Google wants to make search and actions from search fast, content rich and profitable. They want to become the place (not unlike Facebook) were people go, the consume, they buy. Unlike news organizations that have the chops to do AMP pages most small businesses will take years before they achieve that level of being able to hand over large content chunks specially formatted for display within Google’s presentation layer.
Well the fast and achievable alternative for Google is to have small businesses put their content directly on Google and then just wait for the call.
Over the past two weeks we saw several “experiments” in the local space. Google rolled out a click to call phone number associated with a web page result. At the time these results were only showing on page two of the search results. Google also allowed some small businesses to create a content stream directly in search via their new Google Posts product.
This search result which was showing One Pack two weeks ago and a 3 pack this past weekend is now showing no pack results but lots of local information in the form of phone numbers (both paid and free) on the first page AND content directly posted to Google via Google Posts.
Is this type of search result possibly the future of local search?
Update: Google has confirmed that this is a test with a very limited number of local businesses. Searchengineland referred to product as “Local Business Cards”. However the Verge indicated that Google has yet to name the product.
Google appears to have a new post/stream oriented publishing platform waiting in the wings to replace Plus. Unlike Plus it is currently being given broad front page exposure on keyword searches.
It is immediately available for candidates in the Presidential election AND appears to be available to a select group of beta testers. The new platform allows for a post stream to show up in the SERPS associated with your web page.
The product is being positioned as a real time communication publishing & platform. Their landing page proclaims: An experimental new podium on Google
Hear directly from the US presidential candidates in real time on Google.
The placement of the stream in search is very obvious and visually very compelling. Currently you can not get immediate access but need to join a waiting list.
I discovered the product while searching for Engagement Rings Buffalo. I have no idea how widespread its distribution is but I searched on this phrase earlier in the week and this was not there.
If the final product provides similar placement, this posting product will immediately get both a brand AND a local business following. In the above screen shot, the stream is follows the #2 website and is from a prominent local jeweler. This is the sort of the exposure missing from Plus that prevented it from being a meaningful business communication platform.
Clearly this sort of display plays to Google’s incredible strengths and could very well become paid placement that is easy to use and understand by the small business. It could be directly competitive with Facebook Boosted posts.
Posts from the product are available to share on the major social sites and via email.
As you can see, the name is displayed prominently above the stream and to its left there is a link that takes you to the complete list of published content which exists on a slimmed down Plus like page.
However the posts do not support direct commenting.
When Google ripped Local out of Google Plus last summer and stopped linking to Plus, they noted that the unverified Plus pages (what Google called “shell” pages) would be removed. That never seemed to happen but it might just be starting now.
Removing the Plus Pages must have been a difficult process with a few too many dependencies and those local Plus pages seemed to hang around. It would appear that at least some of those pages are starting to be removed and the Plus pages redirected to the equivalent location in Google Maps.
Jay, a Streetview Trusted photographer, has provide a number of examples of Plus pages that now redirect to Maps. According to Jay some of them went to the Plus page as recently as mid February. All of them note that Google is redirecting the page to Maps.
Ethiopian Diamond hasn’t shared anything on this page with you. … Ethiopian Diamond’s profile photo. Ethiopian … 6120 N Broadway St Chicago, IL 60660.
While not all shell pages have yet been redirected this update appears to be spreading rapidly as shell pages that I looked at last week like this one https://plus.google.com/114820034265229080908/about are now redirecting to Maps whereas last week they still went to the shell Plus page.
The impact of this will not be noticed by most. Although one more diagnostic tool to ID dupes has been removed from our arsenal.
AllLocal is reporting that Google GMBL (bulk) has finally added support for businesses to add specific photos to their listings. The feature allows photos to be uploaded to for the following fields Profile photo, Logo photo, Cover photo, Other photos.
More importantly Google now allows the business to identify which of the specifically uploaded photos is their “Preferred photo”. Now we can only hope that Google respects that preference. Although I am skeptical.
The photos can be uploaded via the bulk sheet and then individually edited within list view.
On a search like “Where to go in France” Google offered tiles in the main search for significant cities that when clicked took you to a list of destinations for that country and when a city was selected offer single page of travel related answers for that city.
It appears that since this feature was first reported on SearchEngineland, Google has expanded the features of that page by separating the functionality into exploring and planning. In the new plan a trip tab they offering a new, animated cost planning interface that details the average costs for hotel plus airfare at different times of the year.
This is truly a rabbit hole experience and lays out a clear path of Google not just providing the answer but of capturing all of the attention and attempting to book the trip as well.
Google expanded the Local Guides program from its initial review focused emphasis and has been encouraging other types of engagements with Google Maps.
in November they started giving Local Guide points for photos uploaded, and listings edited. They even have offered Regional Lead status in MapMaker to them.
The program was introduced in January of last year and while it is similar to Yelp’s Elite program, I have argued that it comes with a distinctive Google flavor. Google has managed to engage a very large number of trusted users to actively improve Google Maps and they have done so at very, very low costs and huge scale.
And not only has it been at low cost but it has saved Google time and money finding trusted beta testers and MapMaker editors. They make those seem like benefits to the users. I also get 1 terabyte of free storage. I am not sure the incremental cost of that to Google but it has to be very little.
In addition to writing the occasional review and editing locations, I frequently upload photos to Maps…. I just received this acknowledgement that my photos have been seen 500,000 times.
There has been much written about Google now showing 4 ads at the top of search. Mostly about its impact on bidding and ad costs.
Given that Google tests these things and likely has a good handle on the income implications, we can rest assured that they have not made any changes that would reduce their income. I can’t speak to whether this change will make it harder for small businesses to compete although that has been an on-going trend.
In all that has been written about the change I have yet to see notice of its non-ad impact on Local search. IE the amount that it further pushes local results down the page and below the fold.
Here are two screen shots of the same search done on my Mac 13″ display, which has an effective web resolution of 1280×800. The impact is present even when Google shows only 3 ads because the ads all now can have extensions with sitelinks, reviews etc which also take up more space.
The affect of this is particularly noticeable when Google includes product search to the right.
Here is a screen shot from my home computer with a 1440 x 900 pixel display and only 3 ads. Note that the 3 ads and the many Adword extensions push the pack out of sight even on a larger display:
The snippets are appearing in both organic and YouTube universal results on the iPhone. To see these results you need to click through to page 2 of the search results on mobile only (let me know if you see them on Android).
Given that they are buried on page 2 it is very likely that they are a test. That being said, it is a test that if successful could lead to further reduction in pack results.
Our Local U Advanced is rapidly approaching. We still have seats left if you are a last minute type. To sign up visit our Eventbrite page. With David Mihm, Mary Bowling, myself as well as Andrew Shotland, Google, Joy Hawkins and the rest of the Local U gang it promises to be a great event.