SXSW Startup Crawl 2014!

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I’ll be roaming the streets for the annual ritual known as the Startup Crawl. If you want to see the best of what Austin is generating right now, shoot me a tweet @DCOffline and come find me!

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Google Launches New Places Dashboard

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I love reading Linda Buquet. She is so detail-oriented and descriptive that I rarely trim her posts. Here’s her writeup on the new Google Places Dashboard that was released this week. If you’re not using this for your business already – GET ON IT. You are absolutely missing out on sales and traffic if you’re not.

The following hasn’t been edited at all – the voice is completely hers and you’ll be able to feel her excitement as she describes the details … enjoy!

>>>

So excited to finally be able to announce the launch of the new Google Places Dashboard. YAY!

This new All-in-One Google Local Listing Management Dashboard offers SOOOOO many significant advantages and yes the old dashboard is really going away.

Although, please be aware this is a HUGE UPDATE, that will gradually be rolling out nationally – then internationally. It’s rolling out as we speak and could take days, possibly weeks to reach everyone and this is just phase one.

I believe it’s open to NEW signups now and will roll out gradually from there. More changes and improvement are still coming after this, and of course the product will continue to expand and evolve.

A pic is worth 1,000 words so without further ado let me show you the new integrated dashboard.

Above is the demo listing Google created for Linda’s Snow Shop. Here is the live page with the categories and description I just added yesterday.

You see the Google Places data editing section, (Yes it’s still called Places on the business owner side) there is also one button Google+ Page set-up AND management widget, a Google Adwords Express widget and Google Offers widget, all together in the same interface. How hot is that?!!!

PLUS all the data flows between and is consistent between all the different apps. Additionally, if you do something wrong OR if an edit will be delayed because it needs to be approved, it will tell you that too! This is just such a major improvement I can’t hardly type, I’m so excited.

PLACE PAGE DATA EDIT SCREEN

Short on time hope the notes on screenshot are sufficient.

EDITING CATEGORIES

I tried to add the custom categories “snowman creation service” and “snowblowers full of hot air”
to Linda’s Snow Shop as custom cats. Here’s what happened:

NO MORE CUSTOM CATEGORIES

Yes there is, 1 Button set up for Google+ Business page right in your new dashboard. Super hot!
(This is why I kept telling you Google has been saying to wait!)

Google+ Widget

Then when I click “Visit Your Google+ Page” here is the G+ Business page management screen.

Google+ Management Screen

NOTE: You don’t have to merge/verify your G+ Business page yet if you don’t want to. If you don’t need social or want to wait for things to improve you can simply stay with the Place page/G+ Local page.

OFFICIAL ANNOUNCEMENT FROM GOOGLE

Improving the look and feel of Google Places for Business

New Places for Business Marketing Page

A couple other points. Edits SHOULD go live a little faster for most things as they’ve been working on the data pipeline. However I think images are still delayed, but they are working on it. And again this will take awhile to roll out and more exciting changes are in the wind…

There is a ton more info that I don’t have time to type up. I tried to show the most important stuff in the screenshots and links below will answer many of your questions.

HELP DOCS with MORE INFO

IMPORTANT FAQ More details about the improved look and feel of Google Places for Business

What’s happening to Google Places for Business?

Service area businesses in Google Places for Business This is all changed and MUCH better!

Google debuts two-week online mapping course

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Spotted on The Next Web

Google on Tuesday announced a new online mapping course to teach users how to best leverage Google Maps, Maps Engine Lite, and Google Earth. Mapping with Google will be offered from June 10 to June 24, though as a self-paced offering, allowing you to take your time learning the ins and outs of the company’s services.

Google says all registrants will receive an invitation to preview the new Google Maps, which it unveiled at its I/O 2013 conference earlier this month. The company has been slowly letting interested users try out the new service, but it has yet to roll it out for everyone or even give a date for when it will do so.

Yet this course is clearly more than just a run-through the new version of Google Maps; it will feature a combination of video and text lessons and activities, as well as on-hand Google experts and a community of participants available to talk to via Google+ Hangouts and a course forum. In fact, Google says students will have the option to complete a project, applying the skills they learn to earn a certificate of completion.

If you’re interested, you can register now. You’ll be asked to sign in with a Google account, provide your full name, and answer three questions (only the first is mandatory):

  • What goal do you hope to achieve by signing up for this course?
  • How have you used Google Maps in the past?
  • How have you used Google Earth in the past?

You may also want to check out the system requirements before signing up. Unless you’re on a 10-year-old machine, chance are you’ll be fine.

Readers might be wondering why Google is bothering to offer such a course. Analysis can go in many directions with this one, but given that the company’s mapping products and services are already market leaders, the simplest explanation is the company just wants to keep it that way and some promotion in this vein can’t hurt.

See also – Google unveils new Google Maps for desktop with unified imagery, new interface, live 3D and more and Google previews next version of Google Maps for iOS and Android, including an iPad app coming this summer

4 Huge Changes with New Google Maps

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I posted last week about getting my invite to the New Google Maps and there are a bazillion (yes, that’s a real number – and I counted up to it and then gave up) changes that will impact your positioning on these maps.
And that will impact new customers finding you.
[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ylZg43Meick]
Here are the top 4, according to Linda Buquet who is a much more thorough writer than me 😉
#1 No left column of the top ranked listings. It’s all one big map with a floating search bar. Instead of a local results column, you now see highlights and names of Places right on the map itself. There is no 1, 2, 3 or A, B, C ranking.

#2 No link to Google+ Local Page. If you click a listing on the map an Info Card pops up. It shows details and reviews and links to your web site. But there is no link to your G+ Local page. The only way to get there is by clicking on reviews. (Previously there was a “more info” link on the info bubble.)

New Info Window that features business data on the map
MapsNewBest

So above you see the listings for several Dentists. No ranking order on the map. The one selected shows in the new “Info Card”. As mentioned, no direct link to the G+ Local page except via the reviews link.

#3 Ranking results are VERY different than Google search ranking order.

When you do a keyword search, as I explained, there is no ranking order on the map. Although only the listings Google thinks are most important will show with a label. The rest are unlabeled dots.

So the only way to see a ranking order is to select Places from 1) Top Reviewers 2) Your circles
or 3) Go to list of top results. See below…

MapsNewBevHillsDentist

 

HOWEVER here’s the biggie. When you click that link to view top results, the ranking order is VERY different than the ranking order on the 1st page of Google search. So the algo is either different OR things just aren’t jiving in Maps BETA.

But here is an even bigger issue! You know how the Places search is gone now and the “more results near” link is gone now? So you can’t get beyond page 1 of the results in Google search. Places search is what the rank tracking programs used to calculate rank. So if someone was on page 2 they may have ranked #23.

Well when that went away, the tracking programs (I believe both Bright and Scout) switched to using the ranking order on the left column of maps, because that’s all that was left.

Now that left column is gone. SOOOO the only place to see ranking order is “top results”. But again that ranking order is TOTALLY different than page 1 search.

#4 Everyone’s map will be different. This will possibly be the biggest issue of all.

You can’t tell a client they rank #3 because a consumer’s map will be personalized for them. And your client may see something totally different than what you see. Here is quote from a post I did over the weekend.

The map is not a static map. Your map will not look like my map.

And the map for “Dallas Dentist” I look at when trying to see how my client ranks could be totally different than what my client sees. And what that potential new patient sees doing a 1st time search could be different than his results or mine.

This new map is built at search time, based on not only traditional ranking factors (like popularity, proximity and # of reviews) but also personal preferences, past browsing history and anything else Google decides to throw into the mix.

So tracking results is going to get very interesting.

The new Google Maps also learns from you, changes & grows with you!

So if your Dentist client clicks on 3 of his competitors quite often, to check out what they are doing…
I think his competitors MAY appear more prominent to him than they really are (or would be to a patient, doing a 1st time search).

Here is a Google Hangout Ryan AKA Optimize Prime did about the new Google Maps yesterday where I was able to ask some questions and have him show some examples that bring the points above to light. You’ll discover lots of changes in this video that will impact Local Search. 

[youtube http://youtu.be/aVenWtAhxJs]

Here is a great post Matt McGee just penned Sunday:
A Tour of the New Google Maps -15 Screenshots

Here are some great observations from Chris Silver Smith at Search Engine Land yesterday:
New Google Maps UI Calls For Shifts In SEO Tactics

Below are 2 posts from here at the forum over the weekend with lots of great discussion about the changes and how they could affect our world.

Video Walkthrough of New Google Maps – Impact on Local SEO

New Google Maps – The Pros Discuss Ramifications for Local SEO
I’ll be testing this New Maps preview as I have time. I’m sure I’ll be sharing more posts about all these changes and I hope to do some ranking analysis to try to determine how the algorithm has changed in the new top results order.

Penguin 2.0 Is Now Live

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penguin

Spotted on Search Engine Watch this morning:

The fourth release of Google’s spam-fighting “Penguin Update” is now live. But, Penguin 4 has a twist. It contains Penguin 2.0 technology under the hood, which Google says is a new generation of tech that should better stop spam.

Matt Cutts, the head of Google’s Web spam team, announced the new Penguin 2.0 update during This Week in Google (Episode #199). He referenced the earlier video of himself talking about the next generation Penguin update, and said this is being rolled out “within the next few hours.”

Webmasters and SEOs: expect major changes to the search results. Matt specifically said that 2.3% of English queries will be noticeably impacted by this update.

Cutts later posted more details about this roll out on his blog. He explained that the launch is now complete, including for non-English languages, and that “the scope of Penguin varies by language, e.g. languages with more webspam will see more impact.”

Previous Penguin Updates:

Penguin 4? Penguin 2.0? Google names each release of Penguin in sequential order, so it’s easy to know when one happened. The list so far:

  • Penguin 1 on April 24, 2012 (impacting ~3.1% of queries)
  • Penguin 2 on May 26, 2012 (impacting less than 0.1%)
  • Penguin 3 on October 5, 2012 (impacting ~0.3% of queries)
  • Penguin 4 on May 22, 2013 (impacting 2.3% of queries)

After the first release, the second and third were just data refreshes of the same basic Penguin algorithm with only minor changes. This fourth release is a major change, so big that Google has referred to it as Penguin 2.0 internally.

Penguin 2.0 Goes Deeper, Impacting More Webmasters

Matt said in a recent video that this Penguin update is a major update that goes go deeper than the original Penguin update and will impact many more SEOs and webmasters than the first generation version. Here is that video again:

For more on the Google Penguin update, click here.

Is Google Becoming the Real-Life J.A.R.V.I.S.?

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gnow-cardlist-localKyle Wagner has a great observation from Google I/O today on Gizmodo. Apparently El Goog is making Search conversational – similar to Tony Stark’s J.A.R.V.I.S. computer on Ironman. This has been on Android handsets for a bit in the form of Google Now, but Google just took it to the next level.

The first big search move that Google announced today at I/O was to make it more personal, so you can search for things like “my flight to london” and get information for your upcoming flight to London. Naturally. Like Google Now already does, but for search.

More impressive, though, is Google’s push towards conversational search for PC or mobile devices, so you can just say, “OK Google, find a restaurant near my next appointment” and it’ll go off and do that. The promise of Siri finally realized. Hugely ambitious, powered by Knowledge Graph information to answer these questions.

More practically, you’d be asking for things like seafood restaurants near a neighborhood you’re looking for, or photos near a landmark you’re interested in visiting. Or even how tall you have to be to ride a ride. Obviously, this is something we’ve been hoping for years, but never quite gotten right. There’s just too much context needed, too much advanced language recognition, too much computation. And yet that’s exactly what Google demonstrated today.

We’re still skeptical you’ll be able to use it quite like in the live stage demos, but what we saw was pretty darned impressive. At the very least, it’s startling as a proof of concept.

Google’s conversational search also works to send emails to individual contacts, even by just their first name. In one Google demo, an employee sent an email to a full contact, with a first and last name, just by the user saying “Send an email to Katie,” because it knew that’s who was meant.

Read the rest of his take here: http://gizmodo.com/did-google-just-try-to-totally-change-how-search-works-506824627