Google’s calculated risk in creating a low bar for verification works out fine in a world where most business owners simply want to gain legitimate access to their own listings, and most businesses do operate within those ethical boundaries. But as we’ve seen elsewhere at this stage in the evolution of social networks, fraud and deceptive manipulation have become a kind of ghost in the machine, dominating darker sectors of the local marketplace and creating an atmosphere of distrust that may eventually prove more broadly contagious.
All of this is only possible when lots of activity is consolidated on a few platforms. Just as fake accounts attempting to engineer the 2016 election thrived in the vast and complex Facebook ecosystem, so too has Google’s dominance in local attracted its own horde of opportunists, drawn like moths to its flame. Indeed, fraud in local listings is just the latest in a long history of attempts, from link farms to keyword spam, to manipulate loopholes in Google’s regulations and algorithms.
The notion of “helping you get things done,” emphasized by Sundar Pichai in his I/O keynote, provides a through-line for many of the event’s announcements. It struck me watching the presentations how thoroughly Google has become a consumer electronics company, a marketer of devices where search is more a central feature than a standalone product. Google, in other words, has become thoroughly dedicated to marketing its famous search capabilities in the context of devices that help you perform daily tasks. In the process, it is transforming local search and how we relate to the world with electronic devices.
A whopping 64% of respondents indicated relying on Google My Business to find contact information for local business, suggesting it’s an indispensable platform. Yet consumers still trust local business websites most of all, and only 8% say they never consult a business’ website when making shopping decisions.
Google recently sent surveys to a number of Google My Business (GMB) users, asking a range of questions about their local marketing activities and their level of interest in certain paid features within GMB. The survey suggests that Google is at least thinking about a paid version of the GMB feature set. For the local search industry, a paid GMB product offered to businesses of all types could be quite disruptive, especially if it ended up gradually degrading the value of organic listings.
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.”
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.
Damian Rollison: Google’s Curtis Galloway, software engineering manager from the Google My Business app team, offered a fascinating peek into that team’s development process this week in a presentation at LSA19 in Dana Point, California. Galloway’s presentation revealed aspects of Google’s user-oriented focus when revising the app as well as its customer-centric orientation.
Google has been hard at work on local in 2018 and 2019, taking strides toward making its Google My Business app the one-stop-shop for local businesses hoping to connect with customers through digital means. Nevertheless, local is a tricky, 24-7 business, and when it comes to connecting brick-and-mortars with customers nearby, Alphabet’s core business has some room for improvement.
Want to Know How Long the Wait For that Hot New Restaurant Is? There’s a Google Integration for That
Building on the Reserve with Google offerings that have made the tech giant’s SERPs the new homepage of local businesses, Google seems to be adding a feature that allows people searching for local restaurants to sign up for a waitlist. Busy folks with a penchant for busy eateries rejoice.
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.
As of late last week, Google is offering an update to the Google My Business app that adds support for service-area businesses. Earlier in November, a Local Search Forum blog post indicated that Google would be adding features to help such businesses with local customers.
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 reviews, increasingly essential to the online search presence of brand and SMB brick-and-mortars alike, were hit by a massive spam attempt last week. At least 2 million fraudulent reviews were posted, according to ReviewFraud.org.
Damian Rollison: The annual report’s main takeaways are clear: to rank competitively for local searches today, you must focus your attention on three areas: one, providing Google with as much relevant local content as possible; two, pleasing your customers, pointing them to where they can review your business, and responding to their reviews; and three, creating a useful, relevant local landing page or website with authoritative backlinks.
During September’s Brandify Summit, we listened to an in-depth case study from Dick’s Sporting Goods on sharpening a localized search marketing strategy for multilocation brands around things like Google Posts. We feature that talk in the latest episode of Heard on the Street (see above).
Just one month after ThriveHive released a product to help small business owners navigate the creation and maintenance of their Google My Business profiles, the company is making some substantial changes to its diagnostic solution.
Street Fight Daily: GMB Insights Adds Branded Search Reporting; 2/3 Big Businesses Invest in Local Media
TODAY IN LOCAL & DIGITAL MARKETING AND MEDIA… Google My Business Insights Adds Branded Search Reporting… New Hires at S4M, Uberall, Tremor Video… BIA: Two-Thirds of Businesses with 500+ Employees Invest in Local Media Ad Platforms….
Aditya Tendulkar is about as close to the source as you can get when it comes to the strategic direction of Maps and Google My Business. We asked him a few questions about the quick pace of feature releases in recent months and the new openness Google seems to be showing toward listing management companies and crowdsourcing.
Many industry watchers and practitioners correctly perceived the GMB API as a sign of how important it is for businesses to manage their location data properly. But the progression of the API represents something even bigger: empowering businesses to elevate and measure the value of local search marketing.
A couple of months ago I was helping a physical therapy business on the Google My Business Forum that was filtered out of the local results on Google because of the Possum algorithm update in 2016. In this case, the culprit was a completely different physical therapy business down the street (about a two minute walk away).