This is the 9th installment this year of our Deep Dive Into Local series. For the week ending Friday, March 11th, Mary Bowling and Mike Blumenthal shared their thoughts about the previous week in local. The complete video, including links and commentary on critical happenings of the previous week is posted in the Local U forums (paywall). In the second half of that video, they take a deeper strategic and tactical dive into one interesting area that caught their attention during the week.
In this discussion, we explore the impact of Google’s move towards “immersive search” as well as many of the new tests and products that Google has been rolling out in Local and how we see those fitting into a “Google future.”
Mike: I want to transition into the deep dive at this point and cover some additional links but then try to tie them together into what Google, at Local U, in the form of what Joel Hedley, was calling “immersive search.” The first is the “Google Posts” that I discovered ten days ago which allows a small business to post content directly to the SERPS via a stream, a simple stream. So the results show up on keyword and branded searches right below the website in a scrollable window and the content resides on Google, right? The other interesting attribute I saw in the last couple weeks was click-to-call phone numbers on mobile, in the organic results. We saw some search results even combining those two things totally getting rid of the pack, so you had this content at Google and then click-to-call.
And then we saw two other major interesting tests. One was an AdWords test by Google about their Home Services ad in which the ad and Google created a new site called “Google Concierge” where the user called Google directly to get quotes for plumbers for a particular job. And then finally, Google updated their mobile travel functionality and their Desktop Travel with a product called “Google Destinations.” This is intriguing on mobile because when you search on something like say, France, it brings up destinations in France and then it takes you and then you say “Okay, I wanna go to Paris.” It takes you into Paris, allows you to explore information about Paris. It allows you to learn when the cheapest times of year are. It allows you to see what the itineraries might be for a Paris trip. It allows you to see what the sights are, and then it takes you all the way through into the opportunity to book both airfare and a hotel.
This very much speaks to what Google calls an “immersive search” experience where not just…Google owns the presentation layer, in other words they’re inserting something in the serps that attracts your attention, like the destinations, like the local pack, like these new Google posts, or like AMP. They’re then taking you to the content that either resides on Google in the form of AMP or these Google Posts or airfare and hotel information. And then finally, once they have you in this sort of lateral path into Google, they then are looking to get you to take your final action at Google.
Now, obviously many times this final action is monetized in the form of hotel bookings, or airfare bookings but it might not be monetized, it might just be click-to-call on the organic listing, or it might just be to book an appointment via those Places’ Action via somebody like Demandforce. So, Google is looking to own the whole top of the funnel, move both the presentation layer, the content layer and the call-to-action and the action onto their site so that in the end you take all of your pre-purchase and purchase decisions there and never have to come to the [business] site. And David was pointing out that he thinks that, you know, a year down the road as AMP develops, not only will content from news organizations be at Google but content from your site will be at Google and your website becomes not a destination point but a data source for additional details for Google, much like these Google Posts are. And Joel pointed this out as well. I’m just curious your thoughts on it, after I rambled so long?
Mary: What I think is interesting about this is that Google seems to be not just trying to monetize its power position of owning that funnel, but also trying to…feeling the need to prove its value to small businesses over and over and over again. And it kind of puts it in the same position as marketers are in. That, you know, “We need to prove our value to the small business by showing that this happened because of something we did.” And, Google seems to kind of be doing the same sort of thing.
Mike: Right, well we’ve seen that a lot though, right? Where 80% of the website visits are coming from Google and the business owner doesn’t even know about it, right?
Mike: And then when you add in their phone calls, top of the funnel, they’re contributing maybe, you know, could be anywhere between 70 and 90 percent of the new leads to a business and the business doesn’t even know it. So yeah, it makes all kinds of sense that they want to make that more obvious to both the small business. I mean, Google’s in a battle and the battle is with Facebook, and the battle is both for eyeballs and attention and monetization. It’s all across the board and right now they’re playing to their strength and building up much of the top of the funnel functionality with this kind of immersion. I think if you look at Google Destinations and you analyze it at all the levels, you’ll see I think what Google perceives the future of their front page looks like. I think it’s a great example of this sort of, you know, be attracted to some shiny object on the front page.
Mike: Dig into the shiny object, get caught, go down the rabbit hole, get caught there, look all these things up while you’re on Google. Finally book the hotel, book the air flight and you’re done and it’s like, the complete experience. I think that’s Google’s vision for the future and, on shorter funnel things like when you’re going to get a plumber, and you know, there’s not this whole exploration in the funnel, it’s just the intent to get the plumber, they wanna be there, they wanna be there with click-to-call, or with Home Services where you can call them and they’ll send the plumber to your door. I think they’re in an existential battle for eyeballs in the mobile world where things are so much dependent upon apps, where Facebook is winning and they’re looking to revitalize search as a destination, not a sort of a way-stop.
Mary: Yes, I definitely think that they want it to be that one answer to everything you need without you even having to think very much about it. And I agree that the battle is most definitely with Facebook. I think Apple is starting to become a pretty strong player with the Spotlight search that they’re using as well and that search as we know it, as you say, is probably going to disappear in the not too distant future.
Mike: Yes, you’ll be a local voice optimizer. Mary really knows how to optimize for Siri. [Laughter] Alrighty, so with that I think we’ll say goodbye and thank you for joining us for “Last Week in Local.”