Monday Memo: New Study Shows 94% of Consumers Use Online Business Directories

In this week’s update, learn about a new report on consumer usage of business listings; the demise of GMB site managers; Facebook’s new verification guidelines; how to win the “page speed race”; debunking the geotagged images myth; and the rise of commerce on TikTok. 

New study shows 94% of consumers use online business directories

Bright Local has published the results of a survey of 1,000 U.S. consumers about their habits and preferences when using online directories to find information about local businesses. Called the Business Listings Trust Report 2021, the report offers statistics that reinforce the central role directories play in local search. Some highlights include:

A central theme in the report is that consumers frequently encounter incorrect information about businesses online, an experience that often causes them to lose trust in that business and move on to find an alternative. The survey results reinforce the notion that businesses must achieve a high degree of accuracy and consistency across all of the platforms favored by consumers who are looking for local information.

GMB site manager role has been officially removed

It’s now official — the site manager role in Google My Business will be sunsetted very soon. I shared the first signs of this news two weeks ago, when Google updated its help documentation to indicate that no new site managers could be created. Now the company has sent an email to GMB account holders who have active site managers. The notification states that as of October 24, 2021, all current site managers will be converted to managers. 

The removal of site managers leaves three types of user role: primary owner, owner, and manager. Managers have a higher level of access than site managers, who are unable to edit fields such as the business phone number and are prevented from responding to Q&A and messages. Presumably, Google saw a low level of adoption for the site manager role. We know, though, that chain and franchise brands with complex hierarchies have found the site manager role useful, so this change will require some adjustments, and will place the onus on partners (like SOCi) to support more flexible permissioning. 

Facebook and Instagram launch new verification guidelines

Facebook has updated the guidelines for verifying the identity of brands and public figures on both Facebook itself and Instagram. This is the verification process that grants such entities a blue “verified” badge on the platforms, similar to the blue badges on Twitter for verified accounts. Facebook noted in the announcement that verification of a business or celebrity is not an endorsement from the company and has no effect on ranking of content. 

According to the new guidelines, brands and individuals must submit a form along with proof of identification. For a business, this might include such paperwork as a recent tax filing or a copy of your articles of incorporation. Entities seeking verification must also put forward a claim that their page or profile is “in the public interest” along with optional evidence from news sources — probably a more significant hurdle for individuals wishing to claim they are public figures than for businesses claiming brand pages. Though badges may not impact ranking, Facebook says they “distinguish notable accounts” and promote authentic engagement with users.

How to win the “page speed race”

We’ve seen many articles lately claiming to give you the tactics you need to tackle the new, more stringent page load requirements introduced by Google’s recent Page Experience update. Now we have a post on the Moz blog from Pam Aungst Cronin that provides a useful historical perspective on these topics. Cronin reminds us that Google began factoring in page speed as a component of its ranking algorithm all the way back in 2010, with 2015 marking the “great mobile shift” whereby the majority of searches were performed on mobile devices. 

Google first used Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) for top results as a way to create a fast-loading mobile user experience, while encouraging all web publishers to make fast page load a priority. Mobile page speed has been a ranking factor since 2018; this year’s addition of Core Web Vitals to Page Experience merely continues the trend by making page load measurements more specific. 

Cronin offers a range of useful suggestions for improving page speed, including tactics for making your code and content as lightweight as possible; the use of dedicated hosting via Virtual Private Servers; caching web content using a Content Delivery Network (CDN); and other tactics like lazy loading and employing next-generation image formats like WebP. Lots to discover for those trying to win the page speed race.

CDNs make copies of your content available around the globe, improving page load times; courtesy Moz / Pam Ann Marketing

Study shows that geotagging images does not influence ranking

File this one under local SEO mythbusting. There’s been a persistent rumor in local SEO circles that embedding information in the metadata of images that are uploaded to Google My Business can have an influence on ranking. Joy Hawkins, in a new post, debunks this rumor, reporting specifically that geotagging images — that is, supplying latitude and longitude in the Exif data that is embedded in standard image files — has no impact on the ranking of your GMB listing or your business website. Though modern cameras often add geo coordinates automatically when you take a photo, GMB removes these geotags when you upload the photo, and so do certain web hosting platforms. It’s hard to imagine how this stripped-out info could help you to rank, but Hawkins measured it anyway just in case, and found there was no detectable impact. So there you have it — don’t bother geotagging your images for search optimization.

Courtesy Sterling Sky

TikTok’s evolution as a marketing and commerce platform

A new report from App Annie claims that TikTok, for the first time, has overtaken YouTube in average monthly hours watched per user for Android users in both the U.S. and the U.K. Though YouTube still leads in global users and views across all platforms, with a user base of 2 billion compared to TikTok’s 700 million, this milestone is significant for the smaller but booming platform. 

As its influence grows, TikTok is looking for ways to bring businesses and commerce into the platform, recently announcing an expanded partnership with Shopify that allows merchants to sell products via TikTok ads from within the Shopify dashboard, as well as enabling a shopping tab on merchant TikTok profiles. Merchants can also publish content on TikTok that links back to the shopping experience. Ads can be targeted to TikTok users based on their demographic characteristics and behavioral profiles. Shopify reports that social channels are growing faster than any other source of sales for its merchants, up 270% from last year.

This content was originally published here.