Google has been collecting information about what users think about businesses for a very long time, and now you can see these ‘Subjective Attributes’ in your GMB Insights. Contributor Ben Fisher explores where these attributes come from and what they can teach you about your business and its audience.
Google recently announced that Subjective Attributes are available in Google My Business (GMB) Insights for businesses like restaurants and cafes. In this article, we’ll look at Subjective Attributes and how they compare to Objective Attributes, as well as how Subjective Attributes can be used and potentially influenced.
Google announced on Twitter that they’ve “launched subjective attributes to provide more information in your insights tab! Customers of restaurants and cafes can submit subjective attributes to help you and their fellow customers.”
What are Subjective and Objective Attributes in Google My Business?
Attributes in Google My Business are statements that say something about your business in very few words and help searchers decide whether your business is what they’re looking for.
All Google My Business managers have the option to add and edit objective, factual attributes in their listings information to let customers know more about what they offer. For example, a restaurant can show they accept credit cards, have a happy hour, offer late night food, or serve comfort food.
What’s the difference between Objective and Subjective Attributes? Put simply, an Objective Attribute is a business’fact’ that the listing manager/owner can control within GMB, while a Subjective Attribute is under the control of user-submitted answers on Google Maps, and is much more based on opinion.
It’s important to note, however, that searchers can also make suggestions about these Objective Attributes. When there is enough supporting input from users, then Google may “suggest” these changes in the Google My Business dashboard. As a listing manager/owner, you should monitor these suggested changes on a regular basis to ensure you business is being accurately represented.
Some real-world examples of Objective Attributes:
Google’s guidance on adding or editing GMB attributes:
While GMB managers can edit Objective Attributes, Subjective Attributes cannot be controlled by businesses. These are things that rely on the opinions of Google users who have visited the business. If several customers say your business is “popular with locals,” for example, then this is considered a Subjective Attribute.
This is what Attributes look like in Google My Business Insights:
A Brief History of Google My Business Attributes
Back in May of 2016, Google added the ability for a business to control the attributes section of Google My Business. Five months later, in September of 2016, Google Top Contributor Joy Hawkins saw attributes emerge in the Google My Business dashboard.
Around the same time, Google started asking users if they “Know This Place?” on Android and iOS versions of Google Maps. This was when and how Subjective Attributes started to be gathered by Google.
We know that Google is a Machine Learning-first company, but the value of human input is paramount to the dataset as the algorithm continues to learn. As is with all data provided by humans, it is subjective to the way a person feels at any given time. Therefore, Google must ask the same question (or variants of the same question) to as many users as possible to determine the right answer.
Fast-forward to today, and many businesses now have the ability to edit their attributes. Some industries only have a handful of attributes while others, like hotels and restaurants, have many options.
And until now, it has been largely unknown how Subjective Attributes would be used. Only now are we getting a glimpse about how Google is using these attributes on the front end.
How reliable are GMB Insights?
As Gyi Tsakalakis pointed out in his article, GMB insights are not always as reliable as we would like them to be. All GMB stats are based on large samples of data and insights, and ‘Calls and clicks’ are not always reliable, but as with any tracking software these results can be used as a baseline for trending data.
When it comes to Subjective Attributes, since this is all based on crowdsourcing, there is a pitfall in the data gathering. As you can see in the animation above, users are initially only presented with three options per question:
- Not sure
However, users can also select “More Choices”, at which point they’ll be presented with the following options:
- It depends
- Question is unclear
- Haven’t been here
- Does not apply
- Place is Permanently Closed
These additional data sets are more than likely being used to train Google. If enough people state that the question is not clear, then it is logical to think that other users may see a variant of the question.
How this can be gamed and where is the danger?
Just like fake reviews, I am sure that someone will come up with a way to try and game this system. If you could convince enough users that they have been to a certain restaurant and answer questions that are true as false, then this could potentially create inaccurate Objective Attributes that mislead the consumer. Of course, this would be maddening as they cannot be edited.
So, what can you do as an agency or a business owner?
The first thing you can do is look at what questions are being asked by Google. Catalog the questions on a regular basis and look for new ones.
Another option is to take this offline. Hang up signs that tell your customers about the business. This way when they look at the questions Google is asking they will have the idea planted in their mind. You want to be known for being family-friendly, right? Why not remind them of this when they’re visiting?
I’d love to hear what you think
If you have some stories about your experience with Subjective Attributes, please share them in the comments below!
Ben Fisher is a Google My Business Top Contributor, and an experienced veteran in SEO and social since 1994. He’s the co-founder of Steady Demand which works with agencies and businesses to maximize outsourced Local SEO and Social Media. He can be reached on Twitter at @TheSocialDude or @SteadyDemand.