While Google Posts isn't a ranking factor, if used correctly, it can be an incredibly effective resource for increasing local business conversions. Greg Gifford, the moderator for Whiteboard Friday this week, shows you how to get your best post published.
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Howdy, Moz fans. Welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Fridays. I'm Greg Gifford, Vice President Search at SearchLab, a boutique digital marketing agency specializing in local SEO and paid search. I'm here today to talk about – you guessed it – Google Posts, the feature in Google My Business that lets you post interesting and attractive things to attract potential customers.
The importance of Google My Business
Mike Blumenthal said it first. Your Google My Business listing is your new homepage. Then we all stole it, and now everyone says it. But it's absolutely true. It's the first impression you make on potential customers. If someone wants your phone number, they no longer have to go to your website to get it. Or if they need your address to get directions, or if they want to look at photos of your business or see hours or reviews, they can do so directly on the search engine results page.
If you're a local business serving face-to-face customers at a physical store location, or customers at your location, such as plumbers or electricians, you're eligible for a Google My Business listing. and this listing is an essential element of your local SEO strategy. You need to stand out from the competition and show potential customers why they should review you. Google Posts are one of the best ways to do just that.
How to Use Google Posts Effectively
For those of you who don't know about Google Posts, they were released back in 2016 and showed up at the top of your Google My Business section. Most companies were crazy about them. In October 2018, they moved them to the very bottom of the GMB area on the desktop and the very bottom of the mobile results overview area and most people lost interest because they thought there was going to be a huge loss in visibility.
But honestly it doesn't matter. They're still incredibly effective when used properly.
Posts are basically free advertising on Google. You heard that right. They are free advertising. They'll show up in Google search results. Seriously, especially effective on mobile when mixed with other organic results.
But also on the desktop, they help your company to win potential customers and to stand out from other local competitors. More importantly, they can drive conversions in front of the location. You've heard of zero-click searching. Now users can convert without going to your website. They appear as a thumbnail, an image with a little text underneath. Then when the user clicks on the thumbnail, the entire post is displayed in a pop-up window that fills the window on either the phone or the desktop.
Now they have no influence on the ranking. They are a conversion factor, not a ranking factor. Think of it this way. If it takes you 10 minutes to create a post, and only one a week, that's only 40 minutes a month. When you get a conversion, isn't it worth doing? If you get them right, you can get a lot more than just a conversion.
In the past, I would have told you that unless you use one of the post templates that includes a date range, posts will stay active on your profile for seven days. In this case they remain active for the entire date range. However, it looks like Google has changed the way posts work. Now Google will display your 10 most recent posts in a carousel with a little scrolling arrow. Then when you get to the bottom of those 10 posts there is a link that will take you to view all of your older posts.
Now you should stop paying attention to what you see about posts online as there is a ridiculous amount of misinformation or simply out of date information.
Avoid words in the "no-no" list
Quick tip: Be careful with the text you use. Anything that has a sexual connotation is rejected. This is very frustrating for some industries. If you write a post on the subject of weather protection, you will receive a veto over the word "stripping". Or, if you are a plumber and you post about "toilet repairs" or "clogging a toilet" you will be denied the use of the word "toilet".
So be careful about anything that is on that no-no list.
Use a tempting thumbnail
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The full post contains a picture. A full post has the image and then the text, up to 1,500 characters long, and that's all most people look for. However, the post thumbnail is the key to success. Nobody will see the full post if the thumbnail isn't enticing enough to click on.
Imagine creating a paid search campaign. You need a really compelling copy if you want more clicks on your ad or a really awesome image to grab attention when it comes to a banner image. The same principle applies to jobs.
It is also important to make sure that your posts are promotional. People will see these posts in search results before they go to your website. In most cases, they still have no idea who you are.
The typical social fluff you share on other social platforms isn't working. Don't share links to blog posts or a simple "Hey, we're selling this" message as these won't work. Remember, your users are shopping and trying to figure out where to buy. So you want to attract their attention with some advertising material.
Choose the right template
Most things out there will tell you that the post thumbnail shows 100 characters of text, or roughly 16 words, broken down into 4 different lines. In reality, however, this will vary depending on which post template you are using and whether you are inserting a call-to-action link that will replace the last line of text.
But we are all marketers. So why shouldn't we include a CTA link?
There are three main types of post. In the vast majority of cases, you'll want to use the what's new post template. This is the one that allows most of the text in the thumbnail, making it easier to write something convincing. With the article "What's new?" After inserting this call to action, it replaces the last line so that you have three full lines of available text area.
Both the event and offer post templates include a title and then a date range. Some people dig the date range because the post stays visible for the entire date range. But now that posts stay alive and visible forever, there is no longer any benefit there. These two post types have that separate title line, then a separate date range line, and then the call to action link is on the fourth line so you only have a single line of text or few words left to write something compelling.
Sure, the offer post has a cool little price tag emoji next to the title and some limited coupon functionality, but that's not a reason. You should have the full coupon functionality on your website. So it's better to write something convincing with a “what's new” post template and then have the user click the “call to action” link to go to your website for more information and convert there .
There's also a new COVID update post type, but you don't want to use it. It shows up much higher up on your Google My Business profile, actually just below your top-line information, but it's just text. Text only, no picture. If you have an active COVID post, Google will hide all other active posts. So if you want to share a COVID informational post or updates on COVID, it is better to use the "What's New" post template instead.
Be careful about cropping images
The picture is the frustrating part of things. The cropping is super shaky and really inconsistent. In fact, you can post the same picture multiple times and it will be cropped a little differently each time. The fact that the crop is slightly higher than the vertical center and also a different size between the phone and desktop makes it really frustrating.
The important areas of your image can be cut out so that half of your product is dropped or your text is cut out or things are really hard to read. Now a rudimentary cropping tool is integrated into the image upload function with contributions, but it is not tied to an aspect ratio. So if you don't crop it to the right aspect ratio, which by the way is 1200 pixels wide and 900 pixels high, you will have black bars either on the top or on the sides.
You need to have the safe area in the picture under control. To make things easier, we created this Google Posts Cropping Guide. It's a Photoshop document with built-in instructions to show you the safe area. You can download it from bit.ly/posts-image-guide. Make sure you write this in lowercase as it is case sensitive.
But it looks like it. Everything in that white grid is safe and that's what is shown in this post thumbnail. Then when you see the full post it will show the rest of the image. So you can get really creative and have things like the picture below, but then when it comes up you will see additional text below.
Include UTM tracking
For the call-to-action link, you now need to make sure that you include UTM tracking as Google Analytics doesn't always map this traffic correctly, especially on mobile devices.
Now, by including UTM tagging, you can ensure that the clicks are mapped to Google Organic. You can then use the campaign variables to differentiate between the posts you've published so you can see which post generated more click-throughs or more conversions, and then you can adjust your strategy to use the more effective post types.
For those of you who are not particularly familiar with UTM tagging, such a query string is added at the end of the URL you mark, forcing Google Analytics to map the session in a certain way as you specify it.
Here is the structure I recommend when creating Google posts. It's your domain on the left. Then UTM_Source is GMB.Post, so it's separate. Then UTM_Medium is organic and UTM_Campaign is a kind of post ID. Some people like to use Google as a source.
However, if you look at your source media report at a high level, that traffic will be aggregated along with everything from Google. Hence, it is confusing at times for customers who don't really understand that they can look at secondary dimensions to break up that traffic. More importantly, it's easier to see your post traffic separately by looking at the standard source media report.
You want to keep Bio as a medium so that it is summarized and correctly grouped in the standard channel report with all organic traffic. Then enter some kind of identifier, some kind of text string or a date that lets you know which post you are talking about with this campaign variable. So make sure it's something unique so you know what post it is, whether it's a car, oil, or date range, or the post title so you know when you're in Search Google Analytics.
It's also important to mention that Google My Business Insights shows the number of views and clicks. This is a bit complicated, however, as multiple impressions and / or multiple clicks from the same users are counted independently. This is why adding the UTM tag is so important to keep a close eye on your performance.
Finally, you can also upload videos so that a video will appear in the thumbnail and in the post.
So, if users see the thumbnail that has a small play button on it and click it, the video will play there when the post is viewed. Now the file size limit is 30 seconds or 75 MB. Basically, if you have advertising this is the perfect size. Although they've been around for a few years, most companies still ignore posts. Now you know how to rock posts to stand out from the competition and generate more click-throughs.
Hopefully you enjoyed the video. If you have any more tips on sharing, please throw them in the comments below. Thanks for watching and see you next time.
Video transcription from Speechpad.com