COVID-19 Blog header image

As the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic continues to escalate and news changes by the hour, brands must prepare to inform their customers with accurate, up-to-date information at the local level. With a heightened state of awareness, now comes the need more than ever for your local data to be the source of truth for concerned customers. 

In an effort to assist with this, Google CEO Sandar Pichai recently announced Google Search and Maps will show if a place or a business is temporarily closed. This news comes on the heels of an announcement Google made last week urging local businesses to update their hours and other pertinent information via their Google my Business (GMB) profiles. Pichai wrote, “In the coming days, we’ll make it possible for businesses to easily mark themselves as ‘temporarily closed’ using Google My Business.”

Yet, it can be a challenge to update your business listing information and engage with your customers when managing hundreds or thousands of locations at scale. To help keep your customers informed on your business operations across all your locations during a time of crisis, we’ve rounded up our top 4 tips from our local marketing experts.

1. Monitor Your Reviews

Your customers are talking about your business, even during times of crisis. They’re commenting on their experience, giving you praise, and providing you with valuable feedback—all of which can give you tremendous insight into how to adjust and improve your business’s operations as you navigate this challenging time. If you neglect to respond to your reviews in a timely manner, you risk hurting your brand’s credibility, damaging trust, and potentially even losing customers. 

To ensure you’re staying informed of what customers are saying across all your locations, it is best to implement a comprehensive reviews strategy, if you do not have one in place already. To get started, make sure you:

  • Put the proper tools in place that allow you to monitor reviews across all your locations, ideally from one, centralized dashboard. This gives your brand a single vantage point to gauge customer sentiment and identify any potential issues before they worsen.
  • Implement clear, documented processes, including an internal workflow so that everyone from the corporate level down to local managers knows who will be responsible for monitoring and answering reviews, then make sure to hold each person accountable for their role.
  • Adjust your response techniques as needed, including any necessary changes in communication styles and messaging during sensitive times, such as what we are now currently experiencing with the COVID-19 pandemic. Ensure your team is equipped with corporate-approved, templated responses, and can make adjustments quickly as circumstances change, to ensure clarity and continuity across the brand.

Google reviews example

2. Update Your Local Pages

Your local landing pages are valuable resources for customers to learn important information regarding each location. They also should be updated frequently when any changes are made, which holds especially true during times of crisis as circumstances change and business decisions are made.

For example, we’ve seen a number of our clients surface information and customer updates regarding COVID-19 on their local pages. The updates your brand should consider making at the location-specific level include:

  • Corporate messaging regarding how the business is preparing for the crisis, including any specific health precautions they’re taking to ensure the safety of their customers
  • Prominent notice of special hours or temporary store closures
  • Q&A that features answers to commonly asked customer questions
  • Product inventory/availability (where applicable), particularly with respect to products that may be in high demand

Customers want access to this information and are now starting to expect to see it when they visit your website. Ensure you’re prepared to deliver the information they need when they need it most.

3. Answer Your Customers’ Questions

Your business should not only be proactively listening to the questions customers, the community and others are asking, but also answering those questions. A few years ago, Google introduced the ability for customers to ask questions with the GMB Knowledge Panel, called GMB Q&A. However, this feature is often underutilized by local businesses who instead allow the public to answer questions on their behalf. It’s extremely important, particularly during a health crisis such as COVID-19, for the brand to become the voice of authority among the community and to supply accurate, brand-verified information for common questions.

Additionally, businesses that fail to answer their customer’s questions risk losing business, and breaking consumer trust and damaging their brand’s reputation. Amid constant concerns and questions surrounding COVID-19, businesses will likely see an influx of questions coming their way on the local level. Take the necessary steps to ensure you are prepared to answer these questions across all your locations with the timely and accurate information that consumers are looking for.

Google Q&A Screenshot

4. Share Timely Updates Through GMB

As a local business, you have the ability to publish your offers, events, products, and services directly to Google Search and maps by posting through GMB. In times of crisis, it can be beneficial for your local business to utilize Google Posts to keep customers informed. This may include corporate messaging (as mentioned above), high-demand or limited product availability, or special services that are of critical importance to customers and/or the public.

Make sure to include all relevant information to ensure your customers are equipped with the information they are seeking from your business, especially during times of uncertainty.

The Rio SEO team is here to help your business succeed in local marketing across all your locations, especially when it matters most. It’s our commitment to our customers to continue to provide the quality support they expect and to inform businesses of local search marketing best practices. For more information on how to keep your brand’s presence up to date, read our article, Crisis-Proof Your Local Listings: How to Stand Out During Unforeseen Events.