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24 July, 2017

How to Use Google Posts

Last Update: 23 October, 2017

Google continues to evolve the Google My Business suite of features, this time with an addition called Google Posts.

The intention with posts is to facilitate commercial transactions. Posts are meant to provide a straight-forward, one-click direct path to action. Instead of people having to click to your website and then your online store, a reservation site, subscribe to a course, etc. one click on posts should take them where you want them to go.

google posts in knowledge panelGoogle Posts are “disposable” content, a variation on a micro blogging concept. They’re displayed in the knowledge panel, and in the local finder .

Posts show for just 7 days with the exception of event posts. Event posts show for as long as the event is active.

Uses for Google Posts include:

  • Daily specials or current promotions – encourage new and existing customers to do business with you.
  • Promote events.
  • Showcase top products.
  • Announce new products or services.
  • Make it easy for customers – one-click path to make a reservation, sign up for a newsletter, learn more about latest offers, or even buy a specific product through your website.
  • Encourage people to your blog.
  • Encourage people to an article on another site which shows your expertise.

Introduced in May 2017, posts show as a new menu option in your dashboard menu (desktop below), and can be posted from both desktop and mobile versions. At time of writing, the mobile version is not easy to work with, but can be done.

If your business has a large number of listings, you will only want to use desktop version.

Google Posts Guidelines

“Published content should be relevant to the business that the author is posting on behalf of and help users better understand the business.”

Google has a fairly long list of things that can and cannot be in Posts. Most can be summed up as:

keep it clean, family friendly, and no spamming.

Create a Google Post

Go to the Google My Business dashboard

If you have several listings, you’ll need to switch to card view

switch to card view

Select the location, click Manage Location and then select Posts.

Unlike the other new feature, website builder, if the listing is not verified you cannot create a post and will not see the menu option.

Nothing Posted messagePosts are not currently displaying for businesses with a category of Hotel. If you’re not seeing posts and your business is not a hotel / resort / related category, use this form to report it so Google can investigate.

The first time you go into Posts, you’ll see a display similar to the image right.

Click the blue circle icon or the blue camera icon to begin.

Posts have 3 main areas – the image, the text and then an optional call to action.

Add a Photo

Google Posts - create a post screenWhen you want to put an image in the post, you have two ways to do s0 – loading from your GMB image library, or loading from your device.

If your image is already in your GMB image library, select “Album” and choose the one you’re after.

If you choose to load from your device, do not click and drag it into the grey area (yeah, I learned that the hard way). If you do, your browser loads the image into the window and you lose your post!

Instead, click on the blue camera and then a popup window appears, giving you the option of uploading an image or selecting an image from one of your Albums.

The image is now in a 4:3 ratio (think slideshow slide).  Google recommends a minimum image size of 400×300 pixels. As previously, make sure the image is large enough to show nicely on a mobile – the screen sizes seem to be getting bigger with every new model.  720×720, with a minimum requirement of  250 x 250. If you use an image as small as 720, be sure it’s high resolution. Some mobile phones have displays larger than that and the image loses quality. I recommend 750px.

Google Posts image cropping toolWhen the image is loaded, you’re presented with a zoom and cropping tool.  Leave some space around the main focus of your photo so something important doesn’t get cut off when it shows in various shapes & sizes.

You can load any aspect ratio; the process will guide you through cropping the image to the 4:3 ratio.

To save the image, select Upload a Post Photo. (Why not Save, Google?)

Images go into an album called “Scrapbook”.  You can only upload images in Posts; you delete them from the Google My Business photo library. For any Picasa peeps, that album name may sound familiar.  At time of updating, accessing your picasa archives does not give you access to this GMB folder, but given the name similarity am wondering if they’ll in future repurpose parts of it onto the GMB product.

Images at this stage should be JPG or PNG format. Despite some of Google’s own documentation stating GIFs are OK, they’re not accepted (at time of writing).

Note:

Sometimes the image on the latest post bumps the standard image in the upper left hand corner of the knowledge panel.  Am still investigating why this happens.

Tips: 

  • Image size A quirky thing with this new sizing, is that it’s not precisely 4:3.  For instance, if you wanted to have a sharp-looking image that you know will work well on any screen, you might use one 1200×900.  You most likely would have the main feature of the image centred.  However when it displays on some screens, the right side gets chopped slightly, mucking up the “centre”.  For now, my tip is to center the subject of your image, then move the crop slightly to the right. 
  • Product images – if you’re featuring a product in your image, don’t make the product fill the image to capacity.  Leave a moderate margin around the outside of the product, to allow for various screens to chop top/bottom/side a wee bit to display the Google Post.
  • Image storage – Google allow you to upload images into a range of folders in your GMB image library.  To help keep things organised, I recommend you load the image into the appropriate folder BEFORE you add it to your posts. 

Write Your Post

Writing a Google PostGoogle recommends 100-300 words. If you have an action button, you’ll likely see only around the first 70 characters on the knowledge panel display on desktop, slightly less on mobile.

If there’s no call to action, you’ll likely see around 115 characters on desktop.  On mobile, you’ll see the entire post.

You can publish a post with as little as one character, but you must have some text. No image-only posts.

There is a maximum of 1500 characters. However, just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. This feature isn’t intended for long-form content.

On desktop, only the active posts are available from the knowledge panel. On mobile, all posts (past and present) can be viewed simply by scrolling.

You may be wondering why Google recommends so many characters when it doesn’t display them in the knowledge panel?

Posts are not required to link to anything. That means posts exist as an entity on their own as part of the GMB suite. As such, they have their own unique link.

When people click on a post (not the call to action button), a square popup box appears over the search results. If the text is long, the scroll bar appears on the right.

You can add links in the body of the text, and they become clickable when displayed as a post. You have to use the URL, and the whole URL displays. So if you’re going to use campaign tagging, you might want to use a link shortener.

Add a Call-to-Action

Events

Call to action - Event optionAdd your event start and end date & time as well as title.

Titles can have up to 58 characters. If you exceed the maximum, the error message doesn’t show until after you try to publish the post.

One other caveat with the title, only 28 characters will display in the knowledge panel. (see examples)

event title limit

In your dashboard, events show with the date and time, event title and action. The description does not show.

event call to action optionsEvents also allow you to add buttons.

Posts show in the carousel order they were posted, not the dates of the events.

Current glitch: Events scheduled for the same day they are posted may receive error “cannot create an event that has already passed”. It’s a known glitch and has been reported. No ETA for the fix yet. has been fixed

Links to web pages

Select the most appropriate phrase to show as the Call to Action.

Add the link – links do not need to be complete with the http etc.; they can be as simple as the domain.

When ready to publish, click Preview. If the preview looks good, click Publish. If you need to edit something, click the grey back arrow in the upper left corner.

You can delete posts once they’re published. Simply click on the post from your dashboard, and select delete.

To get the best value out of Posts, where possible, create links to content on your own site, not another site (unless it’s something like a booking or tickets page for your business).

Think of this from a visitor’s standpoint.  They’ve searched for you by name or they’ve clicked on your name from Google Maps. You have a Google Post that piques their curiosity (you’re featured in Forbes, as an example) and so they click on it. Suddenly they’re taken to Forbes Online. Now they’re on someone else’s site, and it’s all too easy to run down that rabbit hole and forget about you.

Can you see how that works against you?

So instead, create a blog post with extracts from the Forbes article (maybe even an image of it), and put it on your site. To give proper credit, you can put a link to the Forbes site.  But now when people click, they can still satisfy their curiosity as well as see how many ways you can help them with their problem.

Publish & UnPublish

When you’re ready to publish, select Preview. Google gives you one last chance to have a look at it before it goes live.

If you like it, click Publish.

If you want to correct something, click the back arrow to return to edit mode.

Once you publish, the post usually goes live within a couple of minutes.

Want to unpublish the post before it expires?  The only option at this stage is to delete it.

Deleting a Google Post

As mentioned before, if you want to remove a post completely or take it off the “production line”, deleting is your only option.

Be aware when you delete it, you lose all the statistics that go with the posts.  The only place you *may* have some residual information about the post is in Google Analytics, IF you have used campaign tagging.

Performance

Google Posts come with their own in-built stats. They’re fairly rudimentary and don’t yet transfer across to Google Analytics.

The stats you’ll see only on the post itself. In the posts view you see just one data point – views.

If you click on the post you’ll see two data points – views and engagement (clicks).

Current glitch – the engagement numbers are seriously understating the count at the moment.  Do not believe the engagement number shown, instead use Google Analytics to get a better estimate of people’s interaction with your post (see next section – tracking in Analytics).

Note: the number on the card view is not a total of all actions, it is only the views.

Similar to Analytics, stats take 1-2 days to be recorded in the view.

The view is incremented if it’s seen in the Knowledge Panel or if someone views on the place sheet in the Local Finder.

Tracking in Analytics

As with any marketing effort, knowing what’s working for you and where visitors or customers come from is important.

I won’t repeat what has already been well explained on the web, but I will add three resources.

  1. Neil Patel wrote a good article on GA tracking.  It’s a bit out of date, but the concepts are still solid
  2. Google’s campaign tag builder
  3. And if you want to systemise your campaign structure, use the UTM Builder Chrome extension from Effin Amazing.

The system I tend to use is:

  • Source = google
  • Medium = kp (for knowledge panel)
  • Campaign = posts
  • Campaign content = postKeyPhrase

Whatever system you devise, the most important aspect of it is consistency.  Don’t use “Posts” one time and “posts” another, for your campaign.  Similarly, don’t use “kp” one time and “knowledgePanel” another time for the medium.  These create separate entries in Analytics and make it more difficult to analyse the commercial benefits you get from Posts.

The reason I put in this much detail with the tracking is posts seems to be mucking up the info that comes across into Google Analytics at times.

As an example, you might have a link that goes to a blog post in the Google Post. But the landing page that might get tied to the campaign tracking might be the home page of the website – not the blog post.

Examples of Google Posts in the wild

 Other Bits & Pieces

  • The carousel shows up to 10 posts on both mobile and desktop.
  • When a post gets taken down for spam, the owner will get a notification. When a post is taken down, searchers stop seeing it immediately. Google won’t tell you specifically which rule was violated – it’s up to listing managers to read the guidelines.
  • On desktop, only the current post/s are available from the search results. On mobile, you can see all present and past posts.
  • If people click on the Call to Action, it takes them straight to the destination page.
  • If people click on the post text or image, it takes them to the post.
  • When people share the post on social media, email or via the link, they get the link to the post, not your destination page.

Limitations

  • At this stage, there’s no automated scheduling built in or available through a third-party app such as Buffer or Hootsuite.
  • It’s available on most categories, and Google is working to expand it further. Posts is not currently available for hotels or B&B’s.
  • There is no connection with Google’s website builder at this time.
  • There is no integration with Google Analytics at this time.
  • Posts are part of a listing’s data, but not indexed as part of organic search.
  • There is no “draft” or “scheduled” posting option. Posts are either in and live, or expired.

Sharing Google Posts

sharing posts options

When a post is viewed in its entirety, there are options to share or report the post.

The options for sharing are Facebook, Twitter, Google+, email and a direct link.

 

 

post shared on facebookWhen sharing to Facebook (left) the business name + on Google shows as the title of the post.

The image and some of the text from the post comes across. When you click on the post, it takes you to the post display on Google’s search results.

When sharing on Twitter, you get virtually the same with the business name + on #Google.

post shared to G+

Ironically, sharing on Google+ (right) is the most disappointing. In part, because you get the impression you’ll have a little text come through from the post. In reality all you get again is the business name and a clickable post. The only text that comes through is what the sharer puts in as it’s shared.

Reporting a Post

reporting a post options

 

 

Next to the sharing icon is an option to report a post and select the guideline the post violates.