In this week’s update, read about the updated Foursquare Places; Google’s new review management tool; a bug affecting featured snippets; regional availability and pricing in Merchant Center; a new guide to Google Maps marketing; and 10 common local SEO myths.
Foursquare Places relaunched with enhanced points of interest
Foursquare has officially announced the launch of a new, overhauled Foursquare Places database as well as a new Foursquare Enterprise API. The relaunched database concludes a months-long project whereby the company combined its location dataset with that of Factual, acquired by Foursquare in early 2020. The Factual brand has now been sunsetted.
The Foursquare Enterprise API represents a more scalable and modern upgrade of the previous Foursquare Developer API, used by companies like Uber, Samsung, and Twitter to embed location data into their applications.
Foursquare says its Places dataset delivers “accuracy and deep context by validating and clustering millions of references to make sure the data is accurate.” Foursquare also still relies on users of its consumer apps to provide data validation via check-ins. Places now contains information about 95 million points of interest around the world, with 70% of the data refreshed within the last year.
Google launches new review management tool for businesses
Google has released a new tool specifically designed to help business owners report reviews for violating Google’s policies. The tool is located within the Google My Business Help Center. It presents users with a simple interface where reviews are displayed in a table; the user can click “Report a problem” in order to flag a review for removal, after which a reason for removal must be chosen from the following:
This review is not relevant to this place
Conflict of interest
Offensive or sexually explicit
Note that this is a somewhat different list of reasons than can be found in the GMB dashboard; however, the list above is the same as what is currently shown to public users who flag a review.
The documentation states that it may take up to 72 hours before a reported review is evaluated. Users can either return to the review reporting tool to check the status of a reported review, or check their email where Google will presumably send updates.
While this tool sounds like a boon for small businesses, unfortunately it does not work for accounts with many locations. Such accounts will see the message: “Based on the number of Business Profiles you manage, this process is not available.”
Probable bug affecting featured snippets in February-March
It appears that the volume of featured snippets in Google search results plummeted to very low levels from February 19th through March 12th, the result of what seems to have been a bug. Multiple SEO tools reported very similar findings during the period, showing a steep drop in featured snippets after the 19th, consistent low levels for the next few weeks, and recovery to previous levels on the 12th. Thus far, Google has offered no public statement or explanation. Featured snippets are, of course, relied on by many websites as a major source of traffic as well as a way to get their information prominently displayed in SERPs.
Image courtesy Search Engine Land
Google adds regional availability and pricing to Merchant Center
Google has announced that product inventory feeds in the Merchant Center can now specify whether availability or pricing differs by geographical region. The announcement states, “By using regional overrides to provide online product availability and variable pricing based on customer location, you can offer different prices for different regions or vary online availability based on regions that you define." Examples of regional differences might include, for example, “food products that vary in price depending on the region they are purchased in.”
Regional variations are now available both for free Merchant Center inventory feeds and for paid Google Shopping ads.
A guide to Google Maps marketing for 2021
Michelle Ofiwe has published a comprehensive guide to marketing your business on Google Maps over on the SEMRush blog. Ofiwe covers the basics like verifying your listing and providing detailed information from name, address, phone number, website, and hours to attributes and appointment links. She places particular emphasis on great photo and video content, recommending that business owners supply photos for as many supported photo types as possible, from logo and cover photo to “providing great visuals of your office, team, conference room, interior photos, exterior photos, etc.” Videos can help to convey your unique selling proposition or offer testimonials from customers.
Further tips for optimization include pre-populated Questions and Answers, review building, GMB Posts, and syndicating your information to the major data aggregators and tier 1 listing sites.
Debunking 10 local SEO myths
Darren Shaw’s latest Whitespark Weekly video focuses on 10 local SEO myths that should be debunked. A brief summary of the truth behind each myth, according to Shaw:
Setting service area in GMB does not affect rankings.
Keywords in GMB descriptions do not affect rankings.
Keywords in GMB review response do not affect rankings.
Using a call tracking number does not negatively impact rankings.
Paying for Google Ads does not impact rankings.
Ranking #1 is not all that matters; your listings must also convert.
Ranking in local results does not take a long time; it can happen as soon as the listing is verified.
Stuffing keywords into the EXIF data of images does not impact ranking.
Embedding a Google Map on your website does not impact ranking.
Custom My Maps citations in Google Maps do not impact ranking.