It started with a simple Slack message from one of our Performance Managers, “Hey Jason, my client just received a beacon from Google and they’re not sure why. Do you know what’s going on?”.
That message led to a quick phone call where I described what these Google Beacons are, how they work, and what they can do for a local business. It wasn’t too long after that I got another question about beacons, and then another! That’s when I realized that Google’s beacons were magically showing up at our dealer partners’ doors across the country, and if I was half the blogger I think I am, I needed to whip up a detailed post giving you the full scoop right here, right now!
So if you received one of Google’s beacons and still don’t know what it is or what it does, this blog is for you!
Project Beacon by Google
Google recently launched a new pilot program called Project Beacon. As a part of this program, Google is sending beacons (for free) to businesses with physical locations in an effort to make their venues more visible to customers with mobile devices while they’re within your venue.
So if you’re reading this and you received a Google Beacon, then you have been chosen to participate in this pilot program. Hooray!
Wait A Sec…What Exactly Are Beacons?
Good question, lets back it up a second here. Beacons in general are small, Bluetooth-powered devices that transmit one-way data picked up by smartphones within the proximity of the beacon’s signal.
Probably the easiest way to think about a beacon is to think about a lighthouse. But instead of emitting light to nearby sea vessels to designate a location, beacons emit a Bluetooth radio signal to accomplish the same goal.
Who Is Receiving Beacons From Google?
Google is sending beacons to select businesses who use Google’s advertising services and have enabled location extensions.
If you didn’t receive a beacon, and really want one, you can request one for free from Google as long as you meet the above criteria. Please note though that not everyone who requests a beacon will get one. But hey, you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take, right?
What Are The Benefits To Using Google’s Beacon?
Google’s Beacons help mobile devices more accurately determine a user’s location when location services on their device are enabled. Because your store’s actual physical location is programmed within your beacon, your phone will then use the signal from the beacon to understand that the user is actually physically in your store – as opposed to relying on other, less accurate location based signals.
A simpler way to say it is that with a beacon, your phone will know exactly where you are, as opposed to guessing where you are.
This is extremely beneficial when your place of business is located within a shopping center, auto mall, or any other location where numerous businesses are all located very close to each other.
According to Google, by activating and using the beacon they sent you, you can:
- Help your business show up on personal maps or saved places, where users have opted in to Location History.
- Gather photos, reviews, and other user-generated content for your business from people who’ve actually visited.
- Provide features like popular times and typical visit duration to help customers plan their visit to your business.
- Help provide Location Insights about how customers engage with your store.
- Access more features as they become available.
I’ll touch base on a couple of these benefits specifically here in a second. But first, let’s clarify something…
What’s The Difference Between Google’s Beacon and Other 3rd Party Beacons?
There’s no shortage of beacons that you can buy from Amazon or directly through the companies that manufacture them such as Kontakt.io. However, those beacons differ from the ones Google is sending out via Project Beacon from the standpoint that unlike Google’s, the 3rd party beacons aren’t pre-programmed to do anything out of the box. It’s up to you to develop and implement proximity based experiences for your users.
Sounds kinda cool, doesn’t it? Want to learn more about the Google Beacon Platform for Developers? Click here.
Will The Beacon Influence Store Visit Conversion Tracking?
While Google doesn’t mention it specifically, it would make sense that having an active Google Beacon will help increase the location accuracy of the customers who walk through your door, thus potentially impacting Store Visit Conversion Tracking in AdWords (now Google Ads).
If you’re not up to speed on Store Visit Conversion Tracking, Cara Garvey, our Paid Search Director, has the scoop,
Store Visit conversions are a new metric available only to select Google Partners that allow advertisers to see the exact influence paid search has on walk-in traffic. Google models anonymized data to reflect store visits from ad clicks. This information is extrapolated from users who are logged into Google on their mobile device when visiting that location after clicking on an ad. For our clients, this is huge—it closes the gap between actions taken online and in real life by their customers and lets the determine the actual ROI of their PPC spend (which, as it turns out, is AH-MAHZING).
Will Using Google’s Beacon Impact My SEO?
One of the questions I’ve been asked regarding the beacons is if by having one will your SEO, specifically Local SEO, get a ranking boost in applicable search results?
The short answer is no; simply having a beacon with not directly pump up your visibility in local search results.
However, the beacon can indirectly influence your Local SEO. Here’s how…
As mentioned above, the beacon will help you gather photos, reviews, and other user-generated content for your business from people who’ve actually visited.
By using your Google Beacon, location services enabled users who visited your business will receive a notification on their phone proactively asking them to leave a review and/or upload pictures that were taken at your location.
Let that sink in for a second….
It just so happens that Google My Business Review and Engagement Signals are two of the many Local SEO ranking factors their algorithm takes into consideration when providing local search results.
So yes, indirectly your beacon can help improve your Local SEO.
In my opinion, if you received one of these beacons from Google, USE IT! The benefits of indirectly strengthening Local SEO signals for your business as well as improving the accuracy of your Store Visit Conversion Tracking make it more than worth the cost…and it was free…sooooo yeah.
Also, this is a great way to become familiar with beacon technology in general. There’s actually all kinds of cool things you could implement with a well-planned beacon infrastructure, especially at a car dealership. Imagine if:
- When a customer walked through your door, they received a notification with a link to your current vehicle specials on your website.
- As a customer approached your service drive, they got a message with instructions on what to do upon entering.
- Your showroom vehicles had beacons that transmit links to your website with more stats, specs, and videos for each individual vehicle.
The possibilities are only limited by your imagination and willingness to invest in the technology.
Questions and Comments
Do you have more questions about Project Beacon or beacon technology in general? Have you received a Google Beacon? Let us know what’s on your mind in the comments section below.
Nothing to say? Then go ahead and get your Google Beacon set up today!