In this week’s update, learn about the new Community Feed in Google Maps; the expansion of Google messaging and insights; the December 2020 Core Update; changes in Google’s “Suggest an edit” feature; a “New” indicator in Google reviews; and a new icon for sites that meet Core Web Vitals standards.
Google Maps launches Community Feed
Google Maps is adding a newsfeed-like feature called Community Feed to the Explore tab in the Maps app. The feed will showcase recommendations from trusted local sources. To begin with, Google says it will focus on recent GMB posts from food and drink oriented businesses. Previously, in order to see posts from a business, you had to follow the business first or visit its profile directly; now posts for relevant businesses will appear automatically in your Community Feed.
Google says its testing has indicated that posts added to the Community Feed get twice as much exposure. The feed will also contain content posted by Google users you follow and recent reviews from Local Guides. Some local-oriented publishers, such as restaurant review site The Infatuation, and some Google News sources will also be included. Users can like posts in their feeds and follow businesses that appear there, meaning their content will also appear in the Updates tab.
Content in the Community Feed is determined by where the user is searching in Maps, not where they are located. The Community Feed is launching globally for both iOS and Android.
Google Maps Community Feed, courtesy Google/Techcrunch
Google expands messaging features and insights
Google has officially announced the rollout of some new features that we’ve previously mentioned the company was testing, along with some that are new or upcoming. These include new entry points for GMB messaging; now, Google Maps users will be able to interact with businesses via messaging buttons in the Updates tab in the Google Maps app as well as through posts, and businesses will be able to respond not only in the GMB app but in the Google Maps app and directly in the business profile in Search under a tab called Customers. When users try to call a business using the call button in a Google profile and get no answer, they may also now be prompted to message the business.
New messaging interface, courtesy Google
It’s worth noting that in the mockup above, it appears the business is responding to messages via the Google My Business dashboard, which is not specifically called out as a new option in Google’s announcement.
Google also says it will soon roll out augmented insights that offer more detail about the queries searchers use to find your business. And early next year, businesses will see more information in the Performance tab in Search, including six months of data for all metrics, and new metrics showing whether customers saw a business on Google Maps or Search and whether it was on a computer or a mobile device.
Google’s December 2020 Core Update is live
Google launched its latest search algorithm update, the December 2020 Core Update, on December 3. This is the first major search algorithm update since May, though several minor updates have probably occurred since then. After the launch of the December update, some sites almost immediately reported large gains or losses. Google’s Twitter announcement stated that the update, as with most core updates, would take one to two weeks to fully roll out. Google also linked once again to its standard explanation and recommendations regarding core updates, which state that the best response if your ranking suffers after a core update is to focus on providing the best content you can, especially in regard to E-A-T criteria (expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness).
Ranking volatility from SEMRush, courtesy Search Engine Roundtable
Changes in Google “Suggest an edit” feature
Several new options have surfaced in the “Suggest an edit” feature in Google Maps and Search, as reported on Twitter by Amy Toman. In particular, Google has added several choices as to why a user might want to mark as business as nonexistent or closed, as shown in the screenshot. Users can also post photos offering proof of their claims, with Google noting that any posted photos will be publicly attributed to that user. For reports that a business has moved, Google now allows users to indicate the new location.
Part of the new user edits interface, courtesy Amy Toman/Search Engine Roundtable
Google tests marking recent reviews as “New”
Darcy Burk has reported seeing a “New” flag applied to Google reviews that are less than a month old, with Mike Blumenthal, Joy Hawkins, and Barry Schwartz all confirming this has not been seen before. The flag looks somewhat like a button and appears near the top of the review. It seems to be a test as not all users can see it; for those who can, the flag appears for listings managed by that user as well as other listings.
New review flag, courtesy Darcy Burk
Google tests Core Web Vitals/Page Experience icon
Google seems to be testing a new visual indicator showing that a site has a positive user experience according to criteria in the Page Experience update, which as we’ve previously noted will officially go live next May. The new icon is a four-pointed star inside a grey circle and looks similar to the lightning bolt inside a grey circle that Google has previously used to designate AMP pages. This makes sense given that sites with high Page Experience ratings are those that load quickly on mobile, similar to AMP pages.
Google’s Martin Splitt said on Twitter that the icon is “a test right now, but once the page experience update rolls out in May, all pages passing the core web vitals thresholds should get it.”
Core Web Vitals icon, courtesy Peyman Khalili/Search Engine Roundtable