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Google My Business is now letting businesses specify their service area. This is particularly big news for companies that service a wide area or tend to work in an area aside from their physical location.

In the past, the search engine automatically specified a listing’s service area based on their physical location. That could be a major problem if your business was located out of your house or a building in a suburb but largely provided service in the nearby city (or vice-versa).

Starting this week, Google My Business is finally giving listings more control over their service location, with a new separate field. Now, your physical address and service area are entirely separate fields.

This also allows businesses who don’t provide services at their physical location to leave that information blank and just input their service area.

However, Google has created a small restriction on these settings. Businesses can no longer edit the radius of their service areas. In the past, the service area would be a controllable radius. Most businesses opted for a radius of 25 miles from their physical address. This is largely unnecessary now, as you can specify exactly what your service areas are.

If you have previously set a distance around your business as a service area, that setting will continue to stay in effect for now, but you won’t be able to change it in the future. It is likely this data will disappear once the majority of listings have updated their service area information.

Rather than using radius information, the new settings allow you to specify your service area at the region, city, or ZIP level.

To update your own service area information in your Google My Business listing, just follow these steps:

  • Sign in to Google My Business.
  • Select “Info” from the menu.
  • Select “Edit” from within the service area section.
  • Enter your business’s service area information based on region, city, or ZIP code.
  • Click “Apply”.

FacebookClick

In the age of the internet, Facebook has become one of the premier ways to advertise a local business. Now, a new report from Borrell Associates shows just how many businesses are using the biggest social platform around to grow their business.

According to the report, almost 80% of local businesses have a Facebook page, and 62% are buying Facebook ads to reach a larger audience. In total, that adds up to more than 2.5 million US businesses paying to promote their brands or content on Facebook every year, spending $1,500 on average.

For the survey, Borrell Associates quizzed a mix of US businesses – many of which qualify as small businesses. However, it is important to note that some respondents represent larger brands with annual marketing and media budgets over $100,000.

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Among those surveyed, 85% said they maintain a presence on at least one social media site. The vast majority of those (96%) were on Facebook, with Twitter in second place. Surprisingly, Snapchat does not appear on the list at all.

The data also shows that online marketing of all forms have firmly overtaken more traditional advertising mediums like print or TV ads as the best source of new customers for businesses. Company website and social media were second and third respectively, only outranked by word of mouth referrals.

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A significant number of the respondents were categorized as “social media mavens” by the report, because they consider social media as the absolute best channel for acquiring new customers for their business. However, these businesses are probably not who you think.

Instead of new, high-tech start-ups or large businesses with the budget for extensive social media marketing, these “mavens” are described as being:

  • “Smaller, older, independent companies with less than $1 million in gross sales.”
  • “More likely to have a single location or be home-based than have multiple locations and slightly more likely to cater to consumers (B2C) versus only businesses (B2B).”
  • 76% manage social media themselves.
  • 57% pay to boost posts

A significant number of these companies are also looking at cutting or eliminating traditional advertising from their marketing mix in the near future.

The findings highlight that you don’t have to be a Forbes 500 company or a typical online-based business to benefit from marketing your business on Facebook. Businesses of all sizes are seeing the social platform as an enormously powerful tool for reaching new customers.

Google is experimenting with a new change that could up the profile of local businesses in the search results. The search giant is conducting a limited test featuring a new card carousel of results and content from local businesses near the top of search results pages.

Mike Blumenthal first noticed the test, but it has since been confirmed by Google. The “Local Business Cards” use the same functionality as Candidate Cards, which were recently launched. The main difference with this new test is how limited it is.

Currently, Google is only including a “few dozen” hand-chosen local businesses in the experiment. Instead of pulling the content being used to fill the cards from search engine content or Google My Business listings, Google is also using custom content for the cards.

This test is also notable for being the first time Google has allowed animation or GIFs on the search results pages.

On desktop, you can see the Local Business Cards directly adjacent to the Knowledge Panel featuring that business. On mobile, it is shown below the Knowledge Graph. You can see an example below:

The idea behind the new test is to allow businesses to stand out more in search results and highlight content or information about the business’s products or services in ways not quite possible through the Knowledge Graph. With this in mind, Google has also made content directly sharable from within the carousel.

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Most likely this is an early test since Google chose such a small number of businesses and is using custom content to fill the cards. There’s no telling when or if Google will roll out the feature to a wider audience. Hopefully, the cards come soon, as they could be a huge benefit for local businesses that depend on organic search traffic.

Google Delivery

Google is partnering with six delivery providers across the US to establish a new service that will deliver food to your home, straight from the search results.

“Whether you’re craving deep dish pizza or pad thai, starting today you can order food from some of your favorite restaurants directly from Google search results.”

Thanks to the new service, US residents can simply type in what they want to eat, select the restaurant of their choice, then click “Place an order” without ever leaving the search engine.

From there, simply place your order, choose your preferred delivery service, and complete your order from the website.

Google’s partners in this venture currently include the following companies:

  • Seamless
  • GrubHub
  • Eat24
  • Delivery.com
  • BeyondMenu
  • MyPizza.com

 

The search engine will potentially add more delivery providers in the future as it expands this service.

In line with this new addition, Google is also allowing users to book appointments and make reservations directly from the SERPs.

Local businesses should be especially interested in the service as there is no complicated opt-in. Just go to your Google My Business dashboard and ensure the feature is turned on.

According to a Google help center article, links to place an order or book an appointment will appear automatically for eligible businesses.

GMB Put On Map

Google is doubling down on their efforts to bring local businesses around the world online with a new program called “Let’s Put Our Cities on the Map.

The new program seeks to assist small businesses and local organizations from over 30,000 cities worldwide to set-up complete local listings on Google.

The search engine claims consumers are 38 percent more likely to visit and 29 more likely to consider purchasing from businesses with complete listings, yet a huge number of companies do not have local business listings on any search engine.

Dandelion Marketing

For the new initiative, Google is providing each participating city with a custom website where local businesses can see how they appear on Google Maps and in search results.

Google is also giving local business owners an easy-to-follow guide for getting their business listed with Google My Business, as well as a free website and domain name for a year through Google’s partner Startlogic.

The program is also encouraging consumers to get involved, by inviting consumers to create postcards in support of their favorite local businesses which can be shared on Google+, Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. However, Google makes it clear these postcards won’t have any impact on search engine ranking.

“Sharing the postcards won’t make businesses appear higher in search, but will hopefully spur them to verify and start managing their business listing,” a Google spokesperson told Search Engine Watch.

Google is also partnering with local organizations such as chambers of commerce and small business development centers to offer workshops aimed at teaching local businesses how to control the information listed about them on Google Search and Maps.

The release of Google My Business was intended to make it easier for businesses to maintain a consistent appearance across all of Google’s services, but one feature was seriously lacking. While Google My Business allowed businesses to upload an image to their profile, the companies still had difficulty controlling which images would be used in various listings.

That is a serious problem when you are trying to establish a consistent brand presence online.

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Today, Google announced a major update to Google my Business that finally gives companies some agency in their appearance across Google’s platform. As the announcement explains:

Starting today, you can tell us which image you’d like to appear when customers search for your business on Google. Just log in to Google My Business on the web or in the Android or iOS apps, and visit the Photos section. While you’re there, you can also give your business a fresh look online by updating your profile, logo and cover photos.

Google My Business Photos

The upgrade unifies Google’s three interfaces for images into one simple interface. There is no longer any guesswork in making sure your brand is always presented how you want it on the search engine.

Google Help Files explains the best practices for uploading photos for your business:

Your photos will look best on Google if they meet the following standards:

  • Format: JPG, PNG, TIFF, BMP
  • Size: Between 10KB and 5MB
  • Minimum resolution: 250px on the longest side for profile & logo photos; 720px on the longest side for other business photos
  • Aspect ratio: The longer dimension of the photo should be no more than four times the shorter dimension. Landscape photos look better than portrait photos on Google products. Panoramic photos may use different aspect ratios.
  • Quality: The photo should be in focus, well-lit, have no photoshop alterations, and no excessive use of filters. The image should represent reality.

Earlier this week we reported on a recent study highlighting the growing influence of online reviews, and there is no service as closely associated with online reviews as Yelp. Of course, Yelp agrees and they’ve commissioned a new study from Nielsen survey data to show it is the most frequently used, most trusted, and even the highest quality local reviews site. But, many are skeptical of their findings.

The study used a sample of just over 1,000 US users of review sites, including competitors such as Angie’s List, Citysearch, OpenTable, TripAdvisor, YP, and Zagat. The survey consisted of 22 questions in all and the sample was weighted for age and gender to be representative of Nielsen’s NetView audience. In a blow to the credibility of the survey however, it seems only a few of the results were released – presumably the results which favored Yelp.

Out of what was released, the survey showed that 78 percent of consumers use review sites to find local businesses and help make purchase decisions, with Yelp taking the lead in several categories such as “most influential,” “most trustworthy,” and “best quality reviews.”

Another source of apprehension for this study was the decision not to include Google or Facebook. When asked, Yelp told Greg Sterling:

Our findings specifically around review sites came after we included Google and Facebook in a question on what sites people use to find local businesses, but those sites aren’t solely focused on local business discovery. We dug deeper into those sites that are.

That led Sterling to the conclusion that Google and Facebook likely exceed Yelp as a source for local business information, but it isn’t dishonest to exclude them from a study focusing specifically on “local business discovery” because both platforms have such broad usage.

The study isn’t completely invalid because of these inconsistencies. It goes without question that Yelp is at the forefront of local business discovery and reviewing and several other studies show that Yelp is in fact influential in local purchasing decisions. This study reinforces the fact that Yelp is a major player in these categories, but obviously it should be taken with some skepticism.

You can see the graphic displaying Yelp’s findings below:

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