Video Deep Dive:Google as Home Page Scoring tool
Mike Blumenthal


This is our Deep Dive Into Local from July 12th, 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: Hi, welcome to Deep Dive with Mike Blumenthal and Mary Bowling. This week, we’re going to discuss a new tool that LocalU has produced through the efforts of Mary Bowling and Carrie Hill that essentially allows you as an agency or as a business to grade your own score for how well you’ve managed to improve the view of your reputation through Google as the Google Brand Page result. So Mary, why don’t you give us a brief introduction here…?

Mary: This is based on some work that Mike’s been doing over the last year where he looks at what shows up when you search for your own brand name and location on Google MyBusiness. And when we look at these pages, we can see what’s important to Google and what Google thinks is important to searchers.

So this is not the kind of the quiz where you can get 100%, it’s more of a score that we’d like you to look at as a baseline. You can look at your own score and the score of your competitors and see where they’re gaining on you, what you might be doing better than they are. And then you can do this on a periodic basis to see how you’re improving your brand score on Google.

Mike: The idea being that…what we saw starting about two years ago was that sites, for example, that had review, Rich Snippet reviews on them, Google was elevating them on the brand search, so these would gain prominence. And one presumes, or we know, that Google tests this information extensively with consumers. And thus, this page reflects everything that Google really knows about your business.

And in that, we believe that page can be segmented and broken down in a way that you, on behalf of the business, can improve this page moving forward. So the number that we generate allows you to compare your presence to a competitor but also provides you with a baseline so that you can see which areas you might want to improve. So why don’t we go over to the tool, which is located at And Mary, why don’t you start describing it now?

Mary: Everything on this first page is required. You need to enter your email address so that you can get your score delivered to you. Please put the city where the business is located, and we’d like to do this because we’d like to start a database.

Also, put your industry and category, and that way, we were going to try to start a database to compare scores a little bit, and we’re hopefully going to get enough data that we can get some meaningful scores on particular industries in particular locations.

And so what you want to do is search for your business brand name, plus your location so that you can see what we call your Google Brand Page and see what other people are seeing when they search for you online. And this is what…we’re using Barbara Oliver, Mike’s favorite client, in this example and here’s what he sees.

We’ve, kind of, segmented the scoring onto your paid ads, your Google website pages, how they’re showing up on your brand page, what your reviews and ratings look like on this page. Google has given us a lot of new features where we can engage with searchers. So we’re looking at those, how well are you taking advantage of these new engagement features?

What are you gaining from the photos that you have showing up? And then also some bonus features that we’ll talk about when we get to those. Let’s get started, Mike. First, are you bidding on your own brand name and AdWords? You can give yourself two points for yes, zero points for no, and this is automatically going to score for you.

But the reason you want to bid on your own brand name is, it’s very cheap if you can set up your campaigns so that you’re only…you have a campaign that’s bidding on only your brand terms, you can earn a very, very high-quality score and have a pretty low cost per click.

After all, your website is the most relevant, the most relevant result for a search for your brand name.

Mike: So a question for you Mary. Barbara does some AdWords Express which does do brand, some brand does display at Edwards on grand searches sometimes. So I don’t know if that’s a no or yes but I’ll go with no.

Mary: I would think that Google is probably always going to show your ads for brand name, but it doesn’t seem like they are doing that with her. I guess that depends on the budget.

Mike: Her budget is very low, so that’s why.

Mary: Then, are your competitors bidding on your brand name and add words and you’re not? You can see what happens here that somebody searched for “knock the law” but the first one that showing up is Burg Simpson.

Mike: So that one is actually is it, if they are doing that, you’re going to have minus one? All the more reason…if they are, that’s all the more reason to do your own AdWords campaign.

Mary: Exactly. Exactly. Go ahead. And let’s go to the next one. Does your AdWords ad use local extensions? These local extensions are very powerful. The way you can tell whether it’s a local extension that’s being used or not as if it shows up with a map on the site. But a local extension gives you the ability to show people more information about where you’re located. All right, let’s go on to page seven. We’re going to look at what your website looks like on Google. So, do site links appear with your homepage listing in the search results? If they do, give yourself two points. If it doesn’t, give yourself no points.

And they’re two different ways this could show up. If you could scroll down a little bit, Mike, it could show up with the big site links or the small site links, depending on who knows what that’s going on at Google. But either way, you can see this gives you a little bit more real estate, a few more deeper links to go into your website, and it’s very useful. And there’s a link. If you want to learn more about site links, there’s a link down here at the bottom that can help you understand what site links are, and why you want them, and how to get them.

Mike: And I would make note that Google varies the brand results based on nuances in the query. For example, if I just had to… Whoops. Add the word “New York” to this query, you’ll see she gets site links. But if I take it away, she doesn’t.

Mary: But she still has site links, but it’s just a small version up here.

Mike: Small version, I see. You’re right, right you are. All right, so we will give her two points for that.

Mary: All right, let’s move along. Page eight, does your home page have a great organic ad? Now this one is one where you’re really going to have to try to be honest with yourself. You might ask somebody else in your office or someone else who’s pretty familiar with Google My Business and see whether you have a great ad or not.

But normally, I would think that that page title meta description should include your brand name, it should include your main keyword phrase, your location, and your unique selling proposition or what makes you stand out from your competitors. And it’s always great to have a strong call to action and a phone number, as long as you make sure the phone number’s not cut off.

Mike: And that’s assuming that you get to decide that as opposed to Google but… So, how would you rate Barbara here? Barbara Oliver Jewelry, Custom Jewelry Designs. She does have the phone number, exquisite, unique engagement rings. Whoops. Best…

Mary: She seems to tick off most of the boxes.

Mike: All right. I was asking you to rate her. So I’m gonna say you gave her a two.

Mary: Then, do you have good organic ads? Are there any other pages on your site that appear for search in your brand? And does Barbara have any others you want to flashback?

Mike: Yes. She gets the mini site links plus she gets two other pages here, Engagement-ring gallery and blog post, both of which show rich snippets, which I think you’ll talk about later. But…

Mary: And you can’t totally control what these descriptions are. So you have to take that into account when you’re doing it. But I’d say she has good organic ads, so let’s give her a point for that. Then, how many of your own pages show up with stars on your brand page? And I think Barbara has two of them.

Are there any of hers further down the page?

Mike. No.

Mary: So you can see she has two have her own pages showing up with stars. Those really stand out in the search engine results, and they really give people the message you want them to see, that this is a great business.

Mike: Some research from LocalU collaborator Joel Headley at PatientPop indicated he was getting somewhere between 200% and 400% click-through improvements on searches where those pages included the stars.

Mary: How can you argue with that?

Mike: Let’s move on.

Mary: All right. Then, do you have 10 or more Google reviews? Google’s learned that reviews are very important to searchers. And searchers usually like to see at least 7 to 10 reviews, from some of the research we’ve seen. So you want to have… If you have at least 10 or more Google reviews, go ahead and give yourself one point.

Mike: And there’s two other things beyond…the further reason for 10. One is that Google seems to use it as a point at which you start getting a small lift and rank, when you have at least 10. And also, it allows a business if they have 10…you know, 9 or 10 great reviews, if you get one or two bad ones, it doesn’t knock your score down too much. So gives you a sort of defensive positioning as well.

Mary: Then, does your business have a 4.0 or more average Google star rating? You know, nobody wants to go to the worst business or the worst dentist, the worst restaurant, the worst local SEO in town. And if somebody searches for best of something on Google, will only see in the local pack businesses that have gotten a 4.0 or better ranking. And when Google’s quality raters are asked to use searcher sentiment in their evaluations, they’re looking at 4.0 and better businesses.

So, if you have 4.0 or better, give yourself a point. If you don’t, that’s something that you need to work on. Then, Google normally shows two or three snippets of reviews in the local knowledge panel. If all three of them are positive, give yourself one point. If anyone of them is not positive, then you do not get any points.

And the reason for this is our eyes are drawn to this in the local knowledge panel. We’ve looked at the ratings, and now Google’s showing us some particular snippets from reviews. You don’t want bad snippets showing up there.

Mike: And they do see…if you do have a theme in your reviews, Google looks for those themes to pick these snippets, and they do give a little more preference to negative reviews than positive ones in showing them. And they’re very difficult, they take a long time to change. So you have to… If you have this, it takes a lot, you know, getting a lot more reviews, particularly of longer lengths to ultimately try to get rid of this, very difficult. All right.

Mary: Then, how many sites show up in your reviews from the web in the local knowledge panel?

You can see one, two or three here. Sometimes Barbara has three of them. So Barbara gets a three-score there.

Mike: And as a note, because she’s doing first party reviews, hers is all included in that. You won’t see Yelp or Better Business Bureau or TripAdvisor over here. So they…typically to get more Facebook is a primary target but…as are vertical sites in your industry.

Mary: So you need to look at who’s showing up in reviews from the web for your competitors, and then make sure that you’re getting reviews there and hopefully that they’re good reviews.

Mike: And even if there’s only a couple at a place like or at BeerAdvocate, even if they’re only a couple, you’ll still get the stars. So, it might be worth shifting your review campaign temporarily over to get a few extras of those.

Mary: And Google does change those. So you have to be ready for Google to change up on you. Then, if your own website shows in reviews from the web, as Barbara did, as this one does for Sunset Pools & Spas, then give yourself a point for that.

Mike: It’s one of the easiest way’s to fill in the reviews from the web and create a consistent story across multiple sites. It’s obviously important for people to receive you as good quality. But I think the story is told by the aggregate results of this page. And this is a good place to focus to improve that view.

Mary: Then, how many third-party pages with stars show up in the results? In this particular case for Glenwood Canyon Brewing Company, they had three different third-party pages that showed up with stars in their results. What have we got for Barbara?

Mike: Let’s see. So, third party. Interestingly, Facebook…even though she has a lot of reviews there, Google does not give them stars. I have no idea why. So she has Yelp, The Knot, the WeddingWire, so that’s three. She’s got three over there.

Mary: That’s pretty darn good. So you can see who’s showing up in those results if they are the type of directory that you can get stars on and make sure that you are trying to get reviews on those pages. And then, do you have a 4.0 average star rating on these third-party sites? So that’s going to take a little math, you have to add up the ratings from the pages that have stars and then divide it by the number of sites that have stars to get a rating. So in this particular example, Shaggy Dog does get a 4.0 rating. How about Barbara?

Mike: Oh, for sure, she’s got…she runs into the opposite problem where she does such a good job that users… She has five stars in every place. And if you read her reviews, there’s skepticism about that in reviews where they say, “I didn’t really believe it but I went in and it turned out to be the case.” So she has the opposite problem.

Mary: But you can see on that page, that brand page for Barbara, how, as Mike says, the reviews story is very consistent. Everywhere you look where there is star showing up for Barbara Oliver, she, as one of the outstanding jewelers in her area.

Mike: And this is true even with Yelp, where she does have a negative review but she has so many other positive reviews. So she still gets a five-star rating. And Yelp has an algorithmic bias to have a lower score than almost all the other review sites.

Mary: So what we’re seeing here is you don’t want to just have good reviews at Google, you want to have good reviews on your own site. You want to have them marked up in a way that Google can recognize them as reviews and give you an aggregate rating. And you also want to have good aggregate ratings on the sites that Google thinks is important for your type of business and shows in the search results.

Mike: And in terms of picking these sites, sometimes you need to go over to page two to find the ones that are doing well and your brand. Sometimes it’s Better Business Bureau, Yellow Pages, these are obvious targets for that page as well. And oftentimes, if they have reviews, they’ll show up on the first page or in reviews around the web.

So, are you ready to switch to the next one, Mary?

Mary: I am. Now we’re moving on to the engagement part of your brand page. Now first, does your Twitter feed show in the branded results? Give yourself two points if it does, zero points if it doesn’t. And the reason for this is it shows that you are highly engaged with users, you’re active on Twitter.

And look at how much real estate Google will give you on that brand page if you can earn a Twitter feed in your branded search results. And there’s a link to an article that gives you some ideas about how you can make this happen. Does Barbara have?

Mike: She doesn’t do Twitter. So the answer is no. So, she is new to it. You know, she does Facebook, she does Instagram, she does Google post but not Twitter.

Mary: So if you have a client who is active on Twitter, this might be a way that you can help them to shine a little bit more by trying to get their Twitter feed showing up in their branded results.

Mike: One thing I’ve learned in this is that the brand name has to match the Twitter feed name pretty closely, otherwise Google won’t make the connection.

Mary: Great advice. Then, are you using Google Posts in your knowledge panel? Give yourself two for yes, zero for no. And the reason for this is this is another really big sign of engagement. It gives you another way to interact with clients, another link, deep link, where you can take people into your website. It’s something you have pretty much complete control over, that you can change very frequently. I think that any local business that isn’t using Post these days is crazy because I think it gives you a big advantage.

Mike: There’s two comments I have to make about that to reinforce what you just said. One is the research that we’ve been seeing indicates that click-throughs on Google Posts are incremental. In other words, they’re not detracting from any other organic click-throughs you’re getting, so these are net plus wins.

And the other is there’s some indication that Google is using the content of this semantically to better understand your business. So if you are in fact writing about longer tail things that you might be selling, it could very well increase your exposure on those items.

Mary: And you can see here that Joy Hawkins at Sterling Sky has a quiz that she’s encouraging people to take. It’s a great call to action to get people to click through to the website and interact with what’s going on on her website as well.

Mike: Are you ready for me to move?

Mary: Yes. Do you have a carousel of multiple posts in your knowledge panel? And we’re giving you one point for yes, zero points for no. I know that on mobile, having a carousel might cut down on the amount of space people see. Is that true, Mike?

Mike: It also changes the formatting of the images. It’s not clear to me yet whether having multiples is better than having one solid call to action. We don’t know yet. But it’s a good question. I think there’s every reason to think that… I don’t disagree with the fact that you said you should have multiples, we haven’t validated that in with any research yet.

Mary: And if nothing else, it gives searchers more choices of how they want to interact with you, and what’s of interest to them. And if you have these all tagged, you can really see what types of posts are working well for your business.

Mike; When you say “tagging,” you mean campaign URLs?

Mary: Right. Let’s go to the next one. Then, has your business replied to Question and Answer entries in your local knowledge panel? So, can you scroll down a little bit and show this? Great. So this one, there’s been a question and there’s an answer from the owners. So give yourself a point if you have answered questions in your local knowledge panel.

Do you have awesome question and answer replies? And this…you know, short factual answers are appropriate in some cases, but don’t miss the opportunity to give people really helpful answers like the ones below. And you may not be able to read these on here, but the first one they’re asking about, “Do you carry salt water pools?” And the business owner answer, “It’s a hot-tub place.” “Do you service and put in salt water pools?” And the business owner answered, “Yes we do but we can give you some alternatives, whatever the issue is that of why you want a salt water. We might be able to solve that in another way.”

So that’s the type of thing that I would call a really awesome answer.

Mike: I wonder…they’ve made my mind go to the the idea that most human-specific gravity’s around one, which means they typically float but not everybody, some people just sink. But if you have salt water pools, it’s more buoyant. I’m wondering if maybe this person is a sinker but…

Mary: That’s possible.

Mike: All right. Whoop, did I answer? I forgot. I did answer.

Mary: I won’t let you go on if you don’t answer. Then, does your Knowledge Panel have questions from people, but the business has not replied to it? Give yourself zero points. No, if you have questions and no business replies, give yourself… Did I do the… A minus one.

Mike: A minus one, correct.

Mary: You get a minus one if you have not replied to any questions. And just think about it. Somebody asked a question of this person and they haven’t answered in months and months and months. So no one else is really going to be inclined to ask a question since you’re not answering them, and people are going to think that you’re not paying attention. That’s why you get a minus point on that one.

Mike: And to 24.

Mary: Do you have Google MyBusiness campaign tracking set up? Give yourself Yes. And this is really quite simple to do. There’s a link at the bottom that will explain to you how you can set this up. But you can track each of the links coming out of your knowledge panel by using this campaign tracking. Let’s move on. Photos. We’re going to move on to photos and videos. Do you have a bad cover photo in your knowledge panel? If you have Yes, it’s minus one.

So this, of course, is subjective. But I think that bad ones are something that we probably wouldn’t argue with. You know, blurry photos, photos of empty offices, and photos of the dumpster behind your building instead of the building that you have yourself. The photos down here that are marked okay and good are photos that give a little more information, show the business in a little bit better light.

So as I say, this is subjective. And you might have to ask someone else if you’re having a hard time deciding whether it’s a bad cover photo or not.

Mike: Several comments about this, that this photo, the cover photo, is probably the most seen photo of your business anyplace. It gets seen more at Google and is more likely to create engagement than any other photo, either in terms of getting people to click in or getting people to call you because what they see is good. So in my mind, it requires a professional photographer, who are inexpensive, they’ll come in for half day for $300 or $400.

And hopefully, as this photo does, capture some of the emotion of what you’re selling, not just the fact that you’re selling hot tubs, but that you’re selling hot tubs to families who are going to have a good time. So I think you want to think through your cover photo and not just make it, you know, adequate, but make it compelling.

Mary: And if you have a great photo, cover photo, in your Knowledge Panel, give yourself a point for that. And as I say, of course, these are subjective, but these are two cover photos for hot-tub sales businesses that I think really convey the emotion behind why people want to have hot tubs. The one on the left is a family, dads and kids having a blast in a hot tub on a winter day.

Mike: Hopefully more than one family.

Mary: And the other one shows, you know, couples having kind of a quiet evening enjoying their place. So, you know, really try to figure out how you can come up with photos that are informative and engaging and, kind of, show the businesses personality. And as Mike said, a professional photographer is going to help you not just with the technical aspects, but also with the emotional aspects of taking photos. And if you have a photo shoot, a half-day photo shoot, you can get photos of your staff, you can get photos of the exterior of your business. You can really get photos that will last, do a good job for you for several years relatively inexpensively, and it’s definitely worth doing.

Mike: And to 27.

Mary: Do you have a good photo gallery in your Knowledge Panel? So you’re going to have to click into the Knowledge Panel and take a look at the photos that are going on there. In this particular instance that I’m showing as an example, it’s the family ski resort in my town, Glenwood Springs.

And these photos, I think, really show the fact that it’s the size of the mountain, what are you getting to ski on, that families have a good time here, that it’s very welcoming. So think about the personality that you want to give for your business. And then take a look at that photo gallery and see if it expresses the personality and the emotions that you want to invoke.

Mike: We’ve seen in Google Insights that businesses with compelling photos get two to three times the engagement of those without. And again, why would a business not want that extra engagement?

Mary: Are their image results showing in your result in your SERPs, your brand results? If you have this carousel of images as shown here, give yourself a point for that. And one of the ways to get a lot of these image results is to take a lot of photographs and to optimize them properly and put them on your website.

And also, if you have a lot of customers who are also uploading images, Google seems to really favor those in these carousels. So give yourself a point if you have a carousel of images. Then, do you have video results? And here I showed examples for Barbara Oliver, for an attorney, and also for a restaurant. So don’t say, “My business can’t get video results.” Your business can get video results.

You just have to create videos, you have to upload them to places where Google’s going to see them, and you have to optimize them so that Google can match them up with your business. And then for bonus points, special features that…you never know what you might get from Google, what they might be giving you as far as a special feature. But one of the things that you can get a bonus point for is having a Yelp, Yelp pages showing up in your SERPs.

Mike: So this happens often if you’re, like, noted as 10 best or best brewery in Glenwood Springs, or that sorts of phraise.

Mary: Yes. And this particular business managed to get two listings at Yelp, one in their own listing and one in a best-of listing. Also, do you have best of listings from third-party sites? Google is really on a tear showing these best of listings. And people are learning to search for best jeweler, best restaurant, best lawyer. So when they do, these are the types of pages that are likely to show up.

The first one is a Yelp for a ski-rental place. The second one is a best restaurant. So if you show up in any of these best of listings, give yourself a point for each of those. And then, some other special type of features could be shopping, it could be events, it could be a Wikipedia listing, anything that gives you extra oomph in the visuals of your brand page, go ahead and give yourself a point for. Does Barbara have any of those?

Mike: I don’t think so.

Mary: And then at the end, you’re going to see a score. If you enter the security code, it’ll email your results to you.

Mike: I hate to be a skeptic but what is the first letter of that? Or is it just four letters that I need to enter?

Mary: I’m gonna say it’s probably four letters. Let’s see what happens. So Barbara got a score of 30. Right now, we don’t really have much to compare anything to, but from the ones that I personally have done, a score of 30 is pretty darn…when we did this exercise at LocalU advanced, we had scores as low as four and five.

We had a lot of people who were scoring in the 15 to 20 range. We did have somebody who scored in the 30s because they had a lot of videos that showed up on the page. So it’s really going to differ by location and industry. And it gives you an idea of what to improve, what you can improve on your page. Mike.

Mike: I just want to show the resultant email that you get. Give me one second here while I make it larger. So maybe, you could just talk about this a little bit there.

Mary: So, this, kind of, just goes through the questions and answers. And it’s going into our database. It’s being collected in our database so that we will be able to say, you know, hopefully, after several hundred people have used this, that most people have this, most people do not have something else, so maybe that could give you an advantage.

So we hope to be revisiting this data and sharing it with you. And hopefully, you can use this as a little bit of a sales tool to help show your customers why they should be using a lot of these new engagement features that Google is giving us on our branded page.

Mike: Thank you very much for the walk through. Is there anything else we need to add, Mary?

Mary: I don’t think so. We’re probably going to have to add to this as Google adds more features.

Mike: Next week then.

Mary: Next week, yes. But if you’re an agency, hopefully you can use this to help your clients. And if you’re a do-it-yourselfer, don’t forget that there’s links on the bottom of a lot of these pages that can help coach you into improving whatever that feature is so that you can improve your score.

Mike: Thank you very much for doing the tool and thanks for joining me on the Deep Dive to talk about it.

Mary: Thanks, Mike.

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