What You Need to Know about the Google My Business Name Change

If you’ve been around local SEO long enough, you probably knew, deep down, that Google would start messing around with its naming conventions again at some point. After all, when it launched in 2005, Google’s platform for local businesses was called the Local Business Center, only to change its name to Google Places in 2010, to Google+ Local in 2012, and to Google My Business in 2014.

The last seven years were unusually stable on the naming front, so much so that “Google My Business” for most of us has long since given way to the nickname GMB. But given prior history, it was unlikely to last forever, and at long last, Google announced yesterday that Google My Business will again change its name. 

Let’s get back to the new name in a second, because it’s a bit weird, and will be easier to understand if we contextualize it within other developments:

  • Small business owners are encouraged to use the Search and Maps interfaces to manage business information moving forward. Google insists these interfaces are “simpler” to use than GMB.
  • The Search and Maps interfaces for business profile management, which Google has been building out for several months now, do not yet have all of the functionality of the Google My Business dashboard, but Google says it will address that gap between now and next year.
  • In that vein, Google has announced that businesses can now claim and verify their listings and interact with customers via the Messages tool from the Search interface.
  • Google will also be adding as-yet-unspecified tools to Search and Maps “to help you understand how your business is performing and how you can enhance your online presence.” At least some of these tools will be brand new, as opposed to being ported over from GMB.
  • Sometime in 2022, Google plans to retire the Google My Business mobile app, further encouraging small businesses to switch to the Search and Maps interfaces.
  • Presumably at about the same time, Google will remake the Google My Business desktop platform into a new kind of dashboard dedicated to the needs of “larger businesses with multiple profiles”; this new dashboard will be called the Business Profile Manager.
  • The Google My Business API will continue to function as before but will be called the Business Profile API.

Those last two items bring us to what Google says is the new name for its local platform overall: Google Business Profile. The odd singular noun is indicative, I think, of a change in orientation that seems designed to appeal to smaller businesses. Google is encouraging small business owners to think of themselves as managing their Google Business Profile, as opposed to using the Google My Business platform. It’s a renewed focus on the business entity itself, which is being forcibly extracted from the GMB dashboard and placed, with intent, in both Search and the Google Maps app, as though the platform one happens to be using at any given time is less important than the business profile one is updating. 

The Google My Business dashboard, soon to be an object of nostalgic memories

Is this a distinction without a difference? Perhaps. I’m concerned that the GMB dashboard model is an intuitive one that people are used to, whereas the experience of updating one’s business profile with special tools that are embedded directly in a SERP is odd and will take some getting used to. It’s a bet on Google’s part that may or may not pay off. Perhaps if other in-SERP tools are on the horizon and this is part of some as-yet-unclear larger strategy, people will get acclimated to the idea, and it won’t seem like such a big deal. For now, the oddness is striking.

Entry point for interacting with your Google Business Profile in Search

To be fair, none of this comes as a complete surprise. Ever since Google began adding business management features to Search and Maps, the company has been signalling that the Google My Business dashboard would eventually give way to a new paradigm. Early this year, I learned from the team that manages GMB Insights that part of the plan was to change the methodology by which Google measures interactions between profiles and consumers in order to focus more on people and less on traditional concepts like search impressions. The idea was, for example, to count as a single interaction those cases where a user looks up a business on their laptop, then gets in their car and pulls up directions to the same business on their phone, rather than treating these as two separate actions. Breaking with the GMB model, arguably, helps Google cut ties with the older methodology in order to make room for the new. 

But the change brings with it a fair degree of uncertainty. Google may be retaining, for instance, the model of an API that helps partners manage listings for both SMBs and larger brands, but if the company is simultaneously building out a snazzy new interface for those same multi-location brands to manage Google profiles on their own, does this fact represent an existential threat to listing management companies? My first instinct is to say no — listing management is too much of a pain, and the benefits of outsourcing are too obvious to ignore. But the question is worth considering.

As Donald Rumsfeld used to say, these are the known unknowns. What we do know is that the new Google interfaces are not yet up to par with Google My Business, which likely means that the next several months will see Google rushing to reach a state of parity so it can make good on its promises to retire the Google My Business name by next year.

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Damian Rollison writes the Streets Ahead column for Street Fight. He is Director of Market Insights at SOCi and can be reached via Twitter at @damianrollison. SOCi is the publisher of Street Fight.