Local Internet Marketing Blog | BizIQ https://biziq.com Fri, 14 Dec 2018 22:09:20 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.9 How Google Beacons Work: The Google Beacon Master Plan https://biziq.com/blog/local-search-marketing/how-google-beacons-work-the-google-beacon-master-plan/ https://biziq.com/blog/local-search-marketing/how-google-beacons-work-the-google-beacon-master-plan/#respond Fri, 14 Dec 2018 20:21:00 +0000 https://biziq.com/?p=4628 View Article]]> Beacons, beacons, Google beacons are getting talked about everywhere. That’s partly because as I reported back in July 2018 in this BizIQ post, Google has been sending free beacons to small businesses everywhere.

As a result, everyone wants one. The blog post I mentioned is one of the most popular pieces of content on the BizIQ website, and we’re continually responding to people’s questions about these odd little devices that are no bigger than your average thumb drive. But how do beacons work and what is Google up to? What exactly is the Google Beacon master plan?

Google, of course, won’t ever actually come right out and disclose any of the reasons why they do what they do, or what their real vision is for the future of any project or technology they’re developing. Furthermore, they have a habit of bringing out a new product or feature, then take it away, then bring it back months later under a new name. However, I have my own ideas about what they might be up to, and I’m just as intrigued by these devices as everyone else is. My first step was to try to get my hands on one of the beacons in the program.

How do I get a Google Beacon?

For a while, you could sign up for your business to participate in the semi-mysterious Google Project Beacon beta test, but these days their official line is that they aren’t sending any more out or taking requests. If you click on the link above you’ll land on a page with the message, “Thank you for your interest. The form you are trying to access has either expired or reached its maximum registration limit.”

A few of my colleagues and I attempted to get Google to send one of the Project Beacon beacons to BizIQ by contacting Google directly. BizIQ GBC Manager, Danni Petersen contacted Google My Business support, but they said they’d never heard of the beacons. BizIQ Paid Media Account Manager, Tristan Hogue contacted his Google Ads contact person, and they told him they couldn’t send him one either. As a result, he decided to purchase and develop his own beacon for fun, but that’s another story.

I didn’t let any of the obstacles my colleagues had already faced sway me. I filled out a Google Project Beacon support ticket, two actually, plus an email to the dedicated Project Beacon support team at beacon-help@google.com. The first ticket and email put me in a loop with nothing but a form email thanking me for contacting them with a link to the beacon support area where I filled out my support ticket, so I filled out another help request.

My second request got me an email informing me that Google Project Beacon was closed and no longer accepting requests for beacons. However, it also got me another email from my very own Google Ads Specialist, Swaraj. His email was confusing because Swaraj said he could help me get a beacon and that he couldn’t help me get a beacon. Huh?

Hello Google, my name is Annette, please give me a beacon

I kept emailing Swaraj anyway. Finally, Swaraj told me I really needed to contact the beacon-help email with my request, and that he could only help me with Google Ads. Funny, because technically Google Beacons are part of the Google Ads department. My surreal exchange with various Google support teams had officially gone from amusing to frustrating. I officially abandoned all hope of Google ever sending BizIQ a beacon, and resigned myself to making phone calls to clients where I would try to slip this question into the conversation, “So, funny question, but did you get a strange, random package from Google recently?”

Then one morning during a beacon venting session in the marketing department, BizIQ’s HR Director, Machell Searls happened to walk through our suite.

“Beacon, did you say beacon? I have a Google Beacon,” she exclaimed.

Director of Marketing, Lexi St Laurent and Digital Media Specialist, Tim Mechling looked at her, then at me. I jumped up and said, “Yay! What! We’ve been trying to get Google to send us one for weeks now! When did it arrive? Can we see it? We need it to create educational content about beacons to help our customers. Machell, you’re a lifesaver!”

I’m not sure why Google sent us a beacon. Maybe it was Swaraj. Maybe Google was tired of so many people at BizIQ contacting them about beacons. Maybe we just randomly got one. Regardless, we have a Google Project Beacon beacon. Now what?

Wait, what are beacons again. I’m still confused.

If you’re like me and not a developer or engineer, you might be more than a little baffled and confused by beacons and all the jargon. For example, BLE, what the heck is that? So, before we get into what Google might be planning on doing with all the free beacons, they’re sending out, and what you can do with beacons at your business let’s take a step back and go over where beacons came from and what they are.

Things might get a bit technical, so take a deep breath and remind yourself that all beacons are just little one-way radio transmitters that broadcast a simple identical message, like a URL, to any smartphone in their vicinity. Alternatively, if you just want to know how Google Beacons could help your business, you can skip ahead to the Ok Google, how can I use these beacon things to grow my business? Section of this post.

Beacons aren’t new. In fact, Bluetooth, the technology that evolved to enable the development of beacons has been around since 1989. The technology was initially called shortlink radio. I guess that name sounded too simple and not very high-tech, so maybe a marketer renamed it, and that’s why early Bluetooth handsfree calling devices have flashing blue lights on them. (That isn’t what happened, according to PC Magazine it’s because of Vikings, yes, you heard me right, Vikings).

Anyway, the version of Bluetooth that beacons use, Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) came out in 2010. BLE is what enabled the development of physical beacons. But with the potential to create beacons, came the potential to develop the language, the code, the protocol that allows a beacon to communicate. By 2013 Apple released the first beacon protocol, iBeacon, and created the first stirrings of hype around the devices, and their potential for helping businesses. I’m not going to delve too much into iBeacon other than in relation to Google beacons because that will just get too confusing.

Eddystone — the Google Beacon Platform for Everyone

Roughly sometime around 2015, Google released their own beacon protocol, Eddystone and started the ongoing Eddystone project. Unlike Apple’s iBeacon which was originally developed to be compatible solely with devices running iOS, Eddystone is open-source, meaning the protocol is compatible with any device operating system that supports BLE beacons, including both Android and iOS systems. (If you have an iPhone you’re using iOS, and if you have any other brand smartphone, you’re probably using Android).

Furthermore, the open-source nature of the Eddystone project means everyone can develop actions and apps that use the Eddystone protocol as well as help improve the protocol itself. Plus, Eddystone provides multiple frames or packets. To simplify it, Eddystone offers 4 different types of message signals. (iBeacon has 1). You can use just one of the frames, or multiple frames, even all 4 of them.

1. Eddystone-UID

The first packet type works pretty much like the iBeacon. It broadcasts a short line of code called an ID number at regular intervals that any smartphone near the beacon can receive. If the phone has an app associated with the beacon then the ID number will tell the app what to do – usually display a notification about where the phone is like items on sale in a retail store, or trigger an action from the phone’s user, like leave a review, or like the business page on social media. Broadcasting the ID number is all the beacon does. It does not collect any data from the customer.

2. Eddystone-URL

This packet does exactly what you think it does. The message that’s broadcast is a short URL. No app associated with the business or the physical beacon needs to be downloaded for a smartphone in close proximity to the beacon to receive the message and complete the necessary action which is to display the URL as a notification on the person’s phone or tablet. That means, as a business, you don’t have to hire an app developer to develop an app to interact with your beacons. That’s because this particular message type, or data packet, or frame (why does it have so many names?!) works by using the Physical Web or Google’s cloud-based Proximity Beacon API. I’ll come back to those in a bit.

3. Eddystone-TLM

The third packet broadcasts telemetry data. The data in a TLM packet contains information that helps you monitor your beacon. Telemetry data can tell you things including the battery level, the number of frames your beacon has sent, how long your beacon was active, and your beacon’s temperature. Think of this frame as the messages that tell you if your beacon needs a new battery, or if it’s too hot. The data does not contain any information from customers who’ve received information from your beacon. Remember, beacons are just simple, little transmitters that only broadcast out, and can’t receive any signals or data packets from your customers’ smartphones.

4. Eddystone-EID

The last frame type is an encrypted version of UID. With the UID packets, a third party app could use your beacons because they can detect and read its ID number, then use it’s broadcasts to find its location. With an EID packet, only authorized apps can detect and read your beacon id number.

Google’s Project Beacon Beacons vs. Eddystone Beacons

Now here’s where I have to tell you something, all of the above information is about Eddystone compatible beacons you can purchase from a third-party beacon vendor who partnered with Google on Eddystone compatible BLE beacons. You then develop the beacon’s functions and any necessary apps yourself using either Eddystone or the cloud-based Google Proximity Beacon API – because, with Google, they can’t just have 1 version of something when they can develop 2 or more!

The “free” Google Beacons that they’re sending to businesses including to BizIQ use Eddystone and the Google Proximity API, but you don’t own them. Google monitors and controls them in the API. They’re pre-setup at Google, and only Google can change or add additional functions to them. If you have your own Eddystone beacons, Google encourages you to register your beacons on their Google platform where you can configure them, edit configurations, and monitor them.

Google Project Beacons Belong to Google & Eddystone Beacons Don’t

Think of the difference between the Google Project Beacons and the Google Eddystone Beacons as similar to the differences between your Google My Business listing and your company’s website which is indexed by Google. You can claim your Google My Business listing, and Google can verify your listing, but you don’t have any real ownership or control over your listing beyond what Google allows. The features and functions on your GMB listing are all controlled by Google.

Your website, while it appears in Google search results, is entirely owned by you. You control what appears on your website, and the functionality on your website. You can add pages, features, buttons, videos, etc. because you own your domain and your website.

Basically, your website and Eddystone beacons are like owning your own home. GMB listings and Google Project Beacons are like renting an apartment if the apartment were free but your landlord could randomly turn the utilities on and off, add new rooms, and flashing lights, then as soon as you got used to the flashing lights, or the free apartment, take them all away.

Lost in the Physical Web and the Internet of Things (IoT)

You see, beacons, including Google Beacons of any type – Eddystone or Google Beacon Project Beacons, are all part of the Physical Web which is connected to the Internet of Things (IoT). I know, I know, just when we get used to the Internet and the World Wide Web – “the Web” for short, along comes the Internet of Things (cue ominous music).

So, what are the IoT and the Physical Web? Talking about them can get pretty complicated, but here’s what they are in a nutshell.

1. What is the Internet of Things?

The IoT is the network of things and/or components of things, as well as the connection that allows these things to connect with each other, as well as to interact and exchange data without any human involvement at all.

What “things?” Well, anything really, as long as it can connect to the Internet and/or to another thing or things that are connected to the Internet. So really any device or component can become part of the IoT. The most common connected things that you might have are your smart thermostat, a smartwatch, or a Fitbit, or maybe even a lightbulb.

To interact with the things on the IoT, you usually need an individual app for each thing, although some things can be controlled by the same app.

2. What is the Physical Web?

The Physical Web is the interaction layer of the IoT. Think of it this way: the Physical Web is to the IoT what the Web is to the Internet. So, just as the Web allows us to interact with the Internet via web browsers, the Physical Web is what enables us to interact with the Internet of Things via Beacons. The beacon or device acting as a beacon allows a person to interact with things without downloading individual apps. Guess who we can thank for that? Google.

And just like that, we’re back to Google Beacons.

The Google Master Plan or All Your Beacons Are Belong to Us

You may be wondering why Google seems to be so excited about beacons that they started sending random beacons to businesses, and encouraging beacon use. In the past, many advertising experts would place BLE beacons at the expensive end of the local marketing stack. They thought of them as things that were useful for large retail and restaurant businesses to develop, but that were out of reach for small businesses.

All of 2018 saw Google focusing more and more on improving existing products for small businesses and on developing new features as well. Project Beacon is probably part of this push to target and serve the small business community. In the grand scheme of all things Search, by encouraging businesses to develop their own Eddystone beacons and register them with Google as well as use the Google Proximity API, and by the development of their own beacons, Google is positioning itself to control the Physical Web which many people view as the next frontier.

In this episode of Google’s, Coffee with a Googler, Peter Lewis, Google Project Beacon Product Manager, Google has made it so developers and Google can easily deploy the physical infrastructure of beacons. What he doesn’t mention is that by having most if not all beacons registered with Google, that Google then controls the entire beacon infrastructure. That’s how, in a weird way, all beacons belong to Google, or at least Google has the ability to develop new apps and services that use the beacon infrastructure.

Hey Google, how can I use these beacon things to grow my business?

Okay, now that you know a bit more about Google beacons and how they work, (or if you skipped ahead to this section), you probably want to know how you can use them to grow your business. In case you haven’t already guessed, some pretty cool things about them will benefit small local businesses.

The beacons Google is sending as part of Project Beacon are linked to your Google My Business listing and your business location and details. Google isn’t forthcoming on whether or not they are linked to your Google Ads account, but because they’re also running another test called “Location Insights,” with some Google Ads users, it’s highly probable that they’re looking into using the beacons to improve store visit conversion tracking capabilities. That’s because BLE provides more precise proximity data than GPS.

It’s this technology that helps the free Google beacons make your business more visible to customers with mobile devices like smartphones. The beacons send a signal that helps their smartphones recognize they’ve visited your store. The beacon doesn’t violate customer privacy, and your customers don’t have to download any apps to receive the signal from the beacons. The Google Project Beacon beacons don’t gather or store any information from your customer, and they’re not connected to the Internet.

Google Project Beacons are connected to your Google My Business Listing

Because the features are tied to your Google My Business listing, they gather check-ins and help you show up on customers’ personal maps with a pin that shows them they’ve visited your location before.

The documentation Google sends with the beacons claims the beacon will help you get more reviews. If a customer is part of the local guide program, then they get a notification from the beacon asking them if they’d like to leave a review. They can click on the notification and go right to the review section of your listing to write and submit their review.

Beacons help you get more photos of products and business from customers who visit your location without violating customer privacy – the customer receives a notification asking if they want to share photos of their visit and they can click “yes, or no,” then select photos to share to your listing.

If you’re part of another Google pilot program, called the “Locations Insights” you can get more information on who customers are and how they visit your location. This data is found in the “insights” menu on your business listing if you are part of the pilot program.

It can help with things like showing traffic and displaying how busy your business is at various times of the day. This information displays in your knowledge panel under “busy times.” There’s some vague information that it can also help with wait times and visit durations.

The future of Google’s Project Beacon Beacons

Google’s Peter Lewis says in this Google support forum thread that Google has plans to add more features to the beacon in the next several months. It will be interesting to see what those features are, and how they may or may not tie into Adwords more as well as Google Maps and Google My Business.

If you received one of their free beacons and were on the fence about whether you should activate it or not, I’d definitely encourage you to take advantage of the opportunity. The improved location features alone, even if you aren’t in their pilot program could help your business gain more visibility with more local customers.

Remember, unlike Eddystone Beacons and other beacons, such as Apple’s iBeacons, you don’t have to pay for the beacons nor do you have to develop any apps or other features to use the beacons. If you want a beacon you have more control over, in addition to the free beacons from Google, you will have to purchase and develop your own. The only small downside is that you can’t control or develop which features the free beacons use. Oh and as I discovered when I tried to get a beacon for BizIQ, like most new Google products and services, the customer support for the free beacons hasn’t really rolled out yet.

While we don’t deploy beacons at BizIQ (although I really want BizIQ Beacons to be a thing because I love alliteration), we can help you verify your Google My Business Listing and with other smart local online marketing solutions. Leave your comments and questions below and don’t forget to subscribe to the blog for more tips to help you grow your small business.

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Google’s New Local 4-Pack Hotel Search Results https://biziq.com/blog/local-search-marketing/googles-new-local-4-pack-hotel-search-results/ https://biziq.com/blog/local-search-marketing/googles-new-local-4-pack-hotel-search-results/#respond Wed, 12 Dec 2018 07:02:00 +0000 https://biziq.com/?p=4600 View Article]]> Google has been testing and adding new features to the local packs and the local knowledge panel in Google search results at a rapid pace over the last year, and they’re at it again. One of the industries that have seen the most changes is the hotel industry, first with a new card and grid-based layout at the end of October 2018 that also allowed users to change their date range, price range, and location of their search.

Now Google has rolled out another change to hotel search results with a new local 4-pack that appears in search results between the paid ads and the organic results. The change has only been seen for desktop search results, and mobile local hotel search results continue to display a 3-pack of hotels, including when I searched from my Google Discover feed in the Google mobile app.

How does the new local hotel 4-pack look?

Below is a screenshot of the search I did for hotels near Phoenix, AZ:

As you can see the new look displays 4 hotels as individual cards. Each has an image on the left with the price per night in the lower right corner of the image. The image fills up about a third of the card. The remaining ⅔ of the card displays the hotel name then the Google star rating above a quote from one of the hotel’s Google reviews. Some of the cards have a white rectangle around the words, “GREAT DEAL,” with a percentage below for how much lower the price per night is than usual.

To the left of the 4 cards is a map card with dark blue location pins that display the price per night of a large number of hotels. In my case, the results displayed on the map are all near downtown Phoenix.

At the top of the 4-pack results is the title of the search, “Hotels near Phoenix, AZ, then in smaller print “about these results.” Click on the lowercase “i,” and the message “Hotel prices come from Google’s partners,” with a blue link that takes you to a Google Support page.

Below the search title are two calendar buttons where you can enter the date range of your planned hotel stay. My dates defaulted to  Dec 16 through Dec 17. Clicking on a button expands a calendar so you can edit the dates you’re searching for.

Below the calendar buttons are 5 more buttons or cards that read:

  • TOP CHOICES – Based on your search, prices & quality
  • GUEST FAVORITES – Rated 4.0+
  • BUDGET OPTIONS – Lower-priced hotels
  • LUXURY STAYS – 4-star and 5-star hotels
  • FOR TONIGHT – Available now

Clicking on one of them filters and expands the search by the category on the button you pressed.

At the very bottom of the 4-pack result is a dark blue oblong oval-shaped button that allows you to view move hotels. My button read, “View 412 hotels.” Click on the button and Google takes you to the expanded Google Map results.

The expanded results give you the same options to filter your results by location and dates, but also add a drop-down menu for the number of guests and a slider to adjust your price range. Below that are 2 buttons where you can filter your results by guest rating and by amenities. Next to that is a blue icon next to the words, “More Filters.” Click on it, and a popup card displays more filter options.

Below that are the first 12 hotel results, including the top 4 that appeared in the 4-pack. The cards look almost identical to the 4-pack cards except they are larger, and now the hotel image dominates ⅔ of the card. The information displayed on the cards is the same as the info in the 4-pack.

To the right of the cards is an expanded map with location pins for all the hotels in your search results. Below the hotel cards is a “NEXT” button, so that you can go to each subsequent page of search results.

What the new look could mean for your small local hotel

The new look in Google’s local search results for hotels shows how crucial it is to keep your hotel’s Google My Business listing up to date and optimized with things like photos, posts, room rates, and more. You also want to make sure you’re keeping an eye on your reviews as well as responding to all your reviews, good, bad, and in between.

It’s vital for every small business, but it’s especially important for hotels. That’s because even in your individual hotel’s local Google Maps listing, you’re competing for attention with other hotels in your area. Google now displays a 3-pack of “Similar hotels nearby,” on your local listing. Plus, in addition to your Google reviews, Google also displays links to reviews of your hotel on all the major travel directory sites including Travelocity, Expedia, Booking.com, Tripadvisor, Hotels.com, and Priceline.

With all the changes Google keeps making to the local pack, the knowledge panel, as well as Google My Business, it’s becoming increasingly clear that in addition to your website, your Google My Business listing plays an essential part in how you rank in Google’s local hotel search results. In order to stay on top, it’s vital you keep an eye on your listing and how the latest changes are affecting whether your hotel shows up in the local hotel 4-pack or not.

Meanwhile, we’ll keep you updated on any Google changes and if you need help with your Google listing, other online directories, or you have any questions about local online marketing in general, we’re here. Leave your comments and questions below or click on the chat window to call or chat with a marketer today.

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How the Internet Knows What You’re Shopping For https://biziq.com/blog/paid-media/how-the-internet-knows-what-youre-shopping-for/ https://biziq.com/blog/paid-media/how-the-internet-knows-what-youre-shopping-for/#respond Tue, 11 Dec 2018 00:19:33 +0000 https://biziq.com/?p=4636 View Article]]> Have you ever been surprised to visit a website for the very first time, and find ads on the web page which are specifically focused on a product you were searching for some time recently?

Obviously, that’s not a coincidence, and your browsing habits have been utilized somehow to present products to you which you are known to have interest in.

But how does that work? Where’s the connection between your browsing history, and products which are presented to you in a seemingly random fashion on web pages that you just happen to visit?

This discussion will focus on some of the ways that this is made possible, so the next time it happens to you, you’ll have an understanding of just what’s going on.

Remarketing with Google Ads

One of Google’s most popular services is its Remarketing service, which provides a way for businesses to connect with Internet users who have previously visited a company’s website, or have used its business app. By strategically positioning ads before these users which are known to be of interest to them, it can reinforce brand recognition and awareness of the company, and even remind or encourage the user to make a purchase.

how remarketing works

This of course, offers numerous benefits to companies which are trying to advertise their products and increase sales, since it provides very targeted messages to the most desirable segment of a given audience, i.e. those known to have at least some interest in the company’s products. Since all of your browsing data is stored by Google, it becomes a simple matter to place ads on any other sites you visit which display items you have indicated previous interest in.

Facebook Segmentation

Facebook Ads offer a similar kind of service to companies wishing to advertise to a targeted audience, and the segmentation which Facebook conducts on behalf of its ad clientele has the purpose of narrowing down a vast audience into a much smaller one, presumably those segments which are more inclined to purchase the company’s products. There are a number of ways that Facebook can accomplish this segmentation, including geographically, by demographics like age, by lifestyle, by purchase history, and by websites visited (which amounts to Remarketing).

facebook segmentation

Whenever you log on to Facebook, all of your activity while on the platform is recorded and will be placed in a huge database that can be consulted when Facebook engages in segmentation of its user population for advertising clients. Thus, if you’ve clicked on some product offerings which you’ve seen on Facebook, or if you’ve visited websites from Facebook links, that information will be recorded for potential future use by companies who may be interested in your online behaviors.

Google Ads and Facebook advertising for small business  

Now that you’re aware of how these ads appear when you visit seemingly unrelated websites, you may want to incorporate some of these same tactics into your own small business marketing and advertising strategy. Pay-per-click (PPC) for small business and Facebook advertising for small business can be very effective methods of reaching your audience, and if you want to enlist the aid of a professional agency, you can maximize the usage of some of these same tactics used by major corporations.

Reaching the right target audience with the right message doesn’t have to be difficult, and if you know how to go about it, it can help your small business tremendously.

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Why You Need to Download the New Google My Business App https://biziq.com/blog/local-search-marketing/why-you-need-to-download-the-new-google-my-business-app/ https://biziq.com/blog/local-search-marketing/why-you-need-to-download-the-new-google-my-business-app/#respond Mon, 10 Dec 2018 00:01:00 +0000 https://biziq.com/?p=4595 View Article]]> With all the new features Google keeps adding to Google My Business (GMB), including things like Posts, Questions and Answers, the return of Business Descriptions, and more, it stands to reason that they’d also make it easier for business owners to access their Business Profile and respond to customers. Earlier in November 2018, Google released a new version of their Google My Business App, and this week they released an update to the Google My Business API, v4.3.

Both of these tools allow you to do more with your Google Business Listing, and with the new Google My Business app, you can access a lot of features right from your smartphone. And right now, many small businesses remain unaware of most of the newer features in GMB, which means you can gain a competitive edge by completely optimizing and consistently managing your Google Business Profile.

Here’s why you need to download the app from Google Play or the App Store now!

1. Post Updates & Specials with Google Posts

Unless you’ve been living under a rock or sailing around the world, you probably already heard that Google+ is going away in August 2019. If you were using it to interact with customers and promote your business, there’s no need to feel sad. For nearly a year now, businesses have been able to create posts in Google My Business.

With Google Posts you can create all kinds of posts from your Google My Business dashboard or from the new Google My Business App. You can write posts, post photos, and even post videos that Google searchers will see in your Google Business Profile. (By the way, Google now calls the Local Knowledge Panel a Business Profile).

Furthermore, according to the latest Moz Local Ranking Factor study results, Google Posts can definitely help drive your businesses ability to rank higher in Google search results. Plus, they improve your ability to engage with your customers and interact with new customers. It’s becoming increasingly clear that content from your posts and other GMB communication as well as signals that you’re an engaged business are key local ranking factors that Google uses.

2. Customers Can Follow Your Business Profile

Since late October 2018, customers who use the Android mobile Google Maps App can follow your business right from your Business Profile in the app. Once they follow your business, they can receive updates of your posts and profile updates, and you can see their public Google Maps profile, unless they opt out of showing businesses their profile.

To view your followers, you must first download the new Google My Business app. After that click on Customers, then Followers to see them as well as your recent followers. The app will also send you notifications when someone new follows your Business Profile.

Google has yet to make this feature available on IOS devices or desktop.

3. Customers Can Send Messages to Your Business Profile

Google is slowly rolling out a new Google My Business feature that gives searchers the ability  to message businesses from within your Google Business Profile. The feature is going to be available for both Android and IOS users of the mobile Google Maps App and is already available in some areas.

In order for customers to message your business, you must enable messages. Either the feature is so new most business near me don’t know about it, It hasn’t been released in the Phoenix area yet, but I couldn’t replicate Google’s demo of it. Still it’s definitely another reason to stay on top of your Google My Business listing.

To enable and access your messages, you need to download the new Google My Business app.

4. Read and Respond to Customer Reviews

Everybody here at BizIQ, including me, has been telling you to pay attention to your online reviews, including your Google reviews. And now with the new Google My Business app, you have no excuse.

Your customers can also leave reviews right from your Business Profile in Google Search and Google Maps. That’s always been true, but now it’s a lot easier for you to respond to their reviews right from your phone as soon as you receive a notification that a review has been left.

Remember that Moz Local Search Ranking Factors study I mentioned earlier, well your Google Reviews are definitely a ranking factor for your business as far as where you appear in local search results. In fact, the study found that next to your GMB listing, your reviews were

In addition your customers place a huge significance on reviews. The most recent study from Soci and the Local Search Association found that 77% of consumers who leave a review expect you to respond and 89% of consumers said they’d change a negative review based on how a business responded to it. Furthermore, Google now notifies your customers when their reviews got a response.

Still not convinced? The same study found that positive online reviews were the number 1 factor when it comes to influencing consumer buying decisions. Reviews are the new word of mouth, and your customers want to hear from you. The new Google My Business app makes it easy to respond to all your reviews right away.

5. Questions and Answers

Which brings us to another new feature in Google My Business and your Business Profile from 2018, Google Questions and Answers. Your customers have had the ability to ask you questions directly from your Business Profile in both Google Search and Google Maps for several months now.

And yet, most businesses either don’t know about this feature, or underestimate its importance. I’m not sure why. It’s not for lack of trying on the part of small business new sites, and online marketers, including BizIQ. I’ve written about it here, and here, and now again in this post.

Guess who is paying attention to this feature:

  • Your Customers
  • Potential Customers
  • Internet Trolls
  • Unhappy Customers
  • Unethical Competitors
  • And Google.

What this means is a customer or a Google searcher who’s looking for the products and services you provide, or who is looking specifically for information about your business finds your listing and posts a question. If you knew about the feature, as a smart business owner, you would immediately answer the question. However, since most businesses aren’t using the feature, one or more of several things could occur:

  • A current customer answers the question – How can you trust they know the answer?
  • Somebody with a questionable agenda answers their question – What if their answer is “Terrible service! Rude! Don’t go there?”
  • Nobody answers the question – What does this say about your customer service? What signals does it send to Google about your engagement level with customers and your business?

You need to be the first person who answers any customer question because you know the correct answer, and because you want to establish a positive relationship with all people who show an interest in your business so they convert into new customers.

Guess what? You can now ask and answer questions on your phone or tablet with the new Google My Business app. Plus Google notifies you when anyone posts a question on your Business Profile.

6. Manage Your Business Profile

I know the section on Q&A was long, so I promise this one will be short because the heading pretty much speaks for itself. While you can’t verify your Google My Business Listing with the new app, you can manage and edit your Business Profile in real time. You can even manage multiple locations as well as invite others to manage your listing.

https://youtube.com/watch?v=ggT-5uwd4gM%3Frel%3D0%26quot%3B

7. Google My Business Analytics

One of the most useful features in the new GMB app is the ability to see how many people are connecting with your business via your Google Business Profile. Plus, you can see all this great information right on the home screen.

The data on visitors includes things like number of views, searches, and activity amount. You can also get analytics on the number of people who requested directions, clicked over to your website, called your business, and more.

I’m really excited about all the data you can view right from your phone because I’m passionate about getting small businesses to pay more attention to Google My Business. Now that you can see how many people visit your Business Profile as well as how much this interaction affects your ranking in Google search results, I’m hopeful you’ll start using all the powerful features Google offers you free of charge.

No More Excuses, You Can’t Afford to Ignore Your Google My Business Listing

If you haven’t paid much attention to your GMB listing, now is the perfect time to start. The new Google My Business app makes it easy for you or someone at your business to keep up with all the customer and potential customer interactions on your business listing. Ultimately, without customers, you have no business. And with more customers searching online for products and services, as well as interacting with businesses within their local listings in Google Search results, smart companies will be spending more time engaging with customers there.

If you’re not sure where to start when it comes to your Google My Business listing and other local citations, contact BizIQ today for no nonsense, smart local, online marketing advice.

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SEO Predictions for 2019 (And a Report Card of our 2018 Predictions!) https://biziq.com/blog/search-engine-optimization/seo-predictions-for-2019-and-a-report-card-of-our-2018-predictions/ https://biziq.com/blog/search-engine-optimization/seo-predictions-for-2019-and-a-report-card-of-our-2018-predictions/#respond Fri, 07 Dec 2018 22:00:46 +0000 https://biziq.com/?p=4584 View Article]]> SEO predictions are a New Years tradition, like the New Years Kiss, or the annual January 1st hangover.

Every SEO, digital marketer, and tech enthusiast has a prediction. Some are very wrong. Others are so vague, they can’t be disproven. Whether they’re good, bad, or unclear, annual SEO predictions are all the rage because web traffic has a huge effect on your bottom line.

This year, I’ve done something a little different. My 2019 SEO predictions will be paired with my graded 2018 predictions. That’s right: I’m giving myself a report card for last year’s predictions, with a bit of analysis, supported by data from 2018.

My SEO Predictions for 2019

1. Amazon will take a significant portion of search from Google.

By March of 2018, Amazon surpassed Alphabet (Google’s parent company) in stock price. Though Google has maintained its monopoly status, with somewhere around 90% of the search market, Amazon will take a larger portion of the search in 2019.

Graphic of Product Search Versus Overall Search

People use Google and Amazon for very different reasons. If your small business is dedicated to a skill or service, Google is the way to go. If you have an e-commerce website, or own a shop where your products are ordered and distributed, you may want to start selling your products on Amazon.

Google is a site for discovery, Amazon is a place for shopping. If you think you could benefit from the uptick in Amazon search volume, I’d recommend setting up an Amazon shop.

What You Can Do About Amazon’s Bigger Share:

Expand your business into an Amazon e-commerce shop, if you can. Learn how to optimize your amazon shop, so customers find your products as fast as possible!

2. Search Results will streamline as Voice Search goes fully mainstream.

Way back in the early 2000’s, the Google Search Engine Results page was 10 blue links, for everything, forever. It didn’t matter if you were searching for a local business, cat photos, or you’re trying to figure out that character actor’s name (you know, that guy who’s in everything!).

It was minimalist. It was predictable. It was clean.

Around 2010, the mass adoption of smartphones changed the nature of the internet. Everything became more bite-sized and palatable. Google adapted its SERP with featured snippets, knowledge graphs, local packs, ads, and those blue links sank further and further down the page.

SEOs and digital marketers are still pretty mad about it.

Voice search, digital assistants, and the internet of things has further streamlined search results. When you ask Alexa what temperature it is outside, she won’t slog through ten blue links’ worth of information. She’ll give you a handful of words that summarizes the most authoritative answer. This “One True Answer” philosophy is troubling (for SEOs and the concept of truth itself), but it’s the direction the winds of tech are blowing.

The next year will be a further simplification-through-complication on the SERP, as voice and image search gets more popular.

What you can do about the streamlining of the SERP:

Optimize your site and content for the featured snippet. Address common questions and answers with plain, instructional language. Gain authority with link-building, great user experience, and engagement, and your content may just become the One True Answer the Home Assistant proclaims!

3. Fake Reviews, news, and users will carry less weight.

2018 was the year of mass fakeness. “Fake news” became a polarizing political phrase, 83 million Facebook users turned out to be fake, and entire careers are dedicated to spamming Amazon products with fake reviews.

On top of that, fake science and unsubstantiated conspiracy theories have become widespread. Our society can’t even agree on the basic facts. Chaos is the result.

In 2018, tech companies cracked down on hate groups, wild conspiracies, and pseudoscience. Google launched the Google News Lab in 2015, which became the Google News Initiative in 2018, and uses data to dampen and combat fake news.

Google News Initiative Goals

You can bet that RankBrain (which I mentioned in last year’s prediction blog!) will be observing user behavior, identifying more fake reviewer behaviors, and adapting to discourage, dampen, and remove fake reviews.

It certainly won’t happen overnight, and it will be far from perfect, but tech companies will turn the tide against online fakeness. 2019 will showcase the rise of realness, and the downfall of fakes.

What you can do about fake reviews, news, and users:

If a review, user, or news article is very obviously fake, you can report it. It will be up to the platform to vet and (maybe) remove it, but at least you contributed to online authenticity! Learn the warning signs of fakeness in all online materials, and always consider the source material when regarding anything online.

4. Less Clicks on SERPs (That isn’t a reason to neglect your SEO)

As mentioned before, the SERP ain’t what it used to be.

Featured snippets, ads, knowledge graphs, local packs, and who-knows-what-else will continue to overtake the prime real estate on the SERP.

According to Rand Fishkin, over 61% of mobile searches result in no click at all.

No Click SERP results

Users are scanning the search results, getting their answers, and moving on without even looking at your content. Content creators, who have worked very hard to provide Google with quality content over the years, have been deprived of their precious clicks and engagement.

This is disheartening, but it doesn’t mean you should give up on SEO altogether. Every time Google presents a seemingly chaotic challenge, there are always ways to get the competitive edge.

What you can do about the reduction in clicks on SERPs:

Instead of giving up, pivot your strategy in 2019. If you’ve relied on organic rankings, consider paid media to get your site and content to the top of the SERP. It may be cheaper than you think! Work longer and harder on quality content, with images, links, embedded video, and common questions and answers that would be a great fit for the featured snippet. Step up your social media strategy to develop a community, and attract the right customers. If your content, site structure, and user experience are high-quality and innovative, you’ll rise above the competition.

5. Google My Business profiles will get more robust, and will become an even bigger ranking factor.

SEOs are in agreement about Google My Business: it’s more important than anyone would’ve thought. Well, almost anyone.

Local Search Ranking Factors Chart 2018

In Moz’s 2018 Local Search Ranking Factors blog, they found that Google My Business has a bigger impact on local rankings that links, reviews, on-page factors, personalization, or social media factors. Businesses with rockstar Google My Business profiles had a huge advantage over the competition.

The incorporation of video, Google posts, and Google Questions & Answers in the past few years shows that Google is expanding GMB. Also, the Google+ shutdown means Google will probably integrate much of the social and community aspects of G+ into GMB.

Don’t think of GMB listing as a replacement for your website. Even if it gets more interaction and views on the SERP,  it is a separate entity that works in tandem with your local SEO.

How Small Businesses can prepare for 2019’s SEO:

  • Take advantage of Amazon (if it’s right for your business), and optimize for other sources of search traffic.
  • Make content that anticipates how people use voice search, and make address common questions and answers to get your content into the Featured Snippet.
  • Report fake users and reviews.
  • Focus on making higher-quality content than ever, across platforms.
  • Take advantage of all new Google My Business features, and make sure your listing is optimized.
  • Never lose faith in links and reviews as ranking factors.

My SEO Predictions for 2018, Graded.

As promised, I will address 2018’s SEO predictions with as much honesty as possible. It’s been a year of great consequence, with a great amount of volatility. Here’s how I did with my predictions:

1. SEO Will Get More Difficult: C

Last year, I made the claim that SEO will get more difficult. My reasoning: many expert SEOs are leaving the field, and the sophistication of Google’s algorithm has made it harder to be a dedicated SEO professional.

This is generally true, in the same way that I could’ve said, “The Google Algorithm Changes Sometimes.” What’s missing from my prediction is the multi-faceted nature of search. Just as tons of online factors contribute to SEO, SEO is cooked into just about everything on the internet. Being an SEO means knowing the best practices and optimizations for a rapidly-expanding set of factors and platforms. SEO is no longer one professional’s responsibility in an organization; everyone in an organization must take at least partial ownership of an organization’s SEO.

That said, the core values of Google haven’t changed. Good content, authoritative linking, positive reviews, clean site structure, and ethical business practices are still the backbone of good SEO. RankBrain’s emphasis on user behavior mostly rewards content that would do well, before RankBrain.

I was sort of right and sort of wrong.

2. RankBrain is Huge, and Getting Huger: Inconclusive

It was big news when Google announced that RankBrain is Google’s third-largest ranking factor.

Since then, the machine-learning part of the Google algorithm has integrated more fully into the core algorithm. Its user behavior metrics like dwell time, bounce rate, click-through rate, and anticipation could have led to streamlining of the SERP. It has integrated so completely into the Google Algorithm that it’s almost impossible to divorce the two for a controlled experiment.

There are hundreds of Google ranking factors, and dozens are related to user behavior. Most of these behavioral factors were in place long before RankBrain. We can safely assume it’s a huge part of ranking, but it’s hard to prove definitively what effect it’s had in 2018.

Shame on me for making a vague prediction!

3.Voice Search Expansion & Mobile Index Launch: A

Nailed it!

Voice search has definitely become way more popular, and the mobile index finally launched.

Enough said!

4.The Nature of Ranking Will Change: C+

This is a complicated one. Though organic ranking has definitely changed, with organic results sinking further down the SERP, there are still tremendous advantages to being the #1 result for relevant queries. For example, higher ranking results have a much higher chance of being included in the featured snippet, or earning a great linkback.

Ranking #1 in organic is still a great place to be, but not as great as it was before the SERP changed.

I got it semi-correct.

5. Content Experience Will Get More Important: B

Generally true. Also vague.

In 2018, I certainly stressed the importance of video, visual, engagement, and user behavioral queues. Though I stand by these claims, I may have overstated their importance. An authoritative all-text blog can perform very, very well.

I got it right, but overstated it. Maybe I was just excited about more immersive content!

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How to Manually Verify your Google My Business Listing https://biziq.com/blog/local-search-marketing/how-to-manually-verify-your-google-my-business-listing/ https://biziq.com/blog/local-search-marketing/how-to-manually-verify-your-google-my-business-listing/#respond Sat, 24 Nov 2018 07:01:00 +0000 https://biziq.com/?p=4539 View Article]]> For the last year, I have been a Google Local Specialist. Meaning that I have had to deal with many Google headaches, although Google’s ultimate headache – Google Manual Verifications takes the cake. No matter how much preparation and due diligence I do on my part; this always seems to be a pain in my customer’s rear end — and I don’t blame them.

A Google My Business listing is the foundation of your online presence.

If you don’t have a verified Google My Business listing, you are missing out on one of the most crucial aspects of your online presence. Your listing is one of the first spots consumers look at when researching a business. Over 50% of mobile users will visit a store after doing a local search. If you haven’t verified your Google My Business listing, there’s a good chance you won’t show up when people search online for the products and services you provide. The goal is to have your Google My Business listing as complete and optimized as possible.

Your Google My Business listing is made up of 10 crucial bits of information

1. Your business name

2. Your primary category

3. Your address or a service area that you operate in (if applicable)

4. Hours

5. Phone number

6. Website

7. Your business description

8. Posts

9. Photos

10. Reviews from past customers.

There are two ways that you can get a Google My Business listing.

The first is, you can create one yourself by submitting your business information to Google and then doing a series of verifications resulting in a verified status.  The other option is  Google’s data aggregators will create you one based off of additional information they find on the web. When this happens, Google does not notify you, and your business information stays in an unverified status.

There are currently six different types of verifications that you can complete to get your Google My Business listing verified.

Although which verification you will complete, well that is determined by Google.

1. Phone Verification: You will receive an automated call with a pin, you will enter this pin into your Google My Business account.

2. Email Verification: You will receive an email with a pin, you will enter this pin into your Google My Business account.

3. Postcard Verification: You will receive a postcard with a pin, you will enter this pin into your Google My Business account.

4. Instant Verification: If you have already verified your business in your Google Search Console account; you may be eligible for instant verification.

5. Bulk Verification: If you have more than 10 locations for your business, you may qualify for a bulk verification.

6. Manual Verification: Then there is the most irritating verification, a manual video verification.

How manual verification works

This verification has been driving business owners crazy since 2016.  I can speak to this sentiment on a personal level. I have completed three manual verifications within the last year. I still have nightmares about calling clients only to tell them there is yet another hoop Google would make us jump through. I tell all my clients that I will do all the heavy lifting when it comes to their online presence.

Unfortunately, in the case of manual verifications, I can only educate my clients as much as possible, but in the end, it’s up to them. During a manual verification, you will download the Google Hangouts app and then have a 15-minute video call with a Google representative. The representative will want to see documentation and signage, official business documents such as a business license, business card, and tools of the trade. If you are a service area business, they will also ask you to start the vehicle you use for business along with your license plate information. But, to their credit, they don’t ask you to pat your head and rub your stomach at the same time. Then we’d really see their verification percentage drop.

Google thrives off of consistency, sometimes to a fault. If ANY of the information during the manual verification does not match character for character, Google sees this as inaccurate information, and will then deny your verification request. Google’s hope with these strict guidelines, is that it will, in turn, protect their customers — the almost 3 billion searches happening every day.

So how can you prevent having to complete a manual verification?

By making sure you are using a physical address. Sounds easy right? However, this is where the snowball effect starts to kick in for most business owners. When you are first starting as a small business, you may think it’s a good idea to use your PO box as your address for your business license. However, PO Boxes do not classify as accurate physical locations for Google My Business. Meaning you can’t use it on your listing, but if you use a different address, then your address won’t match your business license, which results in inaccurate information which leads in a denial of verified status.

As much of a headache as the entire manual verification process is, to build a strong online presence you need to have a strong foundation. Taking the extra time to get your Google My Business listing sorted out is only going to help you in the future.

If you’d rather not risk trying to do it yourself or you are baffled on where to begin, reach out to BizIQ for smart, local, marketing advice.

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