One area of Local Search where Google has been active with regular improvements has been the Google My Business API. Google seems to have committed to a regular schedule of regular updates and along that line V 3.0 was introduced today.
There are two main features that have been released in this update:
- Ability to read and respond to reviews
- Ability to add Rich Attributes to a listing
Review management is a solid move and gives businesses that have access to services like Moz Local, Yext or their own API, the ability to respond to reviews directly from within their own local dashboard. It will put Google reviews at front of mind for their larger partners and it will also create some pressure for Facebook and Yelp to do the same.
Attributes are new sets of structured information that will be able to be added to a listing. The specifics will vary by both category and country and as of now we do not have a list of what they will be. This feature is coming to the API first and will ultimately be rolled back into both the list and card views of the GMB. If and how these attributes will show in search is unclear.
In the examples I saw restaurants were able to indicate whether they accepted reservations, served liquor, had outdoor seating etc. In the Gas Station example the listing could include things like whether they had a card wash, free air, diesel and ethanol free gasoline.
For those of you that haven’t been in local for a coon’s age, Google once upon a time allowed businesses to add custom attributes to every location. They were poorly implemented with the user having to define both the attribute and the content so they were frequently meaningless and of course they were spammed heavily before their demise.
I assume that these attributes will be like the structured attributes that are currently associated with Hotels like Free Wifi, Free Breakfast, Air-conditioned, Laundry Service and Business center, etc. I presume but have not yet confirmed that Hotels will now be able to have some measure of control over the attributes that have been displaying via the API if not the GMB. When and how these will actually show up in search results is TBD.
There are a number of minor features as well that come with V3 of the API that adds some of the features that have been in the bulk dashboard for a while:
- Ability to set Preferred Photo
- Ability to Transfer Location to another account
- Support for Search filters so that you can retrieve listings that have duplicates, are suspended or have updates.
- Support for Locations states like verified or not
There are some critical pieces that are still missing from the API that would make the API even more valuable. Two that come to me top of mind:
- Local Insights (and while you are at it, fix them so they are useful)
- Ability to easily verify a listing via the API from a whitelisted dashboard (I am not sure if we will ever see that but here’s hoping).
Google’s GMB API has been a shining light in their local development since its introduction early last fall. Encouragingly Google has made steady progress introducing V2 in mid December and V3 today. It is a steady drumbeat of quasi quarterly development that is refreshing after years of push me pull me.
Full documentation for this release can be found at: https://developers.google.com/my-business/referenc
If only every one of their local products showed such a steady forward march… here’s hoping.