Unboxing Google Beacon & Benefits (full post below video)
Over the past month, a lot of our clients have received Google Beacons in the mail, even though they haven’t specifically asked for them.
That’s raised questions like:
- What are Google Beacons?
- Should I set up my Google Beacon(s)? Do I need one at each business location?
- Do Google Beacons help my SEO? Local SEO?
- How can Google Beacons help my PPC (Google Ads) campaigns?
- My business is a service-area only business (customers don’t visit our office). Can Google Beacons provide any value?
- Aren’t there privacy concerns with Google Beacons?
I’ll do my best to answer those questions below.
Background of Google Beacons & FAQs
What are Google Beacons used for?
They’re mainly intended for brick-and-mortar businesses where customers visit the store. According to Google, “Google is piloting a program where we send beacons to businesses with physical locations to make their venues more visible to customers with mobile devices. The program is currently free. Beacons are small [Bluetooth] transmitters that send one-way signals that are read by customers’ phones. This location information can be used across a wide range of services on mobile phones.”
How can I get a Google Beacon and what do they look like?
It doesn’t appear that you can ask for one. If you really want one, try asking your Google Ads rep. They look like this.
How much do Google Beacons cost?
They’re “currently free” (even though Google says that, it’s unlikely that they’d start charging for them).
How do I set up a Google Beacon?
Go here and follow the steps in the form. Lost the activation code? According to Google, “It’s okay if you can’t find your activation code. We can activate your beacon using your business name and postcode or zipcode. This method may take a little longer to activate your beacon.”
How long does it take to set up a Google Beacon?
About a minute.
Should I set up the Google Beacons?
Short answer: It’s quick to activate, is “set it and forget it”, and provides SEO and PPC benefits.
- If you are running Google Ads, yes.
- If you’re a brick-and-mortar business, yes.
- If you’re a service area only business, it’s more optional, but I still recommend it.
Keep reading to see the SEO and PPC benefits. If you decide not to set it up, do not throw it away.
Should I set them up at all of my store locations?
If you’re going to set up a Google Beacon at one location, set them up at each location (as you get them in the mail).
Where can I find out more about Google Beacons?
Go to Google’s official page on them, which has a variety of FAQs, as well as this page About Project Beacon by Google. It’s interesting that the page lives within the Google Ads help center, not in Google My Business (GMB)’s help center.
Benefits of Google Beacons for SEO
Here are some benefits of using the Google Beacons for search engine optimization (SEO) and “local SEO”…
For Businesses That Customers Visit
It all comes down to increasing your chances of ranking higher on both regular Google searches and on Google Maps.
Google Beacons can improve SEO because they:
- Help you get more reviews, photos, and user engagement with your Google Maps listing(s): Reviews and photos on your Google Maps listing (along with users interacting with the listing) are incredibly important for ranking. The Beacon will proactively ask users to leave reviews, add photos, etc on your Google My Business (GMB) listing that appears on Google Maps. More activity on your GMB listing is generally better for SEO. The more popular a business is, the more likely Google will be willing to show it to searchers. Ranking factors that the beacon can increase include, but aren’t limited to:
- Total number of reviews.
- Quality of reviews (star rating).
- Keywords in reviews.
- Number of photos on the GMB listing.
- The popularity of the business based on location data (ex. how many people are visiting the business, when they’re visiting, how long they typically stay).
- Get in front of potential customers: It can proactively push Google Maps information about your business to nearby potential customers (who might not have been planning to visit). This can also be done with coupons, special offers, (maybe events in the future?), etc.
- Give more, reliable data to Google: Google likes data. The more reliable information Google has about your business, the more likely it is that Google will be willing to show it to searchers (aka higher search rankings, especially in the local map pack). After all, if Google isn’t providing reliable info to searchers, they’re eventually going to stop using Google. Some of the extra data that a beacon provides Google with include things like “popular times and typical visit duration… and help provide Location Insights about how customers engage with your store” (source).
- Increase visibility for previous customers: For people who have visited the business in the past, having a Google Beacon will increase the chance that the business’ pushpin shows up on Google Maps as they browse the map (even if they’re not specifically searching for your business). Google says it will “help your business show up on personal maps or saved places”.
There’s likely other SEO benefits that no one outside of Google has thought of, but here’s a longer list to consider.
For Businesses That Customers Don’t Regularly Visit (Service Area Businesses)
For “Service Area Businesses” (SABs) that serve potential customers who rarely (or never) visit their location (ex. plumbers, eCommerce stores, website developers, business or technology consultants, etc), there may still be a slight SEO benefit to setting up your Google Beacon.
- Get more reviews from vendors, family members who visit, and other visitors to the office. Unless you’re located in the middle of nowhere and never have any visitors, there’s still a chance that having Google Beacon activated will lead to more reviews and photos.
- Some businesses might be “by appointment only” or only very occasionally have potential and current customers in the office. Beacon still helps solicit reviews and photos from those folks.
- Employee reviews: Even though Google doesn’t technically allow it, having a beacon could encourage employees to leave reviews on the Google Maps listing. As mentioned above, reviews, photos, and user engagement on your Google Maps listing is helpful. That’s still the case if you don’t serve customers at your business location. In general, Google looks for signs of life from a business, and having active engagement on your Google Maps listing is a small step in that direction.
- Get the brand in front of potential customers: It can proactively push Google Maps information about the business to nearby people who might not have known about your business, but who may happen to be looking for the services you provide.
- Google also lists several benefits that are definitely worth considering (example, they “help your business show up on personal maps or saved places…”).
A rule of thumb in SEO world is that if Google provides you with a way to give it data, it’s best to take advantage of that. Beacons do just that.
Benefits of Google Beacons for PPC (Google Ads)
Whether you call them pay-per-click ads (PPC), Google Ads, or Google AdWords, the answer is the same. If you have a business that potential customers visit and run Google Ads, you should probably set up your Google Beacon(s).
For Businesses That Customers Visit
- Assisted conversion data: The main benefit for PPC (at least right now) is additional assisted conversion data reported back through the Google Ads (formerly “Google AdWords”) interface. Specifically, for physical brick & mortar locations with a beacon, “Store Visits” can be reported back to your Google ad campaigns. This happens when someone sees an online ad or clicks on a search ad (even if they don’t turn into a customer), and later physically visits the business. The beacon registers that they were physically there and may be able to help with re-marketing, optimizing ad campaigns, ad copy, etc.
- Easy to access the data: These visits get reported back to the appropriate Google Ads campaign in the “All Conversion” column (which is separate from the “Conversion” column where phone calls), form fills, and eCommerce transactions resulting from clicking on an online ad are reported.
- Data can be used to optimize Google Ads: This data can be used to help make optimization decisions on the Google Ads campaigns.
For Businesses That Customers Don’t Regularly Visit (Service Area Businesses)
There’s basically no PPC benefit for service area businesses that set up Google Beacons. That being said, it does appear that the SEO advantages, coupled with the easy “set it and forget it” setup mean that it’s probably worth installing for your business.
Privacy Concerns with Google Beacons
Some businesses have especially been worried about the privacy issues that these devices raise (and rightfully so). I’ll start by saying that I understand the privacy concerns. I myself am quite conscious of digital privacy and can certainly sympathize with the fear of these beacons.
That being said…
- According to Google, “…beacons do not collect any data and any reporting we provide to businesses about store visits or location insights that the beacon helps support is aggregated and anonymized. We never show reporting tied to any individual website visits, ad clicks, viewable impressions, or people. Google uses industry best practices to ensure the privacy of individual users.”
- Also according to Google, “The beacon transmits a one-way code that’s unique to your venue. When a user visits your venue with location services on their device turned on, their phone can use the beacon signal in order to understand that it’s visiting your store. The beacon itself does not collect or store any information. It only provides a helpful signal to your customers’ phones.” So, if the Beacon is stolen or lost, it’s not a big deal.
- The fact of the matter is, if your smartphone or tablet has GPS/location, Wi-Fi, or even Bluetooth turned on (apart from beacons), Google can already get a very accurate picture of where you’re at… beacons simply make the data more precise (especially for multi-story buildings and places with poor cell phone reception).
For these reasons, in my opinion, I recommend setting up your Google Beacon(s) that you receive in the mail for “Project Beacon”.
If you have a business that customers visit, it’s even a more resounding “YES”!
If you decide not to set them up, I strongly recommend that you do not throw it out. Keep in mind that if you discard the beacon(s), Google might not let you be a part of the program again. With the investment that Google’s made in mailing these Bluetooth hardware devices out to (presumably thousands) of businesses across the USA and Canada, it’s likely that Google will continue adding more features to the “Beacon Project”. Potential features might include things like targeting ads to users within a very short distance of your business, sending event information out to nearby users, etc.
TIP: Let the person/department who sorts the mail know to expect this. Because you can’t ask for a beacon from Google, it’s not mailed to a specific person’s name.
Imagine if someone sitting in a restaurant browsing their phone gets a notification about a nearby store or event they might be interested in? Maybe even a coupon for that very thing appears.
While it would take some getting used to, that’s a very real possibility of where Google is headed with Google Beacons.
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