Google City Experts & Current State of Google+ for Local

For those working in search marketing, it seems as though Google’s Knowledge Graph changes monthly. This is particularly true for Local SEO. I recently noticed the inclusion of what appear to be Google reviews within the Knowledge Graph. Mike Blumenthal was able to document this update in an expanded post where he discusses the elements of what the reviews display.document

Not all of the reviews shown on the Knowledge Graph are verbatim from an individual review. Instead, some are composed of certain bolded keywords where a review is an aggregate of several. For example, this hotel, Viceroy Santa Monica, has a reivew visibile with the indication that there are 5  associated reviews.

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Who Wrote This Review?

What is even more interesting is to do an exact match search for this review within Google to see what comes up. Some type of mysterious description that is no longer on the Google+ page or even cached. Perhaps this is some type of sentiment aggregation?

google+ reviews example

The Likely Solution For Review Spam From Google

As I was reading the comments of Mike’s post, an idea sparked regarding the way in which spam will inevitably be dealt with by Google. We all know how Google’s efforts to deal with spam have been everything but a smooth process. Their are countless businesses still trying to recover from Google Panda and sourcing Google+ Local issues can burn valuable time resources.

One comment in particular brought up an anecdote of how participants in Google City Experts are encouraged to leave reviews via their mobile device (would be great if anyone could source these instructions as the FAQ page is minimal).

Google City Experts For The Win

I vaguely remembered hearing about this program some time ago, and now it is very much on my radar. I also just signed up so many more insights to come on this program. I would venture to guess that Google is actively experimenting with this group of reviewers. Experts must review 5x per month to remain on the program. The recommendation to use mobile allows Google to triangulate the position of the reviewer as well as verify their credentials via their Google+ profile.

The key takeaway here involves involves the simultaneous use of both of these concepts. Triangulation can be prone to abuse via fake GPS software. Logging into an online profile cannot 100% verify a visit to specific location unless  their is triangulation. At the very least, Google City Experts is being used to populate Google+ Local with as much content as possible. As soon as I signed up, I was taken to the following screen where local places where displayed covering a variety of different types of businesses in a rather random order.

google city experts and google+ local

Surprisingly, I have not visited the above places or any that were listed in the personalized Google City Experts welcome page. It’s somewhat intuitive that people would be more interested to review places that they previously visited. I’m surprised that these entities were not more personalized as the data is likely being tracked by Google for those with Google+ profiles.

Is Google ReviewRank Here?

The other dynamic to the situation deals with the authority of the reviewer.  Undoubtedly, reviews coming from an individual account that has been verified by Google with a history of high quality reviews will be treated differently than those coming from a recently created Google+ profile with the Gmail [insert business name here]@gmail.com. By verified individual account, I mean that Google has independently verified a Google+ individual profile belonging to someone in the real world.

The other dynamic to the situation deals with the authority of the reviewer.  Undoubtedly, reviews coming from an individual account that has been verified by Google with a history of high quality reviews will be treated differently than those coming from a recently created Google+ profile with the Gmail [insert business name here]@gmail.com. By verified individual account, I mean that Google has independently verified a Google+ individual profile belonging to someone in the real world.

Checklist for More Reviews on Google+

More developments to come with this of course. Though the best advice for businesses remains the same. The following checklist can be broken down and applied to a variety of different businesses across several verticals.

  1. Claim the Google+ Local Listing
  2. Optimize with categories, photos, & correct NAP information
  3. Use Moz Local for additional local listing reclamation (though it is somewhat slow)
  4. Take customer surveys & collect data
  5. Remain active on strategic social channels
  6. Identify relevant influences
  7. Ensure a positive customer experience for influencer targets

The aforementioned happens as one component of an SEO campaign for smaller businesses or organizations. For the enterprise, it will be interesting to see how the recently updated Google+ Bulk Upload will accommodate multi-location businesses such as hotels and other national chains.

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St. Lucia September SXSW: Content Marketing Example

[nzs_heading heading=”2″] The Search for Great Content [/nzs_heading]

It’s always great to find content that is genuinely entertaining and of particular interest. This is content that is serving its purpose. The video is an owned media digital asset strategically created in conjunction with several brands, among them Embassy Suites Hotels, SPIN, & SXSW.

As a fan of the Brooklyn-based, St. Lucia, I was browsing some live recordings and came across “September”.  It took place during SXSW, but was actually recorded inside Embassy Suites Downtown Austin & produced by SPIN. The YouTube account is the official account of Embassy Suites Hotels.

This is a great example of content marketing. It is serving its purpose as original content with most definitely a positive ROI.

From the brand’s perspective, it is driving targeted impressions to an accurate target audience. There probably was a bunch of clicks coming through to SPIN from this video of interested consumers searching for more content. From Embassy Suites’ perspective, the content serves as a unique video asset that will gain views & send traffic to Embassy Suites. Random? Not really, there is a lodging component to almost everything. Because of the demographic, a significant number of viewers will likely stay in a hotel. Embassy Suites is now on their radar because they hold concerts for some of their favorite bands in the actual rooms.

[nzs_heading heading=”2″] No Annotations? [/nzs_heading]

It is interesting to note that there are no YouTube annotations (a hyperlinked text or graphic within the video). This is likely the case for two reasons: branding or lack of strategy. These are strategic links links that send more traffic to a site.

From the consumer’s perspective, this YouTube video is exactly what they wanted (for the most part). If you were searching for a live version of “Septemer”, you would likely enjoy this. The consumers are then coming across these brands, perhaps for the first time, in a positive environment. An ideal situation compared to consumer frustration when something annoying can happen; irrelevant banner ads and pop-ups.

[nzs_heading heading=”2″]Great Content=Unlimited Links![/nzs_heading]

Bottomline, this content passes two important questions that should always be asked when creating content for a brand (along with many others). The content is entertaining and of particular interest. Live music is usually entertaining and the interest  involves aspects of all parties; St. Lucia is a rising band, SXSW is a major festival, SPIN is a popular webzine.

Last but not least, when your content is REALLY GOOD, you can get mentions like the blog you’re currently reading.

(I debated giving an editorial link to Embassy Suites Austin Downtown, but i’ll just leave this here…)

Google+ Secure Hangouts for Lawyers

[nzs_heading heading=”5″]Take full advantage of all Google+ has offer [/nzs_heading]

Hangouts on Google+ are now mainstream methods to connect with the public for news, entertainment, and social purposes. With Secure Hangouts, two parties can communicate via a secure, encrypted connection that are ideal for certain legal communications between attorney & client.

Lawyers now have a brand-new, efficient way not only of servicing existing clients, but also marketing yourself as a lawyer. Video content is widely understood to be one of the most engaging forms of content. With existing means of video production available already, lawyers that have been taking advantage of video content assets can now incorporate a new dynamic of conversion optimization in the form of Google Secure Hangouts.

Prior to Google Secure Hangouts, conducting a Hangout about a certain topic was easy to do and the recording would automatically upload to YouTube. This strategy is a way to gain targeted impressions for your practice in the hopes of a future client. Currently, this can be effectively measured using Google Analytics to monitor a YouTube Channel’s metrics. With Secure Hangouts, we can now segment users further and create a new type of lead.

[nzs_heading heading=”5″] Personalized Content Offerings Driving Hot Leads [/nzs_heading]

Secure Hangouts and the personalized content offerings they provide place a potential client in touch with legal representation directly. This process can be extremely fast, rapidly shortening one set of assigned conversions. In this case, analytics may show several days between an initial view on YouTube that lead to another form of contact, ie phone or email. Now, that gap can be closed and efforts can be spent nurturing the lead.

Developing a strategy for how to incorporate Secure Hangouts within your practice will be key for long-term organic visibility. Feel free to share your firm’s Google+ or YouTube Channel below.

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