The Fallacy of Google’s “Micro-Moment” Positioning

Share this:

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!

David: Hey Mike, hope your summer is winding down to a relaxing end.

We had a request from a regular reader (and colleague) this week, Miriam Ellis of Solas Web Design. Miriam happened to notice my comment in last week’s newsletter that I found Google’s increasingly pervasive term “micro moment” meaningless. You and I responded to Miriam and started the discussion on Twitter, but it seems like a good topic to explore in more detail for this week’s conversation. What say you?

Mike: Sure. I too find the term annoying. 🙂

I see the customer journey as the customer journey wherever it leads. I see Google’s efforts to oversimplify it into discrete points in time as a gross form of reductionism that doesn’t help us understand that journey better. What is your perception of the value and use of the term?

David: Totally agree. It reduces all consumer buying decisions to thoughtless reflexes, which is just not reality, and drives all creative to a conversion-focused experience, which is only appropriate for specific kinds of keywords or mobile scenarios.  It’s totally IN-appropriate for display or top-of-funnel advertising.

I also think it’s intended to create a bizarre sense of panic among marketers — ”OMG, we have to be present at every possible instant someone might be looking at their phone!” — which doesn’t help them think strategically or make the best use of their marketing or ad spend.

Mike: I agree. If you don’t have a sound, broad strategy no micro management of micro moments will help.

To some extent I wonder if Google’s use of the term reflects the limits of their analytics to yet be able to provide a more complete picture to the business?

David: Sure, Google is at least as well-positioned as Amazon or Facebook to provide closed-loop tracking of purchase behavior. But I think it reflects a longstanding cultural worldview within the company that reduces human behavior to an algorithm.

“Get Notification. Buy Thing.” or “See Ad. Buy Thing.”  That may work for the “head” of transactional behavior but the long tail is far messier and harder to predict. Much as Larry Page would like us to be, humans are never going to be robots.

Mike: Algorithms are at the core of their DNA so I don’t expect Google’s limited view to change any time soon. And yet they all too often miss the wheat for the chaff. Here’s hoping that someday either they become more holistic or that their algos improve significantly. Maybe both. 🙂

Much of local these days, at least vis a vis Google though, is bottom of funnel activity. Does it provide any clarity there?

David: Actually, no it doesn’t. Think about the bottom-of-funnel experience on non-Google properties. Consideration, purchase, and loyalty are all blended together in the new “marketing hourglass.” (h/t John Jantsch)

It’s in these blended longer tail purchase decisions where Facebook (or even NextDoor) far outstrips Google. A request for product or service recommendations from a close set of friends could, I guess, be considered a “micro-moment,” but it’d be counterproductive for the business itself to insert a plug into that spot within the consumer journey.

Mike: Yes I can see that focusing on the micro moment could very well distract a business from thinking about the real issue that is at the core of all of their marketing and that is creating an experience that customers want to repeat and share with their friends. Who then repeat and share it.

David: The irony is that if any company owns the space around Google’s concept of the “micro moment” today, it’s actually Amazon with its Alexa-Prime integration and in particular the Dash button. It’s a scenario that has nothing whatsoever to do with the phone. The Dash is a physical button, and increasingly through the Echo, it’ll morph into a voice command.

It’s a micro moment that depends 100% on customer loyalty, not advertising.

Mike: Amazon has created an incredibly pleasant experience in that regard. But they started by removing the painful points in the purchase process. And in doing so created that rinse-and-repeat process so necessary for a merchant to grow. I am not sure that Google really gets that it’s the reduction of pain and the ease of the purchase that is at Amazon’s core attraction. The Dash is just the frosting.

David: Of course. But I see the Dash functionality expanding pretty rapidly through Alexa and the Echo. I think many specialty retail purchases will remain primarily offline (apparel, jewelry, equipment), or at least research-driven eCommerce.  But commodity purchases like detergent, toilet paper, and other Prime Pantry-type supplies are being rapidly converted to voice searches.

Mike: The thing that I love about Amazon, the one touch experience, applies to all parts of the purchase process, not just the order. I can so easily return something to them without driving to a Walmart, walking across a huge parking lot and then standing in line to do the same thing with the wrong diapers I ordered via Google Home. I see too many components of the “delightful commodity purchase” missing from the Google-Walmart alliance.

Can the Google-Walmart alliance really catch up on that front?

David: I too am skeptical of the long term success of that alliance. While I think it’s a win-win for both companies (Walmart needs a foothold in voice, Google needs a major product fulfillment partner), I don’t see Walmart customers running out to buy a Google Home as a result. They tend to be lower-end consumers who will probably be more attracted to the cheaper Amazon Echo, if any voice device.  And I don’t see a Walmart integration being anything close to a compelling reason for existing Echo users to switch to Google Home.

Amazon Prime is already in roughly 50% of U.S. households (and has “room to grow” with lower-end consumers). Amazon has an enormous head start in terms of customer base and product experience.

Mike: Certainly Walmart is at a disadvantage in the online and online/offline sales but this consolidation will take place over the next five years, and it won’t be Walmart that goes out of business. And they do have some time to fix what is missing.

But does the micro-moment of commodity purchases help Google clarify their existential struggle to be relevant for consumer purchases? I think not.


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 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. 

Mike Blumenthal is a co-founder of GetFiveStars, a feedback and reputation platform, and LocalU, which provides small business and agency training in sustainable local search marketing. His motto: All Local All the Time.  He writes at his blog and does a twice a week podcast about Local marketing. 


Got an idea for what you want Mike and David to discuss next time? Send it to either [email protected] or [email protected], or just leave a comment below and we’ll put it in the hopper!

After more than a decade in local search, David Mihm now serves as VP of Product Strategy at ThriveHive, leading the direction of the company’s search-related product offerings. He’s also the Founder & CEO of Tidings, an email newsletter platform for small businesses that leverages their everyday social media activity, and his own weekly newsletters, Minutive and the Agency Insider. He’s the former founder of, Director of Local Strategy at Moz, and along with Mike Blumenthal, he’s a co-founder of Local University. Mike Blumenthal is the co-founder and analyst at Near Media where he researches and reports on reputation, reviews and local search. Mike has been involved in local search and local marketing strategy for almost 20 years. He explores the online to offline local ecosystem and helps businesses understand it and benefit from it through writing, speaking and education.