Google My Business: New Features, Updates and Tests Roundup
UPDATED December 18th, 2020: Added news of Preview Call History rolling out to Google My Business
As we approach Christmas, there seems to be no let-up in the fast pace of updates and tests in Google My Business. At BrightLocal, we may have been busy releasing a detailed piece of research, a complete guide to local SEO and an entire learning Academy, but that won’t stop us catching you up on all the latest Google My Business news over the past month.
Between official updates, rumored tests and new features, there’s a lot to cover, so strap in!
Google launches Small Business Advisors program
In Mid-November, Google served up a new program designed to assist small businesses in the United States with their online marketing (using Google tools throughout, naturally).
For $39.99 per session, a small business owner can discuss a maximum of two Google tools with an official advisor, and get the tips they need to perform better online using those tools.
Wondering who’s eligible for the SBA program? Google says it’s specifically designed for business owners who:
- Feel overwhelmed or uncertain about their business’s online presence
- Have advanced product questions
- Don’t have an online marketing specialist or outside marketing agency
- Have never used Google products
The appointments last 50 minutes, are performed over screen-sharing, and are staffed by Google personnel who will perform pre-appointment research on your business. Users are encouraged to “share their goals” with Google in advance so that both parties can make the most of the session.
‘Google Guaranteed’ badge comes to some Google Maps listings in new “experiment”
Back in July, we reported that Google was testing an upgraded Google My Business profile for $50 per month. What these fifty bucks got you was a GMB profile that was verified by Google and included a ‘Google Guaranteed’ badge (previously only seen on Local Services Ads).
According to Tom Waddington, who originally spotted that upgraded profiles were being offered to those outside the LSA program, those badges are now being seen out in the wild, in the local pack and in Google Maps listings, though Google has labeled this an “experiment.”
Source: Tom Waddington
In the test that Tom spotted, above the badge (and mention of Google screening) appeared in the Google Maps listing but not in the local pack or in the business’s LSA listings. Google appears to be A/B testing this placement, in the hope that more visibility will equal more adoption.
Google Local Packs show ‘X Years in Business’ label
Initially reported as a test in September by Search Engine Roundtable, the inclusion of an ‘X Years in Business’ label on Google My Business profiles seems to have more recently started properly rolling out to local packs.
Source: Search Engine Roundtable
As SER’s own Barry Schwartz himself showed above, the ‘opening date’ you set in your Google My Business has a chance of showing in the Google local pack. Others across Twitter soon started seeing these labels appearing for their clients and other businesses in the local pack, ranging from ‘<1 year in business’ right up to ’50+ years in business’.
Google Maps launches ‘Community Feed’
One of the biggest official announcements from Google over the last month was the launch of what it calls the ‘Community Feed’, ostensibly the next step in Google’s continuing attempt to socialise the local experience for businesses and users alike.
The new feed, available only in the Google Maps app, contains reviews and updates from users and businesses you follow, as well as reviews from Local Guides and posts from select local news sources and Google News. Google says that the feed is initially focused on highlighting posts from food and drink businesses, but wider usage could see this expand to live venues, community centers, and beyond, providing they’re using Google Posts to update followers and searchers on activities and promotions.
Google launches expanded messaging features
Hot on the heels of the Community Feed launch, Google provided details of an expansion to where you can respond to customer messages. Previously only available via the Google My Business app, the new functionality brings messaging to Google Maps (and, according to Google, soon to Google Search), provided you have the messaging functionality switched on in Google My Business.
Google have been monitoring how consumers get in touch with businesses and say that, with the current pandemic, they’ve seen more people reaching out to businesses before making a trip outside:
As more people try to make more informed decisions before leaving the house, we’ve seen an uptick in the number of messages sent to businesses. Since the beginning of this year, people have initiated more than twice as many messages to merchants right from Business Profiles on Search and Maps.
It’s interesting to see Google think outside the app with this update, particularly in light of their move to bring more functionality to Google Search with the recent upgrades to the direct edit experience. It’s clear that there’s an intention to make Google Search the only place business owners (and consumers) need to go for all their online needs, particularly when coupled with the introduction of passage indexing and the rise of the zero-click search.
“Suggest an edit” process for Google My Business adds new options
After moving the placement of “Suggest an edit” in Google My Business profiles a couple of times this year, Google has introduced a range of new options to this critical tool for spamfighters.
First seen by Amy Toman in early December, this update makes it easier to select a reason for your edit and does editors the courtesy of explaining that any photos they upload to back up their case will be posted “publicly under your name”. It also provides explanatory information that makes the process easier for first-timers, according to Amy.
Google Reviews test label highlighting reviews as “NEW”
In a move that’s set to delight anyone trying to convince potential clients of the importance of online reviews, Google is testing the placement of a prominent label stating that a review is “NEW” in the reviews section of a GMB profile.
This label is visible to searchers, and is not designed specifically to provide information to business owners.
Source: Darcy Burk / Search Engine Roundtable
It’s not known precisely what the cutoff point for recency is, but Darcy’s followup research strongly suggests that it’s around the 4-week mark.
Google My Business phone support returns
Finally, in a move that will be most welcome to businesses and agencies struggling with Google My Business during the pandemic (particularly in light of a spate of profile hijacking and an increase in suspensions), Google has reinstated its popular phone support option.
Phone support was switched off early during the pandemic, and for quite some time users had to deal with using just email and social support (with differing levels of success). Now, as spotted by Ben Fisher, phone support has been reinstated.
‘Preview Call History’ feature spotted in Google My Business
The ability to take a look at data around calls received via your GMB profile was being tested back in October, but according to Justin Sanger, it’s now available to view in the Google My Business dashboard: