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Are SMBs Impossible To Serve Well, Google Et Al?

November 30th, 2012
13 Comments


Train Wreck

Mike Blumenthal’s instant classic Google Local: Train Wreck at the Junction has spawned a lively Google Plus thread where various Localistas have been wringing their hands as to why oh why can’t Google stop screwing SMBs. While I am in agreement that Google Plus Place Local Multi Merge for Business Dashboardgate has been absolutely no fun, to me it seems like just the latest in an ongoing saga of companies trying to serve SMBs and falling short.

While Google and others have done great things for SMBs, small businesses as a group are notoriously hard to serve:

    They are hard to acquire as customers

    When you do acquire them, they tend not to want to spend a lot of money

    Once you start doing stuff for them, they tend to have a lot of questions/issues, etc. so customer support costs are high

    They tend to churn out at a high rate – a lot go out of business, many don’t want to wait for long-term results or don’t invest enough to get meaningful results, and providing great service at the low prices they demand is tough, so they bail

My guess as to the conversations that have gone on at Google:

“We’re having a hard time getting the Google+ Places Merging Dashboard thingy right. The whole thing needs to be rebuilt from the ground up while the car is moving at high speed and we are spread kind of thin at the moment.”

“How’s Adwords Express?”

“We’re hitting our numbers. Businesses that can’t get their Google Places, er I mean +Local, thing right are using it to get on the SERPs.”

“Great. Keep putting band-aids on the problems. We’ll get there eventually. I am sure one of those companies we acquired can figure it out.”

So when I see Google seemingly not investing enough in a coherent product for SMBs, I only partially blame Google. Part of this just seems to be the nature of the beast. As I said on G+, if we went back ten years and substituted “Yellow Pages” for “Google Local”, we’d probably be hearing the same complaints.  Still a train wreck, though.

UPDATE: Chris Silver Smith gets on board the train-wreck train (and thinks I am giving Google a pass) – Google Local Is Now A Train Wreck


Tags: Google · Small Business Marketing · Yellow Pages

13 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Mikel Zaremba

    Great post, Andrew.

    Way to wrap that up and put bow on it!

    I gotta tell you, it’s a little disheartening to navigate that dashboard right now. Almost to that point that if it’s up and running I have walked away until things get straightened out. It was a great tool in it’s infancy, hopefully they can get things “done” over there.

    Thanks again.

  • 2 Andrew Shotland

    Nice stache Mikel :)

  • 3 Lyndon NA (theAutocrat)

    The shame of it is – you may be pretty near the mark.

    I know that some Googlers are very interested in helping SMBs … but whether the Corp. is all that interested, or simply view it as a sideline/hobby … not convinced they take it that seriously.

    A long history of errors, issues, bugs, faults and failures … costing some SMB a lot of stress nto to mention some money,
    whilst G appears to sit there whistling (I know some of them work hard and push for fixes – but the overall impression isn’t good).

  • 4 Andrew Shotland

    I can’t think of one monster company that provides marketing services to SMBs that does not have similar issues.

  • 5 Phil Rozek

    Great stuff, Andrew!

    This reminds me of the engineer’s triangle/saying/whatever: “It can be good, cheap, or fast – pick any two.” The ones who actually pick TWO definitely can be pleased (and make for pretty good clients, in my humble experience).

    Wonder if Paris/Britney/Lindsey were in the van at 0:54 in the video. Haven’t heard much about them lately :)

  • 6 Dave Oremland

    Attaboy, Andrew: Pile it on!!! Lets everyone go negative.

    Its interesting that in the world of providing services for smb’s Google has provided a legalistic protection for the adwords resellers/Google Partners.

    Those guys are slick marketers, sign up smb’s, resell adwords at huge mark ups, run campaigns that are marginally effective and because of the markups only semi effective, and experience enormous churn. Yet Google protects them, and of course supports the income.

    It, like adwords and adwords express works, unlike the local dashboard, and making changes on the Google local page that google owns but allows you to fill w/ content.

    I think you got the conversation inside Google wrong though.

    I believe its more like this concerning the daily review:

    How is adwords? Great!!!
    How is adwords express? Hitting our goals.
    How is Places? Lets get a beer.

  • 7 Mary Bowling

    Andrew, I agree that SMBs are notoriously hard to serve. The reason many of them work for themselves is because they want to do everything their own way.
    But in my opinion, that doesn’t excuse Google from not getting basic information correct even after the business has given it to them and then gone through its verification process.

  • 8 Matt Buys

    “small businesses as a group are notoriously hard to serve:”

    I would add another reason. You’re probably dealing with someone who wears many hats and can’t devote the focus or patience required to understand or appreciate your efforts. Great post though, thanks.

  • 9 Debra Seznik

    So as I small business owner, what do you suggest we do to create our comprehensive SEO strategies and build our competency in SEO?? I would love some help, but have found unreliable information from many resources even when they have been referred to me!!

  • 10 Debra Seznik

    So what are your suggestions for a small business owner that would like a comprehensive SEO strategy and build our SEO competency?? I appreciate all the articles on Search Engine Land as I feel that I have reputable information. Unfortunately, many of the companies we have tried, have not followed thru or are not proactive in their suggestions to us. I have learned a lot by trial and error and would be very pleased to work with a reputable company with clearly defined objectives!! : )))

  • 11 Andrew Shotland

    Debra,
    I am not trying to be flip when I say that the best SEO strategy is to have an awesome service and market yourself. There are plenty of technical things you can do to insure that you have the best chance of ranking well, but if you don’t market yourself well, in many cases you won’t stand a chance against more aggressive competitors.

    It sounds like you have some knowledge of SEO, so I’ll leave it at that. Feel free to ping me if you have any questions and if you’d like me to refer you over to someone who I think could help (I’m a bit busy right now).

  • 12 Mike Zaremba

    FYI – I love when new comments come in because it pings my email and then I get the enjoyment of viewing the “Train-wreck Trifecta” pic all over again.

  • 13 Suzanne Delzio

    I would tell Debra Seznik above to try Long Tail Pro. As a content writer, I’m loving it. :)

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