Local Search News: July 2022
July brought a series of changes to the world of local search as Google said goodbye to a major app and took steps to address a worrying new scam. Here’s all the news you need to know.
Say goodbye to the Google My Business app
It’s finally official: the Google My Business (GBP) app will be retired. All features once exclusive to the app have been made available on Google Search and through the Google Maps app.
If you try to access the app, you will instead be presented with links to Search and Maps. All former functionality has been transferred to these platforms along with all archived data.
1-star review scam hits restaurant listings on Google
It appears that scammers are leaving 1-star reviews for restaurants then demanding gift cards in order to edit or remove those reviews. For businesses that rely on their online reputation (which, by 2022, is most of them), the threat of losing foot traffic over negative reviews is not one to be taken lightly. And because the official process to remove illegitimate reviews can take time, some business owners are paying off scammers rather feel the business impact of a prominent 1-star review.
In Google’s words:
“ We’ve recently become aware of a scam targeting businesses on Google with the threat of 1-star reviews unless they send money via gift cards. Our policies clearly state reviews must be based on real experiences, and our teams are working around the clock to thwart these attacks, remove fraudulent reviews, and put protections on business profiles that may have been affected.
If your business is being targeted by these scammers, please do not pay them. Instead, please flag the reviews here or reach out to Google support via our Help Center, so that our team can review and remove policy-violating content. If you haven’t yet claimed your business profile, you can do so here.”
“Find places through reviews” on Google
Having established itself as one of the world’s most popular review platforms, Google is now trying to promote its wealth of positive content. Leveraging its large volume of quality reviews, the search giant is introducing a new feature named “Find places through reviews”. This new tab will show a review carousel for select local businesses that match a user’s search query. A search for a “coffee shop with free Wi-Fi”, for example, may return reviews that specifically mention the quality of the establishment’s free internet.
Google tests “Reviews aren’t verified” label
It’s true that Google seems to handle fake reviews better than platforms such as Facebook. However, it’s still thought that roughly 11% of Google reviews are fake. Crunch the numbers and that comes to an eye-watering 200 million fake reviews on the platform.
So it’s no surprise that Google is testing a new label to indicate when a review isn’t verified on Search or Maps. On click, the label reveals: “Reviews aren’t verified by Google, but Google checks for and removes fake content when it’s identified.”
This label should appear when Google can’t confirm if a reviewer physically visited a business or made a purchase through their online store. There are, of course, teething problems elsewhere in the process. When Google uses machine learning to delete fake reviews, it often inadvertently removes legitimate reviews as well. It will need to continually optimize its algorithms to avoid issues like the 1-star restaurant scam in the future.
New: Auto responses to common questions
Businesses that use messaging on GBP are now able to set up automatic responses to commonly asked questions. Much like a chat bot, if a user asked a common question such as “Is parking available?”, pre-populated responses can be deployed.
This auto-response feature should help businesses maintain a 90%+ response rate (drop below that and GBP messenger may be disabled). To use this new feature, populate the list of potential questions and answers under the FAQs portion of the messaging section.
Local search moves fast, but our dedicated teams—and proprietary platforms—move much faster. Let’s talk!