Video Deep Dive: Google as your new Home Page
Mike Blumenthal


This is our Deep Dive Into Local from June 19th, 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 at LocalU. This week Mary Bowling and myself will be covering the topic of Google as your new homepage, tactics that you can use to improve your conversion in the new world of Google Local. I was a doing a presentation for a number of high-level owners about Google Local, and I was explaining to them that it’s very difficult to succeed at every search that Google is now presenting your business, and they even know where they’re presenting your business because as people move through the physical environment, as Google personalizes more and more and learned more about their preferences, as people use more varied speech patterns to retrieve search results, it gets increasingly complex to understand when and where you’re showing. But that if your business is successful and doing what Wil Reynolds called “real world shit” — i.e., things in the real world that are being picked up the digital world up with the ranking, then you’re going to get your fair share of search result, but the question then becomes, “Are you converting?”

And I’ve been studying and deconstructing the Google brand results page — typically as a local SEO, I have focused on the knowledge panel, but I’ve broadened my view to the view of the whole page. And there was some good research that we talked about earlier in April that came out of the hotel industry, an eye tracking study that showed how people’s eyes travel around the page, and it was essentially a reverse C.

They had start the upper left-hand corner with a lot of focus, look at the ad, drop down to the business website, move over to the images in the knowledge panel, moved down the knowledge panel, look at the reviews, look at the hours, look at the reviews from the web, and reviewer comments, and then move back over to the main organic search results where they might or might not find rich snippets.

And so when you stop and think about that flow and you look at your brand page, and as a note about your brand page, it shows differently…there’s a million ways to search for your brand page: Barbara Oliver, Barbara Oliver jewelry, Barbara Oliver jewelry Windsor, Barbara Oliver jewelry Buffalo. There’s a lot of ways to search for it, and then mobile and desktop, and it shows differently each of those kinds of queries. But there are some broad principles that, I think, that you can leverage to greatly increase both the social proof, the quality of information there, and effectively your conversions. I mean, Google is working very hard at stealing conversions from your website in local and moving them out to local search results and then the reason…

Mary: So I think it’s kind of interesting that when you talk about this, you talk about how Google presents you, and when Google talks about this, they’re also talking about “give us more information to help us present your business on the internet.”

Mike: Exactly.

Mary: And I think that if we can twist our thinking around from Google stealing your traffic to how can we leverage this to help Google present us as accurately as possible, as engagingly as possible.

Mike: Right. And a big area that, and one of the first that is seen in the user is your website information, which can influence the user in a number of ways. It’s clear that Google is using your website as a data source in this environment where they’re making these conversions, or they’re getting people to click on the driving directions, or the call button, or the message you Chat With The Customer button. But a lot of times, they’ll show site links, but frequently though they’ll just three or four pages from your site right up front in the desk top, And in that context, you can control, like you’ve always said, the title tags, you can frequently control the meta description tags and create a great short brief meaningful call to action.

And in the world I come from, which is one of reviews — Get Five Stars of which I am a principal — you can influence the rich snippet stars on your non-homepage pages that show up there, and you can show your own reviews there. So I think that’s a huge area is your website as a data feed of both meaningful title tags, meta descriptions, and social proof that you are doing a good job sort of laying the foundation that you’re going to tell on the rest of this, laying the foundation of the story you’re going to tell on the rest of the page.

Mary: And I think it’s also important in this day and age to make sure that you have a modern looking website. If you want to wire an accountant and you go to his website and it’s got dancing bears dancing across it, and it looks like it’s from 2000, the first thing you think to yourself is, “Is this guy keeping up with things? Is this an old school guy that even knows the tax laws right now?” So really take a look at your website and make sure that it represents your business.

Mike: Yes, what we saw in that research and the case study that was that 70% of the conversions, the critical conversions took place on Google, but 25% took place on the website, and most of those had come from Google. So the story starts at Google and often is finished at Google, but for the next most significant portion of your conversions are going to occur to your website. So clearly, all the best practices in the website.

What was interesting about the eye tracking study was once they hit that top level of the page where you may want to consider taking out, defensively, an ad on your brand so that somebody else doesn’t take that spot, people then move from that ad and your website data over to the image at the top of the knowledge panel.

I don’t think that there is an image in the world that gets seen more than your profile image at Google. And if you have a decent image there, what I see is that a fair bit of interaction with your gallery of images at Google. From there though, then the next obvious thing is besides the map, which, I don’t have much control over, but is the Google reviews.

Mary: Right.

Mike: And very high on that page, very visible, high intensity viewers — viewing time. Clearly, that’s something you have some control over is asking for reviews at Google. Moving down that page then, the basic map information, but for many businesses, Google is now offering up the opportunity to add a service or product menu link to that knowledge panel.

Mary: And attributes.

Mike: And attributes. And you want to be sure that all of that is filled out. We’re now seeing attributes show up in the little description below the business name. Joy spotted that last week. So you can fill that out. Obviously great pictures is self-evident, Google reviews self-evident, but those product service link isn’t quite as self-evident, attributes are not as self-evident. And then coming soon to a knowledge panel near you, right below that, is — at the desktop anyways — it’s going to be Google Post, which I think is going to be going live shortly, right, which is a micro-blogging environment that allows you to create a 300-character posts, shows a 100 characters, plus the call-to-action in the knowledge panel, so another way to add an image so you can create a visual information there.

And then the next thing the user is going to see, now it’s even more obvious on mobile is reviews from the web. So these are reviews from…interestingly, they don’t include Yelp or TripAdvisor or Better Business Bureau in those reviews or MapQuest. So there’s at least four they don’t include, but they do include in reviews in the web and the knowledge panel any other website, directory-type website that shows up high on your brand search that matches your brand name. So, if there’s a brand name match and it’s high on that first page in within the first 12 results, it’ll show up from your visitor on web, and there, you can also get your business page, your reviews…

Mary: Your own business page, yeah.

Mike: …to show up. Typically, you’re going to see Facebook and then you’re likely going to see Yellow Pages, Foursquare, some of the more vertical sites like WeddingWire or Health MD or those vertical sites out there as well. And you can get up to three there. Well, again, this is part of the story, and you need a consistent story, from my point of view, across all aspects of this page, and they need reviews on all of these places, and you want to try to fill those three review spots in with third-party reviews.

Mary: Right. I have to laugh because as I’m sitting here, I keep getting little notices from Google that this one particular business keeps getting reviews. And so far I’ve gotten about five of them in the last 20 minutes. It’s like, “Don’t do that.”

Mike: What’s going on?

Mary: I did some research on this whole “help Google present you” thing for a presentation I did for Rio SEO. And one thing that really struck me is that you need to be looking at your results on mobile.

Mike: Yes.

Mary: I don’t care who you are, you have to look at results on mobile because they are so different than the results on desktop. And in some industries, for example, flowers, the flower industry, if you’re not using product schema on your website, you’re never going to show up for anything. And chances are that if you actually want to get a lot of business off of mobile searches for flower-type terms, you better be advertising. That’s how you’re going to get people in the door.

Mike: Right. And unlike on the desktop which often shows the ad and the website pages first, in mobile, the knowledge panel shows first, and, obviously, the picture there is even more significant because, essentially, the fold goes from your picture and the map at the top down to your address. But if you’re doing Google Posts, those show fairly high on that page, and then reviews from others — there’s now a reviews tab on that page. So you can get more detail by reviews, but if you scroll down, you’ll see your products and service menu, and then reviews in the web are very prominent.

So reviews in the web are even more critical in that mobile environment. Obviously, some businesses are 40 mobile, 60 desktops, and we’re 60 desktop, 40…or 60 mobile, 40 desktop, some are 80 mobile, 20 desktop, but, generally speaking, minimally, it’s half and half.

And the point of that being, be sure to check your brand searches in all of its flavors, variations on your brand name both desktop and mobile to see the elements that are there, and to understand which of those elements you can influence because as you get these review sites to show up on these various brand searches, and those that are showing high on your brand search before you get reviews there, from my point of view, those are the ones you should be focusing on more intently because you’re going to get double duty from them. They’re going to show up twice on the desktop. They’re likely going to show up twice in mobile, once in the top of screen, and then again with rich snippet. And it precludes Yelp, and I think Yelp is actually getting boxed out of the game to some extent. I see TripAdvisor [and] Open Table winning in the restaurant world. I see Google getting a lot more reviews in the non-restaurant world. And Yelp being limited to one part of a Google page. And if you think about it, if the decision is made by a user on that Google page, then just having a few reviews, that Yelp is all you need. You should be focusing on these other review sites as well.

Mary: Yeah. And you mentioned that you should be bidding on your brand name, and sometimes, that’s a pretty hard thing to convince people with small budgets to do, or even big brands. They say, “Why? I’m already ranking from my brand name? Why should I bid on it?” Well, because you want people to see your stuff first. And you can work on your Quality Score with a brand-name campaign to get it up so high that you don’t have to pay very much at all no matter what your competitors are doing. You are the answer for queries that involve your brand name. So if you can do this right, you’re going to get a lot of traffic for very little money by bidding on your brand name everywhere.

Mike: Right, and something that AdWords Express does automatically just a note, but you also have to give Google “evil credit” for having created a world in which you need to bid on your own brand name and defend the visual space on that page. It’s a brilliant business idea, getting you to willingly pay for somebody to click through to your website because if you don’t, your competitor is going to take that space.

Mary: If your competitor gets the spot. And I think it’s particularly important for people who are doing a lot of offline advertising because, the response that people have when they’re thinking about getting whatever you’re selling or doing, and they’ve heard your brand name as to search for your brand name on Google to try to get some more information. So do you want them to find you, then you’ve already invested a lot of money in getting your brand name out of there, you might as well get that click, too.

Mike: Might as well. Should have to… it is the final…the last step before conversion, and if you don’t get it, you’ve lost.

Mary: Right.

Mike: You’ve spent this money to bring their interest in, and then competitor comes in and sneaks that client away from you at the last moment. I mean, nothing can be more painful if you are aware of it.

Mary: Right.

Mike: And then the other search that I think you should do besides variations on your brand name, variations on cities, variations without the cities, mobile and desktop, you also want to, I think, do a search on your brand name plus the word “reviews” to see what’s showing up in the review space and focusing on those that might not be as positive as the other reviews, and realizing that that might cost cognitive dissonance. A reader gets there and sees your story, and he sees your website on Google being positive, but then sees Foursquare as not being positive, it might create some cognitive dissonance, which just makes the buying process harder for the user because there’s this conflicting story.

And then, ultimately, I come back to this conclusion time and again that not only they have to do “real world shit” in new marketing, you have to be a really, really good business. You have to…if you’re getting negative reviews and negative feedback, you’ve got to fix that problem because in the end, that will show up and the story will be disrupted, and you will lose control over it. In the end, the best revenge is being a great business.

Mary: Yes, I agree. And I think that this is one huge favor that Google is probably doing for commerce in general is highlighting what are the best businesses and what are the also-rans.

Mike: And we’ll leave review spam out of that last closing…

Mary: We will.

Mike: …that last closing comment, we won’t mention it. All right. So with that, we’ll say goodbye. Thank you for joining us for one more Deep Dive in the Local as we look at Google as your new homepage. Thank you.

Mary: Thank you.

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