Local Memo: Google Removes Links From SGE, Adds Definitions and Browser Companion
In this week’s update, learn about updates to Google’s Search Generative Experience; the effect of temporary closure on Google rankings; more news of Google review removals; Musk’s plan to remove the “block user” feature from X; the impact of AI on Bing’s search share; and another round of changes to Google Business Profiles.
Google Removes Links from SGE, Adds Definitions and Browser Companion
After introducing links earlier this month, Google has apparently paused the practice of linking to outside sources in the answers provided by the experimental AI-powered interface known as Search Generative Experience (SGE). SGE is believed to be the initial step toward a full integration of generative AI into Google search. Some observers have noted that links often pointed to pages whose content did not seem to match what was shown in the SGE response, giving a hint as to the reason for their removal. In a statement, Google’s Search Liaison said that links to outside sources would remain available in the carousel display and that Google is still experimenting with different formats.
At the same time, Google has added a new kind of definition popup that appears in SGE results in order to explain the meaning of underlined terms. The company has also launched a new spin on SGE that allows users to tap into its capabilities while browsing the internet. This browser companion, like a similar tool launched earlier this year by Microsoft, summarizes page content on web pages and provides links so you can quickly get to the content you need. According to a statement from Google, not all web pages are included in the service, and a page must be indexed by Google in order for it to appear. Pages only available behind a paywall will be excluded, but only if they use paywall structured data.
Mobile version of SGE browser companion, courtesy Google
Temporary Closure Affects Google Rankings (Again)
Darren Shaw has conducted a fresh experiment to test the impact of temporary closure on Google’s local rankings. Shaw reminds us that during the early days of the pandemic, Google encouraged businesses to mark themselves as temporarily closed when this was required by local regulations, even launching a new feature to make this easier.
However, the temporarily closed status made businesses drop in ranking, which caused many complaints from businesses already at risk during the shutdown. In response, Google publicly stated that it was updating its policies so that temporary closure would not come with a ranking penalty. Shaw notes that the tweet announcing this policy has since been removed, and finds that today, when a business marks itself temporarily closed, ranking goes down as it did before the policy change.
More News of Google Review Removals
Barry Shaw reports there has been another spike in complaints on the Google Business Profile help forum about reviews being removed from publication. Several times in recent months, users have noted that Google seemed to be removing lots of reviews at once for apparent violations of policy. We appear to be in the midst of another such phase. As before, many users are reporting that legitimate reviews are being removed; reinstating such reviews can be a complex process.
Musk Says X Will Remove “Block User” Option
Elon Musk recently posted on the X platform (once known as Twitter and still hosted at twitter.com) that the option to block users would soon be removed for public communications and would be reserved only for direct messages. Musk has expressed the opinion that the “mute” option is sufficient and “block” is superfluous. However, numerous commentators, including Andrew Hutchinson of Social Media Today, have pointed out that the platform cannot enact such a change, as it would go against the policies of both the Apple and Google Play Stores. Indeed, X users have added similar commentary to Musk’s own post, using the Community Notes feature that lets users add helpful context to potentially misleading content.
Block is going to be deleted as a “feature”, except for DMs
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) August 18, 2023
AI May Not Have Moved the Needle for Bing
Six months after releasing AI-powered search, Bing seems not to have gained significant market share as a search engine, according to the Wall Street Journal and other sources. Despite Bing’s quick action to become first to market with AI search by integrating ChatGPT, the search engine seems to have gained only minimal market share, with its share of the overall U.S. and global search markets actually coming in lower this year than in 2022 according to StatCounter. Bing has disputed such findings, saying third-party sources aren’t measuring direct traffic accurately, and noting in its own six-month announcement that 1 billion chats and 750 million images have been created with Bing since the AI launch.
U.S. search engine market share per StatCounter / Search Engine Land, showing Bing’s higher numbers in 2022
Another Roundup of Google Business Profile Updates
Custom Service Buttons
After Allie Margeson of Whitespark noticed an “Adoption” button showing up in the Google listing of a local animal shelter, Amy Toman and Claire Carlile Rees shared further examples on X of what Toman describes as a custom tab that Google has been creating for select businesses for some time. Unfortunately, Toman notes that Google often creates these tabs for businesses that do not offer such services.
Courtesy Claire Carlile Rees
Text Alerts for Chat
Claire Carlile Rees has also shared a screenshot of a new option for Google Business Profile users to receive chat notifications via text message, presumably making it easier for businesses to keep track of and respond quickly to chat requests.
Courtesy Claire Carlile Lees
Support Option for Third-Party Reviews, Review Score
When filing support requests, Google Business Profile users have new options for specifying issues with third-party reviews and questions about review summary score, as noted on X by Ben Fisher.
Courtesy Ben Fisher
“Not Posted” Notice for Reviews
As noted by Mike Blumenthal, Google is now posting a notice to the reviewer when a review is rejected for policy violations. This “Not Posted” notice offers a link for further “info on what you can do.” The notices are currently appearing for reviews in France; it’s not clear if they are showing up elsewhere.
Courtesy Mike Blumenthal
“Manage Photos” Button
Google is testing a new “Manage Photos” button in the web interface for Google Business Profiles, as first noticed by Sohan Jain. There appear to be no feature or functionality changes; the previous version of the button (which most users will still see) reads “Add Photo.”
Courtesy Sahan Jain / Search Engine Roundtable