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Local Memo: The Big Google News Roundup


This week’s update offers a larger-than-usual grab bag of important updates from Google, including local updates to the Search Generative Experience; support for social links in Google Business Profiles; the shutdown of Google Domains; the impact of hidden addresses on ranking; and several more items. Let’s get up to speed with the latest Google news. 


Google Adds Local Reviews and Photos to SGE


Google’s Search Generative Experience (SGE), the new AI-powered search interface that is available to users in a test release via Google Labs, is adding content from Google Business Profiles. In a release announcement, Google said that local results generated by SGE will now include reviews and photos as well as “other Business Profile details that people have submitted to Google for more than 200 million places in the real world.” In examples such as the one below, photos and review excerpts are clearly linked to the content of the query. 


Google adding reviews and photos to SGE



Support for Social Links Added to GBP API


As Krystal Taing has shared on Twitter, Google has added support in the GBP API for direct control of which social links are displayed in business profiles. Previously, getting these links to show up in business profiles involved a convoluted series of steps including crosslinking between your website and your social profiles and marking up your website with appropriate schema tags, in the hopes that Google would crawl your website and add social tags to GBP automatically. Now, businesses will be able to add and manage social links on their own, greatly simplifying the process. 



Social links added to GBP's API


Courtesy Krystal Taing


Google Domains Shutting Down


In news that has caused surprise and some dismay in the SEO community, Google is shutting down Google Domains, having agreed to transfer its roughly 10 million registered domains over to Squarespace in a cost-cutting measure. Many SEOs had grown fond of Google Domains due to its simplicity and lack of emphasis on upsells, and so are mourning its demise. It’s important to note, however, that this news has nothing to do with the free Google Websites service that allows business owners to create websites linked to their business profiles. 


The Impact of Hidden Addresses on Ranking


New research from Joy Hawkins confirms that hiding the street address in your Google Business Profile can have a huge impact on ranking. As a reminder, businesses are asked to hide (or simply not provide) an address if they only service customers at the customer’s address and do not have an office. This requirement applies to businesses of all kinds, from landscapers to cleaning services to pest control. Hawkins found that, when hiding the address of a service based business that previously had the address displayed, both rankings and phone calls dropped dramatically. The removal of the address for another business even caused the local pack not to trigger anymore for one of the business’s main keywords. 


Google shutting down address domains



Courtesy Joy Hawkins / Sterling Sky


New EU Actions Charge Google with Anticompetitive Practices


According to a statement, the European Commission has “informed” Google that the company is in breach of EU regulations due to anticompetitive practices in online advertising, and must sell off certain of its core ad services. This is one of the strongest moves to date to break up Google on the charge that it operates as a monopoly, taking place alongside a lawsuit from the U.S. Department of Justice along similar lines. The European Commission is accusing Google of promoting its own offerings in preference to other “advertising technology services, advertisers and online publishers.” Specifically, the commission alleges that Google gives its own properties preferential treatment in the ad ecosystem, for instance by providing advance information about bids from competitors. Google now has a chance to issue a defense before the commission hands down its final ruling, the timeline for which is uncertain. 


Google’s dominance of the ad tech industry, courtesy the European Commission



Google’s dominance of the ad tech industry, courtesy the European Commission


Google Sues Fake Review Scammer


In other news, Google has filed its own lawsuit against a scam operation that allegedly created fake businesses and published fake reviews in Google Maps and Google Business Profiles. The lawsuit alleges that Ethan QiQi Hu and several linked business entities created 350 fake profiles and published over 14,000 fake reviews, misleading consumers and causing harm to businesses who were promised high rankings. Google has filed similar suits in the past, including a lawsuit last year against a company that promised page 1 rankings to local businesses and also published fake profiles and reviews.  


How to Share GBP Content to Google Ads


Google Ads has a new setting that allows businesses to share photos and other media content from Google Business Profiles for use in ads. Enabling the setting that reads “Allow Google Ads to use merchant photos” will now connect your business profile with Google Ads and permit ad campaigns to display “merchant photos and other rich media,” presumably a reference to video.


GBP Products Here to Stay


Google has recently modified the display of some GBP features, removing product listings and Q&A from the Local Finder version of business profiles for example. Some have speculated that product listings would be removed entirely from GBP, due to these changes as well as emails from Google indicating that merchants should be using the Merchant Center to list product inventory. But Google Ads spokesperson Ginny Marvin, in response to a query from Barry Schwartz, indicated that products would remain a feature in GBP, and suggested that Google was working to more closely integrate GBP with the Merchant Center, stating: “We plan to enable merchants to edit their product data directly in GBP regardless if the data source is GMC or GBP. Stay tuned.”


Businesses Tab Added to Google Maps iPhone App


Google has added a tab to manage business listings in the iPhone version of Google Maps, after doing the same to the Android version of the app back in February. When logged in to Google Maps with an account that manages one or more business listings, users should now see a “Business” icon. Tapping the icon takes you to a list of your managed profiles, from which you can choose a business and view performance metrics, edit contact information, view and respond to messages and reviews, adjust profile settings, and so on, with functionality similar to that in the New Merchant Experience search interface. 

Damian Rollison

With over a decade of local search experience, Damian Rollison, SOCI's Director of Market Insights, has focused his career on discovering innovative ways to help businesses large and small get noticed online. Damian's columns appear frequently at Street Fight, Search Engine Land, and other publications, and he is a frequent speaker at industry conferences such as Localogy, Brand Innovators, State of Search, SMX, and more.

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