Several weeks ago, without much fanfare, Google added new shortcut icons to its mobile app and website. They appear immediately under the search box to provide quick access to current weather, sports, entertainment and restaurant information.
These are essentially prepackaged queries, using a range of data behind the scenes, to replace typing with tapping. These shortcuts have quietly turned Google’s local search and discovery experience into a powerful competitor to Yelp.
Below is a screen grab of the conventional local-mobile search experience for “lunch near me.” Users see a local pack, a map, organic links and images down the first page (not pictured). Here’s what it looks like — pretty familiar:
But when you tap the “eat & drink” shortcut, you get a different experience that brings a much richer set of results. Also on display is the full range of Google’s mobile and location data capabilities.
Google is providing personalized recommendations and offering a plethora of other choices and options. These are grouped by interest, cuisines, atmosphere and various attributes. All of this is driven and accompanied by rich data. This is also an argument for adding more enhanced data as part of your local SEO strategy.
Google presents “places for you,” based on your location history — your actual visits to other restaurants that establish patterns and preferences. Google uses machine learning to group venues into useful categories by interest and attributes: “popular with foodies,” “best lunch,” “recently opened,” “great beers” and so on.
It’s not clear how much usage this is getting; the company hasn’t done much to build consumer awareness other than place the shortcuts under the search bar. But it offers a dramatically improved experience that eliminates the need to do multiple queries and click around. It’s like a super carousel on AI. (Note: I didn’t say “steroids.”)
The experience represents a template for other kinds of mobile search results beyond the four categories currently present. (Android features more shortcuts than iOS.) Shopping and Travel come immediately to mind. And it’s a glimpse into the immediate future of local search on Google.
Currently, you can buy movie tickets via the entertainment shortcut. We should expect more transactional capabilities like this to roll out to other categories.
At this time, there are no ads. Assume that over time there will be, provided it gains usage. Indeed, if Google shortcuts take hold, we could see large numbers of people entirely bypass the search box in high-usage categories.
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