Google Releases GMB API v4.3
Marking the third major update this year, Google is releasing version 4.3 of the Google My Business (GMB) API to the public today. This release adds some major functionality we've all been waiting for, as well as a few minor but interesting features.
Questions & Answers
The most hotly anticipated addition to the API is Questions & Answers. As you probably know, Google added Questions & Answers to business profiles last year, making it possible for any Google user to ask and answer questions about a business. We've seen a great deal of content generated in the months since by the Google user community, to the extent that Local Guides are volunteering answers to many consumer questions that really should be answered by the business. But it hasn't been so easy for multi-location brands to manage Questions & Answers across multiple locations with minimal tools for doing so in the GMB dashboard.
Now, brands can view and participate in Questions & Answers much more efficiently. The API lets you retrieve Question & Answer content for multiple locations. You can also create, edit, and delete questions or answers through the API, and you can even edit and delete content that was originally posted manually as long as the API is connected to the same user. If you're just interested in the metrics, you can also pull data such as number of upvotes per answer and total number of questions per location.
There are two limitations to note. First, Google lets you retrieve only 10 published answers per question. As limits go, however, 10 is probably sufficient to capture most answers to most questions. Second, at this point there is no subscription feature that notifies you when new questions or answers appear, as you can be notified today when you get new reviews or when a reviewer updates an old review. Still, by querying frequently and comparing old to new results, developers should be able to produce alerts for the end user when new questions are posted.
This relatively minor update lets developers retrieve reviews for multiple locations at once and optionally rank them by criteria like publication data and star rating. It won't make much difference to the end user, but will help to make API queries more efficient in the back end.
Recommended Google Locations
Google will now let you know when a stray location you should be managing has been left unclaimed. This feature will be primarily useful for brands with multiple locations. There are already features designed to locate duplicate listings, so the Recommended Locations feature is more about finding locations that match your business name but are in a different geographical area from locations you already manage.
Report Google Location Issues
Whether you're using the new Recommended Google Locations feature or simply using the API to search for locations to claim, Google now allows you to report any problems with the results you see. You can report, for instance, that a location returned in search is a private home rather than a business, that the location has moved, or that a recommended location is simply not relevant to your business. The list of issue types is fairly extensive, although Google is not exposing the same list of options here as what you see when you click "Suggest an edit" in a public listing. You can't, for instance, suggest through the API that a location has the wrong phone number.
Label Price Lists as Services or Food
In this case, the API is simply catching up to the GMB dashboard. You can now specify through the API that a list of items offered at your location can be labeled as either Services or Food. When first released, the Price List feature was focused on restaurant menus; this change should be a signal to all types of service-oriented businesses that Google wants to know what you have to offer.
You can now include a caption when you upload new photos and videos to your listing. Google isn't offering many guidelines here, but safe to say you should provide a unique description for each media item that helps users -- and the Google index -- understand what the item is about. Though a minor feature in the scheme of things, Media Descriptions is a great example of the small differentiation you can use to make your business stand out in search.
Finally, Google is adding another metric to Insights called Chain Searches (or QUERIES_CHAIN in the API's terminology), which counts the number of times your location appeared when a user searched for the chain that location is a part of.
Note there's some ambiguity at this point between Chain Searches and Branded Searches, the latter having been added to the GMB dashboard several weeks ago. Though on the surface they might appear the same, Branded Searches probably also include searches for branded products that your store may carry, whereas Chain Searches seem to relate only to the name of the store itself. We're told that Google will soon release updated documentation to help explain these distinctions.
What Does This Update Mean For Businesses?
On the whole, this update offers several new opportunities to engage with customers and provide detailed information to Google that will differentiate you from the competition. As always, if you have questions or want help taking your Google My Business game to the next level, get in touch with us!