Getting Up to Speed with Google’s Local Platform Changes

 

You may have heard that Google My Business, the platform business owners and their support partners use to manage and update their local business profiles, is changing its name. What used to be called the Google My Business dashboard is now known as the Google Business Profile Manager, and that dashboard is slowly transitioning to become a tool designed specifically for multi-location brands to manage lots of listings in one place. As for small business owners, Google is encouraging them to manage what is now called their Google Business Profile using an entirely different set of tools embedded within the Google Search page and the Google Maps app. 

 

A Look Into the History Of Google’s Name Changes

Google has a habit of periodically revisiting the structure and naming conventions of its offerings, and this isn’t the first time we’ve seen a name change for the Google local platform. In fact, the first iteration of Google’s dashboard for local businesses, launched back in 2005, was called the Google Local Business Center. This name gave way to Google Places in 2010, then to Google+ Local in 2012, back when local was briefly a part of Google’s ultimately doomed social media platform. 

The name Google My Business has had the longest tenure of any of these; launched in 2014, GMB, as we’ve come to call it, turned 7 this year. Though its new name was not made public until this month, the winds of change had been blowing for some time. For several months now, Google has been hinting that the old platform would be giving way to something different, as more and more features were added to Search to allow small businesses to update listing information, respond to reviews and questions, and view engagement metrics. 

 

 

The new landing page for Google Business Profile

 

 

The current situation, however, is bound to cause some confusion for small businesses. Google is encouraging business owners to use Search or Maps in preference to the old, already renamed dashboard, even though the features in these newer interfaces are not yet fully up to par. For example, in order to add secondary URLs for features like appointment booking, or to specify attributes regarding business ownership, amenities, payment methods, and service details, small business users must still visit the old platform, because secondary URLs and attributes have not yet been rolled out to Search or to Maps. Many other features are currently available in all three places — and additionally in the Google My Business mobile app, which is still functional although slated for discontinuation in 2022. Until Google’s new feature rollout reaches parity with the old platform, small businesses will understandably feel they are caught between an outmoded old model and a new version that feels half-finished.

 

How Google’s Platform Changes Can Impact Multi-Location Businesses

If small business owners face significant changes under an uncertain timeline, multi-location brands are, luckily, in better shape. For one thing, the features available in the newly named Google Business Profile Manager have carried over from Google My Business intact, and Google’s messaging around the change implies that more useful tools for brands with multiple locations will be available in the future. Perhaps even more importantly, the Google My Business API, used by providers like SOCi to manage Google profiles at scale, will continue to play its critical role as a tool for multi-location brands, the only difference being that it has been renamed the Business Profile API. 

In one particular area, however, small businesses are slightly ahead of multi-location brands, and this has to do with engagement metrics. Since the early part of this year, Google has been slowly unveiling a new model for measuring engagement with business profiles that represents a significant overhaul of the model we’ve known for years as GMB Insights. Google’s plan appears to be to move away from an ad-based framework focus on counting impressions, most clearly exemplified by the Views on Search and Views on Maps metrics in GMB, and towards a method of counting that represents the number of unique persons interacting with a business profile. 

New language in Google’s help documentation helps to explain the change. The new version of Views, called “Users who viewed your profile,” works like this: “A user can be counted a limited number of times if they visit your Business Profile on multiple devices and platforms such as desktop or mobile and Google Maps or Google Search. Per breakdown device and platform, a user can only be counted once a day. Multiple daily visits aren’t counted.”

In addition to the new methodology, Google’s new metrics place greater emphasis on engagement with business profiles, foregrounding actions like phone calls, inbound messages, and appointment requests. And Google promises more interesting charts and graphs to come, all under a new heading called Performance that appears destined to replace Insights.

The catch? None of these new metrics are currently available anywhere but in the new Search and Maps interfaces that are designed for use by small businesses. There’s no way to aggregate the data across an entire brand, and none of the Performance metrics are available yet in the Business Profile API. 

I expect this will not be the case for much longer. Somewhat less visibly than all of these other changes, Google has also been working to restructure the Business Profile API this year, progressively releasing its features in new self-sufficient units using a new “federated” model. (If you’d like to learn more about that, you can read my Street Fight article here.) They haven’t yet gotten to Insights in this restructuring, and I believe there’s a reason for that — it’s fairly likely that the API team is holding off until the new Performance metrics have reached a point of maturity where it will make sense to include them in the API. 

At that point, we may even see a cutover whereby the old Insights give way entirely to the new Performance metrics. If that happens, we’ll all need to readjust our understanding of how to measure success in local marketing. To stay up to date with more insight into Google’s platform updates, check out The Local Memo! Our weekly blog series covers all the need-to-know updates in local search and local social, including information on Google’s name change. 

Damian Rollison