This is our Deep Dive Into Local from April 22, 2019. In our Deep Dive series, we take a closer look at one thing in local that caught our attention and deserves a longer discussion. This episode takes a Deep Dive into Thrive Hive Grader w/David Mihm, Mike Blumenthal & Mary Bowling
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Mike: Hi, welcome to the Deep Dive with Mike Blumenthal and Mary Bowling, and we're really pleased to have old friend, David Mihm back. David...
Mary: Hi, David.
Mike: Hi, David.
David: Define the context of old there, Mike.
Mike: Well, old as in, I recall standing...
Mary: Long time.
Mike: ...around SMX East in 2009 discussing creating Local U. I remember going to...
Mike: I remember Search Engine Land's local conference in 2008, and I think it was in San Francisco. So I think 10 years qualifies as old in terms of our industry and our relationship. So anyways, welcome back.
David: Thank you.
Mike: We have David here to talk about the new ThriveHive Grader. So with that, I'm going to turn my video off, Mary, and if you would turn yours off. We can give the screen to David. And maybe you could tell us about the grader and how you see it fitting into the current local space.
David: yes, definitely. So, we ThriveHive, we're one of the first API partners for Google My Business. And as part of that, we're...and this is all public information that Google has presented on various webinars with us. But one of the things that they found was that complete listings on GMB are seven times more likely to get engagement than empty listings.
And so one of the sort of mutual areas of overlap, which benefits Google and also benefits us, is helping businesses fill out a complete GMB profile. And so the goal of this grader tool is to leverage the GMB API to sort of assess how businesses are doing across each of the major components of GMB.
As you guys know better than anybody, and Mike, in particularly, you know better than anybody, there's just been a slew of features within GMB and on the business profile not included in GMB over the last two or three years. And I think a lot of businesses that we've seen come through, anyway, are sort of surprised to see just how much is there to fill out that may not have been there, two, three years ago when they first claimed their listing.
Mike: And things that show up there that Google sticks on you that they give you no ability to edit.
David: That's correct. Such as the "book now" button that you guys talked about last week. So we assess whatever we can find through the GMB API essentially. And so to start we just, ask you basically to authenticate your Google account. Well, by the way, the URLs here on the screen thrivehive.com/grader.
You just authenticate your Google account. And the next screen, basically, we will detect if there are any claimed businesses in that account. If not, you actually have the ability to claim a listing directly from our tool. We're using the verification portion of the API here. So if you don't have a listing already in that Google account, you can create one just from here. We can do the same verification options as Google. So that's kind of a nice thing for businesses that are new to Google My Business.
I'm guessing most people who are listening to this recording are probably pretty...are a little bit more sophisticated. They've already claimed their GMB profile. So I'll kind of take you through what this looks like for existing GMB listing. So this is my former/old consulting profile that I keep up basically for testing purposes.
And you can see that we grade all GMB profiles, in this case, my profile across four major areas. Those are presence, reputation, outreach, and communication. And they're all sort of variously weighted. So we blend those four components into an overall score. And you can see mine here is only 52%. I'm doing a nice job on presence in some of the other areas. I have a little bit of room to improve.
Mike: Just a quick question for you, Dave, before you go on. I know we talked about this last week, that when you give ThriveHive permission to assess your knowledge panel, your business profile, Google throws up a message...it's a little bit scary...that the consumer might be nervous about and where the business might be nervous about. I'm just wondering if you could address that.
David: Sure. So I think that the authentication message is something, like, "View and manage your Google My Business profile."
Mike: Allowing you to change various aspects. It might even have that sentence in there, right?
David: Correct. So, the reason for that is that as you'll see as we get towards the end of the quick demo here, we actually, similar to the ability to claim a profile directly from our tool, you can also make edits directly from ThriveHive. So that's the reason that we ask for management, is to be able to make those edits on your behalf.
We're not doing anything in terms of, taking over listings and injecting call tracking numbers or anything like that without your permission. So it's really geared towards making your life easier in terms of, "Hey, we found these things that you should update." You then can just update them right from ThriveHive. You don't have to sort of bounce back and forth to the GMB dashboard.
Mike: So ThriveHive primarily uses this relationship to read the data and any changes are precipitated by the business themselves, not by you.
David: That's right.
Mike: So I think there's an issue here that people need to be aware of that Google has opened the API up and you want to be sure that you pick a honorable partner like ThriveHive with which to interact with Google. And so anyways, go ahead. Sorry.
David: Exactly. Well, and I know that there's certainly concern about, "Hey, is ThriveHive going to steal my clients or whatever?" If you are an agency, we're certainly not looking to, quote, "steal your clients," but we're trying to track businesses that come in and actually, hey, if we notice that you're lacking by X number of percent, like, in this case, 48%, yes, our sales reps may actually call those businesses.
And so it is something that it's worthwhile from an agency standpoint to be aware of. From a small business standpoint, again, we're just, we're truly trying to do the best we can to help you fill out your profile in the most efficient manner possible.
Mary: Can I ask, do you have any idea how many Google partners can own listings via the API?
David: I don't, Mary. There is a page now for GMB partners where we're listed among others. My last recollection is there might be a couple dozen on there. And many of them are actually global partners like, Europe and Latin America and Asia. So I'm not sure the exact number of companies that you'd recognize, but there's around a couple of dozen worldwide.
Mary: Okay. Thank you.
David: And I will send you guys the link, after we're done recording, and you guys are welcome to post that. Anything else at this stage?
Mike: No, go ahead.
David: Yep. And I'll just say that we are looking at building a referral program. It's one of the things that I'm personally tasked with in terms of, hey, if you're an agency and, you get a certain stream of inbound clients that you can't necessarily help, we are looking at building out sort of a structured referral program for folks like that. So if you're interested in that, please do email me, or you can find me on Twitter @davidmihm. Would love to chat more about what would make that interesting for you guys.
Mike: Sounds good.
David: Cool. So just to recap, four main areas of grade. They're all weighted based on, kind of what we feel will help optimize your profile the most. You can see here, my overall score is not particularly great, 52%. Each of those four components then is broken down by, what we're using to calculate that score.
So you can see we grade you essentially on each of the major attributes that is available within GMB, obvious stuff like [inaudible 00:08:50], website, hours, that sort of thing. You can see, I actually haven't added description, because I haven't touched my listing since that re-became available, I guess I would say.
And I've also not added any attributes, things like, do I have a wheelchair accessible entrance, am I LGBTQ-friendly, those sorts of attributes. But all the other stuff, I'm doing a pretty good job of, got some good photos on there. I don't have any duplicates. Google hasn't suggested any updates that I need to review. So my presence is looking pretty good.
Mike: So the updates for review is available to the API, but Google doesn't send out notifications by email.
David: Evidently not. And that's not the only feature that that's true of. You will see one in a couple more slides. Next major component that we grade you on, reputation. This is pretty straightforward. You can see that I'm doing quite well with respect to reviews in terms of my rating and my total. That's because most of my friends, like you guys, left me reviews six or seven years ago when I was still looking for consulting business.
But I haven't done a good job of, asking current clients to leave me reviews. So my stream is kind of dead and that definitely impacts my score. I'm also not responding to reviews. Again, that feature probably wasn't available when my friends and colleagues left reviews several years ago. So those are kind of the major areas that we grade you on.
I know that there's some debate about, how much effort to put into responding to positive reviews. We do think that that's worthwhile. I think, it's an opportunity to build engagement with the customer and let them know, hey, you really appreciate their time in leaving you this feedback.
Mike: Right. My position has changed, and I think that if a business can, they should. I think there are also situations that where businesses don't have the resources or capacity to do so, in which case there has to be some sort of triage to decide which things to respond to and which not. I certainly think that responding can add nuance and understanding about your business. So it certainly is a worthwhile goal. But I don't think any business should feel guilty if they can't. But they should have a plan in place regardless, right?
David: Right, right. And I...just to... it should be fairly obvious, but we obviously weight the negative review response as much, much higher. Okay. The next major area that we grade you on is outreach. And this is really how well are you using Google posts. I'm not using them well at all. Basically, I think I probably tried the feature out as soon as it was available and haven't really used it since.
So, this is really something that we feel, and Google does as well, that you should be posting on at least a weekly basis. Obviously, there are some hacks around, if you don't have the time to do that. Phil Rozek has a great post, one of his many great posts this year on how to get around that sort of expiration date.
But generally speaking, particularly if you're a retail business that depends on foot traffic, posting your current offers or your specials, or what's coming up in your business, that is something that you should keep fresh on a weekly basis. And so that's what the score largely refers to.
Mike: So question, are you going to be tracking any API responses on types of posts and frequent volume of conversions, for lack of a better word, click-throughs to the destination?
David: Yes, those enhancements are coming. They're not, obviously, in this screenshot, but those are definitely on the roadmap. It's just a matter of kind of getting them slotted in. And then the last feature, and this is one that, Mike, to your earlier point, Google has done a less than optimal job of letting businesses know about our Q and A on your profile.
Mike: yes, I think if you have an Android phone and you are logged in on your Android phone to a given account, you might get notifications of Q and A, I think. Because I do have an Android phone laying around here and every once in a while I hear a ding. So I think that's what that is.
David: Well, we like to make it a little more widely available. So this is a feature that we're, again, using the API for. We're detecting whether or not, first of all, that there's questions out there that don't have answers that you haven't answered, as well as, Mike, this is something that I've come around on 100% is business owners seeded questions.
I think it's a great opportunity to sort of, pre-convert folks who might have common questions. You've been out in front of this one for a long time. So we also now recommend that business owners seed their own questions and of course answer them in an approved manner.
Mike: I don't know, David, with you coming around and me coming around, if we remained friends much longer, we're going to be like identical twins here, God forbid.
David: Our street fight conversations are going to be pretty boring, aren't they? So anyway, those are the four major components. Obviously, again, I haven't necessarily touched my consulting profile since Q and A became available. So I'm not doing very well on this score at all.
And then the last part of it here, you can see at the bottom "next steps." the green button improved my Google profile. This will take you into a conversational experience where we prioritize, the various things that in this case I'm not doing very well on. And we can kind of suggest to you, "Hey, would you like to update your description?" that sort of thing.
And you can just respond, write to the application, and we'll post it to GMB for you. So that's, again, the reason that we ask for management access. If you're looking for help, directly from one of our consultants, you can just click the "chat with an expert" button, and we'll connect you pretty much on the fly, provided it's during business hours. So that's kind of what those two buttons are at the bottom. And that's basically our grader tool.
Mike: And so do you guys have any early days sense of which attributes lead to higher conversions, or does that still need to be determined?
David: yes. So we haven't done the analysis yet on specifically correlating to conversions clicks for driving directions, clicks to the website, phone calls. We are gathering that data right now. I actually spoke with our data science team in Boston last week. So that project is underway.
I think our CMO, Dan Slagen, published some data last week that you might've seen Greg Sterling write about in the LSA. I want to say we've had about somewhere between 4,500 and 6,000, I can't remember which number, of profiles come through the grader so far since, I think, November.
And we'll be looking to correlate, the insights on an ongoing basis. Kind of one more reason that we're hoping that folks allow us access to their listings is that the more data we get, the more we can publish about benchmarking and that sort of thing.
Mary: So I have seen another tool that also asks for ownership ability of a Google My Business profile. If somebody uses both of those tools, what's going to happen with two APIs investing with their...
David: yes. Just to be clear, we're not asking for ownership. It's just management assets.
Mary: Management, okay.
Mike: But both have the ability to read and write. Management doesn't preclude you from writing.
Mike: So I think that if you are allowing more than one, you need to do due diligence to understand when and where and what they might write. I have seen situations where certain data was overwritten. And it took me a while to figure it out where it was coming from, and it was coming from an API or a direct relationship with Google. So, if you're seeing weird changes and you don't know where they're coming from, and you have multiple relationships, that's a place to look.
David: yes. I think Google does show what connections exist on myaccount.google.com, if I'm not mistaken.
Mike: Yes, they do.
Mary: Unfortunately, I think there's a lot of SMBs out there that it's, like, "Oh, here's a free tool," and they're running all the free tools. And I'm not sure what kind of a mess they're making for themselves.
David: I don't disagree. But just keep in mind, we are not doing it. It will be very obvious to you if and when we're updating your listing because it will be part of that "improve my Google profile" conversational experience. We will explicitly ask, "Hey, do you want to update your description?" You provide that, and we'll push it for you directly from that experience.
Mary: Great. That's good to know.
Mike: Cool. I'm looking forward to the data.
David: yes, so am I.
Mike: Last week I looked at posts, the different types, and the advantages and disadvantages. Like, the product post is persistent in that it will now show on the desktop under the business profile and has been showing on mobile, so that, there's a benefit there. The event post and the offers posts can be up to a year in length. So that is interesting.
Google seems to indicate, at least they've implied, that offers posts convert higher. We know from Joel that calls to action in the graphics versus...and I've seen this corroborated in a couple of other anecdotal situations that graphic calls to action increase click-throughs as opposed to having pictures there.
So there's a lot of stuff about posts that are worth learning because... particularly since Facebook has been reducing organic exposure of posts dramatically and unless you're paying, you're going to see continued reduction, whereas this is still free. So there's a lot of things to be learned there that I have questions about that I've been looking at, and I don't know the answers to. So I look forward to hearing some of them.
David: Definitely. And I will say one thing that we've noticed, just anecdotally, is that the data quality within insights seems to be reverting to form, shall we say.
Mike: yes. It's unnecessarily polite, David. Let me say it. You mean the information is f****ed up.
David: All right. I didn't say it.
Mike: You didn't say it. I said it. I'm just saying.
David: There's some interesting discrepancies in terms of the order of magnitude of visibility and clicks, and all those sorts of things, even within a single business profiles. So, it's an interesting time, I think, in terms of looking at this data. And we'll extract as much as we think we can and be relatively confident about.
Mike: Well, analytics is always a broad estimate. And when you throw in obvious careless data sets and changes in data sets without telling people, which is what Google locals want to do, it really makes that lack...if you have an inconsistency in analytics but it's consistent in consistency, that's one thing. But if it's a changing inconsistency, which is what we see with local, it's another, right? And that's what we've seen. So very confusing. Well, good luck with that. Anything else to add on your tool?
David: No, just, yes, thanks for the opportunity to show it off. Again, it's a free tool, with Mary's caveat that free is, you want to kind of make sure that you know who all is accessing your listing. But our goal here is really just to help business owners. We have a lot of channel partners like Comcast and the association of bodywork and massage professionals, and skincare professionals.
There's a whole range of businesses out there that don't even know what GMB is. And again, if they have claimed their profile, it may have been several years ago since they've checked in on it. And so those are really the folks that this tool is primarily designed for, is folks that are newer to GMB or haven't touched their listing in a while. And we hope it helps them, basically get more business from Google.
Mike: All righty. Well, thank you very much for joining us.
Mary: Thanks, David.
Mike: We really appreciate it for the Deep Dive in Local, and we look forward... You are joining [inaudible 00:21:23] advanced September in Denver.
David: I'll be there in Denver. Absolutely.
Mike: Great. Maybe we can learn more about this, too.
David: Looking forward to that. For sure.
Mike: Great. Thanks for joining us. Have a great week folks. And thank you, David, for joining us. Bye-bye.