Same Product, New Name: A History of Google Local Profile Name Changes

Introduced as 'Google Local Business Center' in 2005, the local listings management tool has been through five iterations, landing on 'Google Business Profile.'

Same Product, New Name: A History of Google Local Profile Name Changes
Photo by Unsplash
  • Google has rebranded Google My Business (GMB) as Google Business Profile (GBP).
  • Since it was introduced as Google Local Business Center in 2005, this is the fifth rebrand – reflecting Google's test-and-learn culture (and missteps).
  • GMB was often seen as an SMB product; GBP is a more size-neutral idea that also embraces multi-location brands.

Google My Business has changed its name to Google Business Profiles. For those keeping score, this is the fifth name change for the local listings product since its birth in 2005.

Five name changes in 16 years might seem like a sign of indecision. But the periodic tweaking is a reflection of Google’s test-and-learn culture. For 23 years, Google has succeeded by launching products and then tweaking them – an agile way of doing business whose results speak for themselves. Today Google is one of the most valuable companies in the world. But “launch now, tweak later” does not always work well as a branding strategy for Google’s products.

A History of Google Business Profile Names

Google Business Profiles had its beginnings in 2005 when Google launched Google Local Business Center. In Google’s words, Google Local Business Center was meant to be "a free tool for businesses to easily add or update their business listings that appear in Google Local." Note also how the genesis of the product was really Google Local in 2004 – a product we now know as Google Maps. After Google rolled out Google Local to help people use Google as a wayfinding tool, the company realized that giving businesses a free home on Google would monetize user search activity by connecting people with places.

But Google was also potentially sowing the seeds of confusion. What exactly was the difference between Google Local and Google Local Business Center? As if to get out in front of the problem, Google changed the name of Google Local to Google Maps in 2005 at just about the same time Google launched Google Local Business Center.

After that, the two products experienced radically different journeys from a branding standpoint. Google Maps kept the name Google Maps. Google My Business underwent these name changes:

Yet they also share a common history of significant product updates. Google Maps has experienced too many product updates to summarize properly in one blog post, but some of the more important ones include real-time traffic views, Street View, the launch of a mobile version and Live View, an augmented reality feature. Throughout these updates, Google always understood user behavior on Google Maps was fundamentally the same. Google also took a one-to-many approach for maximum reach and scale. That’s why we didn’t see the emergence of, say, “Google Maps for Urban Searches” or “Google Maps for Seattle.”

The one-to-many approach also simplified branding for two other significant products, Gmail and Google Chrome. Both of those products have retained remarkably consistent naming conventions for years, even though they’ve also undergone (and continue to undergo) numerous revisions. So why the name changes for what is now known as Google Business Profile? Google’s announcements over the years offer some clues:

  • Google Local Business Center became Google Places “to simplify the connection with Place Pages.” And what, you ask, was Place Pages? Well, it was a Google Maps feature that Google launched in 2009 to offer users a “web page for every business” that they were looking for on Google Maps. In other words, Google was figuring out how to match search activity on Google Maps with business information. Here we see Google tweaking one product name to create consistency with a feature in a different product. This was not the last time Google would do so.
  • Within two years, Google ditched the Google Places name in favor of Google+ Local. Once again, Google wanted to create some naming consistency across products – this time, the now defunct Google+, which was supposed to be Google’s answer to Facebook. Google+ Local, like Google+, was intended to reflect a more social and engaging form of Google Places, including features such as hangouts, sharing photos, videos and posts. Google also integrated user reviews via Zagat (owned by Google at the time), an important step toward making business location information more relevant to users. (Google would later ditch Zagat and give users the ability to review locations in Google directly.) Google effectively took a roll of the dice here. The success of the new name Google + Local depended on the update of Google+. And as we all know by now, Google+ never caught on. And because the Google Places name was associated with a failed product, Google Places as a brand didn’t take off either.
  • The launch of Google My Business was more than a name change. Here, Google unleashed a slew of features to give enterprises more control over their identities online. Google understood at this point how important a business web page on Google’s Knowledge Panel could be. By sourcing its own listings to present information to users, Google could keep more search activity contained in Google’s universe. This was a wise move, fundamentally. Google My Business would quickly become the most important local search ranking factor for enterprises.

Google My Business has provided tremendous value to Google and businesses alike, but the name has reflected a focus on small businesses. Indeed, Google even announced Google My Business on its small business blog. Today, Google My Business is critical for national brands with multiple locations – the Best Buys and Starbucks of the world. This is one reason why Google Business Profiles makes more sense as a name.

It’s going to take some time for the marketplace to catch up to Google Business Profile but the name feels easier to understand and adjust to than some of the previous iterations.

Adam Dorfman is the Director of Product Growth at Reputation. Follow him on Twitter at @phixed