Today, Google announced the release of version 4.4 of the Google My Business API. This release marks the ninth major update to the API since its launch in October 2015. Google has been consistently adding features at a rate of two to three major releases per year, each time updating the API to make it more consistent with the Google My Business dashboard and app, or adding functionality to make the API easier to use at scale.
Here are the highlights of today’s release.
1. Trigger verification for service area businesses
The API now lets you trigger verification via phone, SMS, postcard, or email for service area businesses, just as was previously allowed for businesses with brick-and-mortar locations. As a special feature in this case, service area businesses can be configured to receive a verification postcard at another address. You’d want to do this in cases where the listing is for a service provider who isn’t set up to receive business mail at their primary location.
2. Retrieve follower counts
(image credit: Google)
You may have heard that last year, Google added a feature to the Android version of the Google Maps app that allowed users to follow their favorite businesses. The option was added for iPhones in February of this year. When you follow a business, it will show up in the “For You” tab on the app, and you’ll see updates when the business shares something new, like a new Google Post. Now you can retrieve follower counts by location using the API. In the future, this may become an important metric for tracking how effectively your business is engaging with consumers.
3. Create user groups and location groups
For those who are using the Google My Business API to manage locations and accounts in a manner that replicates the functionality of the GMB dashboard or mobile app, it will be welcome news that the API now supports the creation of user groups and location groups. These two items were already available in the desktop application. A user group is simply a list of users with common permissions, whereas a location group is a subdivision you can use to organize locations by brand or, within a given brand, by some designation such as geographical region.
So for example, using these API features you can configure a set of users for a given brand that has access only to locations in the state of Florida and whose status is manager.
4. Pending edits
Edits you make to your Google My Business listing often go live in a matter of seconds, but in some cases they may be subject to a delay. An edit to more fundamental information like business name, address, or phone number might be delayed, for instance, while Google reviews the change, either through an automated process or manually. Any edits made by a listing owner or manager that have not yet made their way into publication have the status of “pending.” With this release, you can now query a given location to find out if any edits are still pending. This should help service providers track the timeliness of Google updates, and in some cases might help with troubleshooting and escalation -- for instance if a given edit fails to reach publication after 48 hours.
5. Future open dates
Though our own testing indicated that this was silently updated some time ago, Google has now officially announced that the open date for a listing -- that date at which it opened or will open for business -- can now be set in the future. The limit for future open dates is 12 months from the current date.
6. Radius data for service area businesses is now read-only
Last fall, Google changed several of the rules for service area businesses. Among these changes, the ability to set a service area as a radius from a given latitude and longitude was removed. From that point, service area could only be entered as a list of city names or zip codes. With today’s release, the API has removed support for updating radius information, which can now only be retrieved as a ready-only value in cases where it was already set in the past. Best practice is to supply city names or zip codes in place of these now outmoded data points.
Thoughts on the new release
Though I’d rate the 4.4 release as fairly modest in scope, it provides further evidence that the Google My Business API is very much an active development project at Google. I expect we’ll see at least one more release this year and possibly two, given the pace of recent updates. In particular, we're still hoping to see Google Posts opened up for multi-location businesses.
If you're looking for help managing your Google My Business listings, reach out to Brandify to learn more about our services.