The Importance of Google Posts (with stats)

A company’s Google Knowledge Panel is a huge driver of success for local businesses, as many companies are becoming aware of and it’s getting more and more valuable daily as the real first point of contact a business – any business – has with a potential customer. It’s your face to the world and your very first impression that can make or break whether or not somebody visits your actual physical location, makes that phone call to your sales rep or even clicks through to your website to learn more. If you are ignoring that window to the world, you are pretty much just giving away your share of the market to your competitors that are not.

You likely already understand the value of Google My Business if you are a local business that thrives on foot traffic or physical geography as key to your business success (restaurants, coffee shops, boutiques, locksmiths, tow-trucks, delivery, etc.), but it has value no matter what the business entity. Even global or national businesses can have success with this program if they set it up correctly and understand what KPIs are their targets.

For example, when I launched a certain major city’s Google posts in April 2019, I faced a lot of questions regarding “why” we should do this. What are the required resources, value and expected ROI? How much work will this be? Isn’t Google our competition now that they show content results directly on the SERP? Why give them more content to use on their pages and not our own, etc. How much time will this take? Who else is doing it?

It’s hard for people to do something they have not done before.

There were only a handful of cities and states doing this and I just knew it was a great opportunity that was being offered to destinations and DMOs (destination marketing organizations) at the time (Note to all other DMOs: Sorry, this program has since been discontinued to new entries, but there are still a lot of other Google things that you can do to promote your location.). It was a way to get our own curated content about our brand – the city in this case – in front of eyes that might never find our website or search for those few hundred keywords we optimize for. I signed us up right away.

Can you imagine getting prime grade-A space on a city SERP on Google? FOR FREE*??

This had to happen. And we made it happen.

I knew this was going to be a hugely valuable channel that would have more referral potential, as well as direct-to-consumer curated brand value than any of our other channels, and after many conversations finally got the go-ahead to make it rain. Just by creating short blog post content 5 times a week about the fantastic things this city has to offer on the main city SERP page, we have at this writing delivered over 54 million new views of branded content to those who otherwise would only see the random pages that would come up through the algorithm. This content has become the largest referrer to the website since Covid-19 began – prior it was #2. It has always been the #1 organic referrer since its launch with an over 13% conversion rate at its peak. Currently, it is the highest referrer conversion rate and has been responsible for over 37% of key conversions since April 1, 2020. 

In other words: SUCCESS!

And this is a non-traditional industry. Can you imagine what kind of results you could get immediately in regards to your KPIs on a strictly local business level?

Every company with a Google Knowledge Panel can and should be posting regularly. Whether it’s your business’ offers, events you are putting on or sponsoring, new menu items, new projects your shop is selling – whatever relates to your business that you think will have value to people, you should be using your business’ Google Posts to tell them about it.

Added bonus? It may even show up in somebody’s Discover section of their Android phone without them ever even doing an actual search.

It doesn’t take long to write the posts either. I mean nobody wants to read War and Peace when looking for a really great place for craft cocktails, do they? Just remember, there is no downside and only opportunity to engage more people with your company, shop, or brand and all for just a few short posts a week, so what are you waiting for? Start writing!

*OK, we did have to have somebody write the content, so not entirely for free 😉

How Street View is Chronicling Heritage, Arts and Culture

Frieze at Sforza Castle in Milano

In the third in this series of “Things About Street View You Likely Don’t Know”, we get into a little known way Street View project dealing with Arts and Culture. While at the Google Street View summit this past year, another big topic of interest was how StreetView combined with Google Earth’s Voyager stories through the Arts & Culture team is chronicling some of the world’s most historic and noteworthy art and heritage sites. Google is going out and imaging these singular historic sites, art, and artifacts with incredibly hi-res photography as well as capturing with Street View locations that have a significant place in history.

In regards to the historic locations around the world, StreetView, Google Arts & Culture and Google Earth’s teams are working to capture what they can as quickly as possible and luckily for the rest of us, in some cases, this has happened in the nick of time.

Lion Statue at Trafalgar Square in London
Lion Statue at Trafalgar Square in London

Not only does this give people from around the world the ability to appreciate and experience these treasures from anywhere, but this project could literally save the past for the future, if by at least preserving an exact representation of the original. They have locations captured in moments of time just years or on occasion even months before war, fire or unforeseen natural disasters struck and destroyed the original areas and artifacts.

San Carlone Statue in Italy near Arona
San Carlone Statue in Italy near Arona

Take the Brazilian National Museum which was destroyed by fire in 2018. Google Arts & Culture worked with the museum in 2016 utilizing the “Museum View” version of Street View to create a virtual tour that, although is not remotely a consolation for the 90% artifact loss that occurred from the fire, at least is a window into what is now lost.

Another great example of this is the Iraqi historic sites that have devastated by time and the rages of war. Google Arts & Culture had undergone a significant project that involves mapping, 3D modeling, and hi-res imaging to chronicle the indelible historical culture that is being lost.

They are working with one-of-a-kind artworks imaged so perfectly (think gigapixels) that it is possible to zoom in and see every individual brushstroke of the paintings.

There are everyday people capturing historic sites, such as the architecture and art inside ancient temples, and other places of worship around the globe, with just a personal insta360. Places of unsurpassed intrinsic value, which will now be memorialized at that very moment for historians and others to look back on, while the ravages of time continue to alter the actual locations.

Italian Fortress near Aosta
Italian Fortress near Aosta

There are so many ways this could be utilized to protect these creations for future admiration and study. You could perfectly 3D print the sculptures into almost perfect replicas of the originals for posterity or send out for traveling exhibits. You could capture historic site changes year over year to study the alterations from weather, entropy, human interaction and more. You could preserve cultural  on the brink.

How incredible it will be to look back through time and see the way these historic places and artifacts actually were before time too it’s toll.

Google Street View, Earth Voyager and Conservation

Jungle Island Flamingos

Google Earth has a fascinating feature that many people don’t even know about called Voyager. Voyager consists of a variety of “stories” that are hand-curated by Google and take the visitor on a journey through time and place.  They live on Google Earth and the best ones incorporate Google Street View to really bring you inside the experience, giving you a feeling of actually being there in that very moment – at that very spot.

The best of these showcase the wonders of our living world, past and present. They teach us things we have never known and take us to the farthest reaches we have only dreamed of, whether it be the Taj Mahal or the epic vistas of Earth from the orbit of space.  

Jungle Island Parrots
Jungle Island parrots in Miami

One of my favorites is “Goodall, Goombe and Google“, which is a beautiful story about Jane Goodall and some of the chimpanzees (including one named Google)  living in the Goombe mountains. Like any good story, it moves the mind, touches the heart and educates just enough to be impactful and inspiring.

This one is specifically adept at this by incorporating poignant video, beautiful imagery, Street View powered trails just brimming with the chimpanzees being written about as well as a Voyager feature allowing for location overlays to Earth that in this case, show animal and tribal boundaries that affect the future of their survival.

In essence, in the way the story is weaved, you can follow the exact trails Jane blazed when she began her legendary career. Almost directly following in her footsteps through the mountain passages she took, seeing what she saw without leaving the comfort of your sofa. It’s awe-inspiring to contemplate.

Mushroom Growing from the Earth in Harwichport MA
Mushroom Growing from the Earth in Harwichport MA

What does this mean for conservation?

It means we can study environmental changes through time of human influence, weather, natural disasters, wars, overpopulation, and all the other factors that take a toll on the environment. It means that just maybe we can even learn how to stop some of the things that are destroying our incredible Earth. 

Take a look at this other conservation-focused Google Voyager story about “Saving the Kordofan Giraffe” created by National Geographic. This tells the tale of explorer Naftali Honig’s usage of Google Maps and other tools to help save endangered animals from poaching and other threats. Street View is helping conservationists see changes in habitat, environment, and even historic areas throughout the world.

It’s truly something that can impact not just us, but generations to come. Even more impactful, it’s something you can actually help with yourself during your travels with your own 360 camera.

Now, about the animals… I couldn’t leave you with a look at these fun animals caught on Google Street View.

This is the second in a Google Street View series.

Google Street View: Bringing Life to Business and the World

Google Summit 2018 Home Office Mountain View

How Google 360 Street View is so much more than just a way to see what your driving destination looks like.

I went to the Google Streetview Summit in London in September and experienced yet another incredible year of learning all about the latest Google Street View, maps, Earth and business programs as well as having had an opportunity to meet some of the most incredibly interesting and brilliant people that are literally changing the way we view and live in the world.

A huge takeaway from these summits continues to be how these programs that we all somewhat take for granted today as being the “how we get around” and “how we find places we are looking for” are really doorways to so much more. As important and incredibly useful the former reasons are to our day to day lives, the later are actually even more useful to other aspects of our lives that we typically are never even aware of.

So you know, Street View is not all just about finding the front door to a place you’ve never been anymore. It’s being used by businesses and governments all over the world for a huge variety of reasons, from promoting destinations to saving children’s lives from dangerous street crossings.

South Africa Streetview 360 mapping project in 2018
South Africa Street View 360 mapping project in 2018

Some ways Street View is changing the game that you may not know:

  • Conservation
  • Heritage and culture
  • Safety and health
  • Industry
  • Travel
  • Scientific study

I’m going to break these up into multiple posts because each topic really deserves as much airtime as it can get – and to be fair, I’m completely fascinated with how they are all changing the world as we know it. 

Suffice it to say, as I do for my own ventures, I’m going to ask you to think about your own organization specifically as we traverse these opportunities. I think you may just find there is something of value you never thought of that Street View or one of these other free Google programs can do for you as well.

Surface Your Why

Why are you the way you are - The Office meme

I was a facilitator at a recent marketing conference for the Miami Arts & Business Council and had the pleasure of seeing Krista Kellogg from Center Content speak about branding – what it is and why it’s important. But then she showed a video that I had never seen before, even though I had read the famous book about “starting with why” from the video’s narrator – Simon Sinek – previously. It was about the Golden Circle and looking for the “Why” of your brand – personal or company. Whether it’s to change the way people see the world (my personal why) or make life easier to navigate or even to break the status quo. It’s the belief behind the brand. The belief behind the words.

All I could say is – wow….

“Today is about surfacing your ‘why'”.

Krista Kellogg – Center Content

So rather than go into all the reasons why this is a wow for me (and no doubt will also be for you), I’m just going to ask you to watch. It’s a must see for people who dream big and desire greatness from their company and themselves. If you don’t get goosebumps… Well, you will.

3 Easy Things to Boost Your Google Local Business:

Google Logo
  1. Check your knowledge base listing details for accuracy.
  2. Upload great images that related to your business.
  3. Answer people’s questions in the Google listing q&a before somebody else does it for you.

Google local has been around for a number of years now, but it’s really become an essential marketing tool for those companies that live and die by local traffic into their stores. 

With “near me” searches growing each day, businesses need to make sure they can not only be found on Google, but also showcased in the best way so that customers will choose their Mocha Latte over the other 3 coffee shops offerings in the neighborhood.  

And with all the changes Google has made recently to make it so much easier for businesses to own and manage their listings, it’s simpler than ever to make sure they stop at yours. Well, with a little work on your end.

This even includes big box stores that have the big marking departments and huge budgets to promote themselves at the local level, but I’m just going to hit on the smaller places that may not have that kind of marketing support to get themselves noticed in the way of the big boys. The coffee shops and restaurants, boutiques and epicurean markets that can really benefit from those thousands of daily “near me” local Google searches.

These companies can really create a lot of value with minimal effort, just by taking ownership of their listing… And trust me you want to be the one showcasing your brand here and not let others dictate how you are likely viewed. There are a few little things that will cost you only a few hours a week… Just minutes a day… And could very well make all the difference as to how you are perceived by potential customers.

How Exactly Now?

1. Make sure your details are correct. Hours of operation, suite numbers, and phone are all how people will know when, where and how to get in touch.

There is nothing worse than a bad first impression, and driving all the way to a shop expecting it to be open just to find the doors locked, leaves nothing but a bad taste in a customer’s mouth along with a bad review attached to your business.

2. Upload amazing images of your products, services, location, storefront, whatever it is that showcases what it is that you do in the best light.

If you don’t, you are just waiting for a lot of bad images to be uploaded by people snapping pics from their 5-year-old cellphones. Also, make sure that your images are updated regularly. If you add things to the shop, change the signage, update the facade, make sure to take pictures and update your listing as well. You can even ask Google to take down old images of they are not relevant anymore.

3. Take a couple of minutes every week to see if anyone has asked questions about your business on your Google Knowledge Panel, and then answer them yourself.

People always need more information than is on the front door to a business. They are also way more comfortable than ever to ask publicly now that Google has given them a way to do so. Make sure you are the one answering these questions and not somebody unrelated to your business.

There are a whole bunch of other little tips, tricks and things that will help you stand out from the rest on Google local, but these are a great start. You can also look for Google certified photographers as well as Google local experts to help fill in the blanks.

I’m also working on a guide to help you really bring your business to life on Google. Stay tuned.

Technology and Today’s Traveler

Norwegian Cruise Lines Terminal A at PortMiami

Technology is changing the game when it comes to today’s traveler. With all the ways Google is getting your site visitor to what they are looking for faster and easier without you – whether that’s to be inspired by incredible imagery of a view never before seen, answering a question about a location on the spot or to actually show flights and hotels directly – what’s the travel industry or a DMO to do to make sure they and their digital experiences are not only found by a potential visitor but used by them… And ideally used over and over.

Since for a DMO, the goal is to promote a location to influence visits and ultimately multiple night stays, how can you do that when people are finding what they need directly on the SERP page or being inspired directly in social media? Well, for one thing, you stop worrying about it and you let them. 

Your Website Needs More

Your image-laden, beautiful and dare I say inspirational website is no match for a user looking for a specific thing. They want it now and want it fast and they will go where they know and enjoy going and that’s places like Instagram and Google. Initial vacation inspiration is often spotted in social media. That’s typically where people look for it. Instagram, Pinterest and even can really bring on a sudden feeling of FOMO. 

Unless your website pages are giving away free Amazon gift cards to every visitor who stops by, it’s likely not going to be the place they will end up going to first and revisiting again and again. It doesn’t happen anymore. Just accept it. After all, you do the same thing. Why would you expect others to act differently?

There is no linear conversation anymore. The web is well… A web and people will navigate it as they see fit based on their experience and choice.

Me 😉

Whew! Glad we got that out of the way!

Don’t get me wrong, your website absolutely needs to have incredible images and immersive video of all the amazing hot spots in your destination and your posts should all have them. But it is going to need more to compete for actual clicks. So what can you offer that will not only lead a person to your website but keep them coming back?

At the Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau we came up with a complete experience platform that we felt would help people in all stages of the journey, even on the ground once they arrived. It’s still in development, but it’s something not found in any other site today and the elements we are putting together have already shown through surveys and usability testing to have great value to users. 

Helping Travelers Through Data

Using what you learn from a person through offered information and behavioral data is truly table stakes for business these days. Travelers are no different. They want you to know them and show them what they would be interested in. (I’m not going to go into the “content in context” thing here. You already know it. It’s been around for ages now. But, if you need a refresher, check out Hub Spot for a great many articles on how to utilize data through marketing automation to help drive engagement and sales.)

What I’m talking about is knowing your user and developing tools to help them throughout the journey. Here are just a few potential opportunities with today’s technology:

  • Personalization with algorithms to help showcase other things they might like
  • Shareable drag and drop itinerary builders
  • Webapps that allow users to look at the things they were most interested in seeing and doing while in the destination
  • Geo-location based push notifications while they are in the destination, of nearby things they showed an interest in – with coupons or specials thrown in
  • Walking directions via Google maps
  • AR and VR mapping to immerse the visitor in the location even deeper

Learn from Others, But Be Yourself

Now think of your destination and what may help a potential traveler. I’m sure you can come up with a lot of ideas that are specific to your location’s unique charm. You aren’t going to get anywhere following others, so don’t just run to the nearest big DMO website and copy what they are doing. It may not be right for your visitor. 

Think about what your users want or can use to make their visit easier to plan or how to help them have more fun or make the trip easier. The exact details are going to change depending on where you are, but the underlying needs and wants will be the same. Then do some prototyping and testing to see how people react. 

Don’t worry if you don’t have a big (or any) budget for testing, use friends or family from other areas of the country to test. There are also a lot of online crowding testing you can do for minimal cost. See what works and doesn’t. It’s an easy entry with a fast fail so if it doesn’t work, you can go into the next idea. 

Technology is changing daily and it’s finally caught up to the travel industry. You could even say it’s taken off. Don’t be left on the tarmac. 

The Traveler’s Journey

Norwegian Cruise Lines Terminal A at PortMiami

Recently I’ve been working on digital experiences in the travel industry. By “Travel Industry”, I mean all stages of the travel customer journey from Dreaming to Doing stage and all points in between:

Dreaming Stage

I will say it’s undergoing quite an upheaval recently due to a few factors in the space.

On one hand, we have the whole Google Travel side of things. Google has been working with DMOs (Destination Marketing Organizations) for a while now, helping to disseminate content and further brand (and by “brand” I mean City, State, Country, Town, and the like) value and messaging throughout the world for the whole “Dreaming” stage. From SERP blog posts, Google Earth and Voyager explorations, and the ever-growing Street View 360 Point of Interest photospheres and walking tours, Google has changed the game when it comes to getting people information they are looking for when deciding where to vacation, when to travel and what to do when they are in an unknown town whether for business or pleasure (or both).

Planning | Booking Stages

Recently they have plunged into the “Planning” and “Booking” stages with direct booking options, hotels, air rates and the like. It’s to get people the info they are looking for faster and easier than just linking to other sites where people then bounce back and forth multiple times before they find the “right” site to help them.

Doing Stage

They are even doing an amazing job now with the “Doing” stage, with events on SERP pages directly to help people find fun things to do while they are in town or for locals looking for something new or exciting to do over the weekend.

It’s working. People want that. People want easy and fast. It’s a great thing, but it’s scaring the rest of the industry.

I say – it’s all good. As one of those looking for ways to reach people to inspire and influence their decision on travel, it just asks those in the travel space to think a bit differently at finding ancillary and alternative inspirational opportunities.

Let’s talk about what that looks like in the next post.