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Google’s most significant updates in 2023

Google’s most significant updates in 2023

Monday, February 12, 2024

Last year, Google rolled out numerous updates. In addition to enhancing spam detection and AI integration, the search giant aimed to establish dominance over other review platforms and urged retailers to integrate their inventories for better visibility. Attributes, meanwhile, became key for quick user understanding—from basics like ‘Onsite Parking’ to niches like ‘Pet Friendly’.

Want to stay ahead of the game? Then let’s start by recapping Google’s most significant updates from another action-packed year in digital.

1. January

  • In January 2023, Google announced significant changes to Google Business Profile (GBP) metrics, including the deprecation of Search Count, Discovery, and Photo Views. New metrics introduced cover impressions on Maps and Search, business bookings, and food orders.
  • Google also expanded review details, allowing reviewers to provide additional information on various aspects like food, service, and atmosphere. A “check wait time” button was introduced for some local results, estimating wait times and facilitating the “join waitlist” feature for eligible listings, powered by third-party partners.
  • Additionally, Google implemented posting restrictions for user-generated content in Google Maps, impacting reviews, photos, and videos.

2. February

  • In February, Google acknowledged its unintentional removal of policy-abiding reviews and began working on an automated fix.
  • Google Business Profile (GBP) services were revealed to be a significant local ranking factor, with custom services influencing explicit and implicit keyword searches.
  • Google Insights changed the definition of “views”, making year-over-year comparisons unviable.
  • Google introduced a local car inventory beta for US dealerships, covering various vehicle types.
  • Google Maps implemented AI-driven features, including glanceable directions, immersive views, search with live view, and indoor live view. EV map features, such as a filter for fast chargers and the ability to add charging stops, were also announced.

3. March

  • Google globally implemented the March Broad Core Update to enhance web page quality.
  • Local search saw an interactive map upgrade.
  • Google Business Profiles faced bugs in pricing and visibility notifications.
  • Changes in driving direction requests reporting were noted.
  • Google clarified that embedding third-party reviews doesn’t impact rankings.
  • Products in Google Business Profiles now appear in Google Shopping results.
  • Reviewers can now recommend dishes. Updated guidelines emphasize consent for personal information and address fake engagement practices.

4. April

  • In April 2023, Google introduced “Online Conversion Local Ads”, a new cross-channel campaign subtype allowing businesses to target specific locations.
  • Additionally, Google enhanced its travel features with a story format for hotel bookings, flight price guarantees, and new discover tools for locations.
  • Google Business Profiles for restaurants gained a “Manage Menu” feature, while a downside emerged as ChatGPT was used to generate fake reviews, causing issues for small businesses.
  • Google continued to leverage AI with the launch of the Search Generative Experience (SGE) and started texting businesses for profile information validation.
  • Google Maps now supports addresses in multiple languages.

5. May

  • In May 2023, Google integrated AI for the Search Generative Experience (SGE), aiming to enhance search results with optimized answers, shopping, and source collection.
  • Another update involves Google texting businesses to validate the accuracy of information in their Google Business Profiles, with the messages coming from confirmed Google phone numbers.
  • Google Maps now supports displaying business addresses in multiple languages, allowing users to edit listings and add variations of business names in different languages through the “Suggest an edit” feature.
  • Google introduced a “chat with live agent” option in some local business panels within Google Search. Interestingly, Google has reduced the display of local packs in web search results, and it’s speculated that this change is related to testing the impacts of anti-self-preferencing regulations. The long-term effects of these updates remain to be seen.

6. June

  • In June, Google extended the duration of videos displayed in Google Business Profiles on mobile search results.
  • Charitable donations in exchange for positive reviews were declared against guidelines due to potential bias.
  • Google filed a lawsuit against scammers posting fake businesses and reviews on Google Maps.
  • To address search spam, Google introduced a new Search Spam Report Form, allowing users to report various issues, including paid links and malicious behavior, with the added feature of submitting complaints in bulk.

7. July

  • Google and Meta responded to Canada’s Online News Act, Bill C-18, by removing news content from their platforms in Canada.
  • A study revealed that businesses using additional categories on Google Business Profiles experience higher average map rankings.
  • Updates made to Google Local Service Ads, including business hours, now sync with Google Business Profiles within 24 hours. However, Google Business Profiles discontinued the call tracking feature due to reported bugs.
  • Google’s Search Generative Experience now displays local store inventory, aiming to drive traffic to nearby stores through direct links to their inventory pages.

8. August

  • In August 2023, Google introduced several updates to Google Business Profiles. Businesses can now manually add and control social media links on their profiles, including platforms like Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest, TikTok, X (formerly Twitter), and YouTube.
  • The food ordering section was enhanced to allow restaurants to set preferred providers like Grubhub for pickup or delivery.
  • A new attribute called “Pets” was added, enabling businesses to specify if dogs are allowed inside and/or outside.
  • Google Business Profiles is testing the use of generative AI to assist owners in writing business descriptions. Additionally, a new policy prohibits AI-generated reviews, considering them spam.
  • Google is also testing the categorization of reviews based on the type of reviewer, providing information such as whether the reviewer is a solo traveler, a couple, a family, or has a pattern of reviewing specific types of locations.

9. September

  • In September, Google faced challenges with robocall scams targeting businesses, falsely claiming the need for verification or warning of potential suspensions for a fee.
  • Disgruntled customers manipulated Google’s review system, perpetuating negative reviews by regularly updating them, leading to harassment and abuse.
  • Google is testing the inclusion of third-party reviews in the Google Business Profile review stream, possibly in response to potential legislation against self-preference.
  • New attributes, such as “Nursing Rooms” and “Are Children Allowed” were added to Google Business Profiles.
  • Google revised its policies to allow adult-themed content on Google Maps for businesses providing relevant adult services.
  • Google implemented a stricter reinstatement process for suspended businesses, requiring prompt verification within a 60-minute window.

10. October

  • Google implemented a broad core algorithm and spam update, following the completion of the August and September core updates.
  • Google Search introduced a testing feature allowing users to set food preferences in local results, tailoring restaurant suggestions accordingly.
  • Google Business Profiles incorporated two new attributes: “Disabled-owned” and “Indigenous-owned”, displaying on Maps and Search listings.
  • Local medical listings now indicate the wait time for doctor appointments, providing valuable information for users.
  • Google automated the order of product displays on listings, utilizing AI for optimal layout, removing business owners’ manual control.
  • Google introduced new business categories, including waste transfer station, security system installation service, scaffolding service, machine maintenance service, clock and watch maker, and chemical engineering service.

11. November

  • In November 2023, Google enhanced its services, emphasizing a “photo-first” search interface on Google Maps and expanding AI features.
  • The hidden gems ranking system highlighted authentic content, and a bug related to the October 2023 core update impacting Discover traffic was fixed.
  • A more personalized search experience, a “Small Business” attribute, and additional features like competing businesses after Local Service Ad interactions were introduced.
  • Google also implemented a new verification method, added an “activities” section to some business profiles, and included detailed parking attributes and gym-related amenities in Google Business Profiles.

12. December

  • In December, Google’s local search algorithm placed increased importance on business hours, impacting local pack rankings significantly.
  • It was emphasized that creating Google Business Profile listings in the correct language is crucial to avoid translation issues.
  • Google faced challenges managing a massive spam attack in the last two weeks of the month, affecting numerous keywords.
  • A new feature in testing involves local restaurant listings displaying a label indicating “serves vegetarian dishes.”
  • Google is experimenting with allowing users to react to local photos with emojis, such as “heart” and other reactions, enhancing interaction with local search results.

Google’s updates last year marked significant strides in AI, user experience, and business visibility. These changes, from enhanced Google Business Profile metrics to AI-driven content and review systems, underscore the importance of staying current with digital trends. For businesses aiming to optimize their online presence, adapting to these updates is key.

For more insights and strategies on navigating Google’s evolving landscape, explore our related contents or contact our experts for personalized guidance.


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