In March of this year, Google announced a “photo update” feature that gives Google Maps users on Android devices a new way to upload photos to their Google My Business profile.
I just noticed it’s being used “in kind” and haven’t seen much in the way of coverage, so I thought it was worth sharing a few details about how it works, what you need to know, and what it could mean for GMB’s future (specifically Google Posts).
After all, the features you know but your competitors don’t have are the ones that make you stand out when users compare companies. Read on to learn more!
What are Google My Business “Photo Updates”?
We know all the contents of the “By owner” tab in the updates section. This is where we see our Google My Business posts, new photos and updated schedules:
The Google Maps update introduced the “For Visitors” tab:
I hadn’t read anything about it, and Stefan Somborac pointed me in the direction of this Google blog post, which explains that this feature launched in March 2021:
Digging into Google’s guide on GMB posts, I found this section:
What’s interesting here is that the wording in the guide suggests that you can only add a photo update when you leave a review. However, you can add a photo update without leaving a review if you click here, on “Add a photo update”:
When a user adds a “photo update”, Google asks them to “say something about your photos”:
When a user adds an image using the “Add a photo update” button, the image (and optional caption) are shown in the “For Visitors” tab, as in the following example, where no reviews have been left:
When an image is added by a user using another method of uploading the image (for example, via “Add a photo” in the “Photos” tab), it is not currently displayed in the “From visitors” tab.
Replying to a “photo update”
This feature is only active in the Google Maps app on an Android device, and businesses can comment on these users’ “photo updates” via the Google Maps app only when they are signed in with a user account with management level access a the business card in question.
Businesses can “respond” to the photo update by clicking here …
… and leaving their response, which is then shown under the customer image in the tab:
Just like best practices with Google My Business reviews, it’s a good idea to monitor this section and respond appropriately and in good time.
If the photo is beautiful, then a quick thank you might be enough. If the photo is less than flattering in terms of its reflection on your business, then you will need to think carefully about how you would respond, just like you would with a negative review.
What can I do if, as a company, I don’t like the photo?
Not much, unfortunately. You are not the owner of this content and as long as it is a “valid” photo of a user, taken on the spot and does not contravene Google’s format-specific criteria for user-uploaded photos (see below), it is practically a case of ‘ aged cheese ‘.
For this reason, it’s a good idea to encourage your customers to upload photos via this method, so that you can keep a new stream of images coming in that will push your “not-so-favorite” photos further down the scroll.
Like all users of user-contributed content, uploaded photos must be in line with Google’s format-specific criteria:
A problem with the current setting on the photo updates tab is that if a company reports an image to report a violation of the format-specific criteria for images, the reporting criteria that Google shows in the popout applies to reviews. not to images. When you click the three dots on the “For Visitors” update, like this …
… see these options:
Instead, to report an image (or even a caption) according to the guidelines for photos uploaded by users, you have to click on the image itself, then click on the three dots:
A click here activates the specific popout of the image and caption:
What does this mean for local businesses?
This feature suggests that businesses would benefit from continuing to encourage customers to upload photos using the “update photo” prompt.
However, Google now has so many options for uploading user-generated photos, it will be difficult to get your customers to understand the nuance between uploading an image via the “add a photo update” prompt rather than one of the alternative methods to update. Images.
It is worth noting that, within the Google Maps app, Google asks business owners to persuade their users to populate this listing by sharing their business profile:
Suggestion: Want to share your business profile to encourage more customer photo uploads but don’t know where to find the link? BrightLocal’s Review Place ID and Link Generator allows you to easily search for your profile and find the link.
However, as noted, the standard paths for uploading customer images do not currently populate this tab. Although, of course, like all GMB related features, this is always subject to quick changes!
Ideally, your customers would jot down those “photo updates” in a way that aligns with how you would like someone in a review to describe your attributes, products, and services.
The “Photo Update” tab offers another level of opportunity for current and prospective customers to view photos uploaded by users, so it’s in your best interest as a business to keep them fresh and new, compelling and attractive, so that you can closely monitor the content and respond appropriately to image uploads and image captions.
What could happen next?
The introduction of this feature earlier this year may suggest that Google is looking to add more user-generated content into GMB. Think of it as a bit like being able to write a comment on a company’s Facebook page. If users consume content within the “updates” tab as part of their detection process, the user’s “photo updates” will be one of the things they will see.
Google’s documentation on “photo updates” is located in the Google Posts doc folder, so for now be aware that GMB posts may not remain a feature that can be taken care of with such care by a company.
So, if you, as a GMB feature observer, were playing to predict a future where users could comment on GMB’s posts … perhaps this is a step towards that future.
As always, I’m surprised that Google Maps users pick up on the small changes in the user interface and try them out, especially considering that Google never keeps consumers apprised of how these features can be used to their advantage.
If the absorption of this feature is low, it may disappear. But GMB watchers said that about the “follow” button … so keep your eyes peeled and think about how this feature could represent an opportunity for your business and how you will manage this feature moving forward.