In a blog post today, the Google My Business team announced a range of feature updates designed to help businesses create a more appealing online presence. Some features, such as short names, have been known about for a little while. Others are being announced for the first time today. Here’s a rundown of what’s new.
Last year, Google launched the “follow” feature, which allows consumers to follow their favorite businesses. We knew at the time that more functionality would likely be introduced to make this feature useful. Today, Google announced that businesses can now reward their new followers with a special welcome offer. Welcome offers will apparently function like coupons, and their format looks similar to Offer Posts, with an image, description text, and a button that allows the user to save the offer for redemption later.
We’ve known about this feature since April, but now it’s official. You can claim a short name and use that name to link to your business with a custom URL that will be much easier for consumers to remember, and easier to include on your marketing collateral as well. To claim your short name, simply log in to your Google My Business dashboard and look for the short name field in the Info tab. Once a short name is claimed, it’s no longer available, so expect desirable names to get snatched up quickly. Google says short names will be searchable in Maps within the coming months.
For a while now you’ve been able to tag photos in your listing with labels such as “cover photo,” so the idea of creating cover photos is not exactly new. So it’s a little unclear what Google means when in today’s post they say businesses can now “easily set their preferred profile cover photo.” Perhaps these photos will display more consistently as the actual cover photo wherever the listing appears. If so, this will be excellent news for those businesses who have been frustrated when their listings feature less flattering user-uploaded photos that are sometimes hard to get rid of.
As with cover photos, users were already able to upload a photo and tag it as a logo image. But in this case, Google’s announcement is a little more clear about what’s changing. Businesses “that have completed their core information (phone number, hours, etc) will have their logo displayed at the top right-hand side of their profile.” This is a new logo placement and it will be interesting to see the first examples in the field.
Google says that photos uploaded by the business will now display “instantly” and “prominently” in a new “dynamic module” that will be added to the business profile. This will apparently be some kind of slide show and sounds like a great way to showcase visually appealing material like menu items or featured products. Captions will be displayed soon as part of this new module as well -- which is interesting to hear, given that Google has been asking for caption content for a while now without any clear indication of what they were going to do with it.
Google is launching a new site called Google My Business Marketing Kit which offers free stickers, posters, and ready-made social posts that make use of content in your Google My Business profile. The materials are designed to showcase positive reviews and to help you gain bookings and followers. You can even download a custom video that features your business name, location, and testimonials from happy customers.
“Local Favorite” Badge
Finally, Google will be adding a special designation for those businesses that fall within the top 5% of listings in their category. These businesses will be showcased as “Local Favorites” with special “digital and physical” badges, according to the announcement. Presumably, the idea is that the top 5% of businesses in each category and local market will be so honored; Google says more detail on this program is forthcoming later in the summer.
Lots to take in here, but it’s clear that Google My Business is taking a step further in the direction of making local search more social. Google also seems to be giving businesses a little more control over their photos, which is a welcome change. As with any Google update, it remains to be seen whether some features (like short names) will be popular enough to stick around, but the recent track record for Google My Business has been a good one, with the company seeming to continue on a steady march toward a richer, more useful feature set for businesses and consumers alike.