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Understanding Google My Business & Local Search

Google Local and the Continuing Lack of Clear Google Messaging

Martin Brossman, observing the recent pivot of G+,  recently noted that he: .. so much wish[es] Google would have communicated this in clearer ways to small  businesses. The businesses I meet are more confused than ever with the Get on the Map program, that then changed everything. Not communicating the changes in a way that makes sense to the local business. 

mixedmessagesblogThis has long been a problem of Google’s and a complaint of mine….their unwillingness to clearly articulate the uses cases, benefits and near future developments of their local product. Perhaps they were spoiled by search where SEO’s and businesses “just got it”.

The local communication issues have been compounded by the fact that local has always been a pawn in a bigger battle and not really having its own self standing importance to Google. It hasn’t been as important as search or Adwords or YouTube so it has been assigned to whatever division needed a boost at that moment… first Maps and then Plus and now Google Maps (again) and Adwords.

This has lead to a confusion in the market place. Just as the importance of local is dramatically increasing due to mobile, Google seems to be ripping out the plumbing and foundations of what is familiar with no declaration of what is to come.

Google has been “signaling” the separation of Local from Plus since 2013 with aggressive moves in 2014 and earlier this year. But smoke signals are not clear communications. And many missed the “message”.

In May of this year I noted that “while I think we will continue to see local data as an integral part of Google desktop search we may see even less of it elsewhere (like on G+) as Google uses local data (business listings & review content) to further their goal of positioning Google Maps as a dominant mobile destination”.

But I am an avid “watcher” of Google local and spend significant time reading the tea leaves. As Martin points out the job of communicating clear changes and benefits falls clearly at Google’s feet and they have, once again, done a terrible job of publicly articulating this to their audiences.

This problem is compounded by the way that Google handles local, its technical complexity and interrelation with search. This adds a layer of technical obfuscation to when and how local really benefits the small business.

85% of all local search traffic comes to SMBs from Google search. Even with the ascendancy of Facebook, Google far and away outstrips FB in terms of creating small business value in finding new customers. This occurs through search and Maps (and hardly ever through Plus) and yet this is a story that Google has never been able or willing to clearly tell.

In the recent past, Google has said “give us your data, goto Plus and you will have a page of your very own there”. But that was always a bit of a shell game.

The real value has always occurred in search. But the technical requirements of search optimization are so far out of the reach of the average business that it makes it hard for Google to really explain how to best benefit from where the most exposure takes place: in search.

It’s past time for Google to put forward a clear, no bullshit vision for local that SMBs can embrace and one that provides long term, consistent value.