The following post refers to the content of a talk given at a summit hosted by local marketing tech vendor Brandify. Brandify is Street Fight’s publisher.
Click here to watch the video of the Google session.
The latest updates to Google My Business include a merchant description feature, which is an opportunity “for you, in your own words, to describe your business,” an update to the UI, which should dramatically increase its speed, and a forthcoming messaging feature, said Steven Chen, senior product manager at GMB, at Brandify’s annual conference in LA this fall.
“We’ve built an API to allow you to send and receive messages directly from the Maps listing,” Chen said. “There’s this really fundamental shift away from phone calls,” as customers have come to expect messaging services instead. Partners like Brandify and others will be testing the messaging service in the coming months.
Called “How to Survive in Google’s Local Search Ecosystem,” Chen’s talk at Brandify’s annual conference emphasized the importance of a hyperlocal listing strategy in which multi-location brands empower franchisees to take ownership of their own user-facing information.
GMB recently ran a pilot that gave 25 franchise managers control over their local listings (rather than leaving that control in the hands of a centralized enterprise manager). The pilot showed that the franchise managers were able to respond to reviews at a very granular and personal level, “in a way that the central team would ever have been able to do,” Chen said.
When customers Google a local business, they usually intend to visit the store. With Google My Business, small business owners can manage and customize the listings that appear in Google searches, allowing for an improved customer experience that bolsters the likelihood of user engagement.
For those hesitant about the value of claiming and customizing their listings, Chen emphasized that Google gets “millions of user searches for local businesses every single day,” which translates into “billions of local searches each month.” Every month, the company delivers “hundreds of millions of calls and billions of driving directions,” he said.
GMB also allows users to manage their brand’s Google Maps listing. “What you want to do is make sure you’re delivering the context for that user that’s looking at your listing and connecting with that user,” Chen said, adding, “27% of people that look for local information are actually looking for reviews about that particular store.”
While GMB has historically focused on collecting data from businesses about their stores, the company is shifting to add a secondary focus on providing connections between businesses and their customers, Chen said.
“If you have complete listings, people see your store as more reputable, they are much more likely to purchase, etc. So, there’s this really, really strong benefit to you as a business to make sure your listings have good information on them,” he said. For example, it is imperative that restaurants provide links for both menus and online ordering systems, as customers have grown to expect this ease of access.
Anna Kramer is a staff writer at Street Fight.