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Need a plumber?

Is Google testing advertising in Google My Business listings?

We have warned about this for some time and here’s the first UK based evidence that Google will be monetising the Google My Business listings.

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This appears to have been a test as it isn’t possible to recreate this on a mobile since this screenshot was taken but it substantiates our earlier reports that Google is looking for more ways to drive advertising revenues through its search results pages.

This is not the first time we have seen Google looking at different options to generate money from search results. You may recall an earlier test example from the Bay Area of San Francisco, where we reported that a search for a plumber was bringing back a new set of listings. This was billed as a trial but is still running leading us to believe that this ‘trial’ is sufficiently successful to warrant continuing, at least for now.

Here’s how it currently looks if you search for plumbers in the Bay Area of San Francisco;

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You will notice that this ‘Pre-Screened Plumbers’ pack actually replaces the Advertising which normally sits at the top and it pushes the Google my Business listings underneath the map like so;

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This brings up another issue which is, of course, that of ‘pre-screening’. Can Google effectively do this? Are they capable of policing it? On what basis can they say a firm is good or bad? And what determines your position in the list? The amount you pay Google or the quality of work you do?

If current form is anything to go by all it would take is one complaint from a customer and a business could be removed from this list, at least temporarily. If that is the case and assuming it is the dominant form of advertising, they may well face legal challenges if they deny firms the right to be included in the list.

In short, it appears to be a minefield.

Elsewhere in the States the same search still displays a standard results page;

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Meanwhile, back at the ‘Pre-Screened plumbers’, this has changed slightly since the first screen shots we took earlier this year and if you click on the ‘More Plumbers’ link in the bottom left it opens up with this;

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As soon as you click on the ‘Request Quote’ button on the right hand side it pushes you to refine your query so you can be sure that the Plumber actually wants this type of work. You need to put in a valid zip code and type of plumbing job;

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Then you are asked to input the job details;

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Then finally you enter your details and your request goes off to the Plumber, who of course gets charged by Google for delivering a real live sales lead to him.

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The problem of course with this is that the system allows you to enter up to three contractors at a time which essentially means that whoever gets back to the customer first is pretty much guaranteed the job, particularly if it is an emergency.

This will lead to some major changes in the way that businesses answer their phone calls in the future and could lead to a rise in the ‘mobile landline services’ or call handling services. Will you need to have someone monitoring your inbox on a minute by minute basis waiting for these leads to arrive?

Whilst still a trial in the USA it is highly likely that this, or something like this, will become a feature in the near future. Serious thought should be given now to ways in which this will affect your business and how you intend to adapt to meet this new way of advertising.

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Google knowledge boxes are still experiencing problems

I’ve written a lot about how Google knowledge boxes are a more and more frequent visitor to our search results and in a lot of cases they are a welcome addition. As an end user if I am searching for the current time in Sydney for example I am happy when the box pops up showing me the exact time.

Of course if I were a website owner that derived a lot of revenue from visitors to my ‘what time is it anywhere in the world’ website I might not be quite so impressed. Even less so if I found that Google was taking the result it showed from my website.

As this is an automated service it will get some things spot on and others will be wide of the mark. As time goes on more and more results are accurate but there are still some notable examples where they are missing the mark.

Here’s another one that arrived today. Ask Google for the price of a second class stamp and it happily shows the price to be 62p…

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If you read further down the answer box you can see that it really does know the answer, it just doesn’t know which if the four figures to pick out.

So nice try Google; nearly there…..

But to be fair, Yahoo is no better. Its top answer proudly boasts that it is 53p which is also wrong. I knew that Royal Mail’s pricing in proportion was a little bit more complicated than the old flat rate but not that hard.

PS – The actual price is currently 54p

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Google knowledge boxes are not always the authoritative answer…

Of later there have been more and more instances of Google dominating particular search results with what are supposedly the ‘definitive’ answers.

As an example when you search for ‘weather in Australia’ you get this sort of result;

Australia Weather

 

This week however we searched for ‘UK Average Temperatures’ and above the Met Office, and Wikipedia came this result;

Google Knowledge Box

Naturally we’re delighted to see a result (even though it didn’t actually answer our question at all) but we would question whether Woodlands Junior School is more authoritative in this respect than the Met Office?

On the brighter side however I know I can now rely on the answers from my nine year old when I want to know anything. Kids are so bright these days I sometimes wonder why we need Google at all….