How to update your Google Business Profile(s) for COVID-19

Professor M

Google Business Profile (formerly Google My Business) Expert, Trainer, Speaker

How to update your Google Business Profile(s) for COVID-19

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During most of 2020, Google has been working on tools, features and giving advice on how to best manage the current pandemic affecting businesses all over the world.

This guide has the most current advice for businesses on how to deal with their Google Business Profiles.

For Businesses affected by COVID-19

You will be able to change the business description, make a special Covid19 post, mark the listing “temporary closed” or apply special hours. With special features for retail, food businesses, and healthcare providers.

“Grab a seat” as I will show you how to do it, all the rules, examples, and a FAQ section.

Does your business need to be or is it already temporarily closed?

Google launched a “Temporarily Closed” feature during the last week of March and is auto applying it to some businesses based on official National and local government sources regarding business closures for some categories.

Businesses can manage this feature in the Info section of the GMB dashboard.

Check this article: How to make your profile show temporarily closed label on Google Maps and Search.

Is your business still open but changed operating hours?

If your business has temporarily adjusted hours and/or is closed for some of the days, you should use the “special hours” feature to keep your customers up to date. 

How to use the “special hours”/Holidays Feature Here

Verified businesses can remove the COVID-19 disclaimer when they update recent special hours. The disclaimer won’t appear if a business hasn’t set hours of operation or if you mark your business as “Temporarily closed.” If the latter, also attributes such as takeout or delivery won’t display on your profile.

Change your business description

Explain whether your business operations are affected by COVID-19. You can share information about any extra precautions that your business is taking, such as moving to takeaway or delivery only. You can also share if you’re providing any extra services to the community, or whether you’re experiencing delays. 

How to change your business description

  1. On your computer, sign in to Google Business Profile Manager.
  2. If you have multiple locations, open the location you’d like to manage.
  3. In the menu on the left, click Info.
  4. Go to the business description section at the end of the page
  5. Change the text and click Apply.

Do not include URLs or HTML code, or exceed 750 characters in the description field.

How to Create a COVID-19 Post

To make sure that COVID-19 content is more noticeable to your customers, use the new COVID-19 post type on Google Business Profile. The COVID-19 post type lasts for 14 days, so it will have to be renewed every fortnight until your situation changes.

You should share more detailed and timely updates about what’s going on with your business through Posts. For example:

  • Business statement
  • The impact on customers
  • Add information about closures or reduced hours
  • If remains open, how employees are being protected through social distancing
  • How customer service will be affected
  • The location of changes to service
  • A minimum time the action will be taken for
  • Suggest the purchase of gift cards to support your business

Step by step on how to create a COVID-19 post:

  1. On your computer, sign in to Google Business Profile Manager.
  2. If you have multiple locations, open the location you’d like to manage.
  3. From the menu, click Posts.
  4. At the top of the page, choose the “COVID-19 update” tab.
  5. On the “Update your Status” box area, add the information you want to add
  6. You can add a button to your website, but it’s optional
  7. To get a preview of your post, click Preview.
  8. If you’re happy with your preview, click Publish.

These updates will show as a standalone carousel just below the business info, it will look like this on your profile:

Specific features for Retail and Food businesses affected by COVID-19

First add attributes to your profile, to let your customers know whether your food business offers takeaways/takeout, delivery, or kerbside pickup and/or stopped providing dine-in service. Add or edit the “Dine-in,” “Takeout” “Delivery,” and “Kerbside pickup” attributes on Google Business Profile.  For Retail, tell your customers whether you offer pickup, delivery, or curbside/kerbside pickup or isn’t open for in-store shopping.

Note: If a business is marked “Temporarily closed,” these attributes for both food and retail establishments will not show on Google Search and Maps

Step by step on how to add attributes.

When customers search for your food business, your Business Profile will prominently show which of these dining options you currently support: “Dine-in,” “Takeout,” “Delivery,” or “Curbside pickup.” Supported options will have a “✓” and non-supported options will have an “x.”

Another thing you can do is update your menu, if you have reduced your meal options or have meal deals and specials to attract customers.

How to Add or edit your menu items

  1. On your computer, sign in to Google Business Profile Manager.
  2. Choose the location you’d like to manage.
  3. In the menu on the left, click Menu 
  4. Add or edit your menu items.
  5. Click Add.

Specific features for Healthcare providers

In an update specifically launched for health and medical professionals, Google has introduced two new links in the Google Business Profile Manager. You will need to add telemedicine or telehealth as services, if the type of service isn’t listed, you can add them as custom services. This feature is available in the US and displays on smartphones only.

Google released a best practice guide to help health organizations make COVID-19 information more accessible:  https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/9781983

In addition to the best practices guide, Health agencies that publish COVID-19 information can take part in Google’s technical support group. This group helps answer Google Search questions that you may have about your website. Complete this form to request access to this technical support group.

You can include COVID-19 testing information, restricted visitor hours, a COVID-19 hotline, and/or whether visits and appointments are still occurring in person.

Gift Cards and Donation Campaigns

Google released a new feature to help small local businesses: Google Business Profile Support Campaign Links

Enables you to link to campaigns asking for donations and/or gift card purchases. You can also “share a personal message” post to inform customers how funds will be used.

This will add special links in the listing that customers can click on to purchase gift cards or make donations.

Google accepts links from these partner platforms:

Donations: PayPal and GoFundMe 

Gift Cards:  Website, Square, Toast, Clover, and Vagaro. 

Google is not charging any additional fees for this service, though there may be fees charged by Google’s third-party partners.

This feature will be released first in the following countries: United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia, and New Zealand.

Google is putting measures in place to prevent it from being abused. Present Business eligibility criteria:

  • Businesses must be verified before March 1, 2020.
  • Businesses must have a physical storefront.
  • Owners and site managers of the Business Profile can use the posts feature to add a gift card and donation links.

How To Setup a Gift Card or Donation Campaign:

  1. Create your gift card or donation page
  2. Gift card links can be one of the approved 3rd party providers or a page on your website. Donation links can only go to the approved 3rd party provider.
  3. Eligible businesses can create both gift card and donation pages and link to both of them at the same time.
  4. On your computer, sign in to Google Business Profile Manager.
  5. From the menu, click Posts and choose “COVID-19 support.” Alternatively, click “Get support from customers” directly on Google Business Profile Manager home page.
  6. Enter a message to customers and at least one link.
  7. To save your changes, click Post.

Google advised limited Google Business Profile functionality due to COVID-19

In summary, Google advised the following:

  • Priority on the review of business edits for critical health-related businesses, and then open and closed states, special hours, temporary closures, business descriptions, and attributes
  • Review replies are now available. New user reviews, new user photos, new short names, and Q&A have returned as well.
  • Delays for publication of new profiles, claims, and verifications for non-priority types of businesses

FAQ

Will the ranking of my profile be impacted by marking “Temporarily Closed”?

Google confirmed that marking your business as temporarily closed does not impact ranking. 

My business is marked “Temporarily closed”, but I didn’t do it. What is happening?

It was done automatically by Google, as Google uses authoritative data sources, where available, to mark certain types of places as ‘Temporarily Closed’ on Google Search and Google Maps. The sources of the information include national, state/provincial, and local governments, non-profit organizations, educational institutions, and businesses.

Temporary closures placed by Google will end as announced by authoritative sources. Otherwise, temporary closures can be directly removed through Google Business Profile Manager.

Some businesses that had used the Special Hours feature to add closures received an automated email from GMB with the subject line, “Important: [Business Name] is marked as closed on Google”.

A new alert banner now appears in the Info section of their GBP Manager, which says “Based on recent updates, this business has been marked as closed”. When you click on Review update, it prompts you with a message to confirm if your business is closed (Yes/No). When you select yes, there will be a new option in the Info section under the header Reopen this business on Google where you can select “Mark as open”.

What categories of places are covered here?
Any categories of places that authoritative sources say are temporarily closed. For example, schools are a common example of a type of place that may be listed as ‘Temporarily Closed’. Other possible types of places an authoritative data source can mark as ‘Temporarily Closed’ may include museums, gyms, and shops.

How can someone request an update the “Temporarily closed” status and how quickly will the update be made?

A business owner with a Google Business Profile account can directly update their ‘Temporarily Closed’ status to reopen and that change will be effective immediately.
If it doesn’t publish right away, contact GMB support.

I have events on my Google Business Profile, what do I need to do?

If you postpone or cancel events, you need to update those events’ details across all the channels you use to promote the events (Facebook events, Eventbrite, and Meetup…)

For businesses that have Events in their GMB’s profile, there is a new alert message that says “Event information may be out of date due to the coronavirus (COVID-19). Confirm details with event organizers.” above the events lists. Helping businesses that were not able to change/remove the events information across the promotion channels that are feeding Google Business Profile.

Bonus

Ideas for your website:

  • Add a banner on all pages of the website with key information such as “temporarily closed”, “drive-up service available 9-5 Monday – Friday” or “storefront closed but we can still ship to you.”
  • Information about how your business has been affected by COVID-19, and detail any services that remain available to customers.
  • Hours of operation are correct everywhere they are mentioned on the website plus your main contact phone number if it has changed due to the situation
  • Create new content about local resources in your community for all kinds of basic needs, and services you discover are being provided by other businesses in your city, you will be strengthening your community.
  • Add the Special Announcement schema type.
  • Also, Google has added some new tools to its Google Optimize website experimentation platform in order to help businesses communicate operational changes as a result of COVID-19.  For example, you can get a new banner option that enables businesses to add a simple notification along the top of their website to highlight key business changes due to the COVID-19 lockdowns.

Don’t forget to update your business information on directories and social media channels, for example:

Bing- Bing has added a “temporarily closed” status in the Bing Places dashboard and through API so businesses can mark themselves closed due to COVID-19.

Businesses with temporarily changed hours should update their ‘Hours of Operation’ in the dashboard or set up ‘Special Opening Hours’.

Bing has announced it has partnered with GoFundMe to integrate it into Bing Places

Yelp– Yelp has introduced a new field called “temporarily closed”.

This is meant to be used by businesses that are or will be closed (but not on a permanent basis) due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Businesses need to indicate the “end date” for when this business status will end.

Given the uncertainty surrounding timelines, Yelp is allowing users to provide an “estimate” for the end date which they can always update later. Special opening hours can be added on Yelp itself, too.

Neither field is available in the API.

Update your hours of operation, add temporary closure information, indicate the availability of take-out or delivery services, add virtual service offerings, edit your Covid-19 Advisory Alert, and update your ‘About the Business’ section.

Yelp launched a relief program for restaurants and bars impacted by the Coronavirus

Facebook– Proactively share important information with customers.

Pin important posts to the top of your Facebook Page for quick viewing.

You might include information about the measures you’re taking to make your premises or products safe, or how you will handle customer inquiries if there are expected shipping delays.

Update your Page hours to show your customers how and when you’re available for business.

Notify customers of any changes or modifications to your availability or services by updating your Page Info and selecting ‘Open with Service Changes’ or ‘Temporarily Closed’, depending on your situation.

Facebook is partnering with payment services to offer businesses ways to provide gift cards to their customers for future use while their doors are closed.

Facebook and Instagram are launching new features designed to help users find, discover, and support small businesses, including an option for users to ‘Find Businesses Nearby’ as well as show their support through stickers and hashtags.

TripAdvisor– Encourage people to purchase gift cards from stores by adding a URL for gift card purchases. For qualifying categories – indicate ‘Takeout available’ and/or ‘Delivery available’ options

Nextdoor – there are new ways for neighbors to help Local Businesses on Nextdoor, here is the full statement

Statement to customers for business description and COVID19

 As a minimum, Statement to customers tend to cover:

  • The impact on customers
  • Add information about closures or reduced hours
  • If remains open, how employees are being protected through social distancing
  • How customer service will be affected
  • The location of changes to service
  • A minimum time the action will be taken for
  • Suggest the purchase of gift cards to support your business

Examples

Example 1

We continue to monitor the latest updates about the global COVID-19 outbreak and are taking actions to safeguard the health of our employees and preserve our ability to operate. We have identified areas which we consider critical to operate and have implemented operational continuity plans within our teams to ensure we have sufficient resources to keep running safely and provide “our products”/”services” to our customers.

Please take care of yourselves and your families and follow all government and health service advice.

Stay safe,

Example 2

Due to recent events surrounding COVID-19 and for the safety and well-being of our teammates and customers our store(s) is/are now temporarily closed.

 For more information on Covid19 see https://www.oursite.com

We wanted to reassure you that all your usual needs can still be catered for through our Website.

Please take care of yourselves and your families and follow all government and health service advice.

Stay safe,

What are we finding on Google when we search?

When we search for food near us, Google is showing places offering takeaway and delivery.

Google is advising everywhere on its properties: Google Search and Google Maps that hours may differ due to COVID-19

Those establishments that have different hours for Seniors citizens:

Do not press on the “null” as it can mess up your hours:

 Krystal Taing shared how the “buttons” in the business listing are associated with the “Order Food with Google” feature, which means non-participating restaurants that get these buttons show users a “sorry this restaurant doesn’t participate” label.

Barry Schwartz shared a new temporary look for Google Maps that labels businesses as temporarily closed, offering takeout and delivery, etc. 

New online scheduling attribute and no-contact delivery:

It appears that old Q & A are returning AND new ones are being accepted. They show in the Business Profile as well.

Google shows if a specific location, pharmacy, etc, is a COVID-19 testing center in the US.

I hope this article helped you.

If you need further help, I am here for you. It does not matter if it’s your business or you are a professional that wants help with a client case, I have these services for you:

To learn the latest about Google Business Profile (Google My Business), you should check these articles:

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