In this episode of Wellspring Digital Chats, we have a good friend of Wellspring Digital and a foremost expert on Google My Business, Tim Capper.
There is some really useful stuff in this one. Picking Tim’s brain was a treat for me and will be for you too. Our fearless leader, Karl Hindle, told me to focus on GMB and that is my plan.
In this we discuss…
- What Is Google My Business or GMB?
- The Importance of Google My Business
- The New Pandemic Realities of Google My Business
- Google Reviews and the COVID-19 Reset
- What’s the Future of Google My Business?
Let’s get to it, shall we…
Digital Transcription – Edited for Readability
Jon-Mikel Bailey: Welcome to the Wellspring Digital Chats. My name is Jon-Mikel Bailey. This is where we bring the brains of some of the best marketing experts around directly to you. So you can learn more, and I can learn a little more, too.
So today, we are very, very lucky to have a good friend of Wellspring Digital as well as a foremost expert on Google My Business and local SEO. Tim, if you would take a moment and introduce yourself to these good folks.
Tim Capper: Hi, everyone. I’m Tim. I’m based in the UK, and judging by the dodgy twang, from South Africa, but don’t hold it against me. And yeah, so I own and operate Online Ownership in the UK. And I’m currently the only Google My Business product expert running out of the UK, you do have a lot of fair few in the US. And there are a couple more dots around the world. But I’m sort of managed the UK.
Jon-Mikel Bailey: I think it’s safe to say that you’re the only South African living in the UK who is also an expert in Google My Business.
Tim Capper: Yeah, I think that’s a pretty safe assumption.
Jon-Mikel Bailey: That’s what you should put outside your door. Welcome to the office.
What is Google My Business or GMB?
Jon-Mikel Bailey: So I’m really excited about this one. picking your brain is going to be a treat for me. And for these folks. As I mentioned, our fearless leader Karl Hindle told me to focus on Google My Business with you. And that is my plan for the most part. So let’s jump right in.
Alright, so it seems that quite often when I mentioned Google My Business to clients or to business owners, they look at me a little sideways. Can you explain what Google My Business or GMB is to these people who may not know?
Tim Capper: Yeah, and I think the big problem Google had with that is they changed the name. They’ve rebranded products so many times over the years. And I suppose the quickest way for someone to kind of get the idea is if they search for their brand name, or their business name if they get what we call a knowledge panel appearing, and nine times out of 10, that is actually extracted from now what is called Google My Business.
It’s generated via maps. And initially, and when Google Maps launched back in 2005, they needed to populate the maps. So they essentially scraped everything. And people kind of assumed that this was some kind of Google thing, they never realized that they could actually manage it, own it, brand it.
Also, people don’t realize that it’s actually benefiting their business, because when they look in their analytics, they can see stuff coming from Facebook or from, you know, Twitter or other marketing channels. If you’ve never used the UTM tracking code, it’s just lumped in as “organic.”
So people just think it’s some disjointed thing, which Google provided. Yeah, so I think that’s the biggest misconception. And then when you tell them, “I actually you can own it and brand that” and they’re like “really?”
The Importance of Google My Business and How to Optimize It
Jon-Mikel Bailey: So it is important obviously for businesses to have and claim that Google My Business. What are some things that maybe people miss? Maybe they’ve claimed it, maybe they have it and maybe they’re missing some opportunity there? What are some common things that seem to miss in Google My Business?
Tim Capper: So the platform, Google map has made some big, big changes last year. So if you haven’t sort of looked in a while, you can actually add a business description now. They enabled Google posts, you can use Google posts, which show up in search results instantly in your knowledge panel for what’s going on. They last for seven days.
Products in Google My Business
You can actually add now – it’s not required or applicable to all sorts of categories – but you can add products, you can add price, those don’t appear. And even if you start using the product section, it will actually display your products directly in for your business name in the knowledge panel, okay? Which are direct, you know, people can click directly through from that into that product. And of course, you can interlink it, then again, into that product page itself.
Optimizing Google My Business
You can list events. So there’s a lot of stuff that’s happening, that people can actually, you know, use and optimize for a better-looking knowledge panel. The thing is, what Google is what people need to realize what Google is trying to do, is they’re trying to be the window to their business and to keep within their product.
Now, if you’re just not taking ownership of that, and you should take ownership of any way that your brand is on whatever platform, you’re just missing out. And if somebody is doing some form of comparison search, in the sense of, “I’m looking for a window cleaner,” if yours is unloved, it just has some really dodgy images…
Because of course, users can upload images to it, which is another thing you need to manage… and if you’ve never looked at reviews or anything like this, people are going to look instantly when they’re just comparing. You literally are going to be losing out on that additional click based upon what they’re searching for.
Jon-Mikel Bailey: Sure. And it’s funny because you have that picture behind you of the storefront kind of Google My Business image there. And that’s really what it is, your digital storefront. And if it’s not, you know, if you got bags of trash sitting outside and bums hanging out, not a good look for you.
Tim Capper: I mean, oh, let’s talk about bags of trash. There are so many times when people don’t take the time to even just drop their pin marker. It’s sort of, you know, fun, they will just randomly drop it in. They’ve never zoomed in or use the satellite view or Street View to actually put it at their front door.
And, you know, when you get the Street View, which is merged into the product, you might have a back alley displaying next to his name. And it’s like, you know, just just take a little bit of time. And this is how customers see you and your business. It’s the window to it.
You know, your search results are literally a title and of course, if it’s for the brand name, you’ll have a title, you might have a couple of extra snippets. Right there, slap bang, you’ve got this visually impressive knowledge panel. You have to look after it.
The New Pandemic Realities of Google My Business
Jon-Mikel Bailey: So, we’re in this pandemic here, and we’re seeing dramatic shifts in how businesses are marketing themselves. You have a post from June about COVID-19 survival, and it lays out in very stark terms how hard it’s been for businesses dealing with all the changes in local SEO. What do businesses need to be doing to stay creative and on top of the new realities coming at us almost daily when it comes to local SEO?
Tim Capper: Yeah, that is tough. And I think every type of business is going to have to just really see what the customers are looking for and try to understand what they are looking for, what their specific thing is. In terms of GMB, in a really niche local business, it’s actually “are you open?” It’s, the basic thing and if you haven’t managed to GMB that’s quite a tough thing.
The second thing is what control measures do you have in place? Am I going to wait outside? You know, if it’s raining, do I need a brolly (umbrella)? Is there an awning? What are the queues like? What’s the one-way system? Have you got a time limit? Like a time estimate? If I’m a local store, which I’ve got six aisles in, it may take you 15 minutes. People are conscious of how long they are indoors.
It’s search queries. So if you’re not providing this to the user, whether it be on your website… GMB has actually got a little COVID post that lasts for 30 days, which will actually display above any other posts about the measures you’re taking. Other attributes are being rolled out all the time in GMB, whether you are providing a different set of, you know, handwash sanitary gel, sanitizers, things like this.
So there are a lot of attributes you can apply to that. If it’s restaurants, are you just offering takeaway (take-out)? Or you can select that you’re not doing that, you’re not doing dine-in for the minute, “but we do offer takeaway, we do offer curbside delivery?” So those are the attributes on that.
But if you’re not putting that on your site, and trying to understand that people are completely looking at search queries in different ways. And of course, unfortunately, a lot of all the keyword suggestion tools that we typically use in SEO, these aren’t surfacing yet. So you are actually going to need to speak to your customers.
They may not want to be in-store, but reach out to them, and put together a little survey in a Google doc and ask them if they’ve got five minutes, just so you can understand how to serve them better, and then start providing answers to those queries, whether it be on your site or individual products, product pages on your site, or whatever the case may be. But people are scared, and they’re looking at different things.
Google Reviews and the COVID-19 Reset
Jon-Mikel Bailey: That’s a perfect segue to my next question. So I appreciate that. So I was talking with another marketer, Jay Baer, a couple of weeks ago, and he was saying that he has this whole theory about how basically you have B.C., before COVID, and after COVID. And he was talking about how businesses are basically having to completely reset.
Specifically, he mentioned that pre-COVID reviews on your Google reviews are kind of losing their meaning because we’re being forced to reintroduce ourselves to the market marketplace. So first of all, do you agree with that? And second of all, do you have any recommendations for people managing their Google reviews in this new pandemic reality?
Tim Capper: I certainly see some reviews are going to be redundant. And of course, in GMB, you get typically three featured reviews, you know, snippets that’ll show up. And depending on what those specifically were, and if you were sort mining reviews, they could look a little bit redundant.
The way you can prompt users is when you’re sending out – if you’ve collected their email or they’ve become a customer, they’ve signed up to your newsletter, whatever the case may be – when you send these out, and you ask them for a review, or if it was a customer that came in that day, and you send it up later in the afternoon, whether then they may have had a hair cut or something, you could prompt them in saying things like, “how did you find the service today with our new implementation?”
Yeah, what you’ve prompted them to, and they should, in some way, shape or form actually mentioned how helpful it was or how well managed it was, etc. and that will start filtering it into the actual reviews. So you’re just making that little prompt or suggestion based upon what they actually did.
And if it was, you know, a service that you had gone to their whatever the case would be, you’re just prompting them, it doesn’t always work. So just prompting in that “Hi, you know, thank you for coming in today, a pleasure to serve you, I wonder if you could…” and you just prompt them slightly into that kind of direction you want to lead them in?
Jon-Mikel Bailey: That’s interesting. So it’s gonna definitely be interesting to see the long-term effects of this and I for one feel that now is the time where businesses can really step up. And show that they’re willing to go the extra mile and to be flexible and to work with their customers, with their clients. So yeah, and obviously now I think that Google My Business and local SEO plays a huge role in that. That’s interesting.
Tim Capper: If you depend on a particular region specifically, whether it be walk-in customers, you should really take ownership of GMB tied into your site. Make sure that Google understands the signals between your site, where you are, your business, etc., the machine learns from your site. Although they are slightly two separate algos (algorithms) from you know GMB and that.
The Google Three-Pack
You definitely need to get a grip on it and manage it. If you provide a service, you want to aim to be in the local pack for a service query. You know, if you have a brand with a couple of locations, you want to aim by structuring it correctly to aim for a proper brand pack. So when your name is searched, you just don’t have an organic listing, and then Google doesn’t just pick one random knowledge panel, it actually displays a brand pack
So three recent ones, or three of the nearest ones to that customer. So, integrating and structuring the site together with your listings is definitely important.
Jon-Mikel Bailey: Is that the three-pack that Karl (Hindle) is always talking about?
Tim Capper: Yes. So if you just search “plumber in town,” obviously Google knows where you are, or at least it tries to interpret where you are, based on IP or your mobile phone, you will get a three-pack. So you’ve got a little snippet of three businesses appearing on a map, and then it’ll give you details of what they feel are the most relevant ones to you. And that applies to all kinds of lawyers, dentists, doctors, pet stores, pretty much any type of business with the location.
What’s the Future of Google My Business?
Jon-Mikel Bailey: I’m definitely seeing the severe, massive importance of Google My Business now. So, Google has a tendency to wait until everyone gets used to how things work and then completely changes everything. So I wanted to see if you could be a bit of a soothsayer here and ask you, do you see Google moving Google My Business into a paid model? Or you know, what other changes do you see coming for GMB and local SEO?
Tim Capper: So Google My Business, for two years now, they’ve already been running an offshoot to this called Service Ads. So if you search, it’s not all categories, and it’s not in all states, but if you searched “locksmith, San Diego,” for example, you now get, right at the top of organic, a list of businesses with a green little Google “guaranteed” tick next to them. Then you will have two regular ads, then you will have local service ads, and then organic after that way, way, way below the fold.
So yeah, they’ve already moved into that. And in fact, this week, Friday night, last gone, they launched local service ads sign up for the UK, and a couple of European countries now. So they are going full tilt into the into the into the local service ads with a Google guarantee.
And in fact, two weeks ago, they actually announced that you don’t even have to go through local service ads to get the Google guarantee. You can actually apply for 50 bucks a month just on your regular GMB listing with a Google guaranteed badge. Yes, there are a few hoops you have to jump through you. They will check, the business is vetted, the business owners are checked as well as staff. So there are a few hoops you have to jump through.
But if you’re going to start having local service ads, then you’ve got a three-pack. And you are in there, and two of them have the Google guaranteed tick next to it, and yours doesn’t, even if you work hard to get into the three-pack, you just don’t even got to be there.
So they’ve literally split it up two ways. Local service ads, obviously, those are applicable to service area businesses only as such. They have expanded to a few in the States, like lawyers where it’s actually an office. Primarily, it started out as service-area businesses. Now you’ve got them in the States, two weeks ago, launching this, if you’re applicable, you can apply for it. That will be just literally local businesses.
It all depends on the country, you know, they’re not going to guarantee a pint of milk. It will guarantee a particular service to a monetary value, and I think, in the States, it’s up to $2,000.
Jon-Mikel Bailey: There’s never a dull moment
Tim Capper: Yeah, totally. Now, there’s another thing they’ve been testing on and off for a couple of years, which I keep catching. And they been testing more and more frequently, which is a bit worrying. When you have your knowledge panel, so it’ll be your images above, name, address, before your products, your Google posts, or products, or reviews, there’s a nice little bit of space that they opened up and they were actually displaying ads from Gumtree or different other offer sites, things like this.
So if they’re already displaying or testing these ads, which is a pain in the ass, because if you don’t know you’re displaying it, and then they’re testing this and you’re running a 20% discount over on Gumtree, or whatever other platforms, and they’re actually expanding out these different offer platforms, and you are then offering that thinking, “well, it’s 20%, I might get a bit of traction there,” but all of a sudden, they’re displaying this right slap bang in your knowledge panel, it becomes a problem because then every single customer is going to naturally move away from you, go direct there to book the 20% discounts and come back to you. And you could lose exponential amounts.
I mean, the reason we first caught it was a pizza restaurant in, I think they were in New York, and they came on to the forum, and they were like, “what the hell’s going on?” We took one order direct the entire weekend. And of course, margins are tight with restaurants. But when I was like, “well, what’s the restaurant name,” we start doing a bit of digging, luckily, the ad was still showing for a third party menu site, which they had run a deal on.
So all of a sudden, instead of direct orders – third party menu sites can charge anywhere up to 10 to 15% of the actual order total – over an entire weekend, this pizza joint in New York, literally never made any profit. And they were freaking out because of that. Now, I’m not saying Google will, but at some point, I think these ads will run out more and more and more.
At the minute they are your own branded ads if you’re actually advertising on different platforms, so it is coming to you. But at some point, could you essentially target a business type category and have your business appear in someone else’s knowledge panel? That could be a potential.
It could be another incentive instead of like, “Hey, take out the Google guarantee for $50 a month and we won’t show someone else’s ad.” so they’re really going massively on how to monetize it. So they could be going anywhere with it.
Jon-Mikel Bailey: So, it’s a full-time job. So I think now that we’ve managed to scare the crap out of a bunch of businesses… No, seriously, this has been tremendously helpful. There’s a lot in here and I really appreciate it. Thank you so much for coming on and stay safe over there on your own personal tiny island.
Tim Capper: Yeah, thanks very much. Thanks for having me.
Jon-Mikel Bailey: Yep. Thank you. Bye, everybody.