Local Memo: Google’s Multisearch “Near Me” Feature Goes Live
In this week’s update, learn about Google’s new multisearch “near me” feature; consumer preferences for national brands during inflation; scammers impersonating business owners on Google; a new survey that finds 96% of consumers read reviews; Google’s updated photo layouts; and Twitter’s continued collapse.
Google’s Multisearch “Near Me” Feature Goes Live
The addition of “near me” functionality in Google’s multisearch tool, first announced at the company’s recent SearchOn event, has now gone live, allowing users to upload photos of menu items and append the text “near me” in order to bring up local results. The tool is also expected to support nearby product searches at some point in the future. The “near me” search I tried made use of a photo I found on a Google profile for a local Mexican restaurant, and I was pleasantly surprised to see that Google returned that same restaurant as the first local result among many that matched my search.
Navigating to a Google Business Profile from the initial Google Lens results brought me to a page that looked normal except that the featured photo matched the image I’d used to search. Being able to search visually for nearby meal items is a new use case and it remains to be seen how popular it will be, but product searches (arguably more difficult to tie to local results) may be the real proving ground for Google’s new feature.
Google is also reportedly rolling out augmented reality in Live View this week, which will showcase business listing information as users view their surroundings through the Google Maps interface. The feature will be initially launched in select cities including New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco.
Google Lens multisearch results page for tostada photo plus “near me”
Consumers Look to National Brands as an Answer to Inflation
Consumers are increasingly turning to budget options for food and shopping as inflation continues to impact the prices of common goods. According to new research from Yelp, this trend is causing many consumers to look to national brands. With 62% of the survey’s respondents saying they are trying to cut costs, some 54% said they are doing business more often with national chain restaurants and retailers as a result of inflation. Nearly half of respondents (45%) said they are less likely to dine out due to higher prices; but those who do will be more likely to choose fast food or fast casual restaurants. Some 64% said they would be more likely today to choose fast food or fast casual when dining out, while 59% said they would be more likely today to choose a discount grocery store and 51% said they would be more likely to choose a discount retailer. Gen Z is the most likely to turn to national chains for cost savings. Overall, 27% of respondents said they visit national or chain retailers or restaurants more often than they did before 2020.
Scammers Are Impersonating Business Owners to Gain Control of Google Profiles
Ben Fisher and others have reported a significant uptick in fraudulent requests to grant access to Google Business Profiles. As I’ve covered previously in this space, Google permits others to request access to profiles even when they’ve already been claimed by the business owner, reportedly in order to make it easier for store managers to add themselves as users, or for business owners to restore lost access. But if you accept a request from a scammer, you may lose access to your listing or become the victim of malicious updates.
Businesses have the option to approve or deny access requests, which are sent by Google via email. Denying fraudulent requests provides the greatest level of protection, but they can often be safely ignored as well. If a request is ignored, the requester has the option of completing a normal verification process, but typically will not be able to do so without being able to receive mail, answer the phone, or otherwise gain access to business contact points.
Survey Finds 96% of Consumers Read Online Reviews
A new consumer survey from Moz reports that 96% of consumers read online reviews, with more than half reading reviews on at least a weekly basis. Most consumers favor Google at 79%, but Facebook and Yelp are also chosen by lots of consumers at 49% and 46% respectively. The majority of consumers, 51%, feel that a business must have at least a 4-star rating to be a viable choice. Star rating, followed by the content of the review and then by its recency, are the most important considerations when consumers consider the relevance of particular reviews.
About 43% of consumers say they write reviews at least once a month, and only 14% of consumers never write reviews. Google, Facebook, and Yelp are the top three sites for writing reviews as well as reading them. Poor customer service is the top reason for leaving a negative review. As for review responses, 60% of consumers expect the business to respond within 2 days, and 67% of negative reviewers said their opinion of a business improved because of an effective response. The report contains many more insightful stats and is worth reading in full.
Google Testing New Photo Layouts in Local and Elsewhere
Many users have spotted a new rounded-corner layout for photos in Google Images, Street View, and Google Business Profile galleries. In Google Images, the layout also includes the addition of favicons and meta descriptions to help differentiate search results. In Business Profiles, photo galleries are now appearing as popup windows rather than a full-screen display. Photos are displayed with rounded corners, and the navigation tools in the top left corner of the display have a new, more visually-oriented presentation, similar to the search filters that have been live for a while in Google Images.
New layout for Google Business Profile photo galleries
Another interesting variation in photo display for local was spotted the other day by SOCi’s Kameron Neal, this time taking over the top of the desktop search result. So far, other users have been unable to reproduce this result.
Local business photos taking top position in the SERP
Twitter Continues to Burn Down
Twitter continues to resemble a building burning down in slow motion. I’m guessing many of us have been keeping up with the news, since it’s been so hard not to; if you feel you need to catch up with last week’s developments, I recommend Nicole Farley’s piece on Search Engine Land.