I first wrote about Local Service Ads upon its inception in 2017. It’s a great concept. Don’t pay for ranking, or even conversions. Just pay for actual local leads. Now we’re looking at 2021 and they’ve slowly and continuously expanded.
First, Google shows how you can learn how to start your own campaign by seeing how Local Services work.
Many industries are available for this, and here’s a few current carpet cleaning industry Twin Cities Local Services Ad search results for Google Guaranteed:
More industries are now qualified in Minnesota for 2021, including lawyers and specialties within, and many others including the carpet cleaning example above. One thing stays the same:
Google’s signup process is unique for each business category. This means that a turnkey solution to just leave it for companies to fulfill for you may not be the best for you. It does take your effort.
You must pass rigorous checks to be able to use Local Service Ads for your business.
These include passing a criminal background check, having valid liability insurance and proving you have the correct licenses to be able to carry out work in the first place.
For local businesses, this gives you the ability to measure your ad cost. You can choose how much or not your lead is worth to you.
Scroll and see the embedded Google Spreadsheet to see the categories currently available in Minnesota:
Google Local Services ads can also give you more real estate in search results in addition to your organic listings and standard Google Ads.
Here’s where you can sign up to be Google Guaranteed for your respective services.
Localmn Interactive provides Local Services Ads consulting for our virtual tours customers.
Virtual tours for businesses have been very compelling well before the COVID pandemic came. They simply let users tour your location to get a good feel and then hopefully visit you.
Some of you are open, some of you are not. COVID still brings a challenge. Potential customers can’t just show up in person beforehand, but you can keep your visual process moving forward.
Benefits of Local Business Virtual Tours
Visually showcase your social distancing guidelines
You may have plexiglass at your arrival to separate you from customers or social distancing floor stickers. Showcase these in your virtual tours to help ensure safety for your visitors.
Reach more potential customers with less
By letting people remotely tour your location, you can reach more while keeping face-to-face contact low to help limit the spread.
At the end of the tour, you can direct users to book a reservation or appointment. It can be as easy as placing a simple form on your respective web page.
Virtual Tour Options
- Google Street View and virtual tours – show in your Google My Business (maps) profile and it’s highly searchable
- Custom virtual tours – like the Google Street View tours, and with customized features and branding for your business to embed on your site, social media, and other relevant places
- Matterport – very popular and a definite leader in the real estate industry
One myth: “Having Google Virtual Tours helps your SEO rankings”. Beware of this claim. This can arguably be indirectly true since the more complete your Google My Business profile is, the better your local SEO rankings are in general. A Google virtual tour will help. With that said, virtual tours do not have a direct impact on your SEO rankings.
We hope this all helps you understand virtual tours and the impact it can make.
LocalMN specializes in virtual tours. See our Google and custom virtual tour page for more information.
What this means for LocalMN Interactive is that we’re no longer eligible to offer these services. We’re an agency. From their Business Provider FAQ page:
The proposed partner must not have access to the business listings they are verifying.
Agencies, SEOs, and resellers are not eligible for this program.
I’m not too surprised with this, given the apparent ease to be accepted. A good couple years ago, to apply I believe you needed to be invited to by a friend to take a somewhat-detailed 10-question test. In some forum, the link got leaked, I jumped on it, answered all 10 questions correctly, and bam! I was a Google Trusted Verifier.
No serious leads ever came from it, and it really seemed to be a program ripe for manipulation.
As of now, I proactively updated that marketing page and took out internal links to it. Eventually, I’ll 301 redirect the page to the closet appropriate one. I’m taking out the Trusted Verified icon for future images to it and replaced it with a Theta camera icon shown here and just partially at the top icon on this post.
If you have any questions, certainly let me know.
LocalMN Interactive provides local search marketing services with a specialization in Google 360 Photography.
First of all, Happy New Year! I hope you had a fun and safe New Year, and all the best wishes for you in this new decade.
In 2010, 360 photos and virtual tours really didn’t exist. In fact, Google My Business (GMB) listings didn’t launch until June, 2014. The Rochester Post-Bulletin even recognized this in a piece written in August, 2017.
Here are a few known findings from Google:
- When searching for businesses, consumers use mapping products 44% of the time
- Listings with photos and a virtual tour are twice as likely to generate interest
- On average, 41% of these place searches result in an on-site visit
A brief overview of Google 360 Street View Trusted Pro Photographers:
Have you used this as a consumer? If so, you may have gotten great visuals of inside a location, implied directions, or compelling photos enticing you to visit their door. Maybe a show at First Avenue?
You can easily bring your location to life, and this is just one part of Google My Business that can help.
Here’s to you! Happy 2020, and all the best in using Google tools to help benefit your business or organization.
Localmn Interactive offers Google Street View Photography services with plenty of knowledge, experience, and local search strategies.
Between Google My Business (GMB) and the new Google Images format, there are some opportunities. Some are from you, and some are just from being you.
There’s a difference between Google Images and your Google My Business (GMB) photos
For this read, It’s important to know though that Google Images and photos you take for Google My Business (GMB) are different. For users to see Google Images, for the most part they need to click on the image tab or images within the main search results. You can link to them though, including specific images. You just don’t get the SEO benefits.
From Google’s post titled Pick an idea and make it happen with Google Images:
Starting today (Aug 9th 2019), when you select an image, it appears in a side panel on the page, next to the search results. Importantly, it stays there as you scroll, letting you easily compare images with others on the page.
For retailers and publishers, this updated interface also means people are more likely to visit a web page to get information to help them with a task, or to buy a product on your site.Google, The Keyword – Aug 6th 2019
I absolutely love the 1st point! I haven’t seen the 2nd as much, mostly because I’m in local lead generation and awareness, and only a bit in e-commerce.
Local examples of Google Images
McKinney Roe is in the growing Downtown East neighborhood in Minneapolis. Google mages include photos from the own site, Yelp, the Strib, City Pages, TripAdvisor, OpenTable, Heavy Table, and many more. They all collectively provide compelling images to their offerings.
45th Parallel Distillery is an established craft distillery in New Richmond, WI. They naturally have Google images from their own site, Yelp, Heavy Table, and TripAdvisor. They also have local and niche images from City Pages, WCCO, Pioneer Press, and even CNN. The main image selected is a photo of Gamle Ode Aquavit news from The Growler.
A year ago August, Samatar Crossing opened, connecting the Minneapolis Cedar/Riverside neighborhood to Downtown East by U.S. Bank Stadium with a new multi-cultural connection including an ever-growing number of Google Images.
How Do I Link to these Image Pages?
This may be important for marketers and SEO professionals. These image result links are all dynamic, so it doesn’t help your SEO efforts. It doesn’t hinder it, either. Using a URL shortener like Bit.ly can at least help you measure the overall performance. The image links above are indeed Bit.ly shortened dynamic URLs.
This is just one way to shorten these dynamic URLs. I’d love to hear others that work well for you! Also, the new Google Images format is just a couple weeks old, and is in a different category from the GMB photos that you take. Have you used it to your advantage?
Foursquare has long-been and quietly turned into a local data aggregator since 2013 Source – moz.com. More on this below.
Foursquare has been evolving in local search ever since they were a social check-in platform in 2009. I did jump on it right off the bat, although haven’t done much with it since 2017. My first 2 check-ins:
For you privy folks, it’s always been a social connection just like you have connections on Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and Facebook. As a consumer, I’ve always been interested in places my connections visit and always consider these places from that trust.
In fact, in 2015 trusted local Foursquare contributor Ed Kohler mentioned a cool fact about Pizza Nea’s wi-fi access that helped turned me into a fairly regular customer. Their wood-fired pizza alone is delicious and worth the visit. This is just one of many examples as a consumer.
Foursquare has slowly but surely come out as not just a social connection, but a beyond-solid local data aggregator along with Infogroup, Localeze, Factual (not sure on the price, it used to be free), and Acxion (retiring local search operations at the end of 2019) source – BrightLocal
In 2018, Acxiom was acquired by publicly-traded advertising company IPG. In order to comply with the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) which comes into effect on January 1st, 2020, Acxiom will be retiring its directory and local search productsBright Local
Foursquare has been a natural fit for this and I’m sure it’s been their long-term goal. They’ve always had their social game and imagine that they’ve always used this data for their local aggregate data.
Signing up for national aggregate data providers has its pros and cons. A pro is you have the consistent Name, Address, Phone (NAP) information consistently across the web (huge for SEO). A con is you’re more open to unsolicited sales calls from companies who you don’t choose to engage.
In my opinion, the pros outweigh the cons. Just watch out for any unsolicited sales calls.
For Foursquare, you will probably find your own business/company/organization when you search and claim yourself. As of now, it will cost you a one-time $20.00 fee to officially claim your business location.
This may also make it easier to acquire the right amount of local citations. A recent Search Engine Land article asks experts whether local citations matter anymore. I’m definitely in the camp where it’s not nearly as important as it was 5 years. Ago. I liken it to inbound linking debates 15 years ago. It’s not the quantity, but the quality. Google My Business (GMB), Yelp, Facebook, Foursquare, and a company called Factual alone is a really good start (IMO).
My perception is that Foursquare has an upper hand over other local data aggregators when you combine their 10 years of social marketing in the mix. What are your thoughts? And, should we continue to add more social content to Foursquare as users to help with the social aspect?
Google has taken another step to take your local marketing efforts easier and more streamlined this 2019 Summer with their new local marketing kit. This ties in nicely in your Google My Business (GMB) profile.
Create custom posters, social posts, and more from reviews and highlights on your Business Profile on Google. All for free.From the new Google Marketing Kit
In addition, it provides video and promotion options.
This Google-provided video is currently pretty cheesy, yet gives options including easily embedding the YouTube video within your content such as this blog. As of yet, I don’t know if you can customize this.
Another new opportunity is pre-made (social) Google Posts. They also give you the option to share these on social media outlets like Facebook and Twitter, plus a downloading option for you to share wherever in your content you feel relevant.
The current examples they seem to have are a bit generic, but I see them useful for filler Google Posts. My mind may change tomorrow, although I don’t see these as useful for Facebook and Twitter. I’d rather see updates that tell more of a story. But maybe that’s just me. Example:
If you’re a restaurant, hotel, or any other business prone to potential positive reviews, this is certainly worth filler posts.
At an enterprise level with multiple listings, this opportunity is a must with proper management. For stand alone local businesses, I have a couple reservations.
The best (or worst) part of it is that Google owns all the data. Yep, they still own the local search content you provide. For this, they even own the analytics although they show you an overview in your GMB panel. I only imagine that they use all of this to help calculate your overall authority in the results, and indirectly, your rankings in the local 3-pack.
Google does get info for these based on both content you provide in your own free Google My Business (GMB) profile combined with ratings or your organization.
I was a huge fan of the Small Thanks with Google Site that gave you free posters to showcase the positive things customers say about you, but the site’s now down. There’s no redirect and is now just a broken 404 page. The above-mentioned Google local marketing kit seems to be the replacement along with the other opportunities.
Google has a pretty strict policy regarding obtaining user reviews, and a lot of fantastic articles have been written regarding this. In a nutshell, soliciting positive reviews is bad. Reminding people they can leave honest reviews is good. Google is now showcasing the latter with new window decals.
Have you or your company/organization used the Google Local Marketing kit yet? We’d love to hear your experiences!
Is Google My Business sending surveys to local business owners to see if they can charge local businesses for their own listings?
I say no. Oh hell no! They’re not out to screw you. My first reaction on Twitter:
They have sent survey question (survey now closed) about this. Joy Hawkins from Sterling Sky contacted Google and sent out this tweet.
I’m with that. There’s nothing to panic about. My assumption on this good Search Engine Land conversation is that the survey questions really closely mirror the minds of those who choose to participate in Google Local Services ads and not for GMB profile listing owners worried about if they’re going to be charged for Google’s already-free product.
Google Local Service ads in general do not integrate within your Google My Business (GMB) profile. So yes, I believe they are encouraging you to buy local service ads just like they visually encourage you for AdWords Express with their Create an Ad icon. I imagine in the future, they will use these survey Q&As to encourage GMB users to sign up for Google Local Services Ads.
I can certainly see an simple added tab for Google Local Services ads, written in their own very simple way.
I do suggest looking into Google Local Services ads on your own. We put a services page up for this over a year ago as well. Not many local Mpls/St. Paul industries qualify, but you check out your eligibility for yourself.
What are your thoughts? Is GMB out to charge your for your listings or is it just a survey to explore interest in Google Local Services Ads?
LocalMN Interactive Marketing
15 S. 1st St, #A516
Minneapolis, MN 55401