reviews unnecessarily, or you could do something Google doesn’t want you to.

Here’s probably the loosest way to read Google’s new “rule”:

Interpretation 1: “We don’t care if you only approach happy-ish customers for Google reviews, and we don’t even care exactly how you ask, just as long as you constantly make it clear that customers can leave you a negative review if they feel the need.”

A more-specific reading:

Interpretation 2: “We don’t care whom you ask for Google reviews, but you’d better not fixate on their star ratings or what they say in the reviews.  So that means don’t be like the hotel that fined guests for leaving bad reviews, don’t tell customers things like, ‘If we haven’t earned your 5-star review yet, please contact us first’, and don’t use review funnels.”

Here’s the harshest interpretation of it:

Interpretation 3: “Ask all customers for reviews, or ask none at all. Don’t let your knowledge of a customer’s happiness influence whether you ask him or her for a review.  If you do ask for a review, pretend there’s no such thing as ‘negative’ review, a ‘positive’ review, or star ratings.”

Here’s what I think Google means:

Interpretation 4: “We’re obligated to tell you that you shouldn’t ‘selectively solicit’ or ‘discourage or prohibit’ reviews.  We’re smart enough to define those terms more clearly for you, but we’d rather leave it open to interpretation.  That’ll deter some people, and it’ll spook software makers into enforcing our policies for us, and it lets us change our definitions however we want.”

Google long has left its review guidelines and other guidelines mushy (or obscure), apparently by design.  Google’s policies, enforcement SOPs, and internal politics change all the time.  Why wouldn’t they keep their options open?

For many years I’ve urged clients and others not to put words in customers’ mouths, not to fixate on 5 stars, and always to seek honest feedback.  It’s possible to try too hard to avoid bad reviews.  In doing so you miss out on many of the benefits of reviews in general.

But if you learn customers have gripes, it’s only reasonable to try to work out any problems first.  That’s what they hope and expect you’ll do.  They know full well that they can leave you a bad review at any time.  I suspect the Google Maps powers-that-be would agree, but on the off-chance they don’t, let’s see them try to do something about it.  As David Baxter said over at the Local Search Forum, “It’s about deterrence.”

How do you interpret Google’s latest mushy “policy” language?

Does it change your strategy in any way?

Any possible readings I missed?

Leave a comment!

4 Ways to Read Google’s No-Cherry-Picking Policy on Google Reviews
Source: Local Visibility System