Google’s Local Improvements—Posts Become Essential, and Mike Wins the Bet!
David: Hi, Mike. Hope you’ve been enjoying the short week as much as I have. After the drudgery of reconfiguration for GDPR, I’ve gotten to work on projects I actually enjoy. 🙂
Mike: Actually, the short week is driving me crazy because I have the same number of meetings in shorter time.
Last week, we “lambasted” Google for being insensitive to its many constituencies and guilty of abusing both consumers and businesses. What say we look at some ways that Google seems to have actually grown up in the local space?
As I recall, we have a bet coming due on whether Posts would still be in Google’s lineup a year later. Not only does it appear that it will be—it has become a core product. I think there is something new in the way that Google has been handling its products in local.
David: Yes, that Posts wager is not looking good for me, especially since Google’s actively releasing new features around it on a seemingly weekly basis.
One Breakside Salted Caramel Stout will be coming your way shortly.
Mike: Ah, good, I tend to like the chocolatey ones. 🙂
It seems that, not just on the Posts front but also on the many products that the company has rolled into Local over the past 2-3 years, Google is becoming somewhat predictable. Which is not a word that we have ever used with Google Local in the past.
David: I agree with a change in tone for this week. Google’s made plenty of laudatory improvements to Google My Business and associated products over the past 24 months, and there does seem to be a qualitative shift in the way it’s approaching the space.
Mike: This change has been obvious in the slow, steady changes to Posts (video and new formats) but particularly so in the API that accesses the Google My Business dashboard and data.
The API was introduced in October 2015 and has seen at least seven major and minor updates since then. Since it first launched, it has had a major upgrade every 12 months or so and a minor upgrade on a six-month cycle. Prior to this timeframe, products would come, never be updated, and then go before businesses or agencies could even understand them.
This seems to actually reflect an understanding of both the need for stability AND a forward-looking vision for the product.
David: Well, it’s impressive to me that Google is designing products for two completely different audiences equally well. Despite my skepticism of the strategic fit of Posts in Google’s increasingly transactional worldview, the product itself is dirt simple even for technically un-savvy SMBs to use. It’s probably harder to claim a Google My Business listing than it is to make a Post.
Mike: Not just two audiences but also for different economic and social demographics. Google’s Website product, where it now has built over 2 million websites, is killing it in India and Mexico. It seems to be fulfilling the search giant’s goal of bringing Local to the next billion users in an easy-to-use and functional way.
David: It’s been a massive upgrade in terms of UX and ease of management for the SMB customer (facilitated by, I’m sure, orders-of-magnitude larger development budgets).
On the non-SMB front, I’ve heard very few complaints from agencies, enterprises, or SaaS companies on the reliability of the API. There are always new features Google can build into it (such as monitoring Posts, in fact!), but there’s clearly a real commitment to helping these stakeholders manage locations.
Mike: Absolutely. In the past, Google My Business was so focused on the SMB that they totally ignored the market realities of the role that agencies played in listing claiming and maintenance. This dual view of the world reflects both an increase in development resources and a better understanding of the marketplace—something that even a few short years ago we would have been skeptical was within Google’s grasp.
David: There’s been a recognition of the need for Enterprise tools within the Googleplex for quite a long time, but agencies have historically been viewed as quasi-antagonists or, at the very least, unnecessary intermediaries between Google and its target customers.
You and I exhorted various GMs and PMs as early as 2008 that Google really needed to build these agency-focused features; I guess it only took 9 years of re-organizations (or perhaps data about who was actually logging in and using the product?) to convince them.
Both the bulk insights rollout (h/t Ben Fisher of Steady Demand) and the partner program announced at the annual LSA conference last month show a serious commitment to agencies and helping them demonstrate the value of their efforts to SMBs, not just the value of Google.
Mike: You and I both did a lot of “exhorting” along the way, but it all fell on seemingly deaf ears.
David: One of your finest columns. Readers should definitely click that link.
Mike: In addition to the partner program (which still is not well defined), Google also announced a new dashboard overlay that focuses on the needs of agencies to manage multiple listings. It will be interesting to see how this and the Partner Program flesh out. Will the Partner Program only anoint the larger agencies as partners? Or will it focus on quality and not just size?
One could argue that despite some of their still-infantile development processes, Google has arrived at early adulthood on some fronts.
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.