Your life has changed. Your business has changed—and the tools you use are changing right along with it.
Like many of you, Google has sent staff to work from home or reduced staffing in specific departments due to the COVID-19 pandemic. These reductions have meant changes for their popular listing tool, Google My Business (GMB).
In case you’re not familiar, Google My Business is a free tool that enables you to manage how your business appears on Google Search and Maps. This includes your business name, location, hours, as well as monitoring and replying to consumer reviews, questions, photos, and more.
Due to the reduced staffing, GMB has prioritized support for essential businesses, such as healthcare, restaurants, and grocery stores — those with employees on the frontline. As a result, other industries are seeing limited functionality, delayed review posting, or unusual rejections of updates to profiles. Despite the changes, there’s still a lot you can do with Google My Business to keep your customers informed and earn brownie points with Google. We talked with Nalini Prasad, Chief Strategy Officer at BluShark Digital, to give us the lowdown on the changes and provide some actionable steps to combat the effects.
Editing Business Information: For those businesses considered non-essential, you may experience publishing delays when attempting to edit or update any information about your business. If this should happen, let your customers know about the updates on other channels like social media.
New Listings, Claims, and Verifications: Businesses must verify ownership and location information with Google My Business. Google confirms this information by sending a postcard with a code to the physical address of your business. You then must enter the code into Google and voila, you’re verified. As most of Google’s employees are working from home, expect delays on these postcards unless you’re an essential health-related business.
An uptick in Rejected Posts: You may have noticed benign posts, such as special offers or updates on service, are being rejected by Google My Business. Again, this is due to Google not having the staff to approve the posts, so the system automatically rejects them. The same goes for reviews. GMB is working on re-processing the backlogged requests, so be sure to review your profile to see if they’re live in the several weeks. If not, you can reach out to Google support or create a new post.
New Features to Utilize
COVID-19 Update: You can use the new COVID-19 update feature on GMB to create posts related to your business and the pandemic (ex. you’re short-staffed or will be slow to respond). The post is then prominently displayed on your profile.
Temporarily Closed: Use this feature to communicate with your consumers if your business is closed during the pandemic. Make sure to update your phone number to your cell phone or regular phone number in the interim. Are you looking to transfer business calls to your cell phone or choose your caller ID when returning customer calls? We can help with that!
Special Hours: If your business is open with reduced or different hours because of the pandemic, use the Special Hours feature to override your regular business hours. Changes are displayed immediately as they are critical for your audience.
Business Name: You can add pertinent information to your GMB title, such as “Curbside Pickup,” “No-Contact Delivery,” or “Takeout Available.” Under normal circumstances, adding service information not part of your business name is not permitted, but in the current pandemic-life, this is temporarily allowed.
As you know, there has been much disruption to how your business operates, making it critical to communicate with your audience. GMB is one fundamental way to achieve this. If you haven’t already, you may want to update Yelp, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Apple Maps, and any other channel that makes sense for your business.