This is our Deep Dive Into Local from October 2nd, 2017. 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: Hi, welcome to the Deep Dive with Mike and Mary, and this week we have Krystal Taing, the Listings Manager at Rio SEO. We’re going to be talking about getting your business listing ready for the holiday, particularly focusing on Google GMB. Just a note before we get started about Rio SEO — they’re an open, local platform. It’s a multifunction, local solution dashboard, sort of all-in-one for the enterprise. You’ve probably heard of them if you’re in the space, but if not — nice people, nice products. So with that, let’s kick it off. And so what do you think are the most important items to think about as you’re preparing your GMB listings for the coming holiday days?
Krystal: So…yes. I think some of the most important items to pay attention to are your foundational pieces. With the holidays, most important number one is going to be your hours. Consumers are going to expect that you have accurate information on your listing, and when they’re preparing their shopping trips, you know, holiday shopping, the number one is going to be accurate hour information with those bearing schedules, extended hours, and holidays. That’s definitely top of mind for all local businesses, small and enterprise. In addition to that, just keeping your account healthy, you know? Take care of your duplicates and your ownership conflicts now before you get to the holiday so that you can control that information.
Mike: Just a note on the hours, two things I would add. One is you want to be sure that your website reflects these hours as exactly the same as the GMB because Google will frequently overwrite GMB hours with website hours. And secondly, you want to be aware of what they call “special hours,” because if you’re open on any of the eves or day-ofs the holiday, Google might put a warning up there that…I can’t remember what the warning says these days, but for people to double check, but you want to remove that anxiety from people. So there’s a special hours feature which you can actually do well ahead of time. I think you can adjust special hours full year in advance.
Mary: And I think people need to realize that it’s definitely not too early to be doing these things. The other thing I think you want to make sure is correct is the driving directions as well as your map marker.
Mike: And so you were covering foundational stuff when I so rudely interrupted. My apologies. Go ahead.
Krystal: No worries. No worries. So exactly as Mary said, you know, do your map pin audits now, especially if you’re located in a mall or a shopping center, make sure that’s as accurate as possible … you know, Street View is up to date. If you are able to add storefront images to help users find you easier, that’s imperative to have taken care of before the holidays.
Mary: And I think too that a lot of businesses who you don’t necessarily think of as being impacted that much by the holidays really are. And that there’s a lot of things like carpet cleaners, people who are expecting company, they’re having big parties there. They want their dining room painted. They want their carpets cleaned. They want nice Christmas lights put up outside their house. So now is the time for those types of businesses to be getting that information out there that, “Hey, we do this,” and kind of reminding people. And I think this new Posts feature is a great way to let people know about some of those things.
Mike: Before we get into Posts, I want to just cover one other foundational item, and that is photographs, right? It’s a huge opportunity to refresh your photographs, make ’em current, make ’em attractive. You want to do a photo audit, as well, where you look at your profile photo across multiple devices because Google has this tendency to swap ’em out, so you want to be sure all your photos are good. But photos are a huge conversion, you know, optimization factor where people make a decision in a split second these days on the front page of Google, and having great photos can make all the difference in you and your competitor. So you want to be sure that you take some time and update yours.
Krystal: Exactly. iPhone images are awesome too, smart phone…it’s as easy as that. You don’t even have to have professional, retouched photos.
Mike: And Google’s now supporting, at least on Android, you can actually do short videos that you can upload. Can’t do it through the GMB yet, but you can do it to an Android client whereas you’ve got some unusual Christmas display, you could videotape and upload it to the local Knowledge Panel as a consumer via mobile. So you were mentioning posts, Mary. I think that’s a great topic for a holiday. Why don’t you lead that off?
Mary: Well, Posts just seemed to be this huge opportunity for small businesses right now. Right now, right today between now and Christmas is, you know, the time when it’s going to be a real sweet spot for businesses who jump on it. Because by this time next year, I would think most businesses would be doing Posts. But, yeah, again I think there’s a lot of ways that businesses who don’t think they can use this type of feature, they can. I mean, not just sales and discounts, but suggestions for the, you know, the gearhead dad who has everything, suggestions for types of gifts for different types of personas.
I think gift certificates are something that could be applicable to any small business, and they’re also something that help you compete with that Amazon elephant in the room. Now, we all used to compete with Walmart, now we’re all competing with Walmart and Amazon. So what do we need to do to attract people who are used to Amazon shopping?
Mike: Interesting on the “Toys for Big Boys” front, I thought which is always a Christmas gift topic. I thought B&H Photo has always done a great job of pitching interesting products via Post without it seeming like a salesman screaming at you, which I think is a danger with Posts in the hands of the wrong person.
Mike: What would you add, Krystal, to the Post conversation?
Krystal: So I think, since we deal with enterprise-level businesses, everyone that has 50-plus locations, Posts has been a topic to discuss and we’ll test it, but it’s still done at the individual location level. So that’s a…
Mike: And a pain point.
Krystal: Exactly. But we’ve definitely tested it. Give us 10 markets and we’ll put up some Posts. And I think that was our suggestion as well is, let’s make sure it’s not pitching sales-y, you know, type of content. We want to highlight items and lines that users are going to be excited about. So I think it’s, as you mentioned, a fine line. Make sure you’re not pushing, too promotional content on the post, but load great images, have really helpful details. I think that’s the best way to utilize Posts.
Mary: And give people creative suggestions. I know the people that lived downstairs from me, the last year she was quite pregnant during this time, and a lot of her relatives got together and gave them a Blue Apron subscription for a year. And that is something that they appreciate every week of the entire year. So that’s kind of thing that if you can put these ideas in people’s minds that you can make sales.
Mike: And you can tie the photo suggestion I made earlier in with your post, so you could do a single photo shoot that you would create great photos for your post. And then simultaneously make sure that they appear in your GMB so that you refresh your GMB images. Just a note on Blue Apron, Mary, we got their three-pack and I found it very stressful following these many instructions in this little time. I’m a great short-order cook. I put a fresh meal on the table in 35 minutes, but I do it without instructions. And this was like, “Oh, I gotta do this, and I gotta do that.” It’s like a little stressful for this old fart, so I don’t know. Anyways, different topic.
Mary: Yeah. And then, you know, as I said that we have to think about what are you competing against when you’re thinking about Amazon? So if there’s any way you can offer free shipping, you know, “Order now. We’ll get it there in time for Christmas, and we’ll be able to pay the cheap shipping rates and give you free shipping,” even if you can’t offer next-day or two-day shipping. Gift packaging or gift cards to go along with it.
Returns, big issue when you’re shopping for other people. So I would be thinking if I had a product, I would be thinking of how can I make my customers’ journey to buying from me rather than Amazon less painful for sure. And then you can also start suggesting at the right time personalized-type gifts — custom golf clubs, or embroidered clothing, or even like family portraits that might be a good gift to give parents and grandparents.
As I said, I just think that Post is a huge opportunity this holiday season, and that every single business should be able to find a way to cash in on that, even the people that are going to clean up the mess afterwards, maybe.
Mike: Right. Right. Yeah, even like tourism and travel, for example, right now if you’re looking at a hotel, they could be pitching a package as a gift for Christmas. Good idea.
So you mentioned that you’re testing it. Krystal, you’re testing this from multi-locations at this point. I mean, Google currently doesn’t have an API for this, so it really isn’t a scalable solution. So what kind of tests are you trying? What have you seen? What are the results you’re seeing with Posts from multi-location? What kind of interactions are you getting? What kind of topics do you find do best in a multi-location test scenario? It’s a great season to test because if you’re going to get activity on it and test its value, probably now is the time.
Krystal: Yeah. So, we actually first started testing Posts at the first round of hurricanes to show that locations were closed. Because on Google you can change the hours and you can change some of the statuses, but it doesn’t really give you the details that a user might be expecting. So that was our first test.
Mike: And that’s a great idea.
Krystal: Yeah. We didn’t plan for it but we said, hey, we actually have this opportunity. It is a small piece of locations. It’s not all of them so that’s where we started testing it. So there we didn’t really add the tracking parameters to the URLs. There wasn’t a link to “Buy now”, but now that we’re past that, we are retesting Halloween collections and events that are going on in store. We’re using the Post to really highlight those. Maybe there’s a new collection launching in store, so we’ve been doing that. And we’ve been seeing that in some cases, getting three times more clicks when there’s a post on the location. Not across the board. We still have a lot of details to work out and refine, but it’s definitely more engaging. It shows great on mobile specifically, so we’ve definitely been encouraging a lot more.
Mike: And as you’re pointing out, UTM codes work great there, and I think that any agency or small business should learn what… If it’s a small business, learn what UTM code is and attach it so that you can look in your analytics and understand how much web traffic you’re getting in a broader sense. I mean, Google will allow you to add a link to it that can take them to the website, but I think it’s important that you add tracking codes to it, as well.
Krystal: Yeah. Once a post has expired, Google will tell you how many views the post got as well as how many clicks, but that’s really it. So…yeah. Definitely add those parameters.
Mary: So is there any way you could think of or that you are already testing to use Q and A or the chat messaging feature during the holiday season?
Krystal: So we haven’t tested using them, but we have done a lot of research to see what’s happening today. So what types of questions are being asked so that if a brand is interested in using it for the holiday, what team should they equip with this information. Sometimes it needs to be the store-level team, but sometimes it might need to be someone at corporate that has a little bit more information about services they offer or what they’re allowed to publish on a SERP.
So that’s one of the challenges, too, with businesses is it kind of gets into like a reputation management-style. So they’re thinking, “Is this the team that also responds to our reviews?” But in some cases, they don’t have the details that users are asking for. So we haven’t really enabled that feature just yet. We’re still doing research on what’s happening and what types of teams which should be responsible for using the Q and A or the chat feature.
Mike: And just a note on that, I saw this as a reputation problem at Get Five Stars, so I’ve encouraged our team to build out monitoring at-scale for enterprises. And we should have a beta in about two weeks. If anybody’s interested in testing this same old kind of questions you’re getting across large number of locations, reach out to me and we’ll be glad to share with you what we’re doing on this. But I just see it as a huge reputation problem and one that needs to be managed because it’s like you’re trying to tell a story on the Knowledge Panel, right? And the story is a function of the reviews on the page, of the pictures, the complete information. Then all of a sudden, there is this passive aggressive question or answer that sits on the front page of the Knowledge Panel on mobile that could just totally…I think the vernacular is “screw the pooch,” right? I mean, it could be a total disaster. You can have everything going great, all of a sudden there’s a question that pops up, you don’t even know about it because you can only see it on your mobile phone, right?
Krystal: Exactly. Exactly.
Mike: And just a trick there too, I wrote a post a couple weeks ago about how to spoof using the developer tools in Chrome. So you can spoof mobile so at least you can see your locations on the desktop. So if you’re working in a review… so if you’re on the social team and want to at least do some monitoring, you can do a little bit right now.
Mary: Are you doing anything with the chat feature, messaging feature yet?
Krystal: Not yet. I think just with the same with Q and A, our brands aren’t quite sure which team internally that should live with. Instinctually, they are looking towards their social teams or their reputation management, but from a local perspective those chats and those Q and A are going to be a little bit different than what they’re going to see on maybe their Facebook page. They might ask, you know, “What products are in store today?” Or, “Maybe I’m at your location but it’s closed, but the hours show that you’re open. Is there an issue?” Those kinds of things where we have to connect the teams that would have that information to be the ones that are actually managing that.
Mike: Have you done any experimenting bringing multiple location chats into a single desktop, messaging interface so that you can have one person respond to 10, 20 or 30 location chats? Have you tested that yet?
Krystal: Not yet, but that’s the way where we’re going, is having a single team respond to the chats across multiple locations. It’s just with the questions we’ve seen today on just Q and A not even enabling the chat features, I think brands are nervous to enable it to encourage that type of communication until they have everything zipped up on their end. Some of them are still getting a handle on what’s going on with Facebook, or even the reviews on Google. And they’re still just thinking reviews are Yelp.
So for a large enterprise business it’s still a challenge, but as you said, a lot of this is only available on mobile. And I think now’s the time to really test and experiment before it gets on desktop so that there’s details around it, there’s a plan, and you do have some type of history with what’s going on before it’s going to be unleashed to everyone.
Mary: And I think that this gives the little guys another opportunity — the big brands are waiting, they’re trying to get all their little ducks in a row. And if you’re somebody who can just jump in and start doing this, competing against a big brand, it may give you a little leg up in being “the guy” rather than the corporation being the local guy who can help people.
Krystal: I think that’s a great point. You talk about competing with Amazon. I think this is a great point to show small businesses. They are equipped to handle this kind of things if you have a couple locations or a single location. This is where they have that opportunity now and it’s not going to be the service that they get from Amazon, so this is a great competitive advantage.
Mike: So this is a final question before we wrap. So if a business had a location or locations that aren’t ranking well, are there any tips you might provide to improve their visibility prior to the holiday season?
Krystal: Yeah. I would say once you’ve gotten your foundational pieces taken care of, it’s going to be adding additional color — so the images, get really rich content there. Use the Google Posts so that as users see your listing, they’re going to be more engaged versus having just basic details, stock photos. I don’t think that’s going to encourage users to interact more on a listing. And that’s really the key, is getting them more engaged to increase the eyeballs on your listing to make it more attractive so it rises in the SERPS.
Mike: Did you say you think a user interaction with a Knowledge Panel…user interaction frequency actually increases rank, is that what you’re saying?
Krystal: Yeah, I’m definitely saying that’s helpful in terms of trying to increase it in a period of time that’s, you know, holidays are creeping up on us. Rank is a long-term thing. It’s not like you can do these couple things then you’re going to get to the top of the page, first position. But if you have a new location that’s having trouble ranking and all the other locations have a ton of user-generated content, they have great reviews or at least reviews — if your location is not showing, it’s going to be hard for users to even find it and leave reviews. Or they may create a rogue listing because they don’t see you. So I think getting all the details there, adding additional content. There’s the new Local Guide program where you get your listing up there and there’s going to be some local guides there leaving some details on your listing that’s helpful for users.
Mike: Right. So you’re saying if you’re Walmart, you want all your employees to go out and start clicking on that new location and interacting with it, huh? Well…
Krystal: Precisely. There you go.
Mike: All right. Well, thank you very much for joining us, Krystal. I know you’re going to be joining us at LocalU Advanced in November, so we will actually get to meet you in person which will be a great pleasure for us. Thanks again for joining us, and we’ll see you soon. Bye, bye.
Krystal: Exactly. Thanks so much.
Mary: Thank you, Krystal.
Krystal: See you guys soon. Bye.
Mike: Bye, bye.
Read Krystal’s GoogleMyBusiness Holiday Checklist.