Changes to Google My Business due to Coronavirus

Google My Business has seen a number of changes within the past few days, with no doubt that there are more to come, in response to the Coronavirus pandemic and its impact on businesses across the country.

Many businesses around the country, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, will be operating with fewer staff. Google is no different. Due to this, the functionality of Google My Business has been updated to reflect this lesser-manned workforce.

In this article, we’ll cover all of the key changes that you, as a local business owner or local SEO, should be aware of.

Ability to mark your business as ‘temporarily closed’

With the nation now in lockdown, numerous businesses are closing their doors. Google has responded to this in an agile manner, offering businesses the ability to mark their business as ‘temporarily closed’ on their GMB listing.

Here are the steps you’ll need to follow:

  • Sign in to your Google My Business
  • Click on the upper-left icon (☰)
  • Select Info from the menu
  • Scroll down to ‘Close this business on Google’
  • Select mark as temporarily closed

If you’re updating your business information on a desktop, the Close this business on Google section can be located on the right-hand side of your screen as you scroll down the webpage.

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

On the screen that will appear, you have the option to add new dates and set your business hours as ‘closed’ for certain days. This feature is generally used for setting open hours during public holidays and instances where normal operating hours don’t apply. However, during the Coronavirus pandemic, businesses can use this feature to communicate that their regular opening hours have been affected. This is particularly useful for those businesses that still remain open, and are seen to be open, but with changes in their opening hours.

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

Google suspends Review’s and Q&A’s

While Google, as stated earlier, continues to add new functionality to help businesses provide accurate information during the Coronavirus pandemic, it’s also limiting some trusted features.

Google My Business will no longer publish new reviews until further notice, with review replies also suspended. As mentioned beforehand, this is largely due to Google having to function with a limited team.

Google has also said that Q&A’s will be suspended until further notice.

Google’s support team will not be reviewing new business listings, claims or verifications for now - with the only exception being ‘critical services’, with Google still issuing a warning of potential delays for businesses in these industries.

Business information update delays

With Google functioning on limited resources, it’s warned that fundamental changes to your business information will take additional time to review. Once again, businesses that are considered ‘critical’ will be prioritised and, for businesses that reside outside of these exemptions, Google will only review updates for the following pieces of information:

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

Google warns that merchants may experience similar delays when contacting support regarding these pending edits.

Posting COVID-19 updates

Google My Business posts allow you to update loyal and potential customers with relevant information, such as events, offers and new product launches. In response to the Coronavirus pandemic, Google has added an additional post type, ‘COVID-19 update’, designed to allow businesses to inform customers of their current operational status.

To create a COVID-19 post, simply follow these steps:

  • Sign in to your Google My Business account
  • Click on the top-left menu icon (☰)
  • Select Posts in the menu
  • Click the COVID-19 update post type

Through this system, your business is able to update customers on any possible changes to your business and whether you’re still providing any services - e.g a restaurant may still be offering a takeaway service. For those of you not familiar with GMB, you’re also able to include an optional call-to-action (CTA), which may encourage users to click through to your COVID-19 policy on your website for instance.

Reported issues with Google My Business

In these troubling times, even big businesses like Google are not exempt from the impacts the current outbreak is causing. Due to this, Google is only able to offer limited services.

There are a number of reports of issues related to current Google My Business functionality, despite Google’s best efforts to operate efficiently.

  • Posts being rejected: Many GMB users are reporting that their posts are being rejected, even without obvious violations. Google is aware of the problem and the team is said to be working on the issue currently.
  • Updating/adding business descriptions: Initially, Google suggested that businesses add or edit their business descriptions to reflect their current operational status, in regards to the impact COVID-19 may have had on their business. However, some GMB users have reported being unable to do this, with Google since removing the recommendation from its help article.
  • Temporary closures: Some businesses have reported their business being marked as temporarily closed without having requested it.

As a result of the outbreak and its reduced workforce, Google is unable to provide phone or chat support. Instead, you will have to rely on email support if you experience any of these issues - delays should be expected.

This situation is extremely dynamic, with a number of changes being implemented over the past week alone, with further developments likely. Don’t worry though, as we’ll keep you updated of any future developments.

We appreciate that all businesses are affected during the coronavirus pandemic and we're doing everything we can to support our clients and other small businesses. If you need any assistance, please don’t hesitate to get in touch