Coronavirus has brought about substantial changes in online search behaviour, globally impacting businesses and demonstrating a need for swift adaptability and commitment to deliver value for customers. The most vital step is to ensure customers are receiving the latest local business updates as this information is most likely the first thing customers will see when searching for your business name.
First and foremost, this means keeping your Google My Business listings updated. Take a look at these recommended steps which hope to prevent customers from making unnecessary trips and shows your dedication to keeping them informed.
Google My Business have recently announced updates to their policy during Covid-19.
In a nutshell, this means Google are:
- Processing edits to listings for critical health-related businesses will be prioritised
- Prioritising edits to opening and closing hours, temporary closures and business descriptions
- Reviewing new listing claims and verifications on a case-by-case basis for critical health-related businesses only
- Discontinuing the submission of new reviews and responses to existing reviews temporarily
- Removing the visibility of the Q&A function preventing new questions from being submitted
Prioritise Updating Business Hours
Luckily there is no need to manually update each listing respectively. Instead of changing the regular business hours, Merkle advises adding updates to your business hours as “special hours” and prolonging the period if needed. This will override the regular hours that are appearing live in Google Search and Maps, saves you from having to remember to make a copy of the original business hours and means you can simply delete the special hours when stores are able to reopen.
How to bulk update special hours in Google My Business
1. Select all locations that require revising, select the drop-down actions button and select “Download: Locations”
2. Ensure the spreadsheet format .csv is checked before selecting ‘Download’
3. When the download file is ready a “DOWNLOAD” box in yellow will appear. Select this to download the file
4. The spreadsheet export will have a column labelled “Special hours”. This is the column that temporary hours should be added to. All dates and updated hours should go in the same cell.
- Example: 2020-03-18: x, 2020-03-19: x, 2020-03-20: x, 2020-03-21: x, 2020-03-22: x, 2020-03-23: x, 2020-03-24: x, 2020-03-25: x, 2020-03-26: x, 2020-03-27: x, 2020-03-28: x, 2020-03-29: x, 2020-03-30: x, 2020-03-31: x
- If the listing is not closed but the hours are updated then the special hours cell may read “2020-03-23: 11:00-15:00, 2020-03-24: 11:00-15:00”
- x = closed
5. Save updated spreadsheet and reupload to GMB
Another option is marking stores as “Temporarily Closed” on GMB. This is useful if you only have a handful of stores to temporarily close. According to Google, marking your business as temporarily closed will not affect your search rankings. Despite the pop-up stating “Closed businesses will appear on Google with reduced visibility,” Google’s Danny Sullivan recently confirmed that visibility and rankings will not decrease. Data from several of Merkle’s clients who have recently closed stores aligns with Danny’s claims.
What if you don’t manage all your business listings in Google My Business?
There is potential for marking your store as temporarily closed to affect your rankings indirectly. If stores that you manage are marked as temporarily closed, but there are stores that you don’t own or manage still marked as open, these are likely to show on the local map pack which is what we have observed for one of our clients. It is very important to review your locations in GMB in order to establish if you own or manage these locations prior to marking your listings as temporarily closed.
Enhance the Efficacy of Business Information on Local Landing Pages
It is crucial to intervene early in the user journey with important information. For Retail & Services businesses, Merkle recommends including an official Coronavirus statement on the store locator page as well as updating services and product pages with a statement too. By informing the customer as soon as possible, the brand can protect the customer experience.
Business descriptions on GMB listings can be used to manage information, such as affected business operations, extra precautions being taken, or extra community services.
Consider the following business description do’s & don’ts during Covid-19, before making any changes:
- DO include safeguarding practices that your business is taking to protect employees and customers against Coronavirus
- DO write description in localised language
- DO direct customers to a support phone number or an FAQ section
- DO NOT include a link as this will inhibit processing by GMB
- DO NOT offer any medical advice related to Coronavirus
- DO NOT focus on any e-commerce special promotions or offers
- N.B. If you are a restaurant, you are temporarily permitted to add “delivery available” or “takeout available” to your business name.
New GMB Service Attributes to Better Assist Customers
On the 27th May, Google added new attributes that businesses can display in their GMB profiles. These include:
- "curbside pickup"
- "no contact delivery"
- "in-store shopping"
- "in-store pick-up"
As lockdown measures ease and businesses begin to re-open, many will likely be offering services that differ to their norm. With this update, businesses have the ability to add the above attributes to their GMB profiles to efficiently communicate these updates to customers.
How to bulk update business descriptions in Google My Business
Follow the same steps as bulk updating business hours but replace step 4 with updating the “From the business” column with the updated business description.
Continue to Keep Customers in the Loop using Google Posts
Google has a handy post functionality where businesses can schedule topical updates on business news, available products & services, and links to helpful resources.
This ensures that customers are informed on the status of the business as well as reassuring customers that the information they are receiving is contemporary and relevant. Google posts show in Search and Maps, tend to stay live for 7 days, and have the ability to appear highly ranked in Google’s SERP. As a caveat, be prepared for your business post to be rejected due to the large amount of requests Google are currently receiving.
It is important to note that Google posts cannot be added in bulk. To ascertain which stores should be prioritised for this functionality, consider downloading “Insights” data from Google My Business and choosing the stores with the highest search volume.
Google post do’s & don’ts during Covid-19:
- DO use posts to increase awareness and draw user’s attention to important business updates
- DO add a call-to-action button e.g. “Learn more” that can link to helpful resources
- DO put the most important information at the beginning of the post
- DO NOT go over 1500 characters. The ideal length is 150-300 characters as only the first 100 characters will show on-screen without clicking on the post
- DO NOT offer any medical advice related to Coronavirus
We hope these recommendations can assist in maintaining control of your business in a time of unpredictable change. Adopting the methods outlined and being proactive in your approach to updating Google My Business will allow you to uphold brand-customer relationships. Please get in touch for more information on how to sustain a healthy GMB profile or if you are interested in a full audit of your GMB profile, including a data studio report to track changes in organic traffic during these times.