Google is giving local business owners greater control over their online presence in search results and Google Maps with a series of new features being introduced today.
Beginning today, businesses can offer discounts or other perks for following their business on Google Maps. Businesses will be able to customize offer based on their goals, and users can get discounts in one tap.
Businesses can also post status updates directly to their listing and choose their own Google Maps listing cover photo. Status updates can be seen by a follower in the For You section of the Google Maps app.
The ability to follow a local business was introduced last year. Google Maps has seen a 50% increase in “near me” queries since January 2018 and a 5x increase in monthly bookings in the past year, a company spokesperson told VentureBeat.
Businesses will also be able to adopt a shortname that customers and followers can use to quickly find a business online. Shortnames can be claimed using Google My Business on a first-come, first-serve basis, a company spokesperson told VentureBeat.
Google Maps is also getting storefront decals for companies to promote their shortnames and invite customers to review their business. Local favorite star stickers will be awarded to businesses that rank in the top 5% of reviews in a category.
Today’s news caps a series of changes introduced for Google Maps in the past year, such as augmented reality navigation, the ability to order from local eateries via Postmates and DoorDash without leaving Maps, and the debut of the Commute tab and For You tab in the Maps app to highlight local events, recent business openings, and trending local listings.
Local businesses have played a major role in Google’s larger voice strategy in the past year. This is most evident in Calljoy, an experiment to use conversational AI to receive inbound calls for a local business. To speed up consumers’ interaction with local businesses, Google introduced Duplex and Duplex for the Web for making restaurant reservations.
Mini-app experiments, Google Voice for G Suite, and deep links between Google Assistant and Android apps may also aid local businesses.
As Google attempts to remove friction to commerce with Maps and Assistant, earlier this month Amazon’s Alexa introduced Conversations, a service to bundle Alexa skills for certain tasks, with the same goal. Alexa Conversations begins with the night-out scenario to buy a movie ticket, make dinner reservations, and get a ride from Uber.
Today’s news comes 5 years after the launch of Google My Business, a place for businesses to control how they appear on Google. About 5 million business owners search their own business every month.
No announcement was made today about the incorporation of shortnames into Google Assistant or Home speaker interactions, but that would be in line with Google’s voice strategy that in recent months has brought Maps, Search, and Assistant closer together.