Google allows retail chains to Post at scale via GMB API — will it last post-COVID?

Google Posts are free and can be a very effective communication or promotional tool.

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Not long ago, Google started allowing “chains” (businesses with more than 10 locations) and partners to publish COVID-19 Google Posts at scale using the Google My Business (GMB) API. That also became possible for non-COVID Posts as well. This is a big deal for brands, but will it last?

Google Posts have not been widely adopted by business owners and brands. But for those using them, they can be a very effective way to convey important information or promotions to customers and have become an important communication tool during the coronavirus outbreak.

Google Posts from Google My Business show in Google local search results
Google Posts can appear in the local panel on Google local search results as well as in Maps.

The Posts above are from auto dealership AutoNation, which has several hundred outlets. The one on the left uses a simple “we’re open” badge on the main image to convey that its dealerships are still open. The one on the right is a promotion for a car-disinfecting service at AutoNation locations. According to LocalSEOGuide, both Posts were very successful.

COVID-19 announcement Posts. In early April, Google created a special category of COVID-19 Posts, with a 14-day expiration date. Posts typically survive for 7 days and must be re-published after that. However, the 14-day time frame has not always held up in practice, according to several local SEOs I’ve spoken to.

An array of Google Posts featuring new policies, hours and offers

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The gallery of Posts above illustrate the growing array of business categories using them. These feature landscape services, rental cars, a medical doctor offering virtual consultations, a zoo, a law office, a grocery store chain an Asian restaurant franchise. They also reflect varying degrees of polish and sophistication, as well as a wide range of messages around hours, special offers and new products. (They were provided by Darren Shaw, Clare Carlile, Andrew Shotland, Joy Hawkins and Joel Headley.)

Most businesses still aren’t using Google Posts. Historically, Google has not allowed enterprises with more than 10 locations to use the GMB API for Posts. The relaxation of that rule has been welcomed by SEOs who work with large enterprises and multi-location brands.

In 2018, Mike Blumenthal determined that 26% of Google-verified businesses in the U.S. were using Posts. At roughly the same time, Phil Rozak independently found that only about 17% of local business GMB users had ever created a Google Post. These numbers would likely be somewhat higher if the same studies were done today but they illustrate the fact that Posts are highly underutilized by GMB profile owners.

Why we care. Google Posts are one of the most potentially effective (and free) features of GMB. All GMB accounts should be using them — regularly and especially right now.

The change in API rules, to allow “chains and partners” to post at scale, could be a breakout moment for Posts, building greater awareness among consumers and business owners and opening the door to localized-national offers and even e-commerce. However, Google has said publicly and in email to us that the waiver of the 10 location API limit is “temporary” during the crisis. We’ll see in a few months if that changes.

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About the author

Greg Sterling
Greg Sterling is a Contributing Editor to Search Engine Land, a member of the programming team for SMX events and the VP, Market Insights at Uberall.

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