2017 is shaping up to be the year of Google My Business (GMB). Over the past several months, Google has slowly been morphing GMB into the ultimate hub for managing your business information online. Multiple new features have rolled out this summer, all with the goal of preventing the spread of inaccurate information about your business, and providing users with an easy solution to local business queries.
It may seem like extra work to manage multiple new features at once, but your Digital Marketing strategy should take them into account because of their placement in the search engine results. Many of these new features affect the look and feel of the Knowledge Graph (the panel on the right side of the search results that displays information about your business), which is one of the first things that users see when they search your name or brand. The Knowledge Graph is an important source of information for users who are gathering information, and the more accurate and useful info you can provide in there, the better.
In late June, Google released a revamped version of the “Posts” feature to all Google My Business users. Google Posts allow companies to share short, timely messages directly in the organic search results. Posts include a short snippet of content and a CTA that leads to the landing page of your choosing, which makes them perfect for promoting sales or limited time offers, events, product launches, or new published material like an eBook. Posts are quickly becoming a useful way to build awareness and generate interest to users who may be deciding between your brand and a competitor. Oh, and did we mention that they’re free to use?
Posts are published directly in the Knowledge Graph, which means that on Mobile the content will be at the top of the SERPs and one of the first things users will see when searching for a business. On Desktop, Posts help fill out the Knowledge Graph and create a new avenue for users to travel to your website. The example below shows what a promotional Google Post looks like on Desktop.
Read more about all the benefits of Google Posts and how to create a Post for your business, here.
Question & Answers
In August, Google introduced another new feature called Questions & Answers. This feature is exactly what is sounds like. It allows GMB managers to address frequently asked questions directly in the SERPs. Questions can concern anything having to do with the business, such as vegetarian options at a restaurant, which credit cards are accepted, or the description of a new service offering. The factor that makes this feature different from your site’s FAQ page is that the Q&As are curated by customers as well as the merchant. Anyone with a Google account can ask a question, and can “thumbs up or down” a question to make it appear higher or lower in the listing. We highly recommend answering all questions, including questions posed by both you and by random users, with a full sentence or more. This demonstrates quality customer service and a commitment to providing solutions. Direct communication like this is always good for brand image, and providing users with helpful information directly in the SERPs generates trust and loyalty.
The example below shows what the Q&A feature looks like in the Mobile SERPs. Notice how the current question only has responses from other users, not the business itself. If the Boston Public Market responded, they could provide a reliable answer to the original question.
The one current downside to the Q&A feature is that it must be managed through Android. In order to see that someone posted a question to your listing, you’ll have to have the Google Maps app for Android to be notified. However, it’s predicted that the feature will have a general roll out later this year.
Video for Local Results
Google made another announcement in August that touted the new ability to upload videos directly to your local listing(s). The method is similar to adding a photo or review to a local listing. Currently videos are managed through your Google Map’s listing or the Knowledge Graph panel, instead of the Google My Business dashboard. As an owner, you can upload a video but it will not take precedence over a video that is uploaded by any other user. Like the Q&A feature, the ability to add a video is limited to users with an Android device.
The addition of videos to the local listings is exciting because it opens a new channel to share interesting multi-media about your company. Including videos on your listing can help demonstrate the vibe of your office, and show off your product or service. It will be interesting to see how quickly users and business owners adopt this new feature and begin adding videos. Be on the lookout!
In July, Google announced a new messaging feature within Google My Business. The feature is still in pilot mode, but it allows GMB managers to message with customers directly using Google’s Allo chat system. You can learn more about the setup of the Chat feature, here. The announcement of this feature is particularly big news because it means that customers and businesses can communicate in real-time straight from the SERPs. Like the Q&A feature, this type of direct responsiveness is good for business and your brand image. The new chat feature certainly opens a whole new avenue of customer service.
Search Industry Repercussions
All of GMB’s new features provide helpful business-related information right in Google’s search engine results pages, which can be great for general user experience, but worrisome for some website owners. NAP Information, Reviews, and Q&As, are all elements that customers used to go to a company website for. However, with these elements all included in GMB and the Knowledge Graph, it gives users a more direct line to your business in the SERPs while potentially eliminating the need to engage on your website, potentially decreasing CTR.
This is not a doomsday scenario. Firstly, the information provided by the Knowledge Graph is useful but not extensive, and it’s extremely unlikely that there will be major drop-offs in site traffic due to the new features. Going forward, it will be important to note any differing trends in Google Analytics performance to establish where you can use the new GMB features to your benefit and where it’s not needed. For example, if your website already has a comprehensive FAQ page, you can look into which types of queries are already leading to the FAQ page, and use GMB’s Q&A feature to highlight the questions that aren’t driving high amounts of traffic to the site on their own.
Secondly, the extra information in the Knowledge Graph encourages users to immediately make a move to engage with your business in other ways, such as calling or visiting the brick and mortar store. A “Call Now” CTA in a Post or a helpful answer to a question may be the deciding factor for a user who will then immediately take action to contact the company. GMB and the Knowledge Graph can help drive new leads in ways that you haven’t previously tried. We recommend trying out all of GMB’s new features and seeing which ones work for your business. If you don’t have a Google My Business profile yet, your first step should be to create one and take advantage of all the management tools it has to offer!