Amazing Story: The Power of Google

I was sent this post (from reader “Earl Pearl”) that reflects the plight of one local florist when they fail to rank in Google Maps (and OneBox/Universal Search) vs. a competitor. This florist says it’s near bankruptcy. It’s really quite amazing.

What it shows is how much consumers now use the Internet and how dependent some businesses have become on Google. Read the whole letter (scroll).

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8 Responses to “Amazing Story: The Power of Google”

  1. earlpearl Says:

    I was similarly stunned by the florist’s post. It seems to me that purchasing flowers, and making the decision off the web is definitely not an area in which I would ever comparison shop. I’d click on one site, look through the choices and order. Realistically, I have no idea as to the stock or quality of flowers that will ever get sent-(until after the fact).

    From the article, I take it that the onebox maps insert was an “authoritative map” with only one business/one vendor; not the more common onebox with 3 vendors showing in organic search.

    Ooooh. That would be a killer. When I look at that type of presentation my eyes are totally drawn to the authoritative onebox and all other alternatives from among PPC and organic serps shrink in my vision.

    That is scary. After seeing the article, and some time after it was published, my own search for the keywords found a more normal onebox with 3 florists listed, not including the one the author cited.

    I don’t think that business people have lots of “good” advertising alternatives to “avoiding” “reliance” on google. Potential customers are resoundingly using “organic search” as a way to find a vendor.

    Were the product one where comparison shopping is more likely, the drama associated with this situation might not be so apparant, even as the visibility of an “authoritative one box” or a more common “onebox with 3 alternatives” might attract the majority of clicks from most searchers.

    I was stunned by the letter also, and stunned by the apparent power of Google and the onebox/authoritative onebox to so significantly impact sales.

  2. Malcolm Lewis Says:

    I’m no expert on Google Maps, so I hope others can comment, but I suspect that Google Maps favors businesses with an obvious street address. I’m not sure, but I suspect this business’ reticence to promote its physical street location(s) has held them back.

    I looked at their website and I can only find a physical address in one place. On their standard page footer which appears throughout the site, they simply say “2 GREAT Central Locations in Denver, Colorado”.

    Per the Wayback Machine the last version of their website didn’t list any specific location:

    http://web.archive.org/web/20070512120109/www.denverflowers.com/estore/contactus.asp

    I suggest they plaster their primary address all over their website and make sure they include an address in their Google business profile.

  3. David Mihm Says:

    Obviously, there are a ton of scenarios where G Local returns completely irrelevant results in the top three (even though this particular letter had to do with a Map+1 listing. Personally, I’m not quite sure why the map has to take up such a HUGE chunk of real estate.

    If that map space were filled with better Local results, I would submit that G could show SIX local results per page, AND it would take up LESS vertical screen real estate. Thus, the #1 organics like Denver Flowers could still show up quite well for their own business name. In other words, make it less hierarchichal by floating the list items WITHOUT pushpins (side rant, why use A B C and not simply use different colors or symbols…?) and use the full width of the SERP.

  4. earlpearl Says:

    After further research and seeing the result of the single business in an organic search for Denver flowers I’m thinking the following:

    Mike Blumenthal uses a phrase “authoritative onebox”, which I believe he coined, representing the appearance of a single business in a map inserted as part of universal search within an organic search.

    I think he pulled the word “authoritative” from google patent research on Local rankings factors as described by Bill Slawski at SEOBYTHESEA.

    I went back and reread some of that information. While I haven’t researched the website of the business with the authoritative onebox, nor the website of the business that isn’t showing…my instincts suggest that the business with the authoritative onebox did some terrific work in optimizing and is gaining the benefit of the “authoritative onebox” results.

    The other business has high organic rankings for the phrase–but something is missing in that it isn’t showing in maps.

    I think good hard seo work might detect what is going on. While Malcolm points to one issue–that might not be why this phenomena is occurring for the particular phrase.

    I’ve achieved the “authoritative onebox” results. I had to reread some of Bill’s literature to recall how that occurred.

    Regardless it is still an incredible phenomena that goes beyond the technical elements of ranking.

    The fact that the map can dramatically impact a business both positively and negatively speaks wonders to the power of google search.

  5. State of Local » Evidence of Google’s Staggering Power Says:

    [...] is? Check out this letter from a florist when Google Maps displays his competitor’s site (via Screenwerk). I have a good amount of experience with both paid search and SEO, but I’m blown away over [...]

  6. Rich Says:

    Wow! This Florist’s letter/post clearly illustrates one of the major problems Google, Yahoo, and other local “new media” companies face: CUSTOMER SERVICE (which is the foundation of most traditional sales efforts organizations). I don’t think the lack of any address on the florists website is the cause here – as the Google registration process takes care of that (via post card or call verification), but as we all know – a physical address in any local business website is crutial for organic inclusion.

    I also have to agree that the business owner shouldn’t put all his marketing reliance on Google.

    Technology can never be considered a substitute for one-on-one customer service; this includes click to call, online chat and poor outsourced solutions. Having a local “Rep” will always be a major difference between global tech-centric and locally focused sales organizations. I’d suggest that those who bring these two worlds together are in a winning position…

  7. Mike Blumenthal Says:

    The other point for a small online florist to consider is “differentiation”. That may seem difficult to achieve in Google Maps but I regularly buy flowers that I have found via Google Maps for my wife when she is traveling.

    My strategy (unlike Dave’s…and he calls me a schlump? :) ) is to look for the “unique” florist that offers creative arrangement and flower choices. It has always struck me that the best florists have a flair that goes way beyond order taking and delivery. It is a business in which creativity can win out locally and in local proxies like Maps. My criteria:

    1)reject any florist that uses standard teleflora images, website or products
    2)Receives favorable reviews that are sincere and obviously user generated that speak to their aestetics/uniquenes as opposed to their fulfillment capabilities
    3)Has a website that reflects their creativity and is well done

    This goes hand in hand with what Rich noted above. They need to distinguish themselves on-line much the same way they do offline.

  8. Lots of Google Maps Links? « Screenwerk Says:

    [...] a great deal at stake in appearing in these top-level results, as Mike Blumenthal has written about and pointed out. So [...]

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