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The biggest changes to google my business

The biggest changes to Google My Business in 2020

During the turmoil of Covid-19, many bricks and mortar companies found themselves having to navigate running a business through a lockdown. Companies met the challenge head on and adapted their strategy to work with the new normal - retailers moved online, restaurants focused on deliveries, and breweries even started selling hand sanitiser.

These major changes to brick and mortar companies presented issues for Google in how they could gather and display this new information within Google My Business (GMB) and local search.

 

The Beginning

Despite several new features being rolled out in GMB due to Covid, Google chose to initially pause some pre-existing features while they themselves processed how to run their business. In March, Google Posts were temporarily disabled for chain businesses, while no new reviews or Q&As could go live on a listing (nor could a business owner respond to existing reviews). These features remained disabled until April.

Brands were also unable to make major changes to listings that weren’t part of the health industry. This meant that many business owners couldn’t verify, deduplicate, or create new listings as Google focused resources on what they deemed to be key businesses.

However, new features began to roll out over the course of the year, allowing business owners to help effectively communicate with customers - many of which we hope will stick around as they have proved to be highly valuable for brands.

 

New Features

Temporarily Closed Banner (March 2020)

Previously, there wasn’t an easy way to relay to customers that a business is closed on a temporary basis, perhaps due to maintenance or seasonality. Now, GMB has added a ‘Temporarily Closed’ button that adds a red banner marking the location as Temporarily Closed, making it easier for customers to follow.

This can also be applied in bulk via the dashboard so you can manage multiple sites. This feature will continue to be useful to business owners after the pandemic  to temporarily close a business for a short amount of time.

Additional Opening hours (May 2020)

Many stores opened early or closed later to allow extra time for the elderly or keyworkers. This can now be highlighted in the listing under ‘More Hours’ to make it clear that they are separate from normal opening times.

Covid Specific Posts (March 2020)

A popular, existing feature of GMB is the post function where businesses can connect to users by posting about a special offer or an event. While the Covid specific post doesn’t let you upload an image with your text, it’s still likely to be an eye catcher due to its prominent position in the results.

This provides an opportunity to highlight how the business plans to re-open during the pandemic or how they are enforcing social distancing. These posts contain a link through to the site; a potential driver of further traffic.

How to create a Covid-19 post.

Google My Business 1

Business Attributes

It’s no longer enough to just show when your business is open or closed, as the way in which people shop has changed. Some business are now click and collect only, by appointment only, or only have a takeaway option available. These characteristics are highlighted with green ticks or red crosses which are prominently included under the business name.

Depending on which business category the listing falls under, different amenities are available to be selected from inside the GMB dashboard.

While only the main amenities will end up appearing on the listing, business owners can select further detailed attributes that can help them show up for more specific searches. For example, you can select whether or not your business will accept walk ins, or if a temperature check will be required upon entry, or even if your restaurant has outdoor seating. Here’s how.

 

Accountability

Google now advises users on how long ago the business details were last updated. In a reality where lockdown rules change daily, users may be inclined to not rely on information that hasn’t been updated in over a month, or in some cases, over a week. Having an up-to-date listing can improve the businesses trust factor.

Google My Business 2

 

Support your local Business

In an effort to help keep small business afloat, Google have given users the option to buy a gift card straight from the listing, as well donating money directly to the owners.

There are also amenities which highlight important information about the business owners, like if a business is Black-owned or women led.

Google My Business 3

 

Conclusion

The introduction of new Localised COVID restrictions, which not only mean different rules by area but also different alert systems for each country in the UK means it’s more important than ever for businesses to ensure their details are up to date. The new features introduced will make it quick and easy to update opening hours and services offered and Google will be the first port of call for many people to check these.

If you would like support with your Google My Business or Local Search functionality, please contact Anecia Hodds or Barry Loughran for more information.