Navigating the COVID-19 pandemic header image

As we continue to adapt and adjust to a new way of life, so too has Google and other third-party platforms to account for these changes to business operations. From the onset of the pandemic, search platforms have been quick to make updates to better surface your business’ critical information, enabling brands to effectively communicate with curious customers. However, these updates happen quickly and often, making it difficult to keep up with ongoing local marketing recommendations. 

To take the guesswork out for you, we’ve assembled a panel of Google My Business (GMB) experts to provide you with the latest in the local search space. Recently, we hosted the third part of our ongoing series, Navigating the COVID-19 Pandemic: How Multi-Location Brands Can Keep Customers Informed. Krystal Taing, GMB Gold Product Expert and Director of Local Strategy at Rio SEO, and Ryan Weber, Director of Client Success at Rio SEO, joined together to discuss the latest updates impacting the local marketing landscape over the past two weeks. Some of the updates covered in the webinar included:

  • 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 Webinar Speakers

To get a high-level view of what was discussed, we’ve recapped the webinar for you below. The full on-demand recording is also available for viewing.

Can you discuss, given the most recent changes with Google Reviews, and the changes that are still forthcoming, how brands should be thinking about their reputation management strategy?

Google recently announced they will gradually begin to publish new reviews in the coming weeks and that businesses may now respond to reviews once again. We have already begun seeing restaurant and retail brands receiving new reviews, and we anticipate other industries will start to see new reviews soon as well. The healthcare industry will likely be the last industry to see new reviews, due to the influx of reviews received and the strong need to moderate these reviews.  

As review functionality continues to be restored, it’s critical for brands to adjust their reputation management strategy to effectively respond to any COVID-19-related feedback you may receive. If you do receive negative feedback, communicate and share with your consumers in an engaging way the challenges you’ve been experiencing. If your brand has been doing anything to help your community, this is worth noting as well in your responses. The whole world is collectively experiencing an abundance of uncertainty. Because of this, you may see a shift in review feedback. 

Can you discuss what the new GMB profile links are, when healthcare brands can expect to see them, and if you have any recommendations for how they should be utilized?

GMB recently introduced new links in businesses’ profiles that direct visitors to COVID-19-related pages on their websites. Right now, these links are only displaying on mobile searches, however, we anticipate this will soon be available for desktop searches as well. It’s important to note we have seen a few cases where Google is proactively linking to a brand’s COVID-19 resource page on their own, which is why we recommend you continue to check your GMB profile to ensure the information being displayed is accurate and directing search traffic to the right destinations, whether you are in the healthcare industry or any other vertical. 

GMB Profile COVID Link

Can you further explain what the new GMB attributes for restaurants, retail, and healthcare are and how businesses can leverage them?

In addition to the attributes that have always been available for restaurants, GMB has offered a few new attributes as well, such as no contact delivery and curbside pickup. As the need for contactless delivery rises, GMB has extended this functionality to other industries as well. For retail, we are also now seeing curbside pickup and delivery attributes. For healthcare, we are seeing video visits attributes, as well as new profile links for telehealth and the aforementioned COVID-19 info link.

If you have previously overlooked some of the attributes available to you in GMB, now is a great time to familiarize yourself with them, evaluate which you can apply to your business, and update them across all your locations as Google is looking to highlight these to searchers.

GMB Profile Attributes

How can brands implement COVID-19 announcements on their web pages using structured data?

Brands can now leverage SpecialAnnouncement structured data to communicate critical changes to their business operations related to COVID-19. To start, Google will focus on highlighting this type of structured data for healthcare and government organizations and will start to roll out to other verticals in the coming months. Though your brand may not be in the healthcare industry, we still recommend you utilize schema markup now to tell Google that you are highlighting a COVID-19-related announcement for when they do start to prioritize other industries.

Can you discuss the update to hours and services on Facebook Pages, and why brands should leverage this functionality?

Similar to what GMB has already implemented, Facebook recently announced the ability to publish hours updates and service changes on business pages. If your business is temporarily closed, you can now indicate that. Another option is to indicate your business is temporarily offering different services, which essentially means you are still open but in a different capacity, such as restaurants who are closed for dine-in but still offering takeout. Facebook is encouraging brands to couple this functionality with posts detailing services they have available such as curbside pickup or in-store pickup. Brands can pin posts to the top of their timeline as another method for communicating critical messages to their customers.

Can you discuss how Apple Maps and other publishers are handling COVID-19 testing sites?

While publishers are still looking to brands for accurate, up-to-date information on COVID-19 testing sites, they are also being very cautious with publishing this information, especially in cities and states that have been hit the hardest. To ensure the information they are publishing is accurate, publishers have been slower to roll this out. For Apple Maps specifically, testing locations appear with a red medical glyph icon and a special banner in the Apple Maps card. Apple is also seeking to understand if the site requires a referral, so searchers know if they need to schedule an appointment before showing up for a COVID-19 test. In a very recent update, Google Maps has now surfaced a specific query for COVID-19 testing centers. 

COVID-19 Testing Center Notice

Have we seen any Yelp Updates recently?

Yelp has more stringent content guidelines around reviews related to any content that discusses the coronavirus to help protect brands. This includes reviews that refer to reports of someone contracting COVID at a local business or any comments related to coronavirus, in general, will be filtered out at this time.

In addition to improvements in review management, Yelp also allows for a business to mark their location as temporarily closed or to adjust their hours if operating with special hours.

Why are we still experiencing publishing delays with GMB?

Google continues to prioritize updates to healthcare and government industries. If you’re not in the healthcare industry, we anticipate Google will be able to address publishing delays and edits to your business information in the coming weeks.

Looking for more COVID-19 local marketing resources? We encourage you to visit Rio SEO’s COVID-19 Resource page often for more helpful articles, expert webinars, third-party platform updates and other information to help your brand navigate local marketing during the Coronavirus pandemic. 

Watch the Navigating the COVID-19 Pandemic (Part 3) Webinar Now