Video Deep Dive: Google Posts, A New Paradigm for Fresh Local Content or Another Failed Social Experiment?
Mike Blumenthal


Normally our Deep Dive is published several weeks after it is recorded. Because of the timeliness of the content we decided to publish this particular video sooner. Join Mary Bowling and Mike Blumenthal as they look at Google’s newest beta effort to attack the small business market with their yet to be named product that allows small businesses and other organizations to post directly to their branded search results.

screenshot-2016-10-04-11-42-57Mike: With that, I want to switch into the deep dive. Let me just bring this other window up. All right. Can you see that other window, Mary?

Mary: Yes.

Mike: Okay. Google, as we know, has been experimenting with this product called, well, we don’t know what it’s called. Some people…It’s at where they refer to it there as your Google Podium. Some people refer to it as Google Posts. I sometimes refer to it as the product that shall not be named because Google refuses to give it a name. But, it’s a…Oh, go ahead.

Mary: Hold on a second. I’m looking at your PDF and not the screenshot.

Mike: Okay, that’s a mistake. Stop sharing. Let me just share screen. Hang on. There we go. How about now?

Mary: Yes.

Mike: Okay, great. This is an example of this product in action. Barbara Oliver just received access to the product last week. As I noted several months ago, they’re expanding the test of this right to search product. They’re expanding the test across the United States, in India and in Brazil. The product allows a business to literally post a blog post like content up to I think 14,000 characters with up to 10 images, multiple image types – GIFs, JPEGs, PNGs, videos. You can see from my example here that it will automatically sort of lay those images out in sort of thumbnail form. It shows just on the brand search. If you search on Barbara Oliver, Barbara Oliver Jewelry, up will come her two most recent…three most recent posts. You can scroll over to see more. She’s only had it since Friday, so she’s only done two.

It allows you to quickly and easily share that post. There’s a permanent link to the post. While the post is permanent, resides at, Barbara’s location there, it isn’t indexed. It only shows for a couple of…up to two weeks in search. Interestingly, it can be shown for a few days or a few hours or up to two weeks. It’s meant to be temporal, right? It’s meant to be intent driven brand focused content, not commercial content, that enhances the brand’s communication with their customers. It’s intriguing, because it pushes the more static information down the page, things like pages that don’t change that often that’s in Google’s index and brings very lively information right to the top of a brand search.

Multiple questions here. What kind of post here is going to be the most effective? What do you…What’s the length? We’re working on the theory that it’s roughly 500 characters, maybe less. Clearly, it’s very image driven, very visual. This particular one is, as you can see, a GIF. If you cursor over it, the GIF shows. You can click…

Mary: Can you get data on each of these in Google Analytics? Are they unique URLs?

Mike: I am under non-disclosure. They are unique URLs at Google.

Mary: Okay.

Mike: I am under non-disclosure as to what information’s available on the back end at this point. Other than to say it’s limited, I can’t say much more. There is no reason that you can’t, for example, create a tracking URL in this post.

Mary: Okay.

Mike: This post…this link that you see here has a Google campaign link attached to it so we will be able to track that. Over the next 6, 8, 10 weeks we’re going to be creating a number of posts of different types with different kinds of content and tracking links to see what kind of web traffic we get from it. Obviously, right now we don’t know what’s going to work best. And, we don’t know if it’s going to last. I mean this is a test. David Mihm, very skeptical that the test will last. He thinks that it’s one of Google’s many failed social experiments. I see the test slightly differently. It’s more like a real time blogging environment at Google which is not really social. Certainly these things are meant to be shared. The drawback to it is that the content is not evergreen. At this point, it doesn’t go anyplace once it goes other than just sits there, but not visible on the front page of search and not discoverable.

One of the thoughts is that Google could, for example…This is, just as a note, it’s very, very fast. It uses AMP-like technology on mobile. You click on that and, boom, it’s up, right? But, there is no reason Google couldn’t make a feed available of this, for example to your blog. You post it here. It instantly goes to your blog post, becomes evergreen on your blog and then ages out here, right? One of the drawbacks is there’s no evergreen capability with this content, no way to influence search, no way for the content to show in search results. That doesn’t mean that the content doesn’t perhaps influence relevance of your local listing. It very well could. We don’t know.

Mary: Yeah, especially interaction with it.

Mike: Exactly, right, yes. Not only would there have to be relevant content, there’s likely to have to be some proxy for value, and that would be interaction, right, clickthroughs, click ins, shares, whatever, right?

Mary: And, they’re only apparently showing right now for brand searches.

Mike: Only show for brand searches.

Mary: That is…any interaction with that is a pretty good proxy for prominence – if people are searching for the brand and then they are interacting with the brand.

Mike: Correct. Because it’s a brand search, though, many of those are discovery or recovery searches where people are just looking. They have…they’re going to go to Barbara’s anyway, right? Some of them are exploration – who is Barbara, what does she do – and some of them are people who are thinking of going there who might be sort of upsold on the newest bauble that Barbara has produced. Clearly, it’s a limited display in that sense. The value there, we have to determine it, right? How good is it? How much value does it add to the brand search?

An irony and maybe one of the downfallings of the product, Google has never trusted business, small business content, right? We used to be able to create our own categories. That went away. We used to be able to create a description that would influence search results. That went away. Right? Google has moved to this very limited ability to edit information in Google. In that sense, it’s not clear to me that they have the technology in place to put the throttles on this to limit the spam of it. I think that could easily kill this product or even make it stillborn, right?

Mary: Well, yeah. As soon as they make them indexable, we start spamming them.

Mike: Right, and maybe just leaving them not indexable but allowing you to put information via some sort of structural uptake of the data by a feed at your own blog would be a resolution to that, or perhaps publishing the data at Google+, right, where you publish here and it pushes over to Google+ automatically so Google keeps it on site, Then, it could become indexed. If it got shared on Google+ a significant number of times, it would then show up in search, that kind of thing, right, which would be a much higher barrier, right? Just publishing it doesn’t do anything. You have to publish it in + and then get likes and shares and comments at +, right, which would be a much higher barrier. A number of ideas certainly, but it might be the downfall.

Mary: Yeah. Just kind of my first thought on this is that, from a business point of view, it’s possible this could replace blogging rather than just being a supplement to blogging.

Mike: Well, again, that’s true for very current topical issues within the week. Since it’s not evergreen, it would deny that value of your blog. One of the things about blog posts, I have blog posts from 2008 that are still attracting that still show up in search results because they’ve got a lot of links and they’re still attracting traffic, right? A blog has this very strong ability to attract long tail search because it’s indexed and the topic might get like that blog post I did about why does Google show 4.8 when you have 5. Well, that’s a question…people ask that question all the time. That blog post will remain popular until Google stops using Bayesian logic to calculate the number, right, which means forever. In that sense, that’s where I point that out as the drawback. Yes, it could be an alternative. And, because Google doesn’t look at Facebook that close or it can’t see Facebook that closely, there is no reason you can’t double post from Facebook to here, right?

Mary: Right.

Mike: In terms of business effort…I can say this about the back end: super easy, very clean, one of the best designs I’ve ever seen. I think maybe I just violated I have no idea. I hope not. If I did, I apologize.

Mary: I’ll spank you.

Mike: Well thank you. Again, David votes nay. What do you vote? Assuming it comes out of beta, assuming it makes it out of beta.

Mary: Well, I think that so many businesses have taken…they might’ve started out blogging for the right reasons. But, it became wrong so very quickly, and they ended up just putting crap up on the Internet because they thought they had to put something up there. I can see how Google might be wanting to discount an awful lot of blogs that are out there and blog content that’s already being indexed.

Mike: We also know that Google wants to create their own rabbit hole where people come and stay there.

Mary: Right.

Mike: They also want to attract small business relationships, right?

Mary: Right.

Mike: Because they need that growth in the small business advertising. There’s a lot of reasons for Google to do it from where I sit.

Mary: Yeah. I’m just trying to look at it from the small business point of view. If I’m some little person who’s not even getting any brand searches, what good does this do me?

Mike: Well, that’s true, if you’re not getting any brand searches. That’s a critical question, right? I think the value in the…like everything, it’s got to be assessed as to the value in your marketing plan. Like Google+, I have dramatically discounted it because it was so darn hard to make it work because of the user base, but I’ve revised that viewpoint once I learned how to do it. If it can be…And, it’s not right for everybody. If it can be built into a plan that makes sense then it makes sense, right? I mean it’s got to be an ROI like anything else in that sense. Any other thoughts on it?

Mary: No.

Mike: Well, with that, we will call it a wrap for Last Week in Local this October 3rd, 2016. Thank you very much.

Mary: Thank you, Mike, bye bye.

Mike: Bye bye.

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