Local Search | Smart Local

Google Chat Button lets you Connect Direct with Local Consumers

In the past couple of days there have been several reports (here and here) about Google testing a “Chat” button live in organic search results. It’s been appearing for a few businesses in the Local Knowledge Panel to the right of the organic search results. Although the reports have stated that Google is simply testing the Chat button, we’ve now seen it show up for this London florist. (Full disclosure – they are a current client). After multiple screenshots and some digging around here’s what we’ve found out so far.


Where does the Google Chat button show up?

On desktop it’s currently showing however you get the knowledge panel to show. So either through a branded search or a regular plain organic search with the knowledge panel being triggered by hovering over the relevant listing (as shown below).

Google chat button through organic search


The Chat button also appears through mobile search but so far I haven’t been able to find it anywhere through Google Maps, either on desktop or mobile.

Google chat button for mobile


What happens when you click the Chat button?

Clicking on the Chat (available) button pops up a Hangout window. It appears that you do need to be logged into a Google account for the Chat to actually work as it’s run through Google Hangouts. As you can see from the screenshot Google is clearly directing people to either the Android or iPhone Hangouts app.

Google chat button


There was a delay of a few minutes at the outset before the original message from me showed up in Wildabout’s Hangout app, but from there it was all pretty much instant chat. As you’d expect.


Who gets notified when a Chat gets started?

Still working on this one. As a Page Manager I got a notfication through the Hangouts app on my phone, so I ended up responding to myself through two different accounts – my own and Wildabout’s.

Not a riveting conversation but remarkably simple to use. Now I’m pretty sure that our client isn’t using Hangouts at the moment, so that’s going to be an important point to raise with them. Someone in the store will need to be available to respond to messages should anyone decide they’d like to get in touch. Another point to mention is that, so far, I haven’t been able to discover how to set the Chat button to “unavailable”. Sure, I can snooze notifications on the Hangouts app but that seems to have no bearing on the availability.


Why would consumers use the Chat button?

There could be a number of reasons but ultimately it comes down to choice. Some people like Twitter, some like email while others prefer picking up the phone or sending a text. The Google Chat button could potentialy enable a customer to begin a simple text Hangout then transfer that into either an actual phone call or even a vidoe Hangout. In terms of customer service and building stronger relationships with potential and existing customers the Google Chat button could be really exciting. Getting real time answers to questions should only be of benefit to consumers. Is a restaurant busy? What are the specials of the day? What game are you showing … you know, important stuff!


Potential Uses for Chat

PPC isn’t really my area of expertise but I would assume that if you can run ads targeting people to call your business phone then it may, at some stage, also be possible to run ads with the call to action being live chat. “Got tax questions, chat with us now” or “Have we got your size in store, chat now”.

An additional and important point to note is regarding ranking. There’s been plenty of discussion about how dwell time on a Google+ Page may help signify to Google that a page is useful. Methods for increasing dwell time would include Google Business View (See Inside), videos and more. Would the number and length of Chats that a business gets be a potential ranking factor? I would argue for a yes but would also have no clue how much weight it would carry.

At this stage it’s clearly early days and we’re still not entirely sure how the Google Chat button came to appear for Wildabout Flowers in the first place. We’ll keep monitoring things over the next few days and as we learn will look to post about it on Google+ and Twitter.

Have you or a business you know got the Google Chat button yet?

How to Claim your Business on Apple Maps

Claim your business on Apple Maps


Apple may well have the claim of being the largest company in history (so far) but when it comes to mapping, their Apple Maps product is still seen as second best to that of Google. Over the past few months however Apple have been taking steps to shift that perception.

Initially Apple Maps was powered by Google Maps but then in September 2012 they released the first version based on their own mapping data. Reaction to the app was so bad that it prompted an open letter response from Apple’s CEO Tim Cook. A lot has happened since then and the app has been steadily improving. In October 2014 they launched Apple Maps Connect in the US and towards the end of last week they finally rolled it out here in the UK along with Australia, New Zealand, Ireland and Singapore. Apple Maps Connect is “intended for small business owners or their authorized representatives (though not agencies) to be able to quickly and easily add content directly into Apple Maps.”

Why claim your business listing on Apple Maps

Apple currently has just over 32% 45% of the UK smartphone market (updated 27th Jan 2016) and more than 50% of the tablet market. On each of those Apple devices Apple Maps is the standard installed app for maps. Even though folks may well add Google Maps it’s clear that Apple’s own maps app is seeing increased usage. Just like local business owners should claim their listing on Google My Business the same is also true for Apple Maps.

Data for Apple Maps is likely coming from a few different sources and here in the UK the primary one is Yelp. Other providers are Factual and TomTom, with Axciom and OpenStreetMaps also believed to be potential sources. Taking control of your listing on Apple Maps will help but it’s also highly recommended that you check out those additional sites and make sure everything is correct and up to date.

Before you get started it’s important to note that in the FAQ’s there is the following statement about eligible businesses:

We currently only accept businesses whose customers visit them and where we can confirm a physical presence. Businesses that may not be approved include: businesses operating from residential homes, businesses with temporary locations (including real-estate for sale) or without a physical address, mobile businesses, or businesses that have not yet opened for business.

Once you’re happy that your business complies with that statement then you’re ready to move on.

Steps to find and claim your business on Apple Maps

Apple Maps Connect

First step is head to this URL https://mapsconnect.apple.com/ and log in with your Apple ID and password. If you don’t already have one then you will need to create one. Click on “View My Businesses” and then the +Add button top right and you’ll see the next screen below. Enter your business name and location then click the search button. If your business isn’t found then you can click on the “Add New Business” link and follow the simple instructions from there.

Find your business on Apple Maps Connect

If your business is found then click on the blue “Claim This Business” button and proceed from there. This may trigger the verify by phone pop up to display but you can click on “Not Now” if you choose and come back to that in a few minutes.

Claim your business on Apple Maps


Complete all necessary business information, correct the location of your map marker and choose up to 3 categories. If you get stuck on these then here’s a great list you can check out (thanks Phil). Make sure your correct opening hours are showing and then add your company website along with your Twitter, Facebook and Yelp URL’s.

Claim a business on Apple Maps

When you’re all set you’ll get an opportunity to check all the details and then just click “Submit to Apple” which will trigger the phone verification. The call is instant and will go to the number on the listing, so be prepared!

Phone verification on Apple Maps Connect

There’s a review period while the folks at Apple check and verify your data and then your listing should get updated. There are some helpful FAQ’s on the Apple Maps Connect site so if you get stuck please do refer to those.

If you haven’t already looked into claiming and verifying your listing then please do make it a priority. It will take you all of 10 minutes and will help to ensure that your information on Apple Maps is correct. Then you can be confident that any potential customers will be calling the right phone number and will be able to find your location.

Meta Tags – which ones are still important

meta tags

Not so long ago, marketers could rank a website at the top of the search engines simply by stuffing it full of HTML meta tags. Once this loophole was closed, marketers realised that creating over-optimised pages and throwing tons of links at them achieved the same result. Once this loophole was closed, marketers began to experiment with rich snippets and data markup and attempt to boost their rankings through false social proof.

For as long as the search engines have existed, there have been marketers who have attempted to game the results. Meta tags and meta fields have always been one piece of a large algorithmic puzzle and over the years, much like all elements of a website that can be used to manipulate rankings, they have helped websites generate millions of sales.

But are they relevant in 2014?

Let’s take a look.


What are meta tags?

Meta tags are website descriptors. They are lines of code and text which lie between the open and closing <head> tags in a HTML document. This content is not visible to the average website visitor and it is not located on the front-end of a website. Instead, meta tags are located in the code of a website and unless a human is looking for them, only the search engines will see them.

The basic aim of a meta tag is to explain to the search engines what a page is about.


Page title

If you are clued up on SEO, you’ll likely know the words ‘page title’ better than ‘title tag’. Contrary to belief, the page title is not a meta tag. The W3C define the title tag as a required element of a page, whereas it defines meta tags as optional page descriptors.

Even though by definition the page title is not a meta tag, it is often edited alongside the meta description and meta keywords. As such, among most marketers, the title tag is a form of meta tag.

Is it a ranking factor?

The page title is still an important ranking factor to Google and all other search engines. It is among the first criteria a search engine looks at when loading a page and it is critical to explaining to the search engines what a page is about.

meta tags - which ones are still important

Meta description

To Google, a meta description will look like:

<meta name=”description” content=”Jet Skis Emporium is an online store dedicated to offering the best prices on jet ski equipment. Check us out today. “>

A website meta description is what shows up as the synopsis for a page in the search results (shown above). Marketers only have 156 characters to describe the web page (Google only shows the first 156 characters) and so it is critical that a meta description includes all of the relevant and valuable information a searcher will be looking for.

Is it a ranking factor?

The meta description is not a ranking factor for Google. Google does not count the meta description toward your rankings. However, the meta description is still a very important part of website optimisation as it is your sales pitch to searchers. It needs to sell to the searcher and get them to click through to your website.


Meta keyword tag

Meta keyword tags are still common on websites and there are millions of businesses out there that have stuffed their keyword field with tens or even hundreds of tags. However up to date marketers know that the meta keyword tag is not an important part of search engine optimisation and as such, most online strategies do not involve them.

Is it a ranking factor?

The meta keyword tag is defunct to all major search engines and it is not a ranking factor. They used to point out what keywords a website was targeting for Google but a combination of manipulation and poor search quality resulted in the meta keyword tag being stripped of any power. If your website currently uses meta keyword tags, you can leave them in, because whilst they won’t help your website rank they won’t harm it either. The only people that look at them these days would be your competitor’s SEO company.

Photo credit: peregrine blue via photopin cc

Google+ Local Should be the First Stop on Your Local SEO Journey

google plus local

Making your company more visible on local search results pages is a great way to attract new business. After all, if local people can’t find your company online, how are they supposed to find it at all? If your business doesn’t appear in the local search results pages, you can be sure that other companies do. Improving your local SEO strategy makes it easier for people to find your business, and the first stop along the way is to make the most of Google+ Local, which is used to be known as Google Places.


Google+ and How it Relates to Local Search

Perform a search for the products or services that you provide on Google. The first handful of results will probably be listings for businesses in your local area. How do they attain such visible listings on the local search results pages? In most cases, they do so by claiming, verifying and optimising their Google+ pages. While it’s technically possible for a business to appear in this coveted spot without any extra work, the reality is that competition is fierce. More business owners are aware of the power of Google+ than ever, so it’s crucial to make your listing as useful as possible.


Local Search Statistics

Before delving more deeply into the benefits of creating and optimising a Google+ page for your business, you may need a little more convincing about the advantages of winning at the local search game. Consider this: According to Pew Research, 74 percent of smartphone owners use location-based services. A 2011 report by Google and Ipsos OTX revealed that 88 percent of consumers who search for local businesses on their mobile devices end up calling or visiting within 24 hours. According to WebVisible, 86 percent of survey respondents use the Internet to find local businesses. With all of these points in mind, it’s easy to see why it pays to appear prominently in the local search engine results.


Help On-the-Go People Find Your Business

By claiming, verifying and optimising your company’s Google+ Local page, you dramatically increase the odds of it being found by people who are on the move in the local area. When looking for local businesses, people don’t tend to ask around for help; they generally consult their smartphones and other mobile devices. If your business doesn’t appear when such searches are conducted, it might as well not exist at all. While creating and maintaining a Google+ page doesn’t guarantee that your listing will be near the top of the results, it increases the likelihood of that happening and gives you an edge over the competition.


An Easy Way to Attract Local Business

All too often, business owners downplay the powerful influence of Google+ Local and focus almost all of their social media attention on sites like Facebook and Twitter. Here’s the thing: While Google+ may not be as popular as Facebook, it has a very distinct advantage in that it is intimately connected to the Google search engine. Whether it’s fair or not, Google+ Local listings seem to get preferential treatment when it comes to local searches. Even if you don’t plan on being very active on Google+, setting up and optimising a page for your business is quick and easy. The results of doing so can be absolutely incredible.

Why is Optimisation Important?

Don’t stop with claiming and verifying your company’s Google+ Local listing. Take some extra time to optimise it as much as possible too. This means that you should fill in each and every section, being sure to choose the most relevant categories for your business. Be as descriptive and informative as possible. If you already have an SEO strategy in place, be sure to include plenty of relevant, targeted keywords in your listing as well. These steps will increase the visibility of your business on Google and increase the odds of it showing up when people search for your goods and services in the local area.


Results You can See

Your new Google+ Local listing probably won’t affect your local search results right away. Like almost anything else related to SEO, these changes may take time to have a real impact. Once they do, though, the results are sure to be quite dramatic. Shortly after appearing in the local search results for the first time, you’ll probably see an uptick in traffic to your website. This should also be accompanied by increased volumes of visits and phone calls. Over time, this increased activity will result in increased profits, which will ensure the ongoing success of your business.

Why Cheap Local SEO Packages Don’t Work

local seo packages

As a small business owner, you know what a difference it can make to have a website that ranks high on the major search engines. Unfortunately, creating an attractive, well-designed, informative website isn’t enough to get you there. Search engine optimisation has long been the preferred way to boost a site’s ranking, but hiring an SEO company based on price alone is a bad idea. It’s also perilous to assume that one SEO firm can get you the same results as the next. In reality, you get what you pay for when it comes to local SEO packages, so the cookie-cutter approach should be avoided at all cost.