If you’re a business owner, especially those in the real world, Google My Business (GMB) has become the front-end center of the digital universe and is an important ingredient not just for SEO but also for helping you connect better with customers across Google search and maps.
If your business doesn’t have a GMB account you’re seriously behind the 8-ball and you’re losing plenty of leads and sales. Google my business is FREE and is super easy to get started.
Simply sign up and verify your business on Google to get the ball rolling.
What Is Google My Business?
Google My Business is a free and easy-to-use tool for businesses and organizations to manage their online presence across Google, including Search and Maps. If you verify and edit your business information, you can both help customers find your business and tell them your story.
Benefits of Google My Business:
- Manage the information that Google users find when they search for your business or the products and services that you offer.
- Read and respond to reviews from your customers, and post photos that show off what you do.
- Find insights on how customers searched for your business, and where those customers are coming from.
- Customers can call or book straight from your business listing.
- Share an offer directly to your followers to show how much you appreciate their loyalty.
- Ability to turn your listing into a website, with Google My Business website builder.
- Helps with your Local SEO Strategy.
2019 List of Google My Business Changes and Upgrades
Below is a summary of most (though not all) of the GMB updates and changes that happened this year, together with a few that don’t strictly belong to GMB.
January: Messaging, SAB flow, virtual office rules
- Google started emphasizing messaging in the GMB profile — although it compelled business owners and agencies to message exclusively through the Google My Business app — following its abandonment of SMS-based messaging.
- The company introduced a new sign-up flow for service-areas businesses. It starts with a question about whether the business has a store or office. If the answer is no, it sends the user down a SAB-specific path.
- Google also provided guidance surrounding who is eligible to create a GMB page for a virtual office. In particular, there must be on-site staffing.
February: Map reviews, AR directions, join the waitlist
- Google announced that hotel operators can now enter their check-in and check-out times directly in Google My Business.
- The company also started testing augmented reality walking directions in Maps. It rolled them out widely in August (called LiveView). But they’re still not that helpful ten months later.
- In February, Google also started allowing business owners (with verified GMB listings) to reply to reviews in Google Maps on the desktop, rather than requiring them to use the GMB dashboard or mobile app to reply.
- Google added a “join waitlist” feature for restaurants. Part of Reserve with Google, the functionality is provided by DineTime. Users input party size and receive texts updating them on the status of their wait.
- Finally, Google also introduced a new local spam reporting form for GMB and Google Maps.
March: Duplex rollout, Core update, and SAB addresses disappear
- Google rolled out Duplex restaurant reservations over the phone for Pixel phones in 43 U.S. states. In April it expanded the capability to more Android phones and iPhones. It’s also expanding Duplex to other verticals over time.
- Google removed business addresses from the GMB Profile for service-area businesses.
- It began testing auto-generated Posts featuring reviews.
- Google’s March Core Update, though not about local, impacted some local marketers and their customers.
April: Assistant local results, GMB paid services survey
- Business listings appearing in Google Assistant or Google Home search results are being drawn from Google Guaranteed listings or listings certified by partners Porch or HomeAdvisor. But they’re not ads.
- Google Posts started enabling businesses to promote reviews and testimonials, presented as “suggested Posts.”
- Google also surveyed small business owners about their appetite to pay monthly subscription fees for a number of potential Google My Business (GMB) enhanced features and services. This drew a very mixed reaction from the local SEO community.
May: Popular dishes, food ordering, and CallJoy
- Google introduces CallJoy automated customer service and calls intelligence capabilities to the SMB market for $39 per month. It upgraded the service and its capabilities in November.
- The company brought an end to end food ordering to Google Assistant, Google search and Maps through partners, DoorDash, Postmates, Delivery.com, and others.
- In a related development, Google started exposing a carousel of “popular dishes” on local restaurant pages. The selections are generated by machine learning.
June: Mapspam and Shortnames
- The Wall Street Journal published a much-discussed article on fake listings in Google results and on Maps. Google countered with a post on how it fights local spam, though many in the SEO community dismissed those efforts as insufficient.
- Google added a range of new GMB features and tools designed to encourage more local businesses to claim profiles; it also offered new branding and promotional capabilities. One of those key tools (@shortname) saw its rollout marred by disappeared listings and reviews.
July: Get a quote and place topics
- A “get a quote” button started appearing in local Knowledge Panels for some businesses that opted-in to GMB messaging. It showed up in mobile and on the PC as well. (A related feature appears in December.)
- Google tested “place topics,” which are tags, themes or keywords extracted through machine learning from user reviews. They only appear when there are enough user reviews, under the reviews tab on the GMB profile.
August: Carousel pack, bulk reviews, Google Screened
- Google tested a horizontal carousel to replace the local pack in mobile results. The top result, not part of the carousel, was an ad.
- GMB added support for hotels to update services and amenities details, appearing in Search and Maps.
- Google introduced bulk review management that allows businesses to view reviews for multiple listings at once, as well as reply to reviews for multiple locations.
- Google announced the test of “Google Screened,” a program similar to Google Guaranteed. Directed at professional services, Google Screened is currently limited to a few verticals in a few markets: lawyers (estate planning, immigration), financial planners and realtors in San Diego and Houston.
- Google tested competitor ads in local business profiles as part of Local Campaigns.
September: Post highlights, food ordering opt-out
- Google Post highlights start showing up in the Local Pack and Local Finder. However, Posts have no ranking impact.
- Google allows local restaurants to opt-out of third-party food ordering and delivery, which had proven to be a highly unpopular feature with many restaurants.
- September also saw another Core Algorithm Update, which also impacted local marketers.
October: Search by photos, Incognito Mode for Maps
- Google showed users a new option to “search by photos” in mobile results. They appear as a module in the SERP that opens to a larger page of images with star ratings.
- Google implemented a number of promised privacy controls for users. These included Incognito Mode for Google Maps, voice control to delete Google Assistant search activity and auto-delete for YouTube history.
November: Local algorithm update, follow local guides, no more phone support
- Google introduced local guides follow feature that allows Google Maps users in multiple cities to follow local guides and see their local recommendations of places and things to do.
- Google discontinued toll-free phone support for GMB. Instead, users are required to fill out a form and request a callback, which slows response times.
December: Review carousels, auto-Posts, choose area
- Google started showing carousels with local reviews (and Q&A content) on local business profiles when relevant to the search query and there are enough “high-quality reviews.”
- It also started automatically creating Posts from GMB photos. These auto-Posts also cannot be deleted by the business owner.
- Google showed a “request quotes” button in local results. It’s available to businesses participating in the Local Services Ads (LSAs) program and those that have passed “Google Guaranteed” background checks. This is similar to the same feature tested in July.
- It also tested a “choose area” feature that allows mobile users to further refine the search area below the city level. On the flip side, it now allows businesses to designate a large metropolitan area (MSA) as a service area, rather than providing a long list of smaller areas the business serves.