Ep 57: Featured Snippets & Ranking, Consumer Expectations: Chat vs SMS, Google Product Images in Local Packs

Featured Snippets & Ranking- Jumping the Queue; Consumer Expectations for Business Responses: Chat vs SMS; Google Increasingly Showing Product Images in Local Packs to Gain Edge in Product Search Battle

Ep 57: Featured Snippets & Ranking, Consumer Expectations: Chat vs SMS, Google Product Images in Local Packs
Photo by Maxim Ilyahov / Unsplash

Part 1 Video start 0:13 - Featured Snippets & Ranking Study: Hopping the Gap

Part 2 Video start 9:12 - Consumer Expectations for Business Responses: Chat vs SMS

Part 3 Video start 17:08 - Google Increasingly Showing Product Images in Local Packs

Reference Articles:

  1. Reconstructing Featured Snippets: Can you hop the gap?
  2. Text vs. Chat – Why We Think SMS Is Best
  3. Google Increasingly Showing Product Images in Local Packs

Transcript Ep 57:

Greg: and here we are, again, Episode 57 of the Near Memo with David, Mike and Greg talking about the weekend, local social and commerce. Um, and we we've been tallying our reader survey responses and we're getting, we're getting some very interesting responses. We'd like you to take the survey. Um, if you get our newsletter, you'll get an opportunity to do tomorrow or yesterday or last week, whenever you, I always screw up on the time thing.

But anyway, so please take our stuff. Um, soon, we're going to be introducing some paid options and it's very helpful to us to get your feedback.

Mike: If you're listening to this or watching it on video, the link will be available on our website and I'll link to it in the notes from this session.

Greg: Yes. And please subscribe to the newsletter.

All right. So we're going to jump right in this week with you first, David Moz did a survey, not a survey Moz to study. Rather I've got surveys on the brain. Mazda to study about featured snippets and ranking position and characteristics of snippets. So why don't you tell us about that?

David: Great. Yeah, so my former colleague Dr. Pete Myers of Moz published a survey, or now you got me saying it to Greg Parker, state study in conjunction with his get with the Get Stat team, which Moz acquired several years ago analyzing. So for those who aren't familiar with featured snippets, they're the. box that appears at the top of the organic search results, where there's usually either a table or a series of bullets, or in some cases, a short paragraph that attempts to answer the question that you typed into the Google search box without actually necessitating a click through to a page. So this is an example or where it's it's one example anyway, of the kinds of things that Rand Fishkin includes in the zero clicks.

Uh, definition where Google is trying to answer your question without directing you to, to an actual website. So the value from an SEO perspective of featured snippets is perhaps mitigated versus the value of a number one organic position where Google's not giving, giving away quite as much information, but that said there's still, they still tend to be seen as fairly valuable by SEO agencies and in-house folks.

Um, And a relatively good indicator of how strong your, your page or your domain is performing for a given keyword. Okay. End of the setup. So in 2012, January of 2020, prior to January, 2020 the page from which a featured snippet was extracted would actually appear further down the page and organic results.

So it was very obvious that say, The page that was ranking in position five was actually was, was driving that same featured snippet, Google remove that duplication in January of 2020. And so since then, it's been much harder to identify where that page might appear organically in the set of results for, for a given keyword, Dr.

Pete and the get stat team went back and looked at. Uh, historically like when things changed where, what was ranking previously in that slot in a, in a given slot for a given keyword. And so where that, where that result disappeared, it became obvious where, where that at a result was ranking previously, they basically found that positions one, two, and three still drove the lion share of featured snippet extractions.

But I think the long tail was something like 20% of positions for. Uh, we're still responsible for, for those featured snippets. So there's essentially still an opportunity, even if you're getting creamed in the number one position to leapfrog those top three top four results with a really well-structured answer to a particular query.

Uh, so that was one big takeaway is the opportunity to leap from. The dominant organic results, which with a featured snippet is still available. Um, and then the second big takeaway was Greg. I think that the image you link to in this week's newsletter describing this, this story was actually in a, in a separate report, but it was a very interesting sort of a followup report to this study, which showed that featured snippets almost never co-occur alongside local packs.

Um, so featured snippets are essentially the domain. Pure organic result. Uh, and that, that Google almost never shows them alongside local pack results. And that had a really interesting, Hey, it's interesting sort of in and of itself, but B it also speaks to the, I think in my opinion, the more transactional nature of local intent queries that Google is not trying to satisfy a local intent query with a knowledge based answer.

It's trying to satisfy those local intent queries. Brick and mortar locations where someone could actually conduct business as opposed to learn more about a particular topic. So so that's just a, it kind of speaks to the intersection of, of sort of local and commerce, which is one. One of our big sort of intersections that we like to cover it and your media.

Um, and I think we'll we'll see, in the later part of today's near memo Google moving even farther in that direction when it comes to trying to satisfy local queries with, with commercial results.

Greg: I would say it's not necessarily the case that, that knowledge and. Transactional intent are mutually exclusive.

I mean, you might be looking for a certain kind of service provider near you for information preliminarily, but, you know, for example, I'm thinking about buying a heat pump for in replacing my conventional furnace with a heat pump. Well, you know, heat pump HVHC whatever near me would yield some. Vendors, some service providers, but it also might be helpful to have everything you need to know before buying a heat pump at the top of that result.

So there are occasions where I could imagine the two would be complimentary, but for whatever reason, Google does not see them in that way. One thing. Um,

David: But that's, that speaks to the difference in your queries, right? So everything I need to know to buy a heat pump is a research oriented term. Yes. And it's not a, I need to buy this thing right now term heat pump from providers near me. Yeah, it's

Greg: true. But often, often it's true. That's okay. I'll leave it at that. I won't dispute that. Um, there is a longer discussion there about intent and how people formulate queries. But the other thing that I think is worth pointing out about the study is that snippets were only showing up For about 15% of desktop queries in the United States, they looked at four for English speaking markets in the us was the, had the highest frequency and they show up less frequently on mobile.

So, you know, it's a, it's a minority scenario. Um, and then back to the point about, is it, is it really valuable to be in that position? I think that the, the consensus SEO opinion is yes, but I think I saw some . Uh, that was saying it was like only an eight, eight, 9% click through or something versus the top organic position.

David: That's right. So there has been, I don't, unfortunately don't remember the exact conference. It was back in the war back in the days when I attended conferences in person. But there, there, there is some mitigating data to suggest that the actual click through on the number one organic result is higher than the click-through on a featured snippet.

Greg: Yes, that is true. That is correct. Yeah. And it, and it's a multiple. I think it's more than two eggs. Okay.

David: So, but the flip side of that, just to really, just to close the point here is the flip side of that is that the click-through on a featured snippet probably exceeds that of the fourth or fifth or six positions.

So it's still in your interest. If you are further down the page to try to leapfrog those top three results, top handful of results with a, with a really well-structured answer,

Greg: the Google assistant and Google home nest devices draw upon featured snippets. Very happy. Um, you know, and there is some interestingly there is some branding in that audio context that doesn't really exist on the web because it says, according to the website, blahblahblahblahblah dogs can't eat chocolate or whatever the query is, and you don't get you.

You're just getting a visual on the web and there's almost no branding in the snippet. So, but it's, but the number of queries on these devices. Relatively small versus desktop or mobile Mike, anything to add before we move on to the next topic?

Mike: I was just studying up for my topics.

Greg: All right. Okay. Well, so you have more time to study because I'm going to, I'm going to launch into an interesting survey that Leadferno generated using Google consumer surveys that was talking about consumer expectations, comparing text messages.

And live chat in the context of a small business providers, service provider of some kind. And basically what they found is that consumers and this, this might be completely expected. They found that consumers had much higher expectations in terms of speed from live chat versus SMS. People were willing to.

Um, you know, half, half of the half of the survey population, I think it was 2000 us adults. Half of the survey population said that they wanted a text response from a business within two hours, but the other half said that they were fine with same day or next day. And by comparison in the live chat context, almost three quarters expected a response in two hours or less.

And half of them, meaning half of that group wanted. Um, 50% of the it's actually 50% of the it's a lot of people, I'm sorry, I'm getting into. Tricked up by the math. A lot of people want to response within minutes. Okay. So most people expect a live chat response within minutes. And then when people discover that your chat is offline, sorry, there's no bot or no human they, they tend to abandon websites.

So this really just goes to the larger proposition, which is that it makes it it's very important for business owners to respond, to chat, to texts, to email. And to reviews you know, in a timely way. And these all have different kinds of expectations and standards. Um, you know, one of the things that, that I cited in the newsletter, that's pretty interesting is a 2020 study by places scout found that only 19%.

Two plus million GMB profiles had review responses only 19%. And I know from research that we did at Uber all well, while I was there, that small business customers were much better about responding. And maybe Mike, you have, day-to-day add to this responding to reviews than enterprises. So, you know, in general, people are doing a poor job being responsive to customers in a timely way.

And those that are, tend to get the business, get the revenue versus those.

Mike: So I do have comments about this story, unlike on David's story. First is, full disclosure. I am an investor and an advisor to Leadferno. So I just want to be transparent about that. Uh, but I've been working with a couple of legal clients who had this problem on their websites of too many poorly qualified leads coming in through chat and through the phone, they had done so much SEO over the years and so much good content.

They were getting inundated and it was overwhelming their ability to respond properly. And what they ended up doing was putting in Leadferno in both cases, and taking the phone number off the top, right? The big number upper tight, putting it down, small, lower left, and driving people to their form, where they could get enough information that they could properly qualify the leads,

The lead quality skyrocketed. They already, the calls coming in from GMB directly went up about 10%, not related to this independently, but those leads were properly geographically qualified because they were in market. They were having a lot of problem with out of market leads.

So by the switch away from phone calls and switching into a store and forward communication they dramatically improved close rates and lead quality, and they got, literally got rid of their phone call and needed less people to staff. So it's very dependent. The other point is it's very dependent upon the industry you are in the speed with which you need to respond. And I think for a legal case, people expect you to be somewhat more circumspect and ask for more information. So for them, it was an ideal solution to switch away from phone and chat into a more, slower process using text and forms.

David: So I was going to say as a consumer, it makes sense. I mean, you know, it's it initially I was sort of surprised by the finding, but then I, as I think about my own behavior and more broadly consumer behavior, you know, the nice thing about SMS is it is asynchronous. And so I always have my phone with me wherever.

Right. And so it doesn't require me sitting in front of a computer screen, waiting for the.dot dots to appear to let me know that somebody is actually responding to my. Um, it is a more, I think SMS is a more respectful way to to, to interact with your customers just because it doesn't require them to sort of always be there.

And that's the same frustration that I have, you know, magnified a thousand times when I have to wait on hold on the phone. Um, it's eating up time. Whereas an SMS is something that allows me to, you know, go back and do other priorities. Um, And get a response when I have time to read it and respond when I have time to actually do it.

So I think the, you know, I don't know again, it, it didn't necessarily make sense. We think of an SMS as like a really instant kind of conversation. Um, but it actually, in this case might be better depending on the business that you're in. As Mike says, it might be better to offer this sort of more delayed asynchronous conversation as opposed to only time.

Greg: Well, what what's what's interesting is that they're just different sort of, kind of unwritten cultural expectations around all these things. Email, I think is the one which wasn't part of the lead furnace or survey email is the one where people take the most time to respond and offer often or unreasonable.

And, and the expectation is that, you know, probably next day or next couple of days, text is, is next. And then live chat is, is in terms of most immediate or most highest expectation in terms of speed is, is, is that on that extreme. Small businesses have difficulty dealing with all the different channels that they have to respond to.

But interestingly, in my experience, text is one that they get intuitively because everybody has a phone everybody's texting all the time. And so that is one where they're really, they do a good job. They do a really good job of responding to texts

Mike: tipped. In fact, Google just re-introduced SMS has a notification message for business messaging through GMB.

To help increase responsiveness amongst small businesses, right?

Greg: Because otherwise you had to have the stupid app and your, you know, have to check the app. I mean, I guess the app has notifications, but still well,

Mike: and the app never worked. If he had too many locations, you, it would never take it. It was broken.

The app is broken on that front.

Greg: So,

David: so Google's on it's this now it's 12th effort at messaging with it. SMV context, Mike, how many, how many

Greg: is this?

Mike: I don't know. ARS Technica has done some great analysis of all of them. I keep losing track. There's so many. The other problem I have with chat is that I have so many windows open during my day.

I will go into a chat, start it, and then I'll get involved with some other window and a ding will occur my computer and I have no idea what the ding is and I'll go, I'll finally remember the chat like 20 minutes later. And the person that finally came to serve me, is gone. It's very, for me, really unpleasant.

Greg: I'll tell you that I like live chat versus, I mean, if I dealing with a bot, no, but if I'm dealing with an actual human, I like live chat in many, in many cases, most cases much, much better than the phone. The phone is the most painful. The worst. Yeah. The phone is the most painful and the one that nobody wants to wants to do.

Um, okay. So with our remaining time, we're going to go into shift gears a little bit and talk about images in local packs, product images, product inventory, and local packs, which is a really interesting development. Uh, I was having a conversation with a guy at near street, a UK company that helps facilitate delivery of real-time inventory data to, to Google and other places.

And I think this is, you know, The hallmarks of Google's an Amazon competition strategy is to bring both e-commerce and local inventory together. So, Mike, why don't you tell us what's going on?

Mike: Yeah, if you're looking for a Google, tell about where the local pack is going, this is about as big a teller as you're going to get.

They've been working on this for years and it's finally coming to fruition. And when you, what. What I originally, you saw product inventory only either inside the profile, you had to go into the profile and then search search in store, right. Or you would see it in their ads, but now we're seeing availability and product images directly in the.

With a carousel that moves in front of the uploaded images somewhere between one and five images, depending on the query. Now this doesn't show up for a lot of queries just yet. I'm like, I like if you do a search on Nightcore lenses, New York city, it shows up. But if you look for a specific Nightcore lens in New York city, it'll it won't show up, which is.

If you look for nighttime lenses, which is the brand of the brand, right? Nightcore is a sub of that gun. It doesn't show up, but it is showing up on a broader number of queries in a broader, like, if you look for Nike sneakers here, you'll see it again. It's mobile only right now, but it's interesting to me because it is so Google-y, it's like it allows them to leverage their strength, which is their local listings.

Their local PACS are dominant in that area. And with their new shopping layer of the knowledge graph, bring that together to deliver a reasonable. Lee scaled customer experience that is going to get more and more common as we go. And if you look at their development industry and this which I detailed in the article, you can see this accelerating development history.

We know that they played with inventory first with voice, and then, you know, they had Walmart as a partner and they came and went and they tried frugal and we've sought various developments. But over the last two or three years, these developments that specifically around. Inventory into the local pack of accelerated.

And I think we're just going to see a lot more of these on these intensely intent driven queries. And I just think that businesses need to be aware that Google is doing it. And I think every small business should be leading into this with some amount of either Shopify or woo woo commerce type inventory products that they can board into it or pointy or whatever that stuff.

Greg: Well, one of the things I'm I'm interested in is, is do I, and I don't know this off the top of my head. Do we ever see shopping carousels and local packs appearing for the same queries, sort of analogous to your, to the, to the top item at the top?

David: Yeah. So, I mean all kinds of furniture searches that I've happened to be doing.

We're looking for outdoor patio furniture at the moment. Um, cause it's finally sunny in Portland, three, three plus months into the year. Um, so those, those frequently will return a shopping carousel at the top and local furniture stores in, in a pack. Yeah, definitely. So, so that, those definitely co-occur quite a bit, I think Mike speaking to your, you know, accelerating development, I mean, it was just, I think it was just last week on our near memo that we talked about the smaller stores filter now available in Google shopping.

And not that small and local are the same thing, but they tend to overlap quite a bit here, which is interesting. And I was going to note that I was doing searches. I, I can't remember exactly when, probably last. Uh, for something like strollers, it was, it was a big box type of a product that I was looking for.

And so this was not in store inventory, but Google was able to show in the pack images of the stroller aisle at Walmart and target and whatever the third big box store was for my query, which I thought was. Their image recognition is clearly quite good already. And now they're able to attach a product to it that it probably won't be long before you can actually buy in pack and pick up in store you know, directly through a local result.

And I also wanted to bring up the fact that they, in terms of acquiring this local inventory feed from small businesses. We're now starting to see that perhaps one of the. Uh, instances of their pointy acquisition coming to fruition here where they feel like maybe they finally have enough scale, at least in certain categories.

Like the ones Mike was talking about to actually start to show these images of products, presumably through feeds, not just from Shopify and Wu and, and others, but also from pointy for, for merchants that are opted into that program.

Greg: I, I definitely think that it's a, it's a winner for them. If they can.

Have a reliable data and produce a good UX and sort of educate consumers that this is there because this is, you know, this is one of the primary reasons why people go to Amazon beyond it being sort of this familiar default it's, it's, it's a place where people have confidence that they can find what they're looking for.

If they can find these things in their immediate market. Um, th then some number of those Amazon queries or purchases are going to fall away and. You know, will benefit Google in one form or another. Um, but what's, what's interesting is this sort of distinction between the big box with their merchant center feeds and then the smaller merchants that, you know, sort of absent Wu and Shopify, maybe, you know, going in through PO pointy or some manual system, you know, how is that going to play out?

I mean, I'm looking at one of your furniture queries, David. Uh, I see home Depot and ACE hardware with pickup today, pick up today, curbside you know, prominently featured there. And then there's a local pack. And home Depot is reproduced in the, in the third position of the local pack that there are different stores, different, it's more independent sort of businesses in those stores.

So that'll be interesting to see how that plays out over time. You know, there's sort of this Not exactly competition, but sort of different positioning of the, of the, of the merchant feed merchant center feeds and the, and the true local businesses there.

Mike: Yeah. I think if you X though, that was one of the art, one of the takeaways from this is it's still very rough you're right.

When you click through, if they have a post on this topic, the post will show for. But if they don't, then the inventory item will show, but then you click on the inventory item instead of going right to the merchant site, order it, you go to Google shopping and then you have to go to the site. So it's a somewhat painful journey from search to purchase in a local context.

But I think like with ordering, which was rough at first and then became very elegant because they essentially brought all the orders. Directly onto their site. I think the same thing will happen here as well. If it, if it's successful, then they'll move more to improve the experience.

Greg: Yeah,

David: which they already have in, if you, if you get into this through Google shopping, there are a number of vendors that you can buy directly on Google.

And I guess I'm surprised, but now that you say it, I don't think I've seen it, that you can't do that with a Shopify enabled feed. Like it seems to me, there's no reason you couldn't buy from a Shopify store directly in Google, but I've yet to see that in Google shopping. So,

Mike: well, it could be against scale and API versus whatever who knows what Google's requirements are internally from.

Greg: Okay. So on that note, we come to the end of another near memo this week. And again, would remind you to subscribe, to subscribe. What are we w we're we're. Toying around with a lot of new names and new product ideas, and I've got them all sort of circulating in my head. So I want you to subscribe to the newsletter, the newsletter doesn't have a name, subscribe to the newsletter, a@edairmediadot.ceo, and be sure to join us next week.

David: Thanks for listening. Thanks.