Why Google is mining local business attributes

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When checking into places on Google Maps, you may have noticed that Google prompts you to volunteer information about the place you’re visiting. For instance, if you check into a restaurant, you might be asked whether the establishment has a wheelchair-accessible entrance or whether the location offers takeout. There’s a reason Google wants to know: attributes.

Attributes consist of descriptive content such as the services a business provides, payment methods accepted or the availability of free parking — details that may not apply to all businesses. Attributes are important because they can influence someone’s decision to visit you.

Google wants to set itself up as a go-to destination of rich, descriptive content about locations, which is why it crowdsources business attributes. But it’s not the only publisher doing so. For instance, if you publish a review on TripAdvisor or Yelp, you’ll be asked a similar battery of questions but with more details, such as whether the restaurant is appropriate for kids, allows dogs, has televisions or accepts bitcoins.

Many of these publishers are incentivizing this via programs like Google’s Local Guides, TripAdvisor’s Badge Collections, and Yelp’s Elite Squad because having complete, accurate information about locations makes each publisher more useful. And being more useful means attracting more visitors, which makes each publisher more valuable.

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It’s important that businesses manage their attributes as precious location data assets, if for no other reason than that publishers are doing so. I call publishers (and aggregators who share information with them) data amplifiers because they amplify a business’s data across all the places where people conduct local searches. If you want people to find your business and turn their searches into actual in-store visits, you need to share your data, including detailed attributes, with the major data amplifiers.

Many businesses believe their principal location data challenge is ensuring that their foundational data, such as their names, addresses and phone numbers, are accurate. I call the foundational data “identities,” and indeed, you need accurate foundational data to even be considered when people search for businesses. But as important as they are — and challenging to manage — identities solve for only one-half of the search challenge. Identities ensure visibility, but you need attributes to turn searches into business for your brand.

Attributes are not new, but they’ve become more important because of the way mobile is rapidly accelerating the purchase decision. According to seminal research published by Google, mobile has given rise to “micro-moments,” or times when consumers use mobile devices to make quick decisions about what to do, where to go or what to buy.

Google noted that the number of “near me” searches (searches conducted for goods and services nearby) have increased 146 percent year over year, and 88 percent of these “near me” searches are conducted on mobile devices. As Google’s Matt Lawson wrote:

With a world of information at their fingertips, consumers have heightened expectations for immediacy and relevance. They want what they want when they want it. They’re confident they can make well-informed choices whenever needs arise. It’s essential that brands be there in these moments that matter — when people are actively looking to learn, discover, and/or buy.

Attributes encourage “next moments,” or the action that occurs after someone has found you during a micro-moment. Google understands that businesses failing to manage their attributes correctly will drop off the consideration set when consumers experience micro-moments. For this reason, Google prompts users to complete attributes about businesses when they check into a location on Google Maps.

At the 2016 Worldwide Developers Conference, Apple underscored the importance of attributes when the company rolled out a smarter, more connected Siri that makes it possible for users to create “next moments” faster by issuing voice commands such as “Siri, find some new Italian restaurants in Chicago, book me dinner, and get me an Uber to the restaurant.” In effect, Siri is a more efficient tool for enabling next moments, but only for businesses that manage the attributes effectively.

And with its recently released Google My Business API update to version 3.0, Google also gave businesses that manage offline locations a powerful competitive weapon: the ability to manage attributes directly. By making it possible to share attributes on your Google My Business page, Google has not only amplified its own role as a crucial publisher of attributes but has also given businesses an important tool to take control of your own destiny. It’s your move now.

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