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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.

The latest update to Google My Business’s listings makes product catalogs even more powerful by displaying them in both desktop and mobile search results.

Since October 2018, when they were first introduced, product catalogs on Google My Business would only appear in mobile search results.

To add your products to your own listing, all you have to do is upload a form in the ‘Products’ tab called to the product editor. Once added, all items in your catalog will be eligible to show in results for relevant searches that bring up your Google My Business page.

The catalog appears within the ‘Products’ tab of your GMB listing shortly after uploading it.

As always, the new GMB feature is free to use with your Google My Business account. The only requirement is that you have claimed your business listing.

While the new feature does bring product catalogs to desktop search results, they are still not viewable directly within Google Maps. To view the listing from there, you will have to click to specifically view a business’s local listing.

The importance of Google reviews has recently gotten a big boost, as it appears that the number of rankings your business has on Google My Business may play a big role in determining where you appear in the local search results. Thankfully, it appears you won’t have to rely solely on Google for your reviews in the future.

Google has begun integrating reviews from third party sources like Trip Advisor and Booking.com into their Knowledge Graph cards for Google My Business Listings. That means your reviews from these sites will be shown alongside your Google reviews, all in one convenient place for shoppers.

The reviews can also be filtered by source by clicking on the “All reviews” drop-down menu.

Currently, the sites being integrated are most beneficial for hotels and other similar travel-related businesses. It is unclear when or if more review services will be included in the future.

As Search Engine Land notes, this is not Google’s first foray into using third-party review sites directly within their search results. The search engine got into a lengthy legal battle against Yelp for scraping their reviews and displaying them in the search results without permission. The result was that Google agreed to only use third-party reviews in their search results with explicit permission from the publisher.

Based on this, it is all but certain Google is working closely with these outside sites to integrate their reviews.

The biggest question for now is whether these reviews will also be reflected in local optimization. If so, businesses that have been accumulating reviews on third-party sites may expect a big boost to their local rankings in the near future. Only time will tell.

As Google has continuously demoted their organic listings for search results, local SEO has risen in prominence. Instead of aiming for the top search spot, more and more businesses are prioritizing claiming the top place in Google’s local search results – which typically appear before any organic listings.

Of course, getting the top spot in the local results isn’t much easier than typical SEO work. However, it is a bit different. Google prioritizes different search signals to make sure they are delivering the most valuable businesses for your searches.

To figure out exactly what search signals matter to Google the most when sorting local results, LocalSEO Guide recently completed an in-depth review of over 200 ranking factors and 100,000 local businesses across 150 cities.

What they found shows that while organic ranking factors like links, keywords, and anchor text are important, rankings reign supreme in local search.

Specifically, “having a keyword you are trying to rank for, and a mention of the city you are working to rank in, in reviews, has a high correlation with high ranking in Google My Business results.”

The findings also indicate that engagement, such as adding photos and hours to your listing, serves as a significant ranking factor. Additionally, “responding to reviews and claiming your profiles are ways to engage with your potential customers and Google’s platform to show then you are invested.”

Elsewhere, the report suggests that traditional SEO factors such as links and on-site optimization still play a significant role in rankings. However, some off-page signals like citations and reviews on third-party sites, are declining in relevance compared to past research.

The full report details more findings and statistics to indicate exactly how those who are crushing local search are doing it. However, it is important to note that these types of studies are based entirely on correlation. We can’t say for sure exactly how Google’s systems rank local results – partially because they won’t tell and partially because they are always changing.

Your Google My Business listing is one of the best ways to make sure potential customers in your area find your business. The listings provide the information about where your business is, your hours, and what types of products or services you offer, and the listings often appear above any other regular search results.

Now, Google is making it easier than ever to maintain and edit your GMB listings by letting you manage them straight from the search results pages.

When you search for your business while logged into the Google account associated with your GMB listing, you will now be shown a new dashboard where you can edit your business information, add new stylish photos, share posts about your business, and even see how many views your listing is receiving.

If you are like the many businesses who have incomplete listings or haven’t updated your business info in years, now is the time to take action. Google highlights a number of reasons that having a thorough and informational listing is important for local businesses in their announcement, including:

  • More than 80% of online searchers use the web to find local information.
  • Businesses with complete listings on Google are twice as likely to gain customer trust, and
    • 38% more likely to attract in-store visits
    • 29% more likely to see a purchase

With Halloween in the rear-view mirror we have officially entered the holiday season, and Google is rolling out new features to help businesses prepare. Google My Business announced it is launching a new feature that allows businesses to set their holiday hours in advance, so shoppers will always know when you are open.

In the past, businesses had to manually update their hours manually if they changed their hours for the holiday season, and when the season is over you had to go back in and change the hours back.

Now, if you know ahead of time when you will start running your holiday hours, you can schedule your Google My Business page to automatically update your opening hours when the time comes. Google will also tell shoppers if what they are seeing are special holiday hours.

If your closing hours are flexible, there is also a new option to have a message displayed saying “hours may differ.”

The feature will stick around, so if you have regular special hours for other events or holidays you can also set those up ahead of time.

How to Schedule Special Hours on Google My Business

  • Log in to your Google My Business account and select the location the hours will apply to.
  • On the “Location details” page, scroll down until you see the “Special hours section” and click the link.
  • Select the date when the hours will begin and enter the opening and closing times for that day.
  • Click the box next to “Closed” if your business will be closed on a specific day. You can also set your hours to 12:00am-12:00pm if you are open 24 hours.
  • Click “Add another” to add more special hours for the location.

For more information on the features or setting up your special holiday hours ahead of time, check out Google’s help center article.

Google-Maps-being-offline-doesnt-mean-being-lost-300x252Last night, Google Maps released massively revamped quality guidelines for local pages which could have a heavy impact on businesses who don’t ensure their pages conform. Jade Wang from Google shared the news in the Google Forums stating:

We’ve updated and clarified our quality guidelines for local pages. Please read the new version here, and, as always, feel free to contact our support team with any specific questions about your account.

You can see a screenshot of the old guidelines here courtesy of Barry Schwartz, but the most important revisions to the guidelines are highlighted below:

  • Descriptors of any sort are NOT allowed
  • Categories should be the more specific category and NOT the overarching, general category
  • Increased name and category consistency amongst multi location chains
  • Two or more brands at the same location must pick one name
  • If Different departments are to have their own page they must have unique categories
  • Practitioner’s pages, in multi-location practices should have their name only and not the name of the practice
  • Solo Practitioners only can use the format of Practice: Practitioner
  • Virtual Offices are NOT allowed unless staffed.

Many aren’t taking the update seriously as Google Maps local pages are far too often neglected, but the updated rules may be a sign that Google intends to clean up the mess in the near future. It is always better to be proactive than to find yourself smacked with a penalty.

It has been a few weeks since Google caught the search world by surprise with the release of its local search algorithm which has been nicknamed “Pigeon.” Out of all of Google’s search algorithms, Pigeon was likely the most well-received at its initial roll-out, but is that still the same now that some time has passed?

PigeonWhile we at TMO still feel that Pigeon has the potential to help local businesses and searchers improve their local results, it is always good to get the opinions from other experts in the search marketing community. Thankfully, Search Engine Land did just that. They compiled the opinions of several authority figures in search marketing, and needless to say the consensus is mixed.

Much of the criticism is related to buggy issues likely to be resolved in the near future, but there is also plenty worthy of discussing and lots of room for improvement. You can find out exactly what the experts had to say here.

Get Your Business Online Week

Still hesitant about finally making the leap and getting your business online? There are countless business owners who find themselves still on the fence about expanding your brand’s business on the internet. Some are worried about the resources available, the skills needed to make their business shine, or whether their business will actually benefit from going online, but all of those questions can be easily addressed. You just have to be ready to really invest in expanding your brand in a new way.

Today marks the start of Get Your Business Online Week, so there is no better time to make the leap to the internet. Every year Google partners with local businesses and partners to provide free virtual workshops for business owners and anyone else with an internet connection.

You will be able to speak with businesses that have already prospered online such as Barkbox, GoldieBlox, and Dollar Shave Club, and full tutorials and demos will be offered throughout the week to help you understand all the steps of building a website and establishing your brand.

Best of all, Google is doubling down on the direct link to speak to their experts with their Helpouts by Google.

If you still can’t decide whether now is the time for your business to take charge of their online presence, consider that Green Mountain Bee Farm in Fairfax, CT. experienced a five-fold increase in sales by simply expanding their business online. Meanwhile, Christine Fitzpatrick Hair and Makeup in Birmingham, Mich. managed to attract 50 percent more clients than they had before getting online.

Local SEO Infographic Banner

It constantly surprises me how many local businesses don’t believe in investing in proper online marketing and optimization. Given, I see every day how establishing a quality online presence and optimizing it for higher visibility can benefit a business. Still, many local businesses hold the conception that online marketing is only important for national level businesses, and they couldn’t be more wrong.

Current estimates say that more than 2.6 billion local searches are conducted every month. More importantly, statistics show that these local searchers are becoming more and more mobilized to quickly go from search to purchase thanks to the use of smartphones to search on the go. Nearly 86 million people are regularly using their mobile phones to look up local business information, and these searchers are highly primed to convert. Simply put, without an online presence and the optimization to make your brand visible you are missing out on a large chunk of potential customers.

Hubshout recently created an infographic to illustrate how important local search engine optimization (SEO) really is for your business. Not only does the infographic show what you are missing out on by neglecting your online presence, it also shows how many many businesses have yet to establish themselves online in a meaningful way. There is still a lot of untapped opportunity online, you just have to make the leap.

Local SEO Infographic

Source: Hubshout