This is our Deep Dive Into Local from June 13th, 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: So, it’s Mike Blumenthal and Mary Bowling for The Deep Dive. Today we’re going to look into Google’s efforts within the Google My Business dashboard to increase small business engagement and utilization of their Google My Business listing. Today Google is rolling out the Google My Business website product which is going to allow small businesses to very quickly and very easily create a single-page, mobile-ready responsive website for their business. It’s an interesting product in a number of ways. It’s primarily, I think, not targeted at more sophisticated U.S. business owners that already have websites that are easily and readily edited. I think it’s primarily targeted at developing countries and perhaps at businesses that maybe have a Facebook-only presence and a very small US business and one of them creates their visibility in search.
So, it’s very easy to use. It drives you through the process. It allows you to pick from, I think, ten different styles of font and color. It auto-populates the data from your GMB, and if you change your data there, for example, business hours or addresses, it’ll push it back into GMB. The product is free. It’s not charged. It comes at a domain, yourbusiness.business.site. You can change that URL. It’s not the old Google Plus take it or leave it process. You can change that, but you can also, from Google, as part of this process, buy your own custom domain that they’ve automated all the DNS work and such to point to this. It allows you to add your own photos and gives you a nice simple WYSIWYG editor for you to add a couple paragraphs of body content and/or links to some other site.
Mary: So, it’s populating everything from Google My Business and from the dashboard once you set up your Google My Business page. Then you automatically have a place where you can build a website. There’s been a lot of other outfits that have come out with the idea of an easy website builder, but they, of course, have not been Google. So if I was going to do the easy-website-builder-type thing, I would definitely do it with Google. Do you see any benefit of agencies using these to get people started on the web when someone comes to them?
Mary: Oooh, brilliant.
Mike: Right. It doesn’t do any A/B. It would be sort of difficult to do AB testing with it, but you could, and it would allow you to fairly simply do that. Right now, in today’s product, there’s not a call to action. But apparently, very shortly that will be available where you can easily create a button for call to action. So it would enhance its role in that environment, which I think would add significantly to AdWords Express as well. If you could easily test a page, see how it works. Test it, see how it works, and it doesn’t support A/B testing, but other than that. So, in terms of…it’s not anywhere near sophisticated as Wix or Weebly or any of those. It’s primarily a mobile-first single-page product, right, so you can’t even develop long-tail pages with it. So there are serious limits, and, like I said, I think in the United States, I don’t think it has much play, but I do think in certain very small clients, I think it has a play. I think it might work, like I said, for AdWords landing page, and for sure, it’s a great product in developing countries.
Google has this really, almost an existential problem in places like Indonesia and India where the business-to-consumer web never developed. Because the technology wasn’t there. People didn’t have desktop computers. There wasn’t internet access. So in the case of China, virtually all business transactions, business-consumer transactions, and all business-consumer interactions take place over WeChat. WeChat is the platform more so than the web. And in India, I think, Facebook has developed mobile-first approach very early on, and so I think in India it’s been an ad-based approach. So Google has this existential problem: One, how do they stay in close touch with businesses to be able to sell them stuff but also to gather their data? And also how do they have information? And do they continue to feed information to the Google search engine machine that needs to know about a business? If this can be successful, can potentially solve that problem.
Now, this test has been going on publicly since January. Obviously, it started before that point, because in January there was, I think, 120,000 — when I first learned of the product and tested it in January, there was 120,000 web pages. Then the initial test went to 260,000 webpages, that was at the business.google.com/website. Then beginning of, I guess it was last month, they moved the test over to its own website, business.site, and in that couple-three or four weeks it’s been there. Last I looked, there were 45,000 pages. So this product has been rolling out slowly, typical Google roll-out — they roll out 1% then 10%, 20%. Today I think is when they’re going to achieve 50% rollout, and it’s worldwide. The only place it isn’t being introduced is in countries that read right-to-left. That will be slightly delayed. It’s coming out next week or the week after, so Israel and Saudi Arabia, those kinds of places.
Mary: Yes. Well, small business owners obviously want and need some type of easy website builder, and it only makes sense for Google to provide that. And where it kind of makes my direction of my thinking go is that … think about what’s in Google My Business and think about what Google is going to allow you to put on this one-page website. And that’s all Google thinks it needs to be able to rank businesses. So I think that’s kind of an important thing to remember that they possibly don’t need thousands of pages on a website in order to tell which businesses are where and which business and which locations are best.
Mike: That’s true. To me, in this market in the United States, having grown up in the web, I think two more interesting plays that are currently in active beta that Google is going to make available are the Google Posts, which is going to a mini-blogging environment with a limited duration post that posts directly to your knowledge panel. The posts will last only seven days, and then it will disappear. It’ll be stored at Google, but it won’t show up on the knowledge panel, so the presence of a post. So there, Google is very much trying to engage businesses with their knowledge panel, with their brand searchers directly at Google to try to keep content at Google. And for a small business, I think it’s an interesting play, because that does support a call to action. So I built one yesterday for Izanami Restaurant in Santa Fe, and they have the ability to click on a reserve button, which then takes them right to their website page that has the Open Table Reservation right in that page, right, widget. So that’s, I think, more valuable.
And then the other way they’re going to up the ante is in the Chat Directly With Customer beta. Both of which, both features, require continual ongoing interaction between the business and the Google My Business dashboard at some level which has been a huge problem with Google My Business. It’s always been a set-it-and-forget-it kind of environment that once you’ve done your hours and stuff. Why go back, right? Now, Google has, dramatically improved insights. They have provided review responses. But what happened to Google was, they were on a roll, and then they got sort of wrapped up in Google Plus. They had a forced march into Google Plus and then a forced march out of Google Plus, and somewhere in there, they switched over to the knowledge panel. That really set back Google Local in my mind three years. I mean, these are features, or maybe four years, that should have been in Google My Business in 2013.
Mary: And Google apparently had a lot of plans to get them into Google Plus. They had the right idea. They couldn’t execute.
Mike: Well, right, difficult to execute when there’s both management turmoil — remember Marissa Mayer took over Local. When she got axed at the upper level of Google, she moved into Local. Then she left, went to Yahoo, so there was that. So there was no advocate internally, and then there was the forced… where literally Local was forced to be integrated with Google Plus. So that was a huge undertaking where we went through multiple iterations of dashboards and different functionality. And then, two or three years in they started to separate it out until finally now it is finally separated, and Google Local has its own both ad product, which has finally gotten good…so they have their own revenue stream, and, I think, there is a commitment within the company to allow them to develop. I wrote an article, I think it was last August, just about the speed of development within Google My Business. We were seeing two to three features every month — the API, bulk, dashboard features. They’re moving towards a consolidated view, single dashboard for all users, which I think is a great move.
So there’s a lot of underlying architecture that they’ve been taking care of over the last two years or so, and now we’re starting to see some of these new features roll out like website builder. And, the question is will they…I mean, they haven’t given up their lead in terms of generating prospects pre-sale, right. They are still, when I look at my analytics, the primary place where people are finding out about businesses. The problem has always been that the business owner doesn’t know that. They think, “Oh, we’re going to share on Facebook, and we’re going to boost the post, and we’re going to have some sort of reach of 5,000.” It’s like, how cool is that? But when it comes to the phone ringing, Google has always played a role.
I think these three tasks, when you look at them in aggregate, not separately, and you look at them on top of a redone Google My Business dashboard that’s integrated between bulk and single location, a much nicer modern UI, I think what you are seeing is a more aggressive Google My Business effort. Pulling on more oars simultaneously and not constrained by the weight of Google Plus. Whether they can turn around the public perception of the small business that Facebook is the place you need to be, that’s an interesting question to me. One which they’re not going to give up without a fight.
Mary: Right, so, I could see with a very small business with no budget trying to get started on the internet with Google My Business and website builder and a Facebook presence, decent Facebook business presence…
Mike: Particularly if they integrate this posts with the website builder, right. So, you could post weekly to your knowledge panel, and that data would then flow into your website as additional content for your Google website.
Mary: Oh, really?
Mike: Then it might make some sense to me, right, I think, as an integrated solution and then where you can chat directly with the customer. Customer finds you on the Google knowledge panel, makes the decision to reach out to you, you then can interact with them immediately, right then and there. And then you get AdWords Express, which then does the pre-roll and says, “This ad is being responded to on Google,” whatever, however they say it. I think those four products together make a lot of sense in conjunction with Facebook.
Mary: Yes, and I could see somebody being able to kind of come up with a mostly automated way to do all of this.
Mike: You mean multiple locations or…
Mary: A way an agency could put tools together to do this easily, quickly and effectively for small businesses.
Mike: Yes. Yes, I mean, have you used AdWords Express in the last six months?
Mary: I have not actually used it. I’ve poked around in there, but I haven’t actually spent anybody’s money in there.
Mike: Right, so, it’s like the website builder — super-simple, literally five minutes to set up an ad with very reasonable pricing and decent targeting. So the two products, I think, work well together as a way of getting a small business to dip their toes in the AdWords world. By spending $50 or $100 a month, you can have very solid returns depending upon your business type, very solid return by spending as little as $50 or $100 a month in what is a do-it-yourself environment. So I think you’re right. I think an agency could do Google My Business, a citation, Google Website Builder, Google AdWords Express, do the whole package, do it inexpensively, and provide some reasonable results assuming that the business is going to do what we’ve always been saying which is do offline-online development of their business, reputation and active reputation management. They have to do offline-online content, all those things. But I think this could, like you said, provide at least a basis for the very small business. Where an agency might otherwise not want to do business with them, this might give them the tools to allow them to do it.
Mary: Right, and it lets a really small business with maybe just a few thousand dollars to spend to actually get a meaningful online presence very quickly.
Mike: Yes, correct, and, like I said, if they spend $100 a month ongoing on AdWords, I think they could see real benefits from it depending on the industry.
Mary: Yep, I agree.
Mike: So, there you have it. Google Website Builder now, two betas. We’ll see when those are released, but my money is that they will be released soon. They both have been in public tests. In the case of Post, they just released the help files yesterday. I wrote about them on my blog, and in the case of Google Chat With Customers, that’s been an ongoing task and publicly noted as well. So I think those are imminent. So, with that, I think we’ll call this Deep Dive a wrap. Thank you very much for joining us.
Mary: Thanks, Mike. Bye. Talk to you next week.