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Thread: Has Google My Business been good or bad for your Local SEO practice bottom line?

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    Yosu Cadilla is offline Member
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    Has Google My Business been good or bad for your Local SEO practice bottom line?

    Question for SEO pros: Has Google My Business been good or bad for your Local SEO practice bottom line?


    Does it make your life easier or harder for you and your clients?
    Is it really helping business owners to “do it themselves”?
    While the amount of work is mostly the same as before, isn't it harder to get new clients now that everything is simpler and centralized and looks so easy?
    
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    Re: Has Google My Business been good or bad for your Local SEO practice bottom line?

    Did you mean to post twice? Looks like you had roughly the same post yesterday as well. I flagged the old one since there weren't any responses.

    By the Google My Business launch, I assume you mean the changes since late 2014, when things switched away from being Google Local to GMB. Or was it Google places... Google's naming convention changed a lot, and I can't remember the specific timeline anymore.

    I've been focusing much more on local SEO since that switch, but I did work on local SEO with a dozen clients maybe in the few years before then too. Those with more sales experience before and after the transition would have more to share, but in my experience at least, there are still a huge number of business owners that are fairly ignorant. If there's anything that's different, it's that more business owners are jaded. There are more that have been burned at least once by snake oil salesmen, they're all years deep into getting unwanted sales calls a few times a week, and they're all leery of wasting their valuable time and money. Small business owners tend to have a million plates in the air, everything from HR, interacting with their own clients, staying code compliant for their industry, etc. etc... many business owners just don't have the time or the inclination to learn a new system, regardless of how easy it might be, for fear of learning the 'wrong' system. There's so much to do after all... Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, SEO, review gathering, offline marketing, how to encourage referrals, etc.

    Here's how you make a sale. Know your business well. Help people. Become known as a trusted resource in your community, and have the knowledge and ability to back up that reputation. "Making sales" will not only be easy, you'll find business owners will hire you with an incredible sense of relief. They want help, they want someone to do this for them. They want someone in their corner that can take care of the things they don't have the time or the knowledge to do themselves. No matter how easy Google makes things, there will always be a fairly large portion of any given industry that feels exactly the way I described above. After all, filling out a GMB profile 100% is a very tiny part of what any good local SEO expert will actually be working on.

    Plus, the 'switch to GMB' back in late 2014 wasn't this monolithic change that we're suddenly on the other side of. It's just one of many rebrands they had. They're been changing the interface in small ways pretty much constantly since then, and the algorithm itself has been adjusting even more often. I doubt you'd find things shifted that much more from 2014 to 2015 than it did from 2016 to 2017. Things are always changing, and they'll keep changing, but what sells has been kind of the same all along.

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    Re: Has Google My Business been good or bad for your Local SEO practice bottom line?

    Hi James,

    Thanks for the great reply and for flagging the other post as a duplicate. Here is the content of the other which was largely the same, so I removed it.

    Quote Originally Posted by Yosu Cadilla View Post
    Has the "new" Google My Business launch been good or bad for Local SEO pros?


    What has been the impact of Google My Business in your Local SEO business?


    Does it make your life easier or harder for you and your clients?


    Is it really helping business owners to “do it themselves”?

    Yosu I assume maybe you posted a 2nd time because no one answered the other post, but it's a 3 day Holiday weekend for us in the US so everyone was out playing except for James. ;-)
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    Re: Has Google My Business been good or bad for your Local SEO practice bottom line?

    Thank you very much James!

    Yes, that's exactly what I meant. In other words, has the switch from a somewhat complex and confusing structure like having to care for Google places + Google plus into a much simpler and easy to understand, unified, and much more useful service been good for the bottom line?

    Jaded and leery, just like before... Did I get it right?
    That's exactly what I wanted to hear, music to my ears.
    Anyone has a different experience?

    One interesting little piece of information, the one which started these doubts in my mind is, despite the huge marketing campaign and the enormous growth for the number of searches for "google my business" since 2014, LOTS of people still search for "how to appear on Google places", "how to put my business in google maps" and many other similar searches.

    The debate inside my mind goes along these lines:
    Complexity = more confused people needing help.
    Simplicity (plus the gigantic marketing campaign) = more people knowing of and interested in the platform.

    On the other side, more complexity means you have to devote more time educating your clients and a greater level of awareness means there are more prospects floating around, but as it's now simpler, my guess is a great deal of SMB owners would try to do it in-house.

    I guess it all boils down to:
    Does greater awareness outperform complexity issues when it comes to the bottom line for Local SEO pros?

    And thank you again James for your insight on SMB owner's minds here's what I loved the most and I totally agree with:
    "Leery of wasting their valuable time and money. Small business owners tend to have a million plates in the air, they want someone in their corner that can take care of the things they don't have the time or the knowledge to do themselves."

    And another gold nugget for me: "Become known as a trusted resource in your community, and have the knowledge and ability to back up that reputation. You'll find business owners will hire you with an incredible sense of relief."


    BTW, on the 2017 MOZ local search ranking factors review you stated:
    "There are two changes I expect to see over the next few years, one I’m excited about, one I’m less than thrilled with. The potential bad news is an increasing trend on Google’s part towards pay-to-play. Ads at the top of the local finder, Google Home Service ads for a growing number of cities and industries, and an ad potentially coming to the 3-pack are all signs of a move towards monetization on Google’s part. Local SEO isn’t dying anytime soon, but we’re looking at a slowly shrinking opportunity space."

    Could you please elaborate on the meaning of shrinking opportunity space, and when do you think we will start to notice it's effects?

    Don't you think 3 ads on top of the local pack + possibly some more inside the pack itself would be TOTAL ANNIHILATION for MOBILE local SEO where screen space is at such a premium? maybe not for desktop but, we all know, the super tasty sauce for local search is mobile, when it comes to local search, desktop is barely relevant.

    Sorry about the double post Lynda, someone pointed out that "new" sounded like maybe I knew about some new update or release which is absolutely not the case, so I decided to reword my question.
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    James Watt's Avatar
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    Re: Has Google My Business been good or bad for your Local SEO practice bottom line?

    Good memory, I did indeed say that. I think we're already seeing the effects of the shrinking space. The old kind of the hills aren't able to sweep a whole city 100% anymore. Even small variations in search phrase can mean big changes in who's showing, and even small shifts in searcher location (even just a few blocks!) can change who's showing. If you're the big dog, you're already losing some amount of exposure just from the algorithm changes. As far as ads go, it's been quite a while since the top listing (or two) in the local finder has been an add, it's been even longer since there's been 4 organic ads at the top instead of 3 on desktop, and in the last few months, Google's been testing different strategies for inserting ads into the 3 pack. One potential method was to keep 3 listings, and make one of them an ad (dubbed a 'Tupac' by Colan) but it looks like in the last month or two, they decided to settle on a 3-pack plus an ad. Not great news, but not terrible. So far it's only showing up on mobile, and I haven't been seeing any of that at all for the packs I keep an eye on, but it's safe to assume it's coming in a bigger way over the next few months. You can read more about that here. Ultimately I think the universal rollout of that 3-pack+ ad isn't going to make a huge difference, but we'll see what happens.

    As far as simplicity vs complexity, it all comes down to supply vs demand. Some search phrases mainly pull from hyper-local results. Even if someone's using a query where the provider's location doesn't matter (wedding photographer) Google will still pull hyper local results for certain queries. Mobile searches, especially without the city in the search term will often do that. For those kinds of searches, distance from the searcher is the #1 most important thing, so even if a business owner does little other than just set up the GMB listing properly, they'll start getting some exposure at least through those hyper local (and thus, lower competition) search phrases. That's the double edged sword of some of the algorithm changes in the last year or two... more available for smaller companies, and less opportunity for total domination for the bigger ones. There are still plenty of higher volume, larger net searches though. Put the city name back in the search term, you'll see the 3-pack map zooms out, and you'll have a new list of businesses. Those kinds of queries are much higher competition.

    As long as there's traffic available that dozens (hundreds?) of providers are equally competing for, it doesn't matter how easy Google makes the price of entry. There's only room for 3, so if GMB setup goes from 30% of businesses up to 90%, that basic setup goes from being a competitive advantage to being a bare minimum just to be considered. If your self storage facility is the only one in town with a 'first month for $1' offer, you'll go like gangbusters... until every other studio sees what you're doing, and does the same offer. All of a sudden your great intro offer goes from being a killer hook, to a standard industry practice.

    Luckily for me, in the industry I focus on, a lot of the important SEO work has value outside of SEO. The prime backlinks especially double as good sources of new leads for my clients. I get to build their SEO in such a way, that even if Google disappeared tomorrow, my work would still be adding enormous value. I think that's going to be possible for many industries, I just picked a particularly obvious one for figuring out how to do that. SEO is a close sister to PR in a lot of ways after all. What Google's really trying to measure is relevance, authority, community ties, etc. If a company has close community ties, if the main practitioner is a well known expert on their area of expertise, if a business hosts important community events, all those things increase exposure in ways unrelated to SEO, and yet they directly help SEO too. As long as you've got a functioning leg of your practice you can frame that way, you'll be safe even if Google gets rid of the 3-pack entirely.
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    Re: Has Google My Business been good or bad for your Local SEO practice bottom line?

    I just found a very interesting post right here in localsearchforum.com while searching for "local pack ads" in Google:

    https://www.localsearchforum.com/goo...rvice-ads.html

    Then see for yourself here: (it's become worst since the post was started)
    https://www.google.es/search?q=%22Pl...hrome&ie=UTF-8

    in case your results are different than mine, here's what I see in a 1920 x 1080 pixels screen:
    Has Google My Business been good or bad for your Local SEO practice bottom line?-san-francisco-plumbers.jpg

    Open the same link on a phone, you'll have to scroll down 2 entire full screens before you see the first organic result, because the 3 first ads are piled vertically instead of horizontally.

    As i see it, Google has realized it has no need for any sort of help and it's sooner or later going to close the fence on this lucrative market, Google Yellow Pages is already here, ALL local results will be ads, just like it was when we used paper directories.

    Very soon it will be more cost-effective to pay Google for adwords express than paying a local SEO pro, after this is true, bye bye local seo, which is probably the strategy Google has now. It could not be done (yet) for general SEO, but for local SEO it is. And let's remember Google owns the number one and still growing OS for mobile devices, there is no limit to what they can do to incentivise this model.

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    Re: Has Google My Business been good or bad for your Local SEO practice bottom line?

    It's true, I'd probably be sweating a fair bit more if I was working with plumbers, or some of the other verticals that are likely to be shifted towards home service ads in the next year or two. As always though, track with your clients, keep an eye on trends, and remember that boosting new customers for your clients is the main goal, not directly where you get them on the page. I remember seeing a little study on how the 4 ads up top switch affected mobile CTR back when that was first a thing, you can check it out here. Ultimately, it made a dent in the first spot at least, but it didn't completely eliminate the value of the organic real estate. Something to keep an eye on as things continue to change though.

    For what it's worth too, I'd be shocked if all industries switched over to a home service model... my personal guess, is that Google's partly doing this to fight spam in high risk industries. Locksmiths, plumbers, home repair, garage door repair, cleaning, painters, etc. All service area businesses, all traditionally very problematic when it comes to spam. Just looking at their branding (home service ads) it would seem Google doesn't anticipate moving outside those verticals any time soon.
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    Re: Has Google My Business been good or bad for your Local SEO practice bottom line?

    I hope you are right, but I fear these are just the first steps, they are testing this new model and if it's successful (and it certainly looks like it's growing) they will expand in other directions, and why wouldn't they? It just makes sense to do it.

    In my opinion, they didn't start right away with lawyers and doctors just because these markets are too important to do it wrong and because they might be less tolerant with failure and constant changes, and because they're already selling tons of adwords to these markets as is, so they are testing the waters elsewhere, but as I see it, there is just one way forward, why? because they can and it's profitable.

    The only thing that can stop this trend, is the users, we people searching. Either the ad blockers become the standard or people start searching elsewhere, both very unlikely.
    We, marketers of all kinds, should be promoting ad blockers and alternative mobile browsers as a way to "defend our territory", but we are not.

    Thank you very much James for taking the time to talk to the pessimist side of me. Truth is I have (or had) a MyBusiness project just starting here in Spain and I had many great ideas for it, I'm just sad to discover the new paradigm is just bad news for my ideas but I am happy I did find out at an early stage. I'm not sure yet if I'm going to drop it right away, just because it may take several years for all this to be ported here.

    On the bright side... PPC market is going to be booming!

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    Re: Has Google My Business been good or bad for your Local SEO practice bottom line?

    I suppose I'll have to ask this November during the TC meet with the Google engineers. I stand by my prediction though. You may not have been involved in all this ten years ago, but Google's got a very long history of actually putting their money where their mouth is when it comes to their core intent: maximizing user experience. They don't care about you as the advertiser, they don't even care about their bottom line as a singular, more-important-than-anything-else pursuit. I've known a number of affiliate marketers, even big spenders (5 figures per month ad spend) getting their accounts taken down for seemingly arbitrarily reasons. I don't know if Google still does a lot of that these days, but I genuinely think that this isn't (solely) a cash grab on Google's part. I genuinely think this is their attempt at fixing a customer confidence issue in problematic industries, and funding the extra man hours with ad spend. I don't know if you realize just how bad spam is in some industries for Google. This is an interesting glimpse behind the curtain. It's been a problem for years. Ultimately, there's no doubt in my mind that we're at the beginning of an AI revolution, and that even just 5 years from now, Google's going to have sophisticated enough AI and deep enough data sets to accurately identify small business spam listings with an incredibly high degree of precision. Even fake reviews are likely going to be a thing of the past, and it's going to be kind of creepy in a 1984 way when they get there, but that's neither here nor there. It's coming. For now though, they need to rely on more brute force, simplistic methods to solve their problems. I honestly believe that's what home service ads are. I realize Google's a profit seeking company first and foremost, and that they've been changing their corporate culture over the last several years especially (visible with how they've dropped the 20% innovation time, and a lot of their side projects... google reader in particular was one I miss) but I still think I'm right on this. Guess you and I will both see though, kind of a wild industry to be a part of in some ways.

    Even aside from all that though, SEO has a lot of skillsets that will serve you well in other kinds of businesses too. Technical SEO and onsite optimization now has a large conversion optimization and user experience component. Time on site, bounce rate, CTR, all are known to directly affect a site's ranking. Those skills have a lot of value outside of SEO. Backlink building for SEO is very closely related to the same skills a PR person would need... the best backlinks even are one and the same. "As featured on" type exposure is my main goal with my clients. If all this goes to heck, and Google goes the way of yellow pages, your business model will change, you may need to augment your skillset, but many of your core skills are still going to be applicable. Back when I was first getting started and looking where to get my foot in the door, I was exploring a lot more general marketing and copywriting, and it's surprising how much relevant material for today's audience is almost 100 years old. It's been a long time since Claude Hopkins, but scientific advertising is still the right approach. You might need different language to appeal to today's readers (swipe files from the 60s have limited value these days in most industries) but you don't need different psychology. I think the same will hold true for Google. Ultimately they're never going to switch to a 'highest bidder' type model, and as long as they weight quality as part of the equation, you'll have work.

    My personal recommendation... if you have a plan, move on it. You'll learn a lot implementing it. Even if things change in the next twelve months and you need to switch tracks, so what? You'll have learned a ton about client management, B2B small business marketing, project management, and most importantly, you'll have a community you've established a lot of trust with. If you have a list of 500 spanish business owners following you, and 20 paying clients, and you approach them all one day saying 'guys, I have some big news. I've been watching the numbers for the last six months, and it's official: organic SEO is no longer a wise business investment. Here's why I will no longer be offering that service. Here's what you should be doing instead'. I think you'll find that's an easier sale than you might think, and they'll appreciate you shooting straight and sharing what they need to know. Tech moves unbelievably quickly, you can't be overly attached to what you're doing. Most of the changes I've made to my business model aren't things the client needs to pay a ton of attention to... which citations they need, which review sites they should be gathering for, whether to use JSON-LD or microdata schema, whether to make a separate mobile site or a responsive website... even a switch away from local organic SEO being a valid end-goal is still just going to be one more hurdle to learn how to jump over and educate the client about. You can never stop learning in this field, and if you're waiting for a sure bet that'll be there for the next 5 years before you start making sales and working in the field and accumulating experience, then you're honestly in the wrong industry.
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    Re: Has Google My Business been good or bad for your Local SEO practice bottom line?

    On the last part of your last post I totally agree with you, helping businesses is the best way to earn their trust, and by serving them well they will follow you anywhere (well, at least some of them will, in our case, most of them will just put their money on AdWords Express and continue their business as usual).

    But I really have to disagree with you on the 10 year trend.
    you said: "Google's got a very long history of actually putting their money where their mouth is when it comes to their core intent: maximizing user experience."

    1) For regular search on desktop 10 years ago (there was no mobile anything at the time) Google started using 2 ads on top of the organic results, these ads were clearly marked as dark yellow.
    Some time after, the yellow color was barely visible on most screens.
    Then it was 3 ads and later 4 ads on top of organic.
    Nowadays it's quite normal to have 100% advertisings above the fold.
    Only benefits Adwords. Nobody else gets anything good out of it.

    2) How is removing KW information out of the SEO equation good for webmasters, site owners, SEOs and the general public user experience? Only benefits Adwords. Nobody else gets anything good out of it.

    3) How does eliminating the functions of SEOs instead of empowering them improve the quality of the Internet? Sure, SEOs have made lot's of money in those 10 years, but they helped build the search engines and improve the quality of search results. Now they all had to redirect into other areas of marketing (I clearly remember the day SEOMOZ announced dropping the SEO part of their name, it was a BIG warning for all SEOs around the world). The reason why is greater control over the market.
    Only benefits Adwords. Nobody else gets anything good out of it.

    4) Now we are seeing how Google is heavily moving towards 2 pages of ads on mobile.Only benefits Adwords. Nobody else gets anything god out of it.

    10 years is a lot of time, indeed, but the trend is clear, they don't do it faster just because it would piss off too many people at once, but we all know where this road ends, don't we?.

    For searches that have a monetization value, the final objective is to push down organic into total irrelevance. On mobile AND on desktop, whether it's local or general search. Mark my words, organic is a walking dead for any Keyword that has monetization value, may take 5 years, may take 25, but there's where we are headed, and because the time of fast growing Internet startups is long gone, there will be no alternative projects to challenge google. If some genius finds a better way to do search, Google simply has to drop the ad pressure for a while and the project will be gone.

    And this is exactly how it should be, it's a company! their FIRST PREMISE IS TO MAKE MONEY, SECOND TO NONE, otherwise it would be a non profit.

    In my opinion, they are just finding new ways for squeezing the golden eggs goose without killing it, just as all companies should do.
    And guess what, they have the best PRs and marketers over there and their job is to make us think it's all in our own best interest. As all PRs and marketers do.
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