August 2019 LPM Roundup

August 2019 LPM Roundup
Thursday, August 29, 2019
Zoran Dobrijevic

This month Google focused on local updates specific to the restaurant, hospitality, and travel industries⁠—along with some engine-wide updates that will likely require businesses of all kinds to rethink elements of their local marketing strategies. So, let’s great straight to it and take stock of all the latest happenings in Local Presence Management (LPM).

Google tests delivery icons in the local pack

Google recently added a new delivery icon to select restaurant search results. When you click on the icon, you’re taken to the ondemandplatform.google.com where you can pick a delivery service for your order.

Search results showing Google's new delivery icon for local businesses

This delivery icon appears to be tied into the business’s delivery settings in Google My Business (GMB), meaning that a partnership with Postmates, DoorDash, SkipTheDishes, etc. would be needed for the icon to appear.

While some restaurants are not fans of these third-party delivery services, we can see Google prioritising listings with the delivery icons—the same way listings with a booking option are favoured for searches like “book a dentist appointment near me”. There is a definite lift for specific queries and a presumed general lift just from utilising all possible GMB features.

While this update seems to be largely limited to major brands like McDonald’s and Burger King right now, it has been shown to sometimes appear for other restaurants.  If you want the icon to appear for your listings, you must first actively manage your GMB profiles and integrate delivery options.

GMB listings display photos to match user queries

Google has always controlled which photo appears in search results for a specific business listing.  In the past, displayed photos were chosen at random by the algorithm but, as Google’s machine learning algorithm has matured, that is starting to change. In fact, Google has the best image recognition technology on the planet, and it appears that local results are finally benefitting.

Imagine you’re searching for engagement rings. Each business listing would normally be accompanied by its standard profile photo, right? Well, no longer. Google now deploys image recognition to match the user query to the available product photos for each business listing. So now you’re not seeing a photograph of John Jeweller’s storefront: you’re seeing one of his product images—an engagement ring.

Businesses will need to ensure their business listings imagery reflects the full range of products and services offered, tagging them as appropriate to help Google’s algorithm select the right image for the right query. Pro tip: also author Google Posts that describe these products and services with accompanying photos.

“What do you like about this business?”

In a new test, Google now asks Google Maps reviewers to quick-select attributes they like about the business they’re reviewing. It’s a tried-and-tested feature for high-traffic businesses with plenty of reviews (think chain restaurants), and now it appears that Google is offering the same shortcut for businesses with fewer locations and reviews.

Google dialog box for a local listing

Time will tell if Google intends to expand this feature yet further and what types of attributes they will allow users to select. Indeed, user-generated attributes may become applicable to more types of businesses beyond the few verticals already benefitting from this feature.

Google testing more carousel-style Local Packs with ads

Google has begun a test for its local SERP on mobile—and the implications are frightening. In Search Engine Land’s example, a single ad is given clear prominence before the Local Pack, followed by a new carousel format that displays only one full listing and half of another. In this setup, very high priority is given to Local Pack ads in mobile SERPs, with most subsequent listings hidden until the user decides to swipe left.

It’s hard to know if Google will move this test to live SERPs. If it does, local SEO would immediately become a much more challenging proposition. At the very least, a reduction in SERP real estate (and, presumably, Google having to recalculate GMB Insight data) would make for a very interesting couple of months ahead. Our advice? Hope for the best but prepare for the worst.

Need help maintaining your local data across dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of locations? It’s all in a day’s work for our LPM experts. Contact DAC today to talk local lead generation—and measurable digital ROI.