Is Google going to start charging companies to use Google My Business (GMB)? A lot of alarmed businesses, including our clients, are asking this question after Search Engine Land reported that the company’s asking businesses how much they might pay each month for services that it currently provides for free on GMB.
Long term, anything can happen. But at Reputation.com, we believe that in the immediate or near future it is highly unlikely that Google will remove any existing GMB functionality we are already using.
Why GMB Matters
GMB is the foundation of a company’s identity on Google. Creating and maintaining your business profile on GMB amplifies your presence when people look for businesses on Google and apps such as Google Maps. As I noted in a blog post, The importance of your GMB page as a ranking signal increased 32% year over year in Moz’s most recent Local Search Ranking Factors analysis. In fact, your GMB page is now the largest local ranking factor. Quite simply, you must have a GMB account with regularly updated location data and search-optimized content in order to be found online.
Your GMB profile includes many features, such as the ability to respond to reviews, that make it possible for businesses to improve your rankings, as long as you invest the time to mind your GMB pages. Google does not charge businesses to have a GMB listing; but as Search Engine Land reported, the company distributed a survey asking users how much they would be willing to pay for a premium GMB model that requires businesses to pay for services that are currently free. Users took to Twitter to voice alarm. Search Engine Land’s Barry Schwartz spoke for many when he wrote:
Obviously when anything goes from free to paid, the additional cost is something one would have to make room for in their budget or decide to go without. Google launched this service for free because they relied on third-party providers to give them local data.
That data was often out of date or incorrect, thus Google needed to get on top of this problem, so Google provided a method for businesses to update their own information. Now that this service has become a requirement for most businesses, maybe Google feels it can charge for it and get away with doing so now?
And it didn’t help matters that on April 30, Alphabet (Google’s parent) reported disappointing quarterly earnings, suggesting financial pressure to please shareholders.
How Likely Will Google Charge for a GMB Listing?
It’s highly unlikely Google would put behind a paywall core functions such as publishing location data and reviews. Charging for that key data would prohibit Google from having the most complete, accurate and best set of business data for their searchers.
Google is unlikely to risk its strong market share by making results less accurate on Maps, Android devices and other apps user data powers, just to make a few extra dollars. If even a half a percentage of Google users went to Bing or Apple Maps seeking more accurate data, the amount of lost advertising revenue would dwarf anything Google could make by charging for its business services.
A Freemium Model?
Google may introduce for-pay features to improve click-through rates and conversions, while leaving intact all the features that improve visibility. In other words, GMB could become a “freemium” model. Meanwhile, if you’re concerned about the direction Google might take, don’t panic. Talk with your agency partner and with Google directly.
Most importantly, don’t stop investing in your GMB listing. The last thing you need is for your business to start losing visibility across the Google universe because you neglected your GMB listing.
What’s Google’s Response?
Here’s what they said:
We’re always experimenting with new ways to improve the experience for businesses on Google. We consider many features and determine which to roll out, based on a variety of factors. We take a very thoughtful approach when determining whether to offer paid experiences and this survey is just one effort to help us understand how we can bring more value to these businesses.
Although this statement doesn’t dispel the rumors outright, it puts the survey in a broader context of testing the waters — suggesting Google might add paid services without taking away the free features.
Contact Reputation.com for more insight into attracting customers and building your reputation across the digital world.