Google’s Experimental Podium on Select Local Businesses
by Al Gomez
**Disclaimer: content presented in screenshots are for sample purposes ONLY and do not, in any way, endorse brands or political candidates. Any opinion expressed is that of the author and does not represent any business that was mentioned herein. For questions and/or clarifications, please contact us directly.
In light of upcoming U.S. presidential elections, search engine giant Google has created new features to make it easier for users to stay in touch with their favorite candidates. There’s no official name for it, but they look a lot like cards that contain the most recent updates from each contender. On its official page, it’s called a podium, where it does exactly that: a platform – right on Google search – that lets audiences in on what’s new with every presidential hopeful.
These “candidate cards” appear along recent news and the Knowledge Graph in Google search results. Recently though, they’re not the only ones who seem to be enjoying this latest innovation. Local search expert Mike Blumenthal spotted a local business with the same cards that were supposedly reserved for presidential contenders. Search Engine Land confirmed with Google that indeed, the company is running an experiment with several local enterprises using this new feature.
Podium for Local Businesses
Unlike other forms of content that are hosted on a separate platform, these cards are published directly on Google. It means traditional indexing rules are bypassed, allowing audiences to immediately view and share content on search results. This feature can showcase text, animated GIFs, and videos. The latter doesn’t automatically playback, but animations are amazingly depicted and add a new dimension to displayed results – especially on mobile.
The experimental cards’ content may or may not necessarily contain the same stuff on a business’ own website. A local jewelry company called Andrew’s Jewelers for example, is presently re-designing their website blog, so there’s nothing on it. Instead, they create their own posts using Google’s podium.
If implemented for other businesses, this can be a huge benefit. Often during a re-design or major content overhaul, brands usually wonder how and where to publish content for the meantime. With Google’s podium, they don’t need to worry about it anymore. They can simply use the platform while their site is undergoing improvement. This also works for businesses that haven’t made a website yet.
Content posted on the podium doesn’t look half bad either. On search, it appears like a card carousel, where a user can scroll left or right to find content he likes. Clicking on it will take you to the official page of the business, where you can view all published posts. You can share content like you would any article link, but you can’t write comments yet. Users can however, leave feedback for Google to determine which content is relevant or not.
As mentioned, these local business cards do NOT go through normal indexing. This means:
- Content hosted from the podium remains exclusive to Google (other search engines can’t crawl it)
- Online users can see relevant content in real-time
- Updates can be easily and quickly shared on various social media channels
There’s no word yet if Google will make this feature available for all – but they are encouraging businesses to sign up to their wait list.
The Future of Search
This may all seem pretty exciting – particularly for big brands – but the feature is not perfect. First off, if the search engine giant plans on offering this to “prominent figures and organizations”, what does it leave for small, struggling businesses?
Won’t this feature take up too much search results real estate? What about sites that rely on SEO and other organic digital marketing tactics? Will it remain as invite-only OR will the podium be subject to spam from businesses that can afford to pay the price?
Second: as the feature doesn’t rely on indexing, will a link-less future be on the horizon? This is NOT the same as optimizing a website without building links (we all understand that’s possible, given enough time and the right methods). Even as far back as 2012, experts have debated on whether or not Google is on the brink of ranking sites based on popularity – not links. This could well be a prelude to that.
As of now though, don’t assume that just because people are talking about your brand a lot means you could get away without gaining high-quality links. We still need them. After all, these are just experiments.
It’s not bad thinking and preparing for such a scenario though.
Last point: if there’s ONE thing that local businesses should invest on, it’s building relationships. Nurture existing connections with business partners, customers, employees, and industry experts. If you can, why not reach out to competitors, too? The world is getting smaller. Soon, your rival may as well be a client, and vice versa. In the ever dynamic environment of digital commerce, friendship can be considered a currency – and Google understands this.
Whether you’re a local business in Los Angeles or a huge brand in upscale New York, make necessary preparations for the future. It may arrive sooner than you think.
January 15, 2018