What are Google Posts, how to use them and are they worth it?

Google posts, or to give them their full name, Google My Business posts, are an often-overlooked online marketing opportunity.

In this article we look at what Google posts are, how to use them and whether they should be part of your business’ marketing strategy.

Image courtesy of Google.

What are Google posts?

About Google My Business

Well, let’s start at the beginning, with an explanation of what Google My Business (GMB) is.

GMB is a free business listing (known as your Business Profile) which appears when someone searches for your business on Google. Here’s part of ours as an example:

They can be seen in search results and when someone looks for you on Google Maps.

Your Business Profile contains all the key information about your business; contact details, opening hours, map, photos…and the all-important Google reviews.

If you don’t think you have a Business Profile then try searching for your company name – there’s a good chance that Google has automatically set one up for you. You can take ownership of it by clicking on the Claim this business link. If you don’t have one, then you can set up a listing here: http://business.google.com

We’ll come back another day to look at all the other ways you should optimise your GMB listing, but for now we’re focusing on posts.

GMB posts

One of the facilities within GMB is the ability to add posts to your profile. These are a bit like posting social media updates; an opportunity to share your latest news or offers.

Previously posts would expire after seven days, however they now are visible for six months before being archived.

Please note that some business types, including hotels and B&Bs don’t have access to use Google posts.

How to use Google posts

Create a GMB post

Firstly, go to http://business.google.com to access your GMB account. Near the top of the home screen you’ll see these options:

Click on Create post.

This opens a new window:

Select the type of information you want to post from the options at the top:

  • COVID-19 update – business changes as a result of the pandemic.
  • Offer – sales and other promotional offers.
  • What’s new – general news about your business.
  • Event – about events you’re running.
  • Product – information about your products (these posts will also appear in the ‘Products’ section of your listing).

Note that the options may appear in a different order for different types of business.

Depending on which option you select, the fields you can complete will alter.

Add in all the information you want to include. Think carefully about the photo/video you use – make sure it’s eye catching and engaging – and ensure you add a call to action button, ideally with a link back to your website.

When you’ve entered all the details, click on the Preview button at the bottom to see how your post will look. Here’s an example:

Once you’re happy with it, click on the Publish button to make it live. Currently there’s no facility to save draft posts.

When you’ve published your post, make sure you check it looks OK on your GMB listing. The best way to do this is to either log out of your Google account or, more simply, use the private browsing/incognito option in your browser, so you see the listing as your customers will see it.

Note that once you have more than one GMB post set up, visitors will be able to scroll through them:

Edit or delete a GMB post

Once your post is live, you can edit or delete it. To do this, log into Google My Business

Select Posts from the menubar on the left:

This will display a list of your posts. Under each post you’ll see this panel:

Clicking on the three dots to the right (the “kebab” menu) gives you options to Edit or Delete the post.

The Share post option enables you to share the post content via Facebook, Twitter or email, and also gives you a link you can copy.

The figures to the left tell you how each post has performed:

  • Views – how many times people have seen the post.
  • Clicks – how often people have clicked on your call to action button.

Why GMB posts might not appear

Google may review your post to ensure it meets their content policy. If your post shows as Pending this means that either it’s in the upload process or you haven’t verified your GMB listing.

Posts shown as Not approved have been removed by Google. You’ll see a question mark next to the status which will show which of Google’s content policies you have violated.

We have seen Business Profiles mysteriously disappear over the years, sometimes for no obvious reason, so we strongly encourage you to ensure that all posts meet Google’s requirements. You don’t want to upset the mighty Google!

What to include in your GMB post

Your posts need to be engaging and compelling.

Visuals

Choose simple and eye-catching photos/videos for your posts that will be easily spotted and spark curiosity. This is particularly important with Google posts where the text is so small in comparison to the image.

The visuals you add must be a minimum of 400 pixels by 300 pixels with a 10kb file size. The maximum is 10,000 pixels by 10,000 pixels and 25mb.

Text

There are no options to format the text content of your post – no headings, bold or italics, bulleted or numbered lists…nothing. So, when writing the text, break it up into small paragraphs so it’s easy to read. You can also consider the use of things like emojis (if appropriate for your brand), dashes (instead of bullets) and capital letters (DON’T BE SHOUTY THOUGH) to add some variety to the text.

Keep in mind that only around the first 100 characters will be visible in the GMB listing (until the user clicks on the post) so make sure the first sentence gives the reader a good reason to read on.

You can’t embed links in posts and hashtags are meaningless (#cry).

Call to action

Most types of post (except offers) will give you a choice of call to action (CTA) link. The options available will depend on the type of post you’re creating, and may include:

  • Book
  • Order online
  • Buy
  • Learn more
  • Sign up
  • Call now

Select carefully and make sure that the link takes the user through to a landing page on your website which is optimised for conversion.

Of course, don’t just rely on the call to action link to do the work for you. The impact of the visual and text content of the post should all be driving the reader towards taking the next step.

What to post about

These are just some of the things you might want to post about:

  • Sales and other promotional offers.
  • Examples of your work/case studies.
  • New product launches.
  • Answers to customers’ frequently asked questions.
  • Changes to your opening hours.
  • Welcoming a new member of your team.
  • Reflect the content of your Google reviews to reinforce the positive messages.
  • Events such as webinars, open days or meetings. And don’t forget to post an update afterwards to talk about how it went.

GMB posts content policy

You must ensure that you adhere to Google’s content policy, by ensuring that your posts:

  • Are relevant to the business and helpful to customers.
  • Do not mislead your readers.
  • Do not contain spelling errors, gimmicky characters or gibberish.
  • Do not include anything Google might consider to be bullying, hateful, obscene, disparaging, violent or sexually suggestive.
  • Respect the privacy of others.
  • Do not include photos or videos of identifiable people without their permission.
  • Do not use photos or videos which infringe copyright.
  • If you’re in a regulated industry (alcohol, tobacco, medical, financial services, etc) you can use Google posts but you cannot post content related to your regulated products.
  • Do not include a phone number (but you can use a “Call now” button as the call to action on your post).

The benefits of Google posts

Optimising your Google My Business listing is important for any business and essential for those operating in the B2B sector. But why bother writing posts?

Give your readership something to read

Once you’ve sorted out the rest of your Google My Business listing, if you find it’s getting good exposure then the obvious next step is to start posting to it.

You’ve got all these people looking at the listing, so you might as well take advantage of that to ensure you’re posting your most important messages for them to see.

Unfortunately, Google used to have the posts near the top of the listing, but has now moved them lower down, so they’re not quite as visible as they used to be. But with the right visuals and compelling text, they’ll still catch the eye of people looking at your listing.

Drive traffic to your website

Because most Google posts include a call to action link, which appears in the listing (not just when the reader opens the post) they’re a great way to drive traffic to your website.

Even if you only receive one or two clicks for your post, those people landing on your website have already engaged with your company, they know a little about you and are keen to know more. So this isn’t just a random click through, this is a considered step towards becoming a customer.

This makes it very important that the page the user lands on contains messages relevant to the post and is optimised for conversion.

Do GMB posts improve your Google ranking?

Adding posts to your Google My Business listing won’t improve the Google ranking for your website.

However, they do support your SEO objectives by helping to make your GMB listing more visible and giving it richer content.

Experiment

Google My Business provides a reasonable level of information about how your posts are performing, so you can try them out for a few months and see if you’re getting enough visibility to make it worth continuing.

As well as the individual post views and clicks, Google also presents you with a weekly summary of how many times your posts have been viewed:

If your posts are getting a reasonable number of views then that’s a good first step. If they’re being seen a lot but not being clicked on, then perhaps you need to review the content of the post and how compelling your call to action is.

Once you’re posting frequently, you’ll start to see patterns in the types of posts which attract more or fewer clicks, which can help you to hone your strategy.

Get someone to do it for you!

The problem with Google posts, as with most digital marketing, is finding the time to develop a clear and coherent strategy and then implement it. All business owners know it’s something they should do, it’s just difficult to prioritise it above other work. That’s where we can help.

We help businesses to create a clear, focused brand marketing strategy, and action it through our range of digital marketing solutions, including Google My Business optimisation and post management.

Contact us for a chat about how we can take the weight of digital marketing off your shoulders.

How to make your website faster

I feel the need … the need for speed.
– Top Gun

We’re often approached by businesses who are dissatisfied with their current website. A common complaint is that their website is too slow.

A slow website can have a negative impact on the user experience, particularly when people are accessing it from their phone without a good wifi connection. Don’t expect people to wait around for your website pages to load, because they won’t. They’ll simply look elsewhere.

For every second it takes your web page to load your conversion rate can reduce by 7%.
Source: neilpatel.com

And Google doesn’t like to be kept waiting either. A slow website counts against you in Google’s assessment of “Page Experience” (more on this later).

How to check your website’s speed

There are several online tools available to help you check your website’s speed. We recommend using:

When running these tests don’t expect particularly high scores, this is usually unrealistic. However, what these tests are particularly good for is identifying element of a website which are causing slow downs.

For a realistic user experience, nothing quite beats just trying it out for yourself.

Before you do this, you need to clear your browser cache*. When you visit websites your browser sometimes saves the pages you view in its cache, so when you revisit them you see them more quickly. So the view you’re getting of your own website might be skewed if you don’t clear the cache first.

Once you’ve done this, we suggest trying it both on your desktop/laptop computer when attached to wifi and also on your phone (don’t forget to clear that browser’s cache too) without wifi (i.e. just through the mobile signal).

* Instructions for clearing your browser cache:

How slow is too slow?

To meet Google’s new “Core Web Vitals” criteria, the largest part of each web page’s content should load within 2.5 seconds. In Google-speak this is known as the “Largest Contentful Paint”. Anything between 2.5 and 4 seconds will be considered to “need improvement” and anything longer than 4 seconds will be categorised as “poor”.

Largest contentful paint
Image courtesy of Google.

Beyond the speed at which each web page loads, your website also needs to be fast when a user interacts with it, such as clicking on a link or tapping on a button (called the “First Input Delay”). Your website’s reaction to user input should be faster than 100 milliseconds. A “needs improvement” speed would be 100ms to 300ms and anything slower than 300ms is “poor”.

First input delay
Image courtesy of Google.

Website speed optimisation checklist

The subject of website speed is a complex one as many different components have a bearing on how quickly it loads.

Images

Huge image file sizes are one of the most common issues contributing to website slowness and it’s always the first thing we check for.

Each image on your website should be optimised (which means compressed) so the file size is as small as possible, without significantly impacting the visual quality. Images can be optimised using desktop software such as Photoshop, or alternatively there are plug-ins available for WordPress websites (eg Smush https://wordpress.org/plugins/wp-smushit/).

Be wary of using unnecessarily large-dimensioned images when a small one would suffice. For example, if the width of the image placeholder is only 600px then the image should also be 600px wide. Some unoptimised WordPress websites will load unnecessarily large images in the background and rely on web browsers resizing images. They might look OK, but they would look just as good once optimised – and will load faster.

This homepage slideshow we created for HOP Consulting includes a series of high quality images which are all 2,000 pixels wide (to accommodate all screen sizes). Each image’s file is only around 300kb – quite a reduction when you consider that the original images would have been around 20mb.

Hosting

Avoid crowded servers

Hosting means the server which your website sits on. If your hosting’s cheap then it’s likely that your website is on a server which holds many thousands of websites. The resulting high volume of users trying to access the same server can have a significant impact on speed.

This doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to be on a dedicated server (which would host only your website) although this might be the best solution for some. But it does mean that you should choose your host carefully and ensure that their servers are well managed and don’t become overloaded.

Server specification

Choose a host that has strong enough CPU (Central Processing Unit) and RAM (Random Access Memory) performance to run your website. If your hosting spec is too low, it will take longer to generate pages, which will make the site feel sluggish.

A host that uses Solid State Drives (SSDs) can be useful for websites hosting video or lots of large images. SSDs use a different technology than the older Hard Disk Drives (HDDs), allowing them to access data faster, thereby speeding up your website.

Caching

Your browser sometimes caches web pages you visit, which means that it saves them so if you visit them again they appear more quickly.

A similar thing can be done on the server which hosts your website.

For example, if you have a WordPress website, each time someone visits a page WordPress has to refer to a database on your server and find the page title, content, etc. It puts all of this together in an html file, which it then sends to your browser. All of this takes time.

By using a caching system, when WordPress has put the page together once, it saves the html file so it’s ready to be sent to the next person who visits that page. This speeds up the website because no visit back to the database is required.

There are several powerful caching plug-ins for WordPress such as W3 Total Cache, WP Rocket and LiteSpeed (the latter can only be used if supported by your web host).

GZIP compression

This is a method of compressing data when it’s sent via the internet, much like when you ‘zip’ files on your computer.

Using a host who offers GZIP will give you a further speed advantage.

CDN

A Content Delivery Network (CDN) refers to a network of servers distributed around the world.

When you use a CDN, your website is still stored on a single server, called the “origin” server. When someone visits your website, the information comes out from the origin server and, on its way to the user, a copy of the website page is temporarily saved in a different server, called a “cache” server. Specifically, it will be saved on the cache server which is physically nearest to you.

The next time you go to that web page, you don’t have to wait for the data to come from the origin server. Instead, the data is sent from the cache server which, being much nearer to you, takes less time.

Furthermore, other users in the same geographic area will be able to access the cache server, thereby speeding up their experience too.

Ecommerce websites

A special mention needs to be given to ecommerce websites, which are one of the most vulnerable to speed issues.

Ecommerce websites don’t only attract more visitors than ‘brochure’ style websites, they also have far more complicated functionality. This combination can put them at risk of becoming very, very slow.

We’ve seen websites become almost unusable because of unsuitable (i.e. cheap) hosting. If you have an ecommerce website then you must ensure that your host’s servers are equipped to deal with the higher demands.

Minify your code

All websites are written in code, such as HTML, CSS and javascript.

Here’s a very simplistic example of CSS:


.header {
    display: flex;
    justify-content: space-between;
    width: 80%;
    margin: 0 auto;
    background-color: #F2F2F2;
    text-align: center;
    font-size: 22px;
}

The process of minifying your code means removing all unnecessary characters, usually spaces, line breaks and comments. This makes the file size smaller, and smaller means quicker.

So, to minify the above CSS, we’d do the following:

.header{display:flex;justify-content:space-between;width:80%;margin:0 auto;background-color:#f2f2f2;text-align:center;font-size:22px}

The minified example takes up less bandwidth and is therefore faster to transmit.

CSS files can be hundreds or thousands of lines long, so you can imagine how much space can be saved through minifying.

Non-standard fonts

Font choice is really important to your visual brand identity, however when improperly implemented, multiple unoptimised calls to font files can seriously slow you down.

If you’re using custom fonts ensure they are being properly cached, implement effective asynchronous loading and only load the typefaces you actually need!

Embedded widgets

Any embedded widgets/feeds from third parties can slow down your web page. For example, social media feeds, booking systems or weather forecasts.

This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use them, but be aware of the impact they could have. During your system testing, check that they aren’t unduly slowing down your website.

Video

We always encourage clients to incorporate video in their websites, as it’s such an engaging and compelling medium. But if it’s implemented incorrectly, it can also be disastrous for website speed.

Use third party hosting

Often, standard website hosting servers aren’t great at hosting video. This can cause buffering issues, particularly when you have more than one concurrent user.

The best solution is to host your videos using a third party service such as YouTube or Vimeo. Their servers are very fast and have bandwidth optimised for video. You can simply embed the video in your website and get all the benefits of this medium without slowing down your site.

Never auto play

Auto playing video or audio can aggravate visitors to your website and send page load times through the roof. Just don’t do it.

Website or page builders

Using a website builder, such as Wix or Squarespace, or WordPress page builder themes, can be a recipe for disaster.

In the case of website builders, you have little or no access to the coding and technology that underpins your website, so your options to improve speed are very limited.

WordPress page builder themes are a bit better, but they have a tendency to download redundant scripts, pointlessly increasing load speed. Plus, they often need multiple database calls to load each page, so if you do use one then it’s essential to also use caching technology.

A website where the code has been expertly written from scratch will always be faster and avoid these issues.

Web application firewall

We’re used to firewalls for our work or home computer networks; these are the devices that monitor data travelling into or out of your network to block anything which might be a security risk.

Websites also need a firewall – called a web application firewall – to protect them. As well as providing defence against security risks, a firewall will reduce the amount of spam attacks on your website. These spam attacks, where automated programmes send hundreds or thousands of spam visits to your website, can cause significant speed issues while the attack is underway.

Note that using a CDN can also help to reduce spam attacks.

How website speed impacts Google ranking

It isn’t just the user experience which is diminished by a slow website.

Google logo

For several years now, Google has taken page speed into account when ranking websites, particularly their speed performance on mobile phones. Although, in real terms, ranking wasn’t negatively impacted unless the website was obviously slow.

However, Google is now upping the ante by implementing its “Core Web Vitals” report, which measures websites’ performance based on user experience.

This report, along with mobile-friendliness, security certificates and adherence to Google’s guidelines on the use of pop-ups, will combine to determine your overall “Page Experience”.

The Page Experience measure is currently being rolled out and, when completed, will become part of Google’s assessment when deciding how highly to rank your website:

While page experience is important, Google still seeks to rank pages with the best information overall, even if the page experience is subpar. Great page experience doesn’t override having great page content. However, in cases where there are many pages that may be similar in relevance, page experience can be much more important for visibility in Search.
– Google Search Central

You can find out a bit more about how Google measures page experience in this video:

So, the takeaway from this is that having high quality, relevant content on your website is still the most important way to rank well in Google searches. However, if you are competing against another website with similarly excellent content, then the page experience could be the “tie breaker” that puts you on top.

Get expert help to speed up your website

Web design is a core part of what we do, whether as a standalone piece of work or as part of a larger brand strategy exercise.

We understand that creating a new website is an important investment for any business, and it’s imperative to get everything right – including an excellent user experience.

If you’re looking for a speedy website experience to please your users, and Google, put us in the driving seat. Email hello@tomango.co.uk to find out more.

Should you run Google Ads targeting your own brand name?

Google Ads are an effective way to leapfrog your competition in Google search results.

The adverts are designed to stand out from other listings and, when managed correctly, can be a very profitable way to increase your search visibility.

Google Ads are generally used to target search terms relating to your products and services. In the example above, this advert appears when people search for “conservatories” in the target locations.

As an advertiser, you’re charged whenever someone clicks through to your website (the amount varies according to competitor activity/relevance/value of goods being sold).

Reasons to target people searching for you by name

When people type your brand or company name into Google, the chances are you’ll appear at the top of the “organic” search results, by which we mean the non-adverts.

For example, if you search for “tomango”, our website is the first listing which appears:

So, why would you also pay to run Google Ads for these searches?

You can mitigate competitor tactics

If your competitors choose too, they can choose to run Google Ads for their business when someone types in your brand name.

Let’s take Interflora as an example.

This is a brand name which has become synonymous with the service they provide. If someone searches for “Interflora” you can be pretty confident they want to send some flowers…and maybe they just searched for Interflora because it’s the only flower-sending-company they know, or because it’s quicker than typing “flowers to be delivered”.

These are the Google search results:

Interflora have chosen NOT to show one of their adverts when someone searches for their own brand name. So, when someone searches for “Interflora”, the first thing they see is an advert for competitor Fleur De Luxe.

Another example is Dyno-Rod. In this case, Coastal Drains and Kent Drainage are advertising their services when the user has searched for “Dyno-Rod”. But so are Dyno-Rod themselves:

Because Google will usually favour the brand name being searched for (relevance applies in Ads like it does in organic), it’s difficult for competitors to outrank the brand without paying a lot more for each click. And even when competitors rank beneath Dyno-Rod, they will probably still have to pay a premium for the privilege of appearing in search results for someone else’s brand.

One thing to note: If you’re thinking about advertising when someone searches for one of your competitor’s brand name, your advert cannot mention the name of the competitor. So, in the case of Coastal Drains, their advert cannot say “Looking for Dyno-Rod? Try us instead” or “We’re cheaper than Dyno-Rod”.

It’s cheap

Compared to competitors running Google Ads for your brand name, it’s actually relatively cheap for you to do the same.

Where your competitor might pay a pound or two per click, you would only pay pennies.

It’s also probable that your advert will appear above any competitor ads targeting your brand name (as shown by the Dyno-Rod example above).

You can improve conversion

With Google Ads, you have more control over what appears in the advert, compared to an organic listing. And you can include more information.

Let’s look again at this Google Ad we run for our client Window Wise:

You can see it contains an expanded description, our client’s address and phone number, and links to other products which we’ve specified,.

Now let’s look at their organic search listing:

While we still have some control over what appears, it’s not to the same level as with an advert. Also, the breadth of information isn’t the same – for example there’s no phone number or address.

You can guarantee top listing

In some very competitive markets, or where your brand is an acronym or commonly used word, even searching for your own brand or company name doesn’t guarantee that’ll you’ll appear at the top of the organic search results.

For example, we searched for “EMC”, hoping to find local Vauxhall dealer EMC:

Because their company name is an acronym, there are many other search results for the same three letters. The car dealership was nowhere to be seen.

A low cost Google Ad when people search for “EMC” in their catchment area would guarantee them top spot and prevent them missing out on potential customers doing searches like this.

In summary

Running Google Ads for your own brand or company name could be a low cost way of achieving greater visibility in search results. Particularly if your competitors are advertising when people search for your brand, or if you’re not appearing at the top of organic search results for some reason.

However, it isn’t right for everyone. Even though it’s cheap to do, those pennies can add up. And, if the campaign isn’t being well managed, it can easily run away from you and cost a lot for very little return.

Discover how Google Ads could benefit your business

We’re experienced Google Ads managers, running campaigns for organisations in a wide range of industries. We help businesses approach Google Ads in the right way, for the right reasons, and squeeze as much benefit and return on investment from them as possible.

If you’d like our help in managing an existing Google Ads campaign or setting up a new one, please get in touch.