Google is launching a slew of new enhancements for local businesses in time for the busy holiday shopping season.
The additional features are being introduced as part of the search engine’s rebranding of Google My Business (GMB) to Google Business Profile (GBP).
Small and medium businesses (SMB) can now claim and verify their GBP directly via Google Search or the Google Maps app.
GMB will be phased out in 2022. However, its web experience will change to primarily support big businesses with multiple locations, and be renamed to Google Business Profile Manager.
The update was announced last week by Google Vice President and General Manager of Merchants Matt Madrigal.
WHAT DOES IT MEAN FOR LOCAL BUSINESSES?
The key impact for agencies and SMBs is to immediately cease using GMB to add, update or verify online business information.
“Moving forward, we recommend SMBs manage their profiles directly on Search or Maps,” Madrigal said. “Once your business is verified, you can edit your business’ information, including the address, store hours, photos, and more.”
An example of a Business Profile being accessed via Search
Outside of branding, the web interface of GBP won’t change much from how it appeared when it was known as GMB. But in the coming months, Google has flagged it will integrate old GMB web interface functions directly into Search and Maps both within desktop and mobile.
WHAT ARE THE NEW FEATURES?
Google’s new features are designed to make it easier for local businesses to connect with customers and enable shoppers to conveniently find products they want.
ACCESS TO MESSAGING AND CALL HISTORY
As a start, local businesses can now message customers directly from Search, and merchants in the United States and Canada can use call history to see which inbound customer calls came from people who tapped the phone icon or call button on a local store’s Business Profile.
When a customer uses the call button on a Business Profile, their calls show up under the “Calls” tab in GBP (see image below). From this tab, a business owner can find recent calls, missed calls, and more.
Once call history is enabled, customers connect to local businesses through a forwarding number instead of through the number on their GBP.
Learn how to enable call history here.
ABILITY TO DISPLAY LOCAL INVENTORY STATUS IN SEARCH
Google is expecting online shopping behaviors to evolve further during the coming holiday season. A recent Google survey indicated more than half of U.S. holiday shoppers will attempt to confirm online that an item from a local business is in stock before going to buy it.
Google has also noticed searches that include the keyword “in stock” have surged over 800 percent year over year.
Given these trends, Madrigal encouraged local businesses to take advantage of the new “in stock” filter on Search so shoppers can see only nearby stores that have the item they are looking for.
An example of the in stock function integrated into Search
To make sure products show up, retailers in the United States and Canada can sign up for Pointy from Google — free of charge and right from a business’s GBP on Search.
“Pointy helps you automatically upload all your in-store product inventory by connecting directly to your existing point of sale system,” Madrigal said. “If you already have a local inventory feed, you can submit your feed through Google Merchant Center. To showcase individual products, you can also manually add them to your Business Profile on Search.”
ENHANCEMENTS TO PERFORMANCE PLANNER AND LAUNCH OF PERFORMANCE MAX
However, Madrigal said it was now easier for local businesses to plan campaign budgets heading into the holidays using an updated Performance Planner.
“This tool helps you create plans for your local advertising investment, and see how changes to those plans might affect your outcomes and performance,” he said.
While it’s recommended that local businesses continue using Local campaigns to reach shoppers this season, they should start testing Google’s new Performance Max campaigns before next year’s campaign upgrades.
“Performance Max allows you to promote your business across all Google Ads channels to help you drive more foot traffic to your physical locations — and includes new inventory and formats not currently available in Local campaigns,” Madrigal said.
VALUABLE RESOURCES TO RANK HIGHER ON GOOGLE
Google reaffirmed that local businesses should continue to maintain search engine optimization (SEO) best practices to ensure their GBP ranks favorably within local search queries.
Agencies and SMBs can also view Google’s local holiday guide or the Google for Small Business holiday checklist for more tips and insights on maximizing selling opportunities during the holiday season.