Ep 36: Squarespace’s “Everything to Sell Anything,” Google vs. Lowe, and Has the Local Pack Outlived Its Usefulness?

Ep 36: Squarespace’s “Everything to Sell Anything,” Google vs. Lowe, and Has the Local Pack Outlived Its Usefulness?
Photo by Hermes Rivera / Unsplash

Part 1 Video Starts 0:13 - Squarespace’s “Everything to Sell Anything,”

Part 2 Video- Starts 9:58 - Google vs. Lowe

Part 3 Video- Starts 16:18 - Has the Local Pack Outlived Its Usefulness?

Transcript: Ep 36

Greg: Welcome to the Near Memo, a weekly conversation about search, social and commerce. What happened, why it matters and the implications for local welcome everybody to the Near Memo. And this week I'm excited to introduce Aaron Weiche. Who's our special guests filling in for the. Fill in the blank adjective you want to use to describe the always relevant irascible yet witty, you know, whatever you want to say.

David:   Aaron said

Aaron: I have big shoes to fill.

Greg: Yeah. Aaron's graciously stepping in for Mike and David Mihm here as always. And we talk about,  the big news of the week with the search, social and commerce. Although we're not going to be talking about Facebook too.  it may sneak in at the margins, but we're not going to be talking about it as one of our three items.

Aaron is going to lead off,  our discussion today, but,  before he does, for those who are unfamiliar with LeadFerno,  I want you to just say a couple of words about it, and this is not a sponsored slot, by the way, we just want to add some context to errands, but later on, yes, we will.

David: Yes. Save your ad budget for later.

Aaron: It's just a human interest story right now. Right?

Greg: Aaron is the co-founder and CEO. So.

Aaron: Great. Thanks for that opportunity. LeadFerno is really about helping businesses create more conversations with their prospects and customers using SMS and a web to text widget.  so we just launched a, a handful of weeks ago.

we're primarily working with SMBs and the home services spaces,  and professional services.  and putting a lot of focus on working with agencies, SEOs, local SEOs, and digital marketers to help shore up w  what they're doing for conversion. We, we see them do a ton for customer acquisition and traffic building,  but not as much focus on conversion.

So we're trying to fill that void by just making it easy for consumers to start asking questions and texts with the businesses they're interested in working with.

David: And just as an aside, this is a, it sort of dovetails with one of the themes of my Whitespark presentation, a Whitespark local search summit presentation.

I just feel like there's so many businesses and agencies, both that are focused on all of this. You know, pre pre interaction marketing, right? Like SEO is largely before you actually get the conversation and social media and advertising, everything is geared around pre-conversation and I feel like there's a real gap in the market that you've obviously seen as well in terms of helping, helping businesses actually convert those leads.

Once, once you've done all that hard work to get them to your, to your site or your GMB profile or Facebook page or wherever. And what's also

Greg: interesting. I would just add a couple of things. What's interesting also is that,  you know, the businesses that are most responsive respond fast are often the ones that capture the leads.

And then in a conversation you can kind of compress the funnel. You know, you can go from somebody who's kind of just doing exploratory research to converting them into. You know, give them the right information and that's a lot easier to do in a conversation than it is on a website. Even, even, even video doesn't really respond to their individual questions in most cases.

So I think it's a really great and complimentary tool that, you know, people need to use. And,  anyway, There you go, but Aaron, you didn't come here to where's the segue.

David: You didn't come here to set up there. You

Greg: didn't, you didn't come here to talk about LeadFerno. You came you're, you're talking about,  a new launch from Squarespace, which is pretty interesting.

And didn't get a lot of attention in the media. Probably do something about it in our newsletter. Yeah. There you

Aaron: go. Yeah, just a, a few weeks ago in the end of September Squarespace,  made an announcement, they, they kind of wrapped up a bunch of different feature pushes and kind of titled it, everything to sell anything.

I think one. The high level things that they really communicated is through a Harris poll, a survey that they conducted, they found that the majority of people looking to launch businesses was around,  conducting classes, advice, and consulting and tutoring, selling time and selling expertise.  so with that, one of the things that they rolled out,   rounding out their scheduling tools even more earlier in the year.

I think they acquired a talk that was around a restaurant reservations for restaurants. Yes. And management and stuff like this. So this kind of have rounded that out and also enabled them to do like content gating for those selling,  video and other,  privatized,  content that they want to get out.

They also had an Etsy integration. So not only can you sell on Etsy the platform, but you can bring your Etsy products into your own website. So I saw this as a great stairstep approach to, you know, Etsy helps you find that audience and get out there. And then when you take the next step and you have a Squarespace site, now you can bring your products into your own brand and own sales experience as well.

And then the, the piece that really caught my eyes, they rolled out something called their studio app.  and it's all around making a pro level content videos. So a lot of different effects making, editing, easier that even have some AI driven,  voiceover options that are in it. So you can see here, they're really tailoring that to help with the promotion, to drive traffic, to Squarespace sites.

and,  I find an interest in listening to your guys's weekly. You know, they really highlighted and how great that is for social media promotion. You guys have often touched upon like, that's like the shiny object that small business seemed to gravitate towards and putting in time and effort, even though the results might not always,  you know, come out with the amount of effort that puts into it.

But to me, this just hits upon something that I've long preached to small businesses. In the world of content, words are hard for them. Photos are hard for them, videos even harder.  and so I think this is, you know, a step in a good direction to give them better tools to create better content. Visually

Greg: one thing that's pretty interesting.

MailChimp did something this week. That's kind of analogous. It's more generic. They introduced a,  a content. I think they call it content optimizer. It's really an email,  you know, sort of AI driven best practices built in email tool that helps small businesses,  you know, pick the right images, headlines, and so on and so forth.

And it's, it's, it's thematically tied into this because you know, what we're seeing is that these companies. That,  you know, host websites or do these sort of primary marketing functions like email are, are now using machine learning and AI to, to automate a lot of these processes or to really support small businesses in a way that they would otherwise not be capable of.

And, you know, there's, there's, there's long been a sort of a gap between self-service and. You know, a lot of companies come out and they say, Hey, we've got this great self service platform and nobody uses it. Or people don't develop sufficient expertise, but th but AI is now sort of bridging that and, and baking a lot of, a lot more,  guided support or simplicity into these tools, I think, which is, which

Aaron: is ingestions to get

David: better.

Greg: Right? Yeah, exactly. And that that's long been on the roadmap from a law firm for a lot of companies. From the past, but it's really now just starting to kick in, in a meaningful way. I think

David: for sure. I was going to say Aaron, it struck me as interesting on a couple of levels.  number one, we talked about Wix, you know, a couple of weeks ago on the Near Memo.

And this seems like it's really geared at a lot of, would be Wix,  customers who are, you know, in the very early stages of starting up. Consulting business or an online class business. And,  not only as the output of a Squarespace website,  much more beautiful and user-friendly, but the, the configuration interface of Squarespace's I think very, very user-friendly relative to Wix and a hundred.

More user-friendly relative to WordPress.  and so I think that you're seeing Squarespace maybe start to, you know, try to take a little bit more,  market share from some of these, you know, very early sort of nascent businesses, many of which are not captured in the traditional, you know, 30 million U S business type numbers that, that we were talking about in the, in the Wix discussion.

So sort of a way for them to almost expand their, their total addressable market, which is, which is really interesting. And I also think that. The service businesses of the world tend to get sort of second shrift from a lot of SAS companies. Most, especially Google my business, which has been just historically a Bismal at not only surfacing, you know, service oriented businesses, but all.

Displaying features that that customers of those businesses would care about.  and so I think it's a really interesting place for, for Squarespace to be playing.

Aaron: Yeah. Imagine that somebody's actually going downmarket these days instead of up market. Right. So I, yeah, I definitely found that interesting.

Do you guys remember what was Wix is user base? Cause I think I read in this Squarespace has 4 million subscribers is what they put out. How do they, which

Greg: was massive. I mean, they had, they had a smaller subset of paying subscribers, but they had a massive, massive installed base. I'd have to look it up.

We read,

David: we read between the lines. I want to say we ended up at six and a half million actual paying customers. So Squarespace is, you know, approaching that number. If, if those are, if those 4 million are paying. So yeah.

Greg: Yeah, I think you're, I think you were right on that number. I was trying to find it, but I did not find it in time.

And so David,  one of the, one of the more,  curious items of the week was a story that appeared originally in the verge having to do with Google's,  antitrust case against the DOJ or the DOJs antitrust case against Google they're. Now in discovery, it was filed in October. It's been a year, they're doing starting to do depositions document exchanges and.

Google has been trying to get documents from Yelp,  largely unsuccessfully from what we gather and in particular, they're seeking documents for one of Yelp's executives. And you want us to talk about that? Yeah.  so Luther

David: Lowe their VP of public policy, I think is his title. He's basically there. He's Yelp's number one, lobbyists and sort of gadfly and the Google antitrust ointment.

I think all three of us have interacted with him. On occasion at, at previous conferences.  though I don't know that any of us, you know, considered him a friend. So I don't feel like we're sort of speaking out of school here.

Greg: well, I would say, I would say I have a friendly relationship with Luther.

David: I mean sure. But it's not, he's not, he's not somebody that, you know, we don't have him right

Greg: here with me.

David: We don't meet him, meet up with him for a zoom beer during COVID, you know, anything like that. So, yeah.  so having said that there was just a couple of things that struck. About this,  you know, I am not a lawyer, Greg, and I'm hoping that you actually speak for most of the segment,  given your, your legal background, but some of the requests that Google made in the, which they published,  in the, in an appendix of the actual complaint or whatever it's called, it's just incredibly broad.

And.  even if they, even if the requests, even if the documents related to those requests were not made public, the damage it would do to Yelp, you know, beyond the outcome of this case for Google to actually know all of that information about one of its main competitors in local was just shocking to me.

So,  things like, you know, list of enterprise customers and what's your SEO strategy and like incredibly detailed. Corporate strategy, documents and emails. And it just strikes me. I mean, some of this stuff obviously, you know, is, is,  worthwhile and, and, you know, worthy of them to request,  from Yelp.

But I, if I'm looking at this as, as with a sort of, with a side-eye view of, okay, what are the possible outcomes of this case? One possible outcome is Google actually wins the antitrust case. They're found not.  monopoly and they then subsequently put Yelp out of business with the information that they're seeking from Yelp in this filing, which is just totally insane to me.

And,  if there is such a thing as an anti-slap,  proceeding in a, in an antitrust case, I hope that Google has to pay Yelp's legal fees to defend these, some of these document requests, which are just totally absurd to me. So. Well, as

Greg: a, as a general rule,  you know, what tends to happen in litigation.

And it's been many, many years since I did civil litigation, but,  you know, lawyers ask for everything, right? Everything that they can think of, they want to get their hands on any potential piece of evidence. Anything that may be damaging to the, to the opposition or relevant relevance is supposed to be the guy.

And, and, you know, often you'll get,  defense lawyers who will Stonewall and say, no, we're not going to give you these documents. And then you have to go and, and, and ask the court to compel the, just the,  the disclosure of the documents. And you have to prove that the documents are relevant to the case.

And, you know, clearly in that kitchen sink request, which I agree was really overly. There is some relevant information about how was Yelp harmed potentially by Google's behavior, you know? And they want to see those internal documents to see if your current position in the market is a by-product of things that Google did, or, you know, whatever internal mismanagement or bad decisions, whatever it is.

so I suspect there'll be some mix of, of granting and denying the motion, but I agree with you. It's it's so broad.  as to really seek, you know, they're asking for everything, you know, all your strategy documents, all your financial information, so on and so forth. So, right. And again,

David: I think from my standpoint, like the, the, the, the likely outcome of this case, I think just given the sort of dysfunction in Washington is that Google is not like Google gets maybe a slap on the wrist.

And as a result, A lot of these documents that they're asking Yelp to disclose, they actually become stronger after the case, which is just an absurd conclusion to all of this antitrust anti-big tech,  sentiment. Well,

Greg: I mean, the interesting question is who's driving this, is it purely the lawyers or is it somebody sort of managing the litigation within Google?

you know, I don't know, but I, I agree with your assessment is that this material is pretty damaging to Yelp. If at all, So that the strategy

David: necessarily, it's not necessarily damaging to Yelp, you know, in a, in a vacu but it's damaging in the hands of Google for sure.

Greg: Yeah. That's what I meant.

Aaron: Yeah.

Yeah. The, the strategy is an overreach and then they end up just being able to get a little bit and all they really want is just to figure out is what we were doing before actually working at grounding you, because then we can just push that 10 times harder to make it actually come to complete fruition.

Greg: Yeah. And, and you, you really get this, you do get the sense that there's some, some, some,  animosity here driving some of this, it's not simply a neutral, a neutral, like, Hey, we need these documents to prepare our case. I mean, in fact, the, the, as you characterized it, the ad hominem sort of attack the, the focus on Luther Lowe.

Is, it has a personal quality literally and figuratively in the sense that Luther Lowe has been instrumental in,  you know, bringing these actions about both in Europe and in, in the U S and Google is mad as hell about it, you know? And I think that there, there, this is some payback on something. You know, which is not pretty.


David: one of the things that maybe put Yelp in a difficult

Greg: position. Yes it's, it's, it's the, it's the,  Google local results, the local pack and,  the way in which Google has dominant. The, you know, the page, one of the local search results for the last whole bunch of years. Right. And,  organic links have been pushed down the page and so on and so forth, but that's not what we're been talking about.

I wanted to talk about how I feel that the Google,  local pack pack and map pack has sort of run its course that the, that the, the, the display of results is really no longer that functional or useful for consumers.  you know, you, if you're looking for. Directions, if you're looking for phone numbers or contact information.

Sure. But if you're trying to do a category search and make a decision about us, a home services provider, it doesn't really help you all that much. And I think Google has. Tools at its disposal to give consumers a better experience. And this gets into the question of what is Google doing is Google simply handing people off to businesses.

And then, you know, you have the, the LeadFerno conversational interaction, or is Google actually trying to help you make a decision?  and if they're trying to help you make a decision, really serving the end customer, then they need to deliver a lot more information. You know, either in a kind of carousel format with a rollover that expands or some alternative, they need to really do some alternative to what they're doing.

Now. This was prompted by the,  discovery that,  somebody made. I don't remember who it was. Joy Hawkins, retreated it, that they were testing a five.  you know, and they test two packs and 10 packs and five packs and so on and so forth. But,  it just got me thinking that, you know, five versus three versus seven doesn't really do anything.

You know, it doesn't really help me just gives me more names, but if you really want to help me, give me more information, give me more, you know, the stuff that they're doing with attributes and posts and,  you know, the, the, the, the booking tools. Give me, give me that at a higher. This is what I'm, that's what I'm saying.

David: Yeah. And I don't disagree. No, I don't disagree. I think,  to not to force a segue back to last week's episode, but,  one of the things that I think is profoundly missing from the pack results, which is very present.  business, Google business profiles themselves is photography.  that is just not present in the primary search results.

And I've, you know, whatever those of, you know, I'm the sort of founder emeritus of the Google tinfoil hat society. But I think that if there were photography and an organic result, that it would take loads of clicks away from Google's paid properties. And that that's one of the reasons we haven't seen it.

But if you, at least, if I think about similar search experiences that. Pleasing and easy and, and, you know, enhanced decision-making. One of my favorites is Airbnb, not a dissimilar map on the right-hand side with photos and descriptions down the left. And it's very, very quick using the map. If you have sort of, you know, location preferences, and if not, then just very, very quick scan of photography and headlines down the left.

And something closer to that I think would actually be. User experience, better searcher experience, but would potentially put a lot of Google's local ad revenue at

Greg: risk. So w well, they do some of that with hotels. I mean, it's, it's not, it's not that dissimilar.

David: they're taking a cut of every transaction with hotels, which they at least currently don't do in standard GMB profile.


Greg: th are there no free listings in hotels? I don't remem.

David:  my, I think you have to be on an OTA to, in order to be present in Google hotels, but someone, and they're going to take a

Greg: commission every time that yeah. But, but,  LSAs have pictures to your point, but those are paid. Right. And they're, and they're, you know, the picture is useful.

Erin, your thoughts on.

Aaron: Yeah. I mean, to me, when I look at it from a macro level, for the last decade, the local pack has been about reduction, no number of results that are in it.  the number of things that you can do from it, right? We see constant testing all the time. Reducing CTA is down to even just a phone call.

You have to click into a result to get the website and things like that. So that at some point you've just reduced the down so far and it does seem really prime for. All right. Let's completely go back to the drawing board because the way we interact with the web, the options that are available, all the other things that they have, you know, tested at length, especially the ones like your sighting, where Google actually has skin in the game to want that interaction engagement more than a click on anything ad based that they understand these things more and the type of content that, that really drives it.

So it does seem silly at this point with all that's on the table and how. Little, this has moved,  in certain directions not to not to try something completely different, try a revamp and just put, put more effort and experience into it then in what they have done

David: to your point, Greg, I mean the visual hasn't meaningfully changed since 2008 or whenever they introduced the 10 pack, right?

It's a map and essentially a. Business name with a link on it. And if you think about how much more rich information Google has about businesses in just about every category than they did when they started in 2008, it was a feed from info USA or whatever, you know, th th th the interface has not caught up with the richness and depth of the information available to Google.

So, I

Greg: mean, the interesting question is, do they have, do they have an incentive to, to do this kind of radical redesign. Because they're unchallenged. And if your theory is correct, that it would detract from clicks, then clearly they don't want to do that. I mean, they, they, they don't, they don't have to change, but if they are truly committed to a better user experience, they would, they would start doing start doing some new, new experiments.

That would be pretty dramatically different. It's I think it's the time to really do that because this is stale at this point. Yeah. And

Aaron: to David's point with the visual interaction, as we've seen for so long, like review stars have become the visual attraction and interaction of all these listings. And you know, that Google has used that to put itself completely in a whole nother stratosphere, as far as review volume,  what that matters to businesses, all, all of those aspects.

but at the same time, there's just so much more for that a consumer wants to consider and should understand,  and might be looking for besides just reputation. But yet that really is the number one visual force in the map pack.

Greg: Well, and it's even the case that now, you know, reputation by itself is not enough because, you know, there are a lot of businesses that are clustered in a, in a pretty tight, you know, four plus 4.5 plus range.

And so you really can't differentiate among them in, in that, in that way anymore. And you know, you need other information,  which you, you know, which is now kind of not readily accessible at that level. You know, I mean, I would ideally want give Google to give me, you know, I would be, you know, Google has Google screened and they have all this additional information.

I would be happy for them to really do a first take on who are the three best businesses in this category, in my area. You know, and let me see others if I want to go deeper, but, but you know, really bring all that information to bear. And give me, give me the best three. Not don't just give me a list that sort of superficially ranked by, by review.

Yeah, I've

Aaron: been, I've been lobbying for an icon that just says you can text us and they get that information from lead for an OBA. I'm not getting anywhere with that.

Greg: Well, no, but that's

David: part of it, right? It's like text these guys. Are they going to respond? Absolutely. That would factor into a

Greg: decision. All things being equal, somebody who responds quickly is going to get the business.

Yup. And, you know, cause they have better service and they're more eager to do.

David: And not only that someone who doesn't require me to pick up the phone, that's a huge differentiator. If I can conduct an entire transaction through SMS or email, like you've got my email, you're 70% ahead of your competition.

so I think that that's like, it's, we're sort of half joking about this, but I am absolutely not joking. A business's willingness to conduct business outside of a phone. I think that that is a major decision point for a lot of people under 45 years old,

Greg: you have to, you have to give people multiple ways to talk to a business and you can't, you know, the phone is often a really bad experience these days.

Aaron: And I love it. I love what you guys are saying. I'm going to use this recording elsewhere for my purposes

David: now that you will have to pay us for, you have to license it.

Greg: Yeah. A license, a license fee with, with a recurring royalty. Anyway. So Aaron has been great to have you on the program. We'd love to have you back.

We'd love to do maybe a special,  discussion with you about lead for known texting and small business. Cause I think there's a lot there. That's interesting. And,  you know, as always, thanks for listening and we'll welcome Mike back next week. I think Mike is back next week. Mike is back and I'm

David: gone.

So it's going to be gone. Another mystery guest coming

Greg: up. So we'll have another mystery. We'll have another mystery guest or perhaps Mike and I will just. Rant at each other about Facebook, they are

David: number, number one downloaded episode

Greg: ever. Yeah, exactly. So, anyway,  thanks a lot as always,  subscribe to our newsletter.

Give us feedback.  we'd love to hear from you. Thanks for joining David, Mike and Greg to stay on top of the latest developments in local. Subscribe to our newsletter@nearmedia.com. Let's see you next week