The sudden onset of COVID-19 is dominating headlines and impacting every aspect of life—and local listings are no exception during this very unusual time. You may have assumed that something as fundamental as your Google My Business (GMB) profile wouldn’t need to be altered, but the situation has already prompted Google to release a help document specifically to address COVID-19’s effect on GMB.
The following three steps represent the best way to communicate with your customers throughout the pandemic. After all, customers that are dissatisfied by inaccurate hours or unannounced service interruptions will still be dissatisfied when business returns to normal. Likewise, if you can handle these issues with aplomb, existing customers will remain loyal and countless new customers could discover you when their usual preferred businesses fail to step up to the plate.
Communicate through Google Posts
Google Posts could prove to be worth their weight in gold in times like these. These microblogs are visible right on your GMB profile, allowing you to inform your customers of important news, announcements, or changes directly on the SERP. If you are able to provide any additional services to your community during the outbreak, this is an excellent touch point to keep customers informed, as Google is making clear:
Google Posts are a good way to promote special messaging such as the availability of specific items (like hand sanitizer!). They can also be used to capture interest from customers that may not usually consider your business. For instance, if a user’s usual grocery store has run out of kosher goods, your kosher-focused Google Post can help you rank for those niche searches.
Stay on top of updates!
Everyday life has been disrupted for people and businesses all over the world. But that’s no reason to allow your listings to wither on the vine. In fact, this is a great time to focus on making your listings the best they can be.
Update your hours of operation
GMB allows you to not only alter your routine business hours but also set special hours for holidays and other events. If your business is open later than usual or otherwise has unique hours during the pandemic, you should set this in your GMB account to let customers know. Nobody knows how long COVID-19 disruption will last, so in the meantime you can set your standard operating hours to fit your new schedule.
Update your phone number
Your business’s phone number should always be a local number—and now you’re going to find out why. With an influx of calls to your corporate office or other non-local call centers, you will see a lot of worried customers unable to get answers to their local questions. If your business phone is not already local and accurate, update it immediately. It’s an accepted best practice at the best of times, and even more so during a pandemic.
Update your categories
Some businesses have already had to alter their businesses enough to consider a major (but temporary) change in their business model. For example, your restaurant may now only offer delivery and decline to provide dine-in options for the time being. In instances such as these, consider changing your business category from something like “Pizza Restaurant” to “Pizza Delivery”. The category update will both inform customers more accurately and help you rank much higher for delivery-based searches over dine-in searches.
Update your business description
For public safety, your fundamental business description should be altered to inform customers how COVID-19 is being handled by your business. Explain whether your business is affected by COVID-19 or not, describe extra precautions being taken, and list additional services being offered.
It’s a very trying time but the most important thing is to keep calm, stay informed, and inform your audiences in turn. When the COVID-19 outbreak is behind us, your friends and customers will remember which businesses were most adaptable, understanding, and accommodating. Be kind and be smart—not just to help your business, but to help everyone who is going through this difficult time.