2017 was another busy year for Google. The search giant maintained their position as the search engine with the largest market share on the Internet, processing more than 75% of all searches worldwide.
Last year and into 2018 Google has been busy updating new features and perfecting existing ones. These changes seem to be happening for a few reasons. One, they need to keep up with encroaching competition from other search engines. And two, they need to redeem the previously failed Google+ social network.
Lately it seems as if social networks and search engines are becoming one and the same as search engines incorporate more interactive social networking capabilities and social networks employ more search capabilities, such as Facebook’s services tool.
Today we are going to focus on a few updates made by Google that are either in use or in testing and could greatly impact your local marketing efforts now and in the future.
Google Posts Feature
In June 2017 Google introduced Posts. Posts are a way for individuals and businesses to promote special events, sales, and other temporary news. Google posts are easy to set up and will stay live for seven days. Posts are not limited to small businesses and can be used for other entities as well, but have been a great opportunity for our legal clients to share what they are doing in the community.
To begin posting, login to your Google My Business account or Google+ Profile. If you are logging in as your business, go to Google My Business and visit “Posts” on the left-hand side of the page. You can view past posts and create new ones here.
If you are using your personal profile, go to Google Posts and search your name. If you are eligible for posts, a button will appear under your name in the knowledge panel.
Interestingly, Posts were originally Candidate Cards and were available for political candidates to create content that would show up in relevant political searches.
Business Questions and Answers Feature
In August 2017 Google introduced their Questions and Answers feature for Google My Business. This feature allows users to ask businesses and entities questions directly through the search engine’s local listing for the entity. Mike Blumenthal’s blog announced that Google added an option to receive notifications, however, these do not seem to be sending notifications by email or through the desktop Google My Business account. In order to ensure you receive notifications, install Google Maps on your phone, log in to your business account and turn notifications on. Then you will receive notifications for new questions and can also answer them on the go. These questions and answers can be viewed by the public, and past customers who have reviewed or used Google maps to visit your business will also be prompted to answer questions, so it’s a good idea to answer quickly and thoughtfully.
Google Community Bulletins
Google’s latest addition was first documented in January 2018 and is still in testing. Currently users in Nashville, Tenn., and Oakland, Calif., have access to create community bulletin posts. This seems to be another effort by Google to be the front page of the web and keep people on the search engine rather than clicking through websites to find information. Bulletins can be found through online searches and appear as normal search results that then click through to the post beginning with the URL: https://posts.google.com/bulletin/.
This URL shows that bulletins are a subset of posts, and we suspect they may be integrated in some way. Since this has not been released on a larger scale, it is uncertain if and how this feature will take off.
Keeping Abreast of Google’s Changing Tides
As Google continues to roll out new features and refine existing features, Consultwebs is constantly working to determine the best way to utilize these opportunities. Google posts allow business owners a high degree of customization and allow them to show users exactly what they want them to see. Questions and Answers also allow small businesses to interact with users with a lesser degree of control since any user can ask or answer a question. However, the caveat is that it is possible to get questions and answers removed that violate Google’s guidelines. Google’s Bulletins have not created enough buzz yet for us to take much notice, but they could be useful for encouraging the community and past clients to promote your firm’s events and promotions.