This shop front is like your bad landing page.

Why is a Great Landing Page Important for Your PPC Campaign?

In the grand tradition of all digital marketing blogs, let me start by giving you an offline scenario that we can all relate to “IRL”: you pass a billboard in the street which is advertising the perfect gift for your partner. The billboard tells you everything you need to know about the product and you decide to buy it right there and then. You arrive at the only shop in town selling the item to find it half-boarded up, with broken windows and a missing sign. Worse still, there is a suspicious character hanging around outside eyeing you up and down. Even if the perfect gift is inside that shop, what do you do? You turn around and look for something else.

Your paid search marketing campaign could well be that billboard we saw – informative, memorable, relatable and with a great call to action. But the formatting of your landing page is slightly off on mobile devices, there are spelling mistakes in the headings and you have a non-secure submissions form triggering alerts in the user’s browser. You might as well be stood outside that store in a rough part of town.

First Impressions Matter More Than Ever

Landing Pages are crucial to any digital marketing campaign. They are the first real opportunity you have to introduce your business, or the products you sell. A great landing page can cause a user to convert on their first visit, whilst a poor one can leave a lasting negative impression that’s hard to come back from – 79% of dissatisfied customers won’t visit your site again. Pushy sales language, irrelevant content and pressuring your visitors into submitting personal information such as email addresses can be enough to drive your traffic away for good.

Landing Pages Affects PPC Quality Score

Poor landing pages can also have a direct effect on the success of your paid search campaigns. Each PPC keyword you bid on in Adwords is assigned a Quality Score out of 10. While there are many, many factors that are taken into account by the Google Algorithm, effectively quality score is a rating of your keywords relevancy to a user’s search term and the landing page you direct them towards.

If a user searches for shoes, but your advert takes them to a landing page about coats, they’re unlikely to convert. Not only are you going to see a lower ROI in this scenario, but Google will eventually realise that your landing page has little relevancy to the keywords you bid on and punish you by lowering your Quality Score: there’s lots of evidence to suggest that lower quality score means a higher £/click and a lower Ad Position in the search engine results pages.

What makes a Great Landing Page?

Simply put, when a user arrives on a landing page after clicking your link, it should be immediately clear they have arrived in the right place. All the information that they need to make their decision should be freely available to them in a friendly, clear and concise way with a powerful CTA. A great landing page will be technically sound too – fully mobile responsive, formatted correctly and with a clear focus on security.

In the age of the internet, people want instant gratification – and if your landing page doesn’t immediately offer a user the information they are looking for, then you have already lost their interest. Remember – without the perfect landing page your customers aren’t going to care about what you have for sale, they’re just not going to get past the state of your shop front. As the old saying goes: first impressions really do matter on the internet.

The Value of Being Seen

Here’s a question: What value do you put on your business being seen by prospective customers?

Most of you will agree that the first thing you do these days when looking for a product, restaurant, or business is turn to Google. Working in digital marketing and specialising in local search has shown me two things: how effective it is to be fully present to your target market, and how few businesses utilise this free tool to make sure every possible user can find them.

Having a Google My Business listing allows you to present key information to customers, convincing them to continue to the website or contact you for more information. The best way to engage a user is through images. We’re told not to, but everyone judges the book by its cover, and business listings are no different. So why not make your business ‘cover’ the best it can be?

 

Power Of The Masses

Google has realised that a lot of business owners either don’t have the time, or just don’t know, to fill out their business listings. This is probably why they created the Local Guides community, allowing locals to not only leave reviews but to contribute edits or add to missing information on local business listings.

Out of intrigue I joined the Google Local Guides back in May 2016 and started adding pictures and reviews to the places that I had been.

As a digital marketer I found it fascinating that Google was now ‘Crowd Sourcing’ local business information. Obviously, for me there was a professional benefit here, to find out the information that Google was wanting to gather before making it available as an attribute on listings.

Having now contributed reviews, photos and verified other Local Guides’ information, I’ve worked my way up the Levels Google put in place unlocking different features along the way. One of my favourite features are the questions that Google asks about the places you’ve been, such as accessibility or what the place is known for. So much information has already been gathered that recently, Google has used the questions that it’s gathered from the local guides to add it’s Attributes feature to Google My Business.

“Google My Business Listings with photos and a virtual tour are twice as likely to generate interest.”

Tom McAdam Google Local

This brings my back to my original question of the value of a prospective customer and how they see us. While writing this article I surpassed 2 million photo views, and though the views aren’t for one particular business, there are some heavy-hitters who have seen traffic as the main image shown for their listing.

From restaurants to distilleries and museums, customers want to be able to see what’s there before arriving, so why not make sure you populate your listings with professional imagery that generates interest in visiting?

To truly give customers an immersive experience before arrival Google’s integration of its Street View app has even made it possible for Local Guides to contribute 360° photos to a listing.

 

Doing so and contributing over 50 approved images then leads to becoming a Google Street View Trusted Photographer (which I happen to be), allowing photographers to transfer the rights/ownership to Businesses.

So whether it’s a photo of items on your menu or a 360° of your roof-top terrace, make sure that your business listings show your potential customers everything your business has to offer, and you’ll be rewarded with more visits and more customers.

Why does a fast page load time matter?

Most people who work day-to-day in digital marketing know that the inner workings of the Google PageRank Algorithm are mostly a complete mystery. Whether or not your webpage will appear on the SERP’s is decided by a mind-boggling 200+ factors.

Thankfully for us here at Mackerel Media, there are a number ranking factors under our control that the industry (almost) always agrees can make a difference to how your site will be ranked by Google. It’s likely that you’ve already optimised your site for keywords or authority-giving links, but have you thought about how important page speed is on today’s fast paced, on-demand and mobile-focused internet?

Web Pages are Bigger than Ever

According to a recent study, the average page served today is 3.5 times greater than in 2010 – a whopping 2.5MB of code, advertising, images, videos and other rich media that needs to be loaded onto your device before you can watch the latest viral cat video or discover which type of meatball you should be on Buzzfeed.

And while slow load times can be infuriating on desktop computers, on mobile devices page load time being anything less than instant can actually be damaging. Google itself shared data with the industry that suggested 75% of mobile device users would abandon a webpage if it takes longer than 5 seconds to load, and 79% of those dissatisfied customers won’t visit your site again. Ad blockers have been on the rise in no small part due to this particular problem, but that’s a blog for another day!

A Lesson from Google

Google certainly learnt this the hard way. During a Web 2.0 conference in 2006, Marissa Mayer highlighted that a 0.5 second increase in SERP load-time resulted in a 20% decrease in traffic. That’s right, half a second was enough for the worlds most visited webpage to lose a fifth of its traffic.

If that wasn’t enough of a reason to make sure your webpage loads as fast as possible, then let me introduce you to the Gap of Death theory. This rightfully scary-sounding concept is the name given to the time between a webpage users load-time expectations and the actual time a page takes to load. For each additional second a user waits you can expect your conversion rate to drop by 7%.

A 7% loss in conversions per second is a nightmare scenario for any business, especially ones that rely on e-commerce websites. Amazon.com techie Greg Linden blogged about the results of internal A/B testing that suggested even very small delays can result in substantial and costly drops in revenue”.

The Paid Search Contagion

While the effects of page speed are intricately tied to your organic performance, a slow load time can also affect your paid digital marketing efforts too… sorry. Right here in the AdWords support documents, we can see that “landing page experience” and specifically “landing page load time” can have an effect your overall AdRank – and in turn your average advertising costs and ad position.

Now that we know the damage a slow loading page can cause to a business, what can we do to increase page speed?

With desktop, the answer is to keep an eye out for bottle necks and reduce their impact – bloated web pages, poor hosting services, 301 redirect chains, analytics code, slow widgets and plug ins or incompatible media. If you suspect that your webpage load time is too high, these are the usual suspects.

AMP to the Rescue?

Mobile sites have a smarter answer – Accelerated Mobile Pages or AMP. The AMP Project is designed to give users a great mobile experience no matter what platform their mobile device is loading web pages from. In essence, AMP pages have found success by augmenting the HTML code that powers a web page and pre-loading as much content as possible using standardised formatting before the user ever clicks on a link. The result is a page which appears to load instantly.

Unsurprisingly, Google is a huge fan of AMP pages – even allowing web developers to identify their pages with SERP friendly discoverable <”amphtml”> tags. However, whilst take up has been quick and widespread, some in the industry who have worked with or have knowledge of the tool for a while are not entirely fulsome in their praise. One commentator reported a bug in AMP that apparently risks inflating Unique User counts four-fold which would cause enormous issues for major publishers. Others were concerned that AMP Pages ‘masked’ the publishers’ URL making it harder for users to either identify the publisher or share a link to the article, but to its credit Google responded by changing AMP behaviour to ameliorate the concern.

So what does all of this information teach us? Simply put, slowly loading web pages can reduce the likelihood of a user ever reaching your site, and massively decrease the chances of them completing one of your conversion goals if they do.

In the end, how well your online business channels perform is down to how quickly your pages load. As Marissa said in her 2006 Web 2.0 talk, “Users really respond to speed.”

Best Use of Video DADI Award Nomination for…Us!

We are positively thrilled to announce that a project for Glengoyne Single Malt Whisky has been nominated for Best Use of Video at the Drum’s 2016 DADI Awards. Come the 19th October we will be presenting ourselves in London for the prize-giving ceremony.

But first, a little backstory. On a rather dark and miserable November afternoon, we presented an idea for a campaign celebrating Burns Night to Glengoyne. Not long before Christmas, after an anxious wait, the email came through from the Marketing Director giving us the green light, at which point it was all hands to the proverbial pump to make sure we could deliver on the very tight schedule.

The idea centred around Glengoyne’s Family database, comprising over 50,000 fans of the brand from around the world, many of whom engage on social media on a regular basis. How – we asked ourselves –  can we bring all of these people together to celebrate our national poet’s life and showcase the incredible global reach of the Family?

Then it came to us: invite all of them to record a verse of Robert Burns’ infamous poem ‘Tae a Haggis’, collect them all, then edit the videos together to take the reading around the world, one line at a time. We were absolutely amazed by the response, with videos flooding in from the United States, Canada, Sweden, Switzerland, Germany, Australia, New Zealand, Taiwan, England and Scotland.

The result – we think – speaks for itself.

Sláinte…and naturally we’ll let you know how we get on, if we don’t see you there!

SEO Is Not Dead

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You’ve heard the rumours. You’ve seen the think-pieces discussing a year-on-year drop in organic traffic and how native mobile-apps hoover up all ‘traditional’ searches. It all points to one thing, they claim – the end of Search Engine Optimisation.

If you work in digital marketing however, you know the truth: SEO is far from dead. Now, perhaps more than ever, the fundamental principles of search engine optimisation are crucial to any successful digital marketing strategy.

But how can we prove it?

At the end of February, one of Mackerel Media’s clients came to us with a problem. Despite being a well-know, large Scottish based firm, their organic search listings  weren’t appearing on the first page – what could we do to help them?

Now anybody will tell you that, unlike the relatively fast gains that can be made through PPC marketing, search engine optimisation is about playing the long game – but there can be some quick SEO fixes that can make a real difference in a reasonably short period of time.

Our initial investigation into the client’s website revealed, among other SEO quick-fixes, that most of the firm’s pages were missing H1 headings. The H1 heading element of a page has long been a stalwart of on-page search engine optimisation – but opinion has been divided over just how much influence it has on your final position on the SERP. However, with everything else seemingly set up correctly, the missing H1’s seemed a logical explanation for the underperforming pages. The next step was to get creative…

Working closely with the client, Mackerel Media was able to introduce around sixty new H1s to pages across the clients site – ranging from sector specific keywords to high volume sector terms, retroactively adding them to complement the existing site content. In total, all of the H1s were added in less than a day.

As a result, search positions have increased dramatically, with the number of our client’s pages ranking on the first page of Google up a massive 40.74% from last month. What’s more, the number of pages which now rank in first place for our client’s keywords has increased by 52.63%.

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In just one month, Mackerel Media’s client saw a 22.72% increase in total pages ranked simply thanks to some in-depth investigation and the introduction of H1 headings. If SEO truly is dead, then we’re yet to see any evidence.

And while this is a single example, it is far from an isolated case. Every day here at Mackerel Media we see the effects a well structured, planned and executed SEO strategy. Whether a site requires a technical overhaul, on-site content improvements or an off-site outreach programme – each change you make will have an effect on how Google, and ultimately the internet as a whole, will rank your page.

So next time somebody tells you SEO is dead, remember: the right changes can make a huge difference to where your site ranks amongst its competitors… who are almost certainly all making SEO improvements as well.

Meeting Moz Local

Moz have recently come out with Moz Local, a new tool that checks all of your Local Listings and makes sure that they are up to date and accurate. You enter your business’s URL and Postcode and you’re given a pretty graph that telling you what’s complete, incomplete, inconsistent or any duplicates you may have. Sounds simple, right?

moz-local-dashboard

The Moz Local Dashboard Report

Getting the graph and information was free (which is the best price ever for a tool and pretty useful to get a general idea of where your weaknesses may be), but what Moz then offers is to get these all sorted for you, in one fell swoop. I thought I’d give it a go.

My initial use of Moz local has been good so far. Previously I would have had to think about all the places that our company could be listed and then see about creating an account on each one of them and then updating them one by one.

It took me around 5 – 10 minutes or so, from clicking on “Start Using Moz local” to entering business information (and asking Nick for the company credit card) to being on the dashboard with a quick click through tour of what’s available.

Filling Out Content

Adding Mackerel’s information was quite easy and straightforward. Overall there are four sections to fill out : Basic Information, Additional Information, Additional Contact Information and Advanced.

Basic Information is fairly straightforward, however under the categories section we have a message from Moz saying :

“Enter between 1 and 5 categories for your business separated by commas. Categories should be added in the order of importance for your business. Checkout Category Research to see all categories.”

To which I thought,  “Great, where do I find these categories?“ but there was no link on the page. Having a look later, I found my answer in the Moz Q&A Forum. It’s here by the way: https://moz.com/local/categories .

Additional Information seems to be related to Foursquare which doesn’t really apply to us but I do have a few clients in mind. Here you’ve got a 150-character Description, Opening Times, Photos (which you add using URLs), and Payment Types.

Additional Contact Information  is just in case you want to add extra numbers, secondary lines, mobile and Fax (apparently still a thing).

Finally there’s your Advanced section which asks for a URL to your logo, a display URL, Social Media URLs, any External Media URLs, Promotions (links to menus, product, discounts), Brands you stock, Certifications, Neighbourhood your listing is found, Containing Location (If you’re in a mall/shopping center) and a Store code (a unique ID for each of your listings to distinguish them from each other.

The Dashboard

When you first arrive at the Dashboard, you’re welcomed by a quick click-through tour telling you what each section does.  Your main sections here are: your Listings, Distribution, Performance, Visibility, and Reputation.moz-local-published

Each of your listings is set out nicely with your distribution score, and the progress of each of the local listings that Moz Local has sent your info to. I immediately saw a jump as some as the listings updated straight away, but Moz does then tell you that some could take a couple of weeks and you’ll get an e-mail when it’s all up-to-date.

Listings and Distribution cover your general information that you’re looking at getting updated.  Performance, Visibility and Reputation however, are extras that you can purchase that allow you to get your Google Analytics and other Insight information in the same place. When you click on these, get to use these on a trial basis to check them out, though it seems to take a little while for them to get up and running.

moz-local-visibility-insights

Almost there…

The largest annoyance that i’ve had so far is that Moz Local is reporting I have possible duplicate listings, and saying that I should “Simply ‘close’” to delete them. There’s just one thing; there’s nothing to close.

For now I find that this is a great wee tool for getting all the info in one place, and saving a bit of time getting your company’s information distributed to the local listings. It seems like Moz still have a few bugs to sort out, but give it time and it will definitely be a resource to add to the proverbial Toolbox.

Ian from the UK reads from Tae a Haggis

Toasting Glengoyne Fans Around the World

Every once in a while, an idea, an audience and a client willing to take a risk conspire to create an opportunity to do something special for a brand. We were delighted to get the go-ahead from Ian Macleod Distillers on such a project for Glengoyne Single Malt Whisky.

The idea was simple: showcase the global Glengoyne Customer Family by asking them to celebrate Burns Night through a reading of ‘Tae a Haggis’, to be released in time for the 25th January. Their contributions would be edited together to create a single reading of the poem that circled the globe.

To kick things off, emails were sent to the Glengoyne Family database in late December 2015, asking them to contribute in the most passionate way they could imagine. We were amazed by the results! Family members from around the world donned their kilts, set themselves up and read their favourite verses of the poem with amazing enthusiasm. Submissions came from a snowy forest in Saskatchewan, from a sunny tennis club in Melbourne, from Sweden, from New York, from a warm New Zealand, from Taiwan, from the frozen Norwegian Countryside, from Germany, from Switzerland and of course from Scotland itself. Some of the Distillery team were kind enough to contribute as well. Editor extraordinaire Marc Grundy pulled everything together against a very tight deadline and delivered an amazing final film.

We were delighted with the end result, as was the client. Just shy of 40,000 people were reached by the campaign on Facebook, the video was viewed over 22,000 times and – most importantly – we celebrated Robert Burns’ birthday in a way only the Glengoyne Family could. Enjoy!

Google Local Results showing 3 listings for [glasgow distilery]

Google Strips it Back to Only 3 Local Results, Losing 4

First it was ten, then it was seven, and as of today, it’s now three. Google has taken a scythe to the Local results pack in its SERPS and appears to now only show three results.

Anyone who operates in the local space will be concerned by this change as it marks a major change in the space available on SERPs. The screenshot below shows a local result from Scotland for [glasgow distillery] in which the three-pack is clearly visible:

Google Local Results showing 3 listings for [glasgow distilery]

Why are Google doing this? Simply, we don’t know for sure, but we do know extensive testing has been taking place on the layout of these results, and the new layout does (to a certain degree) resemble that on tablet and mobile devices, so perhaps it is all being done in the name of a more unified user experience that encourages more users to click (or tap) through to extended listings.

There’s also an argument that limiting the available places increases competitiveness and will encourage local businesses who are pushed out of the three-pack to place Ads to recovered lost visibility and traffic.

Alongside this, there is of course the ongoing confusion around Google Local listings, how they are organised and ranked, how exactly organisations can improve their positioning and gain more traffic. Looking at the three results in the map above tells us little about how results are selected other than by geography – two lack reviews entirely and aren’t even distilleries, unless of course Blythswood Square has changed considerably since I was there last week.

Time will tell.

What Have We Been Up To?

As anyone who has worked in an agency environment will know, constant deadlines and constant busy-ness can mean that by the time you’ve caught your breath, as I have done this week, you realise it’s April, spring has sprung and before you know it, the UK General Election will have passed and we’ll be well into summer.

So without further ado, it’s time for a brief update on some of the work team Mackerel has been up to over the last few months!

Thorntons Investments

Regulatory requirements mandated that the investment and financial advice arm of the Dundee law firm Thorntons be spun off into a new company and as such, October 2014 saw the birth of Thorntons Investments as a separate entity.

Headed up by Steven Webster, the team comprises a number of highly experienced investment and mortgage advice professionals and as a measure of their considerable success at launch, the firm had over £315m in client assets under management.

Our role was varied and detailed, ranging from searcher demand analysis, through market analysis, to site structure planning, an on-site SEO plan and advice on content.

activpayroll

Back in late summer 2014, we were challenged by leading global payroll firm activpayroll to deliver a comprehensive SEO strategy and campaign, which naturally we were more than happy to accept. Work started straight away, and continues on a daily basis.

The company’s success story is incredible, and it’s in no small part thanks to founder Allison Sellar’s incredible passion and dedication. She and her team have taken an accountancy firm in Aberdeen and transformed it into a truly global organisation that is taking on some of the world’s largest payroll providers and beating them hands down – long may that continue!

Redwell GB

The end of 2014 saw us delighted to win a contract to provide digital marketing strategy, planning and delivery support to infrared heating company Redwell GB, which is working hard to bring the benefits of modern IR heating to the UK. We’re working with the team to roll out our comprehensive marketing strategy that will see us target a number of key markets in both business-to-business and business-to-consumer over the coming weeks, months and year. It’s a hugely interesting project, with a hugely motivated and committed team behind it – we’re very pleased to be involved.

Glengoyne & Ian Macleod Distillers

Our work with Glengoyne Highland Single Malt Scotch Whisky and its parent company Ian Macleod Distillers continues apace, and indeed our services have expanded to cover national and international social media advertising campaigns that have delivered truly staggering audience and engagement levels. A number of exciting projects are underway and under wraps, so watch this space for more.

Eagle Couriers

A little closer to home, we were delighted to be appointed to support Scotland’s leading independent courier firm Eagle Couriers in the planning and development of a new web site. Working closely with partners Holyrood PR and Digijuice, we delivered searcher demand analysis, structural planning, an on-site SEO plan and content optimisation advice. Very happily, the new site enjoys very strong organic search rankings for key search terms!

Google My Business Home Page Extract

Google Testing 100%-Paid Local Profiles & Listings?

Over the last few years, Google’s focus on Local Search and Local Business has undergone a huge number of changes, with perhaps the most significant being the shift to Google My Business, which took on the mantle of Google Places, Google+ Local and the other myriad personalities their Local product had adopted. What has remained constant throughout these changes is that the service is ‘free’ to the business owner. However, if some recent tests are anything to go by, that might be about to change, and Google might be looking to take a major slice out of the small business web site market.

The Background

For many years Google has featured some sort of map-based listings in its organic search results, and over the years the format of the product, its name and its positioning has changed. Starting out as Google Places, the product has evolved and morphed to become in the most recent iteration Google My Business, which offers the business owner an ostensibly easier way to manage the profile for their business. The product is now tightly integrated with Google+, and from our experience is certainly easier to manage than it has been. Complaints abounded for previous iterations – business owners often found their details out of date, despite having updated them; claiming profiles for business was often a tortuous process; from time to time business profiles were hijacked and owners had to fight to get them back and there seemed little rhyme or reason to when, how and where these listings would show up in search results.

Sitting against these changes are two broad market developments:  firstly the decline of print-based local advertising and the growth of mobile. Looking at the first of those, for many years the Yellow Pages, or the Thomson Directory was the first port of call for anyone looking for a local service. Google’s growth and huge market dominance has – for want of a better description – utterly destroyed the Yellow Pages, leaving the old book format completely redundant. Whereas previously business owners could rely on the Yellow Pages to find customers and services respectively, nowadays Google is where people go, and Google AdWords has become the de facto source of business for many of these companies. As an example, I spoke to a locksmith in Edinburgh who happily (I’ll emphasise that: happily) pays Google around £600-£900 a month as it’s such a strong source of business.

In a slightly ironic twist of fate, the Yellow Pages morphed to become Yell.com, and from there became Hibu, which offered to manage Google AdWords campaigns and build up web sites on behalf of small businesses – thereby feeding the very company that had destroyed it.

The growth of mobile also plays an important role – users on mobile devices often use them to locate local services such as cafés, restaurants, service providers and others, and Google has worked hard to react to this. Search results are mobile-oriented, Ads are more suited to mobile devices and after Apple developed its own Maps product for iOS and Mac OS X, Google released an excellent Google Maps app which has a huge user base. The fight for eyeballs is clearly on, but what about the fight for revenue?

The Puzzle, and a possible solution

As I’ve mentioned, barring AdWords, all Google’s Local products are free, and to me it has been something of a conundrum that Google has never really tried to monetise the product as – let’s face it – they are very good at driving revenue from practically every single other product they put out. There’s clearly a market out there, as hibu’s existence attests, and other players such as Johnston Press are getting in on the act in the UK, so why not Google?

An eagle-eyed observer in the USA may have the answer: they recently noticed Google testing a completely paid-for set of Local Listing Ads, effectively turning a 100%-free product into a 100%-paid-for product. Cast your eye over the screenshot here and you’ll see three maps-based ads for ‘Stores for gas grills near you’, which features Lowe’s, hhgregg and Walmart. All three are ads, all three will cost the retailer if someone clicks.

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Of course, Google tests product variations all the time, so this on its own isn’t definitive, but if you consider some other recent developments and the language Google is using, we might be able to pick a path to a future where Google’s local business products become a substantial source of revenue, and the likes of hibu are squeezed even further.

Yesterday, Google published an article on their Webmasters blog titled “Bring your local business online — no website required!”. The advice goes on to tell small business owners that they don’t need to set up their own web site, rather they can simply use Google’s products and others to gain a place on the web, market themselves, engage customers and grow. This of course is entirely true – it’s entirely possible to build a profile for your business using Google My Business, TripAdvisor, Laterooms.com, LinkedIn, Yelp or whatever web site or directory is suitable for your business and do well from it.

However, and it’s a BIG however, if all these local businesses are using Google products to market themselves, and if a Google My Business or Google+ page becomes the central hub for a small business’s marketing, in my view it’s almost inconceivable Google will not want to monetise that activity, or in other words take a cut of the transactions and relationships that ensue. Google has already been enormously successful in its monetisation of web search traffic, and the huge recent developments in Google Shopping show both that there is plenty more to come in terms of innovation and there is also plenty more to come in terms of what will be free and what will be paid-for traffic.

The search engine is superb at understanding what is and is not a commercial search query, so whilst I’m wary of making sweeping predictions, I don’t think it will be long before we see the same intelligence being applied to local business’ Google+ and Google My Business Presences, and business owners being given the choice of paying Google for leads, enquiries and business, or staying free and finding themselves relatively invisible on Google properties.

Local SEO – End of the Road?

An elephant in the room with all of this is the impact on Local SEO and those who make their living providing such services to local businesses. Clearly, if Google ’s Local Listings move to a 100%-paid model, the landscape will shift dramatically, and the ability of Local search experts to promote their clients may diminish, which in turn would reduce their income. This is a larger subject area, and worthy of a deeper exploration, so watch out for a longer blog post on that in due course.

In the meantime, interesting times for all concerned!