In this week’s update, learn about Apple Maps ratings in the U.S.; Facebook’s widely-viewed content report; recent GMB changes, including the sunsetting of site managers; a successful defamation suit related to online reviews; data loss in Search Console; and Google’s confirmation of a change to title tag handling in SERPs.
Apple Maps rolling out ratings in the U.S.
Last year, Apple announced that the release of iOS14 would bring a new Ratings and Photos feature to Apple Maps, allowing users to rate a business as well as adding one or more photos to capture their experience. This feature generated a lot of buzz but has been slow to roll out in the U.S., although users in other countries, such as Australia, have been able to rate businesses for several months now. Well, the news was broken a few days ago by MacRumors that business ratings have finally arrived in the U.S. -- though there’s a catch.
Yes, iPhone users running any version of iOS14 can now rate businesses in a range of categories, including restaurants, grocery stores, department stores, salons, and convenience stores -- but not hotels, gas stations, banks, insurance agents, or attorneys, according to my quick survey. Business features that can be rated differ by category; for restaurants, you can rate the business overall as well as its food and drink, customer service, and atmosphere, whereas some categories only permit an overall rating. Apple has published an extensive set of content guidelines, including the privacy-related provision that uploaded photos cannot include clearly identifiable people in them, including yourself.
The major caveat at this point is that ratings are only visible to the person who leaves them, with no aggregate ratings yet appearing from other users. This is surely only temporary; perhaps Apple is planning to amass a decent number of ratings before switching the public version on. But Apple being Apple, that could take a while.
Image courtesy MacRumors
Facebook releases widely-viewed content report
Facebook has published a new report on widely-viewed content in the News Feed in Q2 2021, offering insights into the types of content most people are seeing on the platform. In reporting on widely viewed content, Facebook reminds us that the News Feed algorithm is highly personalized to the preferences of each user. Because of the large amount of content published on Facebook and because no two user’s News Feeds are alike, even the most viewed content represents only a small fraction of all shared content.
Aside from posts by friends and people you’re following, which together represent 57% of all News Feed content, the highest margins go to posts from Groups you’ve joined (19%) and posts from Pages you’ve followed (14%). A large majority of the most widely-viewed content, 87%, had no links, but among posts with links the most popular domains were those of YouTube, Amazon, Unicef, GoFundMe, and Twitter.
The report points out that widely-viewed content is a measurement of reach, and not necessarily of engagement. The posts that garner the greatest number of likes and shares may not be the most widely viewed, due to the fact that engagement is only one of many factors Facebook uses to determine what goes into individual News Feeds.
Image courtesy Facebook
GMB sunsetting site managers, requiring approval for products, and sharing posts to third-party sites
Here’s a roundup of significant Google My Business updates in the last week. Google is apparently sunsetting the site manager role, based on evidence in an updated version of this help page which now states, “You can no longer add new ‘site managers.’” Site managers had the lowest level of access of any GMB user role, below that of owners and managers. No explanation has been offered for removal of the role, though it may be safe to assume that it was underutilized. In our experience, although new site managers cannot be added, the access and rights of existing site managers have been unaffected as yet. The help page linked above lists the exact capabilities of each user role.
Users have noticed that GMB is now flagging certain updates to the Product tab as being under review. Upon adding a new product, users are seeing a notice that reads: “Your product is being reviewed. It may take up to 30 minutes. Product will be visible to customers once approved.” Product updates still under review show a “Pending” flag, while those that fail the approval process show “Not Approved.” Again, we can only speculate as to why this step has been added -- perhaps an influx of spam in product posts.
Image courtesy Syed M. Amir Hassan
In a curious piece of news, Google has added another update to the GMB dashboard, this time to the Posts tab, which informs users about where their posts will appear. It reads, “Your posts will appear on Google services across the web, like Maps and Search, and on third-party sites.” The mention of third-party sites has created confusion, as evidenced in the Twitter commentary. No one as yet seems to know which third-party sites might showcase Google posts, not to mention how they would get there. Is Google sharing the content, or perhaps planning to make some kind of embed code available to merchants? Hopefully we’ll learn more soon.
Canadian doctor successfully sues Google reviewer for defamation
The Supreme Court of British Columbia has awarded a plastic surgeon $30,000 (Canadian) in a defamation lawsuit against a woman who, unhappy with the results of her breast implant surgery, wrote negative reviews of the surgeon on her blog and on the surgeon’s Google listing. The justice presiding over the case wrote that "online review platforms are not a carte blanche to say whatever one wishes without potential consequences.” The reviews, posted in 2018, contained allegations about the surgeon’s competency and alleged he made mistakes during surgery, claims that were found by the court to be misrepresentations. The justice commented that reviews, though expressing the opinion of the reviewer, must have a factual basis in order to be protected by Canada’s fair comment defense. Though rare, similar defamation cases have been successful for victims of false online reviews in the U.S.
Google reports Search Console data loss in August
Google is reporting a data loss in Search Console during the month of August, specifically on August 23 and 24. Those monitoring site performance in Search Console will want to annotate those dates. The data loss affects Search and Discover performance data, and Google has affirmed that the loss of data relates to Search Console reporting only, and not to any actual drops in performance on the websites being measured. Though the data is apparently unrecoverable, Google reports that the problem has since been corrected.
Google confirms title tag rewriting
In a blog post, Google has confirmed that it has “introduced a new system of generating titles for web pages,” after the phenomenon was widely noticed by SEOs. Google says, interestingly, that title tags used to change based on the query, but will be less likely to do so now due to Google’s increased confidence in its ability to assign title tags that correctly reflect the content of the page. The post notes that Google has been rewriting title tags for a decade; what’s new is a shift in focus toward the visible headings on the page, often contained in an <H1> tag -- though, as I reported last week, Google’s rewritten title tags may come from inbound anchor text and other sources as well. Google claims that 80% of SERP titles are still based on the title tag, and encourages SEOs to continue to write title tags that are concise and relevant to page content.
Speaking of changes to search, Google recently reported the number of updates made to search during the year of 2020. That number is 4,500, which as Barry Schwartz points out equates to an average of 12.5 changes every single day!