The seasons changed in September—as did the world of local search. Find out how Google updated its algorithm, geared up for the holiday season, and got granular with review content. Here’s all the news you need to know.
The September 2022 broad core update takes effect
Following last month’s helpful content update, Google released a core algorithm update on September 12. This broader update intends to bring an incremental improvement to Google’s search rankings. Most users won’t notice any dramatic changes, though webmasters may have seen fluctuations in their rankings starting in the third week of September.
Whenever Google updates its search ranking algorithms, your site or listings may appear to suddenly perform better or worse. That’s why it’s important to know exactly when Google makes these updates, giving you a starting point to understand if ranking changes are due to something you did or something Google changed in its ranking algorithm. Either way, the best response is always to follow SEO best practices and maintain a robust organic ranking that is less prone to algorithm volatility.
Google Business Profile (GBP) listings get a new “Products” tab
In order to better compete with the likes of Amazon, Google has spent the last two years heavily pushing its product features—from “See what’s in store” functionality to highlighting listed products directly in search results. The new “Products” tab in Google Business Profile (GBP) listings is the latest update, and it allows customers to:
- click a featured product card to view product details;
- click a product category to view an overview;
- click a product within a product category to view product details;
- chat or call you to find out more, or click on the button leading to your website to order online;
- and provide feedback in case there are copyright or legal issues.
Listing in-store products online not only allows users to make online purchases but also encourages walk-in traffic for shoppers who like to confirm a product is available before visiting a store. Items featured in the new tab will also show customers related products they may not have directly searched.
Google has also updated its Product Editor policies for retailers and advertisers who want to add products to their GBP listings. The policies describe Google’s position on various aspects of product listings, including disallowing regulated products such as:
- Financial services
- Unapproved supplements
- Health and medical devices
With the holiday season fast approaching, marketers need to use every tool at their disposal. Make sure you optimize your listings before the holiday shopping frenzy begins.
Google tests “sub-topic” reviews
Although reviews on Google listings are already filtered by recommended keywords (once a certain review-count threshold has been met), Google is now looking to expand this even further by asking consumers directly about these topics of interest. With “sub-topics”, the search giant is asking reviewers to leave targeted, bite-sized reviews about specific aspects of a particular business. With this change, the search giant is likely to become an even more robust review platform, especially for businesses seeking to billboard their differentiators to gain search visibility.
Image: Colan Nielsen via Search Engine Roundtable
Currently in beta, sub-topic requests have so far only appeared when existing Google Local Guides are leaving reviews. Expect it to become a standard feature; almost all of Google’s review updates become permanent after initial testing.
New rules prohibit incentivizing the removal of negative reviews
Along with improving its reviews through new features, Google often takes measures to prevent spam and non-representative feedback. As part of this effort, Google has always disallowed incentivizing reviews through giveaways and discounts. It is now establishing this restriction in the opposite direction, updating its Google Maps contributor guidelines to specifically disallow businesses incentivizing the removal of negative reviews:
Contributions to Google Maps should reflect a genuine experience at a place or business. Fake engagement is not allowed and will be removed… Content that has been incentivized by a business in exchange for discounts, free goods and/or services… This includes merchant requests for revision or removal of a negative review through offered discounts, free goods or services, or other incentives.
New attributes for hotel knowledge panels
Although users could previously see a hotel’s health, safety, and sustainability information in hotel landing pages within Google hotel search results, these attributes are now directly visible within knowledge panels without users having to click through to Google’s dedicated hotel browser.
Remember that new listing features almost always have the potential to improve click-through rates and drive additional traffic. Whether these new attributes improve your rankings on queries your business already qualified for or open up your eligibility for more queries, your listings will likely earn more impressions. After all, Google listings that adopt every available feature appear more trustworthy and professional than those that do not.
If you’re not yet making the most of your local listings, there’s a good chance you’re falling behind. Schedule a friendly chat with our experts and we’ll show you exactly how much more you can do.