Downtown St Paul

Local Search Marketing Predictions for 2018

2018 may be the most opportunistic year ever for local search. With Google leading the way and users and vertical markets working aside or within Google, the user experience promises the possibility to be both high in quantity and quality.

Voice Search

I’m putting Voice Search in right away because it involves probably everything below, local or not. This is changing search fast and companies are busy figuring out how to capture the market.

First Ave Voice SearchHere’s a real-time example. I would like to see Soul Asylum play tonight at the First Avenue, mostly because a neighbor or mine won an audition an earned a spot to play bass for them tonight. Yes. Really! I don’t want to miss that! A voice search gave me the Google My Business profile. It has the hours correct tonight as it does close publicly at 7:30 in time for the sold-out 8:00 show. When you tap on Directions, you will get an Uber and Lyft option which will be convenient when the temp is supposed to be below 0.

Score “1” for Voice Search. Just one of many ways this changes all types of search, in this case Local just a bit.

Google My Business (GMB)

In 2017, Google was keeping busy pushing to Claim businesses in Google My Business, and then features within like Google Posts, Local Services Ads and Websites.

In 2018 Google will focus more on continuous new features in Google My Business and push both new and current features. Following these alone can keep professionals pretty busy.

Google Posts

Google Posts grows in 2018, but grows slowly. It was released in June, 2017 to be shown in branded searches and quietly used by few. They can be very informative for end-users and cover more valuable search result space for the branded company name. The Posts provide interest to click and learn more about events, newsletters, new offerings or any other thing relevant to the company. However, Search professionals have been weary of this all. Google owns the content provided and doesn’t pass any direct SEO Love to links that pass through.

Local Services Ads

In a simpler word, Ad. Google pushes this hard in 2018. This is how Google makes money. Originally Home Services Ads, they rebranded it to include and imply Local. Companies won’t be looking at it based on their favorite keywords, but by the quality of leads. Local Service Ads do have a prominent, thin listing up top on both desktop and mobile. Google’s currently pushing it hard enough that even companies that don’t have the “Google Guaranteed” badge sometime appear, most likely because not every industry has enough participants yet. Right now, there are a very limited number of industries this is offered to. Look for this to expand, and expand greatly to cover industries like legal, landscaping and other industries to where people compare companies.

Garage Door Repair St. Paul

Currently, all three of these companies are probably busy right now with the arctic chill Minnesota is having. Plus, maybe Google is banking on being listed next to Google Guaranteed listings will have some automatic trust.

Google Websites

They’re nice, they’re free (unless you get a customized domain – recommended), it’s almost built for you in GMB. They also show maps, custom photos, fill-in-the-blank hours of operation. With that said, don’t look for this go grow in 2018. At least, not in the U.S. This is certainly meant to help Google, and that’s fine. In my view, they can have the data. Google Websites are probably best for businesses who are just looking for a 1-page brochure about their business.

Other Opportunities

Real-Time Transit

Real-Time Transit

Real-Time Transit

Google will either develop or buy a company who can provide real-time transit in 2018. Both Uber and Lyft obviously have this, and Metro Transit MN just came out with this feature on a mobile app or their website as well. I’ll bring up the arctic chill again. When a bus is late, this feature makes it handy by not having to stand outside quite as long when it’s really cold. The concept fits in perfectly for usability, placing inside the Directions and Bus tab in Google Maps.

Local Guides Grows and Grows

2018 promises to be a big year for Google Local Guides. For Google, they get data. The Local Guides at Connect are passionate and happily contribute photos, reviews and knowledge to Google and GMB. Just look at the 2017 World-Wide Food Crawl Meet-Up. Main incentives for Local Guides aren’t rankings-based. Rather it’s points and levels obtained-based, sometimes meaning perks provided by Google. The other incentives are really satisfaction-based to bring positive awareness to make local communities better. Google knows and appreciates this all, and they even provide a yearly Local Guides Summit.

Ratings and Reviews

Google cleverly builds on reviews in 2018 while Yelp confuses people. While Yelp is telling us to absolutely not solicit reviews but go ahead, Google just goes on and removes paid reviews. And now, it’s also against Google’s guidelines for ex-employees to leave negative reviews. With that said, Google highly encourages honest reviews. Albeit often indirectly, they highly encourage them. Here’s one way they do this and also reach your customers online and in person.

Review for Points OnlyLocal Guides now get extra points if their Google reviews are 200 characters or more. Perhaps this increases the level of quality and reduces the number of 5-Star ratings with no reviews below it for the purpose of gaining points only.

Reputation management companies have been around for years to encourage reviews and consulting when negative reviews happen, just to mention a couple services. There are good companies who offer this and have become trusted because of it. Some companies like Get Five Stars go further by developing more of a comprehensive platform. It’s built to acquire customer feedback, encourage online reviews and other features mentioned above. I see services like these all growing in 2018, albeit mostly with companies who already have a head start. It’s a growing and demanding opportunity, but also a comprehensive one.

Local Videos and 360 Photos

DIY or Pay Professionals?

2017 may have been the year of making more videos. 2018 will be the year of making more videos, smarter.

DIY video can certainly be done on the cheap. Have a smartphone, tripod or monopod, lapel mic, iMovie app, and you can make an adequate one… or not. Companies may start with going the DIY route because it is rather inexpensive. Many of them afterwards will go towards independent companies, or agencies who specialize in videos.

2018 will be a really good opportunity for independent videographers. They know everything about video strategy and creation, as well as being search savvy. Some are confident enough to provide you free tips as well. Here’s Erica from Puke Rainbows on 2018 Video Marketing Trends to watch for.

360 Degree and Street View Photography

Street View photography will certainly grow in both supply and demand in 2018. Per Google Street View:

Listings with photos and a virtual tour are twice as likely to generate interest.

To become a Google Trusted photographer for this is a trial and error process. There are a number out there, coming from backgrounds from photography to marketing. Right now 360 photos for businesses are somewhere between the “this is really cool” stage and “this is really useful for our customers” stage.

Conclusion

Only time will tell how accurate my predictions will be. I suppose another post will come at the end of 2018 to see. What do you think? Am I spot on for these or am I out of my tree?


LocalMN Interactive provides Local Marketing services and we are beyond excited and very confident to see what comes in store for 2018. Let’s get together! We look forward to customize a local search strategy customized just for you. Skol!

Minneapolis Skyline

Traveling Like a Local – Minneapolis/St. Paul

The Twin Cities, some people call it, as well as “The Cities” to Minnesotans out of the metro area. Mill City, City of Lakes in Minneapolis, and Hockeytown in St. Paul are others. Each nickname holds its own merit, we’ll visit some of these in this piece as well as numerous other places to enjoy during your stay in Minneapolis/St. Paul. There are just so many local places to see with a story to tell and many of them are free or low cost.

MSP Airport

Terminal 1 Light Rail Station

Free rides between Terminal 1 and 2

You’ll most likely fly into the MSP International Airport. Fly into Terminal 2. Sun Country, our  “hometown” airline flies in and out of there, and it’s a much smaller terminal so the lines are shorter resulting in less time spent at the airport.

There are different options for leaving the airport including shuttles, car rentals, car-sharing companies like Uber or Lyft, buses that leave Terminal 1 or a favorite, Light Rail Transit (LRT). For convenience, the Light Rail is free of charge between the 2 terminals and they run as often as every 10 minutes.

The Light Rail is also the easiest option to get to both downtown Minneapolis and St. Paul, although there’s no direct line to St. Paul and it will take longer. As in 90 minutes. Then, it’s all the better as you can often connect to wi-fi signals while riding. Either way, you can take the Blue Line all the way to Downtown Minneapolis or switch trains at the U.S. Bank Stadium station to catch the Green Line into St. Paul.

Mill City District

In Minneapolis, Mill City is an unofficial district nestled against the Mississippi River. While there, consider taking in your favorite ice cream treat at the local Izzy’s and a walk up or down West River Parkway. The lights are pretty, the people are engaging and the bridges are a work of art.

Hennepin Ave Bridge

Hennepin Ave Bridge and its Reflection

Bicyclist West River Parkway

Bicyclist enjoying the early evening down by the river

The Parkway area is an urban planner’s dream. A street with a slow speed limit, separate walking plus biking paths, public art and precise landscaping make this both beautiful and functional. When walking around this neighborhood, it’s hard not to say hello, engage in short conversation or wave. It’s a Minnesota thing to do. And of course my new friend wanted to give me a smile and peace sign.

The Nicollet

You’ll find captivating streets throughout the whole Twin Cities area, perhaps none more present than one you can’t drive on. “The Nicollet” up until November 2017 was called Nicollet Mall. After a 3-year reconstruction project and rebranding exercise, the city changed the name. It’s beautiful, modern and worth the walk up and down to have food and drink, shop, or see areas of interest.

Dakota Jazz Club on The Nicollet

Dakota Jazz Club on The Nicollet

Toward the South end of The Nicollet lies The Dakota Jazz Club and Restaurant. The Dakota has been a really well-known and respected fine dining and jazz club since 1985. It’s somewhat of a secret to even locals, but Prince used to sneak in a back door and move around at his own free will and just enjoy the music on stage.

The nearby Minnesota Orchestra speaks for itself. Take in a show! They have performances all year around (opens PDF) and are world-renowned. It’s a can’t-miss and is located on 11th and Nicollet.

Take a selfie with the Mary Tyler Moore statue on 7th and Nicollet. Yep, even the locals do it. It’s back at its prime location.

A must is to head off The Nicollet a couple blocks to First Avenue and see Prince’s star. He’s a local hero, put Minneapolis on the map musically, and the set and settings of the movie Purple Rain was at this venue. It’s humbling to look at his star and just think. Think as if nothing around matters. Just think.

Prince Star at First Avenue

Day after Prince’s passing

A 360 view of the venue:

Outside downtown is the temporary home of Minnesota United at TCF Bank Stadium. The soccer there is contagious and the fans are excited with their European-style flag waving and chants.

Nordeast Mpls

A true, local and engaging neighborhood is the Northeast (Nordeast) Minneapolis Arts District. You can find all you need right on or off 13th Ave NE. Pick your place:

  • Dangerous Man Brewing Company – A craft brewery in a customary neighborhood is a total Minnesotan thing to have. Their story is compelling and their beards are out to get you.
  • Northeast Social – Continental cuisine and exceptional mixologists. Tip: Have the mixologist create something with dill aquavit. It’s a Scandinavian and Minnesotan treat and your palate will leave happy. Last July, I couldn’t help but head to Twitter to mention a delicious scallops appetizer.
  • 331 Club – Divey, vintage club with live music 7 days a week. Favorite Google Review quote: “To our amazement, it was the best nerd party we had ever seen and had to quickly join.”
  • Bunny’s Bar & Grill NE – Nestled by the Mississippi River, it’s a newer sports bar. Tip: The Walleye Fingers is a total Minnesotan thing to try. While you’re there, take a few steps to Sheridan Memorial park, take a selfie by the metal orb and share for social proof. The park itself is on a trail with great neighborhood views of the Mississippi.
  • Gumball Boutique – A hidden gem, Gumball is a cozy consignment shop with locally-made everything.
Pan-Seared Scallops App

Pan-seared scallops w/ Pork Belly appetizer

Cathedral Hill, St. Paul

Across the river sits St. Paul, a trip worthy all in its own. After all, it is called the most livable city in America. If you go to the Cathedral Hill neighborhood and take a James.J. Hill House tour, you’ll know more area history than many locals. The family were railroad pioneers, or “empire builders”, responsible for the majority of railroad that went out to the West coast. A couple fun facts are that the Hill family were very similar to the Rockefellers with one exception. The Hill family didn’t put their name on stuff. The second? The house is built on the top of Cathedral Hill. Guests would enter in the front, and leave in the back which is twice as large looking down the hill to leave guests with one, lasting, prestigious memory.

Back from Hill House

Down Cathedral Hill from the James J. Hill house

While on the hill, walk down Summit Ave. You’ll pass the Governor’s mansion as well as hundreds of other homes that are considered Victorian mansions. You’ll see regular folks working on their lawn or shoveling their driveway in the winter. Give ‘em a friendly wave and they’ll always wave back. It’s just a Minnesota thing to do. We joke about being called “Minnesota Nice”, but it’s true. We are.

Hockeytown

Amateur Hockey at Xcel

Adult amateur hockey at Xcel

People here are born with skates on, and of course there is the Wild. In addition to professional hockey games, they do have organized scrimmages for adults. There’s not much better of a feeling than playing hockey on that big sheet of ice, albeit in front of about 12 fans making up of spouses and children.

Now, think hockey meets obstacle course meets skiing and you have Crashed Ice. They have a professional course every year that starts on Cathedral Hill and ends down the hill towards downtown. Literally the best in the world qualify to compete in this event with over 100,000 celebrated fans in attendance lining the course. It’s exciting, thrilling and admittedly impossible to get home as everyone leaves at once.

Here’s what it looked like a week before the event after a rainfall. Yep, the temp did drop in time.

Crashed Ice Track

Crashed Ice track a week before the event

And during the event.

Packed Crashed Ice

Packed Crashed Ice

Around the Capital City

  • Go to St. Thomas and catch a Div. III football game at O’Shaughnessy Stadium in the perfect environment and cheer amongst the most loyal of fans.
  • Catch a Juicy Lucy at The Nook. Everything about this place is Minnesotan, including the burger with cheese oozing out from the inside.
  • The Minnesota State Fair. Technically, Falcon Heights. It only happens once a year, but if you’re here during that time, just go. Go and naturally create your own wonderful story to tell. My favorite treat? Snowii Shaved Ice. It’s Minnesota-based, and it’s sweaty-hot in August.
Snowii Shaved Ice

Snowii Shaved Ice at the State Fair’s West End

Getting Around the TC

East Bank Light Rail Station

East Bank Light Rail station

Take a Nice Ride bicycle. The Twin Cities is one of the most friendly bicycle cities in the U.S. Take a bike for an hour or a day at one of over 200 local stations. Here’s a station full of bikes on St. Anthony Main.

Definitely buy a Metro Transit pass or fare and take the Light Rail back and forth to Minneapolis, St. Paul and the airport. While on the trains, check out the public art at each station.

If on the Blue Line, hop off at the Cedar/Riverside station and walk across the street to Currie Park. There may just be a good soccer game being played.

On your way back to the airport, hop off the Bloomington Central Light Rail stationand take the walkway to Urbana Craeft Kitchen and Market, inside the Hyatt Regency. Ask for Nick the Bartender and have him serve you up a locally-sourced bison burger, house-made chips and a local, craft beer.

That’s a perfect end, and you’ll now leave happy. Wave as you leave and thanks from the Twin Cities for sharing your experience with us!

Kraus-Anderson HQ

Google My Business in the Kraus-Anderson Block

Two months ago, I wrote about Google Maps in Elliot Park. It was a #mspwalk and then blog post inspired by a coffee chat I had with Dan Collison, Director of so-many-things Minneapolis at Moose & Sadie’s. He mentioned and implied how Downtown East and Elliot Park (East Town) was growing and he’s right, more than I could have imagined! It’s really positioned well for it.

On the west edge of Elliot Park and East Town, Kraus-Anderson (KA) is in the middle of re-developing an urban city block which features their new HQ that opened in October, luxury high-rise apartment, a Marriott, Finnegan’s new digs among others.

kraus anderson east town

What’s interesting isn’t that they’re building a square block, but where they’re building it. It’s technically in Elliot Park which was one of the wealthiest neighborhoods in Minneapolis 150 years ago. Now, it’s starting to become gentrified to bring back some of the old charm and prestige to the combination of Elliot Park brownstones to the modern Minneapolis skyline view. It’s a block away from the skyway system, and quick walks to both the Downtown West neighborhood and East Town, home of U.S. Bank Stadium.

So far, the Kraus-Anderson block has their headquarters, Finnegans, HQ Apartments, and the Elliot Hotel, a Marriott upscale Autograph Collection either completed or under construction. All of these should benefit from quality Google Maps information including their respective, fully-populated Google My Business (GMB) pages.

The Google Maps cars should be kept fairly busy in the near future as well as opportunities for Certified Google Trusted Street-View photographers to help fulfill Google My Business pages with quality photos.

Voice Search for HQ Apartments

Voice Search for HQ Apartments

With products like Google Home and Google Assistant, the use of voice search is continuing to rise, and rise quickly. To the left is a voice search for the new HQ Apartments on the block.

You then have the options to tap the bottom options or anywhere up top which takes you to their respective Google My Business page. There, you have more of the same options plus the ability to see all photos, ratings and reviews and anything else that HQ or the public decides to populate in the HQ Apartments GMB page.

The mixed-used block is something that can at least help bring vibrant and tech-savvy consumers to the area. In addition to KA headquarters, here’s a bit about the mixed-use block and their post regarding the block’s components.

*The KA headquarters is the first completed component of the master-planned, mixed use block development in the vibrant Elliot Park neighborhood of East Town Minneapolis.

*Source – KA Block Update: November-December 2017

US Bank StadiumUS Bank Stadium is arguably the anchor of the East Town neighborhood with businesses, organizations and areas of interest being built or already present around it. The area’s easy to get to by car, bus, pedestrian and bike, but is probably easiest via the Light Rail as the US Bank Stadium station holds both the Blue and Green Line trains.

In addition, nearby blocks are often vibrant as local destinations. Here are a few GMB pages full of ratings and reviews, photos, directions and other items that uniquely fit in them.

Note – Three of the above are in the Downtown West neighborhood. Between this and the Kraus-Anderson block being short and easy access to both I94 and I35, their block could be in a perfect location and local destination. This development of urban city blocks in Minneapolis isn’t the first, but it’s certainly not the last, either.

Local Service Ads

Buying Leads with Google Local Service Ads

Initially called Home Service Ads in the Summer of 2015 to select-only metro areas, Google now re-branded it to Local Service Ads. For locals who do not know, Local Service Ads are designed to provide quality leads at pre-set prices and at the top of search results without you having to do the legwork. It’s still relatively new, so time will tell the value in them. Currently, these are the services.

  • Electrician
  • Garage Door Pro
  • Hvac
  • Locksmith
  • Plumber
  • Other

This will be available to Minneapolis and St. Paul by years end, and just as of yesterday, a partial one for locksmiths showed up.

locksmith local services ads

Side note, locksmiths have been known to use shady techniques to achieve local placements like providing fake addresses, spammy business names, and blatant review spam. This happens in Minneapolis and St. Paul as well as nationwide and can make it more difficult for legitimate local businesses to claim these top listings.

An edge for you is Google helps ensure company legitimacy when setting up local services ads. 1, the service costs money and 2, you have to be willing to provide insurance and let Google run a business background check on you.

Similar to directory leads, inclusion includes directory placement in a particular niche, location or category. Some can be found in search results, too.

Different than directory leads, Google in general lets you provide more superior information in front of searchers. Just part of information you’ll be able to provide, partially taken from Google My Business. From the mobile:

local service

You can also build trust with the Google check marked guarantee while also being at the top of their search results.

If you know you’re good at closing leads, this could be really beneficial, and really measurable. If you close half of your quality leads, you can assign that incoming call a value to your leads in Google Analytics, making you more confident when providing your reports. In closing half of your leads, you would approximately close 5 out of 10 leads at $140.00, or $28.00/lead.

Cost Per Lead

There does seem to be a positive sliding type scale, costing you a little less per lead the more money you spend. When I checked, it costs $50.oo for anywhere between 2 and 10 leads. Yesterday in the Minneapolis area, locksmiths were 10 leads for the $50.00.

Whether this is good for you is your call and budget. A plus is that Google does the work. A minus is Google does the work. As the service program becomes more used, the more information and specific examples we can give you as we’ll have all the latest info.


LocalMN Interactive provides Local Services Ads consulting in addition to our search marketing services, or as a service alone. Contact us through form, email or your preferred social media portal to chat and we can collectively get things started.

House of Charity

Google Maps in Elliot Park

Recently, I had coffee with a Director of a lot of things Minneapolis. We chatted about many things downtown including the different neighborhoods, board openings for the downtown council and East Town. I haven’t heard that term before and it’s a combination of Downtown East and Elliott Park. Later in the day I decided to take a zig-zag 6 mile #mspwalk to learn more about the area, businesses, schools and areas of attraction.

First, a familiar sighting that takes you pretty much at the border of Downtown East and Elliot Park.

LRT

A block away is the Minneapolis Armory. Home from 1947 – 1960, they were a dynasty in their own right. Nowadays, the Armory sits mostly vacant although that’s about to change. A pop-up club named Club Nomadic is making plans for that space during the Super Bowl. They promise to have top grade concerts, bars and entertainment.

Minneapolis Armory

Google Maps shows Club Nomadic as permanently closed. It makes sense. It’s a pop-up club that travels to big NFL events, namely the Super Bowl last year in Houston. It had the same pop-up concept last year in with mixed reviews, the biggest complaint is something that could possibly happen here. Parking and driving. Uber’s service helped but many still waited over an hour for the service. We know parking is an issue here, and hopefully the councils that be are on it, or patrons have already booked a hotel like the Radisson Red a block away. No word on who the musical acts are yet, either. We’re hoping this announcement comes soon.

My big questions is what are they going to do with the Armory once the Super Bowl is done? They say they plan to have events like weddings, car shows, and boxing events. Again, we’ll see what the councils that be have planned or are on top of it.

Nov 6 Update: Mystic Lake Casino is now added as a 2nd pop-up venue with one act already booked. No word from Nomadic yet on what their plans are now for the Armory location.

Jan 12 Update: The Armory events for Super Bowl Week now include Pink and Imagine Dragons and the Mystic Lake location is now cancelled. The shows themselves aren’t cancelled like Club Nomadic implies. They’ve been moved to inside Mystic Lake Casino as Star Tribune and Liz Sawyer Tweets.

In my opinion, this is what happens when Club Nomadic puts all of their own wants and needs first and the local Prior Lake community last, but I digress.

Portland Tower

The Portland Tower is a new luxury condo complex with as of this writing, over half being sold or reserved. The location was probably thought out very well being right by downtown skyway access and easy access to 35 and 94. It fits in for gentrification well, too. It’s right by the House of Charity and turn-of-the-century residential apartments and to my knowledge, they’re not going anywhere.

 

House of Charity

I’m glad to see the House of Charity standing right next door to the Portland Tower. It has some mixed reviews on Google, which is expected. It’s a place dedicated to help the homeless with the goal to help them gain more independence. Places like this are golden opportunities. I know a few folks who have successfully lived in places like this and then proactively went on to bigger and better things.

Elliot Recreation Center has a collegiate sized field with a fantastic view of downtown Minneapolis. Opened in 2015, the field’s a partnership between the North Central University Rams and the Minneapolis Parks and Recreation. It only has a few, mixed Google reviews, but they keep it pristine during the season and is available for rental through the city of Minneapolis. They even use it for the North Central Wellness department.

Elliot Field Park

Work on Elliot Park Field

I’ve been by the Hinkle-Murphy house many times and never gave it a second thought. It’s a historical landmark built in 1887 first lived in by a leading flour producer, now to multi-commercial tenants including Fay & Associates, injury attorneys at law. It’s pristine and right on the southern edge of downtown in Elliot Park. See for yourself.

Fay and Associates

What can you say about the Band Box Diner? It’s delicious greasy breakfast burger and fries, and that’s about it. The positive reviews say it all and to top it off, they have a good sense of humor.

Band Box Diner Menu

Band Box Diner


This is all just one part of Elliot Park. LocalMN offers web services including neighborhood and local marketing. Contact us, view the rest of our site and see us on your social media channel of choice.

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?

Maps View of Early Morning Walk

Time Saving Ways to Add Info To Google Maps

Whether you’re a Google Local Guide, community advocate, like maps, photography and improve how people navigate around your neighborhood, this is a way to help showcase your area. All you need is a smart phone that takes the Google Maps app.

For me, I’m passionate about Ward 3 in Minneapolis. It contains 10 unique neighborhoods, although we hope to strive them to make friendly enough as one. We do have an election coming up and that factors in for my vote. These photos are from a small early morning walk down the street in the Downtown West neighborhood.

Just by walking around, I was able to find different businesses, parks and local areas of interest. On the skyway and vibrant streets of Downtown West lies Washington Square.

Washington Square

Within Washington Square is Penny’s Downtown, open since the latter half of 2016.

Photo taken for Google Maps

This above maps image is one I did on the smart phone and it took just minutes. Photos, review and all just took minutes out of my day.

But I digress and off to others.

Washington and Marquette lies one of 190 Nice Ride Bikes stationed across the Minneapolis/St. Paul area. As a whole, Nice Ride a local independent 501(c)3 non profit created to operate the bike share system. It has a board of directors and they’re always open to questions or feedback. See their FAQ page.

Nice Ride Bike

This bike has a customized sticker by the handle bars. No plans to bike to the St. Paul Farmers Market today but can be done for the adventurous.

This again can be submitted to Google in minutes.

A relatively unknown park is the Richard and Annette Bloch Cancer Survivor Park, next to their headquarters on Washington Ave and Nicollet Mall, They do have a local page for their corporate presence, but not for the park itself. The park is really nice for people watching, lunch and just laying out to catch some rays. It even showcases events such as dance and yoga classes and in the photo below, a round of Kubb played during the 2017 Kubb Krawl.

Kubb at Cancer Survivor Center

I haven’t created a maps review or photo(s) just because the park itself doesn’t have a local page. Just their corporate office does under Marquette Plaza. In the meantime I could take a few minutes to add a missing place for them.

Nonetheless, the park has a nice view, wouldn’t you say?

View from Cancer Survivors Park

Just down the street, Whole Foods have certainly made an impact. Many folks have made reviews for them, and it fits well in the newly constructed condo and luxury apartment community and the higher pedestrian traffic. As Washington Ave construction is nearing completion with wider lanes and sidewalks, a bicycle lane and improved safety as vehicle and pedestrian/bicycle traffic often share the same area with vehicles.

Whole Foods

Apples at Whole Foods

A review I wrote a few years ago.

Whole Foods Review

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another Nice Ride Station, right in the neighborhood at Gateway Park.

Gateway Park Nice Ride Station

Nontheless, it doesn’t take much time at all to do these. Try it for yourself, showcase your neighborhood to the world and even enhance your SEO a bit.

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 Pride Parade

Custom TC Pride Parade Map and Route

The Twin Cities press does a great job provide information of the upcoming Pride Festival. As well, Google recently came out with finding Pride events in 35 cities worldwide on your mobile device. Of the 35, Google currently doesn’t include the Twin Cities, which sounds strange, but here is an interactive, customized Google Map for the Twin Cities Parade route, businesses and areas of interest for you to edit, view, add, share, and call your own!

As well, here’s a link to the editable map to view and use including the weekend Light Rail closure.

For nearby businesses, use the editable link above to add or edit your business through Google My Business and include updated hours, photos and special to help encourage users to visit you during the whole Pride weekend.

Google Local Guide Levels

New Points Levels for Google Local Guides

Now available to its Local Guides, Google lets you reach new levels up to 10. The numbering system for actions such as edits, reviews and photos have changed and are retroactive. This means you may already be leveled up without doing a thing.

It’s not a big surprise, but they are now placing more relative points for reviews and photos at 5 points each in a believed effort to increase quality.

For active users, this update seems to be more for recognition purposes although there are a few perks for those who reach level 4-10.

3 Months of Google Play

  • Free three-month subscription to the Google Play Store
  • 75% off rental in the Google Play Movie Store
  • Access to unique badges to showcase your levels

For me, it may benefit Google when I see this as I’m currently weighing the pros and cons at just using one service.

There will still be lookouts for spammers, fake reviews and as Mike Blumenthal eloquently puts them, “spewers” just as there are in other disciplines in search.

Overall, it’s a nice touch offered to Google Local Guides whether they use it for perks, recognition, or improving maps for users in their area.

 


LocalMN Interactive
Have an opinion on this post? Share it on your own Twitter or Facebook page.