In this week’s post, learn about the anniversary of Google Maps; the slow growth of voice shopping; a survey of SEO in 2020; an unexpected flag in GMB listings; Google Post rejections; Nest’s new service; and a possible algorithm update.
Google Maps turns 15
In case you missed our blog post last week, Google Maps, first launched in February 2005, has just celebrated its 15th birthday. In the post, I talked about some of the new features Google is releasing to commemorate the anniversary, as well as the redesign of the Maps app for iOS and Android, so be sure to check that out.
Google Maps has evolved substantially over the last fifteen years. Some readers may not realize that in the early days, Google Maps wasn’t even powered by Google, but relied on TeleAtlas for its geospatial data until 2009. There certainly wasn’t any method in Maps at first for businesses to update their information. In the time since, Google has built the most widely used and highly trusted mapping application in the world, and has iterated through multiple versions of its merchant platform, the most recent and long-lasting being Google My Business, first launched in 2014.
Today, most of the activity in Google Maps takes place on mobile devices, and Maps functionality is finding its way into ever more interfaces and use cases, such as the Google Nest Hub smart display and various Google Assistant enabled cars and appliances.
Google Nest Hub recommends romantic restaurants at CES 2020
Shopping by voice is growing, but more slowly than projected
A new study from eMarketer projects that by the end of 2020, 21.6 million people will have purchased something using a smart speaker. The number of people who have tried shopping via smart speaker is growing, though more slowly than eMarketer and others have previously predicted. In fact, the new study downgrades an earlier projection of 23.6 million from Q2 of last year. The study shows that for the most part, users are sticking to simple functions such as listening to audio or asking questions, without taking the extra steps needed to complete purchases.
More recent entrants in the market from both Amazon and Google include screens to make shopping easier, but adoption of these devices may be hampered by the fact that so many consumers already own first generation smart speakers. Despite slower than expected growth, the eMarketer study projects that overall adoption of smart speakers will reach 83.1 million in the U.S. by the end of the year.
Experts weigh in on SEO in 2020
Best SEO Companies has released an extensive survey of SEO professionals on the state of search marketing in 2020 and beyond. A large majority, 75% of respondents, said they believe SEO will be more important in the future. To meet the demand and stay abreast of frequent changes in search algorithms and tactics, SEOs make use of a broad range of resources, many of them favoring online courses, diversification of skills, and staying up to date with news and blogs.
As to the effectiveness of various tactics, the survey reflects a wide range of opinions. But optimization for AI, somewhat surprisingly, got more votes from the respondents than any other tactic at 31.3%. AI optimization also won out at 28.6% as the tactic most likely to be more important in five years.
The vote of confidence for AI speaks to moves Google has recently made toward neural mapping and related tactics, and also to the company’s continued insistence on quality of content as the most important consideration for SEO. The respondents in the survey appear to have heard that message loud and clear, voting for quality of content as the factor most likely to be considered important by Google in the future.
Courtesy Best SEO Companies
“Own this business?” appearing for claimed GMB listings
Many GMB listings, at least for some users, are now displaying the flag “Own this business? Claim it now,” although they are already claimed. Google has yet to confirm directly whether this is a feature or a bug, though it has been suggested that the flag may make it easier to reclaim a listing you’ve lost track of. Joy Hawkins writing in Local Search Forum says that turning on Incognito mode makes it so the flag will only appear for listings that are actually unclaimed. Other users (like me) aren’t seeing the new flag at all, so the rollout (if it is one) appears to be incomplete.
Wave of Google Posts getting rejected due to image guideline violations
Over the last few days there’s been a lot of discussion on Local Search Forum and the Google My Business help forum about Google Posts being rejected due to issues with the included images. Google has guidelines for images in Posts: text overlays are restricted to certain areas of an image, stock photos are not allowed, and content must be relevant to the location. Google appears to be tightening up on these requirements, though some have complained that the company is flagging images that don’t appear to violate the guidelines and that the wave of rejections may be due to a bug.
Google’s Nest integrates HVAC service bookings
In a sign of further integration between smart home devices and local search, Google has announced that its Nest smart thermostat can now detect potential issues with your HVAC system and help you book an appointment for service. To do this, Nest correlates weather information with its own historical data in order to detect anomalies -- for instance, if it’s taking longer than usual to heat your home, Nest may alert you to a potential problem with your furnace. Alerts include a link to book service via Handy, a site that connects homeowners with service professionals.
Possibility of a major algorithm update underway
Over the weekend, chatter in the SEO community as well as tracking results from several SEO platforms indicate that a significant algorithm update might be taking place. As usual with such updates, the anecdotal evidence from Twitter posts and the like is inconclusive -- several SEOs have posted that their sites have lost traffic, while others have gained. However, Barry Schwartz writing in Search Engine Roundtable suggests that the scope of the change may be larger than that of the January core algorithm update.