Should You Bother Using That New Google My Business Feature?

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Google adds, changes, and kills off features at a puke-inducing pace.  With the possible exception of AdWords, nowhere is the pace of change faster than in Google My Business.

For local SEOs and others who (try to) keep up with this stuff, one school of thought says you should use every new Google My Business feature early and often, because those doo-dads provide clues as to what Google “likes.”  The other school of thought says (1) it’s never that easy, (2) everything is a trade-off, (3) you have to pick your battles, and (4) the local search results never really change.

I tend to fall into the latter group.

Whenever clients ask whether I suggest spending time on a new Google My Business bell or whistle – or whenever I give them unsolicited advice – I ask a few questions.

Given Google’s long history of changes to the local search results, here are some questions you might want to ask yourself next time a new Google My Business feature rolls out and you consider using it.

1. Do you assume Google probably will take it away?  Sooner or later, that new feature may meet the same fate as custom categories, “Best Ever” badges, tags, “descriptors,” vanity URLs, Helpouts, and Google+, to name a few dead homies.

2. Will you need to skip or dial down another activity to make time for Google’s gizmos?  If you already work on the tough, daunting, open-ended activities with more-definite payoff, then knock yourself out.  Otherwise, you’re pinning your hopes on an “easy win” that’s easy for your competitors to do, too.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/nilsrinaldi/5158417206/

3. Will you use it even if your competitors start using it?  Can you be an “early adopter” and maybe notice some benefits?  Yeah, maybe.  But then what?

4. Will you keep using it even if it doesn’t seem to help your rankings at all?  If you can think of a plausible scenario in which your use of the new Google My Business feature might impress a customer, then it’s probably a good use of time.

5. Do you have a way to keep your work, so you can repurpose it later if you want to?  I’m thinking of Google+, and how you could post on the Plus page that was “connected” to the page that showed up on Google Maps, and how then Google slowly switched over to posts on Google My Business before shuttering Google+ altogether.   The only thing that’s more of a hassle than filing away whatever content you might post on a Google-owned property is to have to recreate it.

6. Are you content to play by Google’s rules?  If not, you’ll probably get away with misusing or overusing that super-secret new feature in Google My Business – at least for a little while, if not for a good long while.  The big problem is you probably can’t or won’t out-slime your competitors, and you won’t be in a good position to do what (relatively) little you can to get someone with latitude to do anything about your less-ethical competitors.

7. Would a customer understand it, and would it not create questions?  If the new place you can stick a keyword, a slogan, a photo, or a link would not make customers wonder what your business does or if you’re struggling for business, then it probably falls into the bucket of “smart marketing.”

What’s a Google My Business feature you wish Google didn’t kill off – because you got mileage out of it?

What’s your approach to using (or skipping) new GMB features?

Did I overlook something?

Any current feature you think is a waste of time?

Leave a comment!

Comments

  1. Nice summary and expression of your point of view, Phil!
    I tend to fall into the other camp, where I will try anything new for the sake of trying to gain a competitive advantage for my clients, but sometimes it depends on my assessment of the situation and the likelihood that the changes will have a big effect upon my client’s industry. As in so many other things with SEO, the answer often is, “It depends”.

    • Thanks, Tim.

      “It depends,” for sure. Many times I also end up saying, “Yeah, let’s go for it,” after considering those factors.

  2. Thanks much for this. It’s a risk to marketing time and dollars to do new stuff with unknown or unmeasureable benefit. Also this stuff, when deactivated, can become an embarrassment in front of clients, who pay for expertise in the field. Marketing spend can be a tough sell to many clients so longer term reputation is also at risk from Google’s shenanigans. Google also has GMB deficits that would be much more helpful to spend time fixing than adding these new features, such as formally addressing the horrible image spam problem that can directly reduce any business’s revenue.

    • Great points, Steve. Google moves on to a new trinket faster than business owners (and their marketing people/teams) can adjust. It’s as though the decision-maker at Google says, “We didn’t really think anyone would use this stuff.”

  3. This is all good stuff Phil. I think the big unsaid here is ‘what is Google’s actual long term plan for local results?’. As in, do they actually have a plan or is it as you say ‘throw stuff at the wall and see what sticks’? I can only surmise from your comments and small list of defunct products that they seem to have no plan at all, and the place seems to be ruled by propeller-heads, and product managers on acid.

    • Hey Phillip,

      A little of both, it seems. Google always has a plan for “local,” but apparently that plan changes every year or two, because of churn and because of quakes elsewhere in the company.

      The “project manager on acid” gets replaced by a sober and solid get-doner, but then that person gets replaced by Jeff Spicoli.

      The result is there’s more change in a year than there is in a decade.

  4. I ‘try’ to keep up with the changes, understand them, and ‘sometimes’ use them, and sometimes get clients to use them. Ultimately I see a day when local businesses use GMB features themselves (via an app or the desktop) for all kinds of interactions with clients and potential clients. Is this a good thing or a bad thing? I’m not sure. Thanks Phil 🙂

    • Yeah, I’m not sure, either. Clients can and in some cases do use those features themselves; it’s just a question of how well, and how much of a PITA it is for them. That’s one reason of many an Andy figure will always have work to do.

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