This is our Deep Dive Into Local from January 22nd, 2018. In our Deep Dive series, we take a closer look at one thing in local that caught our attention and deserves a longer discussion.
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Mike: Welcome to our Deep Dive. This week, Carrie Hill is joining me. We’ll be discussing Local agency opportunities with new features and capabilities of Local, opportunities for 2018 that perhaps weren’t available even as recently as last quarter. So why don’t you kick it off, Carrie, and we’ll go from there.
Carrie: Sure. So I think there are some new features in Google particularly, that agencies aren’t sure how to monetize those. How do I offer these to my clients and make money for me and make money for them, and how do I measure it? And I think that, you know, we’re definitely not gonna solve all those problems today, but it’s something that we need to have a conversation around. How do we make this happen for an agency? I think Question and Answers, and Posts, I think are the most obvious ones, as an agency can I post Posts or set up a question and answer system that makes money for me as an agency, but also makes money for my client as a business owner.
And I think for Posts, it’s easier for an agency to manage Posts because you just have to have access to their My Business dashboard, and you can post different promotions or offers or whatever in there. So I think that that’s definitely something that an agency could create a strategy around and get information out there. Question and Answer, I think that there’s ways agencies can get involved. I think that you could seed some questions if there aren’t any, and answers.
Mike: So I’ve been doing a lot of, as you know, research into Question and Answers. I’ve been pretty heads down for the last three months, and I’ve put together what I think is real viable…with some new technology. We’re introducing…at GetFiveStars, I put together what I think is a real viable agency approach to Questions and Answers. It involves five steps. Step one is helping to figure out what questions the business needs to be posting to facilitate the customer journey from Google to the business. These are questions that need to be written correctly, written in the voice of the consumer, and posted on behalf of the business. That takes some planning. I think the posting of those questions, like with Google Posts, require some technical capability to get them up there.
But then, the follow-up on Posts is really the most critical because, again, the purpose of…or Q&A is the most critical because the purpose of Q&A is to help customers get in touch with the business directly from Google. And Google offers very lame monitoring, and there is no workflow either in the monitoring system or in the API. And, this week, we will have introduced a feature at GetFiveStars for pro accounts that, firstly, monitors Google Q&A for agencies. So that it scales very well across hundreds of locations. We can monitor thousands of locations. Secondly, we send out an email alert when we find new questions, new answers, or if you report a question or answer, or a question, we know whether it’s been removed.
And we’ve developed…we do that with email. And we’ve developed a dashboard that allows you to mark, to note on questions whether you’ve responded to it, whether you’ve reported it, and then track it over time. So with this new tool, so then you have a plan that looks like plan the questions, post the questions, monitor the questions, report the ones that are turkeys because there’s a lot of turkeys, and then…or respond to the ones that are decent and require an authoritative answer because a lot of times we’re seeing Local guides just answering, “yes,” “no,” or, “maybe” when a question really needs a more nuanced answer to become the authoritative poster, and then report the ones that are bad. So it’s plan, post, monitor, respond, report. And then rinse and repeat. I think this is a hugely valuable service, particularly for multiple locations.
Carrie: Well, especially multiple location business that, you know, a 100, 200 with a small staff monitoring that, how do you monitor all of those opportunities for people that damage your brand, in one spot?
Carrie: So I think there’s definitely something…do you know if you post an answer, I haven’t tested this, can you put a link in there that would take them right to the website, or do links not work?
Mike: Terms of service prevents links, emails, and phone numbers being posted, so you can’t.
Carrie: Right. And you’ve made a really good point about a lot of the Local guides going in and answer, “yes,” “no,” or, “maybe.” The whole reward system around Local guides where they get points and levels for answering questions and stuff like that, encourages that, and I think that’s kind of trash on Google’s part. I think they’ve got to figure out how to incentivize the in-depth answer versus the yes/no answer. And so there’s definitely some opportunity there for improvement, for sure. But I think that that’s…you know, Q&A is definitely an opportunity that needs to be looked at, and I think the agencies have to monitor it for their clients because…if the client is not gonna do it themselves.
And, honestly, for most small business, small to medium businesses, the business owners and the people running the business, and the plumbers and the locksmiths and even the Local mom-and-pop store owners, they’re not going in there every day, and they’re not looking at this stuff, and they’re not thinking of it. And really, should they be? You know, they should be making money and running their business. And if they’re smart enough to hire a good Local agency, then this is an opportunity for us to offer them, you know, a affordable way to be on top of a potentially damaging feature. And so I think .
Mike: A potentially damaging feature, but if handled correctly, we’ve seen it be really helpful.
Carrie: Yeah, for sure.
Mike: We’ve seen that when we’ve posted questions that are meaningful, and then we’ve followed up with clients and sent them out to the Knowledge Panel perhaps to leave a review, these same clients are leaving constructive answers to the questions that show the light in a great brand. So like any user-generated content, you can’t leave it…you can’t put your head in the sand. You can’t ignore it. You can’t react after the fact. You have to be…get out in front of it and engage in the brand conversation so that you can maintain a level of equilibrium in the brand conversation. If you don’t report the bad ones, if you don’t put good ones out there, if you aren’t helping the upvote being…of the good questions and, more importantly, the good answers, then I think you’re missing a huge opportunity to engage in the conversation in a constructive way. And I’ve built this tool understanding the full limits of Google’s product and thinking, “Boy, if I were running an agency, I built this for them.” So we’ll see if it works.
Carrie: Yeah, sure. Yeah. And you mentioned something. I think this is really important for people to understand that upvoting is what makes the answer and question show up in the Knowledge Panel. So if somebody upvotes something you don’t want there, then there’s the opportunity to go out there and upvote something you do out there.
Mike: Exactly. What I’ve discovered on the voting is, one, it’s in near real-time. In other words, results are reordered very quickly after a vote has occurred. If a question has at least one vote, it will show on the Knowledge Panel. It can show on the Knowledge Panel. The question with the most votes is the one that will show on the Knowledge Panel. If that question has at least one answer with a vote on it, that answer can show on the Knowledge Panel, and the answer with the most votes, is the one that will show for that question. So it’s a very linear, simple uploading system that is open to manipulation by competitors, which makes monitoring all the more important because you need to know if bad things are happening. And really what’s becoming one of your most critical pages on the internet, which is the Google Knowledge Panel.
Carrie: Right. The other thing that I think is, something that agencies can have a really good effect for their clients, are the menu and service links that you can put in the Knowledge Panel. I think it’s very underutilized. And a lot of the menu links that I’m seeing are going to these awful third party websites that half of them don’t even have a menu or it’s not even your menu, or very weird stuff out there…
Mike: There’s a lot of that in the menu where there’s a lot of strange things because, firstly, Google partnered with people like SinglePlatform that expanded their menus beyond what was meaningful. Then also there’s been a lot of abuse in the menu world, particularly in restaurants where order services have hijacked Local restaurant listings to get their particular order service listed, and sometimes it’s very difficult to get those taken down. So there’s been a lot of abuse in that. Certainly, monitoring the Knowledge Panel…one, making the Knowledge Panel fully effective by adding them, and then monitoring the Knowledge Panel. I hope next month…
Carrie: get replaced?
Mike: Yes. So, next month this time I hope to be reporting that I have a Google Knowledge Panel health reporting tool. We’ll see.
Carrie: Oh. That would be interesting. Yeah, because I think, you know, one of the worst experiences you can…on the internet for Local businesses is restaurants and menus. It’s terrible. They just do it horribly, and they don’t update them, and the pricing is never right, and the…I mean, there’s so much opportunity there. If you are an agency and you have restaurants, just cleaning that up is a valuable product for your clients I think.
Mike: One of the things we’ve noticed though is that in desktop, if you put a link, it will take you to the actual web page. But in mobile, it frequently will load third party menu items in an AMP-like high speed environment. I am wondering if doing a menu in AMP might improve the odds of that menu showing in mobile.
Carrie: I think it’s definitely worth testing for sure. Any time that you’re not showing those third party, because you just don’t know they’re so outdated. And restaurants change their menus and their pricing a lot, especially if you live in a place like San Francisco or New York City, where you go to the farmer’s market that morning or the meat market and see what’s fresh that day, and, you know, there’s always changes to the menu on a weekly seasonal basis. And those third party apps just don’t serve up a good experience. So I think there’s definitely an opportunity there for an agency to monitor that for a restaurant client and make sure that they’re showing the right stuff. And you’re right. I think an AMP menu, why wouldn’t you try it? I mean, have one that shows for desktop and one that shows for mobile in an AMP, you know, environment and see if it works. For sure.
Mike: I think another area that might be explorable by agencies and monetizable would be a unified messaging backend that integrates messaging from WhatsApp, Facebook messaging, the new Google chat environment, and then implementing it under Google, and bringing it all into a desktop interface during work hours so that chat can become a functional, usable tool. I think agencies could monetize that effort fairly easily. Phil Rozek did a good article, okay, studies at a…dentists implemented one of these backend systems and reported that it was quite successful in the context of Google and Facebook as a way to manage multiple messaging inputs in a single backend environment.
I see messaging…one of the things I learned in my research about Q&A is a lot of consumers mistake it for a real-time system. And then, subsequently, “Oh, I have a toothache. Can I make an appointment?” And they get annoyed that the dentist doesn’t respond immediately. I think if you’re seeing a lot of that kind of Q&A on the Knowledge Panel, you should consider turning on the Google messaging product, and building a backend that’s robust enough that a business can actually monitor and interact with it.
Carrie: For sure. I think there’s a lot of opportunity around live chat. I’m a big fan of it. I don’t like talking on the phone. I’m not a phone person. So if I can live chat with you to set something up or whatever, I’m gonna do it. And the flip side of that is if you have it and you have it on your website or whatever, make sure it’s manned. Make sure that it’s on. There’s nothing more frustrating than going to a website and wanting to live chat with them and it’s, you know, 10:00 on a Monday, and it’s like, you know, nobody’s available. Why do you have it then? You know, that’s real frustrating. So I think there’s definitely an opportunity for a dashboard where you could monitor all of those features in one spot.
And then share it. So maybe I’m monitoring for the first couple hours of the day, and then I have a meeting. So somebody else needs to sign in and monitor it. So it’s not just having the dashboard, but making it convenient for, not just agencies to manage it, but maybe a business owner would manage their own, depending upon, you know…like we talked about last week in Local, what’s the best voice to monitor that? Sometimes an agency can’t answer those Q&A questions or can’t answer those messaging questions for the business owner, but making an environment where the business owner can easily and simply manage that, I think, is definitely an opportunity out there.
I think there’s a lot of opportunity around a lot of products. I think Google Analytics has become so stupidly complicated. And it’s great for those of us that love data and like to really dig into things and get granular with it. But for the business owner, it’s just a quagmire of confusion in my opinion, in my experience. You know, they get in there, and they’re like, “Oh, look at all these, what’s the session?” And they’re lost. Or they’re 16 levels in and looking at something that is absolutely not relevant to anything they’re doing. So I think there’s a lot of opportunity for agencies to create dashboards and sell them to their clients, or make them available as part of their monthly retainer or whatever, to really simplify data down for the client side, but there’s also an opportunity there to simplify data or to streamline data for yourself . “Am I making money? Did I do this thing, and did it make money?”
I think there’s a lot of opportunity there because a lot of agencies have this already, and they get it. But a lot of them don’t have somebody that is 100% analytics dedicated, and so they do what the business owner does. They log in, and they click around until they find that one report they really like.
Mike: I think there’s a couple of problems on the analytics side. One is it’s not easily sellable to the business. There aren’t many reports that most business owners, despite what they may say, really wanna read, nor are they formatted in a way that they wanna accept it. The other is that the data currently is in a number of different silos. For example, there’s analytics from your website. But website, as I saw on a case study I did, was only 25% of the key performance indicators. Seventy percent were occurring in Google Local. Well, if that’s the case, how do you integrate those two reports in an easy, simplified way, I think…and if you do integrate them in an easy, simplified way, how do you monetize them effectively? So there are some barriers because I don’t think that most businesses really, even if they say they do, they typically don’t wanna look at a lot of reporting detail.
Carrie: No, they don’t.
Mike: And so it becomes very difficult to strike a balance about what it costs you to set up a report, deliver the report, and then be able to build for the report in a way that keeps the customer happy. I think there are some opportunities. I think you have to be really careful about what’s included in the report, and be sure that there’s high level summaries.
Carrie: Summaries. And, honestly, if it’s shiny and it looks great, they love it. And that feeds into Google Data Studio. You know, it’s definitely not for novices, but you can build really cool reports that pull in real-time data that are very shiny. In my experience, the business owners love them because it’s like you could build a one-page report that gives them five data points that they care about because, let’s be honest, what you and I care about as marketers and what the business owner cares about as the business owner are very likely two very different things. We always talked about keyword research back in the day, the CEO list. So that was the list the CEO wanted to show up for, but then, us as marketers, we always talked about, “Okay, yeah, but this is the list that makes you money.” And they’re two different things.
And I think that having that shiny report that shows your customer or your client, “Hey, this is all the stuff that happened this month,” in a very concise way, really does a lot for them feeling like their agency is working for them. But you’re right. You have to put those explanations in there. And it’s not just create a report and send it out every month. There’s a boiler plate. You’ve got to put those, you know, “This is how I interpret this data.” That’s the piece, I think, that makes it monetizable and different from what everybody else just sort of spitting out a monthly report that has no explanation on it, and I think that’s the wrong way to go about it because I don’t think your customers are reading them, and I don’t think that they’re finding any value in that for the most part.
Mike: On the very low end, I’ve thought that…and particularly with the integration with posts, that Google websites might offer entrée into the very low end of the marketplace, if that’s where you wanna be playing. A lot of new small businesses end up creating just a Facebook page, and that page dramatically limits their exposure to new customers that might find them through reviews and search. And I think, particularly now that websites integrated with Google Posts, you can create a very, very low end product that…a place to host to post, which is a Google website, that could show up in search, where you can then provide an ongoing posting assistance to them so that they could repost or post into that environment and as a sort of… The product, as it sits now, is just above minimum viable product. It’s very low end. But I see it as evolving over time. And so, for somebody who’s looking at the low end, it may be, when tied together with Posts, may be an opportunity to have a small retaining income over time as a stepping stone.
Carrie: For sure. And I think, as a stepping stone, it’s a great opportunity. You know, I’ve worked with some really small businesses and startups that, you know, the plumber got laid off and wants to go out on his own, and knows he needs a web page but has like zero money to invest in marketing. And I think that that’s a good place to start, a Facebook page, a Google website, some posts and a little bit of messaging. If they could integrate all that together and you could build that for them or help them down the right path, there’s definitely something monetizable there. It’s not gonna make you rich, but there’s definitely something, you know, there that could get those little guys started out. And then when he starts getting busier and he wants, “Oh, I wanna put this on my website. I want this.” Okay, that’s when we need to talk about the next step. The next step is not this. It’s the next thing. It’s a, quote, you know, grown-up website.
Mike: I also see opportunity in this year, stepping outside of the Facebook-Google bubbles. There are two areas where I see that as possible. One is David Mihm’s new product, Tidings, which is a super simple way to scale and automate email communications. Email has proven to be one of the, sort of, high ROI returns. A lot of businesses have trouble getting it together, to do it on a monthly or quarterly basis. This product can automate by pulling Facebook feed, RSS feeds that are industry-specific, and automatically generating. I think it’s a possibility for agencies to step into that, to make sure…to help the business build. It also integrates automatically with MailChimp, which is free. So it’s an opportunity for an agency to step into that, integrate it, and make sure that it happens once a month on behalf of the small business.
Carrie: Yeah, I love Tidings. I think it’s so easy to use that it’s definitely an opportunity for an agency to launch a newsletter for a client very quickly, very easily. And then the client has something tangible, you know, that you did this thing for them, and they love it, and their customers are calling them about whatever is in the newsletter. There’s a lot of opportunity there I think.
Mike: Yeah, and it’s outside of the Google-Facebook bubble, so I think it will have ongoing sustainable value. And in a shameless self-plug, I would suggest that GetFiveStars does much the same thing. Outside of the Google-Facebook bubble, we allow tracking of quality and surveys for the small business. We allow integration of first party reviews into a small business website for ongoing content generation. We monitor, in some accounts, up to 10 review sites. We monitor Twitter. We monitor Google Q&A so that we can sort of provide a health view of the business. And so I think that sort of expanded view of reputation, not just getting new reviews, which I think is important, but expanding it to sort of the whole sphere of reputation. I think it’s a valuable service that can be monetized by agencies at scale. We have agencies…
Carrie: Well, and it’s…
Mike: Go ahead, sorry.
Carrie: Yeah, and I think it’s really cool that you can have a product, like GetFiveStars and make it niche-specific by adding in, like if I’m in the travel industry, I wanna, you know, generate more reviews at Expedia and Trip Advisor. So I can put that into the system. I’m not just stuck in the, you know, Google, Facebook, Yelp.
Mike: And we’ve dramatically upgraded our monitoring as well. We are now monitoring, like I said, 30 sites plus Twitter and Google Q&A in the Pro plan, and you can have a lot of those. So we also will monitor vertical sites as well. So it’s a way of a service so that you can sort of take at scale. We have agencies using our product that chart…that do it on a do-it-for-me basis and are making great margins and spending, you know, sometime every month, but not a killer amount, well within the margins.
Carrie: Well, and the barrier to entry is pretty low as far as time. It’s pretty quick to set up and…
Carrie: …a monthly upload, you know, maybe get an email list once a month of new clients, and upload that and solicit those reviews. Or, hopefully, more than monthly, but, you know…and because it’s customizable to the vertical, for an agency, a lot of agencies are very vertical-specific, but a lot of them aren’t. You know, I have a guy that’s an automotive. I’ve got a travel business. I’ve got a chemical manufacturer. So you wanna be able to have a product that you can aim at those niches and not have to have three different products to do the same thing. So I think there’s a lot of opportunity for agencies. Or even SAS providers to build those platforms that help agencies do their job better, but as also, you know, you can create it for multiple verticals with one platform. I think there’s a lot of opportunity out there.
Mike: And an opportunity for integration. I mean, Tidings works with MailChimp through the API. GetFiveStars works with MailChimp through Zapier, so you can create an integrated system between email and review monitoring and reputation development, and integrate it. So I think there’s opportunity there. So let’s just…let me ask you this last question in closing. So you run a small agency. What product are you gonna bring in this year that you weren’t doing last year, that you see as a potential moneymaker?
Carrie: I definitely think the biggest one is gonna be this Google Q&A. And, you know, full disclosure, I do resell GetFiveStars because it’s the best I think. But I think that there…the exposure to the brand is not being talked about enough, and I think that as a small agency who basically handles small business owners, they don’t have time to look at this thing constantly. And so I think monitoring what’s going on in that Knowledge Panel, Q&A, reviews, messaging, if it ever becomes available. Is the video going there? Is it not there? Is the menu right? Are the services right? Who’s pulling… I think that that opportunity, for me as an agency is a big one, you know, as far as putting together a package that I can offer to my clients that’s gonna make me some money and make them some money, and resonate with them.
I think we have to show them the pain points to do that. And I think the best way to sell something like this, is to say, you know, I don’t want them to be hurt before they decide to buy it, but I definitely need to show them, “Hey, this is what could happen,” you know. Make it scary. And then, as an agency, I have that door open then to sell them that monitoring product. That, and, you know, maybe one little small tick below it, but I think that Tidings is definitely a big opportunity because nobody does email marketing. If you don’t have an in-house email marketing person that does it for you and that’s their job, I have not found a medium to small business that is doing email marketing well and consistently. They just don’t…it’s last minute hair-on-fire, “Oh my god, I got to get something out. There’s typos in it. They didn’t put the link where the link should be.” You know, I think that there’s a lot of opportunity there to make it easy on them and easy on me as an agency, but still be able to make some money off of it.
Mike: All right. Well, with that, we’ll call it a wrap. I wanna thank you for joining us, for the Deep Dive in Local, and, hopefully, our listeners will join us again next week for continuing the conversation. Thank you very much, Carrie.
Carrie: Bye. Thanks.