Quality Visit Scores to Businesses May Influence Rankings in Google Local Search

by Posted @ Aug 01 2019

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You can learn a lot on the Web about businesses, such as the addresses of those businesses, categories related to them, reviews that may reveal a lot of information, even stuff that a business may not have wanted to share online.

Local directories can provide very detailed information about businesses too, such as the address, operating hours, history, related businesses, and more.

But not every business at every location has detailed information about it online, or could be biased, or outdated, or missing information that you would like to know more about.

Mobile Location History and Quality Visit Scores

A newly granted Google patent tells us about how the search engine might respond to “a query associated with a physical location using a quality visit measure. That quality visit measure may be based in part on “the number and/or frequency of repeat visits by one or more individuals to that physical location.”

We know that Google is tracking mobile location history for people using Google Maps to navigate to places, and who have location tracking enabled on their smartphones.

There have been a number of other patents from Google that use information from such actual visits to places to impact search recommendations and results:

I have seen Google refer to quality scores for sponsored search results, and Google patents that refer to quality scores for organic search results, but I haven’t seen Google refer to quality visit scores until now in reference to Google local search results.

The summary for this new patent tells us more about these quality visit scores:

In this manner, data related to visits by one or more individuals to a physical location may be used as an indication of the popularity of that location, with the incidences of repeat visits used to effectively incorporate the “quality” of visits into the popularity indication.

So Google is tracking quality visits to physical locations of stores, to capture the popularity of those locations, based upon repeat visits to them. They are claiming that the benefits of them using the process described in this patent result in:

For example, in some implementations the determination of such data and/or a quality visit measure may improve the accuracy of information that is identified as relevant to the query and/or provide information with an appropriate prominence to increase the likelihood that the information will be consumed in response to the query. Doing so may also decrease the likelihood that further searches will be needed to identify information, thereby preventing consumption of network and computer resources in response to such subsequent, and otherwise unnecessary, queries.

This Quality Visit Scores Patent can be found at:

Quality visit measure for controlling computer response to query associated with physical location
Inventors: Krzysztof Duleba
Assignee: Google LLC
US Patent: 10,366,422
Granted: July 30, 2019
Filed: September 9, 2015

Abstract

The response of a computer to a query associated with a physical location may be controlled using a quality visit measure that is based at least in part on the number and/or frequency of repeat visits by one or more individuals to that physical location.

Quality Visit Scores Takeaways

A quality visit might be seen as a ranking signal because actual visits to a place can show that people felt that a place was worth returning to.

The length of a visit would be appropriate for the type of physical location visited. For example, a visit to a full-service restaurant for a period of fewer than 5 minutes, or not enough time to order and consume a meal, might not be sufficient to be seen as a quality visit. Five minutes for a dry cleaner or a takeout restaurant would be sufficient to indicate an actual visit to a place.

qualityy visit scores patent flowchart

Other information than just a visit might be considered, such as:

  • Check-ins on a social media service
  • Geotagged pictures or videos
  • Navigation requests
  • Etc.

Quality Visit Scores could be used to “rank a physical location higher in a list of search results.”

So, for someone searching for a restaurant at a certain area, a restaurant with a relatively high-quality visit measure may be promoted over other restaurants in the same area due to the frequency of revisits by other individuals.

The patent includes the possibility of a process that may involve structured queries, such as “a user could search only for restaurants with many ‘regulars’ or repeat customers determined to have visited N or more times.”

Quality Visit Scores Information could be potentially provided to the proprietor of a physical location, such as “36% customers have visited 5+ times, 24% of customers have visited 2-4 times.”

There are higher-quality visits, such as someone returning to a place, and bringing a friend, and even that friend returning for a visit, too.

Also “recommended visit measures” where someone receives a recommendation from a friend for a place that they visit on social media, with a certain timeframe.

Location information could be from a navigation app, but could also be based upon GPS, or a geotag in a photo or video, or a wifi connection or cell tower triangulation., or a phone call from a location or an email from a location, or check-in on a social application. These are indications of the physical presence of a person at a physical location associated with a business.

These quality visit scores could have confidence measures attached to them that indicate the likelihood that a person was at the physical location of a business.

In 2011 I wrote about a patent from Apple which used location information from Mobile devices to help rank places in an apple local search. The post I wrote about that is was Crowdsourcing Behind New Apple Local Search Patent.

Basing rankings of businesses in local search on quality visit scores of customers of a business could be part of the future of local search at Google. Google has likely used location information to provide traffic information for Google Maps information since at least 2006, which I wrote about in Ending Gridlock with Google Driving Assistance (Zipdash Re-Emerges). They’ve been working on location history information for a while now. Will they use it to influence rankings?

Added: August 2, 2019 I was pointed to a beta feature at GA360 on Twitter today:

Mentioned August of last year: Introducing new local marketing innovations for advertisers, where we are told:

Store visits in Google Ads and Google Analytics are estimates based on data from users that have turned on Location History. Only aggregated and anonymized data is reported to advertisers, and they aren’t able to see any store visits from individual website visits, ad clicks, viewable impressions, or people. Google uses industry best practices to ensure the privacy of individual users.

Added August 3, 2019. I was also asked about a new local Favorite feature, which will hightlight the top 5% of businesses in categories at a location, which could tie into this approach as well:

The Google Blog post is from June 30, 2019, titled Helping businesses capture their identity with Google My Business. It tells us:

Finally, we want to recognize those businesses that consistently deliver a great experience for people. We’ll be highlighting the top five percent of businesses in a particular category with the “Local Favorite” designation. To help people easily find and engage with these businesses, we’re also creating digital and physical badges of honors. Stay tuned for more details on these recognition categories coming later this summer.

Since this is towards the end of the summer, we should be hearing more about local favorites at Google soon.

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2 Comments

  1. Andy Kuiper

    August 03rd, 2019 at 11:09 pm

    Google has been using ‘visit data’ via mobile tracking for a while now. And where they find folks ‘willing to travel’ to a brick and mortar place, those places get some love from the Local algo with regards to frequency of placement in the 3-pack results. While proximity of the searcher is huge when it comes to Local results, ‘Quality Visit’ results may be a new way for Google to assess relevancy… it makes a lot of sense to me.

    Reply

    • Bill Slawski

      August 03rd, 2019 at 11:15 pm

      Hi Andy,

      Thanks for sharing your experience with us. It makes sense for Google to use a visit quality score to influence local rankings.

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