In this week’s update, learn about an update that lets businesses optimize their GMB listings directly in Search and Maps; a glitch that temporarily disrupted rankings; expanded service features in GMB reviews; contactless gas payments on Waze; and recommendations for voice search and Knowledge Panel optimization.
More GMB update features now available in Search and Maps
Google announced in a blog post last week that business owners will now be able to update their GMB profiles directly in Search and in the Google Maps app. In the words of the announcement, Google is “making it easier to update your Business Profile directly from Google products you already use. Now you can create posts, reply to reviews, add photos and update business information right from Google Search and Maps.” Business owners can access these features in Search merely by searching for “my business.” In the Google Maps app, users can now select “Your Business Profile” from a dropdown.
Many commentators were quick to point out that several GMB features have been available in Search and Maps for some time. But other features are in fact new, such as performance analytics displayed in Search. New help page sections were also launched last week explaining how to edit your business profile and create Google Posts directly in Search.
GMB features accessible in Search for a logged-in listing manager
Google glitch impacts organic and local search results
An apparently massive ranking shakeup last Monday turned out to be a bug, after several hours of analysis, commentary, and confusion in the SEO community. As Barry Schwartz outlines in his writeup, folks began noticing signs of trouble about 1:30pm ET; it was 12:40am before Google confirmed the bug had been fixed. On Tuesday morning, Google reported that “an issue with our indexing systems” was the cause of the trouble but said the problem was promptly fixed as soon as it had been identified.
Some reports indicated that local results were impacted by the bug as well. Of course, site rankings and local results shift on a regular basis. Until Google confirms or denies that an intentional algorithm update has occurred, it’s best to take these fluctuations with a grain of salt. In the case of last week’s disruption, rankings should by now have returned to their previous state.
Some users seeing expanded GMB review attributes
Amy Toman posted a screenshot on Twitter that shows an expanded set of review attributes in the popup window that appears when a user starts writing a review for a service-oriented business. I was able to reproduce the feature by searching for moving services near me; see the screenshot below.
New service attributes in GMB review window
As you can see, the user is being prompted to choose from a list of specific services that might have been performed by the business, and is also offered the choice “Service not listed.” The service offerings in this review prompt mirror very closely the service attributes that moving companies can configure within the GMB dashboard, as shown in this second screenshot.
The update demonstrates that Google is using structured data to encourage reviewers to write about specific services in a normalized fashion, likely with the goal of building out a corpus of information about specific services and consumer sentiment about the businesses that perform those services. So far, these rich review attributes are apparently only showing up for service-oriented businesses.
Waze launches contactless gas station payments
Popular Google-owned navigation app Waze has announced a new partnership with ExxonMobil and Shell that will assist Waze users with making contactless payments via Exxon, Mobil, and Shell mobile apps. Waze has been testing the contactless payments integration for a while now, and is now announcing a nationwide rollout of the program. Waze says it made use of its community of volunteer Map Editors to make sure the fuel payments feature appeared at the correct locations.
Like many local search tools and navigation apps, Waze has added several features this year to help business communicate new offerings in light of the pandemic, such as badges that advertise a business is open for minimal contact or that it offers drive-through or curbside pickup. With a majority of Americans saying they are worried about touching cash these days, contactless gas payment has a fair chance of becoming a popular Waze feature.
How local businesses can optimize for voice search
Lidia Hovhan from OmnicoreAgency has a useful post on the Bright Local blog about optimizing your business for voice search. Hovhan points out that 40% of internet users in the U.S. are habitual users of voice search, with that number expected to grow nearly 10% by 2021. With this in mind, businesses should do their best to create content that stands a high likelihood of being read aloud in response to voice search queries.
Hovhan recommends that business owners keep their listings up to date and optimized. She also suggests that they focus on writing precise, relevant content that is likely to serve the needs of consumers who may have questions about the services they provide. Such content should appear in the business website in the form of informative posts or FAQs. Optimizing for long-tail searches can help to ensure that Google will index your content. Vying for featured snippets is a strategy Hovhan also recommends, since many results that are shown in search as featured snippets will also be showcased as answers in voice search.
How to optimize your Knowledge Panel
Another set of recommendations comes from George Nguyen at Search Engine Land, this time in regard to optimizing your Knowledge Panel (also known as the Business Profile), the main repository of information about your business that appears in Google results when users search for a specific business.
Nguyen’s post acts as a primer about the importance of the Knowledge Panel for local search discoverability and conversion. He quotes local SEO experts such as Mike Blumenthal and Joy Hawkins, who express the opinion that Knowledge Panels are a critical channel for connecting businesses with local consumers. Not only do they communicate essential business details such as hours, website address, physical address, and phone number; but Knowledge Panels also prompt transactions such as booking an appointment or ordering food for delivery.
Nugyen recommends that businesses place a special focus on their website as a Knowledge Panel destination; the business website should emphasize the products and services the business wants to rank for. In addition, businesses should upload high-quality images that are relevant to the queries they care about, and should pay close attention to attributes, reviews, Q&A, and Google Posts. The article contains many other recommendations and is a good resource for anyone who wants to make sure they have all the basics of Knowledge Panel optimization covered.