Temporary limits to Google My Business Functionality
The Google My Business listings are intended to represent business in “normal” operations. The current chaos is clearly not normal, so Google wants to help out customers by making changes to Google My Business listings functionality. Key to survival over the coming months is letting people know whether you’re open, what your hours are, and what services you provide.
The Google My Business listing information which displays on the right-hand side of a search (desktop), or top of the search (mobile), is typically the first place people will see whether you’re open, your trading hours, etc.
If you’re a non-essential service, but still trading perhaps on reduced hours, then let people know!
Google My Business Features on Pause
New Reviews & Replies on pause
If you’re investing in getting new reviews from your customers, this is one less thing for you to worry about with your business. Google has temporarily suspended new reviews and new review replies. To be clear, existing reviews remain on display.
It’s not 100% certain, but highly likely, any reviews being left by customers will *not* come live once the pandemic is over.
Big applause to Google for this.
This also creates a huge opportunity for you to focus on reviews for other platforms. Customers will often look at reviews from multiple sources, so this is the opportunity to flesh those out. We also know Google uses some of these other platform reviews as part of the Local ranking algo, so it’s only going to be good for you.
Google Q&A on pause
Like reviews, Google has temporarily suspended new questions and answers.
Unlike reviews, they have disappeared from the Knowledge Panel entirely.
User added images on pause
Google has temporarily suspended the ability for consumers to add images to your listing. You can still do so.
One way to communicate your new status or way of doing business is to add an image that says what’s happening.
New Shortnames on pause
New Temporary Closure Option
Up until very recently, the only option for seasonal businesses or businesses undergoing significant renovation, was to contact Support and request they mark the business as temporarily closed. Finally this can be done without the hassle.
All you need to do is log in to your google account, go to your listing, select the Info menu option and chose the temporary closure. Customers will then see the red banner across your listing and know you’re not closed for good, just for now.
Google’s documentation indicates they will be relying on authoritative information (ie provided by governments) to automatically mark many listings as temporarily closed. Schools, gyms, museums, conference centres are examples of listings which may be marked as “temporarily closed”.
While I have yet to see this implemented in the wild, it’s worth keeping an eye on your own business listing JIC.
New Post Type
There is a new post-type available – it’s called a COVID-19 update.
You don’t get an image with this type of post, and it has double the “lifespan” of up to 14 days.
You do still get a range of calls to action buttons.
It’s a bit weird (IMHO) to be such a “plain-jane” kind of post, since it’s meant to be important information about how your business is responding to the COVID-19 situation.
I strongly urge you to review your business hours and update appropriately. As I walk around my town I see some businesses only opening certain days, others shortening their closing times, and still others only opening for a few hours a day.
Don’t keep your customers guessing. In addition to the widespread plastering signs, update your hours on your info tab. You can easily change them later.
Most importantly for every business is to update your business hours (if they’ve changed) and whether or not you’re temporarily closed.
Also remember to check the phone number. If you’ve done the “working from home” thing, your business number may not automatically forward to a mobile number during business hours.
Please *don’t* use the “opening date” feature to indicate when you think you’ll reopen. It will muck up the algorithm and set you back.
Business Name – temporarily closed
You may also add “temporarily closed” to your business name – this is a slackening of the naming rules specifically for this time.
Add info in there to state your status. Add wording to readers confirming if you’re definitely open, if you’re changing your biz hrs/days, if you’re closing for the time being, or changing the way you provide services/products.
Medical – Doctors & Dentists
Help people find you by ensuring your services are up to date. Are you now offering telemedicine? Do you do video consults?
If regulations require you to be open for emergency services only, add “emergency dental” or “emergencies only” to your business name.
Be sure to add posts regularly as things change which could impact your services. Also add posts with correct helpful info to help reduce the mis-information and confusion.
Google are blessing restaurants who are adapting their businesses to takeaway and delivery with the ability to add “delivery available” or “takeaway available” to their business name.
Normally this is against the guidelines, but Google is understanding many businesses are forced to change their business model to survive. They also understand customers still want to patronise their favourite restaurants – so this makes it quick and easy for customers to know how they can support them.
If you’re a pub or restaurant who hasn’t typically provided take-away in the past, then be sure to add the “takeaway” and/or “delivery” attributes, add a new category (take away restaurant, pizza takeaway, etc), as well as add those words in your business description.
It’s atrocious, but nothing has changed for the better with hotels. Even the new post type to let people know what’s happening with COVID-19 isn’t available to hotels, B&B’s, etc.
Put notices on your website at the very least.
Museums, Galleries, etc
If your listing is a public venue with pre-sheduled events and Google displays an upcoming events list, Google has also added a COVID-19 alert box. Google are unlikely to remove the event lists, so handle messaging through posts and notices on your website.
This same notice box will turn up in search results if someone is searching for events.
If your business is a non-essential service, the edits you make to your listing may take a little longer than usual to show. Google are prioritising the information they publish,