In-SERP Business Profile Management Removes Insights, Causes Frustration

Google has rolled out the new editing experience within the search engine results pages (SERPs) for anyone managing Business Profiles.

At the same time, the in-SERP editor has expanded to include a lot more functionality. Crucially, users are no longer given the option to continue editing their profiles within the traditional dashboard.

“Nooooo!”, we hear you cry. “Not another change.”

This shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise, though. The full rollout has been expected since at least July, and the NMX (New Merchant Experience), in which Google Business Profile (GBP) managers are encouraged to edit their profiles in the SERPs, has been around even longer.

What is the New Merchant Experience (NMX)?

No, it’s not a 90’s rock band, it’s the name given to the way GBP managers can access and edit details of their profiles, and monitor performance, directly within the Google SERP.

To access this, you just need to search for your, or your client’s, business name in Google and you’ll see the availability functionality.

A couple of months ago, Google started to move more elements from the old dashboard to the SERP. Up until now, both types of profile editing were available at the same time.

However, it wasn’t the same for everyone. As we’ve seen across multiple Twitter conversations on the topic, some people were kicked over to the in-SERP experience, while others were still given the option, via a popup, to continue use within the dashboard if they hit ‘Stay here’.

Manage on Search

But now, to the best of our knowledge, the option to remain in the traditional dashboard has gone completely. While there’s not yet been an official announcement by Google, it looks like the end of October was the cutoff date, and that November has brought a more consistent ‘Manage on Search’ experience to everyone.

So, what’s happened to GBP, and how is the industry responding?

What has Google changed about managing your Google Business Profile?

Historically, most things in your GBP were manageable in the Google Business Profile dashboard, accessible via business.google.com and a few features were available via the in-SERP NMX. Now, though:

  • All Google Business Profiles are now only editable within the SERPs
  • Some features have been removed
  • Some features still bounce you over to the old dashboard, but it’s not the same for everyone
  • If you manage multiple profiles, there’s now no need to log in to the dashboard to access them, just search
  • ‘Google Business Profile’ and your SERP will show you all the profiles you manage.
  • What were called ‘posts’ in the dashboard are now referred to as ‘updates’ in the NMX.
  • Photos insights have been removed from the Performance area
  • In a small terminology change, ‘users’ are now called ‘managers’

Here’s more detail on some of those points:

Say Goodbye to Photos Insights

One of the surprising losses has been Photos Insights, which previously provided data around types of views (though this data was often criticized for its inaccuracy).

We at BrightLocal discovered that Photos Insights will not be available in new versions of the GBP API, either. Whether or not some form of photo performance metrics will be introduced to the NMX remains to be seen.

In the meantime, say goodbye to this old thing, and other photos metrics like it:

Photo Quantity

Lots of Options Hidden Behind Three Dots

As local SEO expert, Andy Simpson, has pointed out, there are a few key options, such as settings around notifications and the profile itself, that have been moved behind the rather unassuming ‘three dots’ menu button:

Some Performance Metrics Have Changed or Disappeared

The rollout has hammered the final nail in the coffin of some really useful performance metrics.

For example, the ‘How customers search for your business’ section from the old performance dashboard is no longer accessible in the NMX.

You can no longer access the below handy pie chart illustrating your searches bucketed by direct, discovery, and branded visits.

How customers search for your business

So, if you used to use ‘direct’ as an indicator of brand awareness and ‘discovery’ as an indicator of the success of your SEO efforts, you’ll need to download data from the business dashboard (business.google.com) or access it via the API.

In ‘Directions requests’, the list of specific places people have been searching for directions from has disappeared, also. Where once you could see a list of locations (and even a handy map)…

Direction requests

…the NMX’s new Performance area only shows you the number of requests over time.

New Direction requests

If you used this to help you understand the reach of your business during various seasonal periods or to help you to plan your marketing budget, then this data will sadly no longer be available.

What do local SEOs think of the New Merchant Experience rollout?

Plenty of local SEOs are not impressed with the new experience so far.

We ran a small poll, which saw 83% of respondents finding it difficult to use.

But, a few people, our very own Claire Carlile included, are laughing in the face of despair and have simply taken some time to get their heads around the new user interface, as we’ll see later on.

Frustration, Frustration, Frustration

Frustration is rife for people who work at agencies and multi-location businesses. In particular, people are infuriated by the overall user experience.

“It is super frustrating. Such hard work to manage them now – why can’t Google keep things simple for the user?”

Karen Fovargue Moore, Head of SEO at Bourne Leisure

“Frankly, this is an awful user experience for bulk users. We use the API for our bulk clients of course but still manage individual profiles in GBP all day every day – for junk “Google Updates” especially. With some clients having 10k+ listings … managing in Search is bonkers. What a Halloween “trick.”

Sara Garrison, via Local Search Forum

Moz Local’s Miriam Ellis expresses frustrations with how disorderly the new edit experience is, and an annoyance that all businesses are being treated the same.

This is an opinion that’s shared by others, including Brandon from Convirtue.

Not only are people annoyed about the user experience, but at how bad the interface is at helping people find important features and information.

Near Media‘s Mike Blumenthal took to Twitter to explain how to find the GBP website edit feature.

But, It’s Not All Doom and Gloom

All of the above probably got you thinking that the world was falling down around you. There are, however, some much sunnier views on the changes.

Many, like Amy Toman, Google Product Expert, just understand that this is something they’ll have to crack on with. She told us: “I’m able to find most functions, but it’s definitely going to take some time.”

Meanwhile, BrightLocal’s Local Search Expert, Claire Carlile, is practically defiant in her own view on the changes:

“Since I got my head around where everything lives (and the new naming conventions) in the new in-SERP dashboard, it’s been fine—everything I might have personally done previously, I can still do now, with a couple of exceptions:

“There’s no cropping function in the new ‘add update’ (was ‘posts’) interface. This isn’t a problem if you produce your images elsewhere and upload them accordingly. Also, if you relied on the ‘red dot’ to let you know that there had been third-party changes to your listing, there is no equivalent in the new dashboard, as far as I can see.”

Why has Google made these changes?

While there hasn’t been an official line from Google about the changes, Steady Demand‘s Ben Fisher has some insight into the reasoning:

“Let’s say there are millions of merchants in the world using GBP. If a significant percentage was found to be going to Google search and looking for themselves by typing in “my business” or typing in their name, would it not make sense to steer resources toward where users want to be?

“In this case that is what GBP product managers discovered. They also discovered that merchants preferred to make edits to profiles this way as well. And ‘suggest an edit’ was of course lacking as a feature. They also know that a majority of merchants only have one business profile and that those with multiple locations that need bulk features are a very small percentage.

“Knowing that the multi-location merchant and agency is important they have kept the dashboard around for bulk types of activities and say they are planning on making new features to serve that audience, but, for the smaller merchants, this would be a better experience.

“We do need to be objective and look at public sources to get a feeling of the sentiment toward this ‘feature’. There are a lot of agencies and owners complaining in the local search forum, but not many in the support community. I have to wonder if the general merchant is ok with this or not.”

Ben also shared with us a Pro Tip from Reuben Yau: For now, you can go to business.google.com/locations/ to get to a list of profiles. If you want the old interface, copy the dashboard URL and replace the word “dashboard” with “edit”. We do not know how long this will work, though.

Sterling Sky‘s Joy Hawkins adds:

“I think it’s important for people to remember that Google caters these tools to business owners, not to agencies. If Google removed the traditional dashboard, I would assume it’s because the average business owner wasn’t utilizing it. When they removed the GMB app, I assumed the same thing (lack of use). Google has confirmed that this new interface … is here to stay.”

As you can see, this update is likely catering to everyday small business owners, who potentially use far fewer of the features on offer.

This means that most people may not even notice much of a difference, as it’s those who have to manage multiple profiles, like agencies and multi-location businesses, that struggle without the advanced features, though as Ben says, some bulk actions can still be taken in the dashboard, including downloading insights, and accepting and rejecting updates from users and Google (a bit confusing considering ‘updates’ is what Posts are now called in the NMX).

Bulk actions

As Google is targeting users who may not be aware of the more advanced features, they’ve surfaced them to try to make them more obvious.

Customer engagement and experience are a priority, so Google is trying to make sure features aren’t hidden behind menus, so small businesses can find more reasons to engage with the platform, in a place they’re used to looking for information about their business (in Search).

Think about the bold ‘cards’ now viewable in the NMX: these are about prompting people to do things they might not have done before. For instance, they may see notifications for 2 new reviews, or a prompt to create an offer.

As Miriam Ellis has pointed out, too, the ‘Ask for Reviews’ button is now more prominent, for instance.

Unsurprisingly, ‘Create an ad’ is often the first one that appears in this row, as Google pushes for profile managers to invest in advertising on its platform.

Is there a way back to the old dashboard?

While some have seen success in clicking on ‘Products’ in the NMX to get back to the old dashboard (at the time of writing), the sad news is that even then, clicking on one of the other options in the dashboard just boots you back to the NMX.

We’d assume that this is just happening because Google hasn’t yet found a way to replicate/change the ‘Products’ functionality in the NMX, just yet. It’s, of course, only a matter of time before they do.

It looks like we’re just going to have to crack on with it

One thing is for sure: Google will continue to make changes, and Local SEOs will continue to stamp their feet. The best thing you can do is just make sure your GBP is in the best state it can be. If you need a hand with that, try running a Google Business Profile Audit.

No, it’s not ideal, and these changes can feel poorly thought out in many ways—as can the way they’re announced. But unfortunately, when there’s such an overreliance on one platform, it puts many marketers at the whims of their changes.

In this case, it’s probably worth just cracking on and adjusting systems and processes accordingly, and reminding yourself not to put all of your eggs in Google’s basket!

Jamie Pitman

Jamie heads up BrightLocal’s content team, ensuring we produce insightful articles, research and resources that enable businesses and SEOs to get even better results in local search.

Jenny Bernarde

Jenny looks after the BrightLocal community, through managing our social media channels, connecting with our community, and producing our online webinars.

Mike Hawkes

Mike is BrightLocal’s Senior Content Marketing Manager. With over seven years of experience in digital marketing, he is responsible for devising and executing our content strategy and delivering a host of local SEO insights to our audience.

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