Local Memo: Instagram’s Searchable Map
In this week’s update, learn about Instagram’s searchable map; another extension for third-party cookies in Chrome; an FAQ option in Google Messages; Google Business Profile changes and updates; new features and experiments in Google Maps; and Google’s decision to shut down reviews for reproductive clinics.
Instagram Launches Searchable Map
Instagram has added search functionality to its map, making it possible for users to search for nearby businesses on the platform. Previously, most users could only see recent location-associated posts on the map. Instagram first showcased map search back in 2021, but at the time the feature was limited to users in Australia and New Zealand. Now the feature is rolling out to all users. Businesses must have an active Instagram profile in order to be discoverable in the Instagram map.
Instagram seems to be imagining a more discovery-oriented local experience, with users searching by city or neighborhood in order to see new businesses that might be of interest to them. The interface lets users filter by business category or to search by Instagram hashtags. Discovery as a mode of interacting with local content seems to be of interest to younger users, as evidenced by recent comments from Google that 40% of Gen Z users prefer TikTok and Instagram over Google Search and Maps.
Courtesy Meta / TechCrunch
Google Pushes Third-Party Cookie Demise to 2024
Google has again extended the discontinuation of support for third-party tracking cookies in the Chrome browser, this time to 2024. Last year, Google moved the timeline from 2022 to 2023. According to reports, the company feels, and developers and marketers agree, that more time is needed to test the Privacy Sandbox which is the proposed replacement for cookies.
Testing of the new Privacy Sandbox APIs will continue into 2023, with official cancellation of cookie support now slated for the second half of 2024. Advertisers have been concerned about loss of ad revenue as a result of the change; Google may be hoping that additional testing time will help to allay those fears.
Google Messages Adds FAQ Option
Google has added a new wizard to the Google Business Profile tools in Search, designed for the use of small business owners. The wizard allows businesses to configure up to 10 frequently asked questions (FAQ) that can be answered using Google’s Messages feature. Business owners can enter questions of up to 40 characters in length and answers of up to 500 characters. Apparently, the questions show up as suggestions in chat, and users can select any question to view its answer. Answers may also include links, for example to specific pages on the business website. Previously, some businesses used Google’s asynchronous Q&A feature to publish FAQ content; now they have a more interactive option.
Courtesy Search Engine Roundtable
Google Discontinues Dashboard for SMBs, Reminds Users of Post Expiration at 6 Months
Perhaps this coincided with the recent sunsetting of the Google My Business app and I simply missed it, but apparently small business owners who have only one location in their Google Business Profile accounts can no longer access the Google Business Profile Manager dashboard. According to commentary at Local Search Forum, you must now have at least two locations in your account in order to use dashboard features.
In unrelated GBP news, Google has been emailing business owners and managers to remind them that posts will expire after 6 months. More specifically, the email says that posts older than 6 months will no longer be “highlighted” in your profile. Users can still get to them but must click on a link to view archived posts. This is a useful reminder from Google to, as the email says, “get into the habit of sharing updates” in order to keep profiles fresh and active.
Body of an email from Google about post expiration
Google Maps Adds Aerial Views, Tests Infinite Scroll
Google has launched several updates to Maps that were previously signaled at the I/O conference this year, including photorealistic aerial views of major cities like London, Tokyo, and Barcelona. Improved navigation for bicycle riders has also been added, including information about elevations and traffic along a route. Finally, Google will now permit users to share location alerts with friends when they arrive at or leave specific locations.
Two other test features have recently been spotted in the wild. First, a user on Twitter posted a video of a new infinite scroll interface for Google Maps on desktop. Google has been experimenting with infinite scroll for some time, and recently launched the feature officially for mobile organic search. Second, another user spotted a new flag reading “Reviews aren’t verified” on a Google Business Profile. Clicking on the flag causes a tooltip to pop up, which reads, “Reviews aren’t verified by Google, but Google checks for and removes fake content when it’s identified.”
The profile shared as an example appears to be a business in the Netherlands, and the messaging may be related to new EU guidelines governing the management of online reviews.
Courtesy Robin Dirksen
Google Shuts Off New Reviews for Reproductive Clinics
Google has removed the ability for any user to leave a new review for a Planned Parenthood facility or any other reproductive clinic or pregnancy care center. On desktop, the button to leave a review is simply missing; on mobile, a notice reads, “Posting reviews is disabled for this location.” It’s unclear when reviews were originally shut off for businesses in these categories; complaints about the issue from businesses who can no longer earn new reviews have been showing up in the Google Business Profile forum since at least early July.
The Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade took place on June 24. In a statement, Google said, in part, “To help keep information on Google accurate and reliable, when we see unusual activity or risk for potential abuse, we routinely put protections on business profiles to monitor and prevent policy-violating content, which can include temporarily blocking all new reviews.”