There’s a change to Google Maps listings and it’s a big one. The interface has been updated and now users can now be so-called Local Guides. The function is underpinned by a system where users answer questions about businesses and are rated based on their reviews, reliability and location. The result for businesses: more information in their listings.
Mash Media Perth’s SEO team has taken a closer look at the changes and what they mean for you.
So, why make the change? Well, Google is characteristically cagey about its updates, but this move leverages public knowledge to go at least part of the way to filling the information gap left when Google nixed ‘detailed descriptions’.
(You might remember that back in 2014 the search giant used a similar system to gather local landmark data from users on the beta release of Ingress – Google and Niantic’s location-based mobile game.)
Adding video to Google Maps listings
SEO Manager Camille Le Goff points out that the popularity of video content is skyrocketing, so this feature could be a game-changer for restaurants, pubs, clubs and entertainment venues (where filming is allowed, of course).
One idea we had here at Mash is that highly creative of businesses could partner with certain Local Guides to curate this video content and showcase their listings. As yet, this video capability is Android-only, you can bet that iOS won’t be far behind though.
Special offers on the local panel
An exciting addition just for the local panel: businesses can now add a post or offer that will appear directly in the panel itself. At the time of writing, this was still a free option accessed through logging into the Google My Business dashboard and selecting Posts.
Along with this option are paid ads linking out to a deal or coupon for the business. (See the groupon example below.)
Since Google has said that over one-third of searches are locality relevant, this seems to be a smart way to increase the monetisation of the panel.
Question and answer box in local listings
In addition to the generic questions Google asks Local Guides, users themselves can now ask questions directly to the business from the local listing – a valuable feature, especially if these questions are not on your website.
Anyone can provide answers or helpful comments to any questions asked on a Google local listing – it’s like the Quora of Google.
As yet, however, there doesn’t seem to be an efficient way for Google listing owners to receive notification of these public questions. This will affect how fast they’ll be able to discover and respond to these questions.
Camille also points out that business owners need to be logged into Google My Business or Maps to answer the questions publicly.
It’ll be interesting to see how the listings cope with multiples of the same question or an overload of questions on an individual listing.
Google testing local verification via Analytics
Another change we’ve seen at Mash is the verification of a local listing by linking Google Analytics to the Google My Business account. Camille was pleasantly surprised that the option existed. Even happier when it worked!
Getting a Google My Business listing verified for a client is tedious, It usually involves Google mailing an access PIN to their physical address. It’s a strangely old-school way of doing things, plus these postcards are easily lost. The possibility for agencies to verify their clients’ Google local listings by linking to their Google Analytics is more efficient.
The joy was short-lived though: the function did not work with the next listing tested. A notification several days later said that a PIN was on its way to the address provided.
Looks like this is still in beta. We’ll keep an eye out for the full roll out.
Google Maps just keeps evolving
From the despised Google Plus integration and reduction in local pack results (this was a mobile-friendly adjustment) to this latest addition, Google’s continued fiddling with Maps has certainly kept we SEO experts on our toes to improve results based on location. Let’s see what the search giant comes up with next.