Google Enters Domain Reselling for SMBs

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:

Screen Shot 2014-06-23 at 7.49.12 PMIt’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.

What does My Business Tell Us About the Future of Google Plus?

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.

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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.

Google Carousel Now Appearing on Results for “People Also Searched For”

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.

Screen_Shot_2014-06-19_at_4_47_09_PM

Click on any of the “People also search for” results to be presented a carousel of competitors

Screen_Shot_2014-06-19_at_4_47_24_PM

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.

It seems that if you following a given business and select them from the “People also search for” results you are shown their Plus profile and recent post NOT competitors listings. Continue reading

Google Starts Promoting My Business With Personalized Direct Email & Hangout

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.

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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.

This My Business Q & A Hangout on June, 19th is for agencies that have local clients.

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Google My Business – Let’s Not Stop Here – My Wish List for Upgrades

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).

01- Welcome ScreenObviously 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.

Here is my wish list:

Continue reading

Google My Business – A Brand, A Portal, A Platform – Places Makes it to the Promised Land

Today, Google is rolling out Google My Business - a significant small business upgrade to Google Places and Plus. After multiple years of struggle in upgrading Places and merging local into Plus, Google is finally nearing the point where they have a solid platform addressing the needs of small businesses.

My Business is currently rolling out world wide to 236 countries in 65 languages. According to Google, this is their biggest merchant facing launch ever. The product will be simultaneously fully functional on the desktop, Android and iOS once the rollout is completed over the next few days. The Android app should be in the Android store and the iOS app will be available once it is approved by iTunes. From Google’s point of view, the rollout reflects a huge investment in the SMB space and a strong foundation for coming developments.

What is Google My Business- 
01- Welcome Screen

  • A single business facing brand that consolidates social and places messaging.
  • An updated interface for editing all Plus Page types.
  • Full intergration of Places and Plus.
  • A unified Portal with access to other Google business tools for the SMB.
  • A platform for future development.

What it isn’t

It isn’t an upgrade that most very large location based companies will be able to take advantage of.  The Bulk dashboard is just starting the transition and bulk users have the pain of the change over to the new backend still ahead of them.

This upgrade does not focus on, in fact it may even minimize, the more social, recreational uses of Plus.

Brand – MyBusiness to the rescue

Google’s branding of their SMB facing products has been in crisis since the rollout of Plus. The consumer side Places brand fell by the way side, there was no name given to the local products in the interim and that loss of a branded entity and conflation with Plus left businesses confused. Google had no way to communicate where and what a business should be doing on Google. MyBusiness solves the communication dilemma.

Plus and Places arrive in the Promised land
MyBusiness Main Page-cropThe new My Business interface offers up a single, modern, easy to use interface that provides clearer guidance on how to fill out and verify a listing.

The branding mishegas with the transition away from Places was confounded by the complexities of the back end transition from Places to Plus. Google roled out a new, updated Places in April of 2013 dashboard to sit side by side with the Plus dashboard. Businesses that had claimed their listings in the old dashboard were left with a partially functioning product as Google slowly transitioned them to the new dashboard.

To confuse the issue even more a business could verify their business in Plus as well as Places. Even with the rollout in spring 2013 of the obviously interim Places dashboard, businesses were left confused by the choices, options and rules. Once listings had been moved into the new dashboard many businesses found that they had both a Plus Brand page and a Plus local page causing further confusion.

The new unified sign up process and verification process makes it clear (at least to storefront and service area businesses) which page they should choose

A unified Portal – one place where you can get most things done
analytics-cardThe new location dashboard becomes a single place to see not just Plus and Places information but to start interacting with other of Google’s business products like analytics and business view.

engage-educateGoogle claimed goal for the portal is “assist, suggest and inform” to help businesses both complete the verification process AND to easily dig further into other Google products.

menuAccording to Google most users of Places and Plus local pages has been the single location business. For that target this interface succeeds very well. There are drop down menus to make most parts of the dashboard immediately available. There are cards to suggest features like analytics and Adwords express if the business doesn’t have them and summary cards of both if they do.

What it isn’t -

In being very small business focused in seems to reposition Plus as a small business platform, at least for the time being. Both large location businesses and casual users seem to have been ignored.

This focus is primarily on the single location business. In doing so anyone that has to manage multiple pages and or locations is still confronted with the slow and tedious card selection metaphor to pick the correct page and get into the location or page dashboard. This interface, works ok with 2 or 3 pages but once you exceed the visible on screen area it becomes tedious very, very quickly. While a single user can manage 100 businesses via this interface, they may commit suicide in doing so.

Bulk upload is still is a work in progress and this upgrade doesn’t affect the shortcomings in that interface or process.

Brands still have no way to have a single stream across multiple locations nor to easily manage the social presence of multiple pages. Long a promised feature (link) this is a glaring hole in Google’s Plus strategy.

Clearly Google has been working on the (painful?) transition from the old bulk dashboard to the new, more and more of late. Hopefully this portends a future where all of the above failings are addressed.

The recreational and entertainment uses of Plus seem to have been pushed aside in the rebranding if not in a technical sense then at least in a communication sense. Plus users that goto put their local soccer club on Plus may very well be confused by the language as they now fall into the “Brand” page category. Whether this reflects a long term pivot or a short term oversite is unknown.

A platform for future development

For the past 2 years, Google local has been in various stages of being a mess. The complexities of moving millions of businesses to a new platform all the while rebuilding the underlying architecture and inputs have been immense. With this rollout, Google is effectively declaring that the transition is over and they are ready to start delivering SMB solutions on a regular basis.

Reviews, Politics and Big Earl’s

OK Big Earl and his staff are cretins. That can be agreed.

They have managed, by virtue of being outspoken, bigoted and unthinking, to have put themselves in the middle of a media maelstrom and a subsequent flame war in the world of reviews.

The story, first reported by KLTV on May 27th, noted that a gay couple had fallen prey to the posted anti gay policy of the restaurant:

That waitress who used a derogatory term is Earl’s daughter.

“She’s a young lady, didn’t know what else to say, and they just kept on and she finally said we just don’t like fags,” he[r father] explained.

The story went viral, hitting most online news services earlier this month. While the reporting has died down, the review war seems to be just starting up. And yesterday it was reported that Yelp had publicly declared that these types of reviews were going to be taken down.

Screen Shot 2014-06-05 at 4.12.39 PMI was curious to see how much activity there was on the review sites about this and given Yelp’s response, to get a sense of whether the other sites themselves had responded to the issue in any way.

I looked at how many old reviews existed before the incident and how many new reviews were placed after the incident and whether they were supportive or not of Big Earl.

Total Visible 5 star New 1 Star New Removed Old Reviews
Superpages 11 8 3 0
Google 6/4 102 19 82 1
Google 6/6 3 0 3 99 0
Tripadvisor 10 0 9 1
YP.com 11 0 7 2
Yelp 3 0 2 930 1
Facebook 193 60 133 0

 

The stats are interesting and say a lot about the review world that we currently live in. People obviously have no qualms about expressing their opinions about a political issue via reviews.  And as you can see on their Facebook page, have no qualms calling each other names in a public forum.

Clearly due to Yelp’s demographics, they are first place where a protest review of this sort might go and it’s apparently on the order of 5X more likely a spot than Facebook and 10X more likely than Google. Tripadvisor, YP.com and Superpages are also rans in this race.

Also it is interesting that of the 930 reviews removed by Yelp I only saw one favoring Big Earl (to be honest I got tired of looking after checking several hundreds of them).  This would jive with my research indicating that Yelpers are younger and more urban and obviously in strong support of gay rights.

Facebook, while not having anywhere near the volume of reviews of Yelp, certainly had many more review comments and of the three sites they had the most supporters on a % basis of Big Earl. It is also intriguing that there were more reviews there than at Google. It could very well be that when no one was looking Facebook has built out a decent sized review corpus. Uncurated for sure and perhaps less than stellar quality but big none the less.  ( Note: I am unable to load the page this am so perhaps it has been taken down?)

Google users seem to skew closer to Yelp than Facebook in political view. Although because of the lack of transparency of their filter we don’t really know if any reviews have yet been pulled downs.

Update 6/6 1:45 PM: Dave spotted the fact that Google has removed most of the reviews as of noon today. Interesting that they left 3 new reviews and removed the one review from a year ago. The 3 reviews they left are all somewhat suspect.

It would appear, although it isn’t certain in Google’s case, that most of the review sites have not removed these reviews.

It certainly raises some interesting questions:

Should review sites be used as a political forum?

Should these obviously political reviews be left to stand regardless of the fact that they never visited the business?

Does it make sense, as a political act, to use reviews as a forum?

What should the review sites do in response to a situations like this?

I certainly have my own opinions on these issues but I would love to hear yours. So before you read on, take  a moment and think about what you think makes sense in the review world for readers, for the sites themselves and for any political/social movement that might think about using reviews in this way…..

Continue reading

New Google Direct Answer Type: YouTube Video?

Brian Alaway of Brian Alaway Consulting has spotted what appears to be a new YouTube Video Knowledge Graph direct answer type inserted at the top of the serps.

Google has been rapidly adding these direct answer knowledge graph results to top of the search results over the past few months. They have added Menus,  Geometry Answers, Nutrition and sports answers  amongst others within the past few months. These are on top of the previously added Map inserts, air travel and other inserts added over the past few years. This could add additional fuel to the Google anti-trust case in Europe if it roles out more widely.

An interesting side note noted by Brian is that Google’s code identifies the result as a knowledge graph result: div class=”_iL kno-fb-ctx knowledge-embedded_video_result__/* 

To see the results search on: florida sex crime lawyer

Screen Shot 2014-06-04 at 10.39.22 AM

Video inserts appear to be new at least to me. Have you seen these elsewhere?

Developing Knowledge about Local Search