Staying at the leading edge of the local search landscape means making sure your brand is positioned to take advantage of new features and functionalities as they become available. Lately, the updates have been coming out fast and furious as Google has kept pace with rapidly changing local consumer and searcher needs and behavior.
Check out these new and emerging Google My Business (GMB) features as well as a few things outside of GMB that brand marketers will want to keep your eye on in the coming months.
More Granular GMB Insights Data
Google recently announced that “Business Profile Performance reporting is moving closer to your profile on Search and Maps.” Beginning with interactions to let you know how often people have taken action to contact a location from your business profile, Google will enable businesses to access more core profile metrics in GMB.
For example, soon you’ll be able to see GMB listings views categorized as either desktop or mobile.
Google promises that more metrics will follow and notes that as they are added, older versions of those metrics will be retired. Learn more here.
More Options for Consumers to Transact Directly from GMB Listings
In the coming months, we’ll see more of Google’s transition to a transactional layer of the web.
To better serve restaurants, for example, Google acquired a company to facilitate online ordering. Partner companies carry out the deliveries and Google takes a small fee from each transaction. There was a lot of buzz when this first came out about how it could cut into the market share of food delivery apps like GrubHub and UberEats.
We also learned recently that Order Now buttons are being added for retailers. What might the impact be in Google adding this calls-to-action to GMB listings for retail locations?
If you look at it through the competitive lens, Amazon is a clear target. The number of product searches that happen on Amazon rivals those on Google. As the reigning King of Search, Google could also make it more attractive for retailers to manage their own e-commerce by taking a smaller chunk of retailers’ revenue and being easier to work with.
We should expect Google to continue testing and expanding this feature in different verticals.
COVID-19 Vaccination Sites Appearing on Both Google and Apple Maps
Sundar Pichai, Google, and Alphabet CEO announced late in January that searchers would be able to see COVID-19 vaccination site information on GMB listings.
“To help find accurate and timely information on vaccines, we’ve expanded our information panels on Search to more than 40 countries and dozens of languages, with more rolling out in the coming week,” he wrote.
He also noted that Google has seen a 5x increase in searches for “vaccines near me” since the beginning of 2021.
Not to be outdone, Apple has expanded on its COVID-19 testing listings in Maps and added a marker for vaccinations, as well.
If your pharmacy, clinic, or other healthcare organization locations are offering vaccinations, make sure you’re using this attribute in both GMB and Apple Maps to enhance the appearance of the listing to searchers.
What Else to Keep On Your Radar Outside of GMB
We expect that Apple Maps will add more attributes in the coming months, in keeping with consumers’ informational expectations.
Voice search and voice assistant adoption have continued to grow and we should soon see marked growth in converting to commercial action through voice, as well. We may see voice assistants gain additional capabilities for facilitating conversions with voice commands, for example. Amazon is in the process of integrating product attributes into voice search with Alexa, so you could ask “Where is the nearest CVS ordering the COVID vaccine?” Google is well-positioned to add this functionality around location attributes.
On the organic search side, Google’s Page Experience update is coming in May 2021. Google will be considering user experience signals including mobile-friendliness, safe browsing, HTTPS protocol, and intrusive interstitials as well as a set of metrics called Core Web Vitals in their evaluation and ranking of organic content.
You can learn more about the Page Experience update and how to prepare for it here.
What Else Might We See Come to GMB in 2021?
Proof of Vaccine Attribute. Google has added many different attributes throughout the course of the pandemic to help searchers easily identify which locations offer curbside pickup or delivery, are owned by women or Black entrepreneurs, have implemented specific health and safety practices, and more. As local consumers continue to look for ways to stay safe while fulfilling their local shopping needs, we may see some iteration of a “Proof of Vaccine Required” attribute. Like “Masks Required” and “Staff Wear Masks,” this would help shoppers understand what is required of them and how they are being protected when they enter a local business.
Updates to Local Reviews. This year, we expect to see a continued emphasis on the volume of reviews and would not be surprised if brand responses become factored into the algorithm at some point. We also expect to see natural language processing (NLP) applied to more—and more types of—local review data.
This technology exists and is more prevalent in some verticals than others (healthcare, for example). Brands can benefit from having the ability to mine the data to identify themes that could inform new products, customer service improvements, etc. Expect to see this become more widely available in verticals like retail and restaurants.
And if we had a GMB wish list… one feature we have heard many brands ask for over the years is the ability to review and reject user-suggested edits. Too often, these well-intentioned suggestions introduce inaccurate information or duplicate listings issues for brands. In fact, it could be helpful for brands and GMB alike to have some kind of “Trusted” or verified designation that would enable brands who are actively managing their data and refreshing it frequently to lock in key business information and attributes.