The holiday season is a busy time for everyone whether you work in local digital marketing or not. This makes it especially easy to fall back on the latest news affecting the industry. You need not fear however as DAC keeps its ear to the ground even while it’s covered in frost. Below are some of the most important LPM news stories of December that you may have missed.
Google Local Services expands beyond US into Canada
Google’s LSAs (Local Service Ads) have expanded into Canada. For those who are unaware, Google’s LSAs are a way for users to easily book local jobs for specific services such as plumbing and house cleaning. These inherently local services are usually run by SMBs and therefore it can be difficult to pair a user with a trusted local provider. Google eases the process by providing reviews, hours of operation, and the ability to book an appointment at the top of the results page. Google also provides a “Google Guarantee” certification to trusted partners which gives especially small businesses a serious boost to their legitimacy.
Google’s LSAs are launching first in two cities in Canada: Vancouver and Toronto. 13 Verticals are supported in the U.S. currently and the LSAs in Canada will be starting with three: HVAC services, plumbers, and locksmiths.
Google Maps Reviews can now include hashtags
Google has released a brand-new feature for their reviews to help users discover new businesses. Hashtags have now been integrated into Google reviews much like they are used on Twitter and other social platforms. One key difference that Google has pointed out is that these hashtags should be as specific as possible. Reviewers should use hashtags like #vegetarian, #goodforselfies, #sunsetviews, and #wheelchairaccessible rather than generic terms like #love or #food. Reviewers should place up to five hashtags in their posts and include them at the end of their reviews for readability.
With the addition of hashtags in reviews, Google Maps could become a better discovery platform for businesses and other places. To use the new hashtags feature, you just tap the blue link when you see one listed in a review to be taken to a list of the other nearby places that have the same tag.
Google rolls out “Sold here” to local search results
Google is rolling out a “Sold here” section to the local packs and local finders. This feature is currently triggered when a user searches a product-specific query. The feature is primarily appearing on mobile but has been slowly pushed onto desktop as well.
For businesses that do not have their full inventory posted online, they are still able to benefit from this change. Google can pull this information from various places including reviews, website content, products entered in GMB, and local answers. Google’s Q&A looks to be the primary source of data at this time, however. A direct correlation between answering a question on your local listing and seeing the “Sold here” feature has been found.
Google is making their Q&A feature even more important with this update. Your answers to specific product queries are not only going to show in the Q&A panel but can now be billboarded in the local three pack. If you are a business that hasn’t used Q&A but has specific products you wish to have billboarded, it may be a good idea to create your own FAQ within your Google Q&A to trigger the “sold here” feature for relevant product queries.
Yelp’s ghost update
Back in October, Yelp performed a major update to its recommendation software. The specifics of this update were left a mystery to the public but after some time spent in this new ecosystem, the effects of it are clear. Many listings are seeing their reviews “ghosted” i.e. filtered to be “Not Recommended” with no indication that this was done. Yelp is recommending fewer and fewer reviews with roughly 1 in 4 businesses directly affected.
A few take-aways:
- This was a cross-platform wide update. Everyone was affected.
- The reviews that were filtered into “Not Recommended” weren’t all 5-stars.
- Whether or not a business was an advertiser with Yelp didn’t seem to matter.
- Whether or not you were a Yelp Elite did not seem to matter, these reviews would have also been filtered.
- Reviews that have been on the platform for several years were filtered.
It is not public which factors this update specifically looked at. The trend which has been noticed here (and stated openly by Google in regard to its reviews) is that Yelp wants current reviews from active reviewers. Reviews that are valuable to the business may not be valuable to the consumer.
Action items to help a business adapt to this update:
- Have a “Check-In” offer.
- Share positive Yelp reviews on social media from its platform.
- Install the Yelp review widget onto your website.
- Monitor your reviews.
- Respond to reviews
That’s it for LPM news in 2018! It has been a year of constant Google updates and an increasing relevance of reviews. Google is working hard to become the sole source of local information and is pushing for more frequent, personal reviews. Let us see what new changes come from a new year of LPM!