Google Accelerating Its Path to the Transaction Layer of the Internet

David: Hey Mike, I can’t believe we are under a week to go til Local U Advanced in Denver. Looking forward to catching up in person at the event — and also to finishing my slides!

Mike: I too am looking forward to it. … I have about two thirds of my deck done, so I am right behind you on the deck-finishing project.

David: I’m sure a recurring theme at Local U will be your aphorism that Google Is Your New Homepage. And in a related story, the increasing extent to which Google My Business is enabling rabbit-hole SERPs

Our mutual friend and Local U speaker Cindy Krum has long highlighted Google’s ambition to become the “presentation layer of the internet.” 

It’s been apparent for the last four years that they want to take that one step further and become the “transaction layer of the internet,” as we’ve discussed in this space before.

A little birdie told me that you’re seeing that ambition accelerate.

Mike: Yes, I found it noteworthy that earlier in the year Google restated their mission from “organizing the world’s knowledge” to “helping you get things done.” 

They positioned this within the futuristic context of Google Assistant and Duplex to add a significant amount of sizzle with voice search and intelligent bots. Much of which is still to come and is future-based. 

But to make the future of voice happen, you need consumers with existing search and transaction behaviors & habits that will lend themselves to voice behaviors and habits. It will be easier for Google to transition searchers to voice if consumers have already habituated to the idea of “getting things done” on Google desktop and mobile. 

David: Hotels were the tip of the “getting things done” spear several years ago, but more recently even businesses in long-tail categories have had the ability to enter appointment links into GMB.  

Google Reserve has taken things one step further and standardized the booking process with selected third parties, including the ability to book not just from the Business Profile but also from a listing within a 3-pack.  

I gather you see both of these as important bridges to Google’s endgame.

Mike: If Google wants voice searchers to “reserve” or “order take out” via Duplex, then from Google’s point of view you want to get those voice searchers habituating now.

David: Voice seems to be following the trajectory of mobile a decade ago. Remember in the late ‘00s when it felt like every year was the “year of mobile?” The late teens have felt like that with respect to voice, and although many were guilty of crying wolf on mobile, the wolf eventually did show up in a big way.

So even though voice has been slower to materialize than most technorati predicted (myself included), Google still has to prepare for the massive disruption to its business. They know it’s coming, they just don’t know when.

Mike: Yes. And Google needs the desktop and mobile infrastructure to “get these things done” for that searcher “training” to kick off, and to maximize the value that Google can extract from the value chain associated with local transactions. 

They are in the process of creating consumer and business use cases for adding all sorts of transactions to Local search. 

As you noted above, we have been seeing this in the form of various Business Profile and 3 Pack calls to action (CTAs) like book a hotel, book a massage, order, deliver, reserve a table, get a quote, direct message, etc., etc. 

It is early days but from what we can gather from businesses these CTAs are useful to consumers and are starting the process of consumers learning to use them.

David: I see Local Service Ads as part of this transaction-layer-with-an-eye-towards-voice experiment. While separate from GMB, they perform the same function of directly connecting a consumer to a business with Google taking a cut of the action.

We’ve recently seen Google extend LSAs (without the accompanying Google Guarantee) into perhaps the most lucrative vertical of them all: the legal industry.

Mike: But long haul, Google wants both to extract data and fees associated with communicating, ordering and paying for local goods in the profitable verticals of this action funnel. 

We have seen that in the Airline Scheduler and Hotel Finder, but there is every reason to believe that Google has broader designs for their goal of helping consumers get things done via voice. 

David: Given the inability to show ads in voice, this feels like their primary revenue replacement strategy as voice begins to make up a larger share of the overall search pie. 

Mike: Voice may still be a ways from becoming a plurality of searches, but we are already seeing Google slowly and steadily build a variation of the backend processing environment to handle these transactions, to understand the use cases, and to extract the data necessary to find the profitable verticals. 

And while we have been looking to one side at the sizzle of Duplex making a restaurant reservation, Google has been quietly building the back end infrastructure to handle all of these transactional behaviors on the other side. 

David: What once was a “One Click Search” to a third-party Reserve partner is now a “Zero Click Search” to a Google-hosted page featuring an array of partners from which the user can book.

Mike: In fact, the (big) change of Reserve with Google from an offsite interaction to Google’s own platform has gone largely unreported. If you search for any spa using the Reserve with Google service it will take you from your search and finalize the registration on google.com/maps/reserve/merchant/

Similar to spa and gym bookings is booking a table. It works on the same backend platform.

And finally, Google has built a similar but different platform for food ordering, https://orderfood.google.com/. With this platform, not only can you place your order, you can pay for it with Google Pay.

And in typical Google style, when you go to place an order with the restaurant of your (or someone’s?) choice, Google offers up alternative brands you can buy from.

 

The above are just the tip of the rabbit-hole iceberg (a great mixed metaphor if I do say so myself). 

Google has created numerous internal destinations that originate in Local searches. Some transactional, some not — some have their own platform and some head off to the GMB:

Local Finder 

Hotel Finder 

Vacation rentals

Local Service Ads

Travel guides

Events

Jobs

Get a Quote

Get a Quote is one I particularly like as it will serve so many categories not covered above.

David: Agree, “Get a Quote” is the most interesting of all to me, partly because of its natural tie-in to Local Service Ads.

Not mentioned above, but surely looming is a Google-hosted local e-Commerce platform. Given all the recent movement in GMB around products, you have to think this is coming soon enough via Shopify and other e-Commerce platform integrations. The template is already there on the typical big box GMB profile.

Mike: I totally agree on the product front. But I think that Shopify can already add items via the Product APIm and they show up for free in the Business Profile under the “see what’s in the store” feature for that business.   

It would seem that the product category could be one of the biggest prizes in all of this move towards “getting things done.” Amazon is already moving in that space and Google loves that kind of battle. 

But one thing to realize is that, given Google’s totally dominant position in local and their ever increasing Knowledge Graph, they are one of the obvious winners in the transactional space whether voice materializes or not. 

And by building out the backends to these various efforts to help people get things done, they amass significant data even if they don’t charge for the service. 

Ah, to be a monopolist. 

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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 GetListed.org, Director of Local Strategy at Moz, and along with Mike, he’s a co-founder of Local University.

Mike Blumenthal is a co-founder of GatherUp, 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. 

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Got an idea for what you want Mike and David to discuss next time? Send it to either davidmihm@gmail.com or mike@gatherup.com, or just leave a comment below and we’ll put it in the hopper!

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