Blumenthal to Mihm: It seems to me that Google could take the fake listings issue off the table by seriously investing in cleaning up the fake listing and fake review issue. I just don’t think that they think that way.
At a minimum, as the company that has the monopoly in the local space, Google faces the expectation and responsibility to provide a service that truly serves the public and businesses. And they seem to forget that.
Mihm to Blumenthal: I’m not averse to the idea of the government regulating Google’s practices in Maps or local search, but it feels like rewarding Yelp in particular is not going to bring consumers any particular benefit, nor will it meaningfully benefit small businesses, as Elizabeth Warren seems to indicate is a primary goal of her plan.
If anything, Google has gone out of its way to help small businesses compete in its search results with the introduction of the local pack and the Venice update, whereas small businesses continue to rate Yelp as poorly as any company in tech.
In their latest Street Fight conversation, Mike Blumenthal and David Mihm examine the state of the local reviews space and assess the reasons for Google’s dominance. “For me, the question of the future is whether Google’s behaviors will impact the remaining vertical sites over the next 10 years,” Mike writes.
“I am looking for a language framework that helps business understand that the idea of ranking only makes sense in the context of not just getting more customers but also keeping them. While businesses might want a floodgate of leads, there are many things that they could be doing that would be cost-effective and productive,” Mike Blumenthal tells David Mihm in their latest Street Fight discussion.
“I think it makes more sense for a small business to buy ‘brand building’ that includes some community events and link building than for that same business to buy SEO,” Mike Blumenthal tells David Mihm. Find out what tech tools can build a local brand and why David disagrees partly with Mike’s suggestion.
Blumenthal to Mihm, on lead gen spam: The real issue for me is that Google Maps is really like a public utility, and Google is not doing enough to protect the consumers of that product. There is significant harm in the deception of the consumer, the blocking out of legitimate businesses, and the possibility that the consumer public will lose trust in the whole, creaky house of cards.
Mihm to Blumenthal: Answer Optimization and Zero-Click SERPs seem to be gaining traction as concepts in the SEO industry, but as you pointed out in our previous conversation on this topic, Google’s moving well beyond simple answers and into journeys. Cindy Krum highlighted several examples of these new search journeys, which as I saw her presenting struck me as “rabbit-holes.”
Mihm to Blumenthal: The famous Jeff Bezos quote comes to mind: “Your brand is what other people say about you when you’re not in the room.” Increasingly, the room is not a physical place but a virtual one—and it’s not a place you own. Reviews really bring the need to run a decent business at your core into stark relief.
Blumenthal to Mihm: The consumer is on a journey and is close to making a decision when they are seeing you on Google. Whether they make it at the Business Profile on Google or at the website, it is imperative that your profile at Google has enough information to confer trust. Otherwise, the end user will just move on to the next profile and never make it to your site.
Mihm to Blumenthal: Google has been making a serious effort to get more business owners more engaged with Google My Business over the past 12-18 months. The irony is, though, that deprecating the success business owners can see from easy, compelling offerings like Posts makes them less likely to remain engaged. It’s a little bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy. That said, and despite my initial skepticism about Posts, I have become a long-term believer.
Mihm to Blumenthal: Absent a messaging competitor, even a handful of conversations with real customers make businesses *think* Facebook is where the party is. In reality, as you and plenty of others have found, 90% of actual leads are coming from Google. And a serious chunk of that 90% comes directly from Google My Business. Per my prediction, Google is *just* starting to push the “Message” CTA to consumers. And I think the floodgates are about to open.
“Local is a complicated world that is not currently served well by the tools of the organic world. The end of the year and the start of a new one is a great time to get folks thinking about how they might address this hole in our tool sets,” says Mike Blumenthal. He and David Mihm explore the weaknesses and possibilities among local search tools in their last column of 2018.
Blumenthal and Mihm: We in the Local Search industry are not served by relying so heavily on traditional SEO logic and tools—in our approach to the Local Pack, our understanding of the ranking factors, and even what we suggest to clients as appropriate activities.
The introduction of a new Knowledge Graph layer in the form of “Topics” indicates to me that Google’s latest efforts in this arena will extend in two directions beyond Local entities. I see these linkages extending all the way up the search journey to initial consideration and even further down the funnel beyond Local entities.
Google has been reducing the amount of traffic to local websites for a long time. And while it took a while to understand what was happening, it isn’t infuriating. Businesses can still get in front of customers and garner leads—it’s just not via their website.
“When you look at this Website growth + the Local Knowledge Panel with Posts + AMP + Progressive Web Apps, we are starting to see the outlines of an “open web” that Google totally controls. Or at least they control the profitable parts,” Mike Blumenthal tells David Mihm in their latest biweekly column.
Forcing Google to split Maps-related business into a standalone “geo” unit would foster a more diverse technology ecosystem. But as far as Google’s review practices are concerned, regulators should not be convinced by an irrational argument that indexation of Google reviews has any bearing on the harm created for, or benefit gained by, consumers.
“As it stands, Facebook’s latest local effort is of academic interest but hardly seems a reason for businesses to actively re-engage with the free side of the social giant’s features. From a competitive viewpoint, it hardly seems the stuff of legend needed to take on the current local search hegemon, Google,” Mike Blumenthal tells David Mihm in their latest biweekly column.
DexYP (and Other Publishers) Transition to Digital, But Limited Revenue Suggests Bleak Long-Term Prospects
“DexYP seems to be doing as many things right as one can expect from a huge Yellow Pages entity. But somehow they, and other publishers, need to transition to a more consultative higher-price point position,” David Mihm tells Mike Blumenthal in this edition of their biweekly column.