Author | Rachel SchultzDate Posted | February 21, 2024

Google’s BIGGEST Changes for Multi-Location Businesses

Another year, another thousand tweaks to the Google algorithm.

For multi-location businesses, knowing about these changes and then optimizing Google Business Profiles and local pages for them translates to higher rankings and more revenue.

Here’s our biggest takeaways from Google’s changes in 2023 and what to do about them.

#1 The new suspension policy rolls out.

Technically, the new suspension policy was officially rolled out in 2024, but it started in 2023. And it’s such a major change that we have to mention it.

There were a lot of major changes to the suspension policy, but here are the major ones:
60 minutes or bust. Once you begin the “reinstatment wizard,” you have 60 minutes to submit the required documentation. Do not multi-task or have multiple tabs open during this process; once you close the window or tab, you’re done.

No second chances. If you don’t submit the documentation or are still suspended for some other reason, you won’t be able to appeal yourself.

Our recommendation: Catch up on our latest webinar to get a full step-by-step guide to the reinstatement wizard.

#2 GBP views are down. Or are they?

Don’t panic. In February 2023, Google changed how it calculated Google Business Profile views in two major ways. Most likely, you’re still seeing the same amount of impressions on your profiles. It’s just not reflected in your view count.

Multiple views by the same user within the first 24 hours now count as one “unique user view.” Considering that viewing a profile multiple times in 24 hours does not mean a customer will patronage your locations multiple times in 24 hours, this change provides a more accurate reflection of how well you’re reaching your target audience.

Views in Google Maps are now only counted if a user clicks your profile. Again, this change, while alarming, likely means a more accurate picture of real engagement. If your business + three competitors come up, and your competitors get clicked every time, you shouldn’t view that as indicative of actual engagement with your profiles. Your customers need to “choose” your profile first.

Our recommendation: Don’t panic– but also add an asterisk for any year-over-year reporting that you’re doing on your Google Business Profiles.

#3 Google launches its generative AI-powered search engine.

So this wasn’t an algorithm update per se, but a possible hint of major changes to come. Google launched “GSE” (previously known under the project code name ‘Magi’) in May last year, which uses generative AI to provide a snapshot answer above organic search results.

GSE will pull from information across the web, including photos and reviews on Google Business Profiles.

The websites used to generate the answer are cited alongside it, along with links at the bottom to explore further.

Our recommendation: Keep an eye on how this project progresses; it’s likely the future of where search is going. This may mean less traffic overall to your websites, but it could also mean that the traffic you do get is much more qualified. Learn more about GSE and Google’s ranking factors here.

#4 “Openness” counts as a ranking signal.

It’s 11 p.m. You want a pizza. Getting a list of pizza parlors near you open tomorrow for lunch won’t help much will it?

In December 2023, Google launched a new update that will now consider whether a business is “open” as a factor in search rankings for non-navigational queries (i.e. searching for a category of business like “pizza” vs searching for a specific brand like “Pizza Hut”).

This will mess with rankings for businesses that are not open 24 hours, but Google has indicated that they will continue to tweak how strong the “openness” signal is.

Our recommendation: Do not change your business hours to be 24/7. Keep your business hours accurate and up-to-date; the potential bump in views won’t be worth the frustration it will cause your customers. (And Google will probably figure this out).

#5 Google Business Profiles get more descriptive.

Google made a few changes throughout 2023 to help make Google Business Profiles more helpful for customers. Here’s a snapshot of some of the changes:

The pets attribute – Let your customers know if their furry friends are allowed at your business.

Activities update – Hotels and other businesses can now add “activities” with prices to their profiles.

AI-written business descriptions – Google’s AI will provide a draft of a business description for you.

% Positive shows up in reviews – Under reviews, Google will list specific attributes like “Cleanliness,” “Customer service,” etc. with a percentage of how many times it was mentioned positively.

Our recommendation: Fill out your profiles with as much detail as possible and keep an eye on those reviews.

The bottom line: Google made a lot of changes in 2023 with more to come in 2024. Get ahead and stay ahead of these changes with a trusted partner that can help you. Find out more about our listings team and our approach to Google Business Profiles here.