5 Ways Local Listings Improved in 2017
While many dubbed 2017 “the worst year ever” (isn’t that what they say every year?) due to the many natural disasters, devastating violence, heated political climate, the Fyre Festival, and men adopting the romper trend… it was actually a booming year for local listings. Though Map Maker was finally laid to rest (RIP), the world of local listings saw many improvements that kept consumers and clients alike on the edge of their seats.
2017 was another year of Google, but we do have to give a big thumbs up to Facebook for making moves in local. Everyone has been asking and Google finally answered – many of last year’s local listing improvements expanded the customizable elements and interaction that a brand can have with its potential customers via a Google My Business listing.
Google My Business Attributes
While Google technically rolled Google My Business attributes out in December 2016, we saw the feature progress significantly in the last year by expanding the attribute profile and making attributes available to industries other than just hotels and restaurants.
Through attribute fields, companies can give potential customers more information about their business and what to expect upon arriving at the business. Coffee shops can now tell potential customers that they have Wi-Fi, outdoor seating, allows dogs, and accept bitcoins – among other necessary offerings.
Select industries are given the option to take it one step further by including a menu URL or appointment URL. Google expanded their booking button attribute by including salons and spas among hotels and fitness clubs that have had this CTA functionality on Search and Maps.
Attributes are sourced through a few different means. Google presents various attribute fields that align with the selected categories of a business which can then be populated. Attribute fields are also being crowd-sourced from users who visit a business and are prompted with questions such as “Does this place offer takeout?”.
Attributes are giving a big assist to GMB listings by taking them from your basic NAP information to accelerating a user’s decision-making process by answering pertinent information without the user having to take additional actions.
Along the same lines of providing answers through attributes, Google rolled out Questions & Answers in August. Questions & Answers are added to a business’ listing by a user either directly asking a question for either the business owner or another user to answer (thanks Local Guides), or by the business owner asking a FAQ on their own listing and answering it for all to see. While some Q&A’s are more helpful than others… this is a win for brands and has helped eliminate phone calls asking the same questions.
Google My Business Posts
In June, Google rolled out Google Posts to all Google My Business users. Google Posts allow even further engagement between a business and a potential customer by allowing the business to promote a product, event, announcement, or special offer directly on the Google listing on Maps or in Search for a branded search.
While bulk posting via the API is only available for accounts with 10 locations or fewer (insert eye roll), we are excited about where Posts are going. Being able to communicate with potential customers without having to rely on the user going beyond the listing is *huge*.
In mid-August the local listing world saw a major boost in visibility metrics, leaving everyone to ask “What did Google do?!”. Speculators and industry experts dubbed this algorithm update, “The Hawk Update”, as it appeared to roll back the filtering effects seen from the Possum update a year prior.
Hawks eat possums as the rest of us learned in September. This update filtered out far fewer listings due to proximity and “irrelevance”, increasing visibility for many listings and brands. Closed listings, as well as duplicate listings, continue to be widely filtered.
Ultimately, the Hawk improves the user’s experience by presenting the most relevant results while presenting a wider range of choices, which the Possum update was criticized for.
While many are still skeptical, Facebook made big strides in the local listing game in 2017. Facebook re-branded their Events app as Facebook Local. Facebook is finally pooling its wealth of location data knowledge with its vast community to offer a local directory that offers more customized results based on likes, check-ins, shares, reviews, and posts from those in your network.
Local will still include the original intent of the app, events, but expands upon the idea of an event being a specific meeting at a set time and place, but offering alternative places for entertainment such as a museum or theater.
While local is still heavily focused on restaurants, nightlife, entertainment and attractions the app has already expanded to include page results for searches such as “doctors”, “tax services”, and other searches with local intent. Brands are tidying up those location pages as this is another method for users to find their business, especially as the user is on-the-go.