Over the coming weeks, savvy searchers may catch a glimpse of Google’s latest change to search results pages. The search engine giant has expanded testing of its new Posts feature, which is now available to a small, select group of local businesses (Google pegs the number at a “few dozen”). Experts are keeping a close eye on the tests, which could mean big changes to the way local businesses market themselves on Google and through social media.
Posts was originally launched in the run-up to the 2016 US presidential election. Referred to by many as Google’s “Candidate Cards” at the time, Posts was launched to give candidates in the Republican and Democratic primaries the ability to interact with potential voters directly through search results. With it, candidates are able to make regular posts, with previews of those posts then featured directly on search result pages relating to that candidate.
The Posts feature now does the same thing for a select group of small businesses. Through Posts, these businesses are able to publish posts to a Google-based profile. Previews of these posts then appear on a carousel-style box on select search results pages (a business’s carousel only appears in search results that also return the business’s Google Knowledge Graph result). On desktop searches, the carousel appears as a box in between search results. On mobile searches, it appears below the Knowledge Graph box.
Key features of Posts appear to include:
- Carousel-style stream of Posts featured directly in SERPs
- Carousel preview includes 1 image and approx. 120 characters
- Full posts are published on Google Posts profile
- Limit of 14,400 text characters per post
- Limit of 10 images per post
- Share function for Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and email
The Posts feature seems to be separate from Google+, and many believe that this is Google’s attempt to create an alternative to Google+ publishing. Many Google+ users have complained that the platform did not allow for enough visibility, meaning that posts often went ignored when published on the platform. Given how visible the new Posts feature is in search results, this seems to be Google’s way of solving this problem.
Google has stressed that this program is still in testing, and it is unknown if/how Google plans to expand its Posts feature. Search engine watchdogs are already wondering if the feature will soon be made available to other small businesses, or if Google will be testing the feature with national brands some time in the near future. If Google continues to expand the program, it will mean big things, including an unprecedented intersection between SEO and social media marketing.
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