The In Search SEO Podcast
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[This is a general summary of the podcast and not a word for word transcript.]
Optimizing Your GMB Listing – How to Get the Details Right: Summary of Episode 67
SEO whisperer Colleen Harris of Sincro chats with us about the finer points of your Google My Business listing. We’ll cover:
- Why department listings in the Local Panel are super important and how to set them up without screwing them up
- How to expedite the listing verification process, no pain tips
- How local SEO can show value to a website
Plus, how the COVID-19 SERP is a glimpse into all future SERPs!
In Search SEO Podcast [Episode 19]: Moving Beyond the Cliches of Enterprise SEO
In Search SEO Podcast [Episode 57]: How Accurate Are Google’s Results
Google Reviews are Back
Google Starts Talk if E-A-T is a Ranking Factor
Google Must Pay For News Content in Europe
Follow the podcast on Twitter
Getting the Finer Points of Your Google My Business Listing Right: A Conversation with Colleen Harris [00:08:20 – 00:24:26]
Mordy: Welcome to a very special and very live In Search SEO podcast session. Today I am live at the SMX West event in beautiful San Jose, California. I am sitting with an SEO whisperer, no, an SEO Jedi, and a famed industry speaker and Google Analytics maven. Give it up for Colleen Harris.
Colleen: Thank you for having me today. This is great fun.
M: My pleasure. I have to ask you a question. Do you like soap operas?
M: My grandmother was the queen of soap operas.
C: My grandmother also.
M: Yeah, grandmothers love soap operas. Which is your favorite?
C: I will say All My Children even though it was canceled two years ago and hasn’t been on for a while because that is how I first got into doing anything related to marketing and SEO.
M: Really? What’s the connection between All My Children and SEO?
C: Back in 2000, I joined this message forum created by this couple who started to do these marketing campaigns for both the actors and the fans so I started building the website and doing some of the marketing. There were these very fan-driven random campaigns that got great notice and great acclaim and that’s how I got into everything related to marketing.
M: That’s actually amazing.
C: Yeah, and then I turned it into a side hustle and I started working for some of the actors to build their websites to market them. From there, I turned that into an actual 9-5 marketing assistant job.
M: That’s amazing. And the most amazing part is you’re able to keep track of David who was sleeping with this one and he also killed this one when his sister was with this one.
C: Exactly. I love the trashy fun of that. Always have. So yes, my start in search and everything related to the web started from soap operas.
M: That is an amazing moral. Watch more soap operas.
So we’re going to be talking about Google My Business. I know you have a process with a lot of research that I want to get to but before we get into it I really want to make sure of something. When we’re talking about Google My Business and the listings are set correctly, what are department listings within Google My Business?
C: Department listings is something that fits for certain types of businesses. The problem is, as we see in SEO, that once one thing rolls out for one kind of business everybody wants it all the time. It’s not going to fit every time but the best example is when a Target or a Walmart has a pharmacy or bank in the store. That is when you will have a department listing, when you have a business within a larger business that could be a standalone business on its own, that’s when you want to think about your department listings. I work with an automotive business that has a service department and a parts department. If you could take that thing and do it on its own and make money off it, that should have a department listing within your main Google My Business listing.
M: So let’s say you are Walmart and you have a McDonald’s in your store, wouldn’t that just go to McDonald’s website if you click on it?
C: It would go on McDonald’s website but if you’re managing that kind of business, a shopping center or things like that, you also want it to be able to show that you have all of these things within there and you have a little bit more control over what hours are going to show for particular searches. If you’re managing it for the bigger business, you should have control over listings for every department you have.
M: That’s a good point.
One of the major department stores in America, Macy’s, when you Google Macy’s Herald Square, their flagship store in New York, they have all sorts of departments, men’s clothes, women’s clothes, beauty, etc. But instead of those what you get are links to Burger King and all sorts of franchises that are in the department store. How does something like that go so wrong when it should be very clear that the department means makeup or jeans?
C: That comes to the management crap that exists on the map and also making sure that you’re talking to Google about what listings should be in a department. When you have listings in a department, Google’s going to nest them like children of your main listing. So your main listing and all of your children are going to be all of your different departments. So when you’ve worked with Google to make that proper, that means it’s only going to show certain things for certain searches and that’s the proper way to go about it so you won’t end up with a Burger King right in the middle of your map because then Google knows what locations to associate with that address and what locations to not associate with that address.
M: So you have a whole process for getting this right. How do you go about getting your department listings right?
C: The first thing is to create all of your listings. All my real-world examples are automotive so we have the sales listing, your service listing, and your parts department. You create all three of those and have those verified. Then you make a location group within your Google My Business and put those three listings within the location group. After you’ve done that, reach out to Google and say, “I’d like to have these two department listings be nested as departments for my main listing.” Give Google all of those things. Here’s the other key thing. You then want to provide to Google your hours and directions page on your website. Put that in your initial explanation. Say to Google, “This is my main listing. These are my two department listings.” [Add in the links to the department listings.] “If you would like to verify that information, please visit our website right here to get confirmation of all of the information.” That means Google doesn’t have to reach out to the business. That has become the key thing to make Google realize that they are legitimate departments that should be verified and nested properly.
M: Is Google actively worrying about false department listings or they don’t know what they’re doing and it’s going on anyway?
C: They try. I think most of the customer service folks are so overwhelmed. There’s so much junk with people trying to spam it that they don’t want to trust anyone. I appreciate that. But we’ve found by being able to add in that second paragraph of giving them our hours and directions page and our department page that that’s the little bit of information that helps Google verify what you’re doing and it goes faster.
M: That’s really smart because you want to make it easier for them to do this.
C: Yeah and we’ve had a couple of people at Google actually say, “That’s the key thing we needed in order to get your process moving faster.”
M: Did you get a thank you note in the mail?
C: I got a nice thank you email where they said, “This is entirely what we wish everyone would do.” You want it to be as easy as possible because that person at Google is trying to spin through their cases as fast as they can and certain things give them all the information and they’re going to just run with it.
M: Yeah. You have to realize there are always reports that their local team is backed up with this or that so that makes a lot of sense.
The second aspect of local that I want to talk about is Google Posts. Before getting into the nitty-gritty of this, I have mixed feelings about Google Posts. I like them. I look at them for sports teams, great GIFs, great videos, whatever it is. Do you find that they’re effective? For a business, I don’t find that I always look at them.
C: We actually did a study about a year and a half ago where we looked at different types of Google Posts and what was going to connect. We saw that on average, you were seeing about 300 more impressions for a small business after they did the Google Post. We did color tests and some of it is the stereotypical bright colors and writing about getting a deal seemed to get more clicks, about a 9% or 10% click-through rate which is pretty good. If you can get your offer in front of 300 more people without having to pay, if you can imprint into the search results and get 300 more views on anything in a day, that’s really where we saw the biggest value.
M: That’s interesting because you don’t see the value of that immediately. You don’t really know what the ROI is. Maybe you do somehow. I like for the sports teams where you see that it’s there, they have updates, and maybe I’ll go back and look at something later where I saw they had something there, I want to research that article, I don’t have time for it right now, but I’ll make a note of that for later. I would assume it works the same for a product, right? They have a sale, I’m not going to buy it just yet, but I’ll take note.
C: Exactly. It’s the same thing for putting in your product carousels. It’s that passive way to be able to own more of your search result without having to pay for it. Google tries to get so much money out of businesses all the time and I get it. That’s one of the things that allows you to do more of owning that branded search without having to give Google more money.
M: Do you think there’s somehow going to be a monetization of Google Posts or an assertion of sponsored posts within Google Posts?
C: Yeah, you start to see that within the restaurants. I don’t think you’ll see it within every industry but within the industries that they’re trying to dabble in, I think, yes, you are going to see that. This is where Google Post comes much more into play because you need to take it back. If Google is going to throw that Grubhub ad in your restaurant, you need to have counter-programming on a regular basis so you get your customers without having to have that third-party in there.
M: Right. And that’s really what’s making local a little hard lately. From what I see is that Google is starting to throw more competition within spaces that were purely or solely for your brand until now. In the Local Pack, the competition you see is more ads and in the Local Panel, Google has tested throwing carousels for competitors on top of your own Knowledge Panel.
C: Exactly. And the hotel booking thing where Google wants everyone to book through them and all that.
M: That’s a totally different beast altogether.
C: Yeah, so if you want to take back some of all that crap that Google’s doing, Posts are a way to do that. Product posts, putting all of your menus in there, and using your GMB is the way that you can take back some of that control.
M: Right, and you can repurpose. If you create a Google Post you can spin it for Twitter or Facebook.
C: Yeah, you shouldn’t have to work harder on that. It’s one message. Everything needs a little different verbiage for it, but it’s still the same message. And people like that consistency, there’s something about that that people engage with.
M: I do feel in the back of my mind that a business that posts in their listing shows they’re alive, they’re vibrant, they’re doing something, they’re there. You know it’s not one of those listings that Google just threw up there with a ‘Claim this Knowledge Panel’ button.
The last thing I want to talk to you about is UTM. Okay, So I know you’ve done a lot of cool things with UTM code and channel and grouping analytics. You’re a super analytics maven.
C: We try.
M: So I’m just going to give you an open mic. What has been helpful? What have you been doing?
C: I think UTM within Google My Business is the one way that SEO can show value to a website. It’s so hard to quantify SEO to most customers. They don’t understand everything about what works, the ranking factors, and all of that, but if you are working on managing the business listing as well, and you have those UTMs for every link that goes back to your website, you then as an SEO get to claim credit for all of the interactions that happen and all of the conversions. It’s a way to take that organic bucket and actually quantify it in Google My Business and show the customer that because I’m managing your listing, these things occurred.
M: I was talking to Eli Schwartz about something similar months and months ago and he said when you’re part of an enterprise team you need to show your value. Even if everyone knows you’re doing a great job, but if you want more of a budget, you need to show your value and UTM is a great way.
C: Yeah, it’s easy to show value in advertising and PPC because there’s money, clicks, and cost per click, and all of that. SEO is that art and science where having UTM is a way to show skeptics an immediate showing of value. Any type of customer or any type of client you’re working with understands the Knowledge Graph and understands what shows up when I search for that business. If you can show a customer all these things happened because you’re managing it, you’re proving your SEO value in a way that anyone will understand.
Optimize It or Disavow It
M: If you had to pick one or the other one, getting your department listings right versus creating Google Posts, which one would you do?
C: Getting those listings.
M: No doubt there I see. But the Google Posts are so visual?
C: Yes, but getting the listings right means that you’re showing up for more searches because someone searching for windshield wiper repair isn’t going to have a main car dealership show up. But if I’ve got their department listing done it’s going show up for that local search. So you expand what you’re going for with department listings.
M: Thank you so much for coming on, Colleen.
C: Thank you for having me.
How the COVID-19 SERP Hints at Google’s Future [00:25:42 – 00:40:49]
As you know, Google has this awesome monster of a SERP feature and SERP format layout for the COVID-19 SERP that will change the SERP forever…
The COVID-19 SERP feature is just crazy. It’s Google at its full power here. They pulled all the stops. This is what it looks like when Google doesn’t hold back.
Where do we start?
Let’s start by visually describing this thing. You search for a COVID-19 keyword, on the right-hand side you get a map of infections by country with a ton of stats under it for your location. Both the map and the stats lead to a separate page where you can go full-on data crazy. So our first point is there is tons and tons of new data. What does this mean in the long term? It shows what Google can do if it really wanted to and what sort of data it could show if it wanted to.
Think about any disease. Google could show the percentage of a country’s population that has heart disease and then break it down by the type of heart disease. And while this data might take away viewers from sites, Mordy isn’t sure that Google wants the SERP to be a data-center. It works here, but if they do make it a data-center, just look at what they can do!
Let’s move on now to the left-hand side, i.e., the money side of the page. Here’s where it gets crazy. Google has a left side menu that’s sticky, meaning it scrolls down the page with you, and it has a few tabs where when clicking on any of them brings up a new SERP for that category:
This seems very similar to the Knowledge Panel tabs but instead of a tab with more info you get the tabs that change the entire SERP to focus on that tab’s content!
So here’s where it gets funky and here’s where Mordy thinks Google will use something like this in the long term.
Mordy has been banging on his drum that Google has a few white elephants that it will have to deal with considering its quest for personalization and result diversity. The first white elephant is if you want to give users real personalization it has to give up control. If Google wants to really get good at personalization, the only way will be to let the user have some control over what they see. You can guess what the users want from here to Timbuktu but if you really want to let the user have what they want you have to have user input.
How does the COVID-19 feature help here? Because it lets the user choose what they want. Forget COVID-19 for a minute. Let’s consider a search for how to plan my estate.
There’s so much to chew on here. There’s the basic information of what goes into estate planning. There are all sorts of books and media on the topic. There’s the financial side, the legal side, and then there’s the actual estate planners. And if you’re in the US every state has different laws about this stuff so if you’re in Maryland you need a Maryland lawyer, not a New York lawyer.
The SERP, as it is, is all over the place. The results offer things like 5 ways to plan your estate, then you have a list of self-help books, then you have a list of legal associations that do estate planning (which in the United States may not really help because, again, it’s all state-level).
Now imagine you had a sticky side menu like the one for COVID-19 with menu tabs for:
Now, where this really helps is when you have more than one intent which is something we never talk about but let’s say you want both tips on planning an estate AND you a local estate planner/lawyer. You can just toggle between the tabs!
This solves another problem. In our interview with Jenny Halasz a while back, we talked about how personalization and result diversity and how they run into each other as Google gets better at things. You can’t offer tons of personalization and diversity on the same SERP because at a certain point you simply run out of room to handle both adequately. But now you can with the tabs! Google could offer an initial, more personalized SERP and then the tabs will show other categories for result diversity.
So you have a whole search history around estate planning. The initial SERP you see is geared towards that, but then you can have tabs that let you explore other areas. So if you’re doing a ton of local searches for estate planners and then Google estate planning, Google might show you some local lawyers. But say you don’t want that right now and instead you want some financial advice in general. So instead of the 1-2 results you might see for that intent you can hit a tab and get loads of results and SERP features for that aspect.
And this is how this helps with the filter bubble. Let’s move to politics where this is easier to see. Let’s say you hate a political party so everything you see on the SERP when you Google this party is negative because that’s what personalization tells Google you want. But that’s not really a true representation of the whole topic, but, via sticky tabs, Google can offer the user access to the full spectrum of the topic. What will that look like? We don’t know. It could be as simple as a tab that says ‘Multi-perspective coverage,’ or ‘Other coverage,’ or whatever…
Either way, something like this format is coming because it solves so many problems.
SEO News [00:40:49 – 00:45:39]
Google Reviews are Back: After Google turned off reviews due to COVID-19 the search engine now allows you to leave reviews and reply to them as well.
Google Starts Talk if E-A-T is a Ranking Factor: Google rekindles the debate around E-A-T being part of the algorithm by updating a post that says:
Since we originally wrote this post, we have been occasionally asked if E-A-T is a ranking factor. Our automated systems use a mix of many different signals to rank great content. We’ve tried to make this mix align what human beings would agree is great content as they would assess it according to E-A-T criteria. Given this, assessing your own content in terms of E-A-T criteria may help align it conceptually with the different signals that our automated systems use to rank content.
Google Must Pay For News Content in Europe: Google lost a major legal battle recently. A French court has ruled that Google must pay for the news content it shows within Google News or on the SERP.
Tune in next Tuesday for a new episode of The In Search SEO Podcast.