Local Search News: November 2022

November 2022

ConvergenSEE Blog

As 2022 ends, it’s the perfect time to catch up with all the news you need to know from one of the fastest moving fields in digital—and start laying the groundwork for a successful 2023. Let’s go!

New Search, Shopping, and Maps features

Although Google generally avoids launching new features during the holiday season (ranking fluctuations are not the type of surprise most businesses want for Christmas!), the search giant couldn’t help itself this year. It has revealed updates in Search, Shopping, Maps, and even Lens that some users in the US are already seeing in beta.

  1. 1. Find food through multisearch

    US users can now use Lens in the Google app to take photos of a dish, append “near me” to their search, and be presented with restaurants that sell it nearby. If you leave out the “near me” qualifier, Google will instead show general information about the dish itself, such as pricing, ingredients, and recipes.

    Google has always encouraged restaurants to upload menus and photos of their offerings. With multisearch now combining both text and visual searches, restaurants need to make sure they’re displaying menu items in both descriptions and the corresponding imagery.

    Google's multisearch feature.

    GIF: Google

    Remember that Lens, though very effective, is not perfect. Restaurant owners still need to be sure that photos of spaghetti Bolognese, for example, are correctly identified as such by the algorithm. If you need to make sure this process works perfectly, simply get in touch with us—we have a oven-ready solution just for you.

  2. 2. Google Lens translation upgraded

    Google Lens’s instant translation function will now attempt to replicate the background and display the new copy on top—rather than hovering translated text directly on top of the original. This visual upgrade should make Lens more accessible, and possibly help increase the overall number of regular users.

  3. 3. Google Shopping gets AR shoes

    Google is upgrading its shopping model using features unique to its platform. First and foremost, users can now engage with Google’s own augmented reality (AR) capabilities to browse shoes with a 360-degree view in their own living space.

    Video: Google
    You can even aim your camera to have the virtual shoes appear on your own feet, allowing you to see how it looks without even going to a store. Saucony, VANS, and Merrell are among the small number of footwear brands in this new and exciting space.

  4. 4. New shopping models for AR beauty

    Beauty products are also getting the AR treatment as Google allows users to try products on models. Utilizing a new photo library of 150 models representing a diverse spectrum of skin tones, ages, genders, face shapes, and ethnicities, users can accurately test more than 2,000 foundation shades from a wide selection of brands.

  5. 5. Google Maps live view search

    Google Maps is half navigation tool, half research tool—and it will soon do both in real-time more effectively than ever. Google will allow users to see relevant data about the businesses they pass as they appear on the live map in AR. Simply point your camera at any business and Google will display all relevant Maps data for quick review. Opening hours, busyness, price ranges, and user reviews will all be visible.

    Google Maps mobile app showing real-time information.

    Image: Search Engine Land

    With this enhancement, it’s even more important for local businesses to maintain their listings. After all, users will only have to glance at their phones to decide if a store or restaurant is worth visiting. The new feature is already available in major cities such as London, Los Angeles, New York, Paris, San Francisco, and Tokyo.

  6. 6. Google Maps adding EV charging filters and wheelchair accessibility

    Expanding on navigation features like avoiding toll roads, users can now also view all locations with electric vehicle charging stations and wheelchair accessibility. The new charging station feature shows CSS and CHAdeMo chargers that offer 50kw or higher, while wheelchair-accessible locations show both viable entrances and generally stair-free places.

    Businesses don’t have to opt into these new features, but they will need to update the information themselves to guarantee it. As always, there are many filters, attributes, and categories that users can apply; it is up to local businesses to qualify for all relevant queries.

Official: The first 10 reviews are the most vital

As more users become accustomed to relying on Google reviews before visiting a business, the search giant has made its reviews a stronger factor in ranking visibility as well.

A recent study has shown that for new business locations, the first 10 reviews have the biggest positive impact on rankings. Businesses with fewer than 10 reviews rarely appear in competitive searches, but nevertheless retain the potential to break into the local three pack when they inevitably reach double-figure reviews.

Because the first 10 reviews give a disproportionate boost compared to many other listing optimizations, you can expect slightly diminishing returns from each individual review after that point. Reviews remain vital, of course—it’s simply that new businesses (or brands opening an additional location) should focus heavily on that first batch of reviews containing plenty of positive sentiment.

Google displays the number of reviews from reviewers

Part of Google’s growth as a review platform is its willingness to engage in careful moderation and spam detection to ensure its reviews remain trustworthy. To that end, Google will now display a reviewer’s review count within the city or category of the business they are reviewing.

New Google feature showing a reviewer's total review count in a given category.

Image: Search Engine Roundtable

When it comes to reviewers commenting on businesses outside of their usual city or frequented places, their now-more-prominent profile may suggest their feedback is inauthentic. If you’re a business owner seeking to flag dubious or low-quality reviews (always a good idea, by the way), this snapshot should provide evidence for Google to take action.

Review recency impacts local rankings

Another new study has confirmed that review recency impacts rankings. We already knew that users generally disregard reviews over 90 days old, which corresponds with Google devaluing listings without fresh reviews. Now, ranking data reveals a direct correlation between new reviews and ranking visibility. More significantly, if competitors are receiving new reviews on a regular basis, your business will likely be held to the same standard. Whatever your local search goals may be, fresh reviews are a must.

From targeted review generation to full-service listings management, we can help you get ahead of the game in local search in 2023 and beyond. Let’s talk!

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