June 19, 2014

Google My Business – The Future of Google’s Local Business Strategy?

By | Category Google |

Google My Business was introduced last week in a global rollout that rebranded the discrepancies and confusion of Places, +Local, +Business into one unified portal to manage your local and brand business listings. However, I would hesitate to just call it a ‘rebrand.’  My Business improves usability on the backend with an updated Plus dashboard layout and some new features, but the real takeaway should be that it points to Google’s commitment to the local business space and its future direction to invest in this space.

What’s New?

  • Dashboard layout

The layout is cleaner, more usable. At the very top are clear calls to action with step by step instructions to edit your profile. Next, you have the social sharing box, available now on desktop and mobile, followed by other apps (Insights, Reviews, Hangout).

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  • Analytics and Adwords

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You can access both through a single click from the dashboard. I am especially excited about the addition of Analytics as we predicted it in one of our previous posts. Granted, the ability to aggregate reporting for multiple listings is still sitting high on our wishlist, but I see this integration as a possible first step in Analytics playing a more prominent and useful role in the dashboard.

  • Creating a New Page

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To reduce confusion over which type of pages business owners should create, My Business guides the user based on business type. This is an improvement over the previous iteration, but Google could go a step further by indicating which types appear on Maps (i.e. is a local listing) versus being more of a social page for your brand without a location based presence (i.e. brand listing).

Google Business Apps

For me, the most interesting aspect of the revamp  is that Google is emphasizing the integration of its business apps and product offerings under one platform.

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The dashboard is becoming a portal through which you can click over to your associated YouTube channel, track performance on your Analytics account or create AdWords campaigns. This is why My Business seems more than a cosmetic rebrand or even an updated listings management interface;  with a widely-encompassing name like ‘My Business,’ Google seems to be building a foundation for a true local business center that goes beyond listings management.

If this is indeed their direction, then there is no limit to the business products that Google could develop and integrate into the platform, as long as user engagement with My Business takes off. For example, Offers was axed, but maybe it makes sense to bring that back now or introduce a similar functionality into a dashboard that business owners will actually visit regularly. Other useful products might include Wallet, or a scheduling tool that could be customized across verticals, as Google already drops an Opentable reservation tool on restaurant listings or booking tool on hotel listings.

Essentially, it behooves Google to invest in apps to build My Business into a platform that creates real value for businesses. This would incentivize visits to the dashboard and in turn boost Google’s data collection, not to mention cross sale and up sale opportunities with products like AdWords and Analytics.

What about Bulk?

The one area of weakness that My Business did not address was the bulk user experience.  Other than renaming bulk management Google My Business Locations, the release did not include any updates for the bulk tool, which continues to be the interface for uploading new listings or making bulk edits regardless of whether you have the old or new dashboard.

My gripe with this setup lies in the fact that we now have to deal with two separate platforms for bulk management that do not readily complement each other. Aesthetically and functionality wise, the bulk tool and My Business dashboard are 2 completely disparate environments. The bulk tool is good for uploading core business info and creating multiple listings at the same time, but has no analytics, no ability to manage reviews, no ability to upload cover photos, etc. On the other hand, My Business has these features, but offers no way to make changes in bulk.

In ‘Perfect Internet Land,’ Google would integrate the bulk tool into My Business to create a more seamless experience on one platform, the Plus platform. Maybe this will be possible once all bulk accounts still on the old Places dashboard are transitioned over. In the mean time, these are the features geared towards multiple listings I’d like to see added to the Plus dashboard:

  • A search bar to easily search for individual listings. Or, at least revamp the current thumbnail view that makes it very difficult to quickly sift through listings

  • The ability to bulk upload cover photos and primary photos

  • Snapshot of Insights for the entire account, not just the individual listings

  • A review inbox at the account level that allows the brand/account manager to respond to or at least view reviews

  • The ability to at least monitor the social stream at the account level

Google is likely still working out some kinks with the transition over to My Business, and part of that is hopefully addressing the needs of bulk users. My Business is strongly geared towards SMBs right now; bulk has, once again, been left one step behind. Despite recent updates to the bulk tool, the transition over to Plus functionality and now My Business has been buggy and far from offering a user-friendly bulk product.

What Could Come Next?

As I’ve said, it would benefit Google if it is able to drive engagement with My Business by providing value through more business apps and improving existing ones. One key area for improvement would be reporting.

Insights now provides better metrics for social activity but lacks metrics to track leads and performance. Perhaps adding Analytics to the dashboard was meant to address this need, but many SMBs are not set up with Analytics, nor do they have the knowledge to begin using it. Maybe Google could build an ‘Analytics Light’ into the dashboard that would enable users to track metrics beyond the current page visits and engagement stats. This could also help train those who do wish to upgrade to full Analytics. At the very least, I would like to see Insights display metrics such as clicks on the website URL, click-to-call, clicks to get directions, all of which would be valuable for SMBs.

The other main area to tackle next would be the bulk experience, as previously mentioned. Bulk users should be able to take full advantage of the My Business dashboard on an account level, which is currently not feasible as all of the business apps are built into the listing level. The bulk upload and management process needs to better meld with the Plus platform.

With My Business, Google seems to be intentionally carving out a space for business owners,and my hope is that this is a strong move showing their investment in serving SMB needs going forward. What improvements would you like to see next for My Business?

One Response to “Google My Business – The Future of Google’s Local Business Strategy?”

Google My Business – Quick Start GuideJanuary 21st, 2015 at 6:13 pm

[…] SIM Partners: Google has shown that it is committed to local business space. A bulk upload process would be helpful, but Google has shown its interest in serving the needs of the small business owner. […]

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