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February 27, 2015

Creating Intuitive UI: An evening with UXPA Chicago and Everett McKay

By Tricia LoPiccolo

Tuesday evening, SIM Partners hosted a MeetUp for the User Experience Professionals Organization (UXPA) Chicago chapter. Everett McKay, author of UI Is Communication: How to Design Intuitive, User Centered Interfaces by Focusing on Effective Communication, presented a wealth of material to over 80 Chicago-area user interface (UI) and user experience (UX) professionals. I wanted to touch on just one of the many points I found particularly interesting — creating “intuitive UI.”

One of the top goals for any UX project is to have an “intuitive UI.” As UX professionals, we strive to achieve this goal. McKay began his talk by saying, “describing a UI as intuitive is among the highest praise users can bestow.” He challenged that if we were to actually ask our clients what their interpretation of “intuitive” is, we would get answers ranging from “it just is” to “it just works” to “it’s simpler,” but would find no actual clear or consistent definition. (I have to admit as a long-time UX professional, I was having trouble coming up with words to describe “intuitive” myself.)

McKay posed his own dictionary definition of “intuitive UI” as this:

“UI is intuitive when users understand its behavior and effect without use of reason, experimentation, assistance, or special training.”

He went on to say “intuitive UI” should include an appropriate combination of the following:

  • Affordance: The UI provides visual clues that indicate what it is going to do. Users don’t have to experiment or deduce the interaction. Affordances are based on real-world experiences or standard UI conventions.

  • Expectation: The UI delivers expected and predictable results with no surprises. User expectations are based on labels, real-world experiences, or standard UI conventions.

  • Efficiency: The UI enables users to perform actions with minimal effort. If the intention is clear, the UI delivers the expected results the first time so that users don’t have to repeat the action (perhaps with variations) to get what they want.

  • Responsiveness: The UI gives clear, immediate feedback to indicate an action is taking place, and was either successful or unsuccessful.

  • Forgiveness: If users make a mistake they need the ability to fix or undo the action with ease.

  • Explorability: Users can navigate throughout the UI without fear of penalty or unintended consequences, without getting lost.


As a UX/UI professional, I was inspired by McKay’s presentation as well as the discussion among the group. I walked away thinking a bit differently about UI and expect other attendees did as well. Thanks to the UXPA Chicago and the People Foundry for the opportunity to co-host the event, as well as to Everett McKay and all those who attended.

Here’s a link to the photos from the event.

February 25, 2015

Google Experiments With Live Chat in Local Search Results

By Julie Piatek

According to reports via Blumenthals, Search Engine Land, and Tech Crunch, Google is currently testing a live chat for businesses that appears right in the Knowledge Panel search results on both desktop and mobile.

The link shows if the business is available, and then launches into a chat via Google Hangouts. The functionality is very similar to Path Talk, which is an app that allows users to chat with businesses to get information and responses.

The Google live chat incorporates its service into the business listing search result card that is displayed as the local business information (address, pricing level, location, phone number ratings, hours, and reviews). Within the chat people can ask questions such as “Are you busy,” or “Can I make a reservation?” The chat box also gives the users an estimated time of response.

From a user experience standpoint, live chat could provide another opportunity for brands to connect with consumers directly via the SERP (search engine result page) eliminating the need to go to a site and/or local page. While it is early in the game, Google’s move toward live chat highlights the need for enterprise brands to ensure they are optimizing the visibility of their locations through a comprehensive local marketing effort.

While Google live chat is still in the very early stages — and is not currently appearing for every business — it only seems natural that Google’s live chat may soon be incorporated within Google Maps.

Stay tuned for more updates from Google…

February 23, 2015

Google and Twitter Join Forces (Again)

By Christine Wuertz

Twitter recently announced a partnership with Google to begin showing tweets in search engine results pages (SERPs). The two companies had inked a similar deal in 2009, which was dissolved by 2011.

This news followed Twitter’s announcement to syndicate promoted tweets via a recently inked partnership with Flipboard and Yahoo Japan. Both moves further scale Twitter’s reach and potential for eyeballs and advertising dollars, which is a priority for CEO, Dick Costolo.

Because Google will now have direct access to Twitter’s data feed, tweets will be indexed and visible in SERPs just as soon as they are posted. This is a significant change, as tweets previously had to be crawled for indexing. While Twitter boasts an estimated 284 million users, growth of the social media platform has slowed in recent months. Opening up its data “firehose” increases exposure for the social media platform – and could potentially generate new as well as drive returning users – via Google search results.

For Google, having access to a Twitter’s social data provides some additional experience and insight into how social search – and its real-time nature — should factor into its algorithm. With the opportunity to share more real-time information, Google will also likely boost its credibility as a news source. In recent years, Google has put efforts toward improving their news section, but those looking for up-to-the-minute news still turn to Twitter.

With Twitter often the original source of major breaking news, the convergence of these two mega sites could put Google ahead in terms of news sources. Now, more than ever, brand should be taking advantage of the opportunity that “converged media” provides.

While Google has not yet disclosed factors that may determine rankings related to Twitter results, we do know that quality content has always been a key factor. Marketers should make sure their tweets are optimized for SEO, relevant and engaging in order to rank higher. The content that your tweet links to will likely be a factor, along with retweets and mentions potentially sending signals that could result in higher rankings. To scale visibility across multiple locations, be sure to include geo tags along with localized content and hashtags.

As these big changes take effect in the coming months, marketers should be testing, measuring and learning from their results. Meantime, if you haven’t already, brands should be creating a Twitter strategy that focuses on content and engagement to take advantage of the opportunities converged media provides.

For more on this news, check out Marketing Land’s coverage of a recent live Q&A with Twitter CEO, Dick Costolo, at the Goldman Sachs Technology and Internet Conference.

February 9, 2015

Forrester: Automation Tools Are Crucial for Local Marketing Success

By Jon Schepke

Have you checked the health of your local search automation tools? Do you understand what automation tools will provide for your brand? According to a recently published Forrester Consulting report, “Uncovering the Benefits of Local Search Marketing,” automation tools are critical to local search success. As a provider of a local search automation tool, we could not agree more — so long as you have the right expectations of local search automation tools.

“Uncovering the Benefits of Local Search Marketing,” sponsored by SIM Partners and written by Forrester Vice President and Principal Analyst Shar VanBoskirk, surveyed a select group of senior marketers of multi-location brands to assess their approach to local search marketing and their perception of it. The report revealed that local search efforts of major brands are hampered by factors such as limited search experience. Forrester also identified a stumbling block that jumped out at us: a failure to embrace automation tools. “Lack of automation also hampers local search sophistication,” wrote VanBoskirk. “Most interviewees don’t know what tools specific to local search are available.” She went on to recommend that marketers adopt a local marketing automation tool set in order to take the best advantage of local search.

We might add that lack of automation not only hampers a brand but also puts it at a serious competitive disadvantage to businesses that do understand the value of automation. Local search automation tools help you achieve an important objective: scale your local customer acquisition efforts. As VanBoskirk wrote, “The challenge of scale at the local level is a real one, and one that will become more complex as media proliferates and competition in the local space heats up. Tools that specialize in feed accuracy, content optimization at scale, and web and social media templates can offload otherwise manual effort while also maximizing your visibility. For example, using a full-scale local program to master location web presence and meet the most “ready to engage” consumer market can increase the number of visitors coming from a mobile device, leading to more of these visitors taking action to engage with the location by getting map directions or directly calling the location.”

Marketers who use automation tools enjoy benefits ranging from brand lift to stronger customer acquisition efforts. But it’s also important to know what local search tools are not. A local search automation tool is not a substitute for a local search-marketing program — you still need good old-fashioned human wisdom and judgment to run a local marketing program. And a local search automation tool is not a “set it and forget it” option. In fact, a good automation tool will identify opportunities for you to anticipate and respond to changing market conditions, quickly and at scale.

If you lack a local search automation tool, now is the time to get one (don’t take our word for it — research third-party sources such as Forrester to understand why you need one). If you own a tool already, make sure you are maximizing its value to scale your local search efforts (as opposed to simply automating processes) and to allow you to sense and respond quickly to change.

Photo credit: scrapbookcity.ca

February 6, 2015

Twitter Syndicates Promoted Tweets to Scale Reach

By Julie Piatek

Even though many brands just spent $4.5 million dollars on a 30-second commercial spot during the Super Bowl, Twitter is giving marketers more reason to stick to 140 characters instead.

This week, Twitter announced a partnership with Flipboard and Yahoo Japan to syndicate promoted tweets. The partnership will take promoted tweets beyond Twitter’s social media platform, giving brands an opportunity to broaden their reach.

The move allows brands to increase exposure for both promoted and organic tweets, which were already integrated into Flipboard’s rich magazine app. It also boosts Twitter’s visibility — in Q3 of 2014, it was estimated that 185 billion Tweet impressions were off the social media platform.

Flipboard, founded in 2010, aggregates social content into a magazine format that is distributed via a mobile app and boasts “millions” of users. Twitter’s syndicated promoted tweets will have the same look and feel that is native to the Flipboard experience.

Twitter stated in their blog today that this is, “the first of many opportunities to create such campaigns, one that provides great content and monetization opportunities for our syndication partners, provides high ROI for marketers, and, ultimately, a great experience for users.”

Flipboard will start seeing promoted tweets soon, but it is not clear when and where they will start appearing on Yahoo Japan. Going forward, it only seems natural that Twitter will create similar partnerships with other publishers and platforms to give marketers an opportunity to accelerate velocity for their brands 140 characters at a time.

For more, check out this week’s coverage on the news in AdAge and ClickZ.

Photo credit: http://adage.com/article/digital/twitter-launches-syndicated-ads-flipboard-yahoo-japan/296958/

February 2, 2015

Attribution Game Plan: The NFL and Your Paid Search Campaigns

By Mike Fruland

Within your paid search campaigns, do you reward keywords that have the highest conversion rate or do you reward the keywords that create brand awareness and drive traffic to your site? Revenue or ROI?

Attribution models are much easier to understand when thought of in correlation with the NFL. There is an association between the way marketers should evaluate their paid media campaigns and the way owners and general managers of NFL franchises measure the value of their team members. In most cases, NFL managers use attribution models much more effectively than many digital marketers today.

Check out my recent article on Business2Community for more on how you can help make some sense of your paid media campaigns. Let me know what you think.

January 27, 2015

Will You Win the Local Search Marketing War?

By David Deal

Local search marketing is the next digital battleground for your brand. But only marketers with strong strategies will win the war for customer loyalty. Those are among the takeaways from “Uncovering the Benefits of Local Search Marketing,” a January 27 webinar hosted by Shar VanBoskirk, Forrester Research vice president and principal analyst, and Jon Schepke, CEO of SIM Partners.

The purpose of the webinar was to help marketers better understand the local search opportunity and some best practices to maximize its value. The webinar drew upon on the findings of a recently published Forrester Consulting report sponsored by SIM Partners.

VanBoskirk started the webinar by elevating local search as an important starting point to embrace contextual marketing. She indicated that according to Forrester, brands will invest $100 billion into digital marketing by 2019, and by 2016, digital marketing will overtake television as an investment priority.

“It’s not just the numbers that are important,” she said. “The way marketers think about digital has changed. Brands are shifting from mass digital marketing to investing in more personal, contextual experiences. And local search marketing provides a starting point to embrace contextual marketing.”

A Landmark Study

Given the heightened importance of local search, in 2014, Forrester Consulting conducted a study examining how marketers perceive local, VanBoskirk indicated. Sure, marketers understand the importance of local, but do they understand local and how to deploy it? The study, “Uncovering the Benefits of Local Search,” consisted of in-depth interviews with 13 marketing leaders from multi-location brands. The findings, published in December 2014, were revealing:

1. Marketers Perceive Local to Be Extremely Valuable, but Local Search Efforts Are Limited

The actual mechanics of applying search marketing at a local capacity is somewhat new. Stumbling blocks to applying local search include limited budget, lack of reliable data, and limited skill sets.

2. Experienced Marketers Find Good Value from Local

Marketers who have overcome stumbling blocks and moved forward with local report strong benefits such as brand awareness, better-quality leads, and more leads.

“I was pleasantly surprised that respondents were able to measure and understand how local efforts promote their brands to customers who might have not considered them in the past,” VanBoskirk commented.

3. Many Marketers Just Don’t Know How to Proceed with Local

Hampered by obstacles such as a lack of budget and an understanding of local, many marketers don’t even know to get started. As one executive from a U.S. financial institution told Forrester, “I’m not sure how local search fits into my long-term marketing strategy. But I know it is a growth opportunity for us.”

A Way Forward

To address marketers’ uncertainty and to help them understand the urgency of getting started with local search, Forrester created the Local Opportunity Matrix. The matrix helps marketers prioritize local along two dimensions:

  • Your Local footprint: the more geographies where you are present, the more important it is that you place a higher priority on local search.

“If you have a large local footprint and a mobile audience, local is critical,” she said. “If you have a small local footprint and a less mobile savvy customers, you should focus on the fundamentals first. Spend your time and budget building a foundation.”

The Importance of Strategy

VanBoskirk then turned the floor over to Jon Schepke, who emphasized the important of local strategy and adopting local at the right pace.

According to Schepke, a well-formulated strategy is critical to help marketers succeed with local search. In Schepke’s view, a local search strategy helps marketers not only identify the local search opportunity but also how to maximize the value of local.

He said, “The opportunity for local is much larger than most brands realize. But the information gap exists because most brands have not implemented a local search strategy.”

He indicated that a strategy should address elements of local search such as a brand’s approach to listing management and content distribution; and identification of tangible benefits that cuts across paid, earned, and owned media.

He added, “A local search strategy helps you maximize the value of local search at scale. A local strategy ensures that your local content is contextually relevant across multiple properties.”

 

Clients that formulate strategies should start to see results in about 60 days. And the results will go beyond improved local search results.

“A comprehensive local strategy changes the conversation from lowering your cost per lead for local to achieving a lower blended cost per lead across paid, owned, and earned media,” he said.

“A strategy is not only about driving incremental clicks lead and phone calls from local but also increasing conversion rates across channels.”

The Local Adoption Curve

Once you have a strategy in place, what happens next? According to Schepke, marketers should embrace search by crawling, walking, and running — a framework he calls the Local Adoption Curve.

In other words, proceed at the right pace:

  • At the crawl stage, brands should focus on building awareness and understanding by mastering some of the fundamentals of local search, such as listing management.
  • At the walk stage, brands should drive positive perception, buy-in, and participation by addressing needs such as optimizing local pages for search and being present on Google My Business listings.
  • At the run stage, brands should be getting more sophisticated with local search to achieve sustained value. For instance, brands should have a local content management system in place, and they should maximize the value of search across social properties.

Whereas a strategy prepares you for success, the Local Adoption Curve ensures that you achieve success on a sustained basis, according to Schepke.

“Local is the next digital battleground for brands,” he concluded. “Brands closest to their customers will win, and local is a way to do that across all channels”

VanBoskirk concluded by exhorting webinar attendees to get started with local. “Just try local,” she said. “And make sure your data are accurate and represents everything you want it to about the things you think customers want to know about your business. We are at a point with digital where marketing must deliver contextually relevant, multi-brand experiences. Local provides a starting point to do so.”

To download “Uncovering the Benefits of Local Search” in its entirety, as well as see a replay of the webinar, click here.

January 26, 2015

Is Your Local Search Strategy Doing Its Job?

By Tari Haro

Businesses with thoughtful local search marketing strategies enjoy benefits such as improved brand lift and better leads. But businesses that fail to create well formulated strategies hurt their marketing efforts; even worse, they are adrift in a sea of confusion and frustration, without achievable goals or even a common definition of what local search is. The importance of having a local search strategy is one of the key takeaways of a recently published Forrester Consulting report, “Uncovering the Benefits of Local Search Marketing.” But what are the key elements of a local search strategy?

The Forrester report, sponsored by SIM Partners and written by Forrester Vice President and Principal Analyst Shar VanBoskirk, surveyed a select group of senior marketers of multi-location brands to assess their approach to local search marketing and their perception of it. The good news is that most of the marketers surveyed have strategies in place. When well formulated and implemented successfully, those strategies lead to better-quality leads, improved brand awareness, and lift over traditional search programs. (One marketer reported to Forrester that her brand’s search strategy resulted in “her best, most qualified targets.”) The bad news is that most of the marketers Forrester surveyed have poorly formulated and implemented local search strategies. ” [M]ost existing efforts are informal at best,” VanBoskirk writes. “Local strategies are managed ad hoc, support only the bare bones, or have been in place for just a short time.”

Brands need not, and should not, settle for half-baked local search strategies. Here are some key elements that senior marketers should include in their local search strategies to make them fully baked:

  • Scope and definition. What surprised many readers of the Forrester study is the lack of consensus around what local search is as well as its role in your company. That’s why a strategy should act as a gut check, if you will, by defining what exactly local search marketing means to your company and the role it plays in building your brand. Defining local search and its role will force all the key decision makers in your company to arrive at consensus.
  • Goals you can measure. Sounds obvious, doesn’t it? Of course a plan should have goals, and the executives surveyed by Forrester agree. And yet, a number of executives in the Forrester study admit to lacking goals that they can measure readily. That’s why goals you can measure are so essential. Ideally, you should pick goals that contribute to broader branding needs such as customer acquisition and retention (examples being improved conversion rates). But make sure you have the means to measure the results.
  • Snapshot of your customer. Everything you do in local search revolves around the wants and needs of your customer. Your strategy should draw upon persona research and journey mapping tools to create a detailed snapshot of the customer you seek to acquire and retain through local search. Your customer snapshot might exist already via your broader marketing and customer service programs (you might have created them for your website, for instance). If you possess a firm understanding of your customer already, make sure your strategy identifies how local search fits into her wants, needs, and behaviors.
  • Integration. Local search does not exist in a vacuum. Your strategy should not, either. It’s important that you show how your strategy supports your broader marketing and PR program — as well as how it draws from marketing and PR. For instance, your local search strategy needs to be in close lockstep with your content marketing operation. If you possess a documented content marketing strategy already (and I hope you do), your strategy should identify how you will tap into your content planning calendar to deliver localized content.
  • Implementation game plan. According to Forrester, too many brands lack the proper resources and automation tools in place to support their local search needs. An implementation game plan will not solve those problems — but it will be an important first step. A game plan should identify, for all decision makers to see, the composition of your local search team, gaps in resources, a proposal for filling those gaps, and a required budget to succeed. An implementation game plan should identify tools you’ll need to pull off a local search program, ranging from analytics to automation tools. Ideally, a game plan will identify both your ideal budget, resources, and tools, as well as a Plan B in case you don’t get everything you want. The game plan will essentially put all your cards on the table and require your stakeholders to decide how important local search is to your brand.

For the purposes of inspiring you to take action, I have oversimplified many elements of local search strategy. (We would need more than a blog post to discuss this topic in full.) But the imperative is important: if you lack a strategy, start thinking about one now. To get a firm grounding, take a snapshot of your current local search program by performing a thorough audit. Your audit will identify strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities that a local search strategy will address. If you don’t know how to get started, find outside help. Creating a well-formulated strategy is too important to put off for another day.

Note: SIM Partners will host a webinar on Tuesday, January 27, 2015, featuring Shar VanBoskirk, on how multi-location enterprise brands can take advantage of the local search opportunity. To download “Uncovering the Benefits of Local Search” in its entirety, as well as register for the webinar, visit: resources.simpartners.com/uncovering-benefits-local-search-marketing

January 20, 2015

Pace Yourself With Local Search Marketing

By Tari Haro

If you find local search to be a difficult topic to master, you are not alone. According to a recently published Forrester Consulting report, “Uncovering the Benefits of Local Search Marketing,” marketers say they possess limited local expertise, consensus around what local search is, and resources to help execute local search programs. At SIM Partners, we believe marketers absolutely need to embrace local search — but at a pace that sets the stage for long-term future success.

The Forrester report, sponsored by SIM Partners and written by Forrester Vice President and Principal Analyst Shar VanBoskirk, surveyed a select group of senior marketers of multi-location brands to assess their approach to local search marketing and their perception of it. According to the report, “We found no accord across our interviewees about what ‘local search’ means or which goals a local search strategy helps marketers achieve.” Moreover, many respondents confuse local search with other forms of digital marketing.

Consequently, too many marketers are taking a wait-and-see approach to local. And yet, marketers need to overcome the confusion or get left behind by competitors that are gaining benefits such as improved lead quality and brand lift by implementing well formulated local search programs, according to Forrester.

Our own experience working with enterprise-level clients shows that marketers need to take a “crawl, walk, run” approach to adopting local — in other words, a measured methodology characterized by building a solid foundation for success, then moving on to more complex actions that yield deeper benefits.

At the crawl stage, marketers should focus on local data management — getting the basics right with local search, such as representing their brands consistently and accurately on relevant local listings. At the walk and run stages, marketers will move on to more advanced challenges such as thinking more about how location pages are optimized (at “walk” stage) and linking local search to social and mobile (at the “run” stage).

We call this phased approach to local marketing the local marketing adoption curve. Our CEO, Jon Schepke, recently unveiled the local marketing adoption curve via this informative column in Search Engine Watch. “By taking a phased crawl, walk, run approach to building a comprehensive, cross-functional local marketing program, brands can be more visible, relevant, and engaging in the eyes of their consumers and, ultimately, drive customer acquisition across hundreds to thousands of locations,” Jon wrote.

Two months later, Forrester Research underscored Jon’s thinking with the publication of “Uncovering the Benefits of Local Search Marketing.” Shar VanBoskirk counseled marketers to avoid taking a “wait-and-see” approach with local search despite marketers’ misgivings. Why? Because local search not only delivers results today but also helps marketers make the transition to contextual marketing. The local marketing adoption curve will help you embrace local marketing at the right pace as you learn, and set the stage for lasting differentiation and results.

Note: SIM Partners will host a webinar on Tuesday, January 27, 2015, featuring Shar VanBoskirk, on how multi-location enterprise brands can take advantage of the local search opportunity. To download “Uncovering the Benefits of Local Search” in its entirety, as well as register for the webinar, visit: resources.simpartners.com/uncovering-benefits-local-search-marketing.

Photo credit: http://sd.keepcalm-o-matic.co.uk/i/keep-calm-and-pace-yourself.png

January 19, 2015

The New Google My Business Policy Guidelines: What Marketers Need to Know

By Alexis Gui

If you’ve visited the Google My Business policy guidelines page recently, you might have noticed that Google has made a number of updates. While many of the changes expand upon rules already in place, marketers and SMBs should take note as there is more clarification around some of the previously murky topics.

That said, there is still some murkiness. To help simplify the “Googlespeak,” SIM Partners put together a list of the top 10 takeaways and our interpretations of how marketers can apply the changes to listings. We count down from the most widely applicable and (relatively) straightforward, to the more nuanced.

1. Geo-modifiers are NOT allowed in the business name.

Google has been enforcing this more stringently, but now it’s 100 percent clear on paper that location/address, directions, or containment information (e.g. “Chase ATM in Duane Reade”) are not permitted.

2. Use the fewest number of categories you need to describe your core business.

Google is further cracking down on the use of categories as keywords and asking you to trust that it will rank your business for relevant searches. According to the guidelines, ‘when you select a specific category like “golf resort,” Google implicitly includes more general categories like “resort hotel” or “hotel.” Google can also detect category information from your website and from mentions about your business throughout the web. Translation: you should have a relevant landing page with category signals and good citations elsewhere that include your business categories.

3. Hours of operation may be an unspoken requisite.

For your business to be eligible for a local listing, Google has added the clause that it “must make in-person contact with customers during its stated hours.” Aside from certain business types like ATMs, Google is looking at hours as a criteria for eligibility. Ergo, you should have them if possible.

4. Don’t use a website URL that redirects to social media sites or online directory listings.

This expands upon the old guideline to explicitly call out social media pages, which local SEO expert, Mike Blumenthal, notes has been the best tactic post-Pigeon.

5. For branded chains, use the same brand name (no descriptors allowed) and the same categories across locations.

To comply with this, branded chains should use bulk accounts as the simplest way to ensure consistent names and categories. There are, however, two exceptions to this rule.  First, if you are managing multiple business types (i.e. departments and sub-types like Walmart and Walmart Vision Center). In this case, name and category consistency still apply within departments and sub-types. Second, your locations use different names in the real world (e.g. Hilton Chicago and Hilton San Francisco).

6. If a location has a sole practitioner who represents a brand, create a single listing in the format: [branch/company]: [practitioner name].

The example given is Allstate: Joe Miller, if Joe Miller is the only agent at that location. Staff do not count as practitioners.

7. If there are multiple practitioners at a location, create a parent organization listing separate from the practitioner listings (this is the same as the old guideline), but for the practitioner listings, don’t reference the parent organization in the name.

This rule may create challenges for a few reasons. First, if the previously mentioned Allstate location had two agents, their business names would no longer be directly attached to the Allstate parent brand (i.e. Allstate: Joe Miller would just be Joe Miller if he had a colleague.). Referencing the parent brand in a location business name has traditionally been considered best practice and is still the preferred format for distribution to feed aggregators. Using different naming conventions for My Business and elsewhere in the local ecosystem should make marketers raise an eyebrow, as we know that consistent citations is key. Second, it’s not user-friendly to expect bulk account users to have to parse out which locations have multiple practitioners and therefore need an additional parent brand listing and a different naming convention. (NOTE: It will be interesting to see how strictly this is enforced during the listing verification process.)

8. Departments within organizations can have separate listings from the parent organization. Their names can reference the parent organization, but they must have different main categories and phone numbers.

For example, the pediatric department of a hospital could have a listing with the category “pediatric care,” while the main hospital would have another listing with “hospital’ as the main category. It is unclear whether departments are always entities, or if individuals within those departments also count as “departments,” or if they should be considered “practitioners.” This matters because, unlike departments, multiple practitioners at a location cannot reference the parent organization in their names, which in turn could have repercussions on how their names are distributed across online directories and other local listings in order to maintain consistency in citations.

9. For multiple brands operating out of the same location, don’t combine brands into one business name, but create separate listings for each brand only if they operate independently.

In cases where brands clearly operate independently (e.g. the TCF Bank inside a Jewel Osco), Google says they should have separate listings. But it may cause some confusion for a dual-branded location, such as a KFC/Taco bell, which is staffed by the same people. It doesn’t make sense for that location to feature just one of the brands in the name, yet they don’t technically operate independently. In the near-term, brand might consider creating separate listings for separate brands at the same location, but being sure to differentiate them with suite numbers and phone numbers if at all possible

10. Don’t reference any brands carried by your business in the name, unless you’re a fully dedicated and authorized seller, then you can choose to use the brand name for the listing.

Again, what qualifies as a “fully dedicated and authorized seller” is ambiguous. The example Google provides is a U Haul Neighborhood Dealer. However, if you’re an independent auto shop that’s also a U-Haul neighborhood dealer, it likely makes more sense to market your own auto shop business name in your local listing. I’d suggest going that route and making sure to include U-Haul in the description or list of services. (It would not be best practice to create a separate listing for each name if you are a single business with one main phone number.)

As always, please let us know what you think about the changes and which points you still have questions on.