Cultural Shifts Underlines Google’s Local Enterprise Play
In this regular Street Fight feature, local marketing gurus David Mihm and Mike Blumenthal kick around some of the biggest ideas affecting the local search ecosystem and the broader industry. Send us an email or leave a comment if you have specific topics that you’d like them to touch on in future columns!
Mike: This is different. We are sitting across from each other sharing a beer (that somehow I paid for!) in Valencia, Spain. A beautiful city, a beautiful night, sipping delicious beer. It doesn’t get much better than Spain in the fall.
David: Hard to disagree with that. Doesn’t get much better than Spain any time of year. Readers, if you’re ever in Valencia, Olhops on Carrer de Sueca is a must-visit. You and I were lucky enough to be invited here for the annual SIINDA MediaTech conference, which I’m excited to experience for the first time.
I thought we might take a little deeper background dive in this column on the topic of your upcoming talk, for those who are going to miss it back home.
Mike: I am looking at Google developments over the past three-and-a-half years and one thing that really stood out was the commitment that Google Local has made to the GMB API. It has undergone regular updates since first being released in late 2015 and just was updated to V 4.0.
We’ve not previously seen this level of tick-tock development for the GMB and this is targeted to agencies and larger enterprises NOT the SMB. That’s also a first.
David: Your ear is closer to the ground, as usual, on all things GMB. I hadn’t heard about the new version, but I’ll certainly vouch for the striking qualitative shift that both the regular cadence of releases and the target of the product represent.
Mike: I am not sure why you aren’t reading my blog on your vacation? This update added the ability to add Posts via the API to up to 9 businesses at a time. Why 9? That’s Google definition of a small business. They said that they were working on a version that would deal with larger multi-location chains but weren’t ready to talk about it.
David: In the past, Local has been the red-headed stepchild in Mountain View–one of the reasons its former head Marissa Mayer left for Yahoo, in fact. But lately it’s had plenty of resources.
And interestingly to me at least, those resources seem to be devoted to building product for an audience that at least has the potential to disintermediate Google from its Adwords Express customers. That never would have happened prior to 2015. Historically, Google’s always wanted to own the relationship with the end-customer SMB and has only grudgingly built tools to allow agencies and larger entities to manage their organic presence.
Mike: While disintermediation is a possibility many of the use cases are really great data sources for Google from companies who have no interest in selling Adwords. Companies like Moz, GetFiveStars and Yext all assist locations with different aspects of managing their marketing stack and help improve something that Google craves: more and accurate data directly from the business.
David: And Google’s data need outweighs its revenue need in this particular case, I guess. Which doesn’t bode well for my side of our bet about the longevity of Posts! They have the potential to be Google’s best realtime data source.
Mike: Posts, the API, Messaging, Websites all seem like disparate products and to some extent that’s true… but each of them appeal to a different local business audience and each helps bring more business people back into the Google Local fold on a regular basis to provide data and for some of them at least, buy Adwords.
The way that Posts came out first as a GMB product and has now been rolled into the API seems to speak to this new Google. They are testing these various products and when they achieve some measure of success rolling them out to their various audiences via the different interfaces in the most appropriate way. In this case the API.
David: Very interesting. We’ve obviously talked about this in our previous “SMB Product Portfolio” episode but I don’t know if I appreciated that there was an actual strategy behind all of these releases. Your inference of Google’s market segmentation is particularly astute, to use our friend Dave Oremland’s favorite adjective.
Presumably at some point Google will tie them all together? Or are these segments pretty well defined for the foreseeable future, and Google will maintain them as separate products?
Mike: Google at one time talked about a suite of GMB products called the Business Builder but it got left on the cutting room floor of the forced march to Google Plus and the subsequent ugly separation. It’’s refreshing to see a similar strategy finally coming to fruition. I think we are seeing them being slowly tied together.
For example a feature starts in one of three areas; bulk, the dashboard, or the API and as it is proven it then migrates to the other interfaces. An example of that is the non-binary attributes which started in bulk and are available via the API. I presume to show up soon in the Dashboard.
That being said, there is still a lot of discontinuity in many of these products that seem more like betas than the real goods. Why isn’t Q & A in the API? Why can’t Posts function with Websites?
David: Well, that gets at the heart of my question. It still seems like Google’s default user mindset is the SMB, not the Enterprise or Agency. Enterprises and Agencies don’t have much use for Websites. But Google is slowly and steadily building features that are useful for those users.
Did the Adwords reps finally get so tired of hearing GMB complaints from their larger Local-focused customers that their bosses decided to devote major engineering resources to fixing them?
Mike: I think for larger agencies and enterprise clients it’s all about data accuracy and ease of getting that data to Google and elsewhere. So while these sorts of clients don’t need some of the features that the SMB needs and the GMB offer, the API largely satisfies their requirements.
Changing directions towards agencies and enterprise that need the API and listening to those types of clients that use it, requires a big mind shift and time. Google seems to be making that shift. I think some of the current discontinuity of product is just a function of the time it takes to build and refine these many updates to each of the market segments using the product.
For the first time in my memory Google is providing a regular and almost scheduled updates to a feature for the enterprise/agency market, in this case the API. In doing so Google is creating a stable, predictable environment that others can build businesses around.
Google seems to be have added this capacity while not sacrificing their SMB roots. Are adults finally in charge at Google My Business? Seems so.
Imagine that; predictability, listening, regular upgrades. Almost doesn’t sound like the Google we knew.
After more than a decade in local search, David Mihm now runs Tidings, an email newsletter platform for small businesses that leverages their everyday social media activity, and his own weekly newsletter, Minutive. In 2012, he sold his former company GetListed.org to Moz, helping over 3 million businesses get better visibility in Google and other search engines. Along with Mike, he’s a co-founder of Local University.