In June, Google launched Carousel for local results.
For those of you who have watched the migration from Maps to Places to Plus, this seems to be the latest iteration. In addition, to Carousel, many of you probably already noticed that Google dropped the Zagat Reviews strategy and is now back to the 5 Star reviews, a much easier system for consumers to navigate in my opinion.
Now when a user searches for a local results, instead of the seeing the traditional ABC vertical listings under Adwords, there is now a horizontal band across the top of the screen which features thumbnails, ratings, as well as the number of Google+ reviews. Users now have the ability to scroll sideways to view more listings.
A positive outcome of this is that businesses whose maps listing did not appear “above the fold,” before might now be able to have their thumbnail image seen in the Carousel. I therefore highly recommend that you
ensure that the thumbnail you select is high quality and represents your business in the best possible way.
I’ve checked a few local listings and it seems to be showing up in some markets and not others and some days and not others. That’s Google for you. Regardless, you need to be sure that your Google Plus page is highly optimized.
Digital Marketing Works (DMW) conducted an extensive study of Carousel to try and determine how rankings were achieved. The agency looked at about 4,500 hotel search results in 47 US cities. For those who are interested in reading more, here is the link
According to Search Engine Land, the essence of the results were:
1. Review quality and volume: “Carousel rank correlates highly with Google review ratings… Our study also showed an equally strong correlation for a hotel’s quantity of Google reviews”
2. Distance and travel time are ranking variables
3. Google appears to be weighting results based on a more nuanced understanding of queries and inferred user intent
4. The findings and ranking variables held true in both large and small markets
It doesn’t appear that third party reviews (e.g., Yelp) are factoring in the Carousel rankings according to DMW.
For those of you who check your Google Analytics, you may have noticed that in the keyword section, your number one keyword was probably listed as “not-provided.” This number represents the amount of non-paid traffic that arrived at your site when they were signed into Google while they were searching. Google implemented this in 2011 as they said to “protect user privacy.”
For small business owners and Internet marketers alike, this caused a problem because it made it harder to optimize your website and marketing campaigns because a large portion of visitors to your websites were signed in and therefore, those keywords were unavailable.
Well, on September 23, 2013 Google announced that all searches through their system will now be secure searches. This means Google searches will no longer pass keyword data through to websites, thereby eliminating site owners to track users by their keyword searches. In addition, Google’s Free External Keyword Tool is also no longer available.
Many people in the Internet marketing world speculate that Google has done this to push site owners towards their advertising platform – Google Adwords. Why? Because Adwords offers its own Keyword Planner tool. The keyword planner combines the Keyword Tool plus a Traffic Estimator. This is helpful for advertisers when they want to determine bid price and possible ROI. Now, you don’t need to be a Google Adwords advertiser to have access to this tool, but you do have to sign up for an account.
And for those marketers who already have a Google Webmaster Tools account, keyword data is still provided there although it does not let you cross reference with all the other areas of Google Analytics.
For those of you who have a Google Plus Page, you may receive the following e-mail:
“We’re writing to let you know that we will be updating Google’s Terms of Service on November 11, 2013; you can read a summary of the coming changes here. We’ve also added a new setting that gives you more control over where your Page’s name, photo and actions appear on Google and across the web.
We’ve updated Google’s Terms of Service, including changes that apply to Google’s use of your Page’s name, photo and actions.
Google+ is designed to enable your content to be discovered, for example, by surfacing contextually relevant content or actions when they might be of interest to others. We call these recommendations ‘shared endorsements’. The changes to the Terms clarify details about how your Page’s name, photo and relevant activity may appear in shared endorsements. For example, if your Page publicly follows another Page, Google may surface this action with your Page’s name and photo when relevant and helpful to users, including in ads.
You’re in control of what you share on Google. Your Page sharing settings are not affected and, as always, if you’ve shared something with a limited audience, we respect that.
What Can I Do?
The new Shared Endorsements setting lets you control how your Page’s name, photo and the actions you take (such as +1’s, reviews you write, or comments you post) may appear in advertising. This setting does not affect other places your Page’s name and photo may appear. You can access this setting from your Page’s Dashboard and may change it any time. If you turn the setting off, you may not be able to use certain features until you re-enable it.
If you manage multiple Pages, each Page has its own setting.
The changes to the Terms will be effective as of November 11, 2013. If you do not take any action, the Shared Endorsements setting will be turned on.
Where Can I Learn More?
To learn more about these updates for Google+ Pages, you can review the updated Google Terms of Service as well as the Google+ Help Center.
Please also read the updated Google+ Pages Additional Terms of Service”
David Carleton is a Spa and Pool Dealer Marketing Consultant who specializes in showing business owners how to spend less and get more from their marketing and advertising using low cost strategies in local business marketing, lead generation and conversion, Internet marketing and social media. To download a copy of the free report, “9 Steps to Internet Marketing Success fo Pool and Spa Dealers”, go to http://SpaPoolMarketingSuccess.com
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