Jumping in to talk Local SEO, Google My Business and specifically Images and their impact on Google My Business & Local SEO is Mike “Professor Maps” Blumenthal.

Local SEO Topics Covered

  • Zero Clicks
  • Immersive Search
  • Transnational Search
  • Knowledge Graph
  • Google My Business
  • Reviews
  • Local Guides
  • Optimizing Photos that Show up in Local
  • Images & Impact on Local in 2020

Best Practices for Images

Along with a number of topics touched on during the episode one big one was the role of images now and what a business can do (or should) to leverage images more in Local SEO. A few tips from Mike that came out of the talking include:

  • Quality. Phone images can be good but really work to make the images you upload high quality.
  • Google Image Guidelines
  • Google Business Specific Guidelines for Photos
  • Google AI is getting better in understanding what is in photos and the quality of those photos.
  • Images are getting better placement in Local results.
  • Search by Photos – Read more at NEW GOOGLE LOCAL DISCOVERY: SEARCH BY PHOTOS
  • Google Image AI can understand the semantics in a photo. Mike gave the example of Google knowing that the background in a photo for a lawyer was a court room.
  • Report images that are poorly done or out dated and some may be taken down.
  • Keep your own images fresh.
  • Google Post images will flow into your GMB so stay active!

Google’s Ongoing Battles

Photos of local businesses are part of what Google is trying to do to battle the Yelps but also Instagram. The Search by Photos feature that was rolled out in late 2019 is Google trying to stay relevant for the different types of searching and results that people are looking for.

Tips for Dealing with Locations with History

Mike states that NAP confusion doesn’t exist anymore thanks to entity search. In the past the required need for NAP consistency was mostly due to Google and other engine’s inability to really understand entities.

Thanks to knowledge graph Google has become much better and faster in terms of understanding what is what, what is old and what is new.

Mike dives into a recent case study where he worked with a restaurant that was the 4th business in the past 5 years. By just doing Google My Business, Google Posts and a few other things was able to overcome the fact that there was likely lots of NAP issues. In fact the business achieved success despite not even trying to clean up/update NAP.

Solving Street View Issues

A quick note is that there are many agencies and even individuals now that can update street view photos. So if you update your business sign, take over a new location or just want your photos updated in Google there are people that can help speed it up.

4 Basics of Ranking in Google per Mike

  1. Great website
  2. Google My Business
  3. Reviews, Links & Great Photos
  4. Listen for the 4th!

Full Transcript

Matt Siltala: Welcome to another exciting episode of the business of digital podcast, featuring your host, Matt  and Dave roar. Hey guys, excited to have you on another one of these business of digital podcast episodes today. We got a special treat for you. But for before I jump into that, let’s make sure we got Dave over there.

Hey Dave, I’m going to catch him off guard cause I like doing that to him when he’s on mute.

Um, but we actually have a treat for you guys today. We would like to welcome, uh, Mike Blumenthal. Professor maps. Thanks for joining us, Mike.

Mike Blumenthal: It’s my pleasure. As always, man.

Matt Siltala: You know, we were talking about how long has it been since, uh, since you and I have been in the same place hanging out and, and it’s crazy how like time just, uh, flies in this industry and, and, and it seems like it’s been so long.

So, uh, I’m excited to, to have you on, to chat about some of this stuff. But, uh, before we get into that, I just want to let everybody know that Mike is the co [00:01:00] founder. And as he puts it, chief delegation officer at gather up, uh, which recently sold. And I would love for you to maybe just, you know, share a little bit about that and, and how things are going for you, and then we’ll just jump into it, Mike.

Mike Blumenthal: Sure. So gather up was sort of my fourth or fifth six business. I lose track, but, uh. Obviously it was founded in the reputation space as a customer experience tool in 2013 with Don cam on Thomas Ash and Erin Waikiki joined us soon after, and it was at, it was a work of passion for all of us, but it turned out to be a successful, profitable growing company.


Matt Siltala: you said 2013 it just doesn’t seem that long ago.

Mike Blumenthal: Yeah, we rolled it out at locally advanced. Uh, as a beta in March of 2013. And, uh, just, you know, we’ve just had such wonderful support from people in the industry, people outside the industry, and it’s evolved to become, uh, a [00:02:00] great tool that really helps businesses improve.

And that’s really one of the things that’s PA that I’m passionate about. I’ve been in both failing businesses and successful businesses, and, uh. I have some great failure stories if you ever want them. But, um, but it’s just nice to be in a business where we can actually help other businesses improve. And so, uh, ASG Alpine software group acquired us in November.

Uh, we’re part and part and parcel of, uh, I think a seven pieces of software that are all in the, uh, marketing tech area. And, uh, I’m still working there as is Aaron and still have a lot of fun.

Matt Siltala: That’s awesome. Thanks for sharing that. And congratulations on that by the way. That’s, I love. And when stories like this happen to good people, so

Mike Blumenthal: thank you.

Do you have to be determined whether I’m a good people, but

Matt Siltala: we’re working at it? Well, I’ve known you for a while, so that’s my tape.

Mike Blumenthal: Well, thank you.

Matt Siltala: Well, um, you know, people are here listening to this podcast and [00:03:00] they, you know, uh, they’re, they’re gonna want to know about Google my business, of course, since we’re chatting with you.

And so. Uh, maybe you could start us off by talking about some of the new, um, new releases or the new things or the, just the new techniques that people are using to do better with the Google my business or. Or whatever you you want to lead it into. And I know that you and I were going to have a discussion about images here shortly.


Mike Blumenthal: so let me position Google my business in the bigger picture of Google search, if you don’t mind. Awesome. Um, Google my business and Google local has long been the Canary in the coal mine of entity search. It started long before the knowledge graph came into being, and it provided Google a template for how to create.

Entity based algorithms, and it was sort of the first major area of people, places and things that they rolled into the knowledge graph. And it has become it. We see trends in, in local search often before we see them in general search. You know, uh, Rand Fishkin is talking about zero [00:04:00] clicks, uh, as Google stealing your traffic.

We’ve seen that in local since 20. 13 2014 and the other. So that’s we’ve, but from a local point of view, we sort of see zero clicks as not a negative thing. Well, we do see is Google sending 60 70 80% of local businesses leads, and a lot of that is happening right on Google where the person stops right then and there and makes a call.

Google is playing into that with what they call immersive search. This is what I call the rabbit hole. When you’re in Google local, you start going in and. Perhaps with a general query or a location query, you find three or four businesses. You start comparing them. You go in, you start asking questions, Google answers the questions right then and there with review content, for example.

Or they start showing you beautiful photos. Or now they’re moving into what I call transactional search, where they’re actually providing the ability for the customer to complete. The [00:05:00] process, reserve a table at a restaurant or buy tickets for a museum. So they’re moving from this, you know, uh, immersive search where they’re trying to keep the user at their site into transactional search.

Um, and, and then using imagery to sort of help people compare. Contrast. And, uh, understand the business along with reviews. So that’s sort of the big picture. And this has been evolving for the last two or three years, four years as they’ve refined the business, what they call now, the business profile, the knowledge graph for local businesses.

So that’s sort of the big context in that, you know, reviews and images play a huge role. So,

Matt Siltala: yeah. Well let’s, let’s talk about that. Cause um, you know, when we were chatting before we started recording. Um, you know, I thought I found something interesting and since you’ve talked to me about how, like, you know, you’ve, you’ve done a lot with images and it’s exciting right now with, with local search and what not.

I thought this might be [00:06:00] interesting, but, or you may know about all this and you, you can set me straight, but it was something, you know, cause I, I’ve recently been working on some local stuff for, uh, a friend. Um, and, uh, you know, I won’t get into all the details, but here’s the just of it. So I had my DSLR and I took some really nice pictures of some food for them.

And then I’ve also gone several times, and I’ve, and I’ve taken pictures of just with like my regular phone, and obviously, you know, the DSLR, it’s going to take some more high quality pictures, better pictures. But I thought it was interesting that, um, over the last a little while. I’ve been getting notifications from Google talking about how my picture is very popular and it’s very high quality.

And it’s only the ones that I’ve, I’ve taken that with the DSLR and it’s not like a showing me any of them that I’ve done with the, uh, with the, you know, regular phone or whatever. And I, you know, the images are good too, because both of these days are really good, but I dunno if it’s something [00:07:00] with the quality, um, or just how it looks because, you know, I do strip it down and upload it.

A web friendly version of it. So it’s not that it’s like high resolution or anything. And so I don’t know if you have any thoughts on that or if you’ve seen stuff like that, but, um, you know, maybe you could share with us, uh, what, what your thoughts are with, uh, you know, what you’ve seen with image search.

And I, you know, I, I think it’s neat because like, they’re being found, like, you know, because of these images, it’s showing you the data. And I don’t know how accurate the data is, but like. Thousands of times and for a new business is getting that exposure. It’s great. So I don’t know if you have any thoughts on that.

Mike Blumenthal: Yeah. I’ve been taking, I am a local guide at Google aims, one of the suckers that sort of contribute to Google maps. And I have images that I took from a diner in New York city that has been viewed several million times. Clearly Google is clearly, it’s a popular diner, was in the financial district. And clearly Google moved my image up to be very visible in the scheme of things.

Um. [00:08:00] So, certainly I think Google is capable of ascertaining quality . We’ve even seen new guidelines come out. Uh, they came out last fall for the types of images they’re looking for. You know, they have to be, clearly, they have to be clear. They can’t be hazy. They have to only have less than 10% of the surface area covered with text.

Um. So they do have the ability to understand quality more or less using their AI. Even more interesting to me with the use of their artificial intelligence and the images is they understand photo content. So for example, if you do a search for. Earrings, Williamsville New York. Uh, it will show local businesses and it will show the images that they’ve uploaded of earrings.

If you do the same, uh, same search, but modify it for engagement rings, Waynesville New York, they will show engaging ranks instead of earrings for the same local surgeries out are roughly similar auto searches. So not only is Google able to understand the quality [00:09:00] of image, they’re able to understand the semantic content of an image.

Matt Siltala: Well, that’s fascinating. That’s crazy.

Mike Blumenthal: That is crazy and it’s amazing because yeah, it has come a long way and they’ve added, last fall, they added a new feature called search by photos where it actually resides below the is a local search interface that resides below the pack and below a few organic results where it’s much more like Instagram, where it’s a highly visual search result.

That, um, is image based and so you, you, it’s rather than text-based.

Matt Siltala: That brings up a question that I, and I think that this would be fascinating to hear your response on it because, um, you know, cause you keep talking about how Google seems to be switching towards like more of an Instagram type, um, you know, uh, platform with serving this up and making it easy for us to see or consume.

And so it got me thinking about how. Well in local, especially with restaurants and things like that. A lot that I’ve dealt with, the reasons that I follow [00:10:00] these guys on social media, whether it be Instagram, Facebook, is because, you know, they’ll tell me, Hey, we’re sold out today. Don’t come by, or here’s our special in the day.

Or, Hey, we’re offering 10% off to vets today, or whatever. Like I can go to those places and I can see those images. And it’s very easy for me to use those platforms. And I wonder if almost Google is trying to do this to compete with. That traffic or to still some of it or they see that that kind of stuff is happening with local.

Because, you know, when I’m working with this group right now that I’m working with, you know, one of the big things that I talked to them about doing and trying to help them succeed, besides setting up the Google my business and getting all that optimized and set up correctly and all the other local places, obviously that you do, it’s being active on social and letting people know.

That, Hey, here’s what you can come and do, and, and here’s the images of this, you know, delicious new dessert we’re putting out today, or whatever it might be. And so, I don’t know, maybe just some thoughts on, [00:11:00] on that.

Mike Blumenthal: So Google is, as you know, a very competitive company, and local has always been. Uh, at the center of the competition that they perceive in the marketplace.

If you go back to 2008 or 2006 when they integrated maps and business listings, they used to exist separately. They did that in an effort to address their two, their two major groups of competitors at the time. On the one hand was the yellow pages. On the other hand was the MapQuest and the big maps of the world, and they use this consolidation of information to essentially.

I’ll compete both of those large at the time. Large groups of competitors, their competitors have changed over the years, but the map interface is at the core of what they’re doing in entity search and they’re going to, you can bet your bottom dollar, they’re going to compete aggressively. So on the one side, the far side there, they’ve done a lot of work in product integration with local.

Where they’re competing to some [00:12:00] extent with Amazon. On the other, on the mapping and the directional side, they’re competing with Apple on the imagery and social and restaurant side. They’re competing with Instagram. Um, and you can bet that that, that they will, they will battle on all three funds simultaneously in an effort to maintain.

And, and. Fortify their monopoly position in local search. When I say monopoly position, when I look at conversions in local businesses and I go in and do, you know, look at low funnel key performance indicators, things like driving directions, click to calls, a form fills messaging. What I see is that Google delivers 90 95% of those low funnel conversions and 70% of them.

Are occurring directly on Google, so they’re going to defend that position against all comers and Instagram as a comer. [00:13:00] The answer is yes.

Matt Siltala: I like that. So, um, you know, Dave will, Dave will probably, um. Kicking me if I don’t answer you this, because you know, obviously when we get into these conversations, they take their own directions, but, and it’s awesome.

But I know that I’m, one of the things that, that we get asked a lot and I think that this is going to be an important questions. You know, there’s obviously, you know, one Oh one and two Oh one level type of dealings that people have with Google my business. But, um, I guess I’m just going to steal this one and, and ask the two and one first, you know, the higher level stuff simply because, um.

I dunno. It’s something that I’m in the middle of right now. When you’re dealing with a business, a local restaurant that has had like one or two previous or even three or four previous owners in that exact same spot, and you’re claiming those listings and you’re trying to make sure everything is.

UpToDate, and, and the other businesses are [00:14:00] deleted and no longer, I dunno if you have any tips or anything for business owners that might be listening to that, how to go about that properly, or if there’s any tips or anything that they can do to make it easier on themselves.

Mike Blumenthal: Well, to quote a famous actor, forget about it.

The beauty of entity searches that Google that, uh. Nap confusion no longer confuses Google. Your whole idea of nap consistency came out of an era that was pre knowledge graph. Where Google would rebuild the world every six weeks. And if you had confusing data there, rebuilding techniques would cause that data to conflate.

So you might have, you know, these sort of hybrid listings, half one business and a half another. And the whole idea of a napkin system that was originally positive by myself and Dave and Mim was to an effort to control the output of the machine. That was Google. But [00:15:00] since the advent of the knowledge graph, which is really more of a database, once you have a.

Solid record that Google trust in the database. It takes, you know, a, an act of a tremendous effort to get them to get that confused. So I just did a case study in a small local restaurant that was the fourth restaurant at that physical location in the last five years. So tremendous net confusion. They had no budget.

So I was doing this for free and I left the issue of cleaning up all that nap. For a later date. I used a Google my business website cause they had no, no budget. All they had was a Facebook page and we were able to achieve tremendous success. Just by building out their Google my business website, building and doing Google posts, adding the menu, getting a few links and engrave photographs and totally ignoring the question of even building citations, let alone [00:16:00] dealing with nap confusion and the nap confusion.

I can guarantee you, given that they were the fourth horse run at that location was significant, and yet. It didn’t hold them back. Um, and so to me, there’s concrete proof. And also from a theoretical point of view, the knowledge graph being more of a database structure, theoretically is more stable than them rebuilding from a web scrape every six months, the local entities.

So this, the idea of nap consistency is one of those sort of pieces of dogma that. Came out of the early years that became monetized by companies like Yext and MAs. But there’s no longer really at the core of a local search marketing campaign.

Matt Siltala: And I wonder if a lot of it has to do with, cause one thing I noticed with this, uh, uh, business that this restaurant that I’ve been helping is, um, there’s been a lot of people that will go in on Yelp or Google or whatever platform they’re using and put that, Hey, this business is closed.

And I think so a lot [00:17:00] of the hard work is probably done by people like you and me, or just not you and me as marketers, but just, you know, as a consumers.

Mike Blumenthal: Yeah. And Google is very good at, at both soliciting that information and updating their, their list of businesses to reflect reality. There isn’t anybody who does it better than Google with their, you know, they have 100,000 I don’t remember a hundred.

What did they say? 90 million local guides who go around the world updating their database. They, they, you know, they have their tentacles. They’re scraping tenant goals, looking everywhere. So if a closed, uh, indication occurs a Yelp, Google knows it fairly quickly. Um, so yet Google does a great job of closing.

And they also, though, more importantly, from a technical point of view, don’t have the problem of merging. Uh, to disparate listings, even if they were at the same location, they understand that they were different and one’s closed and one’s open. So it’s a change in technology as well as an [00:18:00] acceleration in their ability to understand the real world.

It’s both things,

Matt Siltala: you know, I’m really glad that you shared that, that case study or that story there, Mike, because I’m going to give you another one with this restaurant that I’ve been working with that, um, confirms, you know, even more, I guess, two or three witnesses, they say. So this is another witness for you to know that that is the case.


Mike Blumenthal: you mean my personal witness isn’t,

Matt Siltala: I mean, for most people that know you, yes. But, um, but, uh, yeah, I, I took that exact same approach with this business and it seems like Google has figured it all out. Like I didn’t focus on, on citations. I didn’t, I just focused on the basics of getting them.

Everything’s set up correctly. And the only thing that I can see that Google is still lacking on a little bit of, is. They have a three 60 photo that I can’t get rid of, and then I’m trying to get updated to the new sign. But other than that, like everything everywhere has has been updated. And I took basically the same exact approach that you did.

And [00:19:00] so that’s a. That’s fascinating.

Mike Blumenthal: When you say a three 60 photo, you mean a one done by an agency or Google street view, isn’t

Matt Siltala: it? I think it’s Google street. So

Mike Blumenthal: just as a note, they’ve sort of privatized street view and if you reach out to me afterwards, I can put you in touch with some, uh, agencies that do street view that can get you, you have to pay for it, but they can get your street view updated.

Uh, because Google isn’t driving around as much.

Matt Siltala: Gotcha. Huh. That’s interesting to know. Thank you. So, um, they say

Mike Blumenthal: that, but I just saw a Google car the other day in LA. Yeah. A Google is certainly still driving, and particularly in high traffic. Yeah. Areas, but out in the boonies here, for example, where I live, very difficult to get a Google update.

In fact, I was working with a hotel in SIEM reap, Cambodia, very popular tourist spot. I couldn’t get Google to go there. No way. No how, but, uh, a local, uh, Google photographer was able, is [00:20:00] able to go in and, and get that updated.

Matt Siltala: I just laugh at those cause in my neighborhood, I happen to be. S stops checking them out.

And when you go through my neighborhood and you do the three 60, where you drive through and stuff, there I am next to my, uh, my Yukon. I, anyway, I just thought that was funny. But Dave, um, any, uh, any questions for Mike? I know we’re, we’re pushing the 20 minute Mark here, but, uh, yeah. Yeah,

Mike Blumenthal: this is, this is basically the, the Google my business image talk.

Um, which I think is cool cause you know, Matt, what do you kind of take some photos from time to time? We all know they’re a few thousand per day. Um. Well, so there’s agencies that do the street views, which is interesting because I’ve heard people, and I know some people that do the inside ones, but I hadn’t, I didn’t know, and I didn’t even realize that you could hire an agency to do the extra little one to update it, which I think is cool.

Um, but I think, Mike, what would be some of [00:21:00] your other tips for the hope is, especially for, I’m thinking like a hotel or a restaurant, um, where you can have different, different photos that may. Show up that you really appreciate. So someone might be, you know, like a little influencer and really wants to take this cool photo and then they put it up there for you.

And then there might be someone that decides that that burger, they got like the one I got the other day at my favorite place out West that just looked like a mess. You really don’t want that kind of showing up as one of the top five photos when someone is scrolling through. Even if it’s a high quality photo, it might not be the, the.

The look you want to give for an owner, what would you suggest other than hiring? I mean, you know, hiring someone like Matt, what tips could you give them to just optimize their images? To show up in the Google search, Google local, um, or just give a better experience. So it depends a little bit on the [00:22:00] vertical, but certainly regular.

Photography, fresh, current, high quality photography, irregularly uploaded is, is step one. Step two would be to think of the photographs semantically. I. E. in broad product or service categories to attempt to reflect it. I mean, Google image AI can, we uploaded some images of a lawyer around a table who uploaded other images of a lawyer in a courtroom and Google was able to ascertain that the courtroom.

Images were a lawyer in a courtroom with our AI tool. I think that’s fascinating, right? So think in terms of, uh, of semantic imagery, imagery that describes the broad categories of what you do. Obviously quality is very important. There is no reason you can’t report consumer images from within the GMB. So if they’re either outdated or poorly done, or.

On reflective, you can report them with some chance that they’ll be taken down. [00:23:00] But I think the best strategies, a proactive one of keeping your images current. Now, as a note in the restaurant world, if you do Google. Do Google post, those images from the post will flow into your images. A general image category.

So one way to kill two birds with one stone is to do Google posts with great images as those will then flow into your overall image. You know, uh, attributes. So. But I think, you know, you have to realize that images at Google are one, they’re providing semantic information for searches out, but they’re also about conversions.

And I think if you have to realize that the images you have on Google are probably the most seen images of your business in the world, and consumers are going to make down and dirty quick decisions, assuming it’s not a life threatening. You know, thing they’re looking up, they’re going to make those quick decisions on Google based on how you look compared to your competitors.

And I [00:24:00] think images are one of images and reviews, but images are one of the ways to distinguish yourself from your competitors. The other is, is reviews

Matt Siltala: and all the . I’ll shoot you this in a separate email, Mike, but you’ll love to hear this. With that said, because there is a, um, I go to a, a certain, uh, lodge in Alaska every year.

And, uh, I took a picture, um, of, of the area and on TripAdvisor, um, this image and on Google too, it’s the most viewed image. And they’ve had people call them in or people call them up to book the trip and say, I saw this picture on Google. And because of that, I wanted to book, like they’ve flat out said, I S because of this picture.

I’m booking this trip because I want to see that. And that was a picture that I took and I’m like, go, where’s my cut? But that’s awesome.

Mike Blumenthal: Difference between a real photographer and just sending someone out from your office or restaurant or [00:25:00] hotel, just to take a quick, you know, half hours to photo. And I think when you look at the cost in a local situation, you could bring in and professional photographer half day and it just isn’t that expensive.

And they can shoot hundreds of images that can last that business. Six months or a year in terms of regular posts to Google, and I think that it’s one of the best investments that a business could make in terms of local search marketing besides hiring Matt or somebody else to do their local SEO. But, uh,

Matt Siltala: this company, I’ll work for scones.

They, they sell scones and I’m like, you just pay me in scones or lunch.

Mike Blumenthal: Yeah. My case study, that’s when I worked for his lunch and I’m a sucker for her. Diner where they call you, hon. Yeah. And then give you too much gravy on your French fries. Maybe that’s just a Western New York thing, such thing as too much gravy on anything.

Matt Siltala: Well, I know that, uh, we’re, we’re pushing the limits of, uh, keeping you longer than we should, Mike. But do you have any final thoughts or anything wrapping up in regards to Google my business [00:26:00] or images or anything that we talked about before we, uh. Closer.

Mike Blumenthal: Well, I would like to just cover what I think are the four basics of ranking in Google.

Having a great website that has great internal links and describes what you’re doing, where you’d do it, you know, um, clearly having a fully filled out Google my business. But then in terms of what’s the difference makers, reviews inbound links. Um, and photographs are the difference makers. So once you’ve got the basics of a business, Google my business and a good website, you know, then I don’t think it’s rocket science doing well in local.

It’s an ongoing review campaign reviews everywhere. It’s not just a Google, it’s reviews at all the sites that relate to your business as well as your own and your own website. And then it’s a few inbound links. It doesn’t take a lot in local to win at that game. And then some great images. I mean, to me that’s a winning formula in local.

Matt Siltala: Boom, right there. Solid gold. I hope people were listening. And I know that Dave is probably going to put that in text format on the [00:27:00] blog post when we, uh, when we get this live and ready for everyone to listen to. So, uh, I just want to thank you again, Mike, for taking time and joining us. Like I really appreciate it, sir.

Mike Blumenthal: Well, I’m certainly willing to come back for two Oh one and three Oh one

Matt Siltala: Hey, we will, we will have you back for that for sure. So. All right guys. Well, thank you for listening to all those that were on, uh, for Mike Blumenthal with gather up, I met Sol Tila, uh, with avalanche media and we got Dave Rover there with Northside metrics.

So thanks guys for joining us and, uh, we’ll, uh, look forward to having you on another one of these episodes. Bye bye.


E140 – Photo Optimization for Local SEO w/ Mike Blumenthal Hosts:

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