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Google is making it easier for brands to share their Google My Business listings by allowing businesses to create short names and unique URLs for their listings.

The new feature was revealed by marketing guru and Local Guide for Google, Mike Blumenthal. While Google has not publicly announced the short names and URLs, they have released a new help page dedicated to the feature.

By creating unique short names and URLs for GMB listings, it makes it possible for businesses to share their listings across other social platforms and in the real world through business cards, brochures, or similar marketing materials.

Considering Google My Business is the main platform for sharing reviews and providing details like directions, hours, or even scheduling, it makes sense that Google would want to make the listings more directly accessible.

The feature is still rolling out, so not everybody has access to it currently. To find out if you can claim a short name and URL, just sign into your GMB account and select the location you want to create a short name for. Click the “Info” tab and look for “Add profile short name”.

From there, you will be able to create a short name for your business with no less than five characters and no more than 32 characters.

Once approved, the new short name will also represent your new URL, which is formatted as g.page/[yourshortbusinessname].

One nice detail is that the new short names can help businesses with multiple storefronts differentiate their listings on Google while keeping consistent branding across their listings.

Google+ is being shut down four months earlier than initially announced after a second data breach, according to a new announcement by Google. Additionally, all Google+ APIs will be shut down within the next 90 days.

Originally, Google announced it would be shutting down the service in August 2019. The decision came shortly after it was discovered the platform had experienced a data breach affecting 500,000 users.

In November, it was revealed a significantly more serious data breach had occurred, affecting more than 52 million users.

Now, Google+ is scheduled to be shut down in April 2019.

While the data breaches appear to have affected a relatively large number of users, the company says there is no need for concern because there is no evidence of misuse by third-parties.

“No third party compromised our systems, and we have no evidence that the developers who inadvertently had this access for six days were aware of it or misused it in any way.”

Even if third-parties did gain access to the information made public, the company says breached data only included profile information which had been set to not-public. No financial or highly sensitive information was breached.

According to Google, the bug in the API which led to the data breach would not have given anyone access to data which could be used for fraud or identity theft.

“The bug did not give developers access to information such as financial data, national identification numbers, passwords, or similar data typically used for fraud or identity theft.”

Google Veterans

Google is releasing a new label for Google My Business listings highlighting when a business is owned or led by a veteran.

Sean O’Keefe, data scientist at Google and a former Staff Sergeant in the US Army announced the new attribute this week while also highlighting the millions of American businesses that are owned by veterans.

“More than 2.5 million businesses in the U.S. are majority-owned by veterans, and one way that I stay connected to the veteran community is by supporting those veteran-owned businesses. It’s something I can do all throughout my day, whether I’m grabbing a coffee or recommending a local restaurant to a friend.”

The tag is easily enabled and will highlight veteran-owned businesses in both Google Search listings and map results.

The label is similar in appearance and function to other attributes like “Has Wifi” or “Outdoor Seating.”

Currently, there is no verification process. All a veteran business owner has to do is follow a couple steps to enable the “Veteran-led” attribute for their own listing:

  • Sign into your Google My Business account
  • Select the location you are managing
  • Select “Info” from the menu
  • Find the “Attributes” section and select the Pencil icon
  • Search or select the “Veteran-led” attribute
  • Select “Apply”.

The new attribute is just one of many steps Google is taking to provide support for veterans, including curating search results for veterans looking for jobs and encouraging IT training. You can find out more about the initiative here.

Google My Business is bringing a new way to highlight your business with an attribute noting your establishment is “good for watching sports.”

The new tag comes just as the World Cup is heating up and many are flocking to bars or restaurants to watch the latest games with friends and fellow fans.

Because the World Cup is such a big event for gathering with friends to watch the competition, Google is spotlighting the new attribute directly in the “highlights” section on the overview tab of Google My Business listings.

Once the World Cup ends, the “good for watching sports” tag will be moved to the “About this business section” of local listings. However, it may also appear in the overview tab of listings depending on the situation and query.

According to Google, the only requirement for being a business that is “good for watching sports” is that you offer a TV that airs sports. That means you don’t have to be a dedicated sports grill or bar to turn yourself into a hub for the biggest sporting events.

The new attribute is one of just a few tags you can manually add to your listing, along with other options like whether you have Wi-Fi available to the public, if you are wheelchair accessible, or if you offer outdoor seating.

In some cases, Google may also apply other attributes based on customer reviews, such as noting that you are “popular with locals.” Unfortunately, these types of attributes can’t be added manually.

Wish you could put personalized messages into search results? Until now, the only way for you to get a specific message out to people finding your business was to send out tweets popular enough to get included or to publish paid search ads.

That’s all changing now, though. Google released a new feature this week called Google Posts for all businesses with a Google My Business Listing. With Google Posts, you can finally share your message on search results without the costs of ads or hit-and-miss nature of social media.

Any time you share a Post, it will appear in search results and Google Maps pages that include your business listing. The message will initially be just a small snippet, but searchers can expand it with a single tap to read more.

There are potentially limitless ways businesses can take advantage of the new feature. Specifically, Google suggests getting started by updating customers with information about new sales, upcoming events, and new product launches to build excitement.

In addition to your customized message, you can also include photos and custom calls-to-action to encourage making a reservation, signing-up for your newsletter, or linking to your latest special offer.

Google Posts are already available to any business with a verified Google My Business account. You can get started sharing your messages and customizing your listings now from any desktop, iOS, or Android device.

SimilarItems

Google Image Search is making it easier for consumers to find the exact item they’re looking for with a new “Similar Items” suggestion area on searches from mobile devices. The company says the new feature will also help shoppers find new products that compliment one they were already looking for, opening an entirely new door for potential sales.

For the moment, the suggestions feature is limited to just handbags, sunglasses, and shoes. This is to allow Google to refine the feature and guarantee it is providing relevant results for searchers. Over the next few months, they aim to expand to include other apparel and potentially home & garden items.

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”Using machine vision technology, the Similar items feature identifies products in lifestyle images and displays matching products to the user.”

In the same stroke, Google has also made the existing product results in image searches more useful for consumers by displaying price and availability information in results.

Including your products and services in the “Similar Items” feature requires adding Schema.org product metadata to the pages for every product you want to include. Theoretically, this would mean you could also exclude specific items from “Similar Items” results if desired.

The metadata markup tells Google the name, image, price, availability, & currency your business uses to include in search results. Once you’ve added the markup, it can take up to a week for Google to crawl your new data and add it to the search results.

If you’ve already implemented Schema metadata but your products aren’t showing up in the results, you may test your pages with Google’s Structured Data Testing Tool to check for errors that may be keeping your products out.

Google+ is dead. Long live Google+.

Google announced it is retiring the “classic” Google+ we all know and replacing it with an all-new updated version with several big updates. The company says it is aiming to please users with several of the most heavily requested updates from the Google+ community.

”With this latest round of updates, we believe the new Google+ is really your Google+— designed around your suggestions, requests and needs. It also means it’s time to say goodbye to classic Google+ on the web, which we’ll be turning down on January 24.”

Here are a few of the things you can expect when the “new” Google+ launches on January 24:

Hide Low-Quality Comments

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Google+ will begin to automatically bury low-quality comments that its algorithms deem non-conductive to conversation. It’s hard to know how exactly the function will work, but you can opt to leave the “low-quality comments” visible to everyone if you desire.

Putting Content First

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Google+ is aiming to trim the fat with its new update by reducing the amount of wasted space on the screen. Instead, it aims to put the focus on content with more images that you can even zoom in on.

Events Make Their Return

Events disappeared from Google+ some time ago, but the ability to create and join events is coming back. However, the company says it still needs to refine Events based on user experience, so expect it to be a work in progress when it launches.

“And Much More”

While Google is relaunching Google+ on the 24th, they say their work is far from over. “Our aim is to make Google+ the best place to connect around the things you care about,” the company says. Google is encouraging users to give their feedback and help shape the new Google+ as it takes shape in the future.

Last year, Google gave businesses the ability to list their busiest hours on Google Maps listings so that customers can better plan their shopping during the holiday season. Now, they are taking it a step further.

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Instead of relying on businesses to update their Popular Times listings, Google Maps will use real-time data to predict just how busy a location is right now.

”Whether you’re rushing to pick up a last minute gift or seeking a lively bar for some festive spirit, check Popular Times for a sneak preview of what to expect when you arrive.”

In addition to this new feature, Google is giving more flexibility to stores that operate separate departments with differing business hours. Businesses can now list separate departments and service hours in their Search and Maps listings.

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This new feature could be particularly useful for department stores or retail stores with pharmacy, supermarket, or automotive departments.

Google is also providing shoppers with shopping behavior data like how long people tend to spend in a store so they can make the most of their time during the holiday shopping season. Along with listing your business’s busiest hours, the search engine is also rolling out a feature that lets you tell shoppers how long the average person spends in your store.

All three new features rolled out this morning and should be live on Google Maps and Search for all users.

Google is increasing its efforts to combat fraud on its search network with new verification processes aimed at weeding out scammers and con artists.

According to an email sent to several of Google’s biggest contributors, the company is testing an advanced verification process in San Diego aimed at stomping out a growing scheme in the locksmith and plumbing industries.

All locksmiths and plumbers currently verified on Google will have to go through the new verification process. If you don’t do so before November, Google will un-verify your listing and remove you from Google Maps.

New applicants hoping to be verified on Google will also have to go through the process, which Google promises is simple. Companies will go through a series of questions from Google and complete an application with a third-party verification company. In total, the entire process should take approximately two weeks to get verified.

You can find out more about the new advanced verification process being tested for locksmiths and plumbers around San Diego in the new Google My Business help article.

Now, you might be wondering why Google is targeting locksmiths and plumbers when there are so many fraudulent businesses online. This is because one of the quickest growing online scams is being conducted by people presenting themselves as locksmiths.

The scam goes like this:

  • A person is locked out of their home and turns to Google to look up local locksmiths
  • They are shown AdWords ads and Google My Business listings for businesses promising cheap and reliable services.
  • When they call one of these ads or listings, they are actually directed to an offshore call center who dispatches a local representative to your home.
  • The “locksmith” arrives and immediately chooses to drill open the lock, leaving the person with a huge bill.
  • Instead of a cheap service you are stuck with excessive costs and a busted lock.

The scam has gotten so prevalent it has even been detailed in the New York Times. A simple search for “locksmith scam” shows just how many people have already been affected by it. Similar scams have since started popping up in other home improvement sectors like plumbing and roofing, which is likely why the new process is extended to plumbers in San Diego as well.

Google is hoping the new verification process should weed out the fraudulent actors populating its search results. Currently, it is hard to predict just how effective it will be. But, if Google sees positive results you can expect to see the system roll-out to the rest of the country in the not-too-distant future.

Source: Robert Scoble / Flickr

Image Source: Robert Scoble / Flickr

Early this year, Google took advantage of the US Presidential election to test a new feature allowing candidates to publish messages straight to the front page of search results. Then, in March, the company expanded this test to include a tiny number of small businesses.

Now, Google is widening their tests yet again – increasing from “tens” of small business to “thousands”. Even more, the company is taking the feature international with tests in Brazil and India, as Google confirmed to Mike Blumenthal this week.

Google hasn’t announced the name of the new feature, but Blumenthal has already captured a few screenshots of these messages in search results – as you can see below:

Image Source: Mike Blumenthal

Image Source: Mike Blumenthal

The feature allows small businesses to create cards with short messages that appear on the front page of search results pages similarly to AMP articles or social media cards.

It appears that the cards show up specifically on searches for an exact business’s name. The cards can also include text, links, pictures, and even videos. Reports indicate businesses given access to the test can use a dedicated app to post content, but the public will have to wait to see.

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Image Source: Joy Hawkins

According to Blumenthal, you can expect to see more of these cards showing up in search results over the next 30 days as Google finishes rolling out the test to businesses.