Google releases improved GMB app: Now much more than a local listings management tool

Google is rolling out a new version of its Google My Business app for business owners. The updated app offers improved customer visibility and a range of new capabilities that point to further enhancements down the line.

The update was driven by local business feedback and Google’s observation of how users were engaging with the previous version of the app, according to Curtis Galloway, Engineering Manager for Google My Business.

What’s new. Here’s what’s new according to Google:

  • An improved business profile editor.
  • A new bottom navigation bar that provides quick access to business profile and customer information.
  • New Post button allows for the upload of photos, creation of Google Posts.
  • Customers tab shows customer information and provides the ability to interact. This includes reviews, messages and followers (follow local businesses was recently introduced in Google Maps).
  • Follow tab shows the business who’s following, if users have opted to expose their profiles.
  • A Messages tab shows customer messages from Maps and Search. Local businesses can respond to messages from within the app. Messaging is also now rolling out to “most countries worldwide.”

Plus real-time notifications. GMB app users will also receive real-time notifications about reviews, messages and followers. Google is also making GMB analytics available in a more prominent, simplified view that can be expanded for more detail.

Google added that it has decided to call local business information on Maps and Search “business profiles.” While this is the term many in the industry had already been using, Google is now formally adopting it — as opposed to “listings.”

Where it’s headed. Google sees its local content and tools as a kind of “engagement platform” for local consumers and businesses. And the GMB update further reinforces that idea, with more interactive capabilities.

During my conversation with Curtis Galloway I made a number of feature suggestions that Google wouldn’t comment on. But it’s fairly clear that GMB is headed toward becoming a kind of “lite CRM” tool for small businesses.

One can imagine a feature where Google would enable business owners to communicate with part of its audience with special offers or rewards, creating a kind of loyalty platform. Right now any Posts are public, but Google could enable selected group customer or follower communication. Accordingly, I could imagine a business owner using Posts to offer an incentive to generate followers and then communicating with those followers specifically.

Again, this is my speculation and Google declined to comment on any future features or capabilities. I would also imagine that Q&A notifications and response capabilities will come to GMB in short order.

What matters to marketers. GMB has evolved from a place to upload basic business information to an “engagement platform” that enables reputation monitoring and various forms of customer engagement. Just as Google Maps and search have seen dozens of new features and experiments over the past couple of years, Google My Business is evolving in parallel.

There are still a substantial percentage of business profiles (SMB and multi-location brands) that remain unverified. Marketers need to claim them and actively engage with GMB because Google has become the leading reputation and reviews platform online. Google Q&A is now a must-monitor feature and Google Posts is a massively underutilized free tool for businesses.

Google’s introduction video for the update is below.

About The Author

Greg Sterling is a Contributing Editor at Search Engine Land. He writes a personal blog, Screenwerk, about connecting the dots between digital media and real-world consumer behavior. He is also VP of Strategy and Insights for the Local Search Association. Follow him on Twitter or find him at Google+.

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