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What if Google Let You Publish Directly to Search?

It’s a presidential election year, and you know what that means! It means it’s time for the candidates to start sending you messages directly through Google search results.

Uh, what?

Well, it might sound a bit crazy at first, but Google is doing just that. They’re currently testing “an experimental new podium” that allows presidential candidates and other publishers to communicate with the public directly using text, images, and video (even animated gifs). The content appears instantly in search results related to the publisher. Posts are totally unconnected to a publisher’s Google+ account.

The virtual ”podium” is currently open to verified individuals and organizations by invitation only.

The basic layout of Posts on mobile, courtesy of Google.

Not just links, answers

Google has culled additional information about well-known public figures and companies since 2012 — part of an overarching strategy to provide answers, not just links. The feature is called “Knowledge Graph” and it can be seen in a sidebar alongside the search results. What gets showcased in the sidebar varies depending on the entity. Google “Chipotle,” for example, and you’ll see a summary of the current stock price, company CEO, and menu nutrition data. Google “Beyoncé” and you’ll get a brief biography, a list of popular songs, and links to music streaming services and her social media profiles.

So what separates Posts from Knowledge Graphs? First, instead of drawing on information from other websites, Posts acts as its own self-contained information platform. Second, Posts behaves sort of like a microblogging tool with which publishers can generate public messages — enabling them to directly control content about themselves from right inside their search results.

In other words, with Posts publishers get a chance to create their own answers.

During testing, Posts appear on the left side, under news results and above search results, as a navigable carousel of “cards.” At the time of my research, Hillary Clinton’s most recent Posts were photos and Ted Cruz’s were videos, shown outlined here in red:


When you click on a card, you’re taken to a page where you can see that publisher’s stream of Posts:


It’s worthy of noting that, at least during this election cycle, Google appears to be experimenting with the scope of each candidate’s Knowledge Graph, too. Currently it displays a brief biography stub, campaign finance information, and a featured issue (outlined here in blue):


Clicking “More issues” refreshes the search page to show you accordion tabs containing direct quotes from the candidate on major campaign issues. The quotes are drawn from their own Posts and from news articles across the web. Editorial comments are not included, just the candidate’s own words.


Can you start to see the small business potential here?

What would happen if Google opened up Posts to businesses?

It’s not much of a stretch to wonder, because it turns out Google’s current experiments are not just limited to well-known people and organizations. Google is also testing Posts with a small, select number of local businesses. Local search expert Mike Blumenthal was one of the first to make the discovery when he spotted a jewelry store out of Buffalo, NY, which has been appearing in area search results with the same type of “business cards,” as Search Engine Land coined them, as the presidential hopefuls have been enjoying:


This is very interesting indeed. Because it’s one thing to put direct-to-SEO publishing power in the hands of, well, powerful people and companies. But it’s another thing entirely to put it in the hands of littler guys who might struggle to appear on the first page of organic search listings at all.

The key benefits of Posts for businesses include:
  • Real-time content marketing potential — think live events ranging from the Super Bowl to conferences
  • Exclusivity to Google — other search engines can’t crawl Posts
  • No commenting removes the pressure of moderating trolls and managing negative sentiment on yet another platform
  • Better exposure than Google+ ever came close to imagining
  • Ability to share across other social platforms
  • Opportunity for smaller businesses to compete directly with bigger competitors simply by producing better, more engaging content

Of course, lots of questions remain. When local searches become saturated with Post streams, what determines whose “business cards” get to appear in results? Will Google eventually monetize with paid placement for Posts, and if so doesn’t that just mean another way for big brands with huge budgets to grab more exposure?

Until more businesses get to test out Posts — and until Google renames the service to something a little more accurate and compelling — it’s difficult to predict what could happen. So far Google has declined to say what its future plans are for Posts, but we’ll definitely keep our eye on future developments. So far, it sounds promising.

Have you spotted any local business cards in your searches lately?

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