Lead Gen Spam: Bad for the Consumer, Bad for Business, and Bad for the Local Ecosystem

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.

From Zero-Click SERPs to Rabbit-Hole SERPs

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.”

Increasingly, Your Brand Is Its Reviews

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.

What’s the Relative Impact of Google My Business vs. Websites on Conversion?

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.

Google Posts: Less Visible but Still Valuable

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.

Will 2019 Be Remembered as the Year of GMB Messaging?

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.

Improving the Local SEO Toolkit: A 2018 Holiday Wish List

“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.

Evolving Our Lens for Local Ranking Factors

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.

Google’s Backdoor Shift to a Social Network

Mike Blumenthal and David Mihm: In the case of Q&A, reviews, and the coming sports commenting feature, Google is looking to gain a better understanding of the entity, and in the case of the sharing buttons and the new ability to follow a business, Google is looking to better understand the individual so that it can improve the search experience now and in the future. That would be a very Googly social network.

Google and the On-SERP Experience: We’re Just Gettin’ Warmed Up

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.

Reality Check: Adapting to Google’s Ever-Growing Control of the Search Experience

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.

Is Google Playing the Long Game with SMB Websites?

“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.

Yelp, Google Reviews, and Antitrust

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.

Facebook Takes a Stab at Local—Again

“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.

Google’s Path to Becoming the Transaction Layer of the Web

“Google is controlling the entire local experience—discovery, presentation, and transaction—and there’s just nowhere for agencies to add value, or make any money from that value,” David Mihm tells Mike Blumenthal in their biweekly column.

Does Google Really Need a Social Network to Succeed at Local?

“The driving vision of Google’s entire local arc is to be able to give a single eyes-free answer to any query with local intent. Social features like reviews, Guides, business owner data, and Q&A are just the means to that end,” writes David Mihm in his biweekly column with Mike Blumenthal.

GateHouse Media Shows How Media Orgs Can Offer Value for SMB Advertisers

“Most newspapers and Yellow Pages (and Yelp?) are basically ad-selling machines. GateHouse, in selling HR, IT, and financing services as well as digital services, understands that once you know how to sell one service, you can sell (or more likely upsell) any service. It’s critical for legacy organizations to bite the bullet and figure out services,” writes Mike Blumenthal.

Facebook’s Perennial ‘Potential’ in Local

“In Facebook’s pivot to focusing on person-to-person communications and its strong emphasis on messaging, is there an implicit concession that the company will not make Facebook itself the center of its local effort?” Mike Blumenthal asks in this week’s biweekly column with David Mihm.

Google’s Local Improvements—Posts Become Essential, and Mike Wins the Bet!

“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,” David Mihm tells Mike Blumenthal in their biweekly column.