Local Search News: October 2022
As we head towards the end of the year, it’s the perfect time to catch up with all the latest news in local search. Let’s get started!
Google strengthens reviews guidelines
Google was one of the first platforms to ban “review gating”, whereby businesses solicit customer feedback but only encourage them to leave a Google review if it’s likely to be positive. Other platforms, like Yelp, soon followed suit by demanding that all review solicitation efforts include the option to post public reviews regardless of positive or negative sentiment.
Now Google has revised its contribution policy to specify that businesses cannot engage in the practice of “discouraging or prohibiting negative reviews, or selectively soliciting positive reviews from customers.” This new language repositions the policy as an all-encompassing ban on all forms of review manipulation.
New Google features for travel and tourism
When much of the world locked down in 2020, Google took the opportunity to launch various travel and tourism-focused features. Why? The reduced number of flights and travelers allowed for low-stakes testing. These new features are now scaling up now that travel restrictions have eased, and include the following three updates.
- Ticket booking links for attractions:
- On Maps, visitors can now quickly compare admission prices across different partners.
- Edit ticket prices on GBP:
- Attraction owners can now edit their ticket prices and booking links directly on their GBP listings. This was previously done using a third-party connectivity partner. While that option is still available, it is no longer a requirement.
- “Things to do” ads:
- The knowledge panel of individual attractions can now contain paid ad space to show users other nearby attractions. These ads can be set up using the same data feeds that power the free ticket booking links on Search and Maps.
Google releases another algorithm update
Unless you’re in an industry particularly affected by the issue—such as insurance—you may not know the extent of fraudulent websites and listings on Google. The search giant’s regular updates are often designed to proactively remove bad actors who attempt to either steal personal information or withhold leads in order to sell on to legitimate businesses.
Google followed up its latest spam update with an algorithm update on October 22. This double change will cause many businesses will see ranking fluctuations, especially those in direct competition with spammers. Did your rankings go haywire in the first three weeks of October? This dual update may be the culprit.
As always, it’s good to know exactly when Google releases these ranking algorithm updates. Whether there is an algorithm update or not, make sure you continually follow SEO best practices in order to maintain a robust organic presence that is less likely to be impacted by algorithm changes.
News from Google’s annual “Search On” event
At the latest installment of Google’s annual summit, we counted five significant changes to mobile search, nine new shopping features, and seven updates specifically aimed at local.
Five mobile search changes
How Google displays results on mobile is about to become more visual, with a greater focus on images and video:
- Google search shortcuts
- Results in the search bar
- Enhanced query refinements
- Google web stories
- Combining text, images, and video
Nine new shopping features
With the holidays fast approaching, Google decided it was a good time to announce nine new shopping tools and features. During the announcement, Google said the intent was to drive a more immersive, personalized experience:
- Search with the word “shop”
- Shop the look
- See what’s trending
- Shop in 3D
- Get help with complex purchases
- See what other shoppers think
- Get personalized results
- Shop your way with new filters
- Inspiration beyond the Search box
Seven local search updates to look out for
These updates will significantly enhance how people explore neighborhoods, businesses, and restaurants in Google:
- Search for restaurants by dish
- Discover restaurant specialties
- More support for digital menus
- Enhancements to Google Maps’ Live View
- Aerial views of famous landmarks
- Immersive view
- Neighborhood Vibe
Google Business Profile (GBP) retires health and safety attributes
Health and safety attributes were vital when they first appeared on Google listings in September 2020, when users needed to know if businesses were not only open but following safety protocols for customers and staff alike.
With the worst of the pandemic seemingly in the rear-view mirror, Google is retiring a number of health and safety attributes. Any pandemic-era health and safety attributes still on your listings will disappear sooner or later; the ability to add them has already been deactivated.
Want to be fully prepared for the next round of changes in local search? Simply schedule a friendly chat with our experts and we’ll show you exactly how much you can achieve.