If your business or organisation relies on local clients or customers and benefits from showing up in local search results for queries like “nearest xyz to me” “xyz in Christchurch” for example (where xyz is your service or product), then you need to pay close attention to the changes Google has been rolling out recently.
Perhaps the most significant are the things that sit within your Google My Business page – previously called Google Business pages.
These have become much more feature and functionality rich and are designed to keep you on the search engine for longer rather than clicking straight through to websites for more information.
Not only is there more content now showing on each Google My Business page, there is also the opportunity for potential customers to ask questions right there on your business page – and for anyone at all to answer them!
So it is possible that a number of things could be impacting your listing in local search results without your knowledge if you are not keeping a close eye on your page.
We have listed some areas below where you can make a difference to not only the content on your local search listings, but also maintain more control over your brand and reputation in this space.
1. Optimise your Knowledge Graph
The Knowledge Graph has become the new source of information for SEO, which makes sense since the content is essentially pre-indexed for Google’s algorithm.
Google My Business (GMB) now allows owners to add much richer content than photos and basic listing information. Some of those updates are:
You can now create Posts on your GMB page – think short versions of blogs which can link through to the full content on your site, or posts relating to short term promotions, event information, new product launches etc. Your posts can be in the format of text with an image, images or video.
These posts only show for a limited period of time, and then you will receive a notification from Google that the post is about to expire and encouragement to put up something fresh – of course!
Users can ask questions about your product or service, and you – or a member of the public can answer. This is a way to engage with customers and add relevant content to your listing.
Keeping an eye on these questions is important – think of it like questions or reviews on a TripAdvisor account. It’s important to be responsive and helpful.
We recommend assigning the task of checking this to a member of your team, at least once a day.
We have noticed people asking on GMB listings about their booking for the same day for example, so some are treating it as a way to communicate with a company directly, rather than using email, phone or a website contact form.
Unlike Google Q&A, messages are personal and do not appear on your listing. Messages are sent to the business that responds directly to the customer.
Google bookings integrate with supported scheduling partners to provide appointments, reservations and insights through your GMB account, as demonstrated in the Google Maps screenshot further down the page.
2. Actively manage your Google My Business listing
The new features add significantly greater functionality to the GMB listing, but it also adds more work.
While it was always advisable to regularly check on the listing to make sure it hasn’t been updated with outdated information or prank photos, the new features require frequent checks.
For example, critics of the Google Q&A feature say it has become an open message board for the public.
Instead of asking questions, some people are leaving reviews, going off on rants, or even posting spam. But even legitimate questions left unanswered can reflect poorly on your business.
3. Keep an eye on the Google My Business insights dashboard
Google My Business insights, the analytics package within the Google My Business dashboard, has added a new report for some businesses that plots what is called “subjective attributes.”
Subjective attributes are characteristics or experiences assigned to the business by consumers, such as cozy, romantic or notable cocktails and others. Google is now plotting these subjective attributes for businesses to see in their insights report.
Google announced this on Twitter and said, “We’ve launched subjective attributes to provide more information in your insights tab! Customers of restaurants and cafes can submit subjective attributes to help you and their fellow customers.”
These attributes are gathered by Google through the little questionnaire process that happens when you are viewing a Google My Business page and are logged into a Google account. A little series of questions pop up that with options for yes, no and don’t know answers. You can also skip the question if you think it is not relevant.
We have noticed that this data is also being used now in Google Maps if you are looking for a hospitality business in particular – accommodation or food/drink.
Along the top of the maps result page you can see a number of little tags including these attributes. You can see in the screenshot below the list including Deals, Free Wi-Fi, Free breakfast, Pool, Pet-Friendly, Restaurant, Bar and Air-conditioned. Some of these attributes may also be drawn from your actual listing, so make sure you have ticked all the appropriate features of your business or service.
4. Google Maps Explore Tab
You can also see on the screenshot above, the ability to search for accommodation by dates of check in and check out – this links to the the Google mobile travel functionality if you are viewing it on your mobile device, which then takes you into the ability to book flights, save an itinerary and work out what you want to do, where to eat etc on the trip you are planning through the Google Bookings functionality.
All of this functionality is designed to help keep your potential customers and visitors wthin the Google universe for as long as possible, by being extremely user friendly and delivering the sort of information your customers are looking for.
Find out more about the newest Google Explore features for mobile use here.
In summary, it is no longer possible to see Google search results as a simple combination of AdWords, some map results and a page mostly filled with organic search results.
Many local search results pages are now filled with a number of text ads, possibly also some Google Shopping ads, a map “pack” with multiple results and then perhaps only a few organic results.
The Google-verse is rapidly expanding and your business is part of it, whether you are actively managing it or not.
We highly recommend paying close attention to how this is evolving and ensuring you have maximum control over the content relating to your business.