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3 Google Updates That Make it Easier to Engage Local Customers

Two young women using a digital tablet. They are sitting on a city street. One woman has dark hair that is pulled into a bun on top of her head. She has on a tan jacket with black sleeves. She is wearing blue jeans and has a gold-colored watch on her left wrist. The other woman has blond hair that is parted in the middle. She is wearing black glasses, a gray shirt and blue jeans. The blond woman is holding the tablet in her left hand. Both women are smiling. Cars and people are blurred in the background.

Google My Business (GMB), Google’s Local Three Pack, and Google Posts have all undergone changes, updates, and face-lifts recently. Some new features are likely to have significant implications for businesses targeting local customers, while others appear to tip Google's hand, revealing how the search giant will approach local search from now on.

If your business has multiple locations and a distributed local footprint—or you have clients in the same situation—these are the top three Google updates you need to know about when it comes to engaging local customers online.

  1. Post products on your GMB listings? Now you can.

    A Product Catalogue and Editor (beta) update allows small retailers and merchants the opportunity to load some of their products onto their actual Google Business Listing. And why does that matter? Because it opens up—for the first time—a dedicated listings area to promote individual products and drive highly qualified consumer interaction.

    This is not to be confused with pre-existing Local Inventory Ads, which service larger retailers. SMBs will find product upload functionality in the new Products tab (beta) in the GMB dashboard.

  2. Enriched content in Local Three Pack results

    Extensions have been added to certain Local Three Pack results, providing information about a business beyond the standard fields: business name, image, image, review score, and business’s contact information.

    These snippets are displayed when a search query matches up with a component of a potential snippet. The bolded snippet, shown below, can either be an actual match of the search query or a synonym.

  3. Create and promote public events using Google Posts

    Google Posts are being augmented. Businesses can now use them to create public "events" at a specific location (usually the business itself). It is now live on Android under the Contribute tab in the Google Maps app. Simply click to add a new event the same way you would add a new image. And be sure to tag your event with a location, time, date, image header, and full description!

Want to excel in local and put the power of Google's latest innovations at your fingertips? We're here to help. Contact ConvergenSEE or request a demo to find out how we empower businesses with distributed footprints to engage local customers—and drive meaningful growth across all their locations.

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    The Footprint

    Insights into local presence management

    ConvergenSEE is LSA Certified!

    The ConvergenSEE team is proud to announce that we are now LSA Certified as a Martech provider. Full details on the certification can be found here. This is truly exciting news for us, and we want to take a second to tell you why it matters.

    The Local Search Association (LSA) is a not-for-profit association that has been an industry governing body for over 40 years. It supports both marketers and small businesses to succeed in the marketplace and has events and services for both marketers and advertisers.

    So what does this mean for you?

    Being LSA Certified means that ConvergenSEE went through a full analysis of our business practices and it was deemed that we follow industry best practices. The LSA reviewed the ConvergenSEE products, training, support, policies, and all the representations and warrants we make to our resellers and their end clients.

    As part of Martech certification, additional rigors of evaluation were required. ConvergenSEE met all the requirements and passed the LSA review which provided us with this certification.

    Connect with us today to learn more about how this certification can help your business.

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    convergensee @convergensee
    RT @hootsuite:Consumer behaviour continues to shift and evolve. With Black Friday days away, how would you rather shop? In-store or online?
    RT @matchcraft:Last Friday, our North Carolina team volunteered at the Food Bank of Central & Eastern North Carolina and packed 23… https://t.co/JVPb0VxpeO
    ConvergenSEE is learning and networking with other digital marketing agencies at the Digital Marketing Expo in NYC.… https://t.co/IWqkKsez5k
    RT @MattLacuesta:This has to be where all those SEO Ninjas come from. https://t.co/eFt64ogixW

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    The Footprint

    Insights into local presence management

    How to Ask for a Review

    In April 2018, Google updated its review guidelines to address the growing issue of review solicitation. In short, Google no longer allows what is known in the industry as "review-gating"—the practice of discouraging negative reviews.

    Why is review-gating an issue?

    To understand how review-gating works, picture a brand's webpage with a form asking you about your customer experience. If you provide positive feedback (3, 4, or 5 stars), you are sent to a page asking you to post a positive review on Google or another site. If you were to leave negative feedback (1 or 2 stars), you most likely won’t be sent to a page that asks you to share a review; instead, you would be redirected to internal customer service to get your matter dealt with privately.

    To date, this has been a highly effective way for businesses to get positive reviews on their listings and improve their overall review rating. But now that industry giants like Google are specifically stating they are against review-gating—and threatening to remove all reviews of a business that gets caught—the risk is simply too high. If you are using a piece of software, you should make sure it doesn't use review-gating as a tactic.

    So how do I encourage positive reviews? Is that even allowed?

    This recent change in the review side of listings may prompt you to consider: "What is the correct way to ask for a review?" There are two different ways you can go about asking without breaking these new rules.

    1. Use email software, but don't practice review-gating

      This approach is risky for two reasons. Firstly, it can lead to an inadvertent increase in negative reviews on a listing because users are more likely to leave feedback after a negative experience. Also, soliciting reviews in this way is still technically against some service providers' guidelines, so there is some risk if you get caught. But if you stop short of review-gating, it may be less obvious that you are soliciting for these reviews. So you need to ask yourself: is the risk worth the reward?
    2. Solicit feedback from customers for internal purposes

      This feedback can be used indirectly to help improve the landing page experience, but its primary purpose is to improve the in-store customer experience across all your locations. If done right, this method can provide specific feedback about each individual store. If you improve the experience, it stands to reason that you online review scores will also go up. This method may take longer, but at the end of the day you will be offering an overall better experience, which will lead to a better bottom line.

    This move against review-gating by industry giants is an attempt on their part to make reviews speak more truly to the customer experience and to deflate some of the inflated review scores that exist. We now need to learn how to play within the new rules that are set out for us.

    Want to manage your local listings more effectively, respond to customer reviews across all your locations, and turn your online reputation into a force for growth? We can help. Contact ConvergenSEE today to learn more or to request a demo.

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    RT @hootsuite:Consumer behaviour continues to shift and evolve. With Black Friday days away, how would you rather shop? In-store or online?
    RT @matchcraft:Last Friday, our North Carolina team volunteered at the Food Bank of Central & Eastern North Carolina and packed 23… https://t.co/JVPb0VxpeO
    ConvergenSEE is learning and networking with other digital marketing agencies at the Digital Marketing Expo in NYC.… https://t.co/IWqkKsez5k
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    The Footprint

    Insights into local presence management

    The Power of a Response

    There was a time when complaining about poor service or faulty products meant customers had to speak one-on-one with a manager. But with the proliferation of online business listings on sites like Yelp, TripAdvisor, and Google Maps, it's becoming easier for customers to share their experiences directly and publicly. This leaves businesses struggling to control their online reputation⁠—and in the digital age, negative feedback can quickly go viral and become significantly detrimental to a business.

    But other than resolving negative reviews, what is the benefit of staying on top of all your online reviews? Well, the Harvard Business Review (HBR) recently conducted a study looking at hotels on TripAdvisor to see if responses⁠ to reviews—negative and positive reviews alike⁠—make a difference in overall online reputation and business (spoiler: it makes a big difference!).

    Proof that review responses matter

    The study compared the star rating of specific hotels on TripAdvisor, using the same hotels on Expedia (where the reviews were not responded to) as a control group. This way, factors such as renovations or the addition of facilities or amenities could be accounted for in any changes in average star ratings.

    HBR discovered that, on average, hotels that were responding to reviews received more reviews (12% increase) and a 0.12-star rating increase. This might seem marginal, but remember these sites display average star ratings (on a scale of 1 horrendous to 5 spectacular) rounded to the nearest half-star. That means if you are at 4.21 stars, you will display as a 4-star average, whereas if you are at 4.33 you will display at 4.5.

    This can be a big difference when customers are doing research—and can mean the difference between a potential customer choosing your business or skipping to the next one in the list. This change was apparent whether the reviews being responded to were positive or negative.

    How to respond to online reviews

    So, what are some of the best practices for responding to customer reviews? We have some handy guidelines we'd love to share with you, but they boil down to these four key points:

    1. Be polite
    2. Keep it simple
    3. Express thanks for the feedback
    4. Don't be a salesperson

    Really what you want to portray in the response is that you understand a negative experience happened and that you are there to help resolve the issue. For the most part, you can't remove reviews (unless they contain vulgar language), so if you demonstrate you are listening and willing to help, your online reputation will reflect this.

    These findings can really help businesses justify spending both the time and money to get a grip on their online reputations. When there is a direct correlation between the response and an improved rating, it just makes sense. Done the right way, the insights that come from engaging with customer feedback can prove invaluable.

    Want to master the art of responding to reviews—or help your clients do the same? Contact ConvergenSEE today.

     

     

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    RT @hootsuite:Consumer behaviour continues to shift and evolve. With Black Friday days away, how would you rather shop? In-store or online?
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    Holiday Opening Hours: Don’t Leave Your Customers Confused!

    For most businesses, November and December could be (and should be) the busiest time of the year. With the bustling holiday season, it's common for local businesses to introduce special hours to maximize sales. But what's the most effective way for businesses to publish their special hours for the thousands of motivated shoppers out there?

    First, the business needs to be listed on popular search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo, where customers can begin their purchasing journeys by simply searching. It could be basic, short-tail query like "holiday shopping", or maybe a local search like "shoe stores around me". As more than 78% of consumers today are using search engines for seeking information on local goods and services, the business needs to be listed on these directories to be found.

    How to cater to online-to-offline shoppers

    Better news for small businesses: more people are looking through these search engines with a clear intent to purchase. Google reported that "where to buy" searches grew over 85% in the past two years. This means more people are searching on Google with queries like "where to buy ugly Christmas sweater", "where to buy cards", and "where to buy gift boxes".

    And these searches are becoming more local. If the business is listed correctly with the right address, name, phone number and opening hours, there’s a much higher chance customers will come and visit the store. Neustar found that over 76% of those who search from mobile will visit the business in 24 hours. So, however your business hours change, you have to include accurate holiday hours.

    Surprisingly enough, Google reports that a staggering 56% of retailers have not even claimed their business listings. This means the public can make any edits to these unclaimed listings! If your client owns a retail store and they haven't claimed their business listing yet, there's a great chance that business may have incorrect hours and addresses out on the web. And that’s not only on Google, but on numerous search engines and online directories.

    Out of all the details people look for in a business, analysts from Comscore, Neustar, and Localeze discovered that hours of operation were the most important element, followed by ratings and reviews.

    The most wonderful time of the year

    It's worth noting that mobile searches for "store hours" peak on Christmas Day. It's the most popular day of the year for that search, as shoppers hunt for last-minute items. Some of the top searches included: "What stores are open near me on Christmas?", "What stores are open right now?", and "What grocery stores are open on Christmas?" If your client is listed as closed for these types of local search terms, they may be missing out on opportunities.

    The time-consuming solution is to visit every search engine and directory out there and manually update the special hours. Then switch them again after Christmas, then for Easter, Independence Day, and so on. Another option is working with a local presence management system like ConvergenSEE, which can push out new special hours for a business with a click of a button. Special hours can be scheduled in advance so they’re queued for the holidays.

    How are you managing your current holiday hours, or those of your clients? There's always a better way, and we're always here to help. Contact the ConvergenSEE team today to learn more and get started.

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    RT @hootsuite:Consumer behaviour continues to shift and evolve. With Black Friday days away, how would you rather shop? In-store or online?
    RT @matchcraft:Last Friday, our North Carolina team volunteered at the Food Bank of Central & Eastern North Carolina and packed 23… https://t.co/JVPb0VxpeO
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    The Footprint

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    How Publishers Can Help SMBs Compete in Digital

    In the past, small and medium-sized businesses felt confident that if they put an ad in a media outlet—whether it was a phone book or newspaper—they would be found. Well, as Bob Dylan once said, the times they are a-changin'. With the emergence of the digital age, the confidence small businesses once felt has started to falter.

    So the question has emerged: how important is it that the publisher remains the trusted resource and helps SMBs compete in the ever-changing digital climate?

    Leveling the digital playing field

    It is no secret that the way consumers search for products and services has evolved. Many purchases now start with a search on Google, a local directory, or a social network. This change, however, does not mean that SMBs cannot or should not rely entirely on publishers for marketing. What it does mean is that publishers need to build on what they are already good at—connecting sellers and buyers—and expand their product offerings to ensure the small business owner can compete in this changing marketplace.

    Today, there are endless ways to reach a target audience. Unfortunately, SMBs often don't have the time, knowledge, or manpower to execute effectively on their digital strategies. For many it is not only intimidating, but a foreign concept beyond their realm of expertise. This is where the publisher can and should be a one-stop shop for the small business owner.

    Publishers have a reach that most cannot compete with. By increasing their digital product offerings, publishers can help SMBs reach their potential customers no matter where they are looking. For instance, by creating a customized campaign for the SMB that encompasses print, mobile, digital, and search, publishers can create a footprint the SMB would not be able to create for themselves or most likely afford by engaging multiple third parties.

    A new approach to a timeless challenge

    Small businesses are a crucial part of our economy, and many continue to rely on foot traffic in order to survive and thrive. As generations change, more foot traffic is driven via digital channels. It is imperative that SMBs are able to navigate those channels—and publishers have an unprecedented ability to be that compass.

    Publishers are in the perfect position to offer hyperlocal programs to a large number of small businesses that are in need of assistance. As the long-standing trusted resource, publishers are in the unique position to guide and help the SMB compete. It is important they continue to do so, and we're here to help.

    Want to know how ConvergenSEE transforms local presence management for businesses of all sizes? Chat to our expert team today or request a demo.

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    convergensee @convergensee
    RT @hootsuite:Consumer behaviour continues to shift and evolve. With Black Friday days away, how would you rather shop? In-store or online?
    RT @matchcraft:Last Friday, our North Carolina team volunteered at the Food Bank of Central & Eastern North Carolina and packed 23… https://t.co/JVPb0VxpeO
    ConvergenSEE is learning and networking with other digital marketing agencies at the Digital Marketing Expo in NYC.… https://t.co/IWqkKsez5k
    RT @MattLacuesta:This has to be where all those SEO Ninjas come from. https://t.co/eFt64ogixW

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