Google yesterday (Weds 11th June) rolled out Google My Business, a significant upgrade to Google Places /+Local. It is hoped that with this significant new product update that they can now seriously address the main concerns of small businesses.
I was lucky enough to be invited to an exclusive Hangout session with Jade Wang from the Google My Business support team and Abhishek & Dan, 2 product managers responsible for Google My Business. There were just 5 of us on that Hangout and we got to ask some specific question. Here is what i learned from that session.
Dan (Google Product Manager) gave us a nice walkthrough of the key features & updates. I’ve done my best to remember all the points he raised and distil them down into a whistle-stop 4min video. There is more juicy info below please watch then read on.
Google My Business – Available to everyone everywhere
Google My Business was rolled out to 236 regions with 65 different languages on 11th June 2014. Everyone should now have access to the updated dashboard and sign-up steps. The sign-up steps have been unified across mobile apps, web & also mobile web. It’s a significant feat to deliver this rollout globally on the same day. If you remember back to last years dashboard update it took weeks/months to trickle down from US to other locales. Jade said that 99% of the Google Places / +Local users have been migrated to Google My Business already. So this should avoid confusion around “do i have it yet? should i have it? when will i get it?”
Google My Business & Google+ Local
The name Google My Business (GMB) just refers to the listing management platform (aka ‘the dashboard’). The consumer facing listings & search results are still to be known as Google+ Local or Google Places or Google Local – even the product guys weren’t 100% sure so there will still be some confusion on this side. Personally i call it Google+ Local and will stick with that!
“Find your people”
This slogan is the brain child of the marketing team. It’s interesting because it sounds more geared to keeping in touch with existing customers than finding new customers. Sure existing customers may not know your number or zipcode for driving directions so will search for you online. But surely the main objective of boosting your online presence is to reach, connect & win new customers. I prefer “Find your people, and your competitor’s people”
1 Dashboard to Bind them
The most significant change that GMB brings is that it does away with the confusing 3-different-dashboard mess that has had so many users confused, and has consolidated into the 1 single GMB dash. I thought this quote from Lord of the Rings is quite apt:
One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them, One One Ring to bring them all, And in the darkness bind them. JRR Tolkien
Google has created a unified front door with one dashboard for everything. Multiple dashboards created a problem and reigned confusion amongst many local SEOs and local business owners. However, Google is releasing this as THE solution to those problems – and it’s a solution that is available across all devices. Google gave themselves 3 key areas to deliver on with GMB:
- Create a unified front door
- Empower businesses to succeed
- Deliver an “assist, suggest and inform” model to businesses
Key Features of GMB:
This update is really just a simplification of Google’s SMB offering and a fancy re-branding. None of the underlying technical architecture & processes have changed. But listing data, insights & review info is more centralized & pretty to look at. Consumers still have the same experience as they did before so nothing changes there. Here are some of the key features include:
- Core business data is more prominent & editable from the top of the dashboard
- There are direct links to view your listing in search, Google+ Local & maps (nice)
- It’s clearer how add photos, virtual tours & Google Maps Business View
- Social updates & posts can be done direct from within the dashboard
- Reviewing monitoring gets more prominence
- Adwords Express appears to be less prominent which is curious!
- Insights now comes with better demographic info as well as views & click stats
- Setting up a new page has a nicer, guided feel to it
- There are better prompts to complete your listing so it’s clearer for SMBs what they should do next
So what has not changed?
Well in truth plenty hasn’t changed. In the last big update Google focused a lot on the underlying architecture and ensuring the ‘pipe’ between dashboard and data viewable on the web/maps/mobile was greatly improved. So this update is more and some of the old bug-bears remain –
- Verification still by pin or postcard
- Bulk Upload is same just re-branded to Google My Business Listings
- Management & ownership of listings still the same
- Speed of updates still the same
How would you sum up these changes in 1 sentence?
Google My Business is a change for businesses not consumers. Sign-up to GMB is easier & management of your data has been simplified into 1 dashboard showing, but the behind the scenes processes are still the same.
What about mobile?
Google My Business is already available on Android and has much the same functionality as other Google Apps. The IOS version is due to be released in the next 7-14 days, with a more detailed announcement due on the Product Forum.
Oh, and Google DOES takes note of your feedback
There is no doubt that this is positive step from Google, and so far the reception has been very positive from the local SEO community. Indeed the new interface appears to be much clearer & simple to use. Local businesses & SEOs have typically struggled to manage their Google Places, and in February 2014 we put together a wishlist of new features & enhancements, asking our readers & customers to vote for the ones they wanted most. We had hoped that the Product team might stop by and take a look… and it seems that they did! Jade Wang, Community Manager for Google Places confirmed to us that whilst sourcing feedback from local SEOs and businesses, that they made sure our ‘Top New Feature’ poll was circulated amongst her team. Thanks to everyone that took part! To learn more about Google My Business visit http://www.google.com/business/.
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