Dear Google: 4 suggestions for fixing your massive problem with fake reviews

Hey Google,
If you’re reading this, you already know that fake reviews on Google have been a hot topic lately — and it appears the problem is getting a lot worse, resulting in a huge headache for small business owners.
Rather than outlining all the issues and turning this post into a huge rant, I wanted to offer some suggestions that I think would help solve some of the major issues we are seeing in the Local SEO world.
1. Please offer business owners a better path to reporting fake reviews
Currently, there are several ways to contact Google My Business (GMB) support: phone support, email support, Twitter and Facebook. But there’s no way to get anyone at GMB to look at reports from people on businesses that aren’t theirs.
That means if Joe the Plumber’s competitor in his town is a massive spammer and is ranking everywhere on Google, Joe can’t contact GMB about it at all. They won’t allow him to report the

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Google Posts for small businesses moves to Google My Business

Small businesses that are in the Google Posts program can still make use of the experimental service, but the location of that feature has shifted to within the Google My Business area.
Google Posts is a feature that allows people and businesses to create content directly on Google which appears highly ranked in Google search results for their names.
Google confirmed the move to Search Engine Land earlier this week, and @maulikpanchal tweeted an example of the new location:

Google is testing new design for post in Google My Business page @rustybrick #Google #NewLook #ux #GoogleMyBusiness pic.twitter.com/V8i2ltAq5E
— Maulik Panchal (@maulikpanchal) June 9, 2017

Although Google has been recently expanding Google Posts to more and more businesses, organizations and people, Google says it is still not open for businesses that weren’t already invited into the program. Google did say that they do hope to expand it to more over time and promised an update to come soon.
We will keep you posted on

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Need to get with Google My Business support? Use Twitter!

It’s the end of the month, and that means it’s time for another edition of Greg’s Soapbox! Except this time, it’s not so much me standing on the soapbox and ranting; I’m more standing near it and politely providing helpful advice.
Almost two years ago, I wrote a post here about using Google phone support if you had issues with Google My Business (yes, I’m not linking to the post on purpose). Depending on your particular keyword phrase when you search, that post usually ranks anywhere from #2 to #5 for any variation of “Google My Business support” — and it’s always the highest-ranking non-Google result.
The problem is, while phone support supposedly still exists, it’s IMPOSSIBLE to get to anymore. And, since it’s the highest ranking non-Google answer, a ton of messages come through every month from people who are pointing out that the method in the post doesn’t work anymore.
I wanted to write this month’s post and update everyone

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Updated Google My Business guidelines disallow virtual offices as service-area businesses

Google has recently updated the Google My Business guidelines to state that virtual offices are not considered service-area businesses and that you need to have the virtual office staffed during business hours.
A new section was added under the “address” portion of the guidelines that reads:
Service-area businesses — businesses that serve customers at their locations — should have one page for the central office or location and designate a service area from that point. Service-area businesses can’t list a “virtual” office unless that office is staffed during business hours.
Some businesses, like pizzerias that have both have restaurant seating and deliver pizza to customers, are hybrid service-area businesses. These businesses can show their storefront address and designate a service area in Google My Business. If you serve customers at your address and want to set a service area, your business location should be staffed by your team and able to receive customers during its stated hours.
Google will determine how

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Hyperlocal marketing will soar in 2017: 5 tips to stay on top

The conversation about local search is not a new one; marketers have been discussing the importance of targeting customers by location for the past decade. Recently, it has been pushed back into the industry forefront with the rise of hyperlocal search and its relationship to mobile. Google Trends clearly show a dramatic increase in “near me” queries, particularly since mid-2015.
Hyperlocal targeting, or marketing to customers within your area based upon their location, has the potential to help brands answer the immediate needs of their prospects. Understanding how to optimize your content for these users can provide brands with an excellent opportunity for success.
Google has also been showing signs of pushing people toward hyperlocal. Back in 2016, Barry Schwartz reported a noticeable reduction in the number of pages offered for Google Maps search results, suggesting an effort to narrow the results down to a smaller geographic area. Google wants to better serve users by personalizing their results based upon their exact location.
Brands that do

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Google local knowledge panel testing promotion box

Google seems to be testing a new box in the local knowledge box panel that allows Google My Business owners to post deals and promotions below their core listing. This was spotted by Mike Blumenthal and you can see it yourself for a search on [theme park collection orlando fl].
Here is a screen shot that shows “latest from the owner” followed by a message about saving 10 percent, then with a “learn more” button that takes the searcher to driving directions on Google Maps.

This looks similar to the Google Posts feature Google launched a while back, but I doubt this is the same platform.
The post Google local knowledge panel testing promotion box appeared first on Search Engine Land.

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Yext Reviews product is pre-optimized for Schema, balances reviews across sites

Yext, which has been primarily known for digital presence and listings management, is entering the relatively crowded reviews arena. The company is introducing a product called Yext Reviews, which it characterizes as “a comprehensive review management solution designed to help businesses monitor, engage, generate, publish and analyze their location reviews.”
As indicated, it offers review monitoring, generation, response capabilities and distribution. There are also review-based analytics and insights. Denny’s is an example customer that is using the Yext Reviews product (this page is hosted by Yext).
Customer reviews can be solicited via email, SMS or in-app based on visits and purchases (depending on the customer and its data). Yext also promotes the fact that reviews published to the customer’s own site/app are “pre-optimized Schema.org widgets so stars appear in your organic search results.”

A unique and interesting feature of the product is “review balancing.” When a consumer is asked to write a review, an algorithm “dynamically chooses the most impactful

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Results from the Local SEO Ranking Factors Study presented at SMX East

The SMX East Session “The 2016 Quantitative Local SEO Ranking Factors Study” presented by Local SEO Guide‘s Dan Leibson (Vice President of Local & Product) and Andrew Shotland (President) explored the results of their recent study analyzing and prioritizing ranking factors that affect local search.
Unlike many studies that simply summarize search marketing experts’ opinions, the Local SEO Guide study took actual quantitative data as input. Leibson and Shotland teamed with competitive intelligence tool maker Places Scout and statisticians from the University of California, Irvine. By partnering with the University’s Center for Statistical Consulting, they ensured the study results were independent and withstood objective statistical analysis.
Their presentation, entitled “Reverse Engineering Google’s Local Search Algorithm,” highlighted the main findings of their study. It is important to remember that the results of the study reveal correlations, not causations. The study identified characteristics of sites that ranked well; it does not definitively say these characteristics are ranking factors.
The study assembled data from over 100 different ranking factors,

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Google My Business testing advanced verification process for spammy map categories

Mike Blumenthal got word from Google that they are now testing what is called “advanced verification” in the San Diego region for the locksmiths and plumbers.
This is aimed at those two industries specifically because they tend to see a lot of spam in the Google Maps and local results. In fact, the advanced verification is being outsourced to a third-party company named Pinkerton. Pinkerton is a security risk management company that verifies employees and companies before you do transactions with them.
Google is asking locksmiths and plumbers in San Diego to go through this “advanced verification” process. They have until November 10 to respond and will hear back within two weeks if they pass the verification. If they do not pass or do not respond, Google will remove their listing.
Mike Blumenthal said:
The process is a lightweight version of the vetting that is done during the Home Services process that looks to verify the actual existence of the service

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Google My Business drops ability to edit business description field

Google has removed the ability for businesses to edit their introduction/description field in the Google My Business portal. Google posted a note about this in the featured document.
This feature was removed on August 1, 2016 and Google wrote:
The Introduction/Description field is no longer editable in Google My Business. It only displays to users in Google+, and may still be edited there. Editing of attributes, coming soon to all Google My Business views, will be an improved way to describe your business to users on Google Search and Maps.
I checked my Google+ profile for my company and this is the introductory section:

Some say this was removed because businesses used it to stuff spam and keywords in the field.
This has not been shown on Google Maps or the Google local knowledge box for some time now. But now you can no longer edit it in the Google My Business portal. Google said you can edit it in Google+.
The

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