You may have heard of beacons, but do you truly know what this small device can do to enhance your business’ digital marketing?
In 2015, Google Beacons launched to help businesses gain visibility with customers as well as account for more accurate in-store traffic. Furthermore, they started sending free beacons to a limited number of physical business locations to be a part of their pilot program. Since it was a new program, a lot of small businesses were confused as to why they received these devices and what they’re for.
Don’t panic, this article will answer all your questions and clarify a few things concerning the mysterious stranger known as google beacon.
WHAT IS A BEACON?
A beacon is a small device, powered by Bluetooth technology, that picks up data from smartphones near its location. The device collects information about visitors that enter your store and even signals users near your store when they have their location services on (which most smartphone users do).
Beacons can be used in offices, stores, public buildings, and other fixed locations, and they can also be used on vehicles, like buses and taxis.
Some people ask whether they need a beacon?
If you’re a storefront business that sells physical items in your store – or has a short sales cycle for services – absolutely! You’ll get extremely accurate data about your customers, store visits, and popular foot traffic times. You’re also likely to notice an improvement in your SEO (search engine optimization) – meaning you’ll show up more often in Google search and Google Maps. On top of all of that, you’ll find it easier to gather reviews and have customers share information about their experience with your business online. It’s an extremely valuable tool that automates and streamlines a process that was previously difficult and time-consuming.
WHAT IS GOOGLE BEACON?
Google Beacon is a type of Bluetooth technology with proximity-based triggers. These triggers affect both the physical and digital world. Using Bluetooth low energy (BLE) hardware technology, beacons communicate with nearby smart devices like smartphones, tablets, and etc. There are different types of beacons that perform different tasks.
As stated earlier, Beacon technology emerged in 2015, but it was not up to the challenge at that time. It needed more time to mature and there were a few issues that had to be addressed before it could be deployed. Google decided to take the initiative to solve these problems, and they have made a lot of progress over the last few years.
Google Beacon is designed to enhance location functionality for users and businesses. When integrated with Google’s other location-related features, Google says businesses will be better able to gather user-generated content about their business such as photos and reviews from visitors who have actually been inside that business, as well as gain other insights about how visitors engage with the business. In addition, users will receive more accurate information about insights like popular times and visit duration so they can plan their visits accordingly.
BLUETOOTH LOW ENERGY BEACON
A Bluetooth Low Energy beacon (or BLE beacon) allows smartphones to perform specific actions through a wireless personal area network (through Wi-Fi). The technology was created by Bluetooth Special Interest Group. The beacon uses proximity data provided by BLE hardware transmitters. Bluetooth beacons use less energy than some other transmitters.
A ‘Receiving’ beacon is configured once and then can be remotely managed through the cloud. The beacon is capable of accessing messages that have been stored in the cloud with, or without, an app. It uses what Google calls “Nearby Messages” and “Nearby Notifications.” It can be achieved by adding elements to the beacon signal.
An ‘Interacting’ beacon interacts with the “physical web.” This involves broadcasting a link to a web page using Eddystone-URL frames which can then be read by Chrome browsers and Nearby Notifications. It makes the connection from the digital world to the physical world.
Eddystone has 4 components:
- UID – a unique ID Number
- URL – a Web Address
- EID – to increase the security.
- TLM – contains telemetry data (Not available in ibeacon)
The biggest advantage of using eddystone is that it can let you send the URL, so even if user does not have the mobile app installed, they can get push notification message on their device.
A ‘Integrating’ beacon requires registering it with Google. You can access the Google Beacon Registry through the Beacon Tools app on Android and iOS. Having the app unlocks more data pertaining to location like latitude, longitude, and floor level through Google Places ID / API.
- Widely supported
- Simple and easy to implement
- Reliable performance on iOS
What are the advantages of google beacons?
- Location targeting: Beacons let you target users with messages based on their specific location.
- Mapping: The ability to “see” where consumers go in-store and attribute actions to these journeys – e.g. gauge how many buy a product after seeing promotional signs.
- Frequency: Measure how often people visit the same locations, how long they spend there and how these relate to sales.
- In-store messaging: Send promotional offers to people as they look through your store or business location.
- Guide users: With full beacon systems, you can guide people through entire shopping centers, stadiums, airports and entire cities.
- Gamification: Brands are using beacons to create treasure hunts and gamify the consumer process.
- Cross-selling: Target shoppers with related products, special offers and other purchases as they queue up to pay.
- Loyalty: Send loyalty rewards to people as they complete purchases.
- Customer recalls: Send promotions and other messages to people who leave without buying anything to entice them back into the store.
We think it’s safe to assume that the primary use of these will be with retailers trying to lure impulsive buyers into their stores.
Setting up your google beacon
You may be wondering, how much does a Google Beacon cost? Well, it’s totally free! Google even pays for the cost of shipping. After you receive your Google Beacon, the set-up is very minimal! The beacon will automatically turn on when it is removed from the box and the battery typically lasts for many years.
Next, you need to find a central location in your business to place the beacon; higher is typically better.
To finish activating your Google Beacon, visit goo.gl/beaconsetup and follow through the prompts (I promise, it doesn’t take long). If you have questions along the way, you can visit goo.gl/beaconhelp for assistance.
To check to see if the beacon is working, you can download a test app here.
Decide that you don’t want to use your Google Beacon? No worries! Simply throw it away. If the beacon gets far enough away from your business, it will no longer work.
BENEFITS OF GOOGLE BEACON TECHNOLOGY FOR SEO
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).
- 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”.
- 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).
- 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.
Ultimately, beacons will help you better understand your audience, supporting and complementing your other marketing activities. The online-to-offline attribution modeling, user-focused proximity marketing potential, and Google My Business profile improvement the technology can offer is something every marketer should know when considering using beacons.
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