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‘Brands have to think like local businesses’: Interview with Krystal Taing

Krystal Taing joined Uberall in September as Solutions Engineer for Strategic Partnerships in North America. She has been and continues to be a Google My Business Google Product Expert. We asked her for her reflections and observations on GMB during COVID-19 and about her thoughts on the future.

UB: Krystal, you’re a Google My Business Gold Product Expert. How did you become one and what do you do in that capacity?

Krystal Taing: My experience with the Google My Business (GMB) Product Expert Program, which is based on the Google My Business Forum, is really from an education standpoint. I started going a number of years ago when I had questions that Google My Business support wasn't helpful with. I was able to get my questions answered, and I also saw that there were questions there that I could help answer based on my experience managing GMB for a number of businesses. I started working on the forum, answering questions and connecting with other product experts. I saw that there was a need to address a lot of the questions around bulk and agency.

In addition to volunteering on the forum, Google My Business Product Experts work with the GMB team to provide feedback from a consumer and user perspective on their product. They ask us for insight, and at times we're able to escalate issues and bugs and draw their attention to things they may not have visibility into.

UB: Google has made lots of changes to GMB in the last six months during the coronavirus. What do you think are the most significant changes or feature updates?

Krystal Taing: I would say the most significant changes involved their philosophy around serving users and businesses to help them get through the pandemic, but not necessarily a single feature or update. 

Google saw its ability and responsibility to support businesses. Rolling out these changes and highlighting features and additional functionality with GMB has been huge on their part. Historically changes would take months of long-term testing and only be available to a very small percentage of users. They basically wiped that out and said, “We're going to roll with the punches; we're going to do what we can to support businesses right now.” I think that has been a really big step on their part.

UB: Do you think this new way of operating will continue or do you think Google will return to its old approach when the pandemic is over? 

Krystal Taing: I think these faster rollouts allow Google to see how much more quickly they can adapt when needed. I certainly think there are many things that will return to long-term testing. But there are likely to be teams within GMB, like the team that manages the front end, the UI, where we'll see changes a little bit faster with more frequent testing. What we haven't seen are quicker changes with the bulk upload and API functionality. That’s likely because there's a larger impact, should there be a bug or a rollback. 

I also think Google is getting better at valuing the feedback that they're getting from businesses, and the user engagement of their tool.

UB: Do you think that the bulk posting feature for Google Posts will remain or be rolled back to the way it was before COVID: manual Posts and no mass posting for chains? 

Krystal Taing: If there hasn’t been a significant impact on ad spend by enterprise brands, I think they'll allow it long term. In addition to just being able to handle all the data from Google Posts for chains, the concern was that those using Posts might not buy ads, which I don't think is the case.

Thinking back to last year, it was hard for me to find a chain that ever used a Google Post, and now it's not so hard. I can go to any shopping center on Google Maps and click around, and I find a business that's leveraged a Post in the last few weeks. For the most part, I’m seeing content that is completely different from what a brand would include in an ad, more informational and hyper localized. 

UB: One of the things that's interesting about Posts is that they can promote anything: in-store deals, e-commerce, COVID safety provisions. 

Krystal Taing: Yes, i’ve seen a number of restaurants that are leveraging Posts to promote downloading their apps, in addition to sharing updates around COVID-19 and health and safety features. 

UB: What do you think are the most common mistakes brands and enterprises make in their local marketing or Local SEO?

Krystal Taing: I don't know that it's necessarily a mistake, but more of just a miss not understanding that they are also local businesses, that they operate as local businesses. A chain or an enterprise has an impact on the community and has the ability to connect with the people in the neighborhood and that should be adopted in their SEO as much as possible. 

It’s challenging: a business that has hundreds or thousands of locations would have to connect with their regional managers and the people in the store. But to build that local voice is really, really powerful, especially now with platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Nextdoor to connect with their community. It’s a big deal. I think for chains and enterprises that haven't considered this type of local strategy, it's certainly something that they're not going to be able to ignore much longer.

UB: What is the most interesting thing you’re seeing in Local these days?

Krystal Taing: What's interesting to me now is what’s been interesting to me forever: how much changes and how it’s affected by what's happening in the world. I just love connecting the dots between SEO, Local and what's happening in my daily life. That’s the same today as it has always been. 

What has changed, during the pandemic, is how powerful local search has become. One of the things I saw very early on was a flood of new users on the Google My Business forum that had very little knowledge of how GMB worked. It was a result of Google aggregating data from state and health sources and proactively pushing this to businesses that needed to be marked closed during the onset of the pandemic. 

Users were trying to update their business profile but had never claimed it or interacted with the product in the past. This produced a wave of late adopters of GMB and Local. 

Seeing that first-hand, trying to navigate everything with them has just been incredible, interesting and obviously tough sometimes. They would say, "I just need to edit the search results to show I’m open" And I tell them, "You can't just edit the search results, there’s an entire process of claiming and then updating." I’m sure this was frustrating for users that wanted a quick change. 

Local has been an interesting place to be, especially during this time, and especially with the platforms like Google, Apple, Yelp, and Facebook making updates to support businesses, fully realizing their power and responsibility.

UB: Finally, tell us a little about your role at Uberall? 

Krystal Taing: I’m a Solutions Engineer for Strategic Partnerships in North America. I’m supporting the Partnerships team and making sure that our partners get onboarded and are leveraging the platform to its full extent, as well as making sure that we are building a tool that supports our partners and their growing needs. 

UB: Thanks Krystal, we’re really glad you joined the team.