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Google appears to be testing the idea of “upgrading” Google My Business profiles with a special “Google Guaranteed” badge for a $50 monthly fee.

Twitter user Tom Waddington shared a screenshot for a promotional page within the GMB dashboard offering the profile upgrade.

What Is Google Guaranteed?

The search engine has been playing with the “Google Guaranteed” badge since last year, though it has typically been used in Local Service Ads for home services businesses. 

To be eligible for the badge, businesses must meet a number of criteria including certification, licensing, and background checks. 

The idea appears to be to inspire more confidence in brands listed in Google’s local results by highlighting those who have been vetted. 

Why Would Anyone Pay For This?

On its face, the idea of paying $50 a month for what amounts to a stamp of approval sounds a little silly. However, the badge comes with some backing which may help customers feel more at ease.

Along with the Google Guarantee badge, businesses which pass the screening process are also backed with a customer satisfaction guarantee. If a customer finds your business through the search engine and is not satisfied with the results, Google will refund the amount paid up to $2,000.

Along with this aspect, there is always the issue of getting ahead of your competition. Any little advantage can be the key to standing apart from your competitors.

Just an “Experiment” … For Now

When asked about the program via email, a Google spokesperson told Search Engine Journal:

“We’re always testing new ways to improve our experience for our advertisers, merchants, and users. This experiment will show the Google Guaranteed badge on the business profile. We don’t have anything additional to announce right now.”

Google My Business has long let businesses mark their profiles with the special services or offerings your business provides in the real world. But, what about your online services?

When it comes to GMB attributes, online services have been the glaring omission for many businesses.

That is finally changing, as Google is introducing four new attributes you can add to your GMB listing – all of which highlight online services you provide. 

The four new attributes appearing for use in GMB profiles include:
Online care

  • Online appointment
  • Online estimates
  • Online classes

Anyone can add these attributes to their listing. Once added, the tag may appear in search results when relevant. 

For example, here is how the “Online Care” attribute appeared in a search result:

These attributes join the long list of existing tags businesses can add to their listings, including “WiFi available,” “outdoor seating,” “cash only,” and many more. 

With many consumers still preferring online or contactless shopping options, these tags can be an important tool for signaling that you can help. 

How To Add Attributes To Your Google My Business Listing

The process of adding attributes to your current GMB listing is quick and easy. Simply follow the steps below:

  • Sign into the Google My Business app or website
  • Select the location you would like to manage if you have multiple locations
  • Click “Info” from the menu
  • Find “Add Attributes” then click “Edit”
    • Here you can either scroll through the list and select those which apply to your business, or search for specific attributes
  • Once you have selected all the attributes you wish to add, click “Apply.”

It is important to note that you may not have access to specific attributes depending on which industry you are in. For example, home repair services like carpenters or plumbers are unlikely to find the “Online care” or “Online classes” attributes.

Google has introduced a new way to quickly and easily show that your business is temporarily closed in accordance to Oklahoma’s “Safer at Home” order and other states’ shelter in place laws during the ongoing COVID-19 epidemic.

This comes at a critical time as people are turning to Google’s local listings to see what essential businesses are still operating around them and what revised hours they may be operating. For example, although grocery stores are remaining open, many are changing their hours to allow time to restock and let employees rest.

Meanwhile, countless others have been forced to close up shop for at least two weeks for the sake of public safety. Google is the first stop many are turning to in order to see what type of changes your company has had to make.

How To Temporarily Close Your Business On Google

To help, Google has shared easy-to-follow instructions explaining how to “mark a business temporarily closed.”

The first step is to sign in to your Google My Business account and select the “Info” section in the menu on the left.

From there, you will find a section marked “Close this business on Google.”

Within this section, you will be presented with three options – to mark you listing as temporarily closed, permanently closed, or entirely remove your listing.

Why It Is Important To Update Your Listing

With so much confusion and uncertainty, people are relying on the internet for up-to-date information more than ever. This is especially true for Google’s local listings.

However, the surge in GMB updates has overwhelmed Google’s reduced staff to the point that many areas of local listings are being suspended – such as reviews and Q&A’s. Closing your listing temporarily is currently the easiest way to let people know that although you have had to close for the time being, you will be back in action soon.

In light of a limited workforce and the unique needs of people during the COVID-19 pandemic, Google says it will be temporarily removing some features from Google My Business to better prioritize important updates for the time being.

“During the unprecedented COVID-19 situation, we are taking steps to protect the health of our team members and reduce the need for people to come into our offices. As a result, there may be some temporary limitations and delays in support as we prioritize critical services.”

For the foreseeable future, these Google My Business features may be limited or removed.

Reviews and Q&A

Perhaps the most noticeable change for businesses and customers alike is that GMB will no longer be publishing new reviews, review replies, or new Q&A responses until further notice. However, existing reviews and Q&A’s will remain visible on your listing.

Although the company hasn’t clarified, most take this to mean that any reviews, replies, or questions submitted during this period will be held until Google has the resources and available workforce to properly review these updates.

New Listings or Verification

Google My Business has instructed its team to prioritize critical health-related businesses when reviewing new listings, claims, and verification for GMB listings.

This means that while new listings for non-health-related businesses will still be processed, they may be delayed in favor of more critical updates or listings.

Business Listing Updates

Similarly, Google will be prioritizing healthcare-related listings when reviewing edits to existing business listings.

This includes edits relating to:

  • Changes to open and closed states
  • Special hours
  • Temporary closures
  • Business descriptions
  • Business attributes

GMB says it is working to keep customers updated about all business changes during this time, though it must focus on those to health-related businesses.

Google Posts

Although Google has not made any official comments about Google Post functionality during the coronavirus epidemic, many have noticed extreme delays when publishing new Posts. This may lead to issues with updating customers about new hours, product shipments, or new services like delivery or curbside service. Instead, Google appears to be allowing businesses to temporarily add these details to their business name.

As Joy Hawkins explained in a recent Local Search Forum post, “Google said that they are fine with restaurants adding ‘Delivery Available’ or ‘Takeout Available’ to their business names during these crazy times.”

Google is asking businesses to update and revise their Google My Business listings if their operations have been affected by the spread of COVID-19, commonly called coronavirus.

The company released a new help document listing ways companies can use GMB to update customers, including sharing updated business hours, ensuring phone numbers are accurate, and even using business descriptions or Google Posts to provide more detailed information.

To raise awareness of the recommendations, Google has placed a prominent alert at the top of all Google My Business-related support pages which reads: “If your business is affected by COVID-19, update your profile to provide the most accurate info. Learn more.

What To Do

If your business has been affected by COVID-19, Google recommends using your GMB listing to update customers by doing the following:

  • Change your business hours: If your business hours have changed, update the times when you’ll be open or closed. The hours will show when the customer visits your Business Profile, and they’ll know exactly when to visit.
  • Update your business description: Explain whether or not your business operations are affected by COVID-19. You can share information about any extra precautions the business is taking, if you’re providing any extra services to the community, or whether you’re experiencing delays.
  • Create a post: Share more detailed and timely updates about what’s going on with your business through Posts. For example, add information about what products and services you have available, and link to other resources. You can continue to use Posts to directly communicate with your customers on a regular basis as your business changes.
  • Update your phone number: Make sure your phone number is correct so that customers can reach you.

Keep Your Customers In-The-Know

Updating your Google My Business listing should always be a first step when making changes to your business, whether that means changing your business hours, moving locations, or just launching a new promotion. This is especially true during issues of public concern, like the ongoing coronavirus spread, when even regular customers may be checking your listing for the latest information.

Mask icon courtesy of Freepik

Google is changing what business owners see when they view their own reviews in order to make it easier to encourage new reviews.

In the past, business owners or account managers would see a button which directed them to “write a review” from their business listing. Now, many are reporting seeing a new button which instead reads “get more reviews.”

"Get More Reviews" button

While the function has not changed, the new text makes it more clear exactly what Google is offering – a chance to share your review links across Facebook, Twitter, email, and more.

The meaning behind the text is also much more clear as leaving a review for your own business is strongly frowned upon and can get your listing penalized by the search engine.

When shared, the review link directs people to your Google Maps listing with a pop up to immediately write a review.

Google has released a new report showing how people are using the search engine to find small businesses around them every day. 

Overall, the report shows that local search continues to grow with “tremendous” speed. Specifically, searches with “local” + “near me” have gotten more than 350 times more search interest compared to a decade ago. 

On a more recent scale, the search engine says that search interest in “mom and pop shops” has climbed to a three year high, with especially high interest in restaurants, coffee shops, diners, pharmacies, and pizza places. 

Google also notes that search interest in “local shops” hit a record high last year. 

To make the findings easy to take in, Google created a nice infographic breaking down all the most important findings. Check it out below, or in Google’s blog post “Small Business Search Trends” here.

Google has started automatically adding a large “Request a Quote” button to eligible business listings in its local search results.

The button appears to be limited to just businesses who have opted into the Google My Business messaging feature, which would allow customers to directly message a company representative. However, it is unclear what specific industries the button is being added to.

With the new feature, users can now immediately request a quote from your company directly from the local search results – without ever visiting your website. 

While that means less traffic to your website – and potentially less informed leads – it also makes it more convenient than ever for potential customers to initiate the sales process.

While we can’t guarantee your listing will be given the “Request a Quote” button, we do know that being signed up for GMB’s messaging feature is a requirement for the new feature. 

To turn on messaging for your own listing, just follow these steps:

  • Download and open the Google My Business app
  • Log in with the credentials for the account associated with the listing
  • Open the location you’d like to manage
  • Tap Customers
  • Tap Messages
  • Tap Turn on

Once this is done, you will be able to receive messages from customers within the app. Users will receive their responses through their Google Maps app.

A recent study from BrightLocal highlights exactly how powerful Google My Business is for helping local companies get found by local consumers and increase their sales. 

The findings are the result of research from 45,000 businesses using GMB from 36 different industries from 4 countries. 

Based on the findings, it seems that GMB not only helps improve search engine visibility, but phone calls, store traffic, and more. 

GMB Gets Your Business Found Over 1,000 Per Month

On average, the study says an individual business gets found in Google My Business listings in 1,009 searches each month – or approximately 33 times a day. 

Importantly, more than 80% of those searches are “discovery” searches which seek out a business category rather than a specific business name. 

The findings also revealed that three-quarters of these searches were done using Google Search, while the other 25% was done on Google Maps. 

5% of GMB Listing Views Convert

Local businesses receive an average of 59 actions each month from their Google My Business listing, according to the report. 

When you compare that with the 1,009 views each month, that suggests roughly 5% of GMB listing views directly lead to a website click, call, or direction request. 

Compared to BrightLocal’s findings from 2017 to the most recent study, that is a 25% improvement in conversion rates – rising from 3.87% to 4.83%.

Specifically, businesses received approximately 29% more website clicks from their GMB listings and 22% more calls. 

Other Findings

The study noticed that listings with more images received more views compared to those with fewer photos. 

Overall search volume also increased from 2017 to 2018, with direct searches up 38% and discovery searches rising by 6%.

To see the full report on the performance of GMB listings, click here.

A recent Wall Street Journal investigation has landed Google once again in the hot seat as the report claims Google Maps is filled with millions of fake business listings. 

Over the course of the article, reporters say they found some Maps search result pages where more than half of the local results included fraudulent or misleading information characteristic of a fake listing.  

For example:

“A search for plumbers in a swath of New York City found 13 false addresses out of the top 20 Google search results. Only two of the 20 are located where they say and accept customers at their listed addresses, requirements for pushpin listings on Google Maps.”

In some cases, the fake listings are simply phantom businesses with no real purpose or to misdirect customers. However, the Journal believes others are designed to scam potential customers out of large amounts of money. 

As you would expect, all of these practices are expressly forbidden by Google, but the Wall Street Journal says the policy is poorly enforced. 

In fact, the report says hundreds of thousands of fake listings are appearing monthly:

“Hundreds of thousands of false listings sprout on Google Maps each month, according to experts. Google says it catches many others before they appear.”

How This Hurts Businesses

The fake listings do more than cause consumers unnecessary frustration or potentially scamming customers. They also hurt businesses who are pushed out of the top search results by fraudulent businesses.

Getting your business into the organic local results without paying for ads is already a gamble that can involve hours of hard work optimizing your website and listing. Adding fake competition just makes the arena even more competitive and encourages more businesses to spend money on local ads instead. 

How Google Fights Fake Listings

Google openly acknowledges that it has an issue with fake business listings, though the company says it is already taking extensive steps to fight back. 

In an article on the company’s blog, Google explained:

“It’s a constant balancing act and we’re continually working on new and better ways to fight these scams using a variety of ever-evolving manual and automated systems. But we can’t share too many details about these efforts without running the risk of actually helping scammers find new ways to beat our systems—which defeats the purpose of all the work we do.”

Specifically, the search engine says it has removed more than 3 million fake business profiles over the past year – 90% of which were removed before they could ever be seen by users. 

Approximately 85% of these profiles were removed by Google’s automated internal systems, while around 250,000 fake business listings were reported by users and then removed. 

Google may be making significant efforts to fight the problem of fake business listings, but The Wall Street Journal makes it clear there is still much to be done.