Gone are the days of Google being just a search engine. In 2019, Google is a review site, a customer care platform and a listing page for your business. We’re talking about Google My Business, Google Q&A and Google Posts — three powerful tools for multi-location businesses. Google+ is on its way out in 2019, but Google is doubling down on its location-based features. These features appear in the Google Knowledge Panel — the box on the right side of search results that shows Google My Business information, Google Posts and Google Q&A responses.
The sooner you get familiar with these features, the sooner you’ll be able to digitally connect with customers where they already are. We explain it all in our brand new guide — The Franchise Marketing Playbook for Localized Social Marketing.
The playbook is filled with more insights than we could ever fit in a blog, but we can provide a quick rundown of Google’s locally-focused features:
Google My Business
In terms of total volume, Google is now the No.1 ratings & review site. Their base of reviews grew by 278 percent from 2017 to 2018, beating out other popular review sites like Yelp and Facebook. Beyond local business listings and reviews, these pages are stacked with additional features that allow businesses to leverage their online presence on-the-go and interact with customers in real-time to boost engagement. In fact, Google My Business now lets business owners post local content directly to these pages with a tool called Google Posts, and enables the posting of crowd-sourced questions & answers through a feature called Google Q&A. Both of these features are vital to a business’s localized social presence, as we discuss below.
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Google Posts are business-generated content updates that promote a business’s announcement, offer, event, or new products. They can appear on a business’s Google My Business Page, Google Map result and in general search results. When businesses create posts, they can place updates in the form of text, video or visual content in front of customers at the very moment those customers are seeking location-specific business information. Since Google stresses the timely nature of this content, Posts remain visible for seven days unless the business removes the update sooner. If a business posts an event, it will stay live until the listed event date.
Google Posts is intended to help local businesses connect with customers in their area. Businesses can capitalize on it by deploying consistent, high-quality updates on the platform and incorporating Google Posts into an existing localized marketing strategy.
Google Q&A is a consumer-facing, crowd-sourced FAQ feature. This feature allows consumers to ask questions about the business, and for businesses to answer the questions from the Google Knowledge Panel. The questions and their responses can show up directly on the business’s Google My Business page as well as in Google search results.
When looking at the content that gets posted on Google Q&A, you’ll notice that a lot of it is reputation or service related. As with any other kind of user-generated content, franchisors and franchisees need to regularly monitor the platform for inappropriate or inaccurate information about the business that could be posted and circulated. Once you claim and start actively managing your local Google My Business page or pages, you’ll be alerted of new questions as they are posted and can take part in the conversations happening on Google Q&A.
Responding to questions and reviews is more important than ever. According to a research report created by SOCi and the Local Search Association, local business ratings and reviews are the No. 1 factor for consumers when deciding if a business is good or not, with more than 50 percent of consumers passing up companies that don’t have at least a 4-star rating.
Any franchise marketer hoping to develop a localized social strategy should start by claiming their Google My Business page. It’s a crucial factor in getting your business to show up in search results, it presents plenty of options for customer engagement, and it’s 100% free.