Google has been moving away from Google+ as a platform for quite some time. On June 22, they took it another step further with the roll-out of Google Posts to any company with a Google My Business account. Last year, if you were a business that had a verified Google+ account and you posted to it, it was likely to show up in Google for users that searched your brand name. Now, “Google Posts” appear as if they are starting to take their place.
What is a Google Post?
Google Posts are text (100 – 300 words), an image, a link, (possible event information) and a call-to-action combined together in a card format, served along your brand’s information in Google. They are displayed to users immediately after you post them, just like a status update on Facebook. However, they will only be shown to users in Google who search for your branding and if your brand meets specific criteria.
The latest release of these posts are designed to be used for small businesses and organizations within certain categories currently, but Google hasn’t explicitly stated those categories, and the ymay expand this in the future. Additionally, this is something that Google may roll out to other organizations given that they have also made a beta program available for the following types of organizations to use Google Posts:
- Sports Teams
- Sports Leagues
- Movies in the US
- All of the above, plus Musicians in Brazil
To check if you are eligible, simply log-in to your Google My Business account and navigate to the “Posts” section within the left hand navigation. If that exists, you are good to go! You can learn more about the process of actually creating a Google Post further down this article.
To see a live example, Google “MoreVisibility” and you will see a Google Post we created, just below our local listing information:
Example Google Post on a Desktop Computer
Example Google Post on a Mobile Device
These new posts seem to currently serve multiple purposes as both a product and a feature, depending on the organization that is using them, which can be somewhat confusing.
- Google Posts as a Feature: The latest roll-out is for organizations that have a physical presence and a Google My Business account. In this case, the posts appear to be largely tied into the businesses’ local listing information and map, acting as a feature of the Google My Business product.
- Google Posts as a Product: If you are a beta tester outside of the latest release as mentioned above, the posts don’t appear to be tied to local maps based information and have a stand-alone purpose. For example, if you Google “Miami Marlins,” you will notice that they have many Google Posts with .gif media assets attached. These Google Posts are actually attached to the knowledge graph information of the brand rather than the local listing information for their stadium. In this case, they serve almost as a unique product (the Marlins “posting” on Google), separate from the location information of their stadium (as seen in the screen grab below).
How Google Posts are Different from Google+ Posts
Google has always seemed to have a difficult time with clearly differentiating their product names. You can take one look at their Wikipedia page to see this first hand, and this case is no different. These new Google Posts (not to be confused with Google+ posts) now occupy a space that was formerly used to show the latest Google+ post from a company, directly within search results. However, they are completely different.
The primary differences between these new Google Posts and Google+ posts that used to be shown in the same location are:
- The new Google Posts are managed through the “Posts” section of your Google My Business account, not your Google+ page.
- The new Google posts are designed to send users to a web page (for now). Google+ posts are designed to keep the user within the Google+ platform for social engagement (unless you chose to link off to a website).
- Google Posts offer five standard calls-to-action that allow you to link to any single landing page of your choice. Google+ posts actually provide a more expansive set of calls to action known as “interactive post labels.” The CTAs available for Google Posts include:
- Learn More
- Get Offer
The Primary Benefit of Google Posts
Google Posts are one of the few options to quickly and directly control the branded search results of your organization. This is a huge benefit. After posting, they only take a few seconds to appear, and edits to your post appear just as quickly. They provide what is essentially a real-time feed into the search results for your brand.
Given that these posts only show for branded search queries, expect your audience to already be aware of who your organization is. This provides you with the opportunity to be very specific about your offer or announcement, rather than focusing on being overly educational about your brand.
If you meet the criteria for Google Posts, here are uses cases that you should consider:
- Public Relations and Brand Control: These posts provide increased control over the search results for your brand. If you have ever had a PR crisis, you’ll know that one of the primary areas of focus for search is your branded results. Google Posts provides your organization with the ability to rapidly insert pertinent information into your branded search results. The “Learn More” CTA would be the most likely choice for this type of activity.
- Announcements: If you have a newsworthy announcement to make, such as a new product or service, Google Posts are a great fit. The “Learn More” CTA is also the most likely fit here.
- Special Deals: If you have a special deal of the day, happy hour, etc… make sure to share it and include a clear graphic alongside the text that provides all the major details. In this use-case “Learn More” or “Get Offer” would be the likely CTA’s of choice.
- Sales: Whether your sales are in-store or online, you can promote them with Google Posts.
- You can promote an upcoming in-store sale with the “Learn More” CTA with a link to a landing page for the sale.
- If you sell products or services directly through your website, you can use the “Buy” CTA for a sale that is currently being held.
- If you are offering a coupon code or discount code for a sale, you can leverage the “Get Offer” CTA and include a link to the landing page containing the code.
- Email Marketing Sign-up: Use the “Sign-up” CTA to promote your email newsletter. Just make sure to clearly showcase the value proposition for why the audience should sign-up.
- Marketing an Event: You can use the “Learn More,” “Sign-up,” “Reserve,” or “Buy” CTAs for an upcoming event that you will be holding or attending. The choice of CTA here will depend on whether the audience needs to sign-up for the event, reserve a spot, or buy a ticket.
- Standard Reservations: Using the “Reserve” CTA is a clear choice for businesses like restaurants that offer reservations.
- Limited Time Offers: If you have a limited time offer, the “Learn More,” “Reserve,” or “Get Offer” CTAs could be great options.
- Standard Sign-up Promotion: If you require users to sign-up as part of the regular operation of your business, you can use the “Sign-up” CTA as a standard Google Post in between timely announcements.
How to Create a Google Post
Creating a Google Post is very simple, just follow the steps below:
- Log in to your organizations Google My Business Account
- Click on “Posts” within the left hand navigation of your Google My Business dashboard. It should be the second link just below “Home.”
- In the middle of your screen, click “Write your post”
- Complete your post by adding the following information (you will be able to preview the post before publishing, so don’t be too concerned with the layout at this point).
- Add a photo by selecting “Make your post stand out with a photo” and then dragging it to the box or choosing one through the file finder. The photo will need to be square i
n shape with minimum dimensions of 344 x 344. Once you upload your photo, you are provided with an option to crop the photo before publishing, but the 1:1 aspect ratio can’t be changed here either. Once you have cropped your image, select “Upload a Post Photo” and you will be taken back to the editing fields for your Google Post. There were quite a few nuances with getting the image just right in our test, so please read the “Issues with Image Cropping” section below.
- Write your post by including 100 – 300 words about the subject of the post. Keep in mind that you will be choosing a call to action, so make sure that the copy aligns with the image you are providing and the call to action that will be chosen.
- Decide if your post is about an event, and if it is, use the “on-off” button toggle. If you are holding an event, you can provide the following additional information:
- Event title
- Start Date
- Start Time
- End Date
- End Time
- Decide if you want to include a call to action, and if you do (which you should), use the “on-off” button toggle titled “Add a button.” This really should be called “Add a call to action.” Here, you select:
- A call to action button: These come with predefined text and are not able to be customized. However, the five options will suit most situations. The field defaults to “Learn more” so make sure that you select a more specific option if possible.
- A URL: You can use any landing page URL, just provide the entire domain name and the full URL together, such as www.example.com/sign-up. Also, don’t forget to include tracking parameters for your analytics platform. The tracking parameters, such as UTM parameters, will help you gather data in your analytics platform about how people are interacting with your posts.
- Now it’s time to preview your post. In the top right hand corner of the light box, select “Preview.” You do have the option to publish the post without previewing by selecting the “Create post” button in the top left hand corner. However, I strongly recommend previewing the post before publishing it.
- You now have the ability to either return to the preview or Publish your post. Selecting “Publish” in the top right hand corner will immediately publish your post to Google, so make sure to validate that you have fully proofed your work up to this point.
Here is the final product on Desktop and Mobile:
Issues with Image Cropping
We ran into quite a few quirks with the first Google Post we published, so we thought it would be important to share these learnings with you. Here is only a sampling of some of what we encountered:
- Image cropping issues: The first image we uploaded looked fine in the preview window, but was rendered in a very different format once it was published to Google. Here is the image we originally used:You can see what the image originally looked like on a desktop device after being published to Google below. You’ll notice that it does not look properly formatted, and doesn’t appear to be very engaging.
Oddly enough, that same image was cropped with more room when displayed on mobile devices, as seen below.
After seeing this, we re-designed the image so that the text would fit within the display region on both desktop and mobile. The red line indicates the size of the visible area from Google’s search results.
This resulted in an image with the text properly displayed within the visible region in Google, but we then ran into an image resolution issue. The text appeared very grainy when displayed in Google.
After looking into the image resolution more, we found that Google was resizing our image down from 419 x 419 (uploaded) to 304 x 305 (hosted on Google’s servers) before expanding it back to original size in Google’s search results and then cropping it, resulting in the resolution issue.
We began to work on improving the resolution of our image and had planned on re-uploading a new image to the post. However, Google then changed the format as it was displayed in search results. Google began showing the entire image for both desktop and mobile results, as seen below:
This is a much closer match to what we saw in the preview window before publishing our post:
The takeaways here are to:
- Only use high-resolution images
- Be prepared to update the design of your image asset immediately after posting if Google crops it in an undesirable way.
- Quickly review the live post after publishing to identify if a new image needs to be created. Do not just select “Publish” and assume that it will be published correctly.
How to Edit or Delete Your Google Posts
Luckily, as you were able to experience with our image cropping issues, we were able to upload many versions of the same graphic. Google provides the ability to edit or delete your posts after you have created them. The changes appear in Google a few seconds after you have made your edits or deleted your post.
We still recommend using as much diligence as possible when creating and posting your content, but the option to edit or delete is available to you.
To edit or delete a post, simply navigate back to the “Posts” section of your Google My Business account. Then, follow the steps below:
- Select the post you want to edit or delete
- To edit the post select “Edit” in the top right hand corner.
- To delete the post, select “Delete” at the bottom of the screen.
Recap & Conclusion
To recap, if your organization is eligible for Google posts, it should use Google posts. If it’s not currently eligible, we still recommend learning about the options available, as Google may roll this out to more organizations in the future. Either way, consider these key factors before you start publishing:
- Define a formal strategy for the use of Google posts. Consider questions such as:
- In what situations is it ok for your brand to publish a Google post?
- How frequently should you publish them?
- Who is responsible for publishing them? Is it your social media team, communications department, SEO department, or someone else altogether?
- Can you tie in Google posts to your editorial / marketing / event calendars and use cohesive creative?
- Use multimedia (a graphic, image, etc…) as much as possible (it’s much better at grabbing attention than plain text), but be considerate of potential cropping and resolution issues. You may also need to include the required sizing guidelines in your creative development process alongside content that needs unique graphic assets for channels like Facebook, Twitter, Email, and others.
- Use a more specific call to action than just “Learn More” whenever possible.
- Inform your PR or communications team that this is a quick and efficient way to distribute information about your company.
- Keep your posts on-brand but don’t be overly promotional in every post. If every Google Post is just another ad for your company, don’t expect them to be very effective in the long run.
If you have any other questions about how to use Google Posts for your organization, don’t hesitate to reach out!