Earlier this month, Google released a series of instructional videos to help local businesses “build an online presence.” And, they’re pretty good. Comprehensive in scope, the videos cover everything from settling on a unique value proposition to a detailed step-by-step look at the online buying funnel. The whole thing can be viewed in just over a half hour.
Note: I have included links to the individual videos below.
From the outset, the presenter, Maile Ohye, makes it clear that a business website was a necessity “in the past.” This is the first bit of foreshadowing on the theme of bolstering web properties such as reviews sites and social media platforms instead of a private domain. In fact, the introduction video walks through “website requirements,” such as time, technical help, security issues, and domain costs which make websites seem like a needless hassle.
They hammer this point home repeatedly before ultimately suggesting an alternative to the traditional business website — A Google+ Page. Maile Ohye describes a Google+ page as a “lightweight homepage” that, when combined with other optimized channels, makes a business website only a consideration, not a must.
The videos go well beyond the standard technical to-do list and answers many of the strategic questions that underlie online marketing goals. It is easy to lose sight of the goals when optimizing online properties, and these videos reinforce traditional marketing concepts like the customer journey, sales funnel, and conversion. Remember, this is Google talking: When they speak of the consumers’ online journey, they have an ocean of data to back their conclusions.
Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of the videos is the fact that Google is openly championing other web properties like Yelp, Facebook, and Linkedin. This is especially surprising considering Yelp sued Google not that long ago. However, the videos make it clear that Yelp is by far the most important online channel (outside of Google itself) in terms of the customer journey or buying funnel.
Yelp garners top billing for good reason — consumers seek out reviews. It’s worth repeating, Google draws their conclusions from an ocean of online behavioral data, so when they imply that reviews are the most important aspect of the customer journey, get reviews. After Yelp, Facebook is the next online channel referenced, and again one of the first features highlighted were Facebook reviews. Reviews are regarded as key to competitive differentiation and conversion.
The videos reinforce Google’s priority on user experience. The best way to choose content and optimize web properties is to put yourself in the consumer’s shoes. This jibes with the last few updates to the Google Search algorithm which seem to benefit sites that load quickly. It is all about creating a better user experience for people conducting research online; i.e., shoppers. To this end, my favorite piece of advice in the video is to make a list of the most frequently asked questions posed by customers, and answer them everywhere. So simple yet so smart.
1. Introduction and hot topics
2. Determine your business’ value-add and online goal
3. Find potential customers
4. Basic implementation and best practices
5. Differentiate your business from the competition
6. Engage customers with a holistic online identity