The business description that Google has been asking businesses to create forever and that has not been seen anyplace for about half that long has finally been removed from Google MyBusiness. (Thanks to Dan Leibson of Local SEO Guide for pointing this out). It is soon to be “replaced” with “attributes” that offer more granular characteristics of your business.
The description field has long been in a near dead state with no obvious purpose other than to possibly give Google clues as to how businesses might spam them. But its demise is interesting on several fronts.
The Introduction/Description field is no longer editable in Google My Business. It only displays to users in Google+, and may still be edited there. Editing of attributes, coming soon to all Google My Business views, will be an improved way to describe your business to users on Google Search and Maps.
The description data has not seen the light of day for many many many months (has it been years?) but Google hung on to requesting the data.
I can imagine the discussion between the Local group and the Plus group as their relationship frayed and finally dissolved: “You take it. No you take it. You take it. No you take it. You take it. No you take it.” Low man on the totem pole finally “won” the discussion. Why wasn’t it just thrown away? Google NEVER throws data away. Even in the negative (i.e. spam) use case when they can extract value from it.
But even more interesting is the fact that Google will now be “giving” businesses the ability to contribute their own attributes from a more structured list of attributes helping define the local business in ever more discreet ways.
However as you look at the history of these attributes you realize that Google is not single sourcing them from the business owners. Google has never trusted businesses enough to give them the freedom to be the sole source of their own information. Not even things as basic as hours or phone number. If Google finds information that they trust more than yours, they have and will replace it in your listing. Now at least they have the courtesy to alert you in the GMB dashboard that they arbitrarily changed your hours.
Attributes appears to be no different in that regard. Google is multi sourcing them. If you recall Google first started publicly asking Local Guides to identify attributes of places that they had visited late last year. More trusted bulk accounts received the privilege with the release of the GMB API in May. Then last week they gave “regular” Map users the ability to confirm or nix the attributes that Google had identified for a business. One presumes that these structured attributes have also been sourced from a 3rd party data source and, if your website is well structured and informative, from there as well.
Once they have in place enough sources that they can predict with some big data based broad strokes what any given business listing’s attribute should be, they will then give the business owner the “privilege” of adding them. This effectively gives them both a way to extend the reach and depth of their data AND check it for veracity.
Don’t for a minute think that you somehow own or even are a primary source for Google My Business data. You are one source for that data and a not very trusted one at that.