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The Local Memo: Most Temporarily Closed Businesses Have Reopened, Yelp Reports


In this week’s update, learn about Yelp’s report on post-pandemic recovery; Google’s review carousels for service businesses; Facebook’s new communication tools; how ratings and reviews impact local rankings; Amazon’s version of BOPIS; and a broader rollout of LGTBQ+ and transgender attributes.


Most Temporarily Closed Businesses Have Reopened, Yelp Reports

Yelp has released new data for Q3 2021 indicating that 85% of the businesses forced to close temporarily during the pandemic have reopened, and that the majority of businesses have adjusted successfully to modified pandemic-era conditions. In a further sign of economic health, new business openings are up in Q3 2021 compared to the same period in 2020, with hospitality and leisure seeing the greatest increases. New hotel openings, for example, are up 32% in Q3 2021 compared to Q3 2020. Consumer interest is up as well, with search levels increasing in Q3 for leisure activities (amusement parks up 70%), fitness classes (pilates up 54%), and live entertainment (music venues up 30%) compared to last year. The impact of the delta variant was “less drastic than originally forecasted,” according to the report, with a slight dip in activity in August leading to recovery in September. 






Google Local Finder Displaying Review Carousels for Service Businesses

Our own Michael Snow has spotted yet another change on Google’s part, this time a new carousel-style display of business reviews in the mobile version of the local finder, in particular for service-oriented businesses such as plumbers, accountants, tax preparers, electricians, window cleaning, insurance brokers, and carpet cleaning. I can’t get the display to reproduce on my phone, but Michael has seen it appear reliably on two devices in multiple searches. Review carousels in local results are not entirely new, with Barry Schwartz reporting on examples back in 2019 in the local finder’s “Related to your search” section on desktop. But these mobile carousels look different and appear in a list of results, rather than an individual selected profile, allowing the user to scroll through excerpts of reviews for multiple businesses more easily. 


From what we can tell, the review carousels only appear for service-oriented businesses, and only if the business also has review keywords displaying in their profile — those keywords that display in a button-style format at the top of the reviews feed and allow users to filter reviews to show only those that contain a given keyword. The same keywords highlighted in the filter display are called out in boldface in the review carousels.



Review carousels in mobile local finder


Facebook Offers New Communication Tools for Businesses

Facebook has announced some new features designed to help businesses communicate more easily with consumers in anticipation of increased demand during the holiday season. These include the ability to initiate audio and video calls from Messenger, a capability the company is testing with businesses that make use of Business Inbox in the Messenger app. Facebook is also releasing to select small businesses the ability to create Live Audio Rooms, a Clubhouse-like feature first launched earlier this year. The idea is for businesses to use Live Audio Rooms to host conversations on topics that are relevant to their expertise and customer base. Facebook is also rolling out to all small businesses globally the ability to book appointments from Facebook pages at no cost to the business, as well as several ad-related updates including new ad performance insights and the ability to create Instagram ads from desktop devices.



Appointment booking workflow, courtesy Facebook


How Ratings and Reviews Impact Local Rankings

Ben Fisher has published a new study on the SEMRush blog that looks at the top ranking results in Google Search and Maps for close to 6,000 business-oriented keywords. He finds that number of reviews has a significantly stronger impact on ranking in Google Maps than the average rating of the business, though businesses probably need to have a comparatively high average rating — above 4.1 according to Fisher’s findings — to stand a chance of ranking well in the first place. As for Google Search on desktop, the study found a weaker correlation. The average number of reviews per position in the local pack on desktop was 474, 375, and 490 respectively, though the median numbers were 29, 28, and 26, suggesting that there is still a correlation between review count and top ranking. 


The study also looked at review justifications, finding that the vast majority of them are either positive or neutral, with only 2% of quoted reviews reflecting a negative sentiment about the business. As for consistency between desktop and mobile, the study found that 70% of listings appeared in the top 3 in both platforms, though only 54% also had the same rank position. The study also looks at local pack results on mobile, finding largely consistent results. 



Amazon Launches Its Own Version of BOPIS

Amazon has launched “Local Selling,” a service that provides same-day local pickup and delivery of its products. The idea is to enable local sellers to offer their product through Amazon, giving them the advantage of Amazon’s reach and selling tools while providing Amazon with an army of local stores and producers who can establish a greater degree of local availability for the company. Sellers must apply to participate in the program, which allows them to showcase their products to consumers within a 25 mile radius. Pickup and delivery are managed with the help of Amazon’s logistics tools. The effort is likely geared to compete with Google’s push in recent years to expose local store inventory and create stronger synergies between online and offline shopping. 


GMB Rolls Out LGBTQ+ and Transgender Attributes More Broadly

The Google My Business team first announced support for the attributes “LGBTQ+ friendly” and “Transgender safespace” all the way back in 2018, but for some reason these options were restricted to certain business categories and not widely available to a broad base of businesses. Now we’re seeing a new format for the presentation of the attributes, as well as what appears to be much broader availability. The attributes now appear under the heading “Crowd,” and I see them showing up for categories as diverse as gift shop, auto repair shop, craft store, bank, and restaurant, suggesting that most businesses should now be able to configure them.



“LGBTQ+ friendly” and “Transgender safespace” under the new Crowd heading in the GMB dashboard

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