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Local Memo: Local Highlights from Google’s Search On Event


In this week’s update, learn about the local highlights (and some others) from Google’s recent Search On event; an academic study on the impact of fake reviews; free Google Fi for Local Guides; the completion of Google’s latest algorithm updates; and an updated look for the Local Finder. 


Local Highlights from Google’s Search On Event

Google’s Search On 22, a virtual event streamed live on September 28, has received a ton of press coverage for its focus on local search as well as product search, and for a fair number of announcements (though many of these had already been previewed at Google I/O earlier in the year). Of necessity, this recap will take up a bit more space than our usual news items. Google’s Search On page is also a good resource; the livestream can be replayed there, or you can watch an 8-minute highlight reel. The page also links to blog posts from Google on each of the major announcements from the event. 




Google is doubling down on visual search by expanding multisearch — the feature that lets you add text qualifiers to image-based queries — to 70 languages, after previously being available only in English. The official rollout of “near me” support for multisearch is said to be taking place this fall; this will allow you to search local results using images as the primary input. 


A gif showing someone searching using an image of a croissant and the words "near me"


Search by Menu Item


Restaurant search will change “in the coming months” by allowing users to search for restaurants that carry specific dishes. A new “Nearby dishes” section in the SERP will display photos of the desired menu items, along with price, ratings, and location, and will let users filter by criteria like “spicy” or “vegetarian.” It appears that to support this feature, Google is relying not only on the menu content in Business Profiles but on menus crawled from restaurant websites, an initiative the company recently announced


A gif showing someone searching for "soup dumplings near me" and looking at soup dumplings from various restaurants


Capturing Local Experiences


In a sign that Google is listening to the preferences of the TikTok generation, a new preview feature will make use of images and reviews, curated via machine learning, to convey the distinctive features of a restaurant. A similar feature in Google Maps will show users the “vibe” of particular neighborhoods by means of a selection of photos and videos. Google is also expanding its live view functionality to make it easy to see details about the businesses around you, including whether they are currently busy. 


A gif showcasing a photo of a restaurant, and when the image is clicked on text pops up that says the restaurant is "like walking into a friends living room"


Shopping Updates


Users will soon be able to search using “shop” as a qualifier to launch a dedicated online shopping experience within Google Search, showcasing a visual feed of matching products. Google will show you which items are trending. Some product photos will be enhanced with automated 3D, so that users can see the product from all angles. Other updates include shopping guides for complex purchases, insight into the opinions of other consumers, and the ability to configure preferences for specific brands. 


Notable Search Updates


Among many other updates, the SEO community has seemed most excited about the addition of results from public forums and discussion platforms such as Reddit and Quora in SERPs, as well as expanded information in “About this result” that identifies when search results have been modified based on personalization, such as your past searches personalized shopping preferences. 


Academic Study Looks at Impact of Fake Reviews


A new study authored by researchers at UCLA and USC finds that fake reviews play a significant role in the ecommerce ecosystem. Social media marketplaces openly advertise schemes whereby product marketers pay people to purchase their products and write positive reviews, according to the study. Focusing primarily on Amazon, the study found that fake reviews were more prevalent for low-quality products sold by no-name brands. Half of fake reviews are eventually deleted by the platform, but removal of a fake review takes 100 days on average. In the meantime, inflated ratings due to fake reviews have a “large causal effect on sales.”


Some Local Guides Are Getting Free Google Fi


Google is known to offer various perks to its Local Guides — the volunteer users who contribute content to Google Maps in the form of reviews, photos, and profile updates. In the past, such perks have included free Google swag and invitations to Local Guide events. Now, Google is offering some users from three months to one year of free service with Google Fi, the company’s phone plan. (To redeem the offer, you must be a first-time Fi user and you must port your number from another carrier.) This incentive is a further sign that Google is looking to up the quotient of UGC in Maps. 


Google Core and Product Reviews Updates are Complete


Both the September Core Algorithm Update and the latest iteration of the Product Reviews Update completed their rollout on September 26. The Core Update took two full weeks to roll out while the Product Reviews Update was rolled out over just six days. The Core Update was global and impacted sites in all languages; the Product Reviews Update, though also global, only impacted sites in English. Significant impacts from both updates were widely reported in the SEO community. 


Google Brings Mobile Local Finder Features to Desktop


According to a post in the Local Search Forum, Google may be experimenting with — or gradually rolling out — a more mobile-like interface on desktop for the Local Finder, the page users visit after clicking “More places” at the bottom of the Local Pack. The changes are notable in the list view and especially in the expanded profile view, where one can see mobile-style buttons as well as a top navigation bar with headings such as Overview, Services, Reviews, Updates, and Photos. Content from the Services menu was previously not displayed on desktop. 


An example of a local listing from Rite Plumbing and Heating on Google


Courtesy Professor M / Local Search Forum


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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