Since being launched 2014, Google My Business (GMB) has become a critical platform for any organization to be found online. According to the 2018 Moz Local Search Factors Ranking Analysis, your GMB page is the single-most important local ranking factor. If you don’t publish your location information on GMB, you won’t rank well when your potential customers do searches on Google. To encourage businesses to use GMB, Google has made the listing platform available free of charge for years, including features such as the ability to post videos and customer reviews – content that boosts a company’s ranking signal. So when news erupted that Google might charge businesses for the privilege to use GMB, an uproar ensued. For many businesses, it felt like Google was pulling the rug from beneath them. And they may have good reason to be concerned.
Will Businesses Need to Pay Up to Use Google My Business?
On April 29, Barry Schwartz of Search Engine Land broke a story that Google might start charging for businesses to use GMB features that they currently use for free. Schwartz reported that GMB customers had received a survey asking them how much they would be willing to pay for GMB features should Google deploy a paid model, as this screen shot shows:
Users reacted on Twitter. And they were not happy:
It certainly looked to customers as if Google might be thinking twice about its “Stand Out on Google for Free” positioning:
As Search Engine Land noted, “ . . . if Google added a fee to Google My Business that it would be a nice revenue source for Google. However, this method of charging for search results like this is not how Google has typically monetized their search results. Typically, they monetize for search ads, not simply being listed in the search results. This would somewhat change that model and it may make things complicated within Google’s internal ethics to support.”
A New Direction for GMB?
So what gives here? It’s hard to know for sure, as Google has not officially commented on the news (yet). Businesses have reasons to be concerned. Google is under a lot of pressure to deliver strong financial numbers for its parent Alphabet, which recently reported lackluster earnings. Google is Alphabet’s cash cow, delivering the lion’s share of revenue for its parent. But Google’s ad revenue has experienced a slowdown as Alphabet noted in its latest earnings report. You can see why Google just might be looking for other ways to monetize the platform.
But on the other hand, Google has grown to a place of market leadership by delivering a useful search experience. When you do a search on Google Maps, the Google search engine, or any other Google property, you expect to receive accurate, reliable results. It’s in Google’s best interest to work with businesses to publish accurate location information and useful content such as customer reviews. Charging to have a GMB listing would discourage businesses to use the service, creating a lose-lose-lose for Google, businesses, and end users.
I advise clients to:
- Keep your eyes and ears open especially for guidance from Google. A number of developments could occur, one of them being the addition of value-added services and additional premium features while retaining basic features intact for free. It’s hard to imagine Google charging businesses just to be listed but providing value-added services for a fee is not out of the question.
- Make sure you maintain your brand presence across the entire digital world – including properties such as your website, social media platforms, Apple Maps, and review sites such as Yelp if applicable to you. The news about GMB should serve as a reminder that although Google is a dominant player, it’s not the only one. To be truly visible, you need to publish information about your brand across a multitude of touch points.
At Investis Digital, we have deep experience helping brands become more findable and engaging across the entire digital world. We use a variety of services including SEO, paid media, and social media. Contact us. We’ll help you connect more closely with the audiences that matter the most to your business.