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Introduction

Recently, Sean Bucher (a marketer from the US) released a tweet and link to a survey that Google had recently sent out to some Google My Business customers.

The survey claims that it is helping Google “better understand how you would like to promote & market your business.”
It also says ” We will be using your responses to inform the products we build for you. “

So, due to my obsessive need to be nosey, I’ve decided to go through the survey to see what Google is looking for possibly looking to do.

What is Google My Business?

Before we delve into the survey, I wanted to give a bit of background into exactly what Google My Business is.

Here’s what Google themselves say:

Google My Business is a free and easy-to-use tool for businesses and organisations to manage their online presence across Google, including Search and Maps. By verifying and editing your business information, you can both help customers to find you and tell them the story of your business.

Google My Business Help

Here at NWM, we’ve always been big advocates of Google My Business as it’s a great way to give your customers an overview of your company right on the search page.
You can add things like your company details, your menu or services, pictures and video, etc. In fact, we make sure that each one of our Studios clients has one set up.

(You’ve also most likely seen it before):

Google My Business Example

So, what’s the big deal?

Well, when looking at this survey we were taken a bit by surprise as it implies that Google may want to start charging for the service! This could be a problem for small businesses who may not be able to afford the service and therefore, making Google My Business a privilege for those who can.

Not only is charging for this service a problem but as you will see throughout the blog it seems as though Google are allowing your competitors to gain access to your customers and your listing!

Part 1 of the Survey

Right so let’s dive in. I’ve decided to add screenshots and comment on the bottom in order to make this easier to follow. However, not all screenshots will be held in this blog as it may be too overwhelming and some of them are pretty self-explanatory and standard and therefore don’t need a comment. So, in order not to bore you, with lots and lots of screenshots here’s the link to a page holding them all. Andrew from Optimisey (the site with the screenshots) also has a great take on this situation.

Google My Business Survey Page 1

Google then goes on to ask about how you market your business. Whether that be online, word-of-mouth, etc. They even ask where you advertise, how you advertise (based on which metrics) and also who handles the advertising for your company, whether that’s you or an agency.

It seems that this could show Google’s motive right from the get-go. For instance, if you were to choose “No, someone else decides” to the “Are you responsible for making advertising decisions (e.g where to advertise, how much to spend) for the business?” question then your contribution to the survey is swiftly drawn to a close.

However, before we start getting riled up about their possible motive, let’s take a look at what the rest of the survey has to offer.

Part 2 of the Survey

Once Google has asked about your marketing then they move onto the Google My Business part of the survey.

Google My Business Survey Part 2 Page 1

The first list of features:

Here are the features that they mention:

  • Offers: Promote a special offer or discount on your Business Profile.
  • Instant quote: Respond to customer quote requests with an automatic quote. You can customize the quote based on the details of the job. Save your attention for more serious customers.
  • “Book” button on your Business Profile: Get an extra button on your business profile titled ‘Book’. Google shows customers your availability (synced with your calendar system if you have one). Customers can either confirm a booking or request a timeslot.
  • Promote your “Book” button: Get a “Book” button on the Google.com search results, in addition to your Business Profile.
  • Verified Booking: Google automatically tracks the bookings you’ve received from Google calls and messages, and shows this number to customers. This helps them trust your business.
  • Background check: Google performs a background check on your business, and shows this to consumers to build trust in your business.
  • Google customer support: Google’s customer support team helps you troubleshoot and get the most from your ad and Business Profile.
  • Automated message responses: Answer some frequently asked questions (hours, services offered) so Google can respond automatically to customers on your behalf. This saves you time.
  • Automated response for reviews: Create messages so Google can automatically respond on your behalf to customers who leave a review.
  • Verified licenses: Google verifies your trade licenses and displays your verified licenses on your Business Profile.

What does this mean?

From looking at the first list of features it definitely looks as though two things are concerning Google:

  • Illegitimate businesses / “Scammers” using Google My Business.
  • Building trust amongst customers that view Google My Business.

This really seems like a great way to have legitimate businesses ensure that they get a spot in the search results with Google My Business and that they don’t have to compete against illegitimate competition.

Ease of use if definitely something else that they are promoting here. Making it easier for your customers to book in with you, verify those booking and then send out quotes easily to customers are definite benefits.

I think the main issue with a few of these “features” is that, in a way, we’ve already had them on Google My Business for a time. Offers tend to come in the form of post and booking comes in the form of an Appointment URL.
Yes, these may be improvements which I’m all for but considering as we get more into the survey the threat of paying for these features it makes you question their value even more.

The second list of features:

Next up is more features! (yay….?) These are:

  • Removes ads from your Business Profile: Ads from other businesses will not appear on your Business Profile.
  • Featured review: Choose a review to display at the top of your Business Profile.
  • Verified reviews: Google verifies your reviews and shows an indication to consumers that your reviews are verified to help build trust in your business.
  • Promoted map in: Show up prominently on Google Maps when a customer is looking at a map where your business is located.
  • Request a quote: Get a button on your Business Profile. Customers will enter details about their job. Requests come to you as messages in the Google My Business app.
  • Video on your Business Profile: Show a video of your choice on your Business Profile to help customers learn more about your business.
  • Google search resulst placement: Show up in a section near the top of the list on the Google.com search results.
  • Call reports and recordings: Get access to reports and recordings for all of your calls from Google My Business. This lets you evaluate quality and volume.
  • Google Guarantee: Get a badge of trust on your business profile. If a customer isn’t satisfied, Google will give them their money back.
  • Get leads from competitor profiles: When a customer messages a business that offers the same service as you, Google will show your business to the customer so they can message you too. This will help you get more leads from Google.

What does this mean?

Now this is where it all starts to get a bit iffy for me. I’ll break it down as to why:

Let’s begin with “Remove ads from your Business Profile”. This looks like Google will charge you in order to keep your competitors from placing an ad on your listing!
I mean, at this point I’m actually not surprised that this has come about but it still doesn’t mean that it should have.

If we think about this a bit further. One of our retail partners is a local mobile phone repair company Phone Asylum. These guys have been around since the ’90s and are doing great, however, would they be doing so great if suddenly a bigger company like Carphone Warehouse we’re to place an ad on their Google My Business profile. For some reason, I don’t think they’d stand a chance. They’d be forced to pay to keep the ads off their profile.

Next is the featured and verified reviews. Reviews have been somewhat of a problem for a lot of our clients. We’ve recently had a retail shop with a 1-star review saying “just passed this shop”. Now, of course, this is the reviewer that made the reviews fault and not Google’s, however, disputing that review has been nearly impossible. Therefore, verified reviews could be a good think only if they combat the false bad one’s too.

The next three came as a bit of a surprise as they, in some ways, are already part of what Google offers: promoted map pin, request quote and video on your business profile, Google search results placement.
Essentially, the promoted map pin, I imagine, is just like running an ad in maps. The request a quote essentially just sounds like a message with a bit of formatting and adding videos to your Google My Business is already possible. As for the Google search results placement, this sounds awfully familiar, oh wait, I think they’re talking about Google ads.

I can imagine that Google would “spruce these up a bit” however, they seem pretty underwhelming and considering we may have to pay for them makes me feel as though Google is charging us to put a new spin on some of the already free, Google My Business features.

We then move onto the call reports and recordings. I’m assuming this would be a way for Google to get into the market of call recording. It’s very Google to find a market share that they may be able to tap into and go for it.
Google Flights anyone?

Second, from last, is the Google Guarantee. In which, they state, “If a customer isn’t satisfied, Google will give them their money back.”
Instead of going on about this one I’ll fix the quote. “If a customer says they aren’t happy, we, Google, will make, you, the business owner, give them their money back.”
I’m not entirely sure as to how this will go but I assume it will be somewhat like the Paypal dispute process. This could either be a good feature for all customers or could be liable to scammers.

Finally, we have the shocker. “Get leads from competitor profiles”.
What the… this is incredible. Essentially, if a customer is sending your business a message, your competitor will also be able to get in touch with them. This is astounding.

Just imagine it. A customer wants to check if you’re open for the bank holiday so they message you from Google your competitor is then effectively cc’d into that message, knows you’re not open for the bank holiday, so messages that client saying they are. Amazing. Not only is this the best part but you’d have to pay for it too.

The survey then goes through these features and asks you for your opinion.

Over the next series of screens, we’ll show you the entire feature list and have you tell us your preferences. Specifically, we’ll ask for the following information:

  1. Which feature you think is most appealing?
  2. Which is the next most appealing feature?
  3. Which are the next 4 most appealing features?
  4. Which is the least appealing feature?
  5. Which is the next least appealing feature?
  6. Which are the next 4 least appealing features?

What I then found interesting was this quote:

From the remaining items which is the least appealing to you when considering Google Advertising.

(Note the Google Advertising)
They then have the following options:

  • Request quote
  • Instant quote
  • Offers
  • Call reports and recordings
  • Verified Bookings
  • Google search results placement
  • Promoted map pin
  • Automated message responses
  • “Book” button on your Business Profile
  • Promote our “Book” button
  • Featured review
  • Remove ads from your Business Profile
  • Video on your Business Profile

Essentially, then, all of these are going to be paid features, some we already have might I add, for free. But also paying to have other peoples ads removed from your listing is something that I can’t believe, well, actually, I can, I just don’t want to.

It seems that a tool that was originally geared up to help local businesses, for free, has not turned into a money-making scheme that the bigger companies could easily compete for, and win.

But there’s good news! They come in bundles!!!

There as sooo many different bundles, pages, in fact, that they show you during the survey. After you have gone through the packages, Google then ask you about individual packages and how much “value” they provide:

Conclusion

It seems to be a trend now in the tech industry to have consumers rely on your free products and then charge for them. Now, some of you may think that Google has a right to charge for something they have developed and you most definitely have a right to say that.

Google charging for services is not the problem.

I think the main problem with all of this is the fact that it gives bigger business an obvious advantage (as if they didn’t already have one). Being able to advertise on your very listing and also have their sales teams follow up on your leads honestly just sounds ludicrous to me.

From kicking you out if you don’t deal with marketing to then making you choose different bundles, it’s pretty obvious what Google’s angle is here.
To sum it up Google has overlooked the needs of business owners (its users) and have prioritised money.

What do you think?

Have your say. Let me know what you think. Here’s what some people had to say

I’m not surprised by this. I’m not happy, but I’m not surprised, either.

Interesting business model. Make billions of people dependent on your services. Expand to a trillion dollar international corporation with a virtual monopoly. Quietly strangle your “do no evil” motto in its sleep. Then start charging people money to meet your goal of becoming richer and more powerful than most nations or the Vatican.
It’s the same business model used by drug dealers.

Quotes from Search Engine Roundtable.