Updated May 26, 2020
As the situation surrounding the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic continues to evolve rapidly and new information is emerging constantly, we will be continuously updating this post with the latest information and recommendations. For a current list of platform updates, blogs, resources and other useful links, please visit our COVID-19 Local Marketing Resources page.
COVID-19 Local Search Updates (Week of May 25)
May 26, 2020
As businesses begin to reopen their doors, they must consider how to communicate and market new services and safety practices to local consumers. In last week’s webinar, COVID-19 and the Future of Local Marketing, our local marketing experts Krystal Taing, Director of Local Strategy, Lauren Abramson, Account Director, and Tyler Ludwig, Director of Enterprise Solutions, shared their insights regarding which COVID-related trends are impacting brands and how local marketers can prepare for ongoing or intermittent business interruptions. The trends we explored included:
- Incorporating online business practices into your brick-and-mortar strategy
- Adjusting to dramatic changes in media consumption
- Offering contactless delivery or pickup
- Optimizing your online presence for online or phone ordering
- Handling temporary closures, special hours, and store reopenings properly
- Best practices for post-pandemic local marketing
COVID-19 Local Search Updates (Week of May 11)
May 25, 2020
We are continuing to track the most recent Google My Business updates as businesses across the country prepare to re-open locations in states and regions where regulations are being lifted. The latest updates from the past week include:
- Secondary hours are now available in GMB for some categories (drive-through, senior hours, delivery hours, visiting hours, takeout hours, and pick-up hours)
- New GMB attributes for service categories (online estimates, online appointments, and online classes)
- Google Q&A has re-appeared once again
- New GMB reviews appearing for healthcare, dining, and retail businesses
- GMB is rolling out gift card and donation support links within a new COVID-19 Support Post type
COVID-19 Local Search Updates (Week of May 4)
May 12, 2020
We are continuing to track the most recent Google My Business updates and will continue to share them with you weekly. Last week we hosted part four of our webinar series, “Navigating the COVID-19 Pandemic,” where we shared guidance on strategy for re-opening, as well as the latest third-party platform updates, including:
- GMB virtual care links and display of COVID-19 testing sites
- Updates to GMB attributes, COVID-19 Posts, Reviews, and Q&A
- Google Shopping free product listings
- GMB API v4.6 release
- The latest Bing updates
If you missed the webinar, the on-demand recording is available here.
COVID-19 Local Search Updates (Week of April 27)
May 5, 2020
We are tracking the most recent Google My Business updates and will continue to share them weekly. There were a number of updates this week, including:
- New in-store shopping attribute was added for retail businesses
- Virtual care (telehealth) links appearing in mobile SERPs for healthcare providers
- Reviews and images from the “blackout period” are beginning to publish
- GMB API v4.6 was released
May 4, 2020
A new phase is now underway as restaurants and retailers, among other businesses, re-open or prepare to re-open locations in states and regions where regulations are being lifted. We’ve compiled local marketing guidance and best practices on maintaining accurate, up-to-date listings and local pages as your business prepares to re-open some or all locations, including special hours, new attributes and other restrictions you may need to communicate with customers:
- Revert location names back to normal: Remove any special services you may have added to the business name for locations with limited services.
- Update business hours: Update special hours or set re-opening dates for temporarily closed locations.
- Use attributes to highlight dining, shopping and healthcare options: These include options for takeout, delivery, no-contact delivery, dine-in, in-store pickup, in-store shopping and virtual care.
- Add links to services and resources: Use local business URLs to include links to specific actions such as online orders or reservations.
- Leverage Google Posts: Take advantage of COVID-19, What’s New, Offers and Event post types to share current information.
- Enable Messaging in GMB: Turn on messaging as an additional way to communicate with your customers
- Update local landing pages: Keep pages up to date with more detailed information, and include relevant schema, to build visibility for the services you’re offering.
Read our full list of recommendations: “Opening Up America: Expert Local Marketing Guidance For Enterprise Brands.”
COVID-19 Local Search Updates (Week of April 20)
April 28, 2020
It’s been another busy week in the local search community as businesses balance continuing lockdowns with preparations to re-open across some states and regions. According to federal guidelines, the first phase allows for certain types of businesses to operate under strict social distancing protocols, including restaurants, movie theatres, sporting venues, and gyms. Phases two and three allow for additional businesses to operate, although timing for each phase will likely be determined on a state and regional level. We will continue to provide local marketing updates and recommendations as circumstances change based on the most up-to-date information.
Meanwhile, there have been a number of updates to Google My Business and third-party platforms over the past week that we will further highlight in our next webinar, along with our recommendations for balancing temporary closures/re-openings and new services, including:
- Bing partners with GoFundMe to help affected business
- Google Shopping offers free product listings
- GMB virtual care links for healthcare providers have begun displaying on mobile
- COVID-19 posts older than 15 days are re-appearing
- Bing is now showing COVID-19 links
- “Curbside pickup” and “no contact delivery” GMB attributes displaying on desktop and mobile
- Google Q&A beginning to slowly resurface
COVID-19 Local Search Updates (Week of April 13)
April 21, 2020
Last week we hosted part three of our ongoing series, “Navigating the COVID-19 Pandemic: How Multi-Location Brands Can Keep Customers Informed.” Rio SEO’s Krystal Taing, Director of Local Strategy and Ryan Weber, Director of Client Success, discussed the latest third-party platform and industry updates that enterprise brands can use to adapt their local marketing during COVID-19, including:
- The latest GMB updates on posting new reviews, review response and Q&A
- New GMB profile links for healthcare and medical professionals
- SpecialAnnouncement structured data for COVID-19 related content
- Additional dining, shopping and healthcare attributes in GMB
- Facebook hours and services updates for COVID-19 communications
- How publishers are handling COVID-19 testing sites
COVID-19 Local Search Updates (Week of April 6)
April 14, 2020
As mentioned previously, Google has re-enabled review replies in Google My Business (GMB) as of April 7. Google has not yet shared specific timing regarding the return of new reviews and Q&A; however, we’re beginning to see new reviews publishing again for some businesses. On Friday, Google communicated a few additional GMB features and API updates, including:
- Marking a business or location as temporarily closed via the GMB API
- Making COVID-19 Posts via the GMB API
- Rolling out additional attributes for dining, shopping and healthcare businesses
As of Google’s announcement, our team is actively working to add GMB API integrations to Local Manager for temporary closures and COVID-19 Posts. We will continue to keep you updated as to when we expect this functionality to be available. Regarding attributes, according to Google, “attributes will prominently appear on merchants’ Business Profiles on Google Maps and Google Search results when customers search for your business.”
April 7, 2020
As of today (April 7, 2020) Google has re-enabled review replies in Google My Business (GMB). Google has not yet re-enabled new reviews or Q&A, though the company says those will happen “over the coming weeks.”
Google’s official update says, “Review replies are now available. Over the coming weeks, new user reviews, new user photos, new short names, and Q&A will be available. Their availability will gradually expand by country and business category.” Read more on the GMB help site.
COVID-19 Local Search Updates (Week of March 30)
April 7, 2020
Last week we hosted part two of our webinar series, “Navigating the COVID-19 Pandemic: How Multi-Location Brands Can Keep Customers Informed.” Rio SEO’s Krystal Taing , Director of Local Strategy and Ryan Weber , Director of Client Success, discussed the latest third-party platform and industry updates that enterprise brands can use to adapt their local marketing during COVID-19, including:
- How can brands utilize the new COVID-19 Google Post type?
- What is the difference between temporary closures and special hours on GMB?
- How can brands redirect traffic from a location that is temporarily closed to a location that is open?
- What are the new GMB attributes and how can restaurant brands implement them?
- When are COVID-19 notices being displayed on GMB and can brands control their visibility?
COVID-19 Local Search Updates (Week of March 23)
March 27, 2020
It has been another busy week as businesses work to keep up with rapidly evolving situations at the local level, and as third-party platforms continue to make changes in order to support these efforts. We’ve worked with our local marketing experts to round up some of the most impactful updates from the past week, and answer the most commonly asked questions we’ve been receiving.
In this week’s update, we’ll cover the following local marketing updates from the past week:
- GMB temporarily suspends new reviews, review responses, and Q&A
- Yelp updates review guidelines for COVID-19 mentions
- New COVID-19 Google Post type
- New GMB profile attributes for restaurants
- New GMB temporary closure functionality
- Delays in GMB listings updates for non-healthcare businesses
We will continue to keep you informed on further developments as third-party platforms make additional changes. We encourage you to visit our COVID-19 Resource Center for the latest information and updates. Please reach out if you have any questions, or if there’s any support we can provide. Most importantly, we hope you are staying safe and healthy during this time.
Update on Google and Yelp Reviews
March 20, 2020
As platforms are responding to the influx of reviews during the COVID-19 crisis, they are making changes to their sites. Our team has been monitoring these changes to keep you informed. It has come to our attention that both Google and Yelp have made what appear to be temporary changes to their review guidelines. See below for more information.
Google has updated their official guidelines as a result of the COVID-19 crisis and has temporarily suspended new reviews, review responses, and Google Q&A functionality at this time. Additionally, Google is prioritizing edits critical to health-related businesses, therefore there may be a delay in the publication of updates to listings for other business types.
Yelp has implemented special review guidelines designed to protect local businesses from reputational harm during this crisis, including a zero-tolerance policy for “any claims in reviews of contracting COVID-19 from a business or its employees, or negative reviews about a business being closed during what would be their regular open hours in normal circumstances.”
As we continue to monitor and observe changes these 3rd party platforms are making, we will keep you informed on further developments. Please reach out to us if you have any questions.
Coronavirus (COVID-19) Update and Recommended Actions
March 18, 2020
The past few days and weeks have been unusual and unpredictable, to say the least. As the coronavirus (COVID-19) has continued its spread and become a global pandemic, it has shaken our economy, forced many businesses and schools to close, canceled or suspended sporting events, concerts and other mass gatherings, made travel uncertain, and created a massive shift to remote work for many companies, to name just a few of the many impacts to our daily lives.
We fully understand the importance of providing your customers with accurate, up-to-date information throughout the entire digital ecosystem, and our customer success and support teams are ready to support our customers throughout this challenging time. We are currently recommending the following actions/updates in order to maintain accurate business information and keep customers up to date:
- Update listings with special hours or temporary closures
- Update business descriptions to add custom COVID-19 messaging
- Publish unique services and amenities (e.g., drive-thru, pick up, delivery, etc.)
- Leverage Google Posts
- Add messaging to local landing pages
- Stay on top of reviews*
* Please note that as of 3/20/20 Google has temporarily suspended new reviews, review responses, and Google Q&A functionality. Additionally, Google is prioritizing edits critical to health-related businesses, therefore there may be a delay in the publication of updates to listings. For more information, please see Google’s support article: Limited Google My Business functionality due to COVID-19.
Our team is available to help implement these changes on behalf of our clients, and as we get support updates from other partners, we will share those as well.
Please note that due to the significant increase in requests to Google, we have observed longer than normal lead times for updating data in their platform. Although changes may go live more quickly, we are advising our customers that there may be a delay in submissions during this time.
A note on COVID-19 Testing Facilities: If your organization will be launching these, please let us know and we can work to publish separate listings for these, at no additional cost, on the sites that are accepting these.
We will continue to share new resources as they become available. For the most up-to-date information, please visit our COVID-19 Local Marketing Resources page.
Please feel free to reach out to us with any questions, concerns or requests you may have. We are happy to help in any way we can.
Wishing good health for you, your family and your entire organization.