Hennepin and Washington

Life as a Google Local Guide – Lev Livet

A day as a Google Local Guide is pretty much living your life as anyone else. You get up, go about your day and be aware of your potential opportunities to hopefully add useful local content. When updating this content, and with a smart phone in hand it hardly takes any time to update some local on the fly.

Washington Square

Just a couple weeks ago I added a photo I recently took to help showcase the renovated 100 Washington Square building with the newer Penny’s Coffee inside. That corner took on renovation and built the coffee shop right in the building with just delicious crepes. This is fantastic for our neighborhood and the businesses within.

First, a brief history. Local Guides started out as Google’s City Experts program in 2013 with the intention of competing with Yelpers, mostly to bring in higher quality business ratings and reviews to Google+. The benefits were simple. You occasionally got free stuff. We like free stuff.

In early 2015, Google brought over the name “Local Guides” with more of a community feel. Benefits were more structured and multi-leveled based depending on the quality and quantity of reviews and other information provided.

Local Guides became more passionate, worldwide, with a proud user-base knowing they did their small part on making the web better and help engaging with the public to why users would want to visit their area. Diwali celebration, anyone?Hennepin Ave Bridge

I often do this at a hyper-local level. I love and am involved with the neighborhood and Ward I live in and want to do my part to showcase it whether it’s businesses, organizations or areas of interest within. How many bridges can stake their claim as the first bridge to span the Mississippi River (while sportin’ my Gophers hat, of course)?

This all doesn’t go without its hiccups. There are still a few Local Guides who update content just for the reason to gain points and receive whatever the “benefits of the month” are. As well, there are guides who often even inadvertently fix current listings uploaded by aggressive marketers trying to game the “ranking” system. In my opinion, both of these come with the territory.

The core intent is still the same, to give users local information including reviews, photos and other information of places to visit and buy. The optimization is always there too, with local proximity giving arguably the highest notch, which it should, to how visible a location to the user happens to be. Someone asked me about Map Maker. I don’t know if this is a planned enhancement to their now-closed product, or if I’ll ever know.

Check the Facts

Since, Google gave Level 4+ Guides on Android the opportunity to check local facts and answer yes/no questions about locations. Now this feature is open to everyone and my guess it’s to help jump-start accurate local business information. This only gives 1 point to guides although given the ease-of-use and small time spent to verify is probably the right number. It’s prone to point-spam.

Local Guides have been popular enough in its own niche, and they just had their 2nd annual invite-only Local Guides Summit held in San Francisco. Eligibility requirements were to be (then) a Level 5 Guide, have proactive community/portal involvement in Connect and a minute-long video application sent in to why you should be selected to attend.


I was not selected.

Recently, they’ve invited people to share accessibility knowledge by answering yes/no wheelchair questions. People can use this approach and/or imply this feature on photos taken like I did in just over a minute at Target Field Station. The stadium already works well with the ADA and this enhancement can help make the game-day experience just that much better.

Wheelchair Access - Target Field Station

Wheelchair Access – Target Field Station

Through it all, the only constant is change. They’re always changing benefits and adding initiatives to help showcase your community. Local Guides will always be there. At least, the concept certainly will. Just like true Google fashion, they may be prone to change the name after awhile. They may continue to push forward with it or there may be a time where local content is fulfilled enough that they’ll move it more into a maintenance type of program. Nonetheless, is this something that you’ll be using either for yourself, neighborhood, or your clients?

Google Posts

A Minneapolis Month into Google Posts

It’s been a month since first writing about Making Your Own Google Posts. According to Google Trends, this new feature has only taken off slightly at times.

It’s slick, still relatively unknown and you can post up to 10 carousel posts to show up when folks search for your branded name, the first 2+ being visible upon the initial search. Google up “localmn” and you may see something like this.

Google Posts LocalMN

 

 

 

 

 

 

Meant to be truly local, I decided to try some local “best nearby” searches including restaurants, lawyers and realtors. To my surprise, none of them use the Google Posts feature. Here is what I thought about these searches:

  • Nearly all have claimed their Google my Business profiles
  • Nearly all have done at least an adequate job at populating content in their GMB
  • They most likely haven’t heard of Google posts, or their respective agencies haven’t or don’t find it useful

What About Search?

Consider these points.

These posts show up when people do branded searches for you. They will most likely find you whether you did a speck of SEO or not. They recommend your posts be between 100 and 300 characters long, much less than a standard SEO just makes common sense to populate these posts with quality content for interested users. They do urge you to go with 200 or 300 words of content. Stick to 100 characters as that’s the amount of characters Google shows in the results. Again, people are doing a branded search. SEO is fine for this, although quality content for users can be perceived as better.

What Local Businesses Uses Google Posts?

I literally couldn’t find a business in Minneapolis who currently uses the new Google Posts feature. So, I went to Twitter and Instagram. Got a few likes, but nothing.

Twitter Question

Instagram

To me, this is still an up-tapped market. Google is always coming up with something new in their local division and it makes sense that this may currently be overlooked. Tap into it. It’s free and it’s Google, and you don’t need to worry about setting up and maintaining a blog.


LocalMN Interactive provides Local Search Services including consulting for setting up and maintaining your Google Posts for a way to keep your customers well-updated and informed of what you have going on for them. Contact us of visit us on your social media channel of choice to learn more.

North Loop Minneapolis

Google Maps and Street View Photos in the North Loop

Today’s #mspwalk is in the Minneapolis North Loop area to showcase the neighborhood, stills and indoor and outdoor Street View photos we offer at LocalMN. It was longer and split up into 2 walks for a little over 8 miles on gmap-pedometer as I needed to recharge my iPhone.

gmap-pedometer

Red Cow North Loop – The first Google review I saw happens to be from myself a year ago.

Spacious, modern, tasty, decently priced for the neighborhood. Their soft pretzel app has a sweetness that I haven’t tasted before.

Their North Loop page could use an updated title and meta description, but I digress.

Red Loop North Loop Title and Meta Description

 

Per their Facebook page, The Cowles Center for Dance and the Performing Arts is the Twin Cities’ newest venue for dance and the performing arts! As well, it’s a half block from the Light Rail. There’s even breakdance performance according to a Google reviewer.

Amazing theater. I saw some AMAZING breakdance there, and it was RAW; the hip-hop there wasn’t anything like competition dance, or jazz-choreographer-trys-hip-hop style of performance, it was straight off the old school beat-street.

In addition to the house that Prince built, plenty of local artists proudly have their own star on the First Avenue wall.

First Avenue Wall

 

 

 

 

Odonovans Pub

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Per above, on a triangular corner in the middle of pretty much everything sits O’Donovan’s Pub. A true Irish pub, Dropkick Murphys have even played there years ago.

The Target Field Station is what I would consider the transportation hub of North Loop/Warehouse District with the Light Rail, Northstar, Target Field and Center all pretty much there. As well, catch the skyway there to go almost anywhere downtown. From Cedar Lake Trail just north of the station:

Target Field StationTarget Field Station

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Nice Ride station on Washington and 2nd Ave. N.

Mississippi River and area of interest at the North Loop Playground.

As well, here are quite a few additional photos of the walk. All are on 2 shared Google albums for you to view, add, share, etc.

Friday Morning

Friday Afternoon


Post, stills and 360 photos from LocalMN and feel free to see our Google Trusted Street View Photographer page as well as us on your social media channels of choice for our services. We look forward to hearing from you.

Gateway Park

Dex Acquires YP – Back to Yellow Pages Delivery 2.0 or a Welcome Merger?

On the record, they don’t call it a merger, or consolidation, or especially print spam. An acquisition? Definitely. From the new DexYP site:

By acquisition, do you mean merger?
No. Dex Media has completed the acquisition of YP and now controls the newly-formed DexYP.

Nonetheless, I live and work in the 3rd Ward of Minneapolis. It’s a dynamic and diverse community that proudly comes together at one.

  • We’re home to thriving local businesses, arts, cultural diversity, a national park and both the first and fastest growing Minneapolis neighborhood.
  • We are collectively smart, real and sexy and can easily sniff out the most thinly veiled attempt at deceptive and overly-aggressive sales practices.
  • Big-box associations like the Local Search Association (formerly the Yellow Pages Association) are welcome and should do just fine here with their phone-ringing sales force-driven industry.

Just don’t come back and litter our neighborhood with your print book spam again.

Why do I say this? From the Dex Moving Forward Site again…

Will the new company be moving away from print?
DexYP remains committed to print. Importantly, this acquisition provides us with an enhanced platform on which to manage our print directories profitably.

Why now?
We now have an enhanced platform on which we can manage our print directories business profitably.

And… well, there’s always this.

Dex Yellow Pages - 08/01/11This was actually 6 years ago. Luckily, so far we are in our 3rd consecutive year without being littered. But it wasn’t easy, they stood ground and we’re a little weary from the above and other quotes on how the new DexYP is being bullish on their print delivery like this winner of a pile.

The new CEO either understands this happened all the time or bullies his way into telling customers and his sales reps these situations never existed. I don’t know that answer to that one. This LinkedIn feed may help answer this for you though.

Nonethess, they’re also implying that SaaS companies will disrupt their sales reps in their local selling sales.

Some may call this “service that disrupts sales reps”, but I digress.

Local Search Association Tweet

 

 

 

The webinar is now over, but this can be another chicken or the egg argument. Did they originate local marketing to go along with SaaS offerings or are they just chasing the $10 Billion global revenue stream from different SaaS and local companies who’ve been offering this for years?

They’ll certainly enter our neighborhood with feet on the pavement. Just remember again, our neighborhood is smart, real and sexy and can easily sniff out the most thinly veiled attempt at deceptive and overly-aggressive sales practices.

Just don’t come back and litter our neighborhood with your print book spam again.

Flickr

New Showcase Section on Flickr

Remember Flickr? Don’t forget about them

They recently came out with new About Page to share your work. It still has the features at the bottom to sort by most likes, comments and views. It also adds an edtitable Showcase Section of up to 25 photos.

For users, the Showcase Section all slick-like as you can create and change themes separate from your standard Flickr Albums and Collections. These sections could be:

  • Outdoor photos to help engage summertime customers to give you a visit
  • You and your staff volunteering for a local cause to show how involved you are in the community
  • Staff photos while working to show off your employee dedication

For search reasons, you’re still able to link to your desired pages per photo. They’re no-followed and need to be hard coded. For a couple reasons, I usually don’t link to pages within my main site but will here for demonstration purposes.

OUI Bar & Ktchn

Just like other social portals, Google loves them. Add each, individual photo with a title, description, geo and add within a group and it will have a better chance of showing up for searches.

This is just one of almost limitless ways to get your relevant content out there for the right users, and to help encourage them to give you an in-person visit.

Traffic and Construction in Mpls/St Paul

Let Your Summer Work for Your Google My Business

There really isn’t anything better than a Minnesota Summer. You do need to get your Google My Business on, although you might as well let that work to your business advantage by sometimes doing as little as enjoying the summer.

Before anything, get started with Google Photos with a Google Account or Gmail address. Adding to it and organizing is actually the most time-consuming part, but’s easy to do and in the end you’re find it very, very useful.

Now, including these help you enhance your Google Maps to help encourage users. This keeps both you and the user up-to-date by including pretty, summer photos.

http://localmn.tumblr.com/post/162331461296/get-your-google-summer-on-smbsSummertime = construction season as well. You can keep your customers up-to-date with construction, different directions and transit and even approximate time to get there. Here’s a Tumblr Post to show a few visuals.

Common closures right now are 5th St S. and Washington Ave S. in Minneapolis and Jackson Street in St. Paul.

As well, a YouTube Video including a LRT time-lapse to S. Paul and a protest to help out Luciano Mejia Morales and his fight for facing deportation in Minneapolis. For more about him, search online or call ICE at 612-843-8600

Final tip, keep users updated Showing off your Local to Make Your Own Google Posts.

Keep on enhancin’ yer Google My Business so you can enjoy the summer!

Pianos on Parade on 3rd and Hennepin

Show off Your Local and Make Your Own Google Posts

I became intrigued with this yesterday reading a post from Mike Blumenthal titled Google Posts Rolls Out Worldwide. You can now own more search engine real estate by providing short, recent posts, right on your Google Local Business Knowledge Graph.

Google Posts

Google recommends these posts be between 100 and 300 characters long (plus a quality photo). We recommend sticking closer to 100. This reads well for the user, plus Google only originally displays the 1st 100 characters in the listing.

For the photo, use one similar that you would use for Instagram. Google lets you crop it and move it around all slick like until it’s just right for you.

You can place a call-to-action to these posts with a URL whether it’s to entice users to buy, visit your site, book a reservation, sign up for a newsletter, or whichever you want your call-to-action to be.

Call to Action

For you businesses who wonder if you should start a blog, this just may be it. At least, Google hopes you think so. You would give consumers fresh, compelling content right in front of them while keeping the content within Google itself.

In Google’s announcement, they give you 4 standard examples.

Share daily specials or current promotions that encourage new and existing customers to take advantage of your offers.

Promote events and tell customers about upcoming happenings at your location.

Showcase your top products and highlight new arrivals.

Choose one of the available options to connect with your customers directly from your Google listing: give them a one-click path to make a reservation, sign up for a newsletter, learn more about latest offers, or even buy a specific product from your website.

Let’s customize a few to the Twin Cites letting customers know of these all while just doing branded searches for you.

  • Local summer road closures – ‘Tis the season. We all see it. Proactively let your customers know of this coming weekend alternative routes to you.
  • Date Specials – Some local restaurants have weekly date specials such as pizza and 1/2 off bottle of wine. Keep your customers informed.
  • Events at local areas of interests – Summers are full of different events at places like Loring Park, Mears Park in Lowertown, Stone Arch Bridge and St. Anthony main. Keep customers informed and up-to-date on all the different events at the users favorite places.

The list could go on and on. Just be creative.

Note: This can be all done on a laptop, but you can do this all on the mobile, too. Give it a try and keep up to date since this is where your users are going. When using the mobile to log into Google My Business, this screenshot is of a very user-friendly way to create these posts.

Create Post

 

 

 

 

 

 

Of course, being Google it’s easy to share to other places. curious to how it’s perceived on Facebook so I sent this out.Share to Facebook

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Share or not share on other places? Will local businesses catch on? This is still brand new so the verdict is still out there.

 

 

Google Map of Fraser Event

How Do You Get to the WCCO “Pulling Together for Fraser” Benefit Event

Update 6/9/2017 – Looks like it’s all ready to go. Bring water, sunscream and #hashtug can be used on Facebook, Twitter and more on the event itself. It’s looking slick.

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Update 6/8/2017 – Minneapolis donations is still ahead by a couple thousand. I live in Minneapolis but have a soft spot for St. Paul. Personally, I may make a game-day decision but haven’t decided yet which city I’m pulling for.

They do stress that the best place to watch the event is indeed on the St. Paul side at Hidden Park. This is where the music, food trucks and kids events are taking place as well as how to get your free Metro Transit pass to it (the 46 route may work the best). All of the above info can be found on their events page. Just give it some time to load, folks. It takes a bit, but it will come up.

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Update 6/7/17 – WCCO continues to update the Fraser event site with information good for the user. Note: Minneapolis has surpassed St. Paul in donations. There’s still plenty of time to catch up, St. Paul. They showed the location on the morning news as well. Such a serene place on both sides of the river. Right in the middle of an urban area.

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The answer seems simple enough. You just go to WCCO’s subdomain CBS site and navigate it until you find directions, address or anything else that helps you navigate physically to the Fraser Benefit.

Only problem is good luck with that (sorry, still love ya’ WCCO). It’s not a WCCO issue as much as news sites in general that are so slow to load partially due to 3rd party ads that users simply give up. Well, here’s some information of how to physically get to the Fraser Event, as well as a few other tasty tidbits such as place to eat near there afterwards.

Here’s a customized map for you to view, use, add places and even share.

In my experience, the 46th St Transit Station is the easiest starting point as you can bike, walk, bus or light rail or park-n-ride it there. Then, take the 46 Bus east to the old Ford plant parking lot. Either way, then just count your steps with a Fitbit. It’s less than a half mile walk (or free shuttle) to the Hidden Park Fraser Event from there.

Tip: The good folks at Metro Transit are offering a free event ride. If you do this on mobile, you can take a screenshot of your ticket instead of printing one, therefore saving a bit of a tree to a place you’re going to that’s full of trees.

You can even bring your dog and watch from the Minneapolis side at the Minnehaha Off Leash Dog Park. From experience, parking should be even easier there as long as you don’t mind watching the main Fraser Events across a narrow part of the river.

You can donate to either the St. Paul or Minneapolis team the day of race and it may even be part of a decision due to a potential tie. This is a biggie for me. It makes everyone’s voice count.

While you’re in the neighborhood, consider taking in a meal (although there will be plenty of food trucks at the Fraser Event). The Highland Park area in itself has plenty of quality choices. One is the Highland Grill. Their side fruit cup is that incredibly-average dumpster-melon made delicious by adding homemade mint to it.

Burger and Fresh Mint from Highland Grill

Burger and Fresh Mint from Highland Grill

Protip: The Highland Grill is part of the Blue Plate Restaurant Company. David Burley is their CEO. On the back of every receipt, David proudly puts his cell phone number on it for feedback.

Think of this as Yelp before there was a Yelp, or at least before your current perception of What Yelp is today. They read your feedback and will often engage with you because of it. But, I digress.

That’s about it for now. Enjoy the tug-of-war, food, beverage, bands (Heiruspecs will perform at noon). Hope to see you there!

 


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Grand Old Day Parade 2017

Some days it just takes a Sunday Parade to realize the simple things, this one being the Grand Old Day 2017 Parade which was over an hour long. St. Paul is fairly well-known for sidewalk art with one in chalk starting with “At every spot, find a way to spread joy”.

 

Just a good way to end up a week. Have a great and local week, everyone!

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A Day in the Life of a Google Local Guide Multi-Modal Transport User

Thanks to Google Maps and council members Jabob Frey, (tw) Alondra Cano (fb) and Abdi Warsame (fb), and of course Mayor Hodges (tw), it’s easier to us to navigate safely throughout Minneapolis within motor vehicles, public transit, bicycles, pedestrians and other ways.

Here’s just an everyday Saturday that shows collaboration of all.

We put these transportation concepts in our everyday and we hope others join us in doing the same.