Can’t Add a Google My Business Appointment URL? Try This Hack

In my last post I described what Google My Business “appointment” URLs are, and covered some facts and pointers worth knowing if you’d like to use one.

But what if you don’t see in your Google My Business dashboard the option to add an appointment URL?  Turns out there’s a workaround.

Based on what I’ve seen in clients’ accounts, I’d say there’s a 10% chance Google hasn’t rolled out that feature to your industry yet.  How does Google know what industry you’re in?  In this case, mainly by the categories you pick.  To get your appointment URL to show up, you need to do a little footwork with your Google My Business categories.

James Watt of James Watt Marketing in Portland described the workaround in his comment on my last post:

Hi Phil,

I’ve got one more piece of info you might want to add somewhere. I asked the GMB community manager about what to do for business owners wanting to request the appointment URL feature in the profile, and here’s what she said.

Basically, the feature is included entirely based on categories for the business. If you don’t have it available but want it, add an appointment category, set the appointment URL, and then remove the category again. I was a little surprised that that was the answer given, but there it is. Thought I’d pass it along.

So you add a category to the one(s) you’ve already specified, hit “apply,” and see if Google gives you the ability to add an appointment URL.  If not, try a different category.  If you see the option, set your appointment URL, save, and then switch your categories back to what they were.

I tried it on a client just now, and it worked like a charm.  In his case, I had to swap out the “primary” category (i.e. the first one listed), which I switched back as soon as his appointment URL showed up.

Try that workaround.  Please let me know how it goes!

P.S.  Big thanks to James.  He posts often at the Local Search Forum and GMB forum, and I suggest you follow him.

BBB Dips a Toe in Answer-Box SEO, Highlighting Accredited Businesses

Love it or hate it, the Better Business Bureau has long been an SEO powerhouse.  Though not splattered all over the local search results the way Yelp has been, the BBB often ranks well – both for broad search terms and when you search for a specific company by name.  It’s also become a prominent review site.

Now the BBB may piggyback off of Google’s increasing tendency to show “answer boxes”:

I find it interesting that that category page on the BBB doesn’t even rank #1.  It’s #4.  (Sometimes that’s the case with these answer-box results.)

No particularly fancy footwork in the source code, either.

The answer box + BBB lovechild doesn’t rank for many search terms yet (that I’ve seen), but I wouldn’t be surprised if it doesn’t start popping up for more. The BBB recently redesigned its business pages, no doubt with local visibility in mind. Perhaps they also made tweaks to their category pages, too, which is what’s returning an answer box in Google in the above example.

As I’ve written before, there are several good reasons to consider holding your nose and getting accredited by the BBB.  This is another one.  Classic barnacle SEO.

For more on Google’s answer boxes, see the excellent post by Dr. Pete at Moz.

Are you seeing the BBB show up in Google with answer boxes?  How about answer boxes for other local directories?

Leave a comment!

Latest Google Places Guideline Flip-Flop: Natural Extension of Pigeon Update?

As you may have read from Mike or Linda, Google just updated the “My Business” guidelines (again).

Among several rule-updates that will Google will probably enforce haphazardly or temporarily, here are the two updates that have stuck in my craw:

  1. The reversal of the “descriptors” rule. For years Google said you had to use your official business name as the name of your Google Places page.  Then in February they said you could add a keyword or city name or a similarly short “descriptor.”  Now they reversed that rule.
  1. You can only pick the most-specific category (or categories) for your page. For example, if you’re a divorce lawyer, you pick “Divorce Attorneys,” but not “Attorneys.”

I think this fits into the big-picture changes that Google’s “Pigeon” update represents.  Since July, Google has put even more emphasis on classic organic ranking factors – especially the quality of your links.

Google is now telling you to provide less information about your business on your Places page – in your name and in your categories.  Google would rather sift through your site’s pages and links and draw its own conclusions about what your business offers, and rank you accordingly.

At least in theory, if you’re not trying to use your Google Places name and categories to maximum advantage, you’re trying to rank based on your ability to earn good links (read this) and reviews.  That, plus searchers’ behavior, is what Google seems to care about above all.

Enforcement is where the rubber meets the road.  Who knows if Google will enforce the new rules uniformly, or how it will affect who ranks and who doesn’t?  I predict continued chaos.

What’s my advice?  I think Greg Gifford nailed it.

What are your thoughts on the update?  Leave a comment!

How to Pick (or Improvise) the Right Schema.org Markup for Your Local Business

This one’s going to take a little ramp-up.  Hang with me.

What’s Schema?

Schema.org is a type of markup for your site that Google, Bing, and Yahoo promote.

The idea is it helps you tell search engines exactly what a specific piece of content on your site is.  For example, you’d use different Schema if you want to announce, “Here’s my business’s name, address, and phone number,” or “Here’s a customer testimonial, or “Look – a video.”

Some SEOs say Schema in general makes a big difference for your rankings.  I’m not one of them; I suspect it can help a little.  So let’s assume it helps a little.

How do you use it?

What is Schema’s role on your site, if your main goal is to get visible in Google Places and beyond?

For me, its main use is to highlight your basic business info – your “NAP” (name, address, phone number), which should be on every page of your site.

In some cases I also use it to mark up testimonials.  (Here’s a good post on that.)

But for now let’s just talk about using Schema on your all-important NAP info.  It usually looks like this in your code:

<div itemscope itemtype=”http://schema.org/LocalBusiness”>
<span itemprop=”name”>Local Visibility System, LLC</span>
<div itemprop=”address” itemscope itemtype=”http://schema.org/PostalAddress”>
<span itemprop=”streetAddress”>86 Richards Ave</span>
<span itemprop=”addressLocality”>North Attleboro</span>,
<span itemprop=”addressRegion”>MA</span>
<span itemprop=”postalCode”>02760</span>
</div>
<span itemprop=”telephone”>(508) 308-4040</span>
</div>

And as you may know, you can use a free Schema generator to create a blob of Schema for your business – like MicrodataGenerator.com or Raven Tools’ generator.  (In fact, I suggest you use a tool to do it.)

The problem: vague “itemtype”

Notice that first line.  In your blob of Schema, it probably reads:

<div itemscope itemtype=”http://schema.org/LocalBusiness“>

“Local Business” is vague.  All that tells Google & co. is that you’re not Amazon or Nike.

You should not settle for that lame “LocalBusiness” itemtype in your Schema name / address / phone blob: Either there’s an itemtype (AKA Schema) that’s specific to your business, or you can improvise one (more on this in a minute).

First, try to find a Schema that describes your business.  For example, http://schema.org/Dentist or https://schema.org/AccountingService.

That might be easy if you used MicrodataGenerator.com to generate your NAP blob.  There, you may have seen some common types of businesses:

 

If one of those categories describes your business accurately, no need to read on.  If that’s the case, go to MicrodataGenerator, select the specific Schema that describes your business (pictured above), generate your NAP blob, put it on your site, and pour yourself a cold one.

Find the right itemtype / Schema here

You’re probably 90% of the way to the perfect Schema NAP blob.  Again, the only blemish is that first line – with “LocalBusiness” in it:

<div itemscope itemtype=”http://schema.org/LocalBusiness“>

All we’re trying to do is figure out what to put in that line instead of “LocalBusiness.”  We’re literally looking for one word.  Once we find it, you can make the swap and then stick that whole NAP block on every page of your site.

Finding the right itemtype was tricky – until now.

That’s why first I scraped Moz Local’s huge list of local-business categories.  (You’ll see these under “Category Research” if you’re logged into your free or paid Moz account.)

Then I cleaned up the list.  There was a lot of junk and repetition.  I cut it down to the realistic categories – the ones that might conceivably describe your business.

Then I asked structured-data markup expert David Deering for help.  He’s a Level 10 contributor at the Google Webmaster Forum, where he answers markup questions every day.  He knows Schema like I know Judas Priest songs.

David looked at The List and found the right Schema for each category.

The result?  You can open up this spreadsheet (on Google Drive) and scroll through it to find your type of business and the corresponding Schema / itemtype.

Now look in the right-hand column and grab the single word that comes after the http://schema.org/ part.  That’s what you’ll want to replace “LocalBusiness” with in your Schema blob.

Let’s say you were doing this for my business.  And let’s say I retired from the local-search biz and opened my very own beauty parlor.

Where I used to have “LocalBusiness” in that very first line, I’d put “HealthAndBeautyBusiness” instead.

<div itemscope itemtype=”http://schema.org/HealthAndBeautyBusiness“>
<span itemprop=”name”>Face By Phil</span>
<div itemprop=”address” itemscope itemtype=”http://schema.org/PostalAddress”>
<span itemprop=”streetAddress”>86 Richards Ave</span>
<span itemprop=”addressLocality”>North Attleboro</span>,
<span itemprop=”addressRegion”>MA</span>
<span itemprop=”postalCode”>02760</span>
</div>
<span itemprop=”telephone”>(508) 308-4040</span>
</div>

Fix that one line of code, and then put that whole blob of code (like the above) on every page of your site.  You’re done here.

But what if you still don’t find an accurate Schema?

That’s what I asked David after he sent me The List.  What if the geeks at Schema.org left your type of businesses out in the cold?

Can you still use Schema to “tell” Google & co. exactly what kind of business you’ve got?

Or what if you don’t think your type of Schema is specific enough (like if you’re a pediatric dentist and don’t want to settle for the broad “Dentist” Schema)?

You’re in luck.  And the workaround should take you less than 5 minutes, if you carefully read this bit of explanation from David

(I put the extra-important parts in italics.)

Use an additional ontology called Productontology (productontology.org).  This is great to use to specify products and even services, but it can also be used to help extend other schemas to get more specific.

In simple terms, the process involves finding the matching entity in Wikipedia and then creating a URI with Productontology.  So let’s take for example a deli.  There is no exact schema type for a deli.  So we have to use http://schema.org/FoodEstablishment.  But since that’s not very specific, we should pull in the use of Productontology.

So first, we go to Wikipedia and find the page for Deli: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Delicatessen.

Now we have to turn it into a Productontology URI.  A Productontology URI begins with “http://www.productontology.org/id/”.  We take the last part of the Wiki URL, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Delicatessen, and add it to the Productontology URI.

So the full Productontology URI for a deli becomes http://www.productontology.org/id/Delicatessen.

Next, we have to add it to the markup.  In order to do that, we have to use the “additionalType” property.  So, the markup for a deli would look something like this:

<div itemscope itemtype=“http://schema.org/FoodEstablishment”>
<link itemprop=”additionalType” href=“http://www.productontology.org/id/Delicatessen”
 />
<span itemprop=”name”>Name of Deli</span>

<div itemprop=”address” itemscope itemtype=“http://schema.org/PostalAddress”>
<span itemprop=”streetAddress”>100 Main St.</span>
<span itemprop=”addressLocality”>New York</span>,
<span itemprop=”addressRegion”>NY</span>
<span itemprop=”postalCode”>12345</span>
</div>
<span itemprop=”telephone”>(555) 123-4567</span>
</div>

Of course, more properties could be added to the above markup, but it’s just a rough example of how the “additionalType” property along with a Productontology URI can be used to help extend schemas and specify schema business types much better.

-David

So…remember a minute ago how if you found your type of business in the big spreadsheet, you just had to tweak that 1st line of code?  Well, if you didn’t find your type of business in the spreadsheet, what you’ll have to do is tweak that one line plus add an additional line to your Schema NAP blob.

Example time.  Let’s revisit my “Face By Phil” example.  (Don’t worry – it’s still fictional.)  Let’s say I didn’t run just any old beauty parlor, but specialized in laser hair removal.  I’d want Google to know that, so I’d want my Schema to make that point clear.  Here’s what my NAP code would look like:

<div itemscope itemtype=”http://schema.org/HealthAndBeautyBusiness“>
<link itemprop=”additionalType” href=”http://www.productontology.org/doc/Laser_hair_removal” />
<span itemprop=”name”>Face By Phil</span>
<div itemprop=”address” itemscope itemtype=”http://schema.org/PostalAddress”>
<span itemprop=”streetAddress”>86 Richards Ave</span>
<span itemprop=”addressLocality”>North Attleboro</span>,
<span itemprop=”addressRegion”>MA</span>
<span itemprop=”postalCode”>02760</span>
</div>
<span itemprop=”telephone”>(508) 308-4040</span>
</div>

As you can see, you’re only customizing the parts in green – although it would be smart to change both URLs completely, so you don’t make any typos.

Examples of Schema + Productontology

Here are some examples of the info you’d use to customize those two lines:

Dermatologist:

Use in 1st line:  http://schema.org/Physician

Use in 2nd line:  http://www.productontology.org/id/Dermatology

Fertility clinic:

Use in 1st line:  http://schema.org/MedicalClinic

Use in 2nd line:  http://www.productontology.org/id/Fertility_clinic

Funeral home:

Use in 1st line:  http://schema.org/LocalBusiness

Use in 2nd line:  http://www.productontology.org/id/Funeral_home

Graphic designer:

Use in 1st line:  http://schema.org/ProfessionalService

Use in 2nd line:  http://www.productontology.org/id/Graphic_designer

Home inspector:

Use in 1st line:  http://schema.org/ProfessionalService

Use in 2nd line:  http://www.productontology.org/id/Home_inspection

Kennel:

Use in 1st line:  http://schema.org/LocalBusiness

Use in 2nd line:  http://www.productontology.org/id/Kennel

Landscape architect:

Use in 1st line:  http://schema.org/ProfessionalService

Use in 2nd line:  http://www.productontology.org/id/Landscape_architect

Laser hair removal service:

Use in 1st line:  http://schema.org/HealthAndBeautyBusiness

Use in 2nd line:  http://www.productontology.org/id/Laser_hair_removal

Magician:

Use in 1st line:  http://schema.org/EntertainmentBusiness

Use in 2nd line:  http://www.productontology.org/id/Magician

Music school:

Use in 1st line:  http://schema.org/School

Use in 2nd line:  http://www.productontology.org/id/Music_school

Pediatric dentist:

Use in 1st line:  http://schema.org/Dentist

Use in 2nd line:  http://www.productontology.org/id/Pediatric_dentistry

Personal Trainer:

Use in 1st line:  http://schema.org/HealthAndBeautyBusiness

Use in 2nd line:  http://www.productontology.org/id/Personal_trainer

Resort:

Use in 1st line:  http://schema.org/TouristAttraction

Use in 2nd line:  http://www.productontology.org/id/Resort

Tailor:

Use in 1st line:  http://schema.org/ProfessionalService

Use in 2nd line:  http://www.productontology.org/id/Tailor

Wedding photographer:

Use in 1st line:  http://schema.org/ProfessionalService

Use in 2nd line:  http://www.productontology.org/id/Wedding_photography

Got the perfect Schema NAP for your site yet?  If you’re still stumped, feel free to leave a comment.

Or if you’d rather let someone else mess with it, contact David.  He offers all kinds of markup services, and has worked with small / local sites as well as with national brands.  This post wouldn’t have been possible without his know-how.  Oh, and follow him on Google+.

(By the way, here’s the spreadsheet again.)

This is the rare post where it takes longer to explain the step than to do the step.  But getting the right Schema should be a quick one-time deal for your business, and it may give you that extra little edge in the local results.

Business Categories Lists for Major Local Search Sites

Categories are the forgotten child of local SEO.

Though they don’t get much attention, categories do get respect: “Proper Category Associations” is the #1 “Foundational Ranking Factor” listed on 2013’s Local Search Ranking Factors study.  (I was one of the people who ranked them up there, and I’m glad other local-searchers agree.)

Picking as many relevant categories as you can is probably the easiest way to make progress on your Google+ Local, Bing Places, Apple Maps, Yelp, and other rankings.

Choosing the right ones is sometimes easier said than done.  Google no longer allows “custom” categories.  That’s nice in a couple of ways: You can choose up to 10 categories, and it’s nice that it’s much harder now to get penalized by accidentally specifying a custom category that Google doesn’t consider kosher.

Still, the categories you want to pick are either on Google’s list or they aren’t.  Which may leave you feeling hamstrung if your business is specialized or “niche.”

Fortunately for us, the categories you can pick on other sites seem to help Google determine what type of business yours is – and what terms you should rank for.

They’re also a huge factor in your rankings on pretty much every other site worth being listed on.

The name of the game is to know your options for categories, on as many sites as possible.  Most of them don’t make it easy to browse all your options.  That’s why I’ve rounded up a bunch of category lists, so you can find the relevant ones easily.

Check out these lists and see if you’ve listed your business under the best categories possible:

Search engines

Google – Browse Mike Blumenthal’s Google Places Category Tool

Bing Places – See my list of Bing business categories (new)

Apple Maps – Dig through this monstrous list put together by Andrew Shotland

Data-aggregators

ExpressUpdate – Pick from OSHA’s Standard Industrial Categories

LocalEze – See my post on LocalEze categories

Factual – Refer to this list when submitting your Factual listing

IYPs

Yelp – Dig through Yelp’s somewhat-buried list, or see my post on Yelp categories

InsiderPages – See this

AngiesList – Here you go

Those are just the category lists I’ve found so far or put together myself.  I’m sure you or I could easily find full lists of categories for rinky-dink sites that nobody’s ever heard of.  But there are a few category lists I’d still like to have.

The sites on my wish-list at the moment are CitySearch, YellowPages, Local.Yahoo.com, and Acxiom (MyBusinessListingManager.com).  Please let me know if you find or make a list of all the categories allowed on those sites!

InfoGroup Category List

Your InfoGroup listing matters - and so do the business categories you choose for itThere are two business listings you absolutely can’t screw up if you want to get visible in Google’s local search results: The first one is your Google+Local listing (duh).  The other is your InfoGroup listing.

InfoGroup – AKA InfoUSA – automatically feeds your business info to sites all over the local search ecosystem.  If your InfoGroup listing has info that’s inaccurate or that differs significantly from what’s on other sites, the chances are excellent your local rankings will be lousy.

The data InfoGroup has on your business also gets piped right into Google.   Ever wonder what causes duplicate Google listings to show up?  Or how a business can have a local listing on Google even though the owner never created a listing?   That’s usually because of InfoGroup.

The bottom line is you need to take two steps with your InfoGroup listing:

1.  Make sure it exists and that your vital info (name, address, phone number) is correct.  Do this at ExpressUpdateUSA.com (which is a site specifically meant for building / managing your listing).  Create your listing if it’s not already there.  If it’s in the system, claim it and make any necessary tweaks.

2.  Beef up your listing with as much relevant additional info on your business / services as you possibly can.  This additional info matters to your local rankings.  This includes the “description” and “services” fields you’re allowed to fill out – and that are easily to fill out.  But most importantly it means you have to pick out relevant categories to list your business under.  The categories can be a little trickier.  That’s what this post is for.

As I’ve commented before, picking the right business categories is crucial not only to your rankings but to the range of local search terms you’re visible for.  This is true of the categories you pick for your Google listing, and of the categories you pick for your third-party listings – of which InfoGroup is arguably the most important of all.

Everything I recently wrote about categories on LocalEze is also true of InfoGroup: you have literally thousands of categories to choose from, but they’re not easily searchable and sometimes aren’t called what you think they’d be called.  With InfoGroup it’s hard to know if you’ve even found the most relevant ones.

Many of the categories aren’t even relevant to “local” businesses.  They have categories for bologna makers and yurt manufacturers alike.  If you’re an alpaca farmer, they’ve got you covered.  Wholesale zipper seller?  Yup.  Uranium dealer?  No problem.

That’s why I’ve put all 9,854 InfoGroup business categories into one list.  The benefit of this is you can search it using CTRL+F or Command+F, or even browse it if you must.  You could find the right categories using InfoGroup’s search feature, but it will take you a bit longer.

Plus, you can even edit or process the categories list if you use the Excel or .txt versions – if you wanted to get all fancy.

But all you really need to do is find the 5 most-accurate categories for your business – or at least however many are relevant to your business and what you offer.  Add those categories when you create or edit your InfoGroup listing.

By the way, I highly recommend you use CTRL+F to search the list, at least to narrow down your options at first.  I hope you were planning to anyway.  I suppose you could read through the list from top to bottom, but your head may explode and you’ll have eyeball prints on your laptop screen.

Happy category-hunting!

View or download the InfoGroup category list:

  PDF

  Excel

  Text

LocalEze Category List

Pick your LocalEze business category wiselyLocalEze is one of the most important sites to list your business on if you want to rank well in Google’s local search results.  I’d put it in the top 5.  It’s important because it feeds your business info to a ton of other influential third-party sites, which in turn influence your Google local rankings.

All you need on LocalEze is a free listing (though in some situations a paid listing isn’t a bad investment).

Meanwhile, picking the right categories to list your business under is a make-or-break step – both on your Google+Local (formerly Google Places) page and on major third-party sites like LocalEze.

Essentially, it’s your chance to tell Google what search terms you most want to be found for.  You don’t want to blow the opportunity.

But in order to select the right categories, you first have to find them on the list.  This is very easy to do on many major sites (like Yelp).

However, LocalEze has 1742 categories to choose from.  You’re required to choose one for your business – but no more than one.

They have an OK browse feature, but it can still take a while to find the right category, and it will take you forever if you first want to see all your options.  I’ve also found that the system can be very slow (it tends to “crunch” a lot).

That’s why I’ve rounded up all 1742 business categories in the LocalEze directory and put them into one easy-to-search list.

Kind of like Mike Blumenthal’s ultra-handy Google category tool, it’s meant to save you a few minutes of frustration and help make sure you pick out the right categories for your business where it really counts.

More specifically, the LocalEze category list is meant to remedy the following problems / nuisances:

  • You can only pick one category for your LocalEze listing (for reasons I don’t know).  You want to make sure it’s the single-most relevant.  It’s much easier to find the right one if you can see all your options at a glance.
  • If you’re not sure which category to pick, you need to be able to browse a list easily.  But isn’t not always quick or easy to browse through LocalEze interface.
  • If you manage listings for several locations – whether you’re a business owner or a local SEO – you’ll probably get tired of searching around for the right category every time you create a listing.

This post would get huge and bloated like 1970’s-era Elvis if I tried to stuff 1742 categories into it.  So – as you can see – I didn’t go that route.

You can view or download the LocalEze category list right now:

  PDF

  Excel

  Text

If you have any suggestions for how I can make the list more useful or just better in general, please leave a comment!