Well as of last night, after almost 5 years, you (as well as web designers, advertising agencies and marketing firms) are back in the Local results in most markets (thanks to Max Minzer for the tip). It appears to be a function of the new Local algo update that was announced last night. I doubt that SEO’s are now back in Google’s good graces but regardless it reflects the big change in the new algo.
In November of 2009 here were examples of searches that had lost their local universal results that I noted in a blog post at the time (those in bold are now again showing pack results):
I just received the this Review Us on Google window sticker enclosed with a very sophisticated and personalized pitch based on the fact that I had a verified Local listing on Google Plus. The sticker was the hook to open the envelope.
Once opened I was presented with a very slick, individualized piece of literature. The flyer showed a localized, personalized Map declaring that blumenthals.com was now on the Map and they embedded our business name front and center.
As you flipped through to page 2, Google pitched the benefits of showing up for a brand search on “Blumenthals.com” and having our hours and phone show as a mobile knowledge panel. (Unfortunately for Google it doesn’t unless I add a geo-modifier… alas).
From there Google pitches the idea that I can get category level exposure and keyword search results with… (a clue: its not SEO)…. Adwords.
Despite the ironies of our company not showing on a branded search, it is an incredibly effective piece. Even if the stickers are somewhat lame Google has managed to leverage their Adwords budget to highlight their free local offering and tie two historically independent areas of Google together into a package that sells both things.
In case you are living under an SEO rock or this is the only blog you are reading, John Mueller announced the end of author photos:
We’ve been doing lots of work to clean up the visual design of our search results, in particular creating a better mobile experience and a more consistent design across devices. As a part of this, we’re simplifying the way authorship is shown in mobile and desktop search results, removing the profile photo and circle count. (Our experiments indicate that click-through behavior on this new less-cluttered design is similar to the previous one.)
Phil Rosekpointed out that Google is now promoting, worldwide, My Business to SMBs from the front page of search on both desktop AND mobile devices with a slick campaign to get more locations signed up for….not for Plus page…
… but for My Business benefits:
Being found in search
Connecting and communicating with customers
Ease of Use
They couldn’t be giving it better exposure in their world than a lone link below the search box that’s for sure. And they are emphasizing benefits not features. Their deemphasis of Plus couldn’t be more obvious than this campaign.
There are still some complex barriers for the SMB to cross to get from here to there like SEO, attracting followers, developing a communication strategy and the somewhat unpredictable nature of local search but this is a great start by Google to get business folks in the front door.
The gloves are off. Well done Google.
Now for the hard part for Google… making the whole world of local social search not just be easy to sign up for but easy to execute in a way that really does bring ALL of these benefits to the SMB.
Man, would I love to know the numbers from this campaign.
The last leg of the cross platform rollout of My Business is complete- Google announced that Apple just made the iPhone My Business app available in the App Store. With this release Google now gives the SMB the ability to access My Business from the desktop, Android or iPhone.
The iOS app (available hereL http://goo.gl/Df7kxX) and the Android app (available here http://goo.gl/i6Yybe) are mostly at parity with the desktop version. They provide the ability for a business to edit the business listing (change hours, description etc.), view (but not add) managers, post to Plus, add photos, view local insights, switch pages and accounts and even change the cover and profile photos. That last one seems a bit odd but its in there even if hard to find.
The interface makes effective use of the card metaphor to allow relatively easy editing and uploading of most things. And it even allows a deep drill into the Local insights with as much detail and as many options as the desktop version.
Missing are the add on applications like reviews, Adwords Express and a summary card of full Google Analytics. A minor annoyance is if you have links in your business introduction, you must know HTML to do the edits. None of these are show stoppers by any means and most of these missing items are hardly noticeable with the exception of review monitoring. Google has indicated that is on the way at some point.
The iPhone product works well. The interface is accessible and useful.Sharing is front and center
Obviously much of an SMB’s basic information doesn’t change from week to week. There is no review feedback and most don’t yet appreciate the analytics. With the missing review monitor and the failure of insights as a hook for most SMBS one assumes that Google’s goal in this version is to encourage the SMB to post social content.
Most SMBs don’t have the time or the inclination to post to a social network. Besides adding additional reasons that would attract different types of businesses to this app, getting those who have claimed their listing with Google to post is really Google’s biggest challenge.
There is not yet a totally compelling reason for most businesses to do so. Google has started to give local businesses a reason – the ability to have recent posts show up on the front page of the search results in a business Knowledge Panel. And certainly it is nice seeing Google increase reach for social postings while Facebook is limiting it.
But Google needs to take this whole project further than that if there is to be a groundswell of adoption. There are still multiple barriers to that need to be removed.
Google announced today that they are entering the domain registration space with a limited test of the product. Here is the full announcement from the Google + Your Business page:
It’s 2014 and it seems obvious, but across laptops, tablets and mobile devices, a website is one of the first places people go to find information about a business. But amazingly, our research shows that 55% of small businesses still don’t have one.
So as we explore ways to help small businesses succeed online (through tools like Google My Business [http://goo.gl/Ajvbn5] ), we thought it made sense to look more closely at the starting point of every business’s online presence – a website. And that starts with a domain name.
We’re beginning to invite a small number of people to kick the tires on Google Domains [http://goo.gl/pHvjoO], a domain registration service we’re in the process of building. Businesses will be able to search, find, purchase and transfer the best domain for their business – whether it’s .com, .biz, .org, or any of the wide range of new domains that are being released to the Web. Google Domains isn’t fully-featured yet, but we’re giving a small group of people the ability to buy and transfer domains through it and send feedback on their experience. (You currently need an invitation code to do so, sorry!) We want input on all the ways we can help make finding, buying, transferring and managing a domain a simple and transparent experience. We also want to make sure our customer support and infrastructure works flawlessly, and that we have the right additional services (like mobile website creation tools and hosting services from a range of providers, as well as domain management support). We’re working with some of the top website building providers like +Shopify, +Squarespace, +Weebly, and +Wix.com to help make that happen.
While we’re still building out all of the features, our goal is to make Google Domains more widely available soon. You can check out the first cut of what we’re working on at www.google.com/domains.
According to MarketingLand the domains will sell for $12 and will cover the .com, .net, .org and .biz TLDs. Obviously this day has been long in coming and long anticipated. With the recent rollout of My Business, Google has a platform to sell from. For this stage of the product Google notes that they will be working with easy to use 3rd party web development platforms.
When viewed in light of their recent purchase and shut down of restaurant web site creator Appetas, it is easy to envision a fully Google controlled, self provisioned web presence for the small business world. Appetas sold a very elegant web creation tool that included ‘not just reservations and delivery systems, but social media integrations and mobile websites”.
Both domain reselling and web builders are horizontal markets that do well with scale and both would create a great SMB funnel for Adwords as well a be potentially be profitable in an of themselves. And all can easily be integrated into the new My Business portal.
This though, could also be a data play. Google needs to know who is building a new businesses earlier in the cycle. With this service they will also reach beyond their existing SMB clientele that have already started marketing by claiming in the My Business portal and establish a relationship with these businesses early on.
The recent rollout of Google My Business provides an interesting view port into the future of Plus. It is the first public major rollout in Local since Larry Page took the helm and since the introduction of Google Plus three years ago. We can see in this product the widespread use of Plus features but nowhere is Plus even mentioned.
Several months ago rumors were rampant that Google Plus was going the way of the dodo, soon to join a raft of recently abandoned Google products .
However in My Business we see it tightly integrated into the portal. But not as a stand alone product or brand. Interestingly, while Google Plus is integral to the product AND it broadly utilizes Plus, there is NO mention of Google Plus anywhere in My Business.
In this rollout Plus is being positioned as a feature or a service not a product. It is being positioned as part and parcel of Google’s Local offering not as the offering.
Unlike previous product rollouts Google released their mobile app simulataneously with the desktop version. In the mobile app the relationship to Google Plus is particularly obvious or rather not obvious. The user, while using Plus broadly, doesn’t directly interact with it at all.
Look at this recent customer communication advising the SMB about the many features and benefits of the new My Business:
Tips for successful sharing:
Keep your content fresh and public – Share what’s new with your business, important updates from your community and more.
Post exclusive events and deals – Promote special offers and big sales events and ensure great turnouts with Google+ events.
Share beautiful, high-quality photos – Pick up your smartphone or camera and take photos of your window display and your best selling products.
Record a behind-the-scenes tour – Use Hangouts on Air from your laptop to broadcast a video recording of your business or your team in action.
Respond to your customers – Think of your posts as a dialogue. Respond to comments and follow your followers back.
The email is very action oriented. Everything is about sharing, posting and responding and every feature mentioned takes advantage of Plus but the business, whether using the App or the Dashboard, doesn’t need to be aware even of Plus’s existence to take actions. (Note that the only other brand mentioned is Hangouts On Air, obviously a brand and product that is also being positioned as a stand alone mobile product).
In the past Local was being rammed into Plus. Now Plus, sans the brand, is being integrated as a service into the new local portal as as a communication tool for SMBs. It is wrapped in the utility of a multifunction portal that increases the value of all the parts and makes them more accessible.
My Business is a product that is tightly focused on serving a large horizontal market segment – small business. It doesn’t address the needs of very large business, multi-location businesses, hobbyists or specific verticals. So one assumes that there are more rollouts that will address these markets.
Time will tell but I think it likely that when Google does address those markets the product and brands will tightly integrate Google Plus as a service. It won’t be dead, it will just be repackaged as a range of services when and if relevant to the market, the brand and most importantly, the app.
It is the App world that Google is facing its largest existential battle and where I think you will see Plus being repurposed as a service across a broad range of targeted apps and mobile brands.
Plus apparently is not going away but it is morphing.
Kerry Fager pointed out a recent post by Alex Cordes where he noted that the Local Carousel was showing for searches on professionals when you clicked through to the “People Also Searched For” results at the bottom of any given Knowledge Panel. It appears that this expanded display of the carousel is happening on almost all general queries that return a 7 pack when you click through to competitor results. I guess Google really does want to make sure that folks also search for some other business and when they do, the results sure get dressed up.
This points out the need for every business to be sure that their listings look the best they can possibly look with the critical element being the profile photo that shows in their knowledge panel, at the bottom of competitors knowledge panel and now (apparently) in the carousel.
The carousel is tough because it crops the bottom of profile image off in such weird ways it is often tough to get one image that works in all situations. Greg Gifford provides a good tutorial on how Google crops profile photos for the carousel. Given the broad exposure of the Profile photo in the main search results, it is should become a critical engagement point for most businesses and it should be tested as to how well it displays in the full range of Google’s presentation.
Click on any of the “People also search for” results to be presented a carousel of competitors
Whether this is a test or a rollout is unclear but it was on all results that I looked at across browsers with one exception noted below. Thus it appears to be a roll out as I saw it on results for jewelers, car dealers, dentists and many others.
Google has started sending out very customized emails in an effort to attract businesses to their new My Business Page. It will be interesting to see how much and how lavishly Google promotes My Business. It really is the first time in a number of years that they have a place to send an SMB that makes sense.
Interestingly Google has also reached out to the Local SEO community on this rollout. Something they have never really done in the past. Will Jade become the Matt Cutts of Local? It’s nice to see the outreach.
Google’s recent My Business rollout puts a very strong product in the hands of the SMB – mobile social posting to business pages, additional social analytics, easy to update local information. It finally solves most of the issues that have haunted Local since 2011. If it isn’t obvious I think it is a well done, forward facing product with legs. And one that, unbeknownst to many, was one of modern computing’s most amazing technical pivots (but that is a tale for another day).
Obviously Google is allocating significant resources to My Business. Given a taste of what it can be I now want more (ah the curse of rising expectations). There are still a few things that need to be fixed and some features that I would love to see added sooner rather than later.