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July 2020 Local Search Roundup

July 2020 Local Search Roundup

Thursday, July 30, 2020

As the pandemic becomes business as usual, Google My Business (GMB) updates have gone from emergency hot-fixes to routine patches. This month has seen some quality-of-life improvements for both customers and businesses, while multiple improvements and iterations on updates from previous months have been rolled out.

With the initial panic of crisis updates out of the way, Google has also found time to announce new experimental updates—including monetising a once-free feature. Want to know more? Let’s get started.

Google offers “Upgraded” GMB profile with Google Guaranteed badge for $50 per month

The Google Guarantee is something we have written about since it first began to roll out several years ago. It is a designation meant to increase customer confidence in various service area businesses such as local plumbers, contractors, and HVAC services. Businesses that qualify for a Google Guarantee cannot simply sign up but instead must pass a screening test in which Google verifies business information by referencing for proper insurance, employee background checks, and more.

Information about the Google Guaranteed upgrade in GMB

The Google Guarantee badge comes with a few other benefits outside of verifying a business’s legitimacy, including Google refunding any disputed claims from unhappy customers up to a maximum of $2,000 USD or CAD. More importantly, Google Guaranteed business are offered exclusive paid ad space—Local Service Ads (LSAs)—in which Google sell leads at a predetermined rate.

So, here’s the big development: Google is now selling Google Guaranteed status, monetising a once-free feature much like Yelp or YellowPages selling premium profiles and ad space. The $50 badge is per month and per location, making it a costly perk for multi-location businesses and yet another cost of living for SMBs.

This update currently only affects a limited number of business categories in the US and Canada, so not every business needs to consider the Google Guarantee (yet). The question will be if it is worth the cost for local service area businesses to invest in this formerly free feature. At time of writing, Google has yet to update all help documents on the topic or offered CTR information on the program.

It’s easy to imagine how users will come to prefer businesses with a Google Guarantee badge over those that don’t. The insurance on the customer’s satisfaction can be a big, compelling push towards a particular business—many of which will consider $600 a year to be a reasonable price tag for Google’s endorsement. We’ll wait to see if a bulk option will be made available for multi-location businesses.

Hour updates now generate Google Posts and show in the local panel

After initially closing or severely limited their hours due to COVID-19, many businesses have since reopened with stable opening times. Unfortunately, they still haven’t updated their hours of operation on GMB. This failure to keep listings up to date is eroding public trust in the accuracy of listed hours—especially when an estimated 39% of GMB profiles aren’t even claimed.

In response, Google has made two updates that help verify the accuracy of a business’s hours. Firstly, a new note in the local panel indicates when a business’s hours were last updated. This, very simply, will inspire confidence in a business’s listed details. In contrast, any business that has months-old updates may see a justified distrust in their business information.

New GMB notation showing when business hours were last updated

To further emphasise hour updates, Google is generating automatic Google Posts to any profile that alters their hours. This post is a simple text update confirming that hours have been updated. Per Google, if business owners do not want these “Hours were updated” posts, they will have to be manually deleted after being generated. That’s a potential issue for businesses that use their Google Posts as an advertising channel but, even so, all business owners should update their hours to generate the aforementioned local panel note. Delete the automated Google Post if it doesn’t fit your Google Post strategy.

GMB adds partner links and food delivery opt-out

“Order ahead” and “reservations” URLs have long been permitted, but Google now allows restaurants to direct customers to their preferred delivery provider rather than a general list. Some restaurants offer their own first-party delivery services (or have less-than-ideal relationships with third-party delivery services), and understandably favour one delivery method over the other. Customers, meanwhile, are often indifferent to which delivery provider is used. This update offers the best of both words: restaurants can promote their preferred option while customers are still able to choose their favorite service—if available.

In a related update, Google has allowed restaurants to opt out of food delivery altogether. Why? Because some restaurants believe their food should only be enjoyed fresh, but haven’t been able to prevent third-party delivery services listing their menus. This leads to issues as bad delivery experiences reflect poorly on a restaurant even if it was effectively uninvolved. Turning off food delivery in GMB removes the blue “Order Delivery” link on a listing.

GMB adds four new attributes and additional appointment links

Attributes are the new must-have GMB asset after delivery, dine-in, and takeout attributes became absolute necessities for restaurants during the pandemic. Attributes have since expanded into every business category—and Google is still rolling out new options every month. The four newest attributes relate to the online availability of a business’s basic services:

  • Online Care
  • Online Appointment
  • Online Estimates
  • Online Classes

Many business are forced to remain closed due to social distancing, but have adapted to offer online versions of their usual services. Likewise, consumers have begun to seek out these online versions of their usual routines. Doctors, fitness instructors, and other service providers can now add these online attributes to their listings until (and even after) their physical locations fully reopen.

New "Online Care" attribute in GMB

To make booking these online services easier, Google has also updated the Appointment Link field in the GMB dashboard to allow more than one link. There are currently no restrictions on the amount of appointment links you can add.

That wraps it up for this month. Just one question remains: do you want to see your business thrive in the increasingly ubiquitous world of local search? Then so do we. Let’s talk.


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