What’s New? 

Joy spends 4-6 hours a month keeping this guide updated and adding new tips, features & ranking tactics that she discovers.  A log of changes made to the guide over the guide. Items listed were added in the month they fall under.

May 2019

  • Updated the section on descriptions in Google My Business to clarify the 2 different types of descriptions that exist and how to report an incorrect description to Google. 
  • Added a photos section to break down the solutions to the 2 existing issues that are causing Google My Business photos not to display publicly. 
  • Updated the List of GMB Categories to show the 16 categories Google My Business added in the last month and the 1 they removed.
  • Added 2 more words to the list of things that cause Google Posts to fail.
  • Added a section that clarifies if it’s better to link to the location page or the homepage in Google My Business and included an example of what we saw when switching it for a small business. 
  • Split off the practitioner content into its own section and updated the section on solo practitioners.
  • Updated the recommendations on how to deal with deceased practitioner and retired practitioner listings based on a recent change to how Google My Business support deals with these.  

April 2019

March 2019

February 2019

January 2019

December 2018

  • Pre-loaded Questions & Answers stopped showing in the Knowledge Panel for tons of listings late in the fall of 2018. Explained what is now required to get the actual question and answer to display.
  • Wondering why Google is automatically updating your listing?  Here are the 3 most common reasons why your listing got updated and what you can do about it.
  • Updated the  list of category changes to show the 1 category Google removed in December and the 2 they altered.
  • Updated the timeline of updates to include everything that’s happened so far in December.
  • Redid the Schema section:
    • Reordered the content.
    • Added a section to the schema penalties page to explain what we learned about a recent structured markup penalty we handled and if Google actually cares about websites marking up 3rd party reviews.
    • Added a new example schema code for marking up a single review and clarified when I suggest using this.
  • Added a tip from Ben Fisher about the optimal length for a Google Post and how many words you get before the message gets truncated.

November 2018

  • Added a tip to the 3rd method for finding duplicate GMB listings to get a list that only shows the listings in a particular suite.
  • Added a guide for how to format spam reports to Google and a Chrome Extension that makes it easier to grab the CID number from the listing you’re looking at.
  • Added a note clarifying the issue with deleting hours in the GMB dashboard and how to get around it.
  • Added a way to get email notifications for things like reviews and Q&A for people who manage a GMB account with more than 100 listings.  
  • Updated the chart/list of GMB attributes to remove the bug that was impacting Women Led & Veteran Led from showing up.
  • Added the one new GMB category that was added in November to the list of category changes.
  • Updated the timeline of updates to include everything that’s happened so far in November.  
  • Did you know Google has the ability to block a listing from getting new reviews?  Added a section explaining the criteria needed for this to happen and how it works.  
  • The contact form for Local Services Ads no longer works. Replaced it with a new one that works & the email address you can use to contact the LSA team at Google.
  • Added to the GMB Insights section to clarify how branded searches differ from direct searches.
  • Removed all content and sections related to Google Plus.

 

October 2018

  • Updated the Service Area Business guidelines section to add 2 use cases for when SABs are allowed multiple listings.
  • Does Yelp allow virtual offices to be listed?  I got an answer from a Yelp spokesperson that clarifies how their policies differ from Google’s.
  • Updated the section on Yelp Review policies to add what Yelp does to a business caught with fake reviews and how you can report a business to Yelp that is doing this.
  • Updated the Google Posts section to replace some images that showed Posts in the wrong spot since Google moved them.
  • Added a section clarifying how you can get the Located In feature on your listing and how this applies to practitioner listings.  
  • Updated the attributes section and clarified the change to the highly rated attribute.
  • Updated the Google My Business category change list to show the category changes in October.
  • Updated the GMB Agency Dashboard section to explain how the migration tool works.
  • How does the new future opening date feature work?  Here is what you need to know.
  • Updated the timeline of updates to include everything that’s happened so far in October.  

 

September 2018

  • I frequently get questions on which attributes result in icons so I decided to start a list of what icons exist and what categories they are associated with.  This will be a work in progress so I will update it regularly.  
  • Updated the GMB Agency dashboard section to clarify what you need to do to get added to a Location Group.
  • Updated the 3-pack ads section to reflect the layout of the new Google Ads dashboard
  • Changed all instances of “AdWords” to Google Ads
  • Updated the Advanced Verification section as it’s now rolled out to more than just locksmiths & garage door companies and is now in Canada.
  • Deleted the customer actions bug in Google My Business Insights as it no longer applies.
  • Added a section to GMB Insights to explain how Search Queries work and why they don’t match Search Console.
  • Added a page that expands more on what happens when you get a soft suspension (account suspension) and what steps to take to get it reinstated.
  • Updated the timeline of updates to include everything that’s happened so far in September.
  • Google removed 9 GMB categories.  Updated the category change list.  

 

August 2018

  • Google My Business now has a direct phone number (different than the one for AdWords that stopped working).
  • Updated the Local Services Ads section:
    • Clarified what businesses are eligible to appear in the free section.
    • Removed section on signing up for the Google Assistant since this is now automatic.
    • Updated the section on reviews to clarify how LSA reviews are different than GMB reviews.
    • Added a section that shows how much leads cost with LSAs
  • Added a section on the August 1 algorithm update and what major things we saw.
  • Added a tip to see the email address of a manager on your Google My Business listing.
  • Updated the timeline of updates to include everything that’s happened so far in August.
  • There have been 18 Google My Business categories added since April 2018 and 4 removed.  Updated the timeline of changes.
  • Added Jason Brown’s hack for getting more reviews on Yelp.  
  • Removed the reference to Mike’s category tool (it’s no longer working) and replaced it with another tool to find the list of Google My Business categories.

 

July 2018

  • Added that I got confirmation from Google when the icons appear on the About tab of a GMB listing.
  • Updated the Schema section and added a field that has a very cool impact on the way the URL shows up on Google’s search results.  
  • Added a tip to the spam section on how to find spammy listings quickly.
  • Added a section to the Onsite Optimization section for URL structure that addresses what the ideal URL structure is for a page on your site, if you should use folders, and if it’s a good idea to update URLs that don’t meet this format.
  • We found a new trick to see the address on a listing that has it hidden on Google.
  • Added another (much easier) way to see all the categories your competitor is using on his listing.
  • Updated the section on category dilution to clarify, based on our testing, if having too many categories on your listing has a negative impact on ranking.  
  • How much does the number of Google reviews impact ranking?  I added the results from a case study that looked at this.
  • Google fixed 2 of the issues that were impacting the new GMB Agency Dashboard.  I updated the section to include which issues have been resolved.  
  • What does Google do to businesses that break their guidelines and add extra keywords to the business name?  I added a section that details the process I’ve witnessed Google take through many different cases I’ve worked on
  • Updated the timeline of updates to include everything that’s happened so far in July.

 

June 2018

  • Added four pages about how the new Google My Business agency dashboard works.  Information added includes:
    • How to sign up and migrate accounts.  
    • Things you need to be aware of when getting access to new listings.  The process is different than the normal version of the dashboard. Added a workaround for the issue of not being able to request access to a listing.  
    • Added a section clarifying what to do for businesses with AdWords accounts you manage since the agency dashboard does not sync to AdWords.
    • Added the link to the dedicated support team at Google for agency dashboard issues.
  • How to easily create graphs & charts using data from GMB Insights that shows month-over-month comparisons (something you can’t see in the dashboard).
  • One of the tricks to see the address on a GMB listing that has hidden it stopped working recently.  Updated the page to indicate this.
  • Updated the Contacting Google page to remove the option for calling Google directly (no longer an option) and added a section clarifying which support methods can be used to report spam.
  • Updated the Q&A section and added a section to clarify what the fastest way is to get rid of a question posted on your listing.
  • Updated the timeline of updates to include everything that’s happened so far in June.
  • Added a section on the Google My Business Messaging feature to clarify how much it’s being used, what you should know before setting it up, and how it shows up on your Knowledge Panel.
  • Updated the Google My Business Description section to clarify if it impacts ranking.

May 2018

  • Added a section showing how you can get an attribute on your listing that doesn’t show up as an option in the dashboard.  
  • Added a checklist of items you’ll need to pass Advanced Verification.  
  • Updated step 1 on this page to include a different tool since the previous one is no longer free.
  • Added a section to clarify how to track Google My Business traffic in Google Analytics.
  • Added a section to show how to track Google My Business traffic in Search Console.
  • Added a section that clarifies if there is a difference between flagging a review publicly vs inside the GMB dashboard.
  • Updated the timeline of updates to include everything that’s happened so far in May.
  • Added a few sections about Google Posts:

April 2018

  • Removed the section on pre-filling the five stars on Google since this is no longer possible.
  • Added a section about Google’s new policy for review gating.
  • Updated the timeline to add all the updates and changes that happened in the month of April.
  • How to get the highly-rated attribute on your listing.
  • Added a really helpful tool that will give you the CID number of any listing on Google.
  • Added an example Schema code to get product pricing in the search results.
  • Added a section covering how to do keyword research for Local SEO.
  • Added a section that covers Yelp’s review solicitation penalty: How do you know you have it?  How long does it last? How bad is the ranking drop?
  • Google My Business added 18 new categories since January and removed 7.  Added all the changes to the category change log.
  • Updated the section on how to choose what categories to use since this process just got much easier.
  • Added a section that includes tips for how seasonal businesses should structure their categories.

March 2018

  • Added a timeline of changes to algorithms, bugs, features, and policy changes that impact Local SEO.  
  • Added information on what updated for local businesses with the March 9th algorithm update including a pretty significant change impacting GMB categories.   
  • Added a section that explains how secondary updates work.
  • Added a section showing the different features that are only available in specific versions of the GMB dashboard.  
  • Added a section about the new business description in GMB and what you need to know about it.
  • Added a tip for the website field in GMB and how to avoid Google from denying a bulk verification request.  
  • Added a page that explains how to troubleshoot possible issues that might be impacting driving directions on Google Maps.
  • Added a section to the timeline for March 16th regarding a change that impacted users that do a lot of editing on Google Maps.
  • Added a section clarifying if it’s okay with Google for a user to review both the practice and practitioner listing.
  • Added another page listing 4 other scenarios and multiple examples of when Google will remove reviews (both negative and positive)
  • Added a section clarifying what the penalty is for having a lot of reviews that violate Google’s guidelines.  
  • Added a section clarifying what types of Q&A content Google filters and how to see if your answer got filtered.
  • Added a way to see all posts from a business.

February 2018

  • How to get Google’s new feature for restaurants set up.  
  • Did you lose your Knowledge Panel in December 2017?  Here is how to get it back.  
  • Updated the instructions on how to see all the secondary categories a listing is targeting since you cannot always view these on every page on Maps.
  • What you need to do to get the video tab on your listing.
  • How to deal with a listing for an online business that closes their physical office.  
  • What is the average star rating that leads to the highest likeliness of a customer to make a purchase (hint: It’s not 5.0)?  
  • Helpful tips that agencies should know about how to invite a user to a large number of listings or see pending invitations for any listings they’ve been invited to manage.
  • Added a really awesome tool to help you see how many other businesses are using the exact same address/suite number as you.
  • Updated the section on G+ to clarify there is no way to create a local G+ page.
  • Added a section to show another strategy that might help get rid of a fake listing if you’re getting nowhere with Google.
  • Added best practices for using Google’s appointment URL or Bookings feature.
  • Updated the Local Services by Google section to highlight some improvements Google’s been making.     

January 2018

  • Removed the page that shows how to see Q&A on desktop since it’s now on desktop everywhere.
  • Added a checklist for the steps a business should take when they are rebranding their business.
  • How to fix an incorrect menu link that shows up in the Knowledge Panel.
  • Added the 16 new Google My Business categories that have been added since Sept 2017 and the list of 29 that have been removed.  
  • What causes Google to show the option to verify a listing by phone instead of postcard?
  • If you’re struggling with negative reviews on this particular 3rd party directory they will actually remove all your reviews and the option for someone to leave you a new review if you request it.
  • Reorganized the section on reviews that Google will remove.  Added more examples and listed out ten different types of reviews that I’ve seen Google remove in the last 12 months.
  • Added a section to indicate which support channels are best to use for reporting fake reviews. It varies depending on if the fake reviews are ones on your own business (fake negatives) or a competitor (fake positives).  

December 2017

  • Updated the moved feature section to add a piece of information that I got from Google about the difference between merging and moving a listing.   
  • Added the sign-up form to get Local Services by Google ads to show up on Google Assistant.
  • Added a section on business hours clarifying the different rules that apply to service area businesses, seasonal businesses and storefronts.  Also added a section clarifying what a business should do if they have a storefront but don’t want to show up as “closed” during the night when they are willing to accept emergency calls.
  • Added a section covering 3rd party tools that sync with Google My Business (Yext, Moz Local) and what you need to know before using them.
  • Added an example of someone who got a spammy structured markup penalty due to review schema and what they concluded about if marking up 3rd party reviews has anything to do with it.
  • Added a section on best practices for agencies who manage tons of GMB listings.
  • Added as section on Google’s new verification process explaining exactly how it works and how it makes it impossible for another company to hold a GMB listing hostage.  
  • Added a fourth way to find duplicate listings that works really well if you’re trying to get a list of all the locations for a specific company.

November 2017

  • Businesses using the review service from BirdEye had tons of Google reviews removed from July-October 2017. I dug into what might have caused this by analyzing one of the emails they were sending out to customers to get these reviews.  Here is what you should avoid doing if you want to avoid having your Google reviews filtered.  
  • Updated the Home Service Ads section to reflect the rebranding to Local Services by Google.  Added a link to the new sign-up form along with the phone number and email contact for Local Services by Google.
  • Added a section on the process for how to get a review removed that violates the Google review guidelines.  
  • What do you need to know about the new Google My Business Dashboard on search and what two items currently show there which are nowhere in the regular version of the dashboard.  
  • Added a section addressing if Google posts impact ranking and if the content in the post directly correlates with the keywords that the business ranks for.
  • Added a section clarifying that Google My Business will look at how a business is listed on the BBB when reported for spam.  

October 2017

  • Advanced Verification and Home Service Ads are separate things.  Set up a specific page for Advanced Verification clarifying on how it’s different than Home Service ads.
  • Updated section on Home Service Ads to clarify the change that happened in October.  
  • Removed sections on Home Service Ads related to home-based businesses that no longer apply and updated the history.  Added the link to sign up for Home Service Ads (it changed).
  • Added a trick to verify a listing at an old address.
  • The calls that show up in Google My Business Insights are only counting about 30-50% of the real number of calls you get from GMB.  Added a way to track all the calls you get from Google My Business.  
  • Google My Business has changed the process for what to do with practitioners that leave your practice and now work somewhere else.  I updated this section to include what you should do when this happens.

September 2017

  • Added details about the Hawk algorithm update that happened August 22, 2017
  • Updated the section on the Local Filter since I now know way more about how it works and how it decides who gets filtered if it’s related to proximity (2 businesses near each other).
  • Did a competitor get you filtered?  Here is a trick to get unfiltered if the thing that’s causing it is a related business that’s in the same building or near you.
  • What you need to know about Google updates that show up in the Google My Business dashboard. Where do they come from and what do they mean when it doesn’t show you what updated?
  • Updated the list of Google My Business category changes in 2017.  Google added 20 new categories in the last 4 months.  
  • Did you know that calls that come from 3-pack ads aren’t tracked as conversions in either AdWords or Analytics (if you’re using dynamic call insertion).  There is way to track these calls so you are getting the proper attribution and know how many of your Google My Business calls are actually coming from ads.
  • Added a trick to see Q&A on desktop.
  • What a home-based service-area business should do to avoid getting removed from the local results when Home Service Ads expand to their area.
  • Google is removing service area business listings from the local results even when home service ads aren’t present yet.  Here is an example.  
  • How can you tell if Home Service Ads are to blame for your listing not ranking?  Here are 2 tricks/tips that will let you know.
  • Home Service Ads – Why are we still seeing listings in the local results that are service-area businesses without storefronts?  What should you do when you see one?
  • Google My Business’ response times on Twitter and Facebook are pretty slow lately.  I found another way to get a hold of Google faster that has worked well (and it’s definitely not phone support).  
  • Added a direct link to a form to email Google directly about inappropriate reviews on a listing.

August 2017

  • Completely redid the section on Home Service Ads
  • Added tips for what service area businesses can do to remove competitors from the local results that aren’t eligible to be there (per Google’s guidelines).  Added specific guidance for areas that have home service ads.
  • Added information about Google’s new Questions & Answers feature on Google Maps and what businesses should be aware of as well as some tips to make these more visible.
  • After studying tons of examples, I have concluded that there was an algorithm update on June 13, 2017 that impacted the ranking of the local results.  Added examples, findings, and theories.
  • What is the purpose of the duplicate reporting option on Google Maps and should you use it?
  • How to add a phone number extension in Google My Business.

July 2017

  • The direct link to get the page for phone support has changed (and become harder to find). Updated the link.
  • Google has changed the way they list the contact for their support team inside the GMB dashboard.  Updated this page to make the current direct contact methods accurate.
  • Removed tool from list of recommendations as it has been very buggy lately with sites.
  • Google is showing a stupid photo in the knowledge panel. How do I fix this?
  • How do I fix an incorrect address on Google Maps?
  • I have tested and found that reporting spammers (users) in the Local Guides forum is not the most efficient or quickest method.  Updated my recommended process.
  • How can you confirm that Google understands the location you’re searching from and thus is showing you accurate local results?
  • Have you ever searched on Google and seen 3 businesses in the 3-pack but then noticed you don’t get the same 3 businesses when you click to go to the Local Finder.  This explains the most common reason why that happens.

June 2017

May 2017

  • Updated the list of GMB categories to include the 3 new categories Google added in May.
  • Is it okay to mark up 3rd party reviews to get stars in the organic results? What is the proper way to add schema so that the aggregate markup applies to the entire business and not a specific product?  Here is a sample code that has been tested and works that you can easily modify.  
  • Moderating edits on desktop is now open to all users. Here are 3 ways you can get edits approved faster and how you can moderate and review edits now that MapMaker is dead.  If you find a user that is submitting spammy edits, there is now a way to report them.
  • Google has a new alerting feature for businesses when they have new photos added to their listing.
  • What should you do if a competitor is offering incentives for people to leave him reviews?
  • If 2 businesses operate out of the same address, is this a problem for Local SEO and ranking?  Should you add a suite number to differentiate them?
  • Does activity that comes from AdWords Location Extensions get counted in Google My Business Insights?
  • Added a way to check the GMB forum to see if a wave of the review filter just hit or there is a bug going on.
  • Added how to see if reviews you’ve written for a business have been filtered and aren’t publicly visible.
  • Added a tip on how to find more duplicate listings for practitioners who are in the medical industry (dentists, chiropractors etc) and attorneys.
  • Added 3 ways to deal with issues with how Street View appears in the knowledge panel.

April 2017

  • Photo spam in GMB: How do I see what photos users have uploaded to my listing?  Is there a way to automatically track when new photos get added? What’s the best method to report an abusive photo if I see one on my listing?
  • What brands need to know about naming consistency and how it impacts ranking in the 3-pack. (page 159)
  • What’s the best way to get a list and map of zip codes in a specific city? (page  117)
  • What is the blue dot in the 3-pack? (page 133)
  • Google constantly updates the list of available business categories for GMB, only they never tell us when they do. Here is a timeline of what categories have been added and removed in 2017. 
  • 4 Tips for optimizing a local business website.  Should you list NAP in the footer of your website? How should you properly format the phone number? (page 145-146)
  • If a patient posts a review on Google that violates HIPAA, can it be removed? (page 34)
  • Updated the guide I referred to properly track form submissions from Gravity Forms (page 152)
  • Ways to make image optimization easier for small businesses (page 147-148)

Leave a Reply