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Shelfies: Why and Where Local Businesses Should Publish Them

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The Ultimate Guide for Taking Full Control of Your Google Business Profile and NMX

The author’s views are entirely his or her own (excluding the unlikely event of hypnosis) and may not always reflect the views of Moz.

If you own or market a local brand, your camera has never been a greater business asset. Early smartphones may have inspired the selfie, and it’s a fantastic idea to photograph the owner and staff of a local business to prove both its authenticity and approachability, but in a commercial context, it’s the “shelfie” that’s I see coming to the fore as a signal to both customers and search engines of what to expect on your premises.

For the past few years, I’ve strongly encouraged local businesses to photograph their most popular goods and services and add these pictures to their Google Business Profiles, but shelfies are different – instead of snapping a single product, take photos of your shelves and displays to give a sense of the abundance and character of what you vend. One look at this on a local business listing, and any customer would immediately know that this is a great nearby place to head for socks:

1677771300 714 Shelfies Why and Where Local Businesses Should Publish Them

Or that this independent grocery store has a deli counter with prepared salads:

1677771300 795 Shelfies Why and Where Local Businesses Should Publish Them

Or that this may be a hardware store, but it looks like it has a great selection of kitchen wares:

1677771301 93 Shelfies Why and Where Local Businesses Should Publish Them

Why publish local business shelfies?

Potential customers may not bother to read all your local business listing categories, your business descriptions, your posts, but if they see a great image of what they’re looking for, the connection is instantaneous (in fact, 400% faster than textual learning). And it’s not just people who are learning from your shelfies…it’s Google, too! Local SEO, Mike Blumenthal mentioned this in a Duct Tape Marketing interview:

“I was listening to a Google webinar for Product Experts… and they really liked what they called shelfies: pictures of the products in your business, on the shelf where Google and the consumer could get a really solid idea of what the place looked like and the range of products you were offering… They’ve created a term for it and they’re clearly focused on it. And I think it’s the kind of photograph you want.”

Google has gotten so good at parsing images that they are now able to match them to perceived query intent. We already know that Google differentiates between images of single products. For example, here’s a search for “engagement rings san francisco”, and do note the images in the local pack:

1677771302 67 Shelfies Why and Where Local Businesses Should Publish Them

But when I change my query to “diamond necklaces san francisco”, look at how the photo for the business in the top spot changes. It’s the same company, but a totally different image chosen to match my query:

1677771303 618 Shelfies Why and Where Local Businesses Should Publish Them

I have yet to find a live example of Google behaving this way inside the 3-pack for shelfie-type queries, but what we do know from Google’ Cloud Vision API is that they are quite capable of distinguishing between multiple objects in a single image:

1677771304 382 Shelfies Why and Where Local Businesses Should Publish Them

Given Mike Blumenthal’s report from the Product Experts webinar and Google’s ever-increasing ability to parse images, I would highly recommend that you do a photo shoot this spring of your most popular shelves of inventory, because I predict that Google will presently treat shelfies the same way that they are already handling single-object images. Additionally, proofs that your premises are well-stocked make simple good sense in 2023, as supply chain shortages continue.

Where to publish your local business shelfies

1677771304 294 Shelfies Why and Where Local Businesses Should Publish Them

Here are five places to promote your high-quality shelf pics:

  1. Google Business Profile: Two to three times per month, upload a new shelfie to your main photos set on your listings, as it’s felt a steady drip is more impactful than a flood. You can also upload shelfies to the Products section of your listing via the New Merchant Experience, representing product lines rather than single products with these photos. Finally, use shelfies in your Google Updates (formerly Google Posts) to advertise the breadth, depth, and availability of desirable inventory.

  2. Apple Maps: Moz Local customers should know that you can add up to 100 photos to your dashboard and we’ll distribute your images to Apple Maps. The company’s launch of Apple Business Connect shows that they are getting serious about local, and so should you. ABC also has a new feature called Showcases, which is like Google Updates, and which would also be a good place to microblog about your shelfies. Again, a slow drip is likely the best approach to gradually proving the active status of your listings.

  3. Your other structured citations: Shelfies belong on any local business listings that supports photos. Add them manually, or let Moz Local do the distribution for you.

  4. Your website: Be sure your location landing pages incorporate some shelfies to give potential customers an instant idea of what they’ll find at your different premises.

  5. Your social media profiles: These would be the best places to post up-to-the minute shelfies of hard-to-find items in short supply, holiday-related offers, and new product lines you’re introducing to the community.

1677771306 710 Shelfies Why and Where Local Businesses Should Publish Them
Image credit: VGM8383

When I was young, I remember responding with excitement to the nicely-designed holiday displays at different stores. It was a small thrill to see the valentines in the window of the local stationers, the witch’s kettle of candy corn at the grocer’s in fall, or shiny paper crackers imported all the way from the UK for Christmas. Shelves taught me things about my neighbors — the special Manischewitz matzos and Kedem grape juice at Passover and the red envelopes and paper lanterns at Lunar New Year helped me appreciate the diversity and celebratory nature of my community. In Spain, the beautiful arrangement of products has become such an artform that people regularly photograph and even paint the marketplaces there.

So there’s a small goal you can certainly meet in the months ahead: creating displays that you’re proud to photograph and publicize, and maybe if they’re inspiring enough, customers will opt in, too, and add their own shelfies to your local business listings, and their reviews and social posts about your business. Some things in local search marketing are fun, and it’s nice when they’re no big hassle to do well!



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The Future of Content Success Is Social

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The Future of Content Success Is Social

Here’s a challenge: search “SEO RFP” on Google. Click on the results, and tell me how similar they are.

We did the same thing every other SEO does: We asked, “What words are thematically relevant?” Which themes have my competitors missed?” How can I put them in?” AND “How can I do everything just slightly better than they can?”

Then they do the same, and it becomes a cycle of beating mediocre content with slightly less mediocre content.

When I looked at our high-ranking content, I felt uncomfortable. Yes, it ranked, but it wasn’t overly helpful compared to everything else that ranked.

Ranking isn’t the job to be done; it is just a proxy.

Why would a high-ranking keyword make me feel uncomfortable? Isn’t that the whole freaking job to be done? Not for me. The job to be done is to help educate people, and ranking is a byproduct of doing that well.

I looked at our own content, and I put myself in the seat of a searcher, not an SEO; I looked at the top four rankings and decided that our content felt easy, almost ChatGPT-ish. It was predictable, it was repeatable, and it lacked hot takes and spicy punches.

So, I removed 80% of the content and replaced it with the 38 questions I would ask if I was hiring an SEO. I’m a 25-year SME, and I know what I would be looking for in these turbulent times. I wanted to write the questions that didn’t exist on anything ranking in the top ten. This was a risk, why? Because, semantically, I was going against what Google was likely expecting to see on this topic. This is when Mike King told me about information gain. Google will give you a boost in ranking signals if you bring it new info. Maybe breaking out of the sea of sameness + some social signals could be a key factor in improving rankings on top of doing the traditional SEO work.

What’s worth more?

Ten visits to my SEO RFP post from people to my content via a private procurement WhatsApp group or LinkedIn group?

One hundred people to the same content from search?

I had to make a call, and I was willing to lose rankings (that were getting low traffic but highly valued traffic) to write something that when people read it, they thought enough about it to share it in emails, groups, etc.

SME as the unlock to standout content?

I literally just asked myself, “Wil, what would you ask yourself if you were hiring an SEO company? Then I riffed for 6—8 hours and had tons of chats with ChatGPT. I was asking ChatGPT to get me thinking differently. Things like, “what would create the most value?” I never constrained myself to “what is the search volume,” I started with the riffs.

If I was going to lose my rankings, I had to socially promote it so people knew it existed. That was an unlock, too, if you go this route. It’s work, you are now going to rely on spikes from social, so having a reason to update it and put it back in social is very important.

Most of my “followers” aren’t looking for SEO services as they are digital marketers themselves. So I didn’t expect this post to take off HUGLEY, but given the content, I was shocked at how well it did and how much engagement it got from real actual people.

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7 Things Creators Should Know About Marketing Their Book

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7 Things Creators Should Know About Marketing Their Book

Writing a book is a gargantuan task, and reaching the finish line is a feat equal to summiting a mountain.

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Being position-less secures a marketer’s position for a lifetime

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Optimove Positionless Marketer Optimove

On March 20, 2024, the Position-less Marketer was introduced on MarTech.org and my keynote address at Optimove’s user conference.

Since that initial announcement, we have introduced the term “Position-less Marketer” to hundreds of leading marketing executives and learned that readers and the audience interpreted it in several ways. This article will document a few of those interpretations and clarify what “position-less” means regarding marketing prowess.

As a reminder, data analytics and AI, integrated marketing platforms, automation and more make the Position-less Marketer possible. Plus, new generative AI tools like ChatGPT, Canna-GPT, Github, Copilot and DALL-E offer human access to powerful new capabilities that generate computer code, images, songs and videos, respectively, with human guidance.

Position-less Marketer does not mean a marketer without a role; quite the opposite

Speaking with a senior-level marketer at a global retailer, their first interpretation may be a marketer without a role/position. This was a first-glance definition from more than 60% of the marketers who first heard the term. But on hearing the story and relating it to “be position-less” in other professions, including music and sports, most understood it as a multidimensional marketer — or, as we noted, realizing your multipotentiality. 

One executive said, phrasing position-less in a way that clarified it for me was “unlocking your multidimensionality.” She said, “I like this phrase immensely.” In reality, the word we used was “multipotentiality,” and the fact that she landed on multidimensionality is correct. As we noted, you can do more than one thing.

The other 40% of marketing executives did think of the “Position-less Marketer” as a marketing professional who is not confined or defined by traditional marketing roles or boundaries. In that sense, they are not focused only on branding or digital marketing; instead, they are versatile and agile enough to adjust to the new conditions created by the tools that new technology has to offer. As a result, the Position-less Marketer should be comfortable working across channels, platforms and strategies, integrating different approaches to achieve marketing goals effectively.

Navigating the spectrum: Balancing specialization and Position-less Marketing

Some of the most in-depth feedback came from data analytic experts from consulting firms and Chief Marketing Officers who took a more holistic view.

Most discussions of the “Position-less Marketer” concept began with a nuanced perspective on the dichotomy between entrepreneurial companies and large enterprises.

They noted that entrepreneurial companies are agile and innovative, but lack scalability and efficiency. Conversely, large enterprises excel at execution but struggle with innovation due to rigid processes.

Drawing parallels, many related this to marketing functionality, with specialists excelling in their domain, but needing a more holistic perspective and Position-less Marketers having a broader understanding but needing deep expertise.

Some argued that neither extreme is ideal and emphasized the importance of balancing specialization and generalization based on the company’s growth stage and competitive landscape.

They highlight the need for leaders to protect processes while fostering innovation, citing Steve Jobs’ approach of creating separate teams to drive innovation within Apple. They stress the significance of breaking down silos and encouraging collaboration across functions, even if it means challenging existing paradigms.

Ultimately, these experts recommended adopting a Position-less Marketing approach as a competitive advantage in today’s landscape, where tight specialization is common. They suggest that by connecting dots across different functions, companies can offer unique value to customers. However, they caution against viewing generalization as an absolute solution, emphasizing the importance of context and competitive positioning.

These marketing leaders advocate for a balanced marketing approach that leverages specialization and generalization to drive innovation and competitive advantage while acknowledging the need to adapt strategies based on industry dynamics and competitive positioning.

Be position-less, but not too position-less — realize your multipotentiality

This supports what was noted in the March 20th article: to be position-less, but not too position-less. When we realize our multipotentiality and multidimensionality, we excel as humans. AI becomes an augmentation.

But just because you can individually execute on all cylinders in marketing and perform data analytics, writing, graphics and more from your desktop does not mean you should.

Learn when being position-less is best for the organization and when it isn’t. Just because you can write copy with ChatGPT does not mean you will write with the same skill and finesse as a professional copywriter. So be position-less, but not too position-less.

Position-less vs. being pigeonholed

At the same time, if you are a manager, do not pigeonhole people. Let them spread their wings using today’s latest AI tools for human augmentation.

For managers, finding the right balance between guiding marketing pros to be position-less and, at other times, holding their position as specialists and bringing in specialists from different marketing disciplines will take a lot of work. We are at the beginning of this new era. However, working toward the right balance is a step forward in a new world where humans and AI work hand-in-hand to optimize marketing teams.

We are at a pivot point for the marketing profession. Those who can be position-less and managers who can optimize teams with flawless position-less execution will secure their position for a lifetime.

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