Chances are, if you are in digital marketing, you’ve heard rumblings that Google may be moving Google My Business to a paid subscription model.
Before you panic, there isn’t anything to worry about for your listing. Yet.
It remains to be seen if Google will actually go to a pay-to-play model for local businesses, but if they do, it creates an interesting pickle for how they will balance paid search results with organic listings.
Let’s break down what we know about Google My Business potentially moving to a paid subscription service and the impact it could have on local businesses.
What Does Google Get Out of GMB Listings?
Google My Business is a free listing service from Google that lets you create a business profile on Google Maps and Google search.
The ultimate goal of this service is to help searchers easily find the goods and services they are looking for and leave reviews of those businesses. On the business side, it also allows you to engage with your customers and provide Google with accurate location information.
From Google’s perspective, it is a way to collect data on customer preferences and serve up the best possible results for searchers by providing them with accurate information and the best results for their questions.
It was also a way for Google to collect local information without having to purchase third-party data.
Despite it being a free marketing tool, many businesses aren’t leveraging Google My Businesses. One study suggests only 44% of small businesses are taking advantage of it.
Is Google My Business Going to Become a Paid Subscription?
Unfortunately, that isn’t entirely clear.
While it is currently a free service, in late April of 2019 many business owners or managers of Google My Business profiles reported Google had sent out a survey asking some interesting questions about how much they would pay for many features already included in Google My Business.
Google also suggested a couple of new features they think “may enhance your business’ presence on Google Search.”
Here are some of the screen grabs from that survey and the potential new features:
Here are the potential new features:
So Google My Business is Going to Be a Paid Subscription?
While a lot of signs point to a day when you have to pay to be in business listings, we aren’t there yet.
This raises some really interesting ethical questions about how Google has historically not made businesses pay to appear in search results. They’ve been very careful to make sure organic search is alive and well, even if they have greatly expanded their paid search platform for advertisements through Google Ads (formerly known as Google Adwords).
A change like this would be a serious departure from previous business practices which have always been putting the consumer first, a philosophy that Google has been built on for over a decade. A change like this would certainly be a nice revenue source for Google, but is it best for the customer?
Hard to say without getting a better idea of what a subscription service looks like in their mind.
A Word on Google Reviews
One of the more interesting things presented in the new features area of the survey is the idea of Google automatically responding to customer reviews on behalf of a business with automation.
While it is very unclear what that would entail, it certainly caught our interest at Binary Fountain. We’re excited to see how Google will continue to improve the Google My Business platform and continue to help business owners get found online.
Having said that, we are also going to continue to improve our own platform to give business owners the tools they need to easily take control of their reputation management and respond to online reviews. Much like Google, we will continue to evolve and make improvements to ensure we are serving our customers in the best way possible.
If Google makes a significant change to how Google My Business works, we will make sure to adapt as well.
About the Author
Content Marketing Specialist