Today Google confirmed they are now including local highlight icons in mobile knowledge panels for restaurants and bars.
We went digging to see how Google determines which icons are appropriate and saw a new feature that uses Q & A to determine what highlights are appropriate. We're also seeing evidence of google parsing reviews for appropriate icons.
First, what in the world are we talking about? An article at SearchEngineLand.com this morning announced that Google has confirmed the roll out of a new feature that had been seen sporadically in the last month. Highlight icons are visible on mobile knowledge panels right now - we are not able to see them on Google Maps for Mobile results at this time.
Right now, it looks like these icons are influenced by reviews, which makes sense. Only those who have reviewed the location will be able to weigh in on which icons appear. If you've left a review of a restaurant or bar, you will find a link within that location's knowledge panel that asks "Know this Place?" Right now we're only seeing the "Know This Place" question on the desktop knowledge panel - and a grey slide up bar asks the same question on the mobile knowledge panel. Once you click on the link, you're then given a series of "Yes," "No," and "Not Sure/Maybe" questions that you can answer.
Questions vary - but a few examples are:
These questions correlate closely to the highlight icons:
We're also seeing evidence of reviews influencing the Highlight Icons. We left a review about them having a "Great Beer Selection" - and an icon for that showed up right away. The speed with which the icon showed up might be influenced by Local Guide Status as well as number of reviews that mention the same thing - that's something that we need to test further.
We are also seeing indicators that highlights within the reviews shown in the knowledge panel are influencing the Highlight Icons. This is likely a balance implemented to match answers left by reviewers with content within the reviews. Google is bolding key phrases within reviews on the Knowledge Panel. We believe these bolded words are having an influence on which Highlight Icons show within the Knowledge Panel.
While the potential to game this features is out there - with review spam running rampant in Google Local, it's also showing some smart checks and balances to hopefully cut down on inappropriate icons. The visual aid within the mobile knowledge panels is useful and a quick way for searchers to find appropriate restaurants for their needs. It would be great to see this feature roll out to Google Maps and Google Desktop Search results soon.