Google doesn’t often make huge mistakes, but that’s exactly what happened this July. Hot on the heels of a suite of new features for Google My Business (GMB), early adopters of one such feature saw their listings suddenly suspended. If that wasn’t bad enough, Google also mass-deleted the reviews of many local listings in an unrelated-but-unfortunately-timed update.
It wasn’t all bad news, though. This month also saw the release of two new GMB features which haven’t yet been shown to implode businesses (at time of writing, anyway!). So, let’s get to it and dive into the full details.
Short URLs suspend GMB listings
Late in July, Google introduced a number of new features to help businesses promote their products and services to local audiences. The main update was the ability for businesses to generate short URLs for their listings. Following the format g.page/[yourcustomname], business owners were invited to create easy-to-remember URLs for their customers to follow. Unfortunately, the early adopters of this new feature were sometimes handed the worst possible consequence for employing a tool Google wanted them to utilize.
The short URLs update contained a bug which caused many legitimate business listings to be suspended across the Google ecosystem. They were made inaccessible on Google Maps and removed from search engine results pages—a potentially catastrophic consequence for restaurants and other businesses for whom local landing pages are crucial.
This bug was first discovered by users who demonstrated that removing their short URLs reinstated their listings. Google has since learned what these users already knew and has supposedly fixed the issue. There was, however, another major problem that occurred at the same time and is yet to be addressed…
Google mass-deletes legitimate GMB reviews
Business owners began wiping the sweat off their brows when they discovered the method to reinstate their listings. Unfortunately, but some of these unfortunate souls soon found that all of their reviews had disappeared overnight. In this comedy of errors, a totally unrelated plot by Google to delete fake reviews ended up in their algorithm mistakenly deleting countless legitimate GMB reviews.
Google has yet to respond to the missing reviews issue. As these reviews were deleted rather than hidden or otherwise stored elsewhere, it is uncertain if they will ever return. We can only hope that Google acknowledges the problem and then somehow brings this irreplaceable content—which, among other things, can be used to boost local SEO—back from the brink.
GMB expanding Product, Menu, and Service Editor availability
Google has opened the Product Editor to almost all categories of businesses. With the Product Editor, business owners can more accurately showcase their products to current and potential customers.
If you are a business focused on selling or promoting specific products, utilizing this editor on your GMB profile could be a very worthwhile exercise. A gym with a popular 10-class pass for new clients, for instance, could show its promotion right alongside its listing. Reducing clicks is always a winning digital strategy—as is billboarding your most popular products and services.
Google Maps launches “Place Topics” review feature
Google has added a new extension to its review pages on Google Maps on Android. Much like our own Sentiment Analysis and Reputation Management tools, Place Topics is a way to understand the themes and topics that recur among customer reviews. Above the reviews themselves, Google presents the most popular topic tags along with the number of times that a particular phrase was used. Each phrase, when selected, will take the user to the reviews in which it appears.
This update continues the trend of Google relying on its own internal data to give users all the information they can about a business. After all, even the attempt to delete fake reviews this month shows Google’s desire to make GMB reviews a primary source of information.
Business owners will have to continue to push for their reviews to cover the most unique or desirable aspects of their business. So, for example, even if your website gives prominence to your vegan menu options, bear in mind that Google is prioritizing what reviewers think rather than what owners say.
Of course, it’s not easy to ensure your review content is optimized for search and lead generation. Fortunately, we’ve developed more than a few tools to help make this happen as we empower multi-location businesses stay one step ahead of Google’s frequent updates (both good and bad!). Contact DAC today to find out how we make online presence management easier than ever.