Duplex-powered Google Assistant restaurant booking expanding to more states and users

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Available on Pixel phones, it will be rolling out to other Android and iOS users in the near future.

Google announced that Pixel phone users can now use Duplex via the Google Assistant to book restaurant reservations over the phone. Google said it was available in 43 states in the U.S.

Duplex is an AI-powered phone based-system for booking appointments with local businesses that don’t have online scheduling. It was first demonstrated at Google’s developer conference in May 2018. The demo, though controlled, was impressive and very “natural language” sounding.

Request a reservation, get a notification. Here’s Google’s description of the process (also shown in the video below):

Just ask the Assistant on your phone, “Book a table for four people at [restaurant name] tomorrow night.” The Assistant will then call the restaurant to see if it can accommodate your request. Once your reservation is successfully made, you’ll receive a notification on your phone, an email update and a calendar invite so you don’t forget.

Google says it will be rolling out Duplex restaurant booking via the Assistant on other Android and iOS devices in the coming weeks.

Hello, I’m a bot. Duplex is intended to mimic the cadence and sound of natural human speech. In the video the hypothetical exchange clearly discloses that Google Assistant (a machine) is on the other end and that the call will be recorded. The disclosure is mandated by a new California law. And many states require disclosures when calls are being recorded. – Read more

How You Can See Google Search Results for Different Locations

My Post (100).jpgWhat you and I are likely to see in Google differs a lot even if we search for the same thing.

The results we get depend on our:

  • Search habits.
  • The devices we use.
  • And, most importantly, our current location.

This makes perfect sense to users who often search Google for places and services nearby.

At the same time, this leaves marketers blind to what customers really see in Google in all the different locations their business targets.

So, today we’ll dig deeper into localized search results and look into every possible way to search Google from another location – both manually and using tools.

Do All SERP Elements Depend on Location?

The short answer is “yes.”

Even though we often think of local search as something related to “local 3-pack” blocks, the rest of the SERP is also tailored for the searcher’s specific geo-location (especially for queries with an obvious local intent).

In different locations, you may see changes in organic listings (the 10 blue links include different local businesses and directories), knowledge panels, universal search blocks, and paid ads. – Read more

Google Merchant Center to deliver real-time search results

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The information in Shopping Ads is now available to all retailers (free of cost) and can be submitted directly to Google in real-time, not just by adding schema markup to your site.

Google Merchant Center is a tool and central dashboard where online retailers can upload store and product data and manage the appearance of their e-commerce products. Perhaps its biggest benefit is that the feed is uploaded directly to Google in real-time, ensuring that all information displayed is accurate at the time of a given search.

This data was used to primarily to power Google Shopping Ads, which meant that the benefits of the merchant center were not readily available to non-AdWords users. Retailers generally relied on schema markup to display information in rich results and rich product image results. Information displayed usually included ratings, price, availability, etc.

But in its latest news, Google announced that it would be opening up its merchant center capabilities to all online retailers, regardless of whether they run AdWords campaigns. This comes after its recent updates to the product report in Search Console and improvements to product visibility through Google Manufacturer Center.

So why is the merchant center update important? – Read more

Google’s next chapter for metrics to focus on clarity once ‘average position’ is removed

My Post (93).jpgFred Vallaeys explains why advertisers need to rethink bidding strategies and position metrics now that Google has announced it will sunset one of its oldest metrics later this year.

Average Position was one of the original metrics in Google Ads when they launched their search advertising product called AdWords. But as search advertising has evolved, what used to be a primary metric for making optimization decisions has lost its usefulness and so Google has announced that it will disappear later this year.

This means advertisers will need to rethink some dated bidding strategies, update reports they share with stakeholders and figure out how the new position metrics can replace what is being deprecated. But first, let me share my take on why this change is being made.

Why ‘average position’ is a poor metric to understand position

Historically the average position metric was useful because ads reliably showed up in consistent locations on the page. Knowing the average position of an ad meant you knew where your ad showed on a web page. Its physical “position” on the page correlated to the “average position” in reports.

For example, in the earliest days of AdWords, premium ads that were sold to big companies on a CPM basis were shown above the search results. Ads on the right side were reserved for smaller advertisers who paid on a CPC basis through what was then known as AdWords Select. So if you were an AdWords Select advertiser and your ad was reported as having an average position of 1, you understood it was the first ad on the right side of the SERP.

But then Google realized that the ads they were putting in premium locations on the page from advertisers paying on a CPM basis were making less money than the CPC ads on the right side. So they merged the two advertising programs and made all advertisers compete for all slots on the page based on Ad Rank, a metric comprised of the CPC bid and the CTR. Position still equated to a physical location on the page, except for the fact that Google made one more change in its effort to ensure only the most relevant ads would occupy the top of the page. – Read more

Google Ads to sunset average position reporting metric later this year

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Average position has become less valuable in recent years. Prepare to adjust your reporting, management with newer metrics.

The signs have been popping up, but now it’s official. Google will retire average position reporting from Google Ads later this year.

What were the signs?

We can point to two key ones. The first and most significant: In November, Google introduced four new ad position metrics to indicate the percentage of impressions and impression share your ads received in the absolute top (the first ad at the very top of the page) and top of page (above the organic results) ad slots.

With that announcement, Google explained that average position, which has been around long before ads were removed from the right rail of desktop search results, had never been intended to show where your ads were showing on the page. Instead, it “reflects the order that your ad appears versus the other ads in the ad auction.”

With Tuesday’s announcement, Pallavi Naresh, Google Ads product manager, said, “These new metrics give you a much clearer view of your prominence on the page than average position does.

The second (granted, more tangential) sign was the addition of click share reporting to Search campaigns earlier this month. Google first introduced click share in Shopping campaigns — where there is no position reporting — to give advertisers some of the insights they were used to getting from average position in Search campaigns. – Read more

Content structure and structured data: Will they impact featured snippets?

My Post (87).jpgIn a recent Webmaster Hangout, Google’s John Mueller said there is no particular markup that he is aware of used to generate Featured Snippets. But clear content structure, like using a table, helps a lot.

In this article, I explore the difference between Structured Data and content structure as a continuation of John Mueller’s response in the Hangout. I also provide some advice on getting featured snippet tables that I’ve gleaned through research and rigorous testing.

As an SEO who is in Google’s trenches day in and day out, I’ve learned over time the importance of targeting featured snippet opportunities. This is especially the case if your client is already ranking on the first page of Google, but their content is not the page being featured.

One of my favorite of the different types of featured snippets, is when Google is showing a table in the search results already for your competitor’s site. I even made a video where I challenged myself to take a featured snippet table away from my biggest competitor, Amazon.

Thankfully, we won that battle and my table has survived to tell the tale: – Read more

Google Introduces 3 New Features for Responsive Display Ads

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Google is rolling out three new features for responsive display ads that are designed to improve functionality and reporting capabilities.

Video Assets

Video assets can now be incorporated into responsive display ads. This enhanced functionality also comes an expanded reach to new inventory.

With video assets, advertisers can select up to 5 videos from their YouTube channel to display in a responsive display ad.

Responsive display ads with video assets retain the same capability to scale ad creation, testing, and optimization.

Combinations Report

A new combinations report provides insights into the performance of different creative asset combinations. – Read more

Improve PPC Performance With These 9 Steps

My Post (78).jpgPPC can be a valuable tool for improving visibility, messaging, and customer acquisition for just about any business.

But many times, when companies try to handle their own paid search campaigns, the results can be lackluster or non-existent. Don’t lose hope. No matter your ad spend, you can use this 9-step checklist to improve PPC performance in your paid media campaigns.

1. Fix your account structure

If the account isn’t structured to fit your business, you’ll probably have an issue seeing any results. Some accounts are structured based on the products or services they offer. Some are structured based on the problem they solve, or the audiences they intend to service.

Avoid trying to build one campaign that tries to market all the products or services you offer. Break apart your keyword lists into small segments and build separate ad groups and campaigns, so you can customize your creative to fit the searcher’s needs and intent. This allows you to allocate more budget to the segments doing well, without adding funding to areas that underperform.

2. Always test ad performance

The difference between two ads with a subtle copy change can be enormous. Continually test your ads and don’t let underperforming ads run too long, as they can drag down results and unnecessarily increase costs. Take stock in the ads you serve — the conversion rates, CTRs, and post-click engagement stats and make sure the new ads you write can beat the current champion.

Ask yourself: Does the new ad have better engagement? Does it generate conversions at a lower CPA? Does it have a better CTR? Are my CPCs lower?
Focus on creating engaging ads, then focus on generating conversion volume, and lastly focus on optimizing by cost per conversion. – Read more

How to Completely Optimize Your Google My Business Listing

My Post (77).jpgTo achieve digital marketing success by leveraging a location-based strategy, most seasoned SEO professionals start at the same place: creating a Google My Business listing.

And for good reason.

Google My Business (GMB) – the free tool from Google that helps business owners manage their online presence across the search engine and its growing portfolio of utilities – offers the greatest impact for brands seeking local exposure.

Features like Google’s Local Search results, which break out with a list of nearby businesses and much of the pertinent information needed to find a specific business (e.g., address, business hours, category, reviews) and potentially buy something, further emphasize the need for a GMB listing for both new and established businesses.

Google’s Knowledge Graph also utilizes verified Google My Business information to help generate details for its database about businesses and related entities that are relevant to specific searches.

Once a new listing is created, a Google Maps location is then generated that synchronizes with traditional Google Search for easy access and searchability.

It certainly helps that the clear majority of organic searches come from Google (around 90 percent for worldwide search engine market share), further illustrating the value of a GMB listing. – Read more

Google enables ‘join waitlist’ for restaurants

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Functionality is provided by DineTime as part of Reserve with Google.

Google has added a “join waitlist” button to selected local restaurant profile pages. Canadian SEO Sergey Alakov spotted the new functionality, which is provided by DineTime. To participate, restaurants must have a DineTime account.

Join the waitlist. The placement of the button is in the same location as “reserve a table.” It’s not clear whether there will be two buttons, then, where waitlist functionality is also enabled.

Clicking on the join waitlist button opens a screen that identifies the current wait time and enables users to input their party size. That’s followed by a screen confirming the user’s contact info. Users receive a text updating them on their status. (Yelp offers similar waitlist functionality for its listed restaurants.)

As an aside, DineTime also has an Alexa skill. Booking is a capability and use case well-suited for virtual assistants and smart speakers. – Read more