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Local Memo: Google Announces Phase Out of Third-Party Cookies in 2024


In this week’s update, learn about the phasing out of third-party cookies; image generation in SGE; the return of Call History to GBP; automatic updates to GBP attributes; Apple Business Connect’s new Peer Group Benchmarks; and Meta’s Conversational Platform for Marketing (CP4M).


Google Announces Phase Out of Third-Party Cookies in 2024


At long last, Google has released a timeline for the phasing out of third-party cookie support in the Chrome browser. Third-party cookies will be disabled for 1% of Chrome users globally starting in early 2024, with a full phase-out scheduled for completion by the end of Q3 in the same year. Third-party cookies have traditionally provided advertisers with the ability to track users as they traverse the web, but privacy concerns caused Google to plan for their deprecation starting in 2020. Privacy-oriented replacements for cookie technology, such as ID5 and Audigent’s Hadron ID, aim to protect the anonymity of users while still offering advertisers the ability to target them with relevant ads. But the shift away from third-party cookies is still likely to cause a major disruption in the digital advertising industry. Google’s slow rollout is designed to give advertisers ample time to transition to alternative methods. 


Google Adds Image Generation to SGE


In a blog post, Google has announced the addition of image generation functionality to its Search Generative Experience (SGE) interface. The launch is part of Google’s ongoing initiative, according to the announcement, to test “new ways to get more done as you’re searching.” Prompts in SGE to create images can be preceded by simple conversational phrases like “draw a picture.” The generative AI response will give the user for image outputs to choose from, each accompanied by a text description that can be refined to produce a final result. 


The new image generation feature will appear for opted-in SGE users not only in the main search interface, but also in Google Images, where Google may display a generative result alongside images from the web when users are “searching for inspiration”; example searches include “minimalist halloween table settings” and “spooky dog house ideas.” 


Google says all images will be watermarked indicating they were generated with AI, and an upcoming feature called “About this image” (similar to the “About this result” feature in search) will provide background as to how the image was generated, including similar source material on the web.


A gif showing image results in Google's SGE for the search "minimalist Halloween table decorations"


Call History Returns to Google Business Profiles


Though seemingly discontinued back in July, the Call History feature in Google Business Profiles has now been re-enabled. During its period of disablement, users who had previously turned the feature on were unable to remove it, though it no longer provided new data. The feature that allows users to turn Call History on and off should now be available again to all users. According to its help documentation, Call History uses forwarding numbers to capture call data when customers tap the “Call” button in a Google profile. Missed and answered calls from the last 45 days are listed, including the caller’s phone number. Some previous reports have indicated that calls to businesses with Call History enabled can sometimes be redirected to the wrong business.



An image highlighting that call history can now be found again in Google Business Profiles


Courtesy Near Media


Google Automatically Updating Some GBP Attributes


Users are reporting that Google has been automatically updating certain business attributes in Google Business Profiles. These recent updates seem to follow a logical pattern. For instance, users who indicate that they accept payment methods like credit cards may see the attribute “Cash only” automatically set to “no.” Similarly, locations that indicated they were not a COVID-19 testing center may now see that option removed entirely from their list of available attributes. As usual, businesses should occasionally check their GBP attributes for accuracy.


Apple Launches Peer Group Benchmarks for Business Connect


Apple is rolling out a new set of metrics called Peer Group Benchmarks to Apple Business Connect users. Like the identically named metrics in App Store Connect for app developers, Peer Group Benchmarks provide businesses with a comparison to similar businesses for key metrics, including search volume, photo views, photo interactions, and location views. Apple is particularly interested in promoting the addition of engaging photo content to its business Place Cards, reporting that Place Cards that contain photos earn 10 times the engagement of those that do not, and that businesses with more than 15 photos average 70% greater engagement. 


A graph highlighting data from Apple, one mentioning that Apple place cards with more than 15 photos get 70% more engagement


Courtesy Near Media / Apple


Meta Touts Benefits of Conversational Platform for Marketing


Meta is promoting its open source platform called Conversational Platform for Marketing, or CP4M, which allows developers to integrate advertiser chatbots into Messenger and WhatsApp. Developers can utilize various large language models to deploy advertiser chatbots on CP4M, including Meta’s LLaMa and OpenAI’s ChatGPT. In a blog post, Meta writes, “Using conversational chatbots throughout the customer journey can provide a more personalized and intuitive experience that can lead to increased engagement and action.” The company suggests that generative chatbots can be useful for brands at every stage in the customer journey, from awareness to consideration, purchase, and post-purchase. Moreover, chatbots according to Meta can help brands meet modern consumer expectations, with two thirds of millennials expecting real-time customer service from brands. CP4M is available via GitHub.



An image highlighting how calls, Messenger, and Instagram fit into Meta's new Conversational Platform for Marketing


Courtesy Meta

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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