Google Makes Local Knowledge Graph King – for a Day?

When you search for a specific local business, you may no longer see the knowledge graph appear in the right-hand sidebar.  Google appears to be testing its position on the SERPs.

The knowledge panel has moved to the left and fully above the fold.  It’s gone from shy prince in the margins to turkey-leg-chomping king in the middle of the court.

Of course, after I went to all the trouble of writing those two paragraphs, the knowledge graph moved back to the right.

And now I’m seeing the new layout again.

It seems to be another of Google’s tests, but it may be the start of a permanent change.

It may be partly for user-experience and to show local “one-box”-type results in a way similar to how they appear on mobile (that is, front and center).  I’m sure it also fits into another of Google’s schemes to squeeze out more AdWords revenue, though at this point it’s not clear to me how.

What would a bigger, bolder knowledge graph mean for you, the business owner?  Probably nothing you weren’t aware of already.  But if this change sticks, your Google reviews will get even more noticeable, important, and worth working on.

Have you seen this larger, shifted knowledge graph when you search for a company by name?

What do you make of the test?  What do you think Google is trying to accomplish?

Leave a comment!

Online Scheduling: on the Rise in Google and a Local Search Ranking Factor?

I want to emphasize that I have not tested this – even to the extent you can “test” anything in local search.

Rather, I’ve just observed a couple things:

1.  Google seems to integrate online “Make an appointment” software into local businesses’ knowledge graphs more often than it used to.

2.  Businesses with the “Make an appointment” feature in their knowledge graphs often seem to outrank businesses without it.

A few visuals, just to show what I’m talking about:

The scheduling services I’ve seen pop up again and again – and more and more as of late – are:

DemandForce / Intuit (since August)




I’ve also seen FullSlate and pop up on a few occasions. Also, Jesse Palmer of LoveandScience has shown me an example of a HealthGrades scheduler appearing in the knowledge graph.

Use one of those services and you’ll probably get the “Make an appointment” feature showing up in Google when people search for you by name.

It’s not only for doctors.  I’ve seen it for accountants, massage therapists, and even cryotherapy saunas.  It’s for anyone who wants to give clients / patients / customers the ability to book an appointment online using a third-party scheduler.

That’s nice, but why might it be a local ranking factor?  We local SEOs can be a superstitious bunch, and sometimes throw around that 6-letter F-word with abandon.

Some reasons it’s not totally crazy to think Google might use online booking as a minor local ranking factor:

1.  Google cares at least enough to have a whole “support” page on “Local business orders and appointments.” And they’ve even got standards, and make it clear that not every business gets the “Make an appointment” bling:

Links to booking options will appear automatically for eligible businesses. There’s not currently a way to request this service for your business.

2.  The knowledge graph has replaced the local Google page as the place to find info on local businesses in Google. seems to care about what’s in it and it’s shoved in your face, whereas your Google Places Plus My Business page is very hard to get to.

3.  As Big Brother, Google must know whether and how searchers use with the online scheduling interface. One thing I’ve noticed is that a business using online scheduling only tends to outrank other businesses if it’s got reviews (Google reviews and others).  As with Google Maps driving-direction lookups, a combination of online bookings and an influx of reviews might suggest to Google that customers do business with you and live to tell about it.

4.  Like Google Business View, it implies a few things about your business:

  • Unlike most spammers – you’re serious enough to fork over.
  • People can actually meet you, probably at your place of business.
  • Clients / patients / customers think your business looks good enough to book an appointment, and possibly to write a review post-appointment. (Some booking sites encourage reviews after the appointment.)

By the way, on the off-chance you own an online-scheduling site, you can apply to be included.

Have you noticed more instances of “Make an appointment” lately?

Did I miss any appointment-scheduling services that cause that to pop up?

What do you think about the theory that online scheduling might be a minor ranking factor?

Leave a comment!

Businesses’ Peak Hours Now Showing in Google’s Desktop Search Results

Search by name for a restaurant, another food-related business, or a car dealership (see Dan’s comment, below) and you’ll see what I just saw:

That “Popular Times” section appears to be brand-new – at least in the desktop results.  Google has been showing peak times in mobile-browser results for over two months now.

It’s also showing in the “local finder” results.

It’s useful data, if it’s accurate.

My gut feeling is that Google looks at data on a combination of factors: clicks-through to the site or “local finder,” clicks-to-call, requests for driving directions, and maybe brand-name searches.

Just speculation on my part.

But it would partly explain why Google only seems to have this for bricks-and-mortar businesses – specifically in the food industry.  Those tend to get more mobile traffic and the kind of actions Google can monitor (e.g. clicks-to-call and requests for directions).

As we’ve seen before, Google takes a mobile-first approach, and tends to use Yelp-friendly food and nightlife industries as a testing ground for features that it later shows in other industries’ search results.

Are you seeing “Popular Hours” for any non-dining related search terms?

Where do you think Google is headed with this?  What do you think their money-making scheme is?

Leave a comment!

User Behavior Affects Local Rankings. Now What?

First, go check out Darren’s slides.  After you pick up your jaw, come back here.  The two presentations were an unofficial duo that kicked off the Local track at State of Search 2014.

Want to know how to get higher click-through from the Places results, and how to encourage other actions that Google may care about (like getting customers to look up driving directions)?  Enjoy!


Huge thanks to Greg, Mike Stewart, and to everyone else who made State of Search great.  You should go in 2015.  You’ll love it – especially if you’re serious about local search.

Questions about my slides?  Leave a comment!

Hijacking Google’s Local Knowledge Graph

I was just going about my business, monkeying around in the local results.  Then something caught my eye:

Given that Google just started testing green review stars, I could only draw 2 conclusions:

1.  Google must think it’s St. Patrick’s Day, OR

2.  I just stumbled across a crafty business owner.

Looks like it’s the latter.  Here’s what I saw when I clicked on the green-bordered photo in the knowledge graph:

Kind of stands out in that local carousel, doesn’t it?

I finally check out the business’s Google Places page.  Doesn’t even have a profile photo.  Our lucky green photo was simply the first and only one uploaded under the “Photos” tab.

Yup, it’s just a photo with a border around it.  Not a layout change or pay-to-play scheme that Google’s testing.

As I’ve written, I’m convinced that user-engagement factors – especially how many people click on your listing – affect your rankings.  What if people search for one business by name and immediately search for another by name (which is what a click on a “People also search for” image does)?

If I’m Big Brother Google and I’m looking at who clicks where so that I can figure out which search results are relevant, I might give an edge to the 2nd business.

Should you go as far as a fat, lime-green border on your photo(s)?  Probably not.  Just consider dolling up your photos a little, so they look good in that “People also search for” section.

Local Business Q&A: Tough Questions for David Deering

If you’ve wrestled with local SEO for more than a few days, you probably know what markup is.  (And if you don’t, read this and this and loop back here.)

You probably have questions about how to use Schema on your site.  Me too.  That’s why I’ve turned again to structured-data ace David Deering of Touch Point Digital Marketing for answers.

As you might recall, he’s the guy who brought the insights to my recent post on Schema.  In fact, it was his answers in the comments on that post that reminded me how many questions I and other people still have.  (By the way, I suggest you read that post first, if you haven’t already.)

Let’s launch into the Q&A on Schema:


Phil:  What sorts of businesses simply have no use for Schema markup on their sites?

David:  I honestly think that every business has a use for structured data markup.  The more that you can help search engines understand about your business, the better.


Phil:  What kinds of “local” businesses have the most to gain by spending a little time on Schema markup – and why?

David:  Any business that sells a product or a service.  So, I guess that would more or less describe every local business, really.


Phil:  As you know, I’ve said that one’s name / address / phone info is the by far the most important thing to mark up with Schema.  What else – if anything – should the typical business mark up?

David:  Marking up the NAP is a great start, but it’s only the start.  It tells search engines where you’re located, but it doesn’t tell them anything about what you do.  So, I think that every local business should mark up what exactly they do or sell, whether it’s a product or a service.  The more you can mark up and spell out for search engines, the better.


Phil:  Multiple locations’ NAP info on the same page: is that a problem, not a problem, or doesn’t matter?

David:  It’s not a problem at all. has a means to handle situations like that.  If a business has one or even several additional locations, you can use the “branchOf” or “subOrganization” properties to mark up each unique location.  The key is to use a separate LocalBusiness schema type for each location.


Phil:  Besides marking up NAP with Schema, what’s your advice to most “local” business owners?

David:  Most local businesses only mark up their NAP, if anything at all, and that’s a huge mistake in my opinion.  Not to sound like a broken record, but if you sell anything or offer any type of service, you can and should mark that up as well.  By getting as specific as you can with your markups, you help search engines get a clear picture about what you offer, which can only help you.  You can either spell it all out for them, or you can hope they understand what you do and sell.  Obviously, it’s better to give them all of the information on a silver platter, which is what structured data markups can help you do.  But it’s a golden opportunity that most businesses aren’t taking advantage of.


Phil:  Are there any ways business owners can use Schema to influence what shows up in the Knowledge Graph for their business?

David:  In itself, Schema markup won’t help a business’ information appear in the Knowledge Graph panel.  Google uses a number of authoritative sources to gather the information that’s used in the Knowledge Graph. markup can help, but Freebase, Wikipedia, and Google+ pages all play an even larger role.


Phil:  What type(s) of Schema do you deal with most often?

David:  Besides the typical NAP markup and product markups, most local businesses are interested in getting help with the rating markup, because it can generate those much sought-after stars in search results.  Unfortunately, most do-it-yourselfers do it incorrectly and their markup has either technical errors or it doesn’t meet Google’s guidelines.


Phil:  Does a Productontology extension have to describe what your business is, or can it describe the main service a business offers?

For example, in the last post you mentioned that you can use plus  But “pediatric dentistry” doesn’t “tell” search engines what the practice itself is; pediatric dentistry is just the specialty of that dental office.

[If you didn’t get the question, read the post from June.]

David:  Productontology, which was created by a team led by Martin Hepp, was created primarily to be used for products, as the name implies.  And it can also be used to mark up services as well, since according to, a product can be tangible or intangible.  But Productontology can also be used to specify other Schema types, and so that’s why we can use it along with business type markups.


Phil:  Besides the Structured Data Testing Tool, what tools do you use for any Schema-related work?

David:  Another good tool to use is Yandex’s structured data validator, which can be found at  It’s a great tool to use in addition to Google’s, because Google’s Structured Data Testing Tool does not always pick up every markup error.

And speaking of Google’s Structured Data Testing Tool, I should mention something very important that many people don’t realize:  Just because you don’t see any error messages after testing your markup does not mean that your markup is error-free, it doesn’t mean that it meets Google’s guidelines for rich snippets, and it’s no guarantee that your rich snippets will appear in the SERPs.  The testing tool is a nice tool to use, but it’s a basic tool, and it’s not designed to catch all technical errors and it definitely won’t tell you whether or not your markup meets Google’s guidelines.  I use Google’s testing tool all the time because it is very helpful, but again, it’s just a basic tool.  Don’t take the results as law.


Phil:  What’s the most common mistake people make in their markup?

David:  Most mistakes I see in markups are related to improper nesting and the improper use of various properties. does include example markups for most of the markup types that local businesses would normally use, so it’s a good idea to try to follow those examples.  I’d recommend creating the markup first, testing it out to make sure it’s good, then implement it on the site.  Doing that can save a lot of time and headache.


Phil:  In what ways do some businesses use Schema as a spam technique?

David:  Well, because those rating stars are so desirable to have in the SERPs, some less-than-ethical businesses make up fake reviews and ratings and mark them up.  Google has gotten better at sniffing those out, and most of those sites end up losing their rich snippets or never get them at all.

I’ve seen other spam techniques, such as using the recipe markup for a product in order to get an image in the SERPs.  But doing things like that isn’t worth it.  Google can and will take manual action against a site that is being deceitful with their markups, and regaining their trust will be a long, hard road.  So it’s best to stick to being ethical with things.

Even if you don’t get rich snippets right now, your markups are still valuable because they help search engines understand your content much better.  If you do get rich snippets, well that’s just an added bonus.


Phil:  Some people are concerned that if they botch up their Schema markup, Google will penalize them.  How accurate is that?

David:  Personally, I’ve never seen a site get penalized for using a markup with errors.  However, if Google believes that a site is attempting to manipulate things and is being deceitful with their markups, they will take action against that site.  But for the most part, if a markup has errors, Google simply will not be able to understand it or use it.


Phil:  Many people think everything Google does is a grab for users’ data, and ultimately an effort to make more money off of ads.  (Often I’m one of those people.)  Just for the sake of argument, what role do you think Schema would play in that “scheme”?

David:  Some people believe that by marking up their content with structured data, it’ll make it easier for Google to “steal” their information and use it in the Knowledge Graph panel to answer questions, which in turn eliminates the need for users to visit the site.

But not all of the webpages that Google pulls information from for Knowledge Graph answers are marked up with structured data.  However, when Google does pull information from a webpage, it’s because it considers the website and page as having some authority on the topic, and it always links to the page.  So, if Google views a website and webpage as having topical authority, well that’s definitely a good thing.  And there’s also a good chance that users will click on the link to find out more, because Google can provide only so much information in the Knowledge Graph panel.

It’s also been said that Google wants to go from being a search engine to an answer engine.  By marking up your content, you help Google understand your content that much better, which in turn helps your webpages become “the answer” to relevant search queries.


Phil:  What advice do you have for webmasters and SEOs?

David:  Mark up as much content as you can.  Make everything as clear as possible to search engines regarding what you do, sell, offer, or have written about.

You may or may not get rich snippets for your markups right now, but the real value of the markups is that they help make things much clearer for search engines.  Google and the others love structured data and want us to use it, so feed them what they love.  And we all know how quickly Google changes things in the SERPs.  One day nothing, the next day the local carousel, this new rich snippet, that new feature in the Knowledge Graph panel.   We never know what Google is going to do or what new feature they’re going to add, but if you’ve marked up your site as thoroughly as possible with structured data, you’ll be in position to benefit from whatever happens next.


Phil:  Besides the Google Webmaster Forum and’s confusing documentation, what are some resources you’d suggest?

David:  There’s a great semantic search marketing community on Google+.  There are also a lot of very smart and helpful people in the structured data community, such as Aaron Bradley, Jarno van Driel, Martin Hepp and Thad Guidry, among several others.  And of course, if you’re going to use structured data markups on your site, you want to be sure to go over Google’s guidelines for your particular markups so that they can qualify for rich snippets.

Thanks to David, once again.  If you don’t want to wrangle with Schema yourself, contact him.

Any questions or stray thoughts?  Leave a comment!

Google Testing Review-Sentiment Snippets in the Local Knowledge Graph

For the first time, I’ve just seen “review sentiment” from Google Plus reviews in the local knowledge graph for brand-name searches.  In English:

As you can see, those “sentiment” blobs are the conclusions that Google draws about a business by looking at its Google Plus reviews.  They show up on the right-hand side of the search results when you search for that business by name.  Obviously, it requires that the business have a certain number of reviews.

This seems to be the love-child of a couple pieces of the local results that Google has been doodling around with for some time: the knowledge graph off to the right of the local results, and the “At a glance” snippets that show up on the Google+ Local page.

There might also be some DNA from the third-party review snippets that disappeared almost 3 years ago.  Let’s go on The Maury Show.

I saw this a few minutes ago for a couple businesses.  I haven’t been able to replicate it.  I’m probably in one of Google’s test buckets.

Something tells me this isn’t the last time those review snippets will show up there.  Google pushed reviews very hard in 2013.  I’m guessing this is just the first leg of the continued march in 2014.