After Google’s failed $6 billion dollar buyout of popular daily deal site, Groupon, it was only a matter of time before the search giant finally took it upon itself to create it’s own service. Yesterday Google posted an intro video to the new service Google Offers on YouTube and information about the service has slowly been circulating among the internet marketing community.
Though Google Offers is currently in BETA and only available for Portland, Oregon residents. The company has announced that New York and the Bay Area are markets that will soon be available and the page’s dropdown already features NYC Downtown, NYC Uptown, NYC Midtown, Oakland/East Bay, and San Francisco as some options.
The new service, like Groupon, delivers daily emails with a deal of “50% off or more at places you’ll love.” And while the service is not yet available nationwide, Google is already allowing users to sign up to start receiving offers as soon as they are available. My guess is that the areas with the most interest will probably be given priority for expansion.
Google Offers For Merchants
On the business side of things, Google is enticing small business to get involved claiming the service “..can bring new, high-value customers right to your door using an attractive offer.” And while again, details are sparse, Google is allowing businesses to contact them if interested and a representative will call them to discuss the service further.
With so many failed attempts at local an social projects over the few years, it leads me to wonder if Google is getting involved too late in the game. With Groupon, Living Social, and other local deal services already dominating the market, is there room for Google in the mix? What are your thoughts on the service? Would you sign up as a business in one of the test markets?
We recently had one of our cosmetic dentists approached by an outside vendor who is trying to convince dentists that there are rogue dentists on the internet trying to hijack their Google Places listings and steal their patients. While there was some truthful information in the video they sent out, there were flaws in the examples they were providing and ultimately they were using scare tactics to convince dentists to sign up for their service.
Claiming Your Business Listing
In this day and age it is vital that you have claimed your local business listings on all of the major local verticals. Not only to ensure your information is accurate, but to ensure that someone else doesn’t go out and sabotage your listings. While this is rare, it has happened, and oftentimes it’s done by shady internet marketers trying to obtain your business. You might recall the Google Places extortion scam we posted about last year.
In the video the local search company shares how a number of listings for a businesses were marked as “permanently closed” because they weren’t claimed. A valid concern, though the practice of going out and closing a bunch of unclaimed businesses is hardly a widespread practice and not something the majority of doctors should be afraid of. That being said, if at least one of the listings generated for this business had been claimed it would not have been a problem.
“Is Your Practice Being Hijacked By A Rogue Dentist Who Competes With You?”
In the video the company shares two listings related to the original doctor’s practice and explains that other doctors are “hijacking” this practice’s listings in order to capture his patients and his business. If you understand how Google Places works, you’ll recognize that this is simply not the case.
As a means of making sure Google has as much data as possible related to local businesses they aggregate information from a number of websites across the web, including vitals.com, healthgrades.com, yelp.com and many, many others. If the system does not find a listing that matches the data being aggregated it then generates its own listing for the business. Unfortunately Google Places and their system for aggregating data is still not perfect. As a result, many businesses wind up with multiple listings or their data gets merged with businesses in the same location. In the examples provided in this video, these are not “rogue dentists”, but instead listings generated by Google based on data aggregated from other resources.
In the examples they provided below you will notice that both doctors listed share the same address as the original doctor who was being “hijacked”. You’ll also notice the original doctor’s address featured “Ste 1” at the beginning of their address meaning this is probably a building that features multiple businesses at the same address. See where I’m going with this?
I did some background research on the 2 “rogue dentists” and found that Dr. Lisa B. Johnson is in suite 21 at that building and Dr. Ian Dennis Holgado is, or was in suite 12, but when Google aggregated the data that information was not listed and ultimately it wound up creating multiple listings because it saw each of these as separate businesses at the same address. The Four Star Smiles Dental Care reference was also most likely integrated due to aggregated data referencing the 1646 West Chester Pike address.
How do you know it’s not a “rogue dentist”?
If you look at a Google Places listing there are some tell tale signs on whether or not the listing was created by a person or by Google. In the case of the listings shown in this video you’ll see that the only resources listed are sites like vitals.com, angieslist.com, and healthgrades.com. If this was done by someone who had claimed and hijacked the listing it would list “From the owner” on various parts of the listing as you can see below.
Another way to identify if your unclaimed listing has truly been hijacked is to click on “Edit Listing” and then view the edit history. If the edit history reveals that someone changed your info to theirs, then you probably are dealing with a hijacker. Finally, use common sense. In the example “hijackers” above, an MD and a DO are used as an example. Why would either of these physicians want to steal dental patients?
Local Search is vital to small business and internet marketers far and wide know that this is a huge part of the future of internet marketing. Because of this there is an abundance of snake oil salesmen looking to make a buck off of unknowing businesses. Be aware of what’s going on around you when it comes to your internet marketing and if you are already working with an internet marketing company, don’t automatically assume they are doing something wrong, but instead ask for their feedback on the matter and then make a decision for yourself. At the end of the day, your best course of action is to make sure you have claimed your Google Places listing so no one else can manipulate it, whether that’s a rogue dentist or a shady marketing company.
One of the most intense battles being waged by the search engines is the battle for local dominance. As more people look to local results and search via mobile device, locally relevant content is in high demand. Google seemed to be leading the pack with it’s variety of local products such as Places, Latitude, and HotPot (now discontinued), but it appears that Bing has upped the ante with a beta launch of Bing Business Portal.
Though in Beta, the “Bing Business Portal” has replaced the “Bing Local Listings Center” in the U.S. and includes all of the features that were available in the original listings center, but with some added bonuses.
Enhanced listings offer up some additional details about your business in an effort to make business listings more relevant and to drive more visitors to your business. While many of the “enhanced” features already existed, some noteworthy changes are the addition of 6 additional categories and keywords and the ability to link to your Twitter and Facebook profiles.
Deals and Offers
Coupons and promotions are nothing new to the local search space, but Bing seems to have streamlined the process in a way that makes it easy for promotions to be shared and also makes the deals prominent in their search results without making businesses pay extra for it.
With Bing Business Portal businesses can create a discount coupon, promotion or rebate. The system’s new Deal Editor allows businesses to select a specific offer category, a type (dollar amount, dollars off, percentage off, etc.), and add information describing the offer, such as photos and expiration date or a disclaimer. Once done, businesses can then promote the offer in Bing’s search results, on their local business listing and on their Facebook Page. If that weren’t enough, they will also appear in the deals tab in Bing’s mobile browser.
Overall these are some nice improvements to Bing’s local services. The inclusion of services like Twitter and Facebook will be huge for local businesses participating in the social realm, and the fact you can publish Bing Business Portal deals on your Facebook page is just icing on the cake. In the coming months our plastic surgery internet marketing clients will begin to reap the benefits of this service as we update and enhance their Bing listings to ensure they are getting the full benefits of this new service.
It’s widely known that links are an important part of any SEO campaign, however over the years the methods for obtaining links have greatly changed; as we pointed out in “The Evolution of Link Building“. Many businesses feel when they hire an internet marketing company that the responsibility of link building falls in the hands of the marketing company alone, but what many fail to realize is that sometimes they are the keepers of the best link opportunities.
Late last year SEER Interactive did a great post featuring 35 local link opportunities you missed, which outlined a number of unconventional link opportunities that are derived from everyday business interactions. While it gave ideas for ways to get involved in your community and garner a link, it went a step further to outline a number of local services that many businesses utilize that could open up an opportunity to exchange a positive testimonial on their website for a link.
While internet marketers are invested in your business, we are not integrated into the everyday work flow of your business. We don’t know what companies you’ve partnered with, what businesses you engage with, and what companies may serve you. As our client you have a great opportunity to let us know about these avenues so that we can consult you on the best ways to open communication about gaining a potential link from businesses in your area. You have already established the relationship and simply need our guidance to execute the plan.
These sorts of links do not stop at just partnering businesses. Organizations you belong to, events you sponsor, appearances you make can all open up avenues for additional links to your website. Whenever you have something significant happening around your practice or you develop a new business relationship it is a good idea to discuss these ventures with your internet marketing specialist. Oftentimes this can create great local link building opportunities which can strengthen your local SEO efforts and not only increase rankings, but also increase your website’s traffic.