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Update: As of  July 14, 2020, all reviews across all categories, including healthcare and medical, that were held during the period of time when Google reviews were temporarily suspended, are now appearing on GMB listings. Local SEOs have pointed out that they have started to see reviews for the healthcare industry appear once again. The healthcare industry was the last to see reviews left during March through June appear on their listings, due to the need to closely monitor each review left for accuracy of information.

Update: As of May 13, 2020, new user Google reviews, new user photos, and Q&A will gradually return by country and business category. We have already started to see new reviews publish in both the retail and restaurant industry, and anticipate reviews to roll out to other industries in the coming weeks.

After a nearly three-week hiatus, Google has once again turned on the ability for businesses to respond to Google Reviews. 

Review Responses are Now Functioning

On March 20th, both business owners and consumers were quick to notice they were unable to publish new reviews or utilize Google Q&A functionality. Soon after, review responses were also disabled. In response to concerns over the functionality of Google Reviews and Google Q&A, Google confirmed they were in fact temporarily halting these services, stating, “We are taking steps to protect the health of our team members and reduce the need for people to come into our offices. As a result, there may be some temporary limitations and delays in support as we prioritize critical services.”

As of Tuesday, April 7, Google stated review replies are now available once again. Google also gave an update regarding when new user reviews, new user photos, new short names, and Q&A will be available. They announced, “Over the coming weeks, their availability will gradually expand by country and business category.”

Updates on Other GMB Functionality

Over the past few weeks, businesses have seen more than just their Google Reviews and Q&A experience limitations. There’s also been a delay in business information edits, as Google has moved its limited staff’s focus to edits critical for health-related businesses. For non-health-related businesses, we recommend utilizing Google Posts and business attributes to communicate important updates to your business’ operations during this time. 

Additionally, newly created listings, claims, and verifications will also continue to experience delays in publication in Google Search and Maps, unless you’re a health-related business.What This Means for Enterprise Brands

Now that review responses are enabled, we encourage brands to continue to focus on their reputation management strategy and plan for when new reviews and questions become live again. We recommend taking the following steps for success:

  • Establish a workflow for each of your locations
    • Who will be responsible for monitoring reviews and questions?
    • Who will be responsible for responding to reviews and answering questions?
  • Develop a response plan
    • Who do you escalate issues to that surface from a review? 
    • Who decides which new reviews/questions need a response?
    • How quickly should you be responding?
  • Develop templated responses
    • How do you respond to negative reviews?
    • How do you respond to positive reviews?
    • How do you respond to controversial questions?
    • How will you respond to COVID-19 specific questions?
    • When do you decide to take the conversation offline to further assist the customer?
  • Encourage, but do not solicit reviews
    • How will you generate sincere reviews?
    • What strategies can you employ in your marketing efforts to gain more reviews?
    • How can your customer service team appropriately ask for reviews after support?
  • Measure your progress
    • How many stars does each location have?
    • Which locations are getting the most reviews/questions?
    • Has the number of reviews/questions increased?

It’s evident delays in publishing listings updates and new listings will continue as Google works with reduced support staff. Enterprise brands must remain nimble during these uncertain times, and keep themselves informed on the latest local marketing updates that may impact their local presence.

At Rio SEO, we are continuously updating our COVID-19 resources to provide you with the latest local marketing news and best practices to adopt during this time. We encourage you to check back frequently to see the latest local marketing updates.