Google My Business is updating Google Posts to allow brands to highlight glowing reviews from customers.

With the new update, you can feature 4 to 5 star reviews that have been left on your listing.

As Google said in the announcement on Twitter:

“In some countries, Google My Business now provides suggested posts to help you showcase positive reviews. These posts are automatically suggested based on 4 or 5-star reviews recently left for your business”

“You may get suggestions for new testimonials to post when you sign in to Google My Business, or via email notifications. These posts are automatically suggested based on 4 or 5-star reviews recently left for your business. You’ll be able to review and edit the post before publishing it.”

You can see a few examples of what the new post format looks like from Twitter user Andy Simpson below:

While it is unclear exactly which countries aside from the US have access to the feature, the update brings yet another way to make your local search listing more visible and engaging for users.

As always, Google Posts showcasing your reviews remain visible for one week unless you manually remove or edit the post.

Google is making it easier for brands to share their Google My Business listings by allowing businesses to create short names and unique URLs for their listings.

The new feature was revealed by marketing guru and Local Guide for Google, Mike Blumenthal. While Google has not publicly announced the short names and URLs, they have released a new help page dedicated to the feature.

By creating unique short names and URLs for GMB listings, it makes it possible for businesses to share their listings across other social platforms and in the real world through business cards, brochures, or similar marketing materials.

Considering Google My Business is the main platform for sharing reviews and providing details like directions, hours, or even scheduling, it makes sense that Google would want to make the listings more directly accessible.

The feature is still rolling out, so not everybody has access to it currently. To find out if you can claim a short name and URL, just sign into your GMB account and select the location you want to create a short name for. Click the “Info” tab and look for “Add profile short name”.

From there, you will be able to create a short name for your business with no less than five characters and no more than 32 characters.

Once approved, the new short name will also represent your new URL, which is formatted as g.page/[yourshortbusinessname].

One nice detail is that the new short names can help businesses with multiple storefronts differentiate their listings on Google while keeping consistent branding across their listings.

The latest update to Google My Business’s listings makes product catalogs even more powerful by displaying them in both desktop and mobile search results.

Since October 2018, when they were first introduced, product catalogs on Google My Business would only appear in mobile search results.

To add your products to your own listing, all you have to do is upload a form in the ‘Products’ tab called to the product editor. Once added, all items in your catalog will be eligible to show in results for relevant searches that bring up your Google My Business page.

The catalog appears within the ‘Products’ tab of your GMB listing shortly after uploading it.

As always, the new GMB feature is free to use with your Google My Business account. The only requirement is that you have claimed your business listing.

While the new feature does bring product catalogs to desktop search results, they are still not viewable directly within Google Maps. To view the listing from there, you will have to click to specifically view a business’s local listing.

Often, businesses think of SEO and online advertising as being entirely separate. They may feel like they need to choose one or the other. However, a new study from WordStream shows that most experts agree that SEO and advertising work best together, not apart.

The new data published in WordStream’s report on the online advertising landscape in 2019 reveals that more than three-quarters (79%) of online advertisers are also incorporating SEO within their marketing strategies.

Even more, digital advertisers ranked SEO as the leading marketing channel aside from advertising for growing their business.

The full breakdown of responses is as follows:

Outside of digital advertising, what other marketing channels are you using to grow your business in 2019?

  • SEO – 79%
  • Email marketing – 66%
  • Content marketing – 60%
  • Word of mouth marketing – 47%
  • Direct mail – 32%
  • Event marketing – 26%
  • Guerrilla marketing – 9%
  • Affinity marketing – 6%
  • Telemarketing – 4%
  • Other – 1%

As WordStream explains, the findings show that while advertisers may prioritize paid search for bringing in immediate revenue, they also recognize the importance of fostering a long-term strategy for bringing in new potential customers:

“Like content marketing, SEO can be an extremely valuable long-term strategy when done effectively. Kudos to those surveyed for recognizing the importance of balancing short-term results with a long-term strategy for sustainable growth!”

The report includes a number of other interesting tidbits about the current state of online advertising, including the discovery that nearly half of advertisers are increasing their Google search ads budgets this year.

To read the full report, click here.

Google’s “Shopping Ads” will start appearing within Google Images search results by default, as the company announced recently in an email to advertisers.

In the past, it was possible to display your shopping ads in Google Images by manually opting-in to the Search Partner Network. This is because Google Images was previously a part of the Search Partner Network.

However, that has all changed. Google Images is now a part of Google’s own search network, which makes it a default placement for shopping ads.

Notably, advertisers cannot opt-out of the placement currently, which Google says is a good thing for advertisers:

“If your campaigns are not currently opted into the Search Partner Network – your ads will start showing on Google Images and as a result there may be a 3-10% increase in traffic at lower cost-per-click and comparable conversion rates.”

Meanwhile, many advertisers question whether this is actually a change for the better. While some shoppers may frequent Google Images for a variety of reasons, it seems logical that they would be less purchase-focused than users actively searching Google’s shopping results.

You can read Google’s full email announcing the change below:

Google Images is now a part of the Search Network for Shopping ads

Hello,

Google Images is a visually rich surface and a key part of millions of users’ shopping journeys every day. Users frequently turn to Google Images for idea exploration, how-to guidance, product discovery and visual imagery related to key shopping categories like fashion, home and beauty.

We are excited to announce that we will be integrating Google Images into our core Search Network in late March. This means Shopping ads, that you are already familiar with, will now automatically be eligible* to appear in Google Images results when users are searching for relevant keywords.

What this means for your Shopping campaigns:

All of your Shopping ads will be automatically eligible* to serve on Google Images. You will no longer have to opt into the Search Partner Network to show Shopping ads on Google Images.

*For Europe only: if you are unsure what surfaces your ads show on, please check with your CSS.

If your campaigns currently run on the Search Partner Network – you may see a decrease in traffic coming in from Search Partner Network and an increase in traffic coming from the Search Network. This is because Google Images was previously a part of the Search Partner Network. Note: Historical Google Images traffic will not be re-categorized from the Search Partner Network to Search Network.

If your campaigns are not currently opted into the Search Partner Network – your ads will start showing on Google Images and as a result there may be a 3-10% increase in traffic at lower cost-per-click and comparable conversion rates.

Sincerely,

The Google Ads Team

Google’s call-only ads are an incredibly powerful tool for companies who primarily do business through the phone. Not only can they get your phone to ring when nothing else will, they are entirely trackable so you will know when your ads drive calls and where those calls come from.

Now, Google is making the ads even better with expanded headlines and descriptions.

Specifically, call-only ads will now include two 30-character headlines instead of a single 25-character headline.

Descriptions for call-only ads will also be expanded from 80 to 90 characters.

Another small tweak is the placement of business names in the ads, which are being moved to the description line.

“We noticed it was tough to fit both your business name and a compelling call to action in the headline, so we moved business name to the beginning of the ad description,” Mike Russo, a Google Ads product manager, said in the announcement.

The change makes headlines even more important than ever, as your brand name will no longer be the first thing included in the ad. The upside, however, is that a great headline can help you break past the competition and find success with your ads no-matter how well-known your brand is.

The new format is currently rolling out, though it may take a few weeks for the change to reach all advertisers.

In mid-2018, Google’s web browser Chrome made a small tweak to help users know how safe a specific site was. Specifically, it added a tag in the search bar flagging any site that had not updated to HTTPS as “not secure”.

Now, with the help of a new survey from the agency John Cabot, we are finally getting insight into how this little notification affects people’s perception of sites.

Based on a survey of 1,324 people in the UK, the survey finds that nearly half of all people respond negatively to sites which are flagged as “not secure” and many are less willing to give personal information to these sites.

According to the findings, 47% of respondents said they “knew roughly what the warning meant.” Similarly, 46% said they would not give their names or financial information to a site flagged as “non-secure”. Even more, 64% of that group say they would immediately leave non-secure sites.

The survey also found a few other fears and concerns when users come upon a non-secure site:

  • Their device was exposed to a virus — 14%
  • They had arrived on a fake version of the intended site — 12%
  • The content was “unreliable and not fact-checked” — 9%
  • Being signed up for spam email — 8.4%

Notably, the survey found that a brand’s existing perception appears to play a role in determining how people respond to a non-secure site. For example, retailer John Lewis experienced significantly less negative reactions to their site, despite being tagged as non-secure. This suggests widespread name recognition could potentially counter the warning.

Still, the findings of the survey show that a huge number of users are taking note any time they find a business website which has not implemented HTTPS encryption and many are even changing their behaviors based on this warning. If you haven’t updated your business site, these results suggest you could be losing up to 50% of your potential customers to something that is easy and affordable to implement.

Unless you are regularly keeping an eye on your site’s analytics, you might never know when you suddenly lose a ton of traffic or clicks. That is somewhat changing, however, as webmasters can now be notified to sudden drops in clicks through Google’s Search Console.

Search Console is now sending alerts to webmasters when it detects a “substantial drop” in clicks compared to your past week’s data.

Google is doing this by reviewing your week-over-week data in the Performance report for your site. If this week’s data is drastically different, it will send a notification to verified property owners in Search Console to alert them of the problem.

The new notification was first noticed by Vance Moore III who shared a screenshot of the notification on Twitter:

It is unclear exactly how large of a drop it takes to trigger the notification. In the case above, Moore experienced nearly a 50% drop in clicks.

Of course, the tool has some obvious limits. The first is that it only compares week-to-week data. That means slower downward trends will likely not trigger a notification. Additionally, the notification appears to only be triggered by clicks but does not account for traffic or bounce-rates.

The best course of action will always be to regularly check your analytics data to properly assess your site’s performance. There, you will find everything from your click performance, to conversions, traffic, and even demographic info about your visitors.

Still, it always helps to have an extra alert in place for when sudden changes happen to your site. That way you can respond to any new issues and quickly remedy any issues that could have led to your drop in clicks.

Google My Business has released a new way for business owners to respond to online reviews, giving increased flexibility to when and where you can reply after a review.

Now, you can reply to your business reviews from your listing in Google Maps from any desktop device.

In the past, replying to reviews was only possible from the GMB app or website.

Of course, you will still have to verify your listing before you may be able to respond to reviews. Still, the release of the new way to respond to reviews makes it easier than ever for business owners to reply to reviews as soon as they see them.

Along with the new way to respond to reviews, Google has also updated its help document on the subject by adding tips specifically for responding to negative reviews.

How Google Says to Respond to Negative Reviews

First and foremost, Google encourages business owners to remember that negative reviews are not always reflective of a bad business. For instance, some customers may have mismatched expectations. In this case, replying to the review can help other customers set their expectations appropriately and provide more customer satisfaction in the future.

Additionally, Google says to follow these tips when leaving a negative review:

  • Do not share personal data or attack the reviewer personally. Instead, suggest that they contact you directly.
  • Investigate the reasons behind the reviewer’s negative impression of the business.
  • Be honest about mistakes that were made, but do not take responsibility for things that weren’t your fault.
  • Apologize when appropriate. It’s best to say something that demonstrates compassion and empathy.
  • Show that you’re a real person by signing off with your name or initials.
  • Never lash out. Never get personal. Always be polite and professional, just as you would be face-to-face.
  • Respond in a timely manner to show that you pay attention to your customer’s experience.

It is important to keep in mind that negative reviews will not automatically hurt your business. How you respond can be just as important in shaping the public perception of your brand.

A lot of people have come to think of search engine optimization and content marketing as separate strategies these days, but Google’s John Mueller wants to remind webmasters that both are intrinsically linked. Without great content, even the most well-optimized sites won’t rank as high as they should.

The discussion was brought up during a recent Google Webmaster Central hangout where one site owner asked about improving rankings for his site.

Specifically, he explained that there were no technical issues that he could find using Google’s tools and wasn’t sure what else he could do to improve performance.

Here’s the question that was asked:

“There are zero issues on our website according to Search Console. We’re providing fast performance in mobile and great UX. I’m not sure what to do to improve rankings.”

Mueller responded by explaining that it is important to not forget about the other half of the equation. Just focusing on the technical details won’t always lead to high rankings because the content on the site still needs to be relevant and engaging for users.

The best way to approach the issue, in Mueller’s opinion, is to ask what issues users might be having with your products or services and what questions they might ask. Then, use content to provide clear and easily available answers to these questions.

In addition to these issues, Mueller noted that some industries have much stronger competition for rankings than others. If you are in one of these niches, you may still struggle to rank as well as you’d like against competition which has been maintaining an informative and well-designed site for longer.

You can read or watch Mueller’s answer in full below, starting at 32:29 in the video:

“This is always kind of a tricky situation where you’re working on your website for a while, then sometimes you focus on a lot of the technical details and forget about the bigger picture.

So what I would recommend doing here is taking your website and the queries that you’re looking [to rank] for, and going to one of the webmaster forums.

It could be our webmaster forum, there are lots of other webmaster forums out there where webmasters and SEOs hang out. And sometimes they’ll be able to look at your website and quickly pull out a bunch of issues. Things that you could be focusing on as well.

Sometimes that’s not so easy, but I think having more people look at your website and give you advice, and being open to that advice, I think that’s an important aspect here.

Another thing to keep in mind is that just because something is technically correct doesn’t mean that it’s relevant to users in the search results. That doesn’t mean that it will rank high.

So if you clean up your website, and you fix all of the issues, for example, if your website contains lots of terrible content then it still won’t rank that high.

So you need to, on the one hand, understand which of these technical issues are actually critical for your website to have fixed.

And, on the other hand, you really need to focus on the user aspect as well to find what are issues that users are having, and how can my website help solve those issues. Or help answer those questions.”