Google Maps Update, Bolstering Local Area Guides to Compete with Yelp and Facebook

In May at Google I/O, Google unveiled some major changes to Google Maps which included recommendation engines based on certain criteria such as proximity in local search as well as search category and intent. These local recommendation directories are embedded in search results and are focused on improving the overall user experience. You will see the update already in Google Maps through Android and desktop and it will later roll out to mobile searches.

This comes after Google rolled out questions and answers for local businesses in August of 2017. Consumers were allowed to ask business owners and managers direct questions that were not answered by the attributes that Google already listed. This helped Google to create a repository of contextual data answering additional consumer questions such as “Does this place serve brunch on Sunday?” and “Can I use double coupons at this location?” Q&A on Google has also bridged the gap in communication between businesses and consumers, giving the business a voice and creating micro-communities in maps. One of the major challenges that brands have seen is regarding managing multiple locations and answering the sheer volume of questions being asked. There has also been a posting capability which was rolled out in which businesses and brands can post messages, promotions and in-store offers.

Google holds extreme personalization behind reviews, i.e. you have to have a registered gmail account and user profile in order to leave reviews. They also monitor review velocity regarding how quickly and how many reviews are being created from any one account and they take it very seriously in order to shut down spammy or fake reviewer profiles. Google has coined the term “Local Area Guides” in reference to these quality reviewers and there are over 60M users (mostly in the US) writing these reviews according to Google’s Local Guide Blog. The more reviews that are created by a user, the more personal their search experience becomes. This allows them to tailor their overall search experience to be more accurate, efficient and productive.

In conclusion, the recent changes in Google Maps not only makes them an even stronger competitor against Yelp and Facebook in the reviews arena but the type of additional contextual data that they are collecting through their questions and answers area is helping to improve and personalize the overall user experience. We expect to see even more changes in the coming months to improve the user interface and adoption of these new recommendations for consumers that are avid Google Maps users.

About the Author: Kelly Benish

Kelly Benish is VP of Business Development at Navads and heads up US and Canadian expansion and business development in partnership with Navads CEO Lex ten Veen. Benish has blogged for Street Fight, BIA Kelsey, NetNewsCheck and others specifically about recruitment, strategy, transformation and local search. She also shares thought leadership at industry-recognized conferences such as BIA Kelsey, Local Media Association, Local Search Association, Search Marketing Expo, Association of Alternative Newsweeklies, National Newspaper Association, Association of Directory Publishers and many more.