Google's new local marketing platform is a small step forward to help the tech giant to engage with small businesses. Here's a deeper look at its functionality.
A couple of weeks ago, Google announced their latest local marketing platform changes to help local business "get on Google"; they call it "Google My Business." For businesses and brands that have used Google Places or Google+ Pages, you will see your listing(s) have been integrated across Google Search, Maps, and Google+.
Note: Since most of my firm's multiple-location clients have not yet been ported to the new platform, I utilized a single-location business to illustrate the platform changes.
In reviewing the new dashboard or "My Business," users get all the necessary information on how to update a business listing, manage reviews, view insights, or share an update on G+.
At first glance it is a nice interface for small businesses to take control of their presence on Google. Interestingly, when compared to Facebook we see similar functionality:
I must say the simplicity of the Google My Business interface is a major step forward from the past efforts. I like the fact that all actions are called out with icon-anchored links and all of the important information is captured in this dashboard.
So I decided to dig down lower into each function and take it for a test drive.
The entry/edit screen is straightforward and easy to use. Upon making an edit, an alert appears - "Some updates to listing may take up to three days to go live" - so I tested them.
I changed the primary category for this specific business from the general category "Dentist" to the more specific "Pediatric Dentist." And then I waited... Day one no change...day two no change...day three no change. On day seven I tried a different tactic. I deleted the "Dentist" category and only allowed the "Pediatric Dentist" category to be associated with the listing. One day later, the correct category became associated as the primary category with the listing and I subsequently added the secondary headings back in. This is a trick we have had to use with many of the listings and brands to adjust categories. So this (and a few other designed experiments) signals to me that while the front-end has been changed, the back-end business listing editing legacy issues still exist.
Now this impressed me. Google has created an easy interface to correctly manage reviews and offers sound advice for marketers on how to respond to reviews:
Another nice feature is the fact that Google has listed "Reviews from around the Web" that are sources outside of Google. While not a complete list, this is a helpful feature enabling a specific business to see a condensed view of reviews forming their reputation displayed elsewhere.
I found this area a little too basic to be very useful. It is comprised of data on Views, Clicks, and Driving Direction Requests. It would be nice if Google shared data on key search terms and, considering much of local response is phone-based, perhaps included call tracking through Google Voice or an API with other providers.
Google has clearly made a step forward here to simplify the process for a small business to engage on G+. The question is, will small businesses use it? To date, small businesses, as well as major brands, have amassed and developed meaningful communities and dialogue via platforms like Facebook, Twitter, etc. Instead of Google trying to "beat them," perhaps Google would be better off "joining them" by providing similar functionality to HootSuite or any of the other social media management platforms that marketers use to integrate their messages/content across the multiple social media platforms.
Links to these Google properties round out the remainder of the My Business Dashboard. After all, Google needs to feature at least one paid service.
All in all, Google My Business is a small step forward for Google to engage with small businesses. In a future article, we will review how these changes apply to brands and multiple-location businesses.
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Gregg Stewart is founder and president of 3rd Act Marketing, a full-service marketing agency and consultancy, specializing in digital solutions, headquartered in Connecticut. 3rd Act supports businesses and agencies of all sizes, including Fortune 500 companies. With more than 20 years experience, Stewart applies his successful tenured career in interactive advertising and local search to the ongoing development of digital and mobile solutions for his clients' online-marketing campaigns. Through his strategic counsel, national and local brands become better equipped to target and reach niche consumers for increased leads and sales. In addition to his ClickZ columns, additional columns can be found in the Search Engine Watch archive. In 2013, Stewart was recognized with the ClickZ Hall of Fame award.
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