Google continues to evolve and enhance its technology to better meet the needs of searchers and businesses alike. This year there was no shortage of new features and enhancements. In fact, the updates came fast and furious and continue to roll out even as this year quickly comes to a close. With all the abundance of new updates, it was easy to miss some of the most impactful changes made.
We recently gathered a panel of Google Business Profile (GBP) Product Experts to dive deeper into the noteworthy updates your business needs to know. These updates may present your business the opportunity to further enhance your Google business listings and help you prepare your 2022 marketing strategy.
During the webinar, we were joined by:
- Colan Nielsen, VP of Local Search at Sterling Sky
- Sherry Bonelli, Owner of Early Bird Digital Marketing
- Stefan Somborac, Founder of Marketing Metrology
- Marshall Nyman, Account Director at Rio SEO
In this post, we will break down some of the top GBP updates shared during the webinar as well as other key takeaways. You can also watch the full webinar now by clicking the button below.
The Google Local 3-Pack May Shift to 5-Pack
In the tail-end of 2021, Google has been testing and potentially rolling out several noticeable new features. From indented results to some seeing 5-pack local pack results, it’s clear Google is testing how search results will appear in the future.
Historically, Google surfaced three businesses Google considers most relevant to the searcher’s intent and location. This was known as the Local 3-Pack.
Now it appears a 5-pack may be in store for the future.
Attributes Continue to Change and Evolve
Google continues to introduce new attributes for different categories. Attributes help your business better define how you operate, who operates the business, and how you handle current pressing health and safety matters. When selected, these attributes display prominently on your GBP and are clear for the searcher to see.
In 2021, Google introduced certain attributes to highlight the diversity and the demographics of your ownership, such as Latino-owned. The wording of some attributes has also been tweaked. For example, the “Women-led” attribute is now “women-owned”. The “Identifies as women-owned” attribute also has a purple heart next to it as a further distinction.
As Stefan shares, these attribute updates are made based on data on how people are searching to align with current search trends.
More Updates Likely to Come With the Google Business Profile Rebrand
For smaller businesses, the GBP rebrand from Google My Business is less about a change in name than it is a change in functionality. Now, Google recommends “small businesses manage their profiles directly on Search or Maps”. “And in 2022, we’ll retire the Google My Business app so more merchants can take advantage of the upgraded experience on Search and Maps,” says Matt Madrigal, VP, GM Merchant Shopping for Google.
Our panel notes you can also verify your listing and fix suspension issues directly from search. The panel also shares engagement rates for claiming business listings have been low historically, which may have prompted this change. They anticipate more changes will come to GBP in 2022, and to continue to look out for these changes as they may impact your business.
Customers Can Now Reach You in Real-Time
Businesses can now easily communicate with customers through their web browser and mobile app. This improvement allows businesses to see and respond to customer requests more easily and faster by typing on a full-size keyboard when responding to customer requests.
As with most messaging services, this tool allows you to give customers a quick response. And, Google expects you to reply fast. Google notes if you don’t respond within 24 hours, they may turn off this feature. Our panel agrees businesses who enable this feature should respond to customer messages as quickly as possible and have the right support in place to do so.
As Stefan shares, Google calculates response time on a rolling average. If you ignore a spam message you receive, this is factored into this average. However, if you mark a spam message as spam, this won’t factor into your response time. Read this resource to learn how to read and reply to messages from your Business Profile.
Review Context Gets More Real Estate in Knowledge Panel
In February, Google began showing the star ratings in their review snippets section of the Knowledge Panel. This is beneficial for brands with positive reviews, however, this can have a negative impact on businesses with negative reviews.
As Colan shares, review snippets that appear on discovery (un-branded) searches, seem to be query-dependent. For example, if a searcher is looking for “best tv sales near me”, the review snippets that appear may have the word “best” and “tv” in the review context. For branded searches, however, it seems to be more random.
Colan recommends ensuring any negative review your business receives doesn’t violate Google’s list of prohibited and restricted content. If it doesn’t, he recommends checking the history of the person who left the review to ensure their profile seems legitimate.
New Functionality Continues for Some Industries
The hotel industry was one of the industries most impacted by the pandemic, and Google prioritized adding new features and functionality specifically for this industry. As Sherry shares, at the start of the pandemic hotels were given the ability to mark their hotel as temporarily closed for short-term closures, or permanently closed. Next, Google added new COVID-19-specific attributes for hotels. A few of these health and safety attributes include:
- Employees wear masks, face shields, and/or gloves
- Hand-sanitizer and/or sanitizing wipes in common areas
- Guest occupancy limited within shared facilities
- In-room hygiene kits include masks, hand sanitizer, and/or antibacterial wipes
- No-contact check-in and check-out
- Additional safety measures during food prep and serving
Sherry also points out that hotels can now change their hours of operation. This feature was not available prior to COVID-19 for the hotels’ category.
Restaurant Brands Have New Features Available As Well
Food ordering on Google has increased more than 230% since last year. To help handle the demand, Order with Google lets food businesses accept orders for takeout and delivery directly through their Business Profile on Google Search and Maps.
Our panel recommends always ensuring, regardless of industry, that your GBP information is current and up to date. For restaurant brands, this means ensuring you have the right attributes selected for your current business operations. Some of the attributes your restaurant business can select are:
- Mask required
- Temperature check required
- Appointment required
- Reservations required
- Surfaces disinfected between visits
Restaurants can also accept food orders on their listing, providing a more seamless experience for your guests. In addition, you can get access to online orders for takeout or delivery directly from Google Search and Maps. To participate, you must sign up with an authorized third-party provider.
The Page Experience Was Our Audience’s Top Google Update
During the webinar, we polled our audience to find out what Google update resonated with their business most. They were given seven choices and were told to select the one most applicable to their business. Over a quarter of our respondents indicated that the Page Experience Update was the Google update that impacted them most. Here is the remainder of the updates that impacted our respondents most: