In 2017, Google has proven once again that if there is one thing that never changes, it’s their ability to continuously change. We keep track of all the significant Google My Business changes, tests and rollouts and it is already over thirty items long for this year alone. Here’s just a small sample.
- (January) Google defaults to 4+ review average for “best” searches (US only)
- (Feb-March 2017) Google rolls out 3-pack ads.
- (March 2017) Google rolls out moderation on desktop to Level 5 Local Guides. A few weeks later it rolled out to everyone.
- (April 2017) Google adds menu field to GMB.
- (April 2017) Google adds bulk insights.
To say that it is important to stay on top of all the changes as a marketing agency or consultant goes without saying. Staying on top of all the changes for a business owner is important too. And this is becoming more and more the case with the rollout of some specific GMB features that require constant support and attention from not only the marketing agency who is managing GMB listings, but also the business owner who needs to participate. I’ll go into some detail about two of these features, including how to make sure you are getting the most mileage out of them for your business.
Google launched this feature on June 22, 2017. Initially there was some confusion between this feature and the older Google+ that allowed you to make posts to your business listing. Fortunately, Google has done an excellent job with their help center articles lately. Google’s help article gives you a lot of great information about Google posts such as:
- How to create a post on Google
- How to edit or delete a post
- How to see how many times your post was seen or clicked
- How to write good posts
- Content that is not allowed
Essentially, Google Posts allows a Google My Business listing to post content directly to the Local Knowledge Panel. In contrast, Google+ Posts only really show up if the user/customer is using Google+. Google+ posts don’t show up in search very well at all unless the post has a lot of comments.
This is a great way for business owners to take more control of the digital real estate that is their Google homepage. To learn even more about how to optimize your “homepage” check out this article by Mike Blumenthal.
Here’s a couple pointers to keep in mind as you start utilizing Google Posts:
- Google Posts have nothing to do with Google Plus
- The posts have unique URLs that you can share by clicking on the post. These URLs are not currently indexed by Google so they won’t rank independently (unlike G+ posts which do).
- The posts only stay live for 7 days unless it’s an event. In that case, it stays live until the event is over.
- A silly feature is that if you post the event and it’s less than 7 days away, the event still stays up for 7 days. So it’s either 7 days or when the event is over — whichever is further away.
- Animated gifs and video are not currently supported.
- Google will scroll up to 10 posts in a carousel but only about 2.5 are seen without scrolling.
Google Posts Pro Tip: The insights for Google Posts in the GMB dashboard currently only tell you the # of views and clicks and since the data isn’t unique (multiple impressions from the same user are counted), it’s helpful to use Google Analytics on the button link. To do this, create a custom URL to put into the button field. For example: www.domain.com/?utm_source=GoogleMyBusiness&utm_medium=Organic&utm_campaign=Posts
Google Questions and Answers
Google launched Q&A for Google Maps on August 8, 2017. This feature is currently only visible on the Google Maps app for Android and also on mobile browsers. Questions & Answers is a feature that exists outside of the GMB dashboard. In other words, it is not possible for a GMB listing owner or manager to manage the feature from inside the GMB dashboard.
How Does It Work?
When a user pulls up a business listing on the Google Maps app or on a mobile browser they will now see a section prompting them to ask a question about the business. Here’s a funny example.
Business owners can get notifications when a new questions is asked. However, the business owner must have the Google Maps app installed and must be signed in with the same Google account that they use to manage the listing in Google My Business.
Owners and managers of the listing in Google My Business will receive the notification. However, the user who asks the question does not currently receive a response when an answer is submitted for the question they asked.
Can You See Who Asks the Questions?
Yes, but you need to dig a little bit. You can see the profile and name of the person who asked the question, but only by clicking on the question itself. On the initial screen that shows the question you don’t see any information about who wrote the question.
Tips for Using Questions & Answers
- Business owners should avoid answering questions with a generic “Yes” or “No” response. This is because the person who asked the question can go back and edit their question and the business owner would never know. For example, I could post a question to a business asking if “George” was the owner of the business. And the business owner replies with “Yes.” I could go back and edit my question and change it to “Is the owner of this company treating their employees poorly?” And the answer would still be “Yes.” It’s always a smart idea to try and stay one step ahead of spammers and we have already seen this feature being abused in that way.
- Read this article about six things you need to know about the Q&A feature.
- Since this feature is currently only available on mobile devices you won’t see it while on a desktop. But there’s a trick for that! Here’s a trick to allow you to see the feature on desktop
- Add an extension to Chrome that allows you to make your browser think you are a mobile device, such as this one.
- Enable the extension and set the user agent to Android:
- Go to Google.com and search for the business. You should be able to see Q&A now on the listing and should be able to reply and/or comment.
One More Tip For You
Hopefully the above information and tips will give you ideas and inspiration to go and start implementing and utilizing them for your business or your clients. I wanted to leave you with one more tip that you can implement right away.
One of the coolest things about the Google Posts feature is that you can literally change the way your Google homepage looks when potential customers are searching for your brand name. Generally, the number one thing that potential customers are looking for at this stage are reviews about your business. And sometimes a business either has a low number of reviews on Google or they have negative reviews that are dominating their Local Knowledge Graph. Like this random example I came across. If I was a potential customer I would not even consider contacting this business.
By utilizing Google Posts to highlight your reviews from other sources, like your website, you can transform how the Local Knowledge Panel appears and even add more gold review stars like we did with this example below. All we did was take a screenshot of the gold stars and a review directly from the businesses reviews page on their website. Then we added it as a Google Post and added a call-to-action in the post that links directly to the reviews page on the website. So now we have more gold review stars in the search results AND we can direct potential customers to the reviews page on our website where they can read even more great reviews. We use a tool called Get Five Stars to get reviews on the website for most of our clients.
Google will continue to change and these features will continue to be modified. The important part is that you have a plan in place to stay on top of all the new features and another plan in place to utilize them once they are released. To see a complete list of all the changes that Google makes, as well as 200+ pages of awesome Local SEO content, I highly recommend the Experts Guide to Local SEO.