All posts by Mike Blumenthal

Google Websites Passes 250,000 Sites Created

It has been just over a month since Google My Business rolled out Google Websites worldwide. It appears that as of a few minutes ago, Google has passed a quarter of million sites built using the tool. That is roughly 40,000 sites per week, an average of 5681 per day since introduction.

In the first two weeks, Google added 100,000 sites. Google has essentially maintained that growth rate for the past two weeks, adding 104,000 sites since June 27th. This is only counting sites that didn’t buy their own domain. I am not sure that there many of those but there are likely a few.

Every few days since just prior to introduction I have been doing a site:business.site search at Google to get a sense of the ramp up. While admittedly an imprecise measure, it provides some idea of the rate and volume of sites created.

Click to view larger

India has the most sites clocking in at a total of 44,600. Indonesia has ~30,400. The United States and Brazil check in at 16,200 and 15,800 respectively. This speaks to Google’s stated goal of attacking the (very) small business market in the developing world.

Here is a rough breakdown by country where the Websites were created (note that if there is a __ in the result it means that I did the country search in the native language) :
Continue reading Google Websites Passes 250,000 Sites Created

Google My Business Updates Insights Download Reports

Google, the past few days, has been rolling out a new capability with the down load Insights feature that now allows for spreadsheet data to be downloaded about Photos and Phone Calls in addition to the general Insights data that has been previously available.

The feature, generally available since April, now allows additional details focusing on just phone calls or photos to be downloaded as well. The feature is available for both single listings in a dashboard, a group of listings via the card view or for bulk listings via the list view.

First reported by Thibault Adda on Twitter as available in bulk and a more complete report from Laura Gallinger on July 11th, the SEM Analyst at autoTRADER.ca, the feature now appears to be more broadly available. (PS an apology to both for not publishing sooner but it has been a busy week.)

A somewhat unheralded capability of the feature, in addition to being able to download data for all listings, is to allow you to download aggregate data for only some of the businesses in your dashboard by searching on that subset. This is handy if you are preparing reports for subsets of clients in your agency dashboard.

Here is the sequence:

Click to view larger. Image courtesy of Laura Gallinger, autoTRADER.ca
Click to view larger. Image courtesy of Laura Gallinger, autoTRADER.ca
Click to view larger. Image courtesy of Laura Gallinger, autoTRADER.ca

Google My Business Messaging FAQ

Updated: Saturday July 1th

Q: Has Messaging been launched as a product?

Yes, Google has confirmed that it is now launched in the U.S.

Q: Does every dashboard have Messaging?

It is rolling out now to US users but should be in all US dashboards shortly.

Q: Is the release worldwide?

No, it is coming first to the US and next week to Brazil and India later this summer. No word on other countries beyond that. Some users are already seeing the product now.

Q: Is the chat feature available on all local platforms like Maps, the browser and the mobile Google App?

No, at this time it is available on desktop and mobile browsers and the search app on Android. More platforms will be coming soon.

Q: Is there a Help Page?

Yes, the Messaging Help Page was updated yesterday to indicated that “Chatting with customers is a new Google My Business feature that’s currently available in select countries“.

Q: Which account users may use the feature?

Currently it can be configured for either the owner or the manager but those with just communication level privileges will not have access.

Q: Can I add more than one phone number to receive messages on?

Not yet.

Q: Can I use one number for multiple locations?

Yes, the UI is not optimal and but it will work.

Q: What messaging apps are supported?

SMS, Allo and something on Android called App Preview Messages.

Q: What the f&*k is App Preview Messages?

It is preview product that appears to be an abstraction layer that allows Android users to communicate with one another even if they have different messaging apps. OK, just stick to SMS.

Q: Does the product support automated responses?

Business owners can apparently set a welcome message for their customers to see.

Q: Is the the “welcome message” available to all users?

There are two “client” experiences – one is the embedded messenger that some percentage of users on Android see and the other is SMS, which is what everyone else sees.

Right now, the welcome message is only seen in the embedded messenger experience. It isn’t possible to simulate the welcome message in the SMS experience (can’t send a text without you sending one first)

Q: Are stats available?

Google will display  the following stats around messaging usage in the current insights view:
-Number of Clicks on the message button
-Number of actual conversations with customers
-Number of Actual messages with customers

Q: Does the “Message” option always appear on Google or does it only show up during my opening hours?

The merchant can opt in or out manually, but it’s not linked to opening hours. Businesses can turn off messaging when they want to and turn it back on – when they turn it off, the message icon disappears from the Knowledge Panel.  Users can get a message outside the opening hours if the product is on.

 

Q: Once set, can the SMS number be changed if the owner, say, goes on vacation?

Yes from the GMB dashboard menu.

Q: Can the messages be responded to via the GMB dashboard. 

Not at this time.

Q: What phone number does an end user see when the chat is initiated via SMS?

Google assigns a “proxy” or relay number for the business. A customer could add this to their contacts and as long as they use this for messaging, this should work. The number is not local to the customer at this time but Google is looking at fixing that.

Q: What happens if the customer attempts to call that number?

When you call this phone number, there is a recording that the number has been disconnected. Google is working on solutions to this.

Q: Should I turn this feature on?

I think that every business is going to feel differently about the utility of this product. It does offer an immediate way to communicate with existing and new customers but for some businesses it might be a distraction.

Obviously you need someone in your organization that is ready and willing to receive SMS messages on their phone. If you don’t have that, skip it.

I see it as ideal for plumbers and contractors that don’t have support staff as it could relieve them of responding to as many voice calls.

It could be an interesting solution for DUI lawyers or Emergency Car services that offer 24/7 coverage even when their regular hours are closed.

Where as in health care I see the product as full of potential hazards requiring much more thought before using. If at all.

In some industries it could be just another distraction from effective communication and just “one more thing” to worry about.

Test, try it. If it works great. If not, turn it off.

Q: Why is the initial rollout to just US, Brazil and India?

Like Websites, Google obviously is thinking of this product as a way to attract their next billion users and as a way of making headway in developing countries amongst small businesses. Between this product and Websites, it could very well fulfill a large portion of the marketing and communication needs for the (very small) businesses in those markets.

Q: In some industries, Google won’t show your listing if you are marked as closed. If you have Messaging turn on, but it is off hours, will Google show your listing?

Hmm… good question. Anyone?

Q: Will it impact rank?

I doubt that it will. For sure not now and maybe never but at least not until Google has a great deal more data and confidence that it offers users value as a signal. It could, as noted above, possibly at some point increase visibility for businesses that respond quickly.

But it could help or hurt conversions. If both you and a competitor are using the product and they have a 5 minute response time and you have a 50 minute one, who they gonna call?

*****

Do you have any of your clients using the product? What do you see as effective use cases?

Let me know how it goes. I would love to see if they think it effective or just a PITA.

Google Messaging Rolling Out to More Dashboards

Update: Google has confirmed that Messaging is officially rolling out. See the Messaging FAQ here.

There have been numerous reports today of Google Messaging, the direct from Knowledge Panel SMS chat feature, rolling out more broadly.

Whether this is an early rollout or a late test, it is hard to know as Google has not yet announced anything. The rollout does not seem to be veritcal specific as it is showing up in everything from lawyers to hotels and restaurants but not in all that I have checked in each category.

The product was first trialed in November, 2016 and has been in an active public beta for a number of months. The Help Page. titled Chat with your customers, has not been updated to note that it is anything more than a pilot. But given Google’s recent product rollouts of Websites and Posts, it is not hard to believe that release is imminent.

The product allows the business to “listen” to the messages either via SMS or Allo. Customers are advised on the typical business response time.

Google has been giving business owners more and more reasons to visit the front page of Google for their brand search. It seems that with Messaging, Google is attempting to give consumers a reason as well.

Are you seeing Messaging in your dashboard?

Google My Business Using Pop Up Ads to Pitch Adwords Express

Many have asked whether Google would monetize Posts (or Websites, or Messaging or Insights or…). My thinking is that they will not monetize it directly but will use it as a reason for a business to come back to the Google My Business Dashboard where they can sell them Adwords.

And not actually Adwords but Adwords Express, which while we weren’t looking has become both powerful AND cheap (for how long?). Truly a self serve product that no longer needs a reseller to effectively execute….. tell Google your goal and your geographic marketing and voila you have a functioning AND functional ad on the cheap.

With each new feature Google has also increased their email notifications. Clearly they want the SMB back into the Dashboard and are going to get them there by hook or crook.

Historically, AdWords Express has just been one “card” amongst many in an ever growing more crowded dashboard. No more sissy stuff.  The gloves are off.

I saw this “pop up” this AM. With probably 10 million verified businesses in the US and ever more reasons to visit the dashboard, Adwords Express is clearly getting the push to be Google’s path to monetize the SMB world.

Which is not to say they won’t ever monetize Posts.  I would never say never in the money arena with Google  just not now and not the current product. It is always a possibility just one I don’t think is likely.

Google Updates GMB Insights Email

Google, just off releasing a raft of new products and still testing others, has significantly updated the monthly Insights email that is being sent to GMB account owners.

This email, one of many email notifications that the GMB is sending out, has signficantly more information than the previous email. Particularly this new email sends specific details instead of a rounding off at 999.

When viewed with the many other new emails that GMB is generating (notification of customer uploaded photos, posts expiring) as well as the emails around new reviews, ad credits, calls to action to add a new Website, and update your listing, Google has significantly upped their communication game around the GMB.

I am curious your thoughts on the new email? Will it attract business owners back into the GMB? How about all of the other email communication that is coming out of Google? Are they driving you and your clients back into the dashboard? What do you see as Google’s goal beyond simple engagement?

Here is the new monthly Insights email:

For comparison here is the email from last month:
Continue reading Google Updates GMB Insights Email

Google Testing Increased Front Page GMB Editing & Call to Action


First reported last week on Twitter by Thibault Adda , I am now seeing a new front page GMB dashboard interface that not only allows a business to edit their listing but to get ready access to uploading photos, respond to reviews and be taken to the dashboard for more Insights.

Google has long supported the ability of a logged in business to edit their business details via the Knowledge Panel, but this upgrade in testing, is a more visible and capable front page update. It doesn’t directly support some of the newer functionality of the GMB like Posts or Website, it is a dramatic visual call to action that should increase SMB engagement with their GMB product.

If a user does a brand search for a business that is in their Google My Business Dashboard they are presented with this new, bright blue menu laid over the search results:

Click to view larger

When you click the edit button you are taken to inline editing that greys out the background and highlights the editable fields in the Knowledge Panel like the current editor.

However, unlike the current editing capability, this new editor also allows for owner photo uploads and review responses and takes a business directly to the dashboard to view their Insights.

The feature, if implemented, makes accessing more of the GMB Dashboard easier for the small business and acts as a reminder of some of the functionality available to the business owner. Unfortunately the feature does not yet yet support a link for Posts or Webpage.

Google Local has been on a tear of late with major updates and new features for businesses in both the developed and developing worlds. This feature appears to be one more of those updates that, while not as dramatic as Posts or Webpages, works to increase the visibility of Google My Business by leveraging the front page of Google.

Google has long worked on the “build it and they will come” philosophy. That has not worked that well with their local product.  This upgrade seems to indicate an understanding that “build it and they will come” IF you give them enough reason and remind them often enough.

Here are screen shots of this feature over the past year and half… Continue reading Google Testing Increased Front Page GMB Editing & Call to Action

Uber & Amazon Flex in California; the Land of Milk, Honey and the Working Poor

I was feeling lazy and running a little late so rather than grabbing BART in San Francisco I grabbed an Uber to the airport today. As I typically do, I asked the driver how Uber was treating him given the recent firing of his boss… He grumbled and said they sucked and it was getting worse.

At first I thought it was just the standard line but he then said: “Amazon wasn’t too bad these days”.

****

Oh you work at Amazon?

Yes I am an Amazon Flex driver.

Flex?

I am a contract worker for Amazon deliveries.

Oh. Amazon’s same day grocery service? Or their same day delivery service?

No, no regular packages coming into one of their warehouses. They have four warehouses in the area. These are just Prime, 2 day deliveries.1

Does Amazon cover any of your expenses (Stupid question really but inquiring minds want to know)?2

Hah, no but neither does Uber.

How well do they pay you?

I sign up for 4 hour shifts and get $80. Sometimes, like on Pride Day, when there is a ton of traffic and no one wants to work I can get $120. Sometimes I can only get a 3 hour shift for $60. It’s not bad. I finished the run early and started on Uber. If another Amazon time block is available I might grab it. It depends on the deliveries for the day.

How many packages did you deliver today?

Continue reading Uber & Amazon Flex in California; the Land of Milk, Honey and the Working Poor

Google Website Adds 100,000 New Sites Since Launch

On June 13th Google introduced Google Website, their single page web builder for (very) small businesses, worldwide. The product had been in testing since last year and appears to be targeted primarily at developing countries. How is it going two weeks on? How many sites have been built?

I have been tracking the daily increase in the results for the query: site:business.site and recording the changes. Since introduction roughly ~100,000 new websites have been created.

This works out to roughly 7300 new pages per day since introduction. Hundred thousand here, a hundred thousand there… soon it adds up to real numbers.

Do you think Google is happy with the numbers?

 

Google Opens Waitlist for Testing Posts with Multi-location Chains

In a post on the Google My Business forum, Google allowed the sharing of a link to a form to for multi-location chains to express their interest in testing multi-location sharing of Posts.

They note on the form:

Posts for large multi-location businesses
Posting across multiple locations is currently not supported in Google

My Business. If you are a large business interested in Posts you can join the waitlist by submitting this form.We may send updates and notify you when the feature is available.