Google recently made a minor update to their bulk locations management help page to announce some not so minor new features for the bulk upload tool — full social functionality and the ability to add managers for individual locations within an account.
Since Google began to transition from the old Places for Business interface to the new Google+ interface in 2013, bulk tool users have been excluded from the switch. This left a growing gap between the bulk tool experience and the new dashboard. It seems that Google finally heard the clamor from local search marketers and business owners for an improved bulk process; since March of this year, they have been rolling out a host of updates, building up to the newest releases. Google is currently rolling over bulk accounts to the new dashboard, so if you do not see them yet in your account, stay calm and read on for what you can expect to see.
Back in January, we put up another post regarding the bulk tool and made several predictions regarding changes to come. Here, I’ve brought back a few of those predictions to show how they have borne out into notable new features.
1) A New Interface
The new management interface will display the status of each location on Maps. Locations will show as live, unverified, have errors/data conflicts, are duplicates, or are pending review.
Additionally, the bulk process now includes a ‘data conflicts interface’ allowing you to drill down to details of how listings might differ on Maps and search results versus what’s in your dashboard. Once inaccurate data is identified, you can review and submit corrections through a built-in process within the interface. Although Google will continue to reference other sources to sometimes modify what is displayed on bulk listings, this new process seems to empower bulk users with an additional measure of control and points to bulk managers as the more trusted, primary source of data. However, we have yet to verify for ourselves whether corrections are always implemented and if they are ever reverted.
2) Tighter Security on Listing Management and Multiple User Management
Google is finally bringing the hammer down on bulk users for the ‘one account per listing’ rule, which is already in place for Plus users. This means that listings can no longer be claimed and managed by multiple users. However, to address the needs of bulk management where both brand and locations may want to contribute to listings, Google is also carrying over the ability for listings to have a single owner but multiple managers. For example, a brand could own an account and assign manager status to individual locations to handle location-specific aspects.
3) Local/Social Management
It had long been speculated when Google+ social functionalities would be available for bulk and what that integration would look like; now, this highly anticipated feature is finally here. For newly verified bulk local listings, Google will automatically create a Google+ page within a week or so, similar to how manually claimed local listings are automatically upgraded. You can access the Plus dashboard directly from the bulk management interface.
The introduction of Google+ seems to suggest a future where bulk accounts will be managed through a parent-child relationship between the brand, which could oversee the basic listing data, and the individual locations, which can utilize social features, respond to reviews, etc. from the Google+ dashboard.
You can find a complete list of new features on the Google Product Forums and help pages.
I suspect that move to Google+ social functionality could cause marketers and brands to rethink their approach to the bulk management process.
As of right now, there doesn’t seem to be a way to bulk upload elements like the profile photo and cover photo for Plus pages. Thus, all newly created pages have an uncustomized look to them, regardless of whether you already have photos uploaded through the bulk tool. And of course, social functionality cannot be managed through a bulk upload. Given the current state, if a brand wishes to take full advantage of Plus features to build and maintain robust looking pages, it would be a hugely resource consuming effort without bringing individual locations into the management process by making them listing managers.
The other option would be to employ a social content management system that would allow the brand to retain more centralized control over messaging, but would still offer a way to tap into Google+’s social side.
However, still remains to be seen whether it is worth it for bulk accounts with many locations to invest in a social strategy. There may be certain verticals where customers are simply not engaging on Google+ and it does not make sense to devote energy towards it. For other verticals like hotels or restaurants, social functionality may be seen as an opportunity.
Which new bulk tool features have you been looking forward to the most? And how will Google+ impact, or not impact, your strategy going forward? We are certainly excited to explore the changes and offer up our thoughts in some future posts to come.
*Image source: https://support.google.com/business