Update, March 3rd, 2023: Google has now fixed the “bug” described below, in which listings not using Google Ads but that were otherwise complete weren’t showing as “complete”. Thanks to Ben Fisher for confirming this.
: Google has started to roll out a new label for Google Business Profiles, visible to all managers on the GBP NMX (New Merchant Experience). This was tested back in June 2021 but now appears to have been rolled out worldwide.
Your local business clients with access to manage their Google Business Profiles will be seeing a label in the in-SERP NMX telling them whether Google thinks they have a ‘complete’ profile or not.
As we’ll see below, local businesses are already reaching out to agencies to ask why their profiles are incomplete.
Our advice? Get ahead of it. Get in touch with your clients today to let them know this profile label exists and why Google has put it there (detail/theories on this below), remind them how your local SEO work is making an impact and point out that it’s more reliable than this label.
While this information was previously available in another part of the profile, what’s particularly interesting is how this, and data such as ‘customer interactions’ and ‘views’, is being surfaced much more prominently in the NMX, clearly in an effort to encourage more engagement with the platform. Claire Carlile noted those performance indicators being made more visible last week:
*NEW* (to me!) today – seeing profile view metrics from Google Business Profile 'Performance' being pulled into GOOGLE MAPS (not into the local knowledge profile on search) and an 'interactions' metric in the NMX📊📈 pic.twitter.com/TxWJfYo8yJ
— Claire Carlile🕊️ 🌊 🥑 🦥 (@clairecarlile) February 15, 2023
What is the ‘profile strength’ label?
It’s a traffic-light-based label that shows managers how complete their Google Business Profile is. You’ll see a circular label in the top right-hand corner of the NMX, colored in either orange (for a partly complete profile), or green (for a fully complete profile).
Underneath any incomplete profile, there is a call to action for managers to complete info. Underneath any complete profile, there is a label that says ‘Looks good!’.
So far, we’ve not seen a profile less than partially complete, so we cannot comment on what this looks like.
What does this mean for local businesses?
For anyone managing a Google Business Profile, this profile strength on the surface seems to provide a fairly simple way of quickly establishing whether or not your profile is complete or not, and if there is more information to add (or more likely, features to use).
However, what constitutes ‘completeness’ doesn’t seem to be objective, as Google clearly has a goal in mind for a truly ‘complete’ profile, as this example shows:
2. You get this modal saying:
"Customers are twice as likely to interact with businesses with more information. Complete the steps and get discovered by more customers on Search and Maps." pic.twitter.com/vsCm8KFkaC
— Darren Shaw (@DarrenShaw_) February 17, 2023
Google seems to have money on the mind. When clicking the ‘Complete info’ button on an incomplete profile, the NMX takes you to a new screen, explaining the benefits of completing your profile. When following this user flow, it takes you to a screen inviting you to sign up for Google Ads, with the option to claim $600 free advertising credit.
We’ve also seen reports that incomplete profiles are also labeled when a business hasn’t opted into Messages. As local SEO expert, Claudia Tomina, points out:
“Not all my clients want to opt into messages. That will also make you incomplete.”
What does this mean for local SEO agencies?
So far, we’ve heard of some frustration from agency clients seeing their GBPs as incomplete. Colan Nielsen, VP Local Search at Sterling Sky, has said that clients have already approached him, worried about incomplete profiles.
We've had clients reaching out freaking out because their profile strength wasn't 100% and I've just been telling everyone to simply ignore it.
— Colan Nielsen (@ColanNielsen) February 17, 2023
Meanwhile, Andy Simpson, Senior SEO Specialist at Digital Law Marketing, has also reminded people that profile strength is not a ranking factor, and not to worry about an incomplete profile.
FACT: Your "Profile Strength" is not a ranking factor!
…you need to be running Ads + Messaging enabled to get 100% = Google 💰😏#localseo #SmallBusiness #dontpanic https://t.co/WLBqzH41GU pic.twitter.com/BC7MdT5aQG
— Andy Simpson 🇬🇧 (@ndyjsimpson) February 20, 2023
What is Google trying to do with this more prominent label?
Well, we know there is a strong prompt to get business owners and profile managers to sign up for Google Ads if they aren’t doing so already. This seems to be one of the main blockers which keeps you from having a ‘complete’ profile.
The profile strength label could be a useful feature for profile managers to make sure their new GBPs are set up as much as possible. However, good local SEOs have the expertise to know when a profile is completed, especially if their clients don’t want to use such functionality as Google Ads or Messages.
Our advice echoes Colan’s: ignore the label if it is telling you to complete your profile but that you know yourself, as an expert, the profile is as complete as you need it. However, as mentioned above, you’ll need to work fast to let your clients know about this before they see it, and to prove to them that your work is more reliable and successful than Google wants to admit.
Always, remember, though: don’t just set it and forget it. Your Google Business Profile is something you should monitor and optimize regularly. It’s a continually evolving environment, with new features added to it regularly. It’s important for local marketers to check the progress or quality of your business profile over a period of time, and make sure you’re not missing out on features important for ranking or conversions.