Local Search Roundup – May 2023

Welcome back to the Local Search Roundup! This month, we saw changes to Google Business Profile (GBP) and Microsoft Bing, and tests to local search results pages. From personal reservations now showing on GBP listings to local finder images only being shown for ad content (what?!), let’s dig into some of April’s biggest stories in search. 

What’s new with Google Business Profile (GBP)?

Google (Appears to be) Testing Text Communications to Verify GBP Information 

Google may be moving to text to communicate with business owners. Molly Youngblood shared screenshots (shown below) on her Twitter when she received a message from a verified Google Support number requesting verification for the information shown on her GBP. 

Other business owners have started to receive similar messages, and while the texts are coming from a real Google Support number, some local SEOs are concerned that these messages aren’t really coming from Google, and Google has not publicly confirmed whether it’s them sending these messages. 

While this could be a handy feature one day, right now we don’t know enough to feel anything except a little perplexed by the phantom messages. 

Source: Search Engine Roundtable via Molly Youngblood on Twitter

Local Search Testing New Placement for “Request a Quote”

The “Request a Quote” button has moved in local search results, now located next to the Website, Directions, Save, and Call buttons, putting a new emphasis on the function:

One small step for Google Search Results, one giant leap for… those requesting quotes. 

Source: Search Engine Roundtable via Joy Hawkins on Twitter

New Overlay Interface for Business Profile Listings Being Tested

Google seems to be testing a new overlay interface for business profile listings. With this function, clicking on a business listing in the local pack prompts an overlay with more information to appear in the web search results rather than redirecting the user to Google Maps. Colan Nielsen, who spotted the change, speculates that this could have an impact on the Google Map views metric in Google Insights. 

Source: Search Engine Roundtable via Colan Nielsen on Twitter

Personal Reservations Showing on GBP Listings

Reservations made through ‘reserve with Google’ via the local pack or Google Assistant now may show on the Google Business Profile listing. 

Big news for those of us who stare longingly at the GBP of a restaurant we’re due to visit. 

Source: Search Engine Roundtable via Krystal Taing on Twitter

GBP Adds Copy Menu Function 

When going to add or edit a GBP menu, restaurants will be prompted with the option to copy a menu associated with their business from elsewhere on the web. Once copied, each menu item can be individually edited.

While the function may not be perfect, it provides a foundation for restaurants to build out their full menu off of existing ones. 

Hopefully this feature, in addition to being a massive timesaver for restaurants, will lead to more complete menus available in the local pack. 

Source: Search Engine Roundtable via Lluc B. Penycate on Twitter

New Tips to Avoid Bulk GBP Verification Delays 

A Google help document focusing on “Common issues that delay bulk verification” has been updated with new tips including using official domain emails, making sure all listed addresses are on (and matching those on!) the business’s website, and always using exact addresses—including suite numbers, floor numbers, etc. 

Krystal Taing (@krystal_taing on Twitter), who spotted the changes, summarized them in a Tweet: 

For those out there working with bulk verification, hopefully these new tips will help cut back all that waiting time and get those GBPs up and running smoothly.  

Source: Search Engine Roundtable via Krystal Taing on Twitter

What’s new in local search?

Yelp Hones In on User Experience and Engagement

Yelp has announced 3 new features aimed at improving user experience and boosting business/user engagement. 

The first feature, known as Yelp Guaranteed, is a satisfaction-guaranteed program for users requesting quotes from home service providers; the program offers up to $2,500 back in the event that something goes wrong with their home improvement project. The program is available to users who got into contact with an eligible business through Yelp’s “Request a Quote” feature. 

Yelp has also introduced advanced search functionality based upon Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Large Language Models (LLMs). This new search model offers a variety of functions, including clickable category tags on business profiles, search suggestions based on search intent rather than location, and a “Surprise Me!” feature for finding new restaurants. 

Finally, Yelp is tackling user engagement features, adding video capacity to reviews, review topics such as “food” and “service,” and new review reactions such as “Helpful,” “Thanks,” and “Oh no.” According to Yelp, these new reactions have increased their review engagement six-fold. 

Source: Search Engine Land via Yelp

Google Prioritizing Primary Categories as a Ranking Factor

Following the March 2023 rollout of the broad Google Core update, certain businesses are finding their visibility being impacted in a big way. According to an analysis by Sterling Sky, the primary category has been prioritized as a ranking factor. 

Graph showing how primary category has strengthened as a ranking factor.
Source: Sterling Sky

In addition to this, the analysis suggests that query matching has broadened, roping more loosely related queries to search results and that some categories are now matching to more related keywords, increasing competition. 

Source: Sterling Sky

Grid Format for Local Search

Users have spotted a grid format being used to showcase local search results on mobile, indicating that Google might be playing with a new layout. We’ve seen the grid format for some time now in the form of product and shopping search results, however, this is the first time we’ve seen it applied to the local search results. 

Twitter user @Beymour, who first pointed out the new setup, noted it seemed to be especially prevalent in “best” queries (such as “best dentist near me”):

And that in some cases, the first or second result displayed as a full-width image:

Source: Search Engine Roundtable via Brandon (@Beymour) on Twitter

“Often Searched Together” Added to Local Search Panel

Google has added an “often searched together” section to the local search panel, offering businesses a glimpse into who their top competitors might be while making search results more comprehensive for users. 

Source: Search Engine Roundtable via Mordy Oberstein on Twitter

Local Finder Images Only Showing for Ads

In somewhat disappointing news, Google may be testing only showing local finder images for ad content. While there is some speculation that this may be a bug, others believe that this could be a new approach that Google is taking to the local finder. In this format, all non-sponsored results show up with only a map image. 

Source: Search Engine Roundtable via Justin Mosebach on Twitter

Blended Local Finder Query Results 

While blended query results aren’t new, users are noticing a new trend in local finder results. Google, in some instances, is now displaying two or more different (but still similar) queries together and accompanied with a short line of text explaining the match. 

While there is speculation around how new this is, SEOs are agreeing that this format effectively makes sponsored content appear organic. 

Source: Search Engine Roundtable via Mordy Oberstein on Twitter

What’s new with Microsoft (and Bing!)? 

Microsoft Rolls Out Professional Service Ads Globally

Microsoft has announced that their Professional Service Ads for their vertical ad suite are now available globally. This announcement comes on the tail of their beta for doctor and clinic ads, and is designed to “help consumers connect directly to professionals in a variety of industries such as insurance, real estate, doctor & clinics, tax services, and home services.”

Source: Microsoft

Site Names and Favicons Added to Search Results

Following in Google’s footsteps, Bing has just site names and favicons to their search results… in some cases. 

A search completed by Search Engine Land showed these changes in action: 

Screen capture from Search Engine Land showing Bing's new favicons/site names.
Source: Search Engine Land

However when we tried it for ourselves, we were met with the classic Bing format: 

Classic Bing search format

We’re looking forward to seeing if Bing continues to roll this out here in the UK—that BrightLocal green just adds a certain something to the SERP, in our opinion. 

Source: Search Engine Land

Updates to Bing Chat Functions

Bing’s chat function has been taking big steps to ensure better user experience. The latest? Image and video, improved local search, more robust summarization, and more inter-product compatibility. Specifically:

  • Images and videos can now be sent by Microsoft directly in the chat
  • General improvements to the local search function, allegedly improving the results for any local searches
  • The summarization tool can now be used on bigger documents
  • You can now use the Bing Image Creator in the Microsoft Edge sidebar

And there are more changes to come, of course. Talk of Bing Translate integration, the use of inline images, improved copy and paste, and a potential text-to-speech function are swirling around. 

Bing certainly seems to be listening to user’s concerns, and is ready to continue rolling out changes to ensure the best possible experience for them. 

Source: Search Engine Roundtable

But Wait, There’s More

Finally, while it may not be all new information, we want to give a quick shoutout to this piece from Local Guides Connect, which highlights five ways you can use Google Maps to help the environment. 

That’s it for this roundup! For the very latest in local SEO, updates to Google Business Profile, and more, don’t forget to keep your eyes peeled on our Twitter account!

Abigail Leow

Abigail is a Content & Marketing Executive at BrightLocal, responsible for supporting the team in their mission to produce high-quality marketing materials across all channels.

Next Post

Seals, tracking and tangerine scented birds. — Embedded

Ethan Slattery joined us to talk about animals, animal trackers, and how they work. Ethan works for Wildlife Computers. They use the Argos Network for data transfer. He was previously at MBARI and worked with Engineers for Exploration as an undergraduate. Ethan is also known as CrustyAuklet on Twitter and […]
Seals, tracking and tangerine scented birds. — Embedded