Author | Chatmeter TeamDate Posted | December 29, 2018

What’s the 411 on the 4 Latest Google My Business Updates Influencing Local SEO

It was predicted earlier this year that Google would continue its aggressive approach towards rolling out new features and enhancements to its Google My Business platform. With nearly 50% of all searches on Google being local, the search giant is doing all it can to improve the user experience for both businesses and consumers.

Each of these updates comes with the potential of improving your success in the local search results or hurting it, depending on how you approach them.

1. Local Listing “Descriptions” on Google My Business are back!

Google once allowed businesses to write their own descriptions introducing and describing their locations to potential customers, however, the original descriptions field was being misused by businesses – many attempting to spam and stuff the field with as many keywords as possible.

Eventually, Google removed this capability from the GMB platform and gave businesses a new, simpler tool (Google Attributes) to use to describe their business.

This Feature was removed on August 1, 2016, and Google Wrote:

“The Introduction/Description field is no longer editable in Google My Business. It only displays to users in Google+, and may still be edited there. Editing of attributes, coming soon to all Google My Business views, will be an improved way to describe your business to users on Google Search and Maps.”

Attributes, while less flexible than descriptions, but allowed businesses to easily describe their business in a way that would be most beneficial to searchers. Businesses could select relevant attributes for their business like “Family-Friendly”, “Happy Hour Drinks”, and “Free Wi-Fi”.

Recently, Google brought back the editable “description” field which you can now add in your Google My Business dashboard. These descriptions will be seen front and center at the top of your GMB listing.

Google will display 2 or 3 attributes below the description, but clicking on the descriptions while in the maps view will allow customers to see all of the businesses’ attributes.

Descriptions currently have a max of 750 characters but we were told by Google it’s best practice to “keep them short, direct, and informative in order to keep it user-friendly.” Shoot for 250 characters or less.

This time around, it seems like most businesses are really getting the hang of it! Here are some of our favorite examples from nearby businesses:

  • Topside Terrace Kitchen & Bar: “Ultra-chic New American eatery serving creative food & drink menus, with patio seating available.”
  • Wyndham San Diego: “Waterfront hotel with an outdoor pool & poolside gym, plus 3 restaurants & a free airport shuttle.”
  • The New Children’s Museum: “From creative classes to climbable structures, contemporary art for kids, in a bright, modern space.”

2. Boost local search conversions with the new “Services” field 

The new Services section in the Google My Business platform seems to be filling a void that service businesses had previously – and quite creatively – been trying to fill themselves. Where service-type businesses had to once resort to using a “Menu” field (likely more intended for restaurants) to link out to a menu of all the services they offered, businesses can now add a list of their services directly within the GMB platform.

Services allow businesses to add different sections or categories of services they offer, individual services, the price for that service and a full description. While only the service name fields seem to be required, the options to add descriptions and price provide businesses with the potential to easily answer all of a curious customers questions.

Here are a couple common Q&A’s we received from Google when we reached out about the new Services field:

Q: I added all my business services under the old UI (under menu). Do I need to do it all over again?

A: Nope! Your list of services will be automatically migrated to the new UI over time. You don’t need to do a thing!

Q: I added service items but they aren’t appearing on search. What’s wrong?

A: We cannot guarantee what information appears on the knowledge panel, as this is determined by search ranking and is not in the scope of GMB support.

Q: How can I get a menu for my business? (ex: if it’s not populating for a certain vertical)

A: This is triggered automatically. You can only either have a menu or a services list at this point. If neither of them is available for any specific listing, this means the business is not eligible for these features yet.

Q: What example of a business will be having the “Services” category?

A: Health & beauty, and service area businesses like plumbers and florists, now have the ability to add their menu of services directly to their listing through their Google My Business account. Excluded: restaurant-related, e.g. food deliveries and takeaways. The food-related businesses will keep seeing “Menu”.  

3. Google added additional guidelines around review generation

Late last year, Google came out with a new policy against bulk review generation/solicitation. Recently, Google took it’s review policy a little further by adding:

“Don’t discourage or prohibit negative reviews or selectively solicit positive reviews from customers.”

What does this mean for businesses? Google doesn’t want you to selectively pick-out reviews or attempt to bias and influence those leaving the review. Basically, no review gating – something that has been commonly offered by many reputation management providers. Here is a great description from Joy Hawkins on what review-gating means:

“Review-gating is the process of filtering candidates before asking them to leave you a review. Normally this is done by sending all customers an email template and first asking them if they had a positive or negative experience. If they had a positive experience, they are asked to leave a review on Google [Yelp or other third party review sites], but if they had a negative experience, they are prompted to leave private feedback and are never sent the option to leave a review publicly.”

Review-gating and review solicitation is something both Chatmeter and Yelp have taken a strong stance against and it is great to see Google starting to strengthen their policies against such practices.

4. A new GMB Interface
 for local listings management

Finally, Google has released a new Google My Business dashboard interface. One that seems to better cater to the needs of multi-location businesses.

Initially, like any new UI update, the interface may take a little getting used to – new buttons, new layouts – but once you do it offers some great features for those businesses managing multiple locations.

A couple of key features include the ability to organize your locations into groups within the account, easier navigation allowing you to click into a listing and edit it within the same window, and more accessible features such as Posts and Insights.

All in all, the new interface offers more ways to organize, access and be involved with your locations.

Google My Business gives businesses a way to better control their online presence and optimize their listings to drive more customers into their stores. Schedule your Free Demo with Chatmeter to learn how we help large, multi-location businesses optimize their local online presence across the entire web.