Understanding How G+ Page Owners and Managers Work

March 3, 2014

Google has gone through a ton of changes since they transitioned the Google Places page to Google+ Local back in 2012. We have seen Google automatically upgrade pages so that they have social functionality, a new review monitoring tool, a nifty App for Android, and a sleek and highly-functional new Google Places Dashboard.

Before Google allowed for the auto or manual upgrading of regular old Google Places pages to turn them into pimped-out G+ Local pages, only one account was technically allowed to manage a page. Sure, listings often found themselves claimed in multiple accounts, but this was technically against Google’s guidelines and had a whole bag of side effects. With upgraded pages, meaning pages that have been verified and can access Google’s social features, Google now allows for a single listing owner as well as up to 50 managers.

This is very useful as it allows a business owner to invite multiple people to contribute to the G+ Local page. These users can post content, add photos, update the cover photo, and/or update business hours, amongst other tasks. If you own an upgraded G+ Local page, there are two different places you could invite managers from:

• G+ Dashboard
• New Google Places Dashboard

Yes, that’s right. Google has two separate dashboards for managing upgraded G+ Local pages. I will show you how to add managers from each one:

Google+ Dashboard

The Google+ Dashboard is where you can make edits to the page and monitor social analytics.
To add a manager from the Google+ Dashboard, navigate to the Managers section. This section has been shuffled around over the last few months so you might have to really hunt for it. Once in, click the Add Managers button to add the e-mail of the person that you want to invite.

New Google Places Dashboard

Managers can also be invited directly from the new Google Places Dashboard. When logged in, navigate to the Gear icon (look at the screenshot below – it’s on the top right) and select Manage Listing Access.

From there you are actually redirected to the G+ Dashboard Add a Manager page.
Google recently added a new classification called Communications Manager. The following table shows the capabilities of each owner and type of manager.

Check out the following help doc from Google for more details:

Owners and Managers on Google+ Pages

The Negative Impact of Bulk Feeds on Google Places

January 21, 2014

There has been a lot of talk lately about Bulk Feeds on Google Places.  Bulk feeds are supposed to be a great way for a business owner with tons of locations to get their listings activated on Google Places without the pain of manually verifying each one.  Corporate offices have been jumping on this as a way to get their locations more exposure on Google.  However, I think it’s really important for business owners to know the negative impacts that bulk feeds could have on their listing.

For businesses that are debating if they should simply be listed on a bulk feed vs. claiming their listing manually it’s very important to be aware of the differences between the two options.  Bulk feeds can have a negative impact on local businesses in the following three ways.

Data Integrity

Listings that are on bulk feeds also can be claimed manually on Google Places:

“Non-bulk upload users (such as store managers) can verify business locations through individual PIN verification even if those locations are bulk verified” (https://support.google.com/places/answer/178024)

Why is this bad?  Multiple owners means that Google is receiving data about the business from several locations – from your Google Places Dashboard that you have claimed and also from the bulk feed.  There is no saying which data will actually show up live on Google:

Categories: The categories you want your business to show up for may not match what the bulk feed has, therefore you may or may not get included in the categories you have specified.

Description: Your business description may display what is in the bulk feed instead of what is in your dashboard.

Name, Address & Phone Number: This can become a serious issue for businesses who move or get new owners.  In the last few years I have run into several cases where a business moved and Google was displaying their old address for months because the business didn’t realize they were also listed on a bulk feed at their corporate office and because that feed hadn’t been updated, their information was showing wrong.

Photos: If the bulk feed has uploaded an out-dated photo that you want removed, this can be next-to-impossible as long as your listing remains on the bulk feed.

The scary thing is that listings can not only be claimed twice, they could be claimed three or even four times.  We’ve run into scenarios where a listing was claimed manually twice (in two different email accounts) and was on two bulk feeds at their corporate office.  The information displayed on Google for these businesses would constantly change and the listing owner had next-to-no control over where or how they appeared.

Mike Blumenthal describes this battle well: “The bad news was that there could be “dueling claimants”. The bulk provider would upload data and then the individual claimant would do a null edit or upload new data and override it. The listing content and photos could dance back and forth and angers would flare.”

Social Features

One of the things a bulk feed can’t do is support social features on Google Places listings.  This means that if your listing is on a bulk feed and nowhere else, you won’t be able to have the following features on your listing:

Posts - Similar to Facebook pages, upgraded Google Places listings will have a posts tab which allows businesses to post updates about their business that followers of their page will see.  Customers can comment, reshare and interact with the posts.  It also gives businesses a great opportunity to get more content and messaging on their listing that future prospects can see.  This restaurant in Chicago displays their specials and products on their posts tab.  Although it has yet to be determined, most experts are saying that utilizing this feature will be a big ranking factor in the future.  Businesses that have active pages with lots of posts and comments and reshares will most likely have a much higher ROI and ranking from Google Places.

Videos – Upgraded pages also have the ability to connect their YouTube accounts and add videos to their listing.  Google loves rich content and videos always stand a strong chance of ranking well on Google.   I’ve seen several cases where businesses who integrate YouTube on their listing have a great ranking, even in the most competitive markets.

Cover Photos - Businesses love the ability to display their brand and logo.  With cover photos you have the ability to replace the image of the map with a huge branded photo to make your listing stand out and look more attractive.  Need a visual? Just compare the difference between the ways these two real estate offices look on G+.

Followers – Just like people who “like” your page on Facebook, people who follow your page will get updates on things you post on their G+ home page.  You can also see who has followed you and gather insights on how your followers are interacting with your page.

Business-to-Business Reviews – this is a very under-utilized feature of Google Plus.  With upgraded pages, it’s possible for you to leave a review for another business, as your business name.  So instead of the review showing up as “Joy Hawkins”, it would show up as “Imprezzio Marketing”.  This is a great way to get your business added exposure (since all viewers of that business would see your business name, but also because it increases your business activity on G+ which should tie into positive ranking in the future.

Ranking Issues

  1. You’re the same as your competition: Large corporations often strive to get the most exposure for their enterprise as possible. This makes perfect sense.  However, if you ask the local business who their competition is, they will most likely first address the other locations in their city who belong to the same corporate entity.  For example, if you have 4 Starbucks in a city, the biggest competition for each of them will most likely be the other 3 locations.  This makes sense since they offer the exact same product/service and are marketing to the same (or close) geographic market.  If your listing is being managed by a bulk feed solely, there is nothing to distinguish you from the other businesses attached to your corporation. If you consider them to be your main competition, it is crucial to make sure your Google Places listing has features and qualities that theirs do not.
  2. Multiple Owners Kills Ranking: We have done many consultations with businesses that had really inconsistent ranking or no ranking at all on Google due to their listing being claimed in multiple accounts.  It causes so much data confusion, as mentioned above, that the listing stands no chance of ranking well in competitive markets.  We’ve seen many cases where consolidating and getting the listing down to one owner resulted in an immediate spike in ranking.

When is a Bulk Feed a Good Idea?

As summarized above, a bulk feed is never a good idea for businesses who want control over their listing data, ranking, and features.  However, many businesses in the USA don’t claim their listings and can’t be bothered caring about their presence on Google Places.  For these types of businesses, a bulk feed would be a wonderful idea.  That way the corporate office could have a better presence for their brand, without interfering or negatively impacting those locations who want to put in the effort to control it themselves.

My advice to large corporations would be to make an effort to leave the locations with an active online presence alone.  Although most efforts are made with good intentions, the locations that lose the most are the ones that care the most.  This can’t result in anything good for either party. Ultimately both parties should have the same goal: to make their brand noticeable and favorable on Google.  This could be achieved by the corporate office communicating to their locations: “Hey, we want to help you, but if you are already doing this on your own, our efforts will collide.  If you have someone actively managing Google Places, please let us know so we can leave you off of our Bulk Feed”.

Does Branding Matter for Small Business?

January 13, 2014

In the era of social media, the influence of the consumer on a small business brand is undeniable–both online and off.

For the small business owner, a well-balanced and consistent branding strategy may offer a good opportunity to engage consumers, creating a strong growth base for the business and developing a solid product-loyal community or fan base.

Taking Control of Online Branding

Social media in particular, and the World Wide Web in general, evolve so quickly that it makes sense for the small business owner to captain his or her brand, charting a set course through this ever-changing environment rather than running rudderless.

It is possible for the small business owner to remain true to the vision, goal, belief or philosophy which informs their company, while navigating the Internet. Why not benefit from the current offerings in this ocean of possibilities and get ready to swim after future opportunities?

By developing the virtual brand, as an extension of the developed physical brand, a small business owner may present their vision, in sync with the mandate of the business, consistently and effectively.

An online search for the word “branding,” will bring up many ideas and concepts, but for the small business owner who may or may not be more localized or specialized,  is branding important?

Yes, branding is important for every small business.

Effective branding gives a small business the potential to remain above the crowd, distinguishing its services and offerings by maintaining a solid presence, responsible reputation and good customer relations in the real and virtual worlds. Branding helps grow the small business and allows the investment of valuable customer feedback into that growth.

Introducing Google’s New Review Monitoring and Management Tool

November 26, 2013

The “Google and Your Business Blog” has just announced a brand-new review monitoring and management feature simply called Reviews. This feature is available to all businesses that are located in the new Google Places Dashboard, which is still slowly rolling out to the masses.

Owners and managers of a G+ Local page in the new dashboard will be able to see all of the Google- based reviews as well as Reviews From Around the Web which would include sites like Insider Pages and Trip Advisor.

In addition to displaying all the reviews in the Review Inbox, Google will also provide analytic reports for volume and rating stats on both Google reviews and reviews from around the web.

Another great feature Google has integrated is the option to leave owner responses to reviews directly from the dashboard.

This is a great new and free feature from Google. Many reputation management companies offer similar services for anywhere from $20 to $500 a month. This offering by Google indicates that they are committed to investing resources into the rapidly-growing Google Places features. In the last year, Google has started rolling out a new dashboard and offering phone support while continuing to tweak their review filter so that it can be the most reliable system out there.

If this is any indication of things to come, 2014 will be a very exciting year in the world of Google Places.