Want to Guess How Many Local Businesses Use Google My Business Posts?

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Google My Business posts have been around since mid-2017.  They seem to have caught on – more than many of Google’s “local business” features have – mostly because the payoff is clear: GMB posts stick out in your brand-name search results, and can nudge people toward the next step you’d like them to take.

Should you use Google My Business posts – for your business?  On the one hand is the “Why not?” argument.  You can give GMB posts a try for a few months and see if they’re worth the (small) effort.

On the other hand, the “Why bother?” argument also has merit.  To wit:

  • If most businesses use GMB posts already, won’t customers tune them out?
  • If few businesses use GMB posts, have most business owners just concluded they’re a waste of time?
  • If few businesses use them, will Google retire GMB posts soon?

You probably don’t need another distraction – another thing to keep you from focusing on the stuff with clearer payoff to your local visibility.

This is where it helps to know specifically how many businesses use – or ever have used – Google My Business posts.  I couldn’t find any numbers on that, and when possible I like a better understanding than, “Umm, not many” or “A lot, I guess.”  So I did some research.

I looked at 2000 businesses in the Google Maps results, in 100 local markets.  Those 100 markets covered 10 cities across the US, and focused on 10 categories of businesses.  (More on my methodology in a minute.)  I counted how many businesses had created a GMB post recently – within the last 7 days – and how many businesses had ever done a GMB post.

Here’s a summary of what I found – the numbers on businesses’ adoption of Google My Business posts:

Q: How many businesses have ever created a Google My Business post?
A: About 17%.

Q: How many businesses have posted recently and seem to post regularly?
A: About 4%.

Q: How many businesses posted at least once, but seem not to keep up with it?
A: About 13%.

Q: Of the businesses that do post on GMB, how many seem to do it regularly?
A: About 1 in 4.

Q: In how many local markets has at least one business (in the top 20) ever tried GMB posts?
A: About 91% of local markets.  In only 9% of markets (that I looked at) nobody had ever posted.

Q: In an average first page of “Maps tab” results (20 local businesses), how many have ever tried GMB posts?
A: About 3 businesses.

Q: How saturated do local markets get, in terms of how many local businesses post on GMB?
A: The most I ever saw was 10 businesses out of the top 20.  There were a few nines and a few eights.  Again, the vast majority of businesses I looked at have never posted.

You can download my spreadsheet here.  If you look at it, I’d love to hear any insights you glean that I didn’t mention.

Methodology and limitations

1. I looked only at businesses in the US. I imagine the adoption of (or dabbling in) GMB posts is a little lower outside of the US, but of course it just depends on the local market.

2. I looked only at larger and medium cities in the US. In some cases Google Maps drew results from the suburbs, but I didn’t search there or in less-populated areas. In my experience, adoption of Google My Business features (and the like) is lower outside of the larger cities.

3. I searched in Google Maps – in the “local finder” – so I could look at a larger sample of businesses. The alternative was to look at the top 3 businesses on page 1 of Google’s main search results, but Google’s main search results don’t show who’s using GMB posts. I’d have to click on each listing anyway.  In the “Maps” view, I could pull up a list of 20, and very quickly check each business and see whether it had any GMB posts.

4. I focused on 10 industries, by way of 10 search terms: “dentist, “family lawyer,” “auto repair,” “roofing,” “animal hospital,” “preschool,” “electrician,” “real estate agent,” “music lessons, and “plastic surgeon.” Could I have looked at 100 industries? Sure, but I’d still be missing some categories, because there’s an infinity of them.  So I chose to focus on the more-competitive spaces, with a bent toward the brutal markets.  I’ve been in local search for 10 years, and picked the least-bad core sample I could.  (If you do a study like this one, but look at different categories, I’ll be your biggest cheerleader.)

5. What about the red search terms on my spreadsheet? Those represent cases where the search term I originally chose (e.g. “Boston animal hospital”) didn’t produce a full page of 20 businesses in Google Maps. That would have shrunken the sample size a little, and skewed my data a little, so in those cases I just picked a different search term – one that did pull up 20 businesses on the first page of Maps.

6. Over time the number of businesses with a “fresh” GMB post (i.e. posted within the last 7 days) may decrease, or just not grow as quickly as the % of businesses in the “stale posts” column. The reason is simply that most businesses don’t stick with posting on GMB. Today’s business with a fresh post is next week’s business with a stale post.

7. Which categories of businesses post the most? I don’t know, because I’d need to have looked at all or at a couple hundred industries. But I can say that, of the categories I looked at, dental practices seemed the most post-happy.

8. How closely does GMB-posting activity correspond to rankings? I don’t know, because that wasn’t what I set out to find out here. That’s a discussion for another day.  In any case, it would be tough to say, because a business owner who bothers to post on GMB probably has other local SEO irons in the fire.

9. What about the businesses that didn’t even make the first page of Maps results – the businesses ranked #21 and lower? I didn’t look at those. I suspect they post a little less than do businesses on the first page of Maps.

Observations (beyond the numbers)

Most businesses don’t keep up with Google My Business posts.  Of the businesses I looked at, only 4% had posted within the past week, versus 13% that had posted at one time or another (less recently than within the last week). They don’t keep the posts coming.  Google’s mother-hen reminders don’t work too well, apparently.

Because Google sends you a reminder every time your post is about to “expire,” my guess is business owners think that creating a new post is a big chore and a pain.  Maybe they have few good photos to share, or they think a GMB post needs to be like a Facebook post.  Or maybe they choose to post every 2 weeks.  In any case, Google should add a “re-post this post” feature, or something like that.

Customers aren’t drowning in Google My Business posts (at least not yet).  Do some businesses post too often?  Yes.  Are most posts well-done and worthy of searchers’ and customers’ attention?  No.  But most businesses haven’t overdone GMB posts, because most businesses (over 82%) haven’t used GMB posts.

Given how hard Google is pushing GMB posts, if there’s ever a time to give them a try, I’d say that time is now.

Enough businesses seem to use Google My Business posts that Google probably will keep the feature around, and maybe add to it over time.  17% may not sound like a high percentage.  But if my cross-section of 2000 businesses is at all representative, then many millions of business owners have tried GMB posts at one time or another.

Google often kills off products and features both popular and unloved, so we can’t assume GMB posts will be around forever.  But when I think of how slowly most business owners adopt new features, and how (relatively) new GMB posts are, I’d say the chances are good GMB posts will stay out of the Google graveyard.

Good further info on GMB posts

How to Create a Google My Business Post That Will Win You More CustomersBen Fisher

12 Things to Know to Succeed with Google PostsJoy Hawkins

Do Google Posts Impact Ranking? A Case Study – Joy Hawkins

Any researchable numbers or facts you’d like me to cover?

If you’ve looked at my data, did you reach any different or additional conclusions?

What’s the lowdown on Google My Business posts in your local market?

Any success stories?

Leave a comment!

What Kinds of “Contacts at Google” Can Local SEO Companies Have?

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Some local SEO companies tout “contacts” at Google who can straighten out problems (like competitors’ spam or a penalty you think you’ve received).  Sometimes that suggestion is plain untrue, other times it’s an exaggeration, and most times it’s irrelevant and won’t help you.

Knowing the specific type of “contact” your company has (or claims to have) at $GOOG can help you avoid wasting time, and it can help you determine how aboveboard your company or consultant is.

If your local SEO people (current or prospective) hint they’ve got any kind of “in” at Google, ask for specifics, like what department that person is in, and how your company or consultant knows him or her.  Your local SEO-er may be referring to one of several kinds of Google connections:

1. Google Analytics or AdWords Certified Partner status.  Based on the number of mangled local SEO campaigns I’ve seen run by “Certified Partners,” I can say with confidence that any benefits of working with a “Partner” company don’t translate into a better-policed Google Map.

2. Dedicated AdWords rep (unlikely).  If your SEO people do AdWords, and if they have enough ad-spend in the accounts they manage, they may have what resembles a relationship with an AdWords rep.  How’s that relevant to Google Maps and your plight there?  Well, you may have spent a chunk of dough on ads for keywords for which your competitors rank well as a result of obvious Maps-spam.  In that case, an AdWords rep might escalate the issue with the Google My Business department more quickly than you (or your SEO company) could through the usual channels.  But that may happen even without a dedicated rep (see next point).

3. Random AdWords rep.  If your SEO company doesn’t manage Rubenesque accounts, they (and you) probably will probably get a different AdWords rep every time you’ve got a problem.  So your ability to contact a rep doesn’t mean your SEO-ers have what I’d call a “contact” at Google.  Still, that Googler’s limited usefulness for Google Maps concerns is the same as what I described in my “Dedicated AdWords rep” point (above). 

4. Google My Business support rep du jourMaybe your SEO people have tweeted at Google My Business support, or posted at the forum – maybe more than once – and perhaps got some issues resolved.  That doesn’t mean they’ve got a special “in” at Google, or that he or she can or will help you now or in the future. 

5. “Top Contributor” at the Google My Business forum.  For the most part, TCs are extremely generous with their time and provide a valuable service.  But they are volunteers, and not Google employees.  TCs interact with Googlers semi -regularly, but those Googlers have very limited power to work on Maps issues big or small, partly because the Maps department sees high turnover.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/stevenpisano/17255430203/

6. Googler acquaintance.  Does your SEO person play squash with a Google employee?  Did they go to high school together?  Did they have a 5-minute conversation at a conference?  That’s nice, but it’s not an “in” that will help you.  Google handles (or neglects) damn near every problem algorithmically, on a scale that can squash whole industries and local economies.  One lowly, Google-bus-riding employee can lob only so many thunderbolts from the skies.

7. No “contact,” but a good track record of getting Google Maps edits approved.  Even in full-on embellishment mode, your SEO people probably wouldn’t characterize a good edit-history as a “contact,” but rather as “having sway” or as “Google listens to us,” or some such thing.  Perhaps the SEO people don’t have that track record, but know someone who does.  In any case, though that kind of puffery would concern me, a good spam-fighter may be the most-useful “contact” you can have in this age of shrinking Google employees and planet-eating algorithms.

Is there a type of contact at Google I forgot to mention?

Any war stories about a Googler who was surprisingly helpful (or useless)?

Leave a comment!

5 Types of Google My Business Descriptions That Go Boom

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Few business owners have used the Google My Business “description” field, now that it’s returned.  Even fewer make their description do any work.

Google wiped out businesses’ descriptions when it retired GMB descriptions a couple of years ago.  Most ranged from spam to clutter.  Given the cyclical nature of everything in Google Maps, I’m sure it’s just a matter of time before every business on the local map has a Cheez Whiz description again.

Until then, you can craft a GMB description that makes more of the right people more likely to take the next step you want them to.  Also, if users’ behavior matters to Google at all, a sticky description may help your rankings over time.  (To add a description, just log into your Google My Business dashboard and go to the “Info” section.  Thanks to Paul for reminding me to mention that.)

I can think of 5 basic types of descriptions I’ve seen (or helped create), each with different approaches to the same goal.  Here are 5 species of Google My Business descriptions that might work for you:

Kill-Shot

This type of description is brief, gets across your USP, and asks the searcher to take the next step.

Different call-to-action here – a baby step:

For a bricks-and-mortar store, you might want to deploy a “come on down”:

You and Me

The “You and Me” sounds like its name: in it you don’t talk about your business or about customers in the third-person voice.  It’ll sound less stuffy, if you do it right.

Saying “we” / “us” / “our” might also work.

The above example is from Mike Blumenthal’s most-visible client – often among the first to make good use of new Google My Business features.

Strength in Numbers:

Your GMB description is a good place to wheel out impressive numbers and other specifics.

Brass Tacks

Google gives you 750 characters, and shows the first 250 characters before truncating your description, but maybe you don’t need that many characters to say exactly what you do.

In this kind of description, you assume the right searcher knows what the next step is.  That’s one difference between it at the “Kill-Shot.”  The other difference is that the “Brass Tacks” description is more matter-of-fact and less emotion-driven.

Carpe Diem (AKA “The Homepage away from Home”)

The opposite of the “Brass Tacks,” in this type of description you don’t save info for your landing page.  You don’t assume people will make it that far, so you rip through your main selling points.  You see your description (and the whole sidebar it’s in) as some customers see it and as Google wants everyone to see it: as your new homepage.

What kind of description is yours?

Any great examples you’ve run across?

Leave a comment!

One Phone Number for Multiple Google My Business Pages: Can It Cause Problems?

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I tend to suggest using a different phone number for each location of your business, but exactly what’s the downside of using the same number on all of your Google My Business pages? 

Google’s guidelines don’t tell you to use a location-specific phone number.

Merged” Google pages don’t seem to be a problem these days – and even when they were, a shared phone number probably wouldn’t have caused pages to merge.

I’ve seen businesses use one number for many locations and rank just fine – and you may have observed that, too.

Google My Business forum Top Contributors don’t indicate that a shared phone number is a big problem (though it’s “not ideal”).

Some of my fellow local-search geeks suggest using separate phone numbers – and I agree with that advice, generally.  But I haven’t seen anyone spell out exactly what might happen if you use the same number everywhere.

Here’s one possible downside: Google may not verify one or more of your pages.

That happened recently to a multi-location client of mine.  They chose to use the same phone number for their 5 (or so) Google My Business pages in different major cities across the US.  Though I’d suggested getting and using different phone numbers – one for each location – their choice also made sense in their case.  They’d had a couple of GMB pages up for a few years, and created the others in recent months.

They verified all their GMB pages without incident, except for one page.  The client got on the phone with GMB support (always a good time), and they were told that the problem was that the phone number wasn’t unique to that one location.  Of course, that was also true of the other pages, which had been verified A-OK.

After some back-and-forth and presumably a little groveling, the client got Google to wave the page through.  All’s well that ends well.

But what about your situation?  If you’re multi-location, should you use a unique number for each of your Google My Business pages?

I wouldn’t say a multi-location phone number is like giving your rankings a Kent Micronite.  If you get all your pages verified, your visibility will depend on the usual suspects.

Still, I recommend using a unique phone number, if at all possible.  You’ll make it a little more apparent to Google and to searchers that you’ve actually got people in all the places you say you do.

What’s been your experience with using the same phone number (or different numbers) on Google My Business?

Have you heard of any specific problems resulting from using the same number across the board – or heard any strong advice?

Any questions?

Leave a comment!

How to Feed the Google My Business Messaging Feature into Your Landline

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If you enable Google’s new “messaging” feature, customers who pull up your business in Google Maps can contact you via their favorite chat app.  Whether that’s a good thing for your business (or it drives you crazy) is for you to decide – maybe after a test drive.

But let’s assume for a minute that you want to use the Google My Business messaging feature.  Let’s assume some customers/clients/patients you want to attract would find it useful.  Do you now have to carry around an extra phone, or stay glued to another screen, or task someone who works for you to do so?

No.

This post is from Dr. Emily Beglin, an general dentist whose husband is an orthodontist in Carson City, Nevada, and who runs the orthodontists’ directory SelectBraces.com.  Here she describes a MacGyver-like way to feed the Google My Business messaging feature into your existing landline, so you can stay on top of any “messaging” leads without having to stay on top of more devices.

 

In the last decade, there has been a massive shift towards people of all ages using their mobile phones for just about anything, and texting is a huge part of this. It, therefore, makes business sense to add some type of texting capability to your business to make communicating with current and potential new customers faster and easier. I’m going to tell you about two great options that can work well together or separately.

When we started using two-way messaging in our orthodontic practice, our primary objective was to improve our overall patient experience by engaging patients in the manner that best suits their needs and desires. This allows us to provide them with customer service that sets us apart from our competition and the response has been stunning. Our patients love the feature and tell all their friends about it. In a round-about manner, this has led to an unexpected increase in word-of-mouth referral business to our practice.

Our practice was already engaging in Facebook messaging, which is how we came to realize people’s desire to message us, rather than pick up the phone. There are many advantages to allowing your customers to communicate with your business via text and I think just about any type of business that currently communicates directly with customers via phone will benefit from it.

After evaluating a couple of platforms, we chose to go with Text Request. Text Request makes it easy for any business to manage live, two-way text conversations by text-enabling a business’s existing, local landline number to send and receive texts, all from an online account. Text Request is cloud-based so you can send texts through a web browser or from your smartphone.

(One of the other platforms we looked at is zipwhip. The people there are friendly and professional and the product seems sound. However, we found the zipwhip software to be far too complicated for our purposes. At the time of our evaluation, they offered the features we liked the most (custom signatures, group texting, multiple users, saved responses and the widget embed for our website) but only with the higher priced plans. With Text Request, a business can enjoy all the features and instead pay only by the volume of texts they use each month.)

Besides the functionality of two-way texting with our patients, by far my absolute favorite feature is the “embed” widget we use on our website.

On desktop, it displays in the header like this:


When displayed on a smaller screen (like on a tablet or smartphone), the user sees this:

  

Clicking on the, “Click to Text,” button, opens the user’s texting app with the default number to your business:

It’s human nature in the text-o-sphere to expect an immediate response, so we use a customizable autoresponder that looks like this:

 

For businesses with HIPAA-compliance requirements who do not use a server configuration or software that ensures HIPAA compliance, an autoresponder message stating not to relay personal health information(PHI), would be advisable. This is an ever-increasing issue for healthcare providers. If you really want a scare, check out this article about the penalties for non-HIPAA compliance. Yikes! In any case, don’t take my word for it. Make sure your business is HIPAA-compliant in all communications.

Google My Business Messaging feature 

Messaging with customers is a relatively new Google My Business (GMB) feature that has recently been made available in select countries. To configure this feature is pretty straightforward.

  1. On mobile, the GMB listing looks like this before enabling messaging:

 

  1. After logging into your GMB dashboard, click the blue edit button on the upper right:

 

  1. Then click Messaging on the left menu:

  1. You will then be asked to verify your number:

 

  1. Then click Save:

 

  1. It is immediately live on mobile, with the option to message in two places!

The beauty of adding messaging to your GMB listing is that it is seamless. If your business already has a text-enabled number through Text Request or another service, you don’t need to configure anything else.

If you don’t have a text-enabled landline, a business can verify and use a personal or business mobile number.  If you don’t have either a text-enabled landline or a mobile number, Google does say you could use their Allo app, rather than a mobile SMS, but to do that, you will have to download the app and your customers would also have to use it. As far as I’m concerned, that’s not an option and will only complicate, rather than simplify the process.

Although there are other services like Text Request, I love the fact that they have different plans depending on how many messages you send per month, starting from as few as 400, all the way up to 20,000. This means that you only pay for what you use, yet can scale it up as your business grows and as more of your customers choose to reach you via messaging. I also like the fact that there is no monthly contract. That way, if it’s not working out for your business, you’re not on the hook paying for something long-term that your business is unable to use.

We love having two-way messaging for our practice and adding it to our Google My Business listing is the frosting on the cake! It would be useful for all types of businesses, albeit for different reasons, but it works very well for orthodontists and for dentists, or any kind of business where customers make appointments for specific times. For dentists, it’s perfect for filling cancellations. Staff can send out a blind group text to everyone on their waiting list for a specific procedure such as a cleaning. This is a faster way to get the word out about an opening on the schedule and gets a much quicker response than sending emails and leaving a bunch of voicemail messages and then waiting to hear back. This dramatically frees up staff time and easily fills same-day cancellations, which can be costly to any business.

Another benefit of accepting text messages at our business is it allows patients to conveniently reach out to us when the thought is fresh on their mind to contact us. They don’t have to think, “Oh, they’re closed now – it’s Sunday. I need to remember to call them when I get to work tomorrow.” We all know how that goes…

Anyway, I look forward to hearing how messaging works for your business!

Emily Beglin, DDS

Any questions for Doc Beglin (or for me)?

Have you tried the GMB messaging feature yet – and maybe even set it up to feed to your landline with something like TextRequest?  Why or why not?

Leave a comment!

Can’t Add a Google My Business Appointment URL? Try This Hack

In my last post I described what Google My Business “appointment” URLs are, and covered some facts and pointers worth knowing if you’d like to use one.

But what if you don’t see in your Google My Business dashboard the option to add an appointment URL?  Turns out there’s a workaround.

Based on what I’ve seen in clients’ accounts, I’d say there’s a 10% chance Google hasn’t rolled out that feature to your industry yet.  How does Google know what industry you’re in?  In this case, mainly by the categories you pick.  To get your appointment URL to show up, you need to do a little footwork with your Google My Business categories.

James Watt of James Watt Marketing in Portland described the workaround in his comment on my last post:

Hi Phil,

I’ve got one more piece of info you might want to add somewhere. I asked the GMB community manager about what to do for business owners wanting to request the appointment URL feature in the profile, and here’s what she said.

Basically, the feature is included entirely based on categories for the business. If you don’t have it available but want it, add an appointment category, set the appointment URL, and then remove the category again. I was a little surprised that that was the answer given, but there it is. Thought I’d pass it along.

So you add a category to the one(s) you’ve already specified, hit “apply,” and see if Google gives you the ability to add an appointment URL.  If not, try a different category.  If you see the option, set your appointment URL, save, and then switch your categories back to what they were.

I tried it on a client just now, and it worked like a charm.  In his case, I had to swap out the “primary” category (i.e. the first one listed), which I switched back as soon as his appointment URL showed up.

Try that workaround.  Please let me know how it goes!

P.S.  Big thanks to James.  He posts often at the Local Search Forum and GMB forum, and I suggest you follow him.

12 Facts to Know about Google My Business Appointment URLs

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Google wants people to make an appointment.  Businesses now can add (in the Google My Business dashboard) a link to a “book an appointment” page or similar page.  The link will show up wherever your Google My Business page shows up in the local search results.

The “appointment URL” feature has promise.  Here are a few things you may want to know before you dig in and use it for your business (as I suggest you do):

1. An “appointment” URL probably won’t show up automatically for you, unless you use online scheduling software. Even then, you may not automatically get the link, in which case you’ll probably need to add it manually (if you want it).

2. Appointment URLs are not just for restaurants and medical practices. You can also add one if you’ve got a service business, a law practice, or other type of business.

3. Pretty much every business can add an appointment URL right now. This doesn’t appear to be one of Google’s molasses-speed rollouts of a new feature.  Of the dozens of Google My Business dashboards I’ve looked at, the only ones that can’t yet add an “appointment” URL are for a couple of private schools, an auction house, and a painting company.  I’m sure I’ll see the option available to those guys soon enough.)

4. “Practitioners” can add appointment URLs, too.

5. Some businesses can add a “menu” URL, too. Whether you can add only an appointment URL or an appointment URL and a “menu” URL depends on what kind of business yours is.  But even then, it doesn’t have to be a restaurant.  (I see the “menu URL” option for a chiropractor client of mine.)  Other businesses can get a “Products and Services” URL, but I can’t yet tell how.

6. Appointment URLs don’t seem to be available to businesses outside of the US yet, although restaurants outside the US do get the other URLs.

7. Your URL will go live instantly, or within about 5 minutes.

8. Google will accept invalid URLs. You won’t get an error in your Google My Business dashboard.  You’ll just confuse and annoy customers.  So be sure to click on your link to make sure it works.

9. You can add a URL to your “Contact Us” page, or to whatever page you like. (Mine points to my contact page.)

10. The full URL won’t show up. Google won’t show the subpage (e.g. “yoursite.com/appointment”) or subdomain (e.g. “appointments.yoursite.com”) in the URL.  They’ll just show “yoursite.com.”  It’s a display URL.

11. It’s not publicly editable from Google’s knowledge panel (yet?).  So at least your competitors can’t stick you with a bogus URL (yet?).

12. The rules are ambiguous, at least for now. Experiment in the meantime.  Consider creating a “contact” page on your site that’s only accessible through the “appointment” link; see how much traffic it gets.  Track visitors’ clicking behavior on that page by hooking it up to CrazyEgg or HotJar; see where they go next.  Maybe link to a site where you’ve got a fistful of great reviews (hey, Google didn’t say anything about linking to your site).

I’m guessing Google has big plans for these new links.  Like Yelp and the other local-search players that matter, Google wants to be involved in the transaction as early as possible – as we’ve seen with Google Home Services ads (AKA the “paid Maps” results).  Speaking of which, I wonder when those links will appear in Google Home Services ads.

With Google everything’s an experiment, but the “appointment” URL is one lab chimp probably won’t let die any time soon.

Update: If you can’t add an appointment URL, try this workaround.

Can you specify other types of URLs (like “Products and Services”)?

Where do you think Google is headed with this – and why now?

Have you tried it and noticed any clear benefits?

Leave a comment!