Today, we're launching the Monday Memo as a weekly blog post, hoping others will appreciate having access to a regular digest of local news. So without further ado, here are some items worth noting from the last several days.
Introducing the Monday Memo
For a few months now, I've been emailing all Brandify employees every Monday morning with a summary of recent news in local search, online-to-offline commerce, and related areas. Dubbed the Monday Memo, this weekly email has proven an effective way to stay up to date on significant developments in our industry.
Google launches Place Topics in local listings
Google has launched a new feature called Place Topics. Place Topics are tags highlighting features mentioned frequently in consumer reviews. Google creates these tags automatically, so there’s no way to manage or modify them, but they should serve to highlight your most popular products, services, or amenities for the benefit of consumers who view your listing. Place Topics appear at the top of the Reviews tab on mobile listings, and appear to be only be available on Android devices as yet.
In our testing, Place Topics currently show up only when a business has a good number of reviews, and topics appear more frequently for restaurants than for other businesses, even when those other listings have more reviews.
Place Topics showing at the top of the Reviews tab for a Google listing on Android.
Best practices for GMB short names
In a lively debate on Local Search Forum, several local SEOs recently offered their opinions about best practices for the new Google My Business short name field. This feature, first noticed in April and officially announced in June, lets business owners choose a name that functions like a Twitter handle or Facebook name. Links in the form g.page/[shortname] will direct users to the profile for the business, making it easier to include Google links in promotional materials.
The open questions are whether your short name has any SEO value and whether any particular naming convention makes the most sense, especially for multi-location brands. Both Ben Fisher and Joy Hawkins expressed the belief that short names are unlikely to carry any value for ranking, and several commentators agreed that a simple business name + geo strategy (e.g., “StarbucksAnaheim”) would be best for brands. Short names are not case sensitive.
(Having said all of this, it’s worth noting that a frightening bug has been reported whereby adding a short name to your listing may cause it to be removed from search results and make your reviews disappear. Hopefully Google will get that corrected very soon! The issue may or may not be related to another bug where some businesses are seeing some or all of their reviews disappear.)
Uber Eats launches dine-in service
It was probably inevitable, what with the popularity of mobile ordering for pickup at Starbucks, Chipotle, and numerous other places, that eventually you’d be able to place a mobile order at a restaurant even when you are planning to dine there. Now Uber Eats has launched a dine-in ordering option in select cities including Austin, Dallas, Phoenix, and San Diego. Actually, there was already an app called Allset doing the same thing, but the higher profile of Uber Eats may create a greater audience for this and similar services. With the new dine-in service, you can order your meal in advance, and the app will tell you when it’s ready; you simply go to the restaurant and sit down at your table. It’s anticipated that the new service may make it easier for restaurants to fill tables at off-peak times.
The news from Uber Eats comes in the midst of a steady growth trend for on-demand food delivery services, with eMarketer recently reporting that their popularity has grown 21% in the last year. Uber Eats is currently third in a market led by DoorDash, which has just recently surpassed Grubhub/Seamless as the food delivery leader.
Facebook and Instagram suffer major outage
A widespread issue on Wednesday, July 3, prevented millions of users from viewing or uploading photo and video content on both Facebook and Instagram. The issue, which appeared to have been resolved by Wednesday evening, caused Instagram in particular to be largely unusable for much of the day, given that the photo sharing app relies heavily on visual content that could not be shared or seen. The latest in a series of outages this year, the issue caused numerous complaints on Twitter, which was used by the Facebook team to relay status messages while its own platforms were handicapped.
Google diversity update may penalize popular domains
Recently, Google announced an algorithm update that was intended to increase the diversity of domains appearing in top search results. Whereas before, some searches might return the same domain several times in the first page of results, the update was intended to reduce the number to no more than two results from the same domain, with some exceptions anticipated for branded searches. This is the latest in a series of diversity-related algorithm tweaks over the past few years.
Moz has weighed in with the claim that the update had only a minor impact. Still, it will be interesting to see whether the dominance of Yelp in local results diminishes somewhat as a result of the modified algorithm. Just a few days ago, a report from Fresh Chalk (based on prior research) claimed that 92% of the top five local organic results were links from Yelp.