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Google: How to Increase Offline Sales for Local Businesses

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Google: How to Increase Offline Sales for Local Businesses
Google published a guide on four ways to drive local search traffic to an offline local business and make more sales. It’s a good reminder that Google is more than just the ten blue links on a search page.

Understanding all the ways customers are trying to find businesses will help create more sales.

For local retail, Google shared that various kinds of searches are growing exponentially.

In particular, three kinds of searches are showing dramatic increases:

  1. The first kind of search involves consumers searching for businesses that are local to them.
  2. The second type of search involves consumers who are searching for businesses local to them that have something specific in stock.
  3. The third kind of search involve restaurant related searches.

Google’s guide shared:

Local Retail

“Searches for “local” + “business(es)” have grown by more than 80% year over year, including searches like “local businesses near me” and “support local businesses.”

Searches for “who has” + “in stock” have grown by more than 8,000% year over, including searches like “who has Nintendo switch in stock” and “who has gym equipment in stock.””

Local Restaurant Searches

Google next shared that dining related consumers used not only Google search but Google Ads to find information prior to making  a purchase. Google advertising can be a good way to gain an extra edge over competitors.

Google shared:

“Two out of three dining consumers said they used search to find food and beverage information during the pandemic.

Fifty-seven percent of dining consumers said they discovered food and beverage information during the pandemic via online ads.”

Think With Google article: What’s New at Mealtime?

YouTube and Local Shopping

YouTube isn’t normally considered as a way to drive sales to a local business. But it should be considered. Google shows YouTube videos in response to search queries and in specific contexts that provide more information for searchers who need to know about a service or product.

According to Google:

“Forty-five percent of viewers say they watch YouTube to see a product demo before buying.

Viewers say they are 2x more likely to go in-store or online to buy something they saw on YouTube versus the competitive average.”

Google Maps

Google Maps isn’t normally considered as a search engine. But like YouTube, it’s where people are turning to find local businesses that provide specific services.

This trend highlights the importance of claiming a free Google My Business account and working with that to enhance your Google Maps listings.

The important takeaway here is that Google Maps should be considered as a search engine that provides a highly targeted context for your local business presence.

Google shared:

  • “Searches on Google Maps for “curbside pickup” have increased 9000% year over year in the U.S.
  • Searches on Google Maps for “discounts” have grown globally by more than 100% year over year.
  • Searches on Google Maps for “gift shop” have grown globally by more than 60% year over year.”

Google Maps is more than just a way to learn how to get from here to there. Consumers are using it to find businesses.

These are the top generic searches in Google Maps:
(Source: Google Data, U.S., February 2021)

  • “restaurants
  • hotels
  • restaurants near me
  • gas
  • food
  • food near me
  • grocery store
  • gas station
  • coffee
  • pizza”

Guide to Offline Sales

Google also published a short support page for businesses on how to get more local search related traffic with advertising that also contained two tips that also relate to non-advertising search traffic. (Build Your Digital Storefront)

The first tip advised businesses to build an online storefront and to use it together with a free Google My Business account to stand out in local related searches within Google regular search results and in Google Maps.

The second tip showed how to get up to 42% more referrals from Google.

Google shared:

“The key to driving store traffic from the web into your physical location is letting customers know you’re close by and that you have what they’re looking for.

Businesses that add photos to their Business Profiles receive 42% more requests for directions on Google Maps, and 35% more clicks through to their websites than businesses that don’t.”

That 42% and 35% increases in engagement because of photos is not surprising. In an article about images (5 Benefits to Using Visual Content in PDF Marketing Materials) I highlighted ways that images engage consumers and drive sales.

Highlights are:

1. Images Are Emotionally Engaging

Scientific research discovered that images can influence a viewer’s emotions in a positive manner that enhances the marketing message.

2. Images Reduce Reading Fatigue

People absorb information through images as well as text. Images as a way to communicate how delicious a menu item is or the professional level of your employees should not be underestimated.

3. Images Are Easier to Remember

Images make a strong impact on consumers because they are easy to recall. According to research, consumers have the ability to remember over 2,000 images for days with a 90% accuracy.

4. Graphs Communicate Visually

Graphs can be a fantastic way to communicate the superiority of your business or communicate ideas. According to MIT neuroscientists, a human brain can identify images within 13 milliseconds. Communicating ideas visually is a powerful way of successfully getting across a marketing message.

5. Images Build Trust & Increase Profitability

Researchers have discovered, through analysis of millions of eBay auctions, that the liberal use of images increases sales.

Google is More than Ten Links on a Search Result

There are many takeaways in Google’s helpful guide. The most important is to expand beyond trying to rank in Google search and consider ways to increase visibility in Google Maps and YouTube. Additionally it may be helpful to add as many well staged and photographed images as possible in order to communicate the professionalism and high quality of the products and services on offer.

Citations

Guide to Offline Sales With Online Ads

5 Benefits to Using Visual Content in PDF Marketing Materials

Searchenginejournal.com

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Google to pay $391.5 million settlement over location tracking, state AGs say

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Google to pay $391.5 million settlement over location tracking, state AGs say

Google has agreed to pay a $391.5 million settlement to 40 states to resolve accusations that it tracked people’s locations in violation of state laws, including snooping on consumers’ whereabouts even after they told the tech behemoth to bug off.

Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry said it is time for Big Tech to recognize state laws that limit data collection efforts.

“I have been ringing the alarm bell on big tech for years, and this is why,” Mr. Landry, a Republican, said in a statement Monday. “Citizens must be able to make informed decisions about what information they release to big tech.”

The attorneys general said the investigation resulted in the largest-ever multistate privacy settlement. Connecticut Attorney General William Tong, a Democrat, said Google’s penalty is a “historic win for consumers.”

“Location data is among the most sensitive and valuable personal information Google collects, and there are so many reasons why a consumer may opt out of tracking,” Mr. Tong said. “Our investigation found that Google continued to collect this personal information even after consumers told them not to. That is an unacceptable invasion of consumer privacy, and a violation of state law.”

Location tracking can help tech companies sell digital ads to marketers looking to connect with consumers within their vicinity. It’s another tool in a data-gathering toolkit that generates more than $200 billion in annual ad revenue for Google, accounting for most of the profits pouring into the coffers of its corporate parent, Alphabet, which has a market value of $1.2 trillion.

The settlement is part of a series of legal challenges to Big Tech in the U.S. and around the world, which include consumer protection and antitrust lawsuits.

Though Google, based in Mountain View, California, said it fixed the problems several years ago, the company’s critics remained skeptical. State attorneys general who also have tussled with Google have questioned whether the tech company will follow through on its commitments.

The states aren’t dialing back their scrutiny of Google’s empire.

Last month, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said he was filing a lawsuit over reports that Google unlawfully collected millions of Texans’ biometric data such as “voiceprints and records of face geometry.”

The states began investigating Google’s location tracking after The Associated Press reported in 2018 that Android devices and iPhones were storing location data despite the activation of privacy settings intended to prevent the company from following along.

Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich went after the company in May 2020. The state’s lawsuit charged that the company had defrauded its users by misleading them into believing they could keep their whereabouts private by turning off location tracking in the settings of their software.

Arizona settled its case with Google for $85 million last month. By then, attorneys general in several other states and the District of Columbia had pounced with their own lawsuits seeking to hold Google accountable.

Along with the hefty penalty, the state attorneys general said, Google must not hide key information about location tracking, must give users detailed information about the types of location tracking information Google collects, and must show additional information to people when users turn location-related account settings to “off.”

States will receive differing sums from the settlement. Mr. Landry’s office said Louisiana would receive more than $12.7 million, and Mr. Tong’s office said Connecticut would collect more than $6.5 million.

The financial penalty will not cripple Google’s business. The company raked in $69 billion in revenue for the third quarter of 2022, according to reports, yielding about $13.9 billion in profit.

Google downplayed its location-tracking tools Monday and said it changed the products at issue long ago.

“Consistent with improvements we’ve made in recent years, we have settled this investigation which was based on outdated product policies that we changed years ago,” Google spokesman Jose Castaneda said in a statement.

Google product managers Marlo McGriff and David Monsees defended their company’s Search and Maps products’ usage of location information.

“Location information lets us offer you a more helpful experience when you use our products,” the two men wrote on Google’s blog. “From Google Maps’ driving directions that show you how to avoid traffic to Google Search surfacing local restaurants and letting you know how busy they are, location information helps connect experiences across Google to what’s most relevant and useful.”

The blog post touted transparency tools and auto-delete controls that Google has developed in recent years and said the private browsing Incognito mode prevents Google Maps from saving an account’s search history.

Mr. McGriff and Mr. Monsees said Google would make changes to its products as part of the settlement. The changes include simplifying the process for deleting location data, updating the method to set up an account and revamping information hubs.

“We’ll provide a new control that allows users to easily turn off their Location History and Web & App Activity settings and delete their past data in one simple flow,” Mr. McGriff and Mr. Monsees wrote. “We’ll also continue deleting Location History data for users who have not recently contributed new Location History data to their account.”

• This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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5 Tips to Boost Your Holiday Search Strategy

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Student writing on computer

With the global economic downturn, inflation, ongoing supply chain challenges, and uncertainty due to the Ukraine war, this year’s holiday shopping season promises to be very challenging. Will people be in the mood to spend despite the gloom? Or will they rein in their enthusiasm and save for the year ahead?

With these issues in mind, here are five considerations to support your search engine optimization strategy this holiday shopping season:

1. Start early.

Rising prices are likely to mean shoppers will start researching their holiday spending earlier than ever to nab the best bargains. Therefore, retailers must roll out their holiday product and category pages — and launch any promotions — sooner to ensure their pages get crawled and indexed by search engines in good time.

Some e-commerce stores manage to get their pages ranking early by updating and reusing the same section of the website for holiday content and promotions, rotating between content for Christmas, Mother’s Day, Valentine gifts, Fourth of July sales, etc. This approach can help you retain the momentum, links and authority you build up with Google and get your holiday pages visible and ranking quickly.

2. Make research an even bigger priority.

With all the uncertainty this year, it’s vital to use SEO research to identify the trending seasonal keywords and search phrases in your retail vertical — and then optimize content accordingly.

With tools such as Google Trends you can extract helpful insights based on the types of searches people are making. For example, with many fashion retailers now charging for product returns, will prioritizing keywords such as “free returns” get more search traction? And with money being tighter, will consumers stick with brands they trust rather than anything new — meaning brand searches might be higher?

3. Make greater use of Google Shopping.

To get the most out of their holiday spending, consumers are more likely to turn to online marketplaces such as Google Shopping as they make it easier to compare products, features and prices, as well as to identify the best deals both online and in nearby stores.

Therefore, take a combined approach which includes listing in Google Shopping and at the same time optimizing product detail pages on your e-commerce site to ensure they’re unique and provide more value than competitors’ pages. Be precise with product names on Google Shopping (e.g., do the names contain the words people are searching for?); ensure you provide all the must-have information Google requires; and set a price that’s not too far from the competition. 

4. Give other search sources the attention they deserve.

Earlier this year Google itself acknowledged that consumers — especially younger consumers — are starting to use TikTok, Instagram and other social media sites for search. In fact, research suggests 11 percent of product searches now start on TikTok and 15 percent on Instagram. Younger consumers in particular are more engaged by visual content, which may explain why they’re embracing visually focused social sites for search. So, as part of your search strategy, create and share content on popular social media sites that your target customers visit.

Similarly, with people starting their shopping searches on marketplaces such as Amazon.com, optimizing any listings you have on the site should be part of your strategy. And thankfully, the better optimized your product detail pages are for Amazon (with unique, useful content), the better they will rank on Google as well!

5. Hold paid budget for late opportunities.

The greater uncertainty and volatility this holiday season mean you must keep a close eye on shopper behavior and be ready to embrace opportunities that emerge later on. Getting high organic rankings for late promotions is always more challenging, so hold some paid search budget back to help drive traffic to those pages — via Google Ads, for example. Important keywords to include in late season search ad campaigns include “delivery before Christmas” and “same-day-delivery.” For locally targeted search ads, consider “pick up any time before Christmas.”

The prospect of a tough, unpredictable holiday shopping season means search teams must roll out seasonal SEO plans early, closely track shoppers’ behavior, and be ready to adapt as things change.

Marcus Pentzek is chief SEO consultant at Searchmetrics, the global provider of search data, software and consulting solutions.

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Google Home App Gets an Overhaul, Rolling Out Soon

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Google Home app

Google refreshes its Home app with a slew of new features after launching a new Nest gear. This makes it faster and easier to pair smart devices with Matter, adds customization and personalization options, an enhanced Nest camera experience, and better intercommunication between devices.

This revamped Home app utilizes Google’s Matter smart home standard – launching later this year – especially the Fast Pair functionality. On an Android phone, it will instantly recognize a Matter device and allow you to easily set it up, bypassing the current procedure that is often slow and difficult. Google is also updating its Nest speakers, displays, and routers – to control Matter devices better.

Google Home App New Features

  • Spaces: This feature allows you to control multiple devices in different rooms. Google has listed a few things by room: kitchen, bedroom, living room, etc., although it’s pretty limited right now. Spaces let you organize devices how you see fit. For instance, you can set up a baby monitor in one room and set a different room’s camera to focus on an area the baby often plays. With Spaces, you can categorize these two devices into one Space category called ‘Baby.’

Google Home app Spaces

  • Favorites: This one is pretty self-explanatory. It allows you to make certain gears as a favorite that you frequently use. Doing so will bring those devices into the limelight within the Google Home app for easier access. 

Google Home app

  • Media: Google adds a new media widget at the bottom of your Home feed. This will automatically determine what media is playing in your home and provide you with the appropriate controls as and when needed. There will be song controls if you listen to music on your speakers. There will be television remote controls if you’re watching TV. 

Google probably won’t roll out this Home app makeover anytime soon. But you can try it for yourself in the coming week by enrolling in the public preview, available in select areas.

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