how to crisis-proof your local listings

The old adage “expect the unexpected” is ringing true now more than ever. In just the span of a few weeks, a devastating tornado unexpectedly hit the state of Tennesee and the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) has created significant concern as it continues to spread globally. Natural disasters and health crises undoubtedly cause disruptions for people not only in their personal lives but for business operations as well. 

How can your enterprise business effectively weather these storms and tailor your local marketing efforts during these times of unpredictability and disarray? To stay ahead in local search, your business must crisis-proof your local listings. Preparation starts with ensuring your Google My Business (GMB) profile provides the most accurate information to your customers. The updates you make to your GMB profile will then show on your Business Profile on Google Search and Maps. 

To help you prepare for the next time a natural disaster or health crisis arises, we’ve compiled a list of four tips for your local businesses to consider to ensure you’re providing consumers with accurate information consumers crave when searching.

Additionally, due to a large number of businesses affected by COVID-19, Google recently released a new help document that describes how businesses can update their local listings. 

Update Your Store Hours

When a natural disaster occurs, such as the recent storm that hit Tennessee, it’s not uncommon for store hours to be affected in the impacted area. Your business may be closed down completely or you may have to adjust hours of operation. If you don’t communicate these updates to potential consumers, you risk not only losing their business, but potentially adding to the spread of misinformation and confusion that most likely already exists. In fact, 93% of consumers say they are frustrated by incorrect information they find in online directories. Provide the most relevant, up-to-date information and avoid tarnishing your business’ credibility by keeping your store hours updated in your GMB listings, especially during times of crisis.

Store closure example

Example of a store updating their hours of operation due to the Tennessee storm.

Revise Your Phone Number

As COVID-19 continues to sweep across the globe, some businesses have temporarily shut down their operations. For these businesses, simply revising their store hours on GMB is not sufficient. If the business hasn’t updated their phone number to redirect to a home or mobile number when the business has shut down, consumers who try to contact the number listed on their GMB listing will be unpleasantly surprised to find they aren’t able to reach anyone. Update your phone numbers if they’ve changed to ensure customers are able to get in touch with your business and to further crisis-proof your local listings. 

Update Your Business Description

In situations where a natural disaster or health crisis is potentially impacting businesses across the globe, Google recommends explaining whether your business operations are affected by the natural disaster or not. Additionally, Google recommends “sharing information about any extra precautions” your business is taking, such as providing any extra services to the community or if you’re experiencing delays. More information on how to edit your business description can be found here

Create a Google Post

Google Posts allow you to share detailed and timely updates about what’s going on with your business, which may be beneficial when a health or natural crisis takes place. You may want to add more information about the products and services you have available, and link to other resources. Google Posts should be updated on a regular basis as your business changes. To get the most out of your Google Posts and to learn more about how to optimize them, we recommend reading our Google Posts Playbook

google posts

Monitor Your Google Q&A

Customers use the questions and answers section on your Google Maps listings to communicate with you. Are you listening to the questions they’re asking? During times of crisis, customers turn to Google Q&A more than ever to ask if your business will be open, if store hours are affected, or may inquire about certain products you carry. Be sure to proactively monitor and quickly respond to these questions. This can be simplified by working with a local marketing partner who allows you to monitor all of your business’ questions in a centralized dashboard.

It’s important to keep your customers up-to-date with accurate, timely information to ensure they’re aware of any changes in your business operations, whether you’re impacted by a health crisis, like COVID-19, or simply updating your holiday hours. This is especially important to do if your hours of operation are affected, you have an update to your products and services, or change your phone number. If any of the aforementioned are affected, Google wants you to make your customers aware of these changes. By doing so, you build trust with your customers, become the voice of authority, and you strengthen your relationship with your customers, all of which encourage customer loyalty. 

Customers expect updated information on your business at all times and want to know they can trust the information they receive. With the average consumer conducting between 3-4 Google searches a day, it is now more important than ever to have crisis-proof your local listings to be the source of truth for your business, even when a disaster strikes. Is your business prepared for the unpredictable?