Join Mike and Mary as they discuss the last week in local news – and take a deep dive into Google’s Question Hub in the last few minutes of the podcast!
Last Week in Local is a look back at the interesting and important articles from the previous week. It is 20-30 minutes long and covers critical industry trends, interesting local news, and tactical insights for anyone interested in Local Search.
- NYC saw most chain store closures in over a decade in 2020
- Family Video to close all stores as last-ditch effort comes up short
- ‘Apple Glass’ prototype reportedly enters second stage of production
- Facebook Smart Glasses Coming ‘Sooner Than Later’ Without AR
- Google My Business launches new performance reporting
- Getting started with Google Data Studio
- State of Online Reviews 2021 Webinar 2 pm this Thursday with Mike Blumenthal
Today’s Deep Dive:
- Google Question Hub Overview
- Jamie Indigo Question Hub needs Gmail Not G-Suite email – Twitter
Mike Blumenthal 0:00
Hi, welcome to last week in local with Mike Blumenthal and Mary Bowling. For the week ending, I think it’s December 42nd, otherwise known as January 11. Kind of one of those weeks, it still seems like 2020 from where I sit. But that being said, I had a great weekend. I actually, I, I refitted my old Junker bike and got it out to end up as a winter bike. And, but it took me two months to put on my big boy pants next to get on and ride it, which I did this weekend. And I realized that you know, it’s no colder than cross country skiing. And just like the Norwegian say, it’s, there’s no such thing as bad weather. There’s only bad clothing. And I’m pretty close to having the right mix to ride my bike in the winter. So stay tuned.
Mary Bowling 0:47
Yeah, I got Nancy and I both got electric fat bikes. And it’s amazing how well they do on the snow. The tires are about five or six inches across. Sounds like fun. And yeah, and we could go anywhere. It’s big fun, and still, let you get a little bit of exercise going.
Mike Blumenthal 1:08
Don’t go cry when it comes. When you come into work Monday on last week in local as we can locally have a broken arm,
Mary Bowling 1:14
thought it would probably be my broken head.
Mike Blumenthal 1:19
So let’s get into the news from last week was interesting article at retail dive in New York City saw the most chain store closures in over a decade and 2020 over 1000 chain stores little less than one in seven stores are actually permanently or temporarily closed last year, the number of chain stores across all boroughs dropped by 13.3% from last year 3.7%. decline. So, in Manhattan and most so so it’s not a pretty picture on the store closure front. I think we’re in a period of rejiggering of our urban environment and retail and I don’t know where it’s gonna end or what it’s gonna look like. In that vein family video. I don’t know, if you live in an area where there was a video, sort of the last video rental store standing, they actually made hay while blockbuster declined. Finally, you know, gave up the ghost and closed other stores as well, because I never liked that store. But it’s just an interesting sort of stake in the ground as of the end of the year.
Two interesting stories on smart glasses. Everybody remembers the Google Glass and the glass holes that wore them. But glasses offer..
Mary Bowling 2:42
We won’t name any names….
Mike Blumenthal 2:46
Oh, Matt McGee.
Anyways, there’s an article on Apple, they have a prototype that’s reportedly entering the second stage of production, which indicates that it could be sometime in 2021. And another article about Facebook’s smart glasses. They’re apparently partnering with Ray-ban that coming sooner rather than later, they won’t have AR on them. I see glasses as an interesting wearable going forward. Where it’s an area that is relatively untouched by digital technology. It’s one of those pieces of you know, of jewelry that you have on most of the time. And I see it as particularly well suited for local in the sense of discovery, recovery of information, particularly when you’re traveling or navigating new territory.
And I see. And for Facebook, it’s a much more existential need than it is for Apple, Facebook has really been sort of struggling when they last, you know, in 2012, they pulled a huge lead on Google my build being you know, first and mobile. And that gave them a huge advantage which they local took advantage of for three or four years, Google came back like gangbusters after plus on local and Facebook without the benefit of a local physical platform ie the iPhone or Android, you know, it’s feeling vulnerable and, and their vulnerabilities are obvious. I think, Apple turning on opt-in tracking, which is an existential threat to their revenue stream. They have a real need for an apple, on the other hand, is glass much like the view the watch, which is as an accessory to the phone until such time as it can achieve enough power in and of itself to do real service. Good stuff. So, you know, I think Apple without knowing what the future holds, certainly it’s a little better positioned to develop this than Facebook. Imagine Facebook knowing who you’re staring at. They would leverage that information to show you an ad. Oh, you like those shirts. I will let me show you A pair. Anyways. little scary thought, right?
In Google My Business News, they’ve launched new Performance Reporting charts in the business GMB dashboard. on local, it’s not fully developed and it’s not yet a replacement. It shows six months’ worth of data as a default. It’s an interesting view, it looks like it has some promise. I haven’t done a deep dive into it just looked at it, but should be in all of your business dashboards this week, if you haven’t seen it yet.
Deep crawl did what I thought was a very nice article on it titled getting started with Google Data Studio. who that is, is Google’s free data. Bi business information tool that allows you to bring in information from many, many sources from GMB from call rail from the web, Google Analytics and site tester, Google’s Webmaster tool, and this article sort of lays out how to get started the steps, you know how to continue learning, and some advanced use cases to sort of seed your entree into a sort of ramp of knowledge about getting a studio and I see dentistry is very valuable, both for agencies and small businesses, none of the Google sort of big data tools like analytics, or even Search Console, create URL, because they’re so generalized, they don’t point to the specific call to action and KPIs that I think most businesses should be thinking about. And I think this offers a lot, there’s a great article, sort of ease your way into it.
And that’s what I’ve got this week Mary, so why don’t you take it?
Mary Bowling 6:56
Alright, so I read a couple of articles about the state of Google Maps these days. And, and its main competitor, which is OpenStreetMap. And the whole concept there is very interesting. As Google introduced higher prices for their API, greater restrictions for people, they were going to license their technology, they gained a much stronger market position. And it’s really allowed Google to call all the shots and their relationship with the people who use their data. Meanwhile, Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft, and Apple are backing an open-source maps platform called OpenStreetMap, which has been around for a while. And they’re doing this because they don’t want to pay Google for Google’s data. They’d rather have their own data on maps, and they’d rather have their own maps than have to use Google Maps. It’s a very expensive thing to maintain a data manageable data set that’s actually worthwhile. Unfortunately, one of the consequences
Mike Blumenthal 8:11
Just a note on the expense, of course, they do, as estimated that is somewhere in the order of billion to $2 billion a year to maintain a map set of business, the sync for worldwide mapping.
Mary Bowling 8:25
Yes. And I think another thing is by having a consortium of tech companies rather than one tech company, they can say we’re not a monopoly. You know, we’re we are really more open source than Google.
Mike Blumenthal 8:42
Yeah, well, but it goes down into this domination of the mapping world points out the problem with it with the way businesses run this is should be a public utility or handled like a public utility, it’s a mapping directions business listings, are really should be in the public domain and benefit all of humanity. And instead, they’re used to benefit Google. It’s really a, I think, an obvious example of how the power of capitalism to create the solutions, but also potentially the disastrous outcome when they get to control all that content.
Mary Bowling 9:20
Very true. And, you know, the members of the OSM community, most of whom are volunteers, they’re starting to get a little bit worried about these big companies contributing so much to their open-source platform, and they feel like it’s being this is a quote, “irreversibly adulterated by profiteering intruders.” And this is exactly what happened to Google Maps, the more Google took from its users, the more information it said please give me this information, the more adulterated with profiteering if became, as soon as people in a particular industry realized they could manipulate things. The manipulators took over and Google has not risen to the challenge of policing them. So I see this cycle repeating itself at OpenStreetMap. also kind of it brings to mind an article I read about how the geological survey ended up selling some of their data and some of their tools to Google Maps and to OpenStreetMap into other mapping platforms. So this is something to watch. If your company is totally reliant on Google Maps, you might want to at least start looking at what’s going on with OpenStreetMap.
Then there are quite a few articles out there with predictions for local search for 2021. And the bright local one is a pretty standard round-up of opinions of different local search practitioners,
Mike Blumenthal 11:10
I would caution people to remember that predictions, our opinions, and opinions are like assholes, everybody’s got one, and they all stink. So be sure to verify these opinions independently.
Mary Bowling 11:25
That’s right. And they’re mostly to look at, not because you think that these predictions are written in stone, but to see the general trend lines that the experts are, are kind of cognizant of. And most of these predictions revolve around the continued maybe even accelerated monetization of Google my business, and Google Maps. And they also are kind of focused on how Google’s losing its skirmish against spam.
Clickz put out their version of the digital marketing forecast. And some of the things that they are encouraging is making sure that your website is really up to snuff. And this is a tough one because a large number of local businesses don’t even have websites yet. But that you want to have a website search function that really works well. And you want to have a lot of details about your products on your website. And then it also talks a little bit about values-based digital messaging. And I think this is a really messy place to play in, where you name your carpet business, the light of God, carpet purveyors, in hopes of attracting all the evangelicals to have you install your carpet. You be careful what you wish for if you think that you want to do value-based digital messaging.
And then lastly, Miriam Ellison at Moz. She did take a different take on the predictions. And what she did was asked about half a dozen local search practitioners about a business that they frequent that they frequented before and after COVID, and how that business has adapted, and what recommendations people would have for them. And then she goes into a kind of summarizing the ideas that she took from this. One of which, again, is be careful what you have on your website, make sure that you’re putting as much information as you possibly can, that people want to know about on your website.
And now I think Mike wants to show us some things he found out about Google q&a.
Mike Blumenthal 14:06
Question Hub, right so before I do, I just want to mention that this Thursday, self-aggrandizing link, I am doing the representing the localU presentation. I did on reviews, by a gather up this Thursday at 2 pm. I’ll include the link so if you’d like to see where I think reviews have been for the last year where I think more about how to position yourself for the future with them. You’re welcome to join me. It’s about an hour long. 40 minutes presentation, 20 minutes q&a. So it says Thursday, include the link.
So last week, we talked about the new question hub from Google. This is the feature that shows the quite big if when Google doesn’t think they’re delivering detailed enough search results. They now are putting a question box at the bottom where users can ask questions. And they have opened up these questions to webmasters and media sites. And I just wanted to show you some of what it looks like because I think it offers some interesting possibilities. So I’m going to share the screen for one second. Great. Can you see my question? home screen?
So it’s at, questionhub.google.com, you need to log in, what we learned last week was that if you have a G Suite, email, this does not work with a G Suite email, you have to use a Gmail address that isn’t associated with G Suite. So if, if you and your need also need access, you can see here that I gave it access to my search console. So if your G Suite, emails, what controls the Search Console, you have to would have to also give search console to the other Gmail address you use. So the first tip is just to use a Gmail address, not a G suite address, because you will not get in and you have to have that Gmail available in that particular search content. Do they make this very obvious in the instructions or no, this particular thing they don’t they just say, it doesn’t work with G Suite. That’s all. But it doesn’t tell you what it does work with. So like, I can tell you works like I have two emails or more than two. But once a G Suite email and one’s not. And it clearly didn’t, I picked this tip up on Twitter, from Jamie Indigo was good, too.
So when you first get in, they asked you which search console you want to insert, which Search Consoles you want to associate it with you they give you a list and you can then select which of the URLs within that. And you can pick the language in what country you’re working with. And then you the next thing is to add questions. So let’s say you’re working with a lawyer who’s an employment law lawyer, and you’re looking for questions about Employment Lawyers.
You find it, you add it to your dashboard. And you can add, they come in questions 10 at a time, you can add, you know, as many of these as you want, you then come back to the questions dashboard. And you can see the questions that are being asked Now many of these questions are either too specific, or too crazy, or too net to be valuable. You can get rid of them by selecting them.
You can dismiss them and bring it down to a few that you find of interest. But what you’re likely to find in here are questions that are not well answered by Google and they give you the say, if this one is your place of employment, if your place of employment is closing down for a day due to construction, no fault of your own by law, do they still need to pay the employees? Okay, that’s a legitimate question. You could answer that. If you have a page that answers it, then add the link to the Submit answer link. And then Google would then reference it for this particular question, see if it does meet it.
And then they give you the ability to track these, they also give you the ability to track to start the question. So if there are several 100, and you only want to look at a couple in different categories, you can define as many question categories as you want. For example, for this example of an employment lawyer, you might have sexual harassment or non competes, and you can star them and bring those into a subset so that you can focus on just those. So it’s a fairly eloquent way to find what I consider to be low hanging fruit, ie, something that Google does not perceive the question that they answered very well on long-tail searches. So Mike, if you have the ability to generate content and are looking for some quick wins in the content arena, there’s a lot of garbage questions in here that you have to dismiss, but you can use it as a resource for the kinds of questions you might be able to answer and get some enter into a non-competitive space when it’s so all in all, I think it’s a reasonable product and well implemented, easy to understand and easy to work with.
Mary Bowling 19:59
I can see how you could use maybe one article to answer several related questions to get this to go even further for you.
Mike Blumenthal 20:10
That’s a good point. Excellent point. Yes. So it’s, uh, you know, content is always hard, but finding places where you can compete Is, is hard. Also, this is a very low-cost way of doing so. And easy ways for most people.
Mary Bowling 20:27
What’s your opinion on localizing these questions? Or do you think Google is already kind of localizing?
Mike Blumenthal 20:34
You can ask localized questions. So for example, sexual harassment, law in New York City or something and see, so you can localize them to see, most, you know, most locales aren’t gonna have to have enough volume to see the questions. But so, I think you obviously would want to localize it in the, you know, result. But
Mary Bowling 21:10
yeah, your answer, I think, unless you’re a national firm, your answers should be localized. Correct? Cuz that’s gonna make it a lot easier for Google to snap your answer out and feed it to somebody when it’s relevant.
Mike Blumenthal 21:27
Right? That’s correct. So anyway, so that’s a review that let me just tap the screen share. And so I just want to thank you for joining us last week, a local reminder about the webinar I’m doing next week, self-interested, but it’s okay. If you want to promote your own webinars, spread your own webcast, right.
Mary Bowling 21:55
I would add that if anybody uses this question hub and has some results to share with anyone give us a call,
Mike Blumenthal 22:05
we would love to show how you used it and what successes you had with it. It’d be very interesting. I agree. So Alright, so maybe next week be better than last.
Hope you all stay safe during these next couple of difficult months as we move closer to some resolution of the pandemic. And your local businesses stay in business during this what’s going to be a very difficult time for them. So thank you very much for joining us last week in local.
We appreciate last year’s support and we look forward to another year. Thank you very much. Have a great week.