We don't know for sure. But Google dropped more than a handful of hints. Let's look at just a few...
Straight away Google reference their Google My Business knowledge panel. Up until now, as most readers will know, the contents of this panel have been listed by Google for free.
We were interested to see that Google - which never does anything by accident - has chosen to use a business with a) very few reviews and b) a pretty awful score (3.3 equivalent to having one five-star review, one three-star review and one one-star review).
Is this in any way the kind of business Google may be thinking will be slap bang in the target market for whatever is coming next? Read on, and we'll see.
Google then asks what features you might like to see...
The ones we were particularly interested to see were...
- 'Remove ads from your business profile'
- 'Offers' - currently free
- 'Featured review' - may cause regulatory issues in the UK
- 'Automated response for reviews' - Wow! Google knows your business that well?
There is more...
- 'Google search results placement' - sounds remarkably like Google ads to us
- 'Get leads from competitor profiles' - are Google seriously suggesting that they will feed one business leads from a search for another?
Now we move to the multiple choice section...
That asks businesses to choose which features they would like (pay for?).
Delete that last question mark!
Google and its parent company Alphabet are US-based. We are concerned that some of the features listed here, especially those that would appear to offer businesses the facility to promote [positive] reviews, may be in contravention of the UK CMA regulations.
Our advice to our clients
Whatever Google finally decide to do, we strongly advise our clients to do their very best to maximise the number of reviews they have, both on their own websites and on Google. Businesses that have critical mass in terms of Google reviews - something we tend to loosely define these days as between 50 and 100 reviews*, with a score of at least 4.6 out of 5 - will not find themselves in the 'Handy Cleaners' position - where they need to resort to other mechanisms to attract business.
Here's the full Google survey And here's a detailed analysis, also courtesy of SEO agency Optimisey.
*And don't break the rules in a headlong rush to achieve these. Cherry-picking (selecting satisfied customers to write reviews) and gating (pre-qualifying customers to ensure the business only asks 'happy' customers to write a review) are both illegal in the UK. Here are the CMA's rules and our analysis of them.