Experts Blog

What’s New in Local Search September 2012

By Mary Bowling on Sep 11, 2012 - 11:12 AM

Here is the September 2012 installment of 'What's New in Local Search'. It's been another busy month so I won't waste your time and am just going to dive right in.

  • A study finds that can deliver calls to businesses at a lower overall cost than Google AdWords does. The study was commissioned by That's great if they can do it and prove it without using call tracking numbers, but...

  • Google buys Wildfire, a platform that helps "brands run and measure their social engagement and ad campaigns across the entire web and across all social services". Wildfire is all about boosting continual social engagement with things like sweepstakes, contests, surveys, deals, quizzes, etc and measuring their effectiveness. While this will beef up Google's social-ness, I wish it would have put that $250 million dollars into more customer support for local businesses, instead.

  • Google opens up Map Maker in Australia. Is this a blessing or a curse for local marketers down under?

  • Google Webmaster Tools now gives you information about the structured data it sees on your Web site. This can be extremely useful for e-commerce sites and for regional and national brands with many locations.

  • You can now force integration of your Places page into a Google+ Business Local page, if you have already created a Google+ Business Local page. It won't work with Google+ Business Brand page and it won't work for service area businesses located in residential areas. Confused yet? Me too! But apparently the type of Google+ page is already important to Google or is going to be important, which also makes it important to us.

    Personally, I wouldn't force this right now, especially for multi-location businesses because we have no clear direction from Google. Anything you do now might be something you'll soon have to undo and Google tells us it is going to automatically do the merge. If you do force the merge, you'll likely need to re-verify your listing via postcard, so be prepared for that.

  • Google starts to highlight local business info that pertains to a query (hours, address, phone number, etc) in the mobile search results. Structured markup will help your details surface here.

  • Google Wallet is now compatible with Visa, MasterCard and Discover as well as with AMEX. Along with this upgrade, you can now disable Wallet if your phone is stolen or lost. The Wallet app allows for both online and offline purchases. Unfortunately, you have to own one of the 6 Sprint or VirginMobileUSA phones that are NFC-enabled to use Wallet.

  • Meanwhile Starbucks has invested in the mobile payment system Square and will soon be using it at 7000+ coffee shops.

  • The Social Share report tells us that 75 of the worlds' top brands have Google+ pages. I don't know what criteria are used to determine what is a top brand in the world, but 75 doesn't seem like very many to me. It's no wonder that number sounds low when bulk uploads take way too long to be verified and reviewed and we've received no direction from Google as to how businesses can best deal with hundreds of locations on Google+Local.

  • Google starts testing mobile optimized Web site icons in its mobile SERPs. The icons are different on different phones, which is probably part of the test. This certainly ups the ante for getting onboard with a mobile-friendly Web site, doesn't it?

  • Yahoo Local adds an owner verification process for Local business listings. In addition to the usual choices of phone or email verification, you can verify via SM or by email. It's uncertain at this time if every listing gets all of these options or if your choices might be restricted under certain circumstances. Yahoo also has a new local listing management dashboard. With the sad shape of Google+Local right now, it's hard to tell if becoming more Google-ish is going to be a good thing or a bad thing for Yahoo Local.


  • Frommers is being bought by Google. Another big brick in that wall Google's building towards owning travel online-at least in its own SERPs.

  • Yet another massive loss of reviews in Google+Local sparks speculation that the review filter has been cranked up again. As usual, it seems as though many legitimate reviews got tossed out in the process. While restaurants and coffee shops typically attract tons of online user opinions, it's a grueling process for some types of businesses to gain any reviews at all from their customers.

    Cavalierly tossing these out does them a great injustice and solidifies their already less-than-warm-fuzzy feelings towards Google+Local. There's buzz in auto dealer community of mass reporting the problem to the FTC.

  • Two studies are released indicating that mobile users tend to navigate directly to a Web site or an app more often than using web search for information. If you have a smartphone, I doubt this is a surprise to you.

  • Google is spotted testing a return to the old 5 gold stars review system and showing those stars in the Local SERPs. For most businesses and consumers, the complex Zagat rating system really doesn't make any sense. I wouldn't be surprised to see some type of new hybrid rating system come out of this, with some types of businesses getting the Zagat option and some getting the star option or the option to use both.

  • A study of the of the Internet YellowPages vs. local businesses in the Google SERPs is released by Gregg Stewart of 15 Miles

  • Home based businesses get direction on how to hide their addresses on local sites from Phil Rozek. He's figured out which sites you can do it on and gives advice about how to keep your home address as private as possible, if that's what you want. For most home-based businesses, this isn't really an issue. It's very rare that anyone will actually show up at your door if people in your niche normally travel to the customer. For some other types of enterprises, such as a gold buyer for example, it can be major concern.

    Theoretically, it shouldn't matter, but you can't ignore the question - "Can you rank in the Local Pack in Google if it can't find address info about you out on the web?"

  • Google+ custom URLs become available to a select few. This I supposed to eventually roll out for all. Jump on it when it does before someone else squats on your brand name or personal name.


  • July search share from ComScore puts Google at about 67% and BingHoo at about 29%. Hitwise measured it at 66% for the Google and 27% for BingHoo.

  • Check your privacy levels if you are posting to Google+ from your mobile phone. You could have a problem.

  • Google tells us we can merge our Google+Business page with our Google+Local page but glitches come and go over the next few weeks. Googler Jade W, gives her advice on who should/can merge and how to do it in the help forum. IMO it's much more complex than most business owners would tackle.

  • A new Web site grader for Local Search was released by the team at Nifty Marketing. You'll find it useful in showing clients how their site measures up for Local Search best practices.

  • Superpages hopes to merge with DexOne to become Dex-Supermedia. The combination makes it one of the top 3 Yellow Pages in the United States and reinforces the trend of ad network consolidation which seems to be what's keeping the IYPs afloat.

  • More and more page titles for local business Web site are being rewritten by Google.

  • The schizophrenia of Google's review guidelines continues to wound local businesses from unexpected directions. We're now being told that review stations are bad (it was less than a year ago we were told they were okay) that reviews shouldn't be posted in waves (that's not the way the real world works, Google!) and that if you reviews for your business are not appearing, it's probably the new-ish review/reviewer algorithm that killed them (and that no longer should be attributed to glitches).

    I would be hard pressed to count the number of people who have contacted me about getting their reviews back. Unfortunately, the best solution is probably to just keep trying to get more good reviews.

  • A missing categories bug hits Google+Local pages on Labor Day weekend. Google says it knows about it and is working to resolve it. The truth is, we're getting much too used to Google+Local bugs. They're great for Local SEO's! Unfortunately, they're not so great for our small business clients.

If you've taken the plunge and decided to manually merge your Google+ Local profile with your Google+ Business page then PLEASE share your experience with me in the comments field. I'd also love to hear from you if there is anything I've missed that you've noticed! See you next month.