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Changes to Google My Business due to Coronavirus

Categories: SEO

Google My Business has changed a lot in recent days, as a response to the Coronavirus outbreak and how the lockdown has affected businesses across the country. Last week, we published an article looking at how you can update your business information, but there have been a number of further changes to Google My Business since then.

In this article, we’re covering all of the key changes, plus the best ways to optimise your account and some common issues people are experiencing.

Mark your business as ‘temporarily closed’

With the country in lockdown, the majority of businesses are closed for the time being. Google has responded by allowing you to mark your business as “temporarily closed” in GMB.

Here’s what you need to do:

  1. Sign in to Google My Business
  2. Click on the top-left menu icon (☰)
  3. Select Info from the menu
  4. Scroll down to Close this business on Google
  5. Select mark as temporarily closed
Close this business option on Google My Business

If you’re doing this on desktop, the Close this business on Google section will appear in the right-hand column as you scroll down.

Alternatively, you can show users that your store is temporarily closed by scrolling to the Add special hours section and click on the edit (pencil) button.

Adding special hours on Google My Business

On the next screen, you can click on Add new date and set your business hours as “closed” for specific days. This is designed for setting open hours for public holidays and instances where your normal operating hours don’t apply. However, you can use this during the Coronavirus outbreak to communicate that your regular opening hours have been affected.

The downside to this is you have to manually create a new date for each day affected.

Google suspends reviews and Q&As

While Google is adding certain functionality to help businesses provide accurate information during the Coronavirus outbreak, it is also limiting some trusted features.

First of all, Google My Business will not be publishing any new reviews until further notice and review replies have also been suspended. This is partly due to the fact Google is working with a limited team, although the lockdown also means reviews have little value at this time.

Google has also suspended Q&As.

At the same time, Google’s support team will not be reviewing new listings, claims or verifications for the time being – with the exception of businesses related to healthcare and critical services.

Business information edit delays

With Google running on limited resources, it is also warning that changes to your business information will take additional time to review. Once again, businesses related to healthcare and critical services will be prioritised and, for businesses outside of these exceptions, Google will only review edits to the following pieces of information:

  • Changes to open and closed states
  • Special hours
  • Temporary closures
  • Business descriptions
  • Business attributes

Google says it may take up to three days for these changes to be reviewed.

Post a COVID-19 update

Posts in Google My Business allow you to update potential customers with relevant information, such as events, new products, offers and announcements. In response to the current health crisis, Google has added a new post type, COVID-19 update, for you to get the message out to people in your area.

To create a new post, follow these steps:

  1. Sign in to Google My Business
  2. Click on the top-left menu icon (☰)
  3. Select Posts in the menu
  4. Click the COVID-19 update post type
Covid-19 update now available on Google My Business

You can specify any changes to your business and whether you’re still providing any services – e.g. orders for delivery. You can also add an optional CTA to your COVID-19 update, encouraging people to click through to your website for more information or to order online, for example.

Creating a Covid-19 update on Google My Business

Possible issues with Google My Business

Every business is being affected by the current outbreak and this includes major companies like Google, which is unable to provide its usual services in full. Despite its best efforts to equip businesses with the tools they need during this difficult time, we are hearing reports of a number of issues related to Google My Business functionality.

  • Adding/editing business descriptions: Google initially suggested that businesses add or edit their business descriptions to inform people about the impact of COVID-19 on their services, opening times, etc. However, a lot of GMB users report being unable to do this and Google has since removed the recommendation from its help documentation.
  • Rejected posts: Likewise, many GMB users are reporting that their posts are being rejected, even without any obvious violations. This recommendation has not been removed from Google’s help documentation and the team is said to be working on the issue.
  • Temporary closures: Some businesses also report being marked as temporarily closed without having requested it.

Unfortunately, Google My Business is no longer providing phone or chat support as a result of the outbreak, so you’ll have to rely on email support if you experience any of these (or other issues).

A lot has changed over the past week and there could be further developments in the weeks and months ahead – we’ll be sure to keep you posted.

For more information on optimising your Google My Business account, you can take a look at our other posts:

If you need more advice on how to deal with any changes to Google My Business, you can speak to our local SEO experts by calling 02392 830 281 and you can always reach out to us on social media with any questions.

Dave joined Vertical Leap in 2010 and in 2019 became the Head of Enterprise SEO. He has a wealth of SEO experience, deep knowledge and particularly enjoys the strategy elements. When not doing SEO you can find him flying light aircraft over the Hampshire countryside.

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