Taking Advantage of the Google My Business Updates
Joy Hawkins

June was a busy month for SEOs, especially for those of us who spend some of our time with local SEO. Google has kept us on our toes with, not only a Core Algorithm Update, but a handful of updates to Google My Business and the local SERPS. These updates affect local businesses the most, so having some actionable ways to get the most out of these new features will give you an advantage over your competition.

It is important to note that some of these features have not been released yet.

Full Q&A Auto- Suggest Answer Roll-Out

In early June we saw the full roll-out to desktop browsers of auto-suggested answers to Google Q & A questions. The team at GatherUp covered this update in full detail earlier this month.

One of the most important things to note about this update is that Google exclusively uses reviews for the auto-suggest answers and not an existing Q & A answers.

Update – Claire Carlile and Carrie noticed today that Q & A auto-suggest answers are now coming from posts and Q & A responses, not just reviews!

This update means that it’s more important than ever to have an active review management strategy, take advantage of GMB posts and make sure to answer questions that are asked!


To-Do List:

  • Create a review generation strategy.
  • Send questions that prompt customers to use some of your target keywords in their responses.
    • For example…”How was your water heater replacement experience with AAA Plumbing?”
  • Actively respond to positive and negative reviews
    • Owner responses aren’t being shown in the auto-suggest answers, but customers who see that a business engages with their reviews may be more likely to leave a review as well.

Photo Updates

Update – Google countered this new feature, which nobody could get to work, apparently. We asked Joy Hawkins about it and Joy told us that Google confirmed that businesses do NOT have control over their cover photos.

Business owners have had the ability to upload a cover photo for a while, but it was always a gamble if Google would choose that photo. The new update allows owners to set both the cover photo and the logo. This can be done in the desktop version of the dashboard or on the GMB mobile app.

The other change to photos will be photo displays. Photo displays will be a new module that allows for captions on photos.

Having the ability to change out cover photos and logos gives business owners the opportunity to promote products and events. Take a look at LinkedIn this month and you will see 100s of businesses that changed out their logo to show support for pride month. Changing out the cover photo to highlight promotions and events gives more control to the business owner and helps customers get to know the brand and business better. Lastly, being able to add captions to photos would be very helpful for promoting new products and services right in the listing. Adding captions would also help making your GMB images may help make the images more accessible to people that can’t see them as well, especially as voice search and voice results continues to progress.

Welcome Offers for New Followers

The “Follow” button has been around since last October but it has yet to be very clear what the benefit of this option is to customers and businesses. A recent BrightLocal consumer survey found that just 3% of respondents had followed a business’s GMB profile, while 13% had read Google Posts. The new Welcome Offer feature allows you to setup a custom offer – similar to GMB Offer post, as an incentive for all new followers of your listing.

Being able to encourage people to follow a listing by offering a coupon code or a free product is a whole new opportunity to incentive customers to get updates on your business. Followers see Google My Business posts from businesses they follow in the “For You” section of the Google Maps app.

So far the option to add a Welcome Offer is only available in the Google My Business Mobile app. Setting up an offer is very similar to creating a post. There is the option to add a photo or a video to the offer. Offers expire within two weeks following and there is no ability to change that currently.

To-Do List:

  • Change the offer with seasons
  • Match the offer with other current promotions
  • Add a UTM code to the URL in the offer field, with an identifier that helps track usage

Profile Short Name

There is a new option in the Info section to add a short name for the listing and the URL. Short names will let businesses refer customers to their profile more easily. Eventually, we will be able to search Maps using short names as well. Businesses can change their short name three times a year. The short name has to be associated with the business.

Short names could be helpful for franchise businesses to add a location to that name. Large metropolitan areas like Denver for example with lots of neighborhoods that have the same stores could add that neighborhood to their GMB short name.

For example HighlandsWholeFoods or DowntownWhole Foods. Those names aren’t actually shorter than the existing name, but Google actually suggested a “short name” that was longer than the original. I wonder if Google will change the name of this from “short name” to alternate name or something similar later on. It seems like this feature was added to give more detail to how listings are searched for.

It is important to note that some SEO’s have seen GMB suspensions or complete listing meltdowns after choosing a short name, so proceed with caution with this new feature while some bugs are worked out.

Offline Review Materials

Google’s Small Thanks program was highly underused. The revamped program allows businesses to download or request multiple materials to display both in store and online to encourage customers to leave reviews or follow their business.

The materials also include ready-to-share graphics to highlight reviews that can be used for GMB posts and on social media. You have the option to choose which reviews are used.

Taking advantage of these review materials is a great way to showcase the reviews your business has already received but also to encourage other customers to leave reviews.

Being able to pick which reviews are used on the materials allows you to focus on reviews for a certain aspect of your business. For example, Ace Hardware could use this review to promote a sale on deck stain.

To-Do List:

  • Select reviews that highlight a specific area of the business
  • Download review materials
  • Integrate review materials into social media strategy
  • Display reviews in-store

What’s Next?

This latest round of updates came not too long after Google sent out a survey with some questions around features and if people would be willing to pay for certain features. These most recent updates seem to be in line with giving customers more information in the listing without having to click through to the website. Taking advantage of new features quickly is a great way to get ahead of competitors who may not be as proactive with their online marketing

About Niki Mosier

Niki Mosier is technical SEO Manager at Seer Interactive, who happens to also love local SEO. Niki works remote from Denver, which means enjoying all that Rocky Mountains have to offer, when she’s not fixing sitemap errors or fighting GMB suspensions.

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Joy is the owner of the Local Search Forum, LocalU, and Sterling Sky, a Local SEO agency in Canada & the USA. She has been working in the industry since 2006, writes for publications such as Search Engine Land, and enjoys speaking regularly at marketing conferences such as MozCon, LocalU, Pubcon, SearchLove, and State of Search. You can find her on Twitter or volunteering as a Product Expert on the Google My Business Forum.