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Taking Local Inventory Online: An Interview with Pointy’s Mark Cummins

Posted by MiriamEllis

Let’s go back in time 20 years so I can ask you the question, “How often do you look at a paper map every month?”

Unless you were a cartographer or a frequent traveler, chances are good that your answer would be, “Hmm, maybe less than once a month. Maybe once or twice a year.”

But in 2019, I’d wager there’s scarcely a day that goes by without you using Google Maps when planning to eat out, find a service provider, or find something fun to do. That web-based map in your hand has become a given.

And yet, there’s one thing you’re still not using the Internet for. And it’s something you likely wonder about almost daily. It starts with the question,

“I wonder who around here carries X?”

A real-world anecdote

After the tragic fires we’ve had this year in California, I wanted to wet mop all the floors in my house instead of vacuuming them, due to my concerns about particulate pollution in the air. My mother recommended I buy a Swiffer. I needed to know where I could find one locally, but I didn’t turn to the Internet for this, because the Internet doesn’t tell me this. Or at least, it hasn’t done so until now. Few, if any, of the local hardware stores, pharmacies, or big box retailers have reliable, live online inventory. At the same time, calling these places is often a huge hassle because staff isn’t always sure what’s in stock.

And so I ended up going to 3 different shops in search of this particular product. It wasn’t a convenient experience, and it was an all-too-common one.

The next big thing in local already exists

My real-world anecdote about a wet mop is exactly why I’m so pleased to be interviewing Mark Cummins, CEO of Pointy. 90% of purchases still take place in physical stores and it’s Mark who has seen this gap in available online knowledge about offline inventory and has now set out to bridge it.

I predict that within a few years, you’ll be using the Internet to find local inventory as frequently and easily as you’ve come to use its mapping capabilities. This chat with Mark explains why.

The real-world roots of an existing local need

Miriam: Mark, I understand that you were formerly a Google Search Team member, with a background in machine learning, but that your journey with Pointy began by walking into retail shops and talking face-to-face with owners. What did these owners tell you about their challenges in relation to offline/online inventory? A memorable real-world anecdote would be great here.

Mark: I started thinking about this problem because of an experience just like your story about trying to find a Swiffer. I’d recently moved to a new country and I had to buy lots of things to set up a new apartment, so I had that kind of experience all the time. It felt like there was a huge gap there that search engines could help with, but they weren’t.

I had been working at Google developing what became Google Lens (Google’s image recognition search feature). It felt strange that Google could do something so advanced, yet couldn’t answer very basic questions about where to buy things locally.

So I started thinking about ways to fix that. Initially I would just walk into retailers and talk to them about how they managed their inventory. I was trying to figure out if there was some uniform way to bring the inventory information online. I quickly learned that it was going to be hard. Almost every retailer I spoke to had a different method of tracking it. Some kept records on paper. Some didn’t count their inventory at all.

My first idea was a little crazy — I wanted to build a robot for retailers that would drive around the store every night and photograph all the shelves, and use image recognition to figure out the inventory and the prices. I spent some time seriously thinking about that, but then landed on the idea of the Pointy box, which is a much simpler solution.

Miriam: Can you briefly describe what a typical Point of Sale system is like for retailers these days, in light of this being technology most retailers already have in place?

Mark: Well, I would almost say that there isn’t a typical Point of Sale system. The market is really fragmented, it sometimes feels like no two retailers have the same system. There’s a huge range, from the old-style systems that are essentially a glorified calculator with a cash drawer, up to modern cloud-connected systems like Clover, Square, or Lightspeed. It’s very disruptive for retailers to change their POS system, so older systems tend to stay in use for a long time. The systems also differ by vertical — there are specialized systems for pharmacies, liquor stores, etc. Dealing with all of that variation is what makes it so hard to get uniform local inventory data.

A simple inventory solution is born

Miriam: So, you spoke with retailers, listened to their challenges and saw that they already have Point of Sale systems in place. And Pointy was born! Please, describe exactly what a Pointy device is, how it solves the problems you learned about, and fits right in with existing Point of Sales technology.

Mark: Right! It was pretty clear that we needed to find a solution that worked with retailers’ existing systems. So we developed the Pointy box. The Pointy box is a small device that attaches to a retailer’s barcode scanner. Basically it links the barcode scanner to a website we create for the retailer. Whenever the retailer scans a product with their barcode scanner, we recognize the barcode, and list the product on the website. The end result is live website listing everything in the store — here’s an example for Talbot’s Toyland, a toy store in San Mateo. They have over ten thousand products listed on their site, without any manual work.

The experience is pretty much seamless — just plug in Pointy, and watch your store website build itself. The Pointy box connects directly via the cell phone network, so there’s really nothing to set up. Just plug it in and it starts working. New products automatically get added to your store page, old products get removed when you no longer sell them, item stock status syncs automatically. We did quite a bit of machine learning to make that all automatic. Once the site is live, we also have some SEO and SEM tools to help retailers drive search traffic for the products they sell.

Miriam: My understanding is that the Pointy Team had to do a ton of legwork to put together various product catalogues from which data is pulled each time a product is scanned so that its information can be displayed on the web. I’m not familiar with this concept of product catalogues. What are they, what types of information do they contain, and what did you have to do to pull all of this together? Also, is it true that your team hand-reviews all the product data?

Mark: If you’re working in shopping search, then product catalogs are really important. Every mass-market product has a unique barcode number, but unfortunately there’s no master database where you can enter a barcode number and get back the product’s name, image, etc. So basically every retailer has to solve this problem for themselves, laboriously entering the product details into their systems. Pointy helps eliminate that work for retailers.

There are some product catalogs you can license, but each one only covers a fraction of products, and errors are common. We built a big data pipeline to pull together all of this product data into a single catalog and clean it up. We automate a lot of the work, but if you want the highest quality then machine learning alone isn’t enough. So every single product we display also gets approved by a human reviewer, to make sure it’s accurate. We’ve processed millions of products like this. The end result for the retailer is that they just plug in a Pointy box, scan a product, and their website starts populating itself, no data entry required. It’s a pretty magical feeling the first time you see it. Especially if you’ve spent countless hours of your life doing it the old way!

Where real-time local inventory appears on the web

Miriam: So, then, the products the retailer scans create the brand’s own inventory catalogue, which appears on their Pointy page. What tips would you offer to business owners to best integrate their Pointy page with their brand website? Linking to it from the main menu of the website? Something else? And do these Pointy pages feature SEO basics? Please describe.

Mark: Some retailers use Pointy as their main website. Others have it as an additional profile, in the same way that they might have a Facebook page or a Yelp page. The main thing Pointy brings is the full live inventory of the store, which generally isn’t listed anywhere else. To integrate with their other web presences, most just link across from their main sites or social media profiles. A few also embed Pointy into their sites via an iframe.

We work a lot on making these pages as SEO-friendly as possible. The queries we focus on ranking for are things like “product name near me” or “product name, location.” For example, a query like “rubber piggy bank san mateo” currently has the Pointy page for Talbot’s Toyland in #1 position. We have an engineering team working on this all the time, and we’ve actually discovered a few interesting things.

Miriam: And how does this work when, for example, a product goes out of stock or goes on sale for a different price?

Mark: We keep that information updated live. The stock status is updated based on the information from the Pointy box. We also handle price data, though it depends on what features the retailers is using. Some retailers prefer not to display their prices online.

See What’s In Store: Google totally sees the opportunity

Miriam: I was fascinated to learn that Pointy is the launch partner for Google’s See What’s In Store feature, and readers can see an example of this with Talbot’s Toyland. Can you explain what’s involved for retailers who want their inventory to appear in the SWIS area of the Google Business Profile (aka “Knowledge Panel”) and why this represents such an important opportunity? Also, does the business have to pay a commission to Google for inclusion/impressions/clicks?

Mark: This is a pretty exciting feature. It lets retailers display their full product catalogue and live inventory information in the Business Profile on the Google search page. It’s also visible from Google Maps. I’m guessing Google will probably start to surface the information in more ways over time.

It’s completely free for retailers, which is pretty interesting. Google Shopping has always been a paid service, so it’s notable that Google is now offering some organic exposure with this new feature.

I think that this is going to become table stakes for retailers in the next year or two, in the same way that having your opening hours online is now. Consumers are simply going to expect the convenience of finding local product information online. I think that’s a good thing, because it will help local businesses win back customers that might otherwise have gone to Amazon.

We’ve worked a lot with Google to make the setup experience for local retailers very simple. You just link your Pointy account to Google, and your live inventory appears in the Google Business Profile. Behind the scenes we do a lot of technical work to make that happen (including creating Merchant Center accounts, setting up feeds, etc). But the user experience is just a few clicks. We’ve seen a lot of uptake from Pointy users, it’s been a very popular feature. We have a bit more detail on it here.

What about special retail scenarios?

Miriam: So, basically, Pointy makes getting real-world inventory online for small and independent retailers who just don’t have the time to deal with a complicated e-commerce system. I understand that you have some different approaches to offer larger enterprises, involving their existing IT systems. Can you talk a bit about that, please?

Mark: Yes, some larger retailers may be able to send us a direct feed from their inventory systems, rather than installing Pointy boxes at every POS location. We aim to support whatever is easiest for the retailer. We are also directly integrated into modern cloud POS systems like Clover, Square, Lightspeed, Vend, and others. Users of those systems can download a free Pointy app from their system’s app store and integrate with us that way. And for retailers not using those systems, they can use a Pointy box.

Miriam: And what about retailers whose products lack labels/barcodes? Let’s say, a farm stand with constantly-changing seasonal produce, or a clothing boutique with hand-knit sweaters? Is there a Pointy solution for them?

Mark: Unfortunately we’re not a great fit for those kind of retailers. We designed the experience for retailers who sell barcoded products.

Miriam: You’re a former Google staffer, Mark. In local search, Google has become aggressive in taking a cut of an increasing number of local consumer actions and this is particularly hard on small businesses. We’ve got Local Service Ads, paid ads in local packs, booking buttons, etc, all of which struggling independent businesses are having to pay Google for. Right now, these retailers are eager for a competitive edge. How can they differentiate themselves? Please, share tips.

Mark: It’s true, lots of channels that used to be purely organic now have a mix of organic and paid. I think ultimately the paid ads still have to be ROI-positive or nobody will use them, but it’s definitely no fun to pay for traffic you used to get for free.

On the positive side, there are still plenty of openings to reach customers organically. If small businesses invest in staying ahead of the game, they can do very well. Lots of local product searches essentially have no answer, because most retailers haven’t been able to get their inventory online yet. It’s easy to rank well for a query when you’re the only one with the answer. There’s definitely still an opening there for early adopters.

“Pointing” the way to the future

Miriam: Finally, Pointy has only been available in the US since 2016, and in that short amount of time, you’re already serving 1% of the country’s retailers. Congratulations! What does the near future look like to you for retailers and for Pointy? What do you see as Pointy’s mission?

Mark: We want to bring the world’s brick-and-mortar retailers online and give them the tools they need to thrive. More than 90% of retail goes through brick and mortar stores, so there’s no reason they shouldn’t have an amazing technology platform to help them. The fragmentation and difficulty of accessing data has held everyone back, but I think Pointy has a shot at fixing that.

Miriam: Thank you, Mark. I believe Pointy has what it takes to be successful, but I’m going to wish you good luck, anyway!

Summing up

In doing this interview, I learned a ton from Mark and I hope you did, too. If a local retailer you market is seeking a competitive advantage in 2019, I’d seriously be considering early adoption of Google’s See What’s In Store feature. It’s prime Google Business Profile (formerly Knowledge Panel) real estate, and so long as SWIS is free and Pointy is so affordable, there’s a pretty incredible opportunity to set yourself apart in these early days with a very modest investment.

I’m feeling confident about my prediction that we’re on the verge of a new threshold in user behavior, in terms of people using local search to find local inventory. We’ll all have the enjoyment of seeing how this plays out over the next couple of years. And if you heard it first at Moz, that will be extra fun!

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The Ultimate Cheat Sheet for Taking Full Control of Your Google Knowledge Panels

Posted by MiriamEllis

They say you can’t squeeze blood out of a turnip, but when the turnip (and your biggest potential competitor) is Google, the lifeblood of the local business locations you market could depend on knowing where to take control.

As Google acts to confine ever-more stages of the local consumer journey within their own interface, local enterprises need to assume as much control as possible over the aspects of the Google Knowledge Panel that they can directly or indirectly influence.

This cheat sheet is your fast track to squeezing the most you can out of what Google is still offering.

How Google changed from local business benefactor to competitor

It may not come naturally, at first, to think of Google as a competitor. For many years in the local space, their offering of significant free screen real estate to any eligible local enterprise was like a gift. But, in their understandable quest for maximum profitability, Google is increasingly monetizing their local product, while at the same time giving more space to public sentiment when it comes to your brand’s reputation.

As this trend continues, your business needs to know which features of the Google Knowledge Panel that appear when searchers seek you by name can be controlled. You’ll also want to know which of these features has the most potential to influence rankings and consumers. We’ll explore both topics, as follows.


Core features on most Google Knowledge Panels

Different industries have different Knowledge Panel features, but the following graphic and key represent the elements that commonly pertain to most business categories. Each numbered feature will be described and designated as controllable “yes” or controllable “no” in the accompanying key. Some features will be labeled controllable “partly”, with notes explaining that designation. You will also discover pro tips for best practices, where appropriate.

1.) Photos & videos

When clicked on, this takes the user to both owner and user-generated photos in a set. Photos significantly impact CTR. Photos must be monitored for spam.

On mobile, there is a separate tab for photos, beyond the initial profile images.

Pro Tip: Videos can also be posted to your photos section, but try to post more than 2 videos so that you’ll get a separate mobile video subtab.

Controllable?

Partly; this is both an owner and crowdsourced element.

2.) Maps

When clicked on, this takes the user to the Maps-based Knowledge Panel accompanied by map with pin. Be sure your map marker is correctly placed.

Controllable?

Partly; owner can correct misplaced map marker, but users can submit placement edits, too.

3.) Exterior photo

When clicked on, this takes the user to an interactive Google Street View visual of the business.

*On mobile, no separate space is given to exterior photos.

Controllable?

Partly; owner can correct misplaced map marker.

4.) Business name

This must reflect the real-world name of the business and be formatted according to Google’s guidelines.

Pro Tip: If your enterprise is a Service Area Business, like a plumbing franchise with no storefronts, your name should match what appears on your website.

Controllable?

Yes; owner provides, though public can edit.

5.) Maps star

When clicked on, this gives users the option to either save the location to their map, or to view the location on Maps. Very little has been published about this easily overlooked feature. Users who star a location then see it as a star in the future on their maps. They are a form of “lists.” It might be posited that a business which many have starred might see some form of ranking boost, but this is speculative.

*On mobile, there is no Maps star. There is a “save” icon instead.

Controllable?

No.

6.) Website button

When clicked on, this takes the user to the website of the company. In multi-practitioner and multi-location scenarios, care must be taken that this link points to the right URL.

Pro Tip: Large, multi-location enterprises should consider pointing each location’s Knowledge Panel to the right landing page. According to a new study, when both brand- and location-specific pages exist, 85% of all consumer engagement takes place on the local pages (e.g., Facebook Local Pages, local landing pages). A minority of impressions and engagement (15%) happen on national or brand pages.

Controllable?

Yes; owner provides, though public can edit.

7.) Directions button

When clicked on, this takes the user to the Maps-based widget that enables them to designate a starting point and receive driving directions and traffic alerts. Be sure to check directions for each location of your enterprise to protect consumers from misdirection.

Controllable?

Partly; owner and the public can report incorrect directions.

8.) Review stars and count

The star portion of the section is not an average; it’s something like a “Bayesian average.” The count (which is sometimes inaccurate), when clicked, takes you to the separate review interface overlay where all reviews can be read. Review count and sentiment are believed to impact local rankings, but the degree of impact is speculative. Review sentiment is believed to highly impact conversions.

Pro Tip: While Google is fine with your business asking for reviews, never offer incentives of any kind in exchange for them. Also, avoid bulk review requests, as they can result in your reviews being filtered out.

Controllable?

Partly; owner can encourage, monitor, thumb up, and respond to reviews, as well as reporting spam reviews; public can also flag reviews as well as thumbing them up.

9.) Editorial summary

This is generated by Google via unconfirmed processes and is meant to provide a summarized description of the business.

Controllable?

No.

10.) Address

For brick-and-mortar businesses, this line must display a genuine, physical address. For service area businesses, this line should simply show the city/state for the business, based on hide-address settings in the GMB dashboard.

Controllable?

Yes; owner provides, though public can edit.

11.) Hours

When clicked on, a dropdown displays the complete hours of operation for the business. Care must be taken to accurately reflect seasonal and holiday hours.

Controllable?

Yes; owner provides, though public can edit.

12.) Phone

This number must connect as directly as possible to the location. On desktop, this number can be clicked, which will dial it up via Hangouts. A business can add more than one phone number to their GMB dashboard, but it will not display publicly.

*On mobile, there is no phone number displayed; just a call icon.

Pro Tip: The most popular solution to the need to implement call tracking is to list the call tracking number as the primary number and the store location number as the additional number. Provided that the additional number matches what Google finds on the website, no serious problems have been reported from utilizing this strategy since it was first suggested in 2017.

Controllable?

Yes; owner provides, though public can edit.

13.) Suggest an edit link

This is the most visible vehicle for the public to report problems with listing data. It can be used positively or maliciously.

Controllable?

No.

14.) Google Posts

Introduced in 2017, this form of microblogging enables businesses to post short content with links, imagery, and video right to their Knowledge Panels. It’s believed use of Google Posts may impact local rank. Each Google post lasts for 7 days, unless its content is designated as an “event,” in which case the post will remain live until the event ends. Google Posts are created and controlled in the GMB dashboard. Google has been experimenting with placement of posts, including showing them in Maps.

Pro Tip: Posts can be up to 1500 characters, but 150–350 characters is advisable. The ideal Posts image size is 750×750. Images smaller than 250×250 aren’t accepted. Posts can feature events, products, offers, bookings, phone numbers, 30-second videos, and links to learn more. Images can contain text that can prompt users to take a specific action like visiting the website to book an appointment, and early days experiments show that this approach can significantly boost conversions.

Controllable?

Yes.

15.) Know this place?

When clicked on, this feature enables anyone to contribute attribution information to a place. A wizard asks the user a variety of questions, such as “does this place have onsite parking?”

Pro Tip: Google has let Top Contributors to its forum know that it’s okay for businesses to contribute knowledge to their own Know This Place section.

Controllable?

Partly; both owner and public can add attribution via this link.

16.) Google Questions & Answers

Introduced in 2017, this crowdsourced Q&A functionality can be contributed to directly by businesses. Businesses can post their own FAQs and answer them, as well as responding to consumer questions. Q&As with the most thumbs up appear up front on the Knowledge Panel. The “Ask a Question” button facilitates queries, and the “See all questions” link takes you to an overlay popup showing all queries. This is becoming an important new hub of social interactivity, customer support, and may be a ranking factor. Google Q&A must be monitored for spam and abuse.

Controllable?

Partly; both owner and public can contribute.

17.) Send to your phone

Introduced in 2016, this feature enables desktop users to send a place to their phone for use on the go. It’s possible that a place that has been sent to a lot of phones might be deemed popular by Google, and therefore, more relevant.

*On mobile, this option doesn’t exist, for obvious reasons.

Controllable?

No

18.) Review snippets

This section of the Knowledge Panel features three excerpts from Google-based reviews, selected by an unknown process. The “View all Google reviews” link takes the user to an overlay popup featuring all reviews. Owners can respond to reviews via this popup or the GMB dashboard. Review count, sentiment, velocity, and owner response activity are all speculative ranking factors. Reviews must be monitored for spam and abuse.

Pro Tip: In your Google My Business dashboard, you can and should be responding to your reviews. Surveys indicate that 40% of consumers expect businesses to respond, and more than half expect a response within three days, but it’s best to respond within a day. If the review is negative, a good response can win back about 35% of customers. Even if you can’t win back the other 65%, a good response serves to demonstrate to the entire consumer public that your business is ethical and accountable.

Controllable?

Partly; both owner and public can contribute.

19.) Write a Review button

This is the button consumers click to write a review, leave a star rating and upload review imagery. Clicking it takes you to a popup for that purpose.

*On mobile, this is formatted differently, with a large display of five empty stars labeled “Rate and Review.”

Controllable?

No.

20.) Add a Photo button

This button takes you to the photo upload interface. Third-party photos must be monitored for spam and abuse. Photos are believed to impact CTR.

*On mobile, this CTA is absent from the initial interface.

Controllable?

Partly; brands can’t control what photos users upload, but they can report inappropriate images.

21.) View all Google reviews

This link brings up the pop-up interface on desktop containing all of the reviews a business has received.

Pro Tip: Enterprises should continuously monitor reviews for signs of emerging problems at specific locations. Sentiment analysis software is available to help identify issues as they arise.

Controllable?

Partly; brands can’t control the content reviewers post, but they can control the quality of experiences, as well as responding to reviews.

22.) Description

After years of absence, the business description field has returned and is an excellent place to showcase the highlights of specific locations of your enterprise. Descriptions can be up to 750 characters in length.

Pro Tip: Do call out desirable aspects of your business in the description, but don’t use it to announce sales or promotions, as that’s a violation of the guidelines.

Controllable?

Yes.

23.) People Also Search For

This section typically shows brand competitors, chosen by Google. If clicked on, the user is taking to a Local Finder-type view of these competing businesses, accompanied by a map.

Controllable?

No.

24.) Feedback

This link supports suggested public edits of the Knowledge Panel, which Google can accept or reject.

Controllable?

Partly; brands can’t control what edits the public suggests. Brands can use this feature to suggest edits, too, but there are typically better ways to do so.


Additional features on some Google Knowledge Panels

Some industries have unique Knowledge Panel features. We’ll list the most common of these here:

Price summary

This is meant to be an overview of general pricing.

Controllable?

Partly; this is both an owner and crowdsourced element.

Lengthier editorial summary

Shown in addition to showing the category of the business, this editorial summary is created by Google by unconfirmed processes.

Controllable?

No.

Menu link

A somewhat complex feature, these can link to third-party menus, or can be generated directly by the owner in the GMB dashboard for some businesses.

Controllable?

Partly; owner can control the menu URL and content in some cases.

Reviews from around the web

This features a rating summary and links to relevant third-party review sources, determined by Google.

Controllable?

Partly; owners can’t dictate which 3rd parties Google chooses, but they can work to build up positive reviews on featured sources.

Critic reviews

These are chosen by Google, and stem from “professional” review platforms.

Controllable?

No.

Popular times

This information is drawn from users who have opted into Google Location History. It’s meant to help users plan visits. It’s conceivable that this could be utilized as a ranking factor.

Controllable?

No

Booking

This “see schedule” button takes the user to Maps-based display of the company’s schedule, with the ability to reserve an appointment.

Controllable?

Yes

Groupon ads

This controversial element found on some Knowledge Panels appears to feature Groupon being allowed to advertise on brands’ listings without owner consent.

Controllable?

No

Local business URLs

There are a variety of additional URLs that can either be added to the GMB dashboard or stem from third parties. These URLs can represent menus, ordering, booking, reservations, and product searches.

Controllable?

Partly; owner can add some additional URLs, but some come from 3rd parties

Google Messaging

This is Google’s live chat feature that lets clients directly message you.

Controllable?

Yes

Hotel Knowledge Panels

Hotel Knowledge Panels are practically a completely different animal. They can offer much more detailed booking options, more segmented review sentiment, various ads, and deals.

Controllable?

Mostly; owners have a variety of features they can enable, though some are out of their control.

Prioritizing Google Knowledge Panel features for maximum impact

Every location of an enterprise faces a unique competitive scenario, depending on its market. What may “move the needle” for some business locations may be relatively ineffectual in others. Nevertheless, when dealing with a large number of locations, it can be helpful to have a general order of tasks to prioritize. We’ll offer a basic list that can be used to guide work, based on elements that most important to get right first:

✓ Guidelines

Be sure all listings are eligible for inclusion in Google’s product and adhere to Google’s guidelines, both for the listings, themselves, and for reviews.

✓ Duplicates

Identify duplicate Google My Business listings using Moz Check Listing or Moz Local and handle them appropriately so that ranking strength isn’t being divided up or thwarted by multiple listings for the same location.

✓ NAP

Create a spreadsheet containing company-approved name, address, phone number and website URL data for each location and be sure each Google listing accurately reflects this information.

✓ Category

Without the right primary category, you can’t rank for your most important searches. Look at the category your top competitors are using and, if it’s right for you, use it. Avoid repetition in category choices (i.e. don’t choose both “auto dealership” and “Toyota dealership”).

✓ Map markers

It may seem obvious, but do an audit of all your locations to be sure the Map marker is in the right place.

✓ Reviews

Acquire, monitor and respond to reviews for all locations on a daily basis, with the goal of demonstration accessibility and accountability. Reviews are part-and-parcel of your customer service program.

✓ Images

Images can significantly influence clickthrough rates. Be sure yours are as persuasive and professional as possible.

✓ Posts

Make maximum use of the opportunity to microblog right on your Knowledge Panel.

✓ Ability to implement call tracking numbers

Analysis is so critical to the success of any enterprise. By using a call tracking number as the primary number on each location’s Knowledge Panel, you can glean important data about how users are interacting with your assets.

✓ Q&A

Post and answer your own company FAQ, and monitor this feature on a regular basis to emphasize the accessibility of your customer support.

✓ Product/service menus

Where appropriate, a thorough menu deepens the experience a user can have with your Knowledge Panel.

✓ Bookings

Depending on your industry, you may find you have to pay Google for bookings to remain competitive. Alternatively, experiment with Google Posts image text to pull users from the Knowledge Panel over to your own booking widget.

✓ Attributes

Add every appropriate attribute that’s available for your business category to deepen Google’s understanding of what you offer.

Summing up

Each element of a Google Knowledge Panel offers a different level of control to your Enterprise, from no control to total control. Rather than worry about things you can’t manage, focus on the powers you do have to:

  1. Create positive real-world consumer experiences by dint of your excellent customer service
  2. Prompt consumers to help you reflect those experiences in your Knowledge Panel
  3. Monitor, track, and interact with consumers as much as possible on your Knowledge Panel
  4. Publish rich and accurate information to the Knowledge Panel, knowing that Google wants to retain as many users as possible within this interface

Local enterprises are in a time of transition in 2018, moving from a past in which the bulk of customer experiences could be controlled either in-store or on the brand’s website, to a present in which Google is successfully inter-positioning itself an informational and transactional agent.

Google wants your Knowledge Panel to work for them, but with the right approach to the elements you can control, you still have a significant say in how it works for you.

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Taking Time Off to Honor Independence Day

July 4 is Independence Day in the United States, so today we’re honoring the holiday. Hope you’re having a great week, and we look forward to reconnecting tomorrow! Image courtesy Hugh MacLeod.

The post Taking Time Off to Honor Independence Day appeared first on Copyblogger.


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Taking the Day to Honor Martin Luther King, Jr.

Today is the U.S. holiday set aside to celebrate the life, accomplishments, and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. No marketing lessons, no promotional tie-ins, just our respectful acknowledgement of an American hero. We’ll be back on the blog tomorrow … looking forward to seeing you then.

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Taking the Day to Honor Dr. King

"Faith is taking the first step even when you can’t see the whole staircase." – Martin Luther King, Jr.

The blog is taking today off to honor the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

“Faith is taking the first step even when you can’t see the whole staircase.”

– Martin Luther King, Jr.

We hope you’ll join us in spending a few moments today reflecting on the power dreams can have when they’re pursued with courage.

Of course, Dr. King also left a legacy of masterful writing. Here are some more quotes to inspire your day:

Martin Luther King, Jr. quotes on Goodreads

See you tomorrow!

The post Taking the Day to Honor Dr. King appeared first on Copyblogger.


Copyblogger

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Online Marketing News: Facebook Taking Time, More Moments, Google Unattributed

Improve Facebook Organic Reach

How to Improve Your Facebook’s Organic Reach [Infographic] – Since Facebook made the transition to pay-to-play, reports have shown consistent declines in organic reach for brands. A new infographic from Kissmetrics examines the problems brands are having on Facebook, and offers some possible solutions. Quick Sprout

Facebook Taking Into Account Time Spent on Stories – The goal of News Feed is to show you the content that matters to you. The actions people take on Facebook—liking, commenting or sharing a post—are historically some of the main factors we’ve considered to determine what to show at the top of your News Feed. But these factors don’t always tell us the whole story of what is most meaningful to you. Facebook

Google Links Mobile Ads to Desktop Purchases and Vice Versa – All of the devices people use to browse the web pose a problem for advertisers and the companies trying to sell them ads: They don’t know whether an ad someone saw on one device led to a product purchase made on another device. Ad Age

Google Search Update Rolling Out, Confirmed to Not Be Panda-Related – An update to Google’s search algorithm, acknowledged by Google’s John Mueller in today’s Webmaster Hangout, is currently rolling out. Despite speculation, Mueller confirmed this update is not Panda-related. Search Engine Journal

Report: 76 Percent of Job Seekers Browse Company Profiles on Twitter – Social networks increasingly have an impact on the job hiring process. 93 percent of recruiters use, or plan to use social media in their recruiting efforts and 73 percent have hired candidates via social media. However, the majority of these recruits come from LinkedIn. A new report from Software Advice outlines how recruiters and job seekers are using Twitter. SocialTimes

Facebook Introduces Moments – With a phone at everyone’s fingertips, the moments in our lives are captured by a new kind of photographer: our friends. It’s hard to get the photos your friends have taken of you, and everyone always insists on taking that same group shot with multiple phones to ensure they get a copy. Even if you do end up getting some of your friends’ photos, it’s difficult to keep them all organized in one place on your phone. Facebook

Google Takes on Twitch With a New YouTube App Built for Gamers – Google announced this week it will soon be releasing a new app built for gamers, called YouTube Gaming, which will put the company in direct competition with popular live streaming app Twitch. Search Engine Journal

Google Trends Now Tracking YouTube & Google News To Identify Trending Topics In Real-Time – In its biggest expansion since 2012, Google trends rolled out a number of new updates today, including real-time data and a redesigned homepage. Search Engine Land

Twitter Introduces Autoplay Videos – This week, it’s become even easier to enjoy video on Twitter. Now native videos, Vines and GIFs will begin to play back automatically. So you can keep up with the action without missing a Tweet and get a better sense of what’s been shared instantly. Twitter

Google Now Adds Quote Cards That Lack Attribution – The latest Google Now card displays quotes in the search results for famous people, though the quotes don’t link back to or attribute the source pages. Search Engine Watch

Pinterest Improves Search With Enhanced Suggestions, Trending Searches, and More – Pinterest has made it easier to find the pins and users you’re looking for with more streamlined search suggestions, the company stated in an announcement today. Search Engine Journal

Bing To Encrypt Searches By Default & Referrer Data To Go Not Provided This Summer – Not Provided is about to expand when Bing goes HTTPS over the summer, ultimately blocking query data in the referrer path. Search Engine Land

From our Online Marketing Community:

From Learn How to Land Your Content a Leading Role: Jay Acunzo of NextView Ventures #CMWorld, Connor Rickett said, “Interesting way of looking at. I like the idea of core content as the hub for advertising. It’s a very accessible model–not just for the people creating the content, but the sort of thing you can draw on a whiteboard while talking to clients, and get through to them. It’s also something you could expand into a good explanation of how and why evergreen content is necessary, rather than just popping out a buzzy article twice a week. Good post.”

And on 13 Experts Discuss Making Content Marketing the Star of Your Marketing, Neaneknea commented, “You can’t just rely on one form, mixing all the forms of marketing offers far much greater results’

What were the top online and digital marketing news stories for you this week?

Thanks for reading and have a great weekend!

Infographic: Quick Sprout


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The post Online Marketing News: Facebook Taking Time, More Moments, Google Unattributed appeared first on Online Marketing Blog – TopRank®.

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Email Marketing: Taking advantage of responsive design [Video]

Watch this excerpt from a MarketingSherpa Email Summit 2014 panel discussion on responsive email design for tips on how to improve your customer’s user experience on any device — mobile or otherwise.
MarketingSherpa Blog

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Start Taking Advantage of Solar Energy

Start Taking Advantage of Solar Energy Power There is so a great deal converse in relation to solar energy control in the world nowadays that it astonishing in attendance can unmoving exist populace elsewhere here who are not in no doubt concerning it and who don’t actually be familiar with what it is all regarding.

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solar news HubSpot

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Taking Advantage of Google’s Bias Toward Hyper-Fresh Content – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by randfish

In the last year or so, Google has increasingly displayed hyper-fresh content in SERPs, leading many marketers to think about how they can take advantage of that preference. In today’s Whiteboard Friday, Rand explains a few ways to go about that without risking penalties.










For reference, here’s a still image of this week’s whiteboard:

Video Transcription


Howdy Moz fans, and welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week I want to talk a little bit about Google’s strange and overwhelming in some cases bias to fresh content. I want to give a shout out to Glen Allsopp who had talked about this a little bit and written some blog posts exposing some of Google’s priorities around freshness or what feel like priorities for them around freshness.

Google’s been biasing to fresh content, trying to show more and more fresh results, recently published results in their SERPs for several years now, but it’s gotten particularly strong in the last 12 months in certain sectors. I think Glen had noticed it very strongly in some of the sectors that he was watching for some of his clients. We have seen it in some places very heavily, in other places not as much. But you can definitely feel it.

There are places like Shakespeare plays. This is a search result that a few years ago, even 6 to 12 months ago probably you would not have seen much freshness, and now you’re starting to see more and more of these types of things, results that call out when they were published, a feeling that things that are published more recently, even if they don’t have as many links or as good of keyword targeting or as authoritative a website, those kinds of things are ranking a little bit higher. You’re seeing news results in there, which is a relatively new development, especially on a phrase like this which the intent one might interpret as “well, they’re probably looking for a list or maybe they’re looking for plays in their area.”

So more and more of these cases Google is biasing to show recently published results, and, because of that, there are some opportunities for folks in the SEO field. If you’re seeing this kind of thing in the results that you’re looking at, seeing a lot of dates, especially a lot of recent dates, in particular recent dates on published content that seems to not have the ranking ability that you would expect of the rest of the pages, you could use something like the keyword difficulty SERPs analysis tool from Moz to kind of try and figure that out. This may be a real opportunity for you, and there are a few ways that you can take advantage.

Number one, I suggest these kind of anyway. This isn’t a, “Oh, I want to exploit something in Google’s algorithm where they’re weak, and I’m black hat, gray hat, and I’m trying to exploit it.” This is actually Google saying, “Hey, we think users want fresh content, and so publishers please produce it because we’re willing to put it in front of our audience.” I think that’s just fine. It could be that Google’s a little over the line right now. Maybe they’ll swing that pendulum back over time.

But number one, find keywords and terms and phrases with fresh results, like we talked about here, and then target them with some new content. Give this a try. Essentially, if you’re looking out and you’re saying, “Gosh, this is a hyper-competitive keyword. I’m not sure that I can normally rank here. Let me see if I can get there for a day or a couple of days. Do I have the ability to start ranking on fresh stuff?” If you can’t hit the front page, the first page of results with that particular phrase, try a little bit longer tail keyword term.

Number two. If you have some old content, I think this is something that many of us experience. We have older content that’s targeting valuable keywords, important keywords that are critical to our brand to attracting the visitors that we want, and those have fallen down in the rankings. It may be that you used to be in the top three or four, and now you’re in the bottom half of the top ten results or on page two or three. Consider an update. I’ve done this several times and had a lot of success with it. Just updating an old blog post or an old resource, making it fresh again, adding new things, things that have emerged or come to light over the past few months or few years.

Then a republication or promotion. The critical thing here is to think about: Do you want to produce that at the same URL, or do you want to do a redirect? This is a little bit tough because, generally speaking, what I like to do is keep these at the same URL if they are outside of an RSS feed. So, essentially, not a blog post or not a news item or those kinds of things. I like to do the redirection when it’s, “Hey, I’m rewriting this old blog post. I’ve got a new version of it. You know what? I’m going to 301 redirect that old version to the new version.” Or if I really want to keep it available at the old URL, I’ll use rel=canonical to say, “Hey, this is the more updated version. This is essentially a duplicate, just a more recent duplicate, and here’s the old one if you want to see that.”

Number three. If there are some hyper-valuable keywords that are consistently showing fresh results, you’re just seeing this over and over and over again, well, maybe it’s time for a regularly updated series. Think about columnists who do syndication, or they write a weekly column on a particular topic or around a specific subject or they do something once a month. This might be a big opportunity for you to say, “Hey, you know what?
What’s a piece of content that we could refresh every month, that would be on this topic, and we could consistently be in those fresh results and we could always be delivering the most recent, most valuable stuff?”

Good example is in the sports world. The sports world changes so fast. There are different scores, different teams, rankings, standings. An old page is nearly useless. Unless you’re updating that page every time there’s new information, it’s not that valuable. So I think those are exactly the kinds of places where you might consider some form of regularly updated either series, new posts, new publications, or a single page that you’re regularly updating.

Then number four, in terms of doing some research to try and find these types of phrases, obviously you can check out the SERPs if you’re tracking in Moz Analytics and you’re looking at your search results. You sort of can see those listed in there. But you might also use, to find some new phrases, things like Google Trends, Ubersuggest, which scrapes Google’s suggest results. News sites, a lot of times when things are published that are news oriented, people will be doing searches around them. You can look at aggregators like Reddit or Alltop, social sites, obviously Twitter and Facebook, and these types of things to keep an eye on that.

Double Click Ad Planner, which sort of has similar data too, but seems to be slightly different than Google Trends, and sometimes you can see some more stuff there, and Fresh Web Explorer, which of course is part of the Moz Analytics research tools package to find those trends.

Last thing I’m going to say on this. There are a few rules that I have for fresh content. First off, fresh content doesn’t just mean recycling and republishing. I realize that, because of this bias, sometimes, and Glen pointed this out in some of his posts, that you can take advantage of this simply by republishing similar content again and again. I would highly recommend against doing that. I think you’re putting yourself at risk for things like Panda if you do it at a large scale or for manual penalties or for having low click-through, low engagement, high pogo sticking back to the search results. That kind of stuff is dangerous.

Make sure you’re serving the visitor’s intent. Remember that with fresh content there’s probably a recency intent on top of whatever other layers. So, if I’m publishing something about Shakespeare’s plays, I don’t just want to list, “Well, here are all the plays, and they were all written in the 17th century or 16th century, and so they haven’t changed. He’s not writing any new ones. Yes, but new things are constantly coming out. The news results show different types of stuff. The quotes are showing which ones are popular. There’s a movies page that’s showing which Shakespearean plays are being made into movies or which new spin offs are being done with Shakespearean concepts in them. So I do recommend that.

I also suggest, if you can, get your site, get your feed included in Google news, and if that’s not a possibility, at least have an RSS feed and be doing social shares on top of the content that you’re publishing.

Then last, but not least, be cautious about abusing dates. I realize that there’s a few folks in the gray hat, black hat world who have been doing this and been having a little bit of success with it on and off, which is just sort of modify the dates on the page of publication to fool Google. I don’t know why it seems to work sometimes. Or fooling them by adding new comments, which is sort of weird. We’ve seen this a few times with Moz blog posts, where an old blog post gets a comment. That comment has the date of the comment’s publication, and that actually will make the results show up with that newer, fresher date, which is a little bit awkward and odd. I don’t think that’s a bad thing if it’s just happening naturally and Google happens to be messing up, but if you’re specifically abusing it, I think you could get into trouble.

So I look forward to reading some great comments about what you’re seeing in fresh results, how you’re taking advantage of them. I’m sure you have some great suggestions for our readers as well. Take care. We’ll see you again for another edition of Whiteboard Friday.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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Search Engine Marketing: Taking advantage of local search and local business listings

Did you know Google estimates one-fifth of all searches have local intent? Do you engage in local search optimization or have a local business listing?

If not, read on to find out more about local search and learn some specific tactics to improve your local business listing.
Marketingsherpa Blog

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