As guidelines for slowly reopening the U.S. economy become more clear, enterprise brands must start planning for how to effectively shift their local marketing initiatives. Based on the recommendations of federal, state and local governments, with guidance from health experts, select businesses are now allowed to open their locations, depending on the state/county they are located in, while others must remain closed for the time being. For any of your locations that are able to welcome customers through their doors, now is the time to communicate this pertinent information to your customers. The best way to do this through your local search presence–maintaining accurate, up-to-date listings and local pages. In this post, we will share expert local marketing guidance and best practices on how to effectively prepare your local marketing efforts to convey the information searchers are in need of during these transitional times.
Plan Ahead: What Local Marketers Should Do To Lead by Example
Consumer behavior has drastically shifted given the new climate. From once being able to freely walk into busy, crowded stores without fear or concern, consumers must now be cognizant of maintaining proper social distancing and/or wearing facial coverings, among other restrictions. However, a glimmer of hope for a steady return to normalcy is now in sight.
As states begin to lift restrictions put in place, allowing certain stores to open their doors once again with a limited capacity, other states remain on complete lockdown, causing some of your locations to open while others stay temporarily closed to abide by these regulations. For multi-location brands, it can become a challenge to maintain accurate information regarding how each of your locations is currently operating, the varying hours of operation, and what special services you are providing at this time. The most efficient way to mitigate these concerns is to maintain each of your location’s local listings and use your local pages for more detailed communications.
7 Ways to Maintain Accurate Listings During Phase One of Opening Up America
As mentioned, each of your locations, dependent on the state, is likely operating in a different capacity depending on how far along they are in their COVID-19 recovery journey. To accurately reflect each location’s progress, consider implementing the following updates to your local listings:
At the onset of the pandemic, Google My Business (GMB) updates were slower to publish due to Google operating with reduced staff. At that time, it had been recommended by Local SEOs that businesses change their names to reflect any special services they were offering related to COVID-19, such as curbside pickup options or special delivery.
Now that Google has begun highlighting COVID-19-related attributes on GMB, it is now recommended that all businesses revert their names back to normal across all their locations and to utilize the additional features/functionality that have become available to showcase the special services you are offering.
Over the past month, Google has made it a priority to highlight attributes that better showcase the unique services businesses are offering. These attributes are prominently displayed on your listing in both mobile and desktop and give brands the opportunity to better communicate safety measures they’re providing their customers at this time. There are specific attributes for dining, shopping and healthcare businesses, including:
- In-store pickup
- In-store shopping
- Same day delivery
- Curbside pickup
- Takeout and delivery
- No-contact delivery
- Virtual care
These attributes may vary by each of your locations at this time. Be certain to keep these attributes accurate across all your locations. By working with a local marketing partner, you can more easily update this information to accurately reflect the services offered at each of your locations.
It is likely your brand used special hours for your locations that were operating in a limited capacity or temporary closures for those that shut down completely. If you are utilizing the Temporarily Closed feature, you can leverage the Reopening Date in GMB to set your future expected reopening dates to inform customers of when you expect your doors to open. This only works if you have your business set to Temporarily Closed in Google with no specialty hours.
If your locations had special hours set, ensure you adjust these hours to reflect your new or revised hours of operation.
Local Business URLs
Your business listing can include links for specific actions you want your customers to take directly in Google Search or maps, and they help ease the process of working with your business. As customers continue to seek convenience while searching from the safety of their homes, it’s important to provide easy ways to interact with your business, which includes links to:
- COVID-19-related resources
- Booking an appointment
- Placing an online order
- Viewing your menu
- A list of your services you offer
- Searching for items
Now that some of your locations are reopening again, it’s crucial to ensure the phone number listed on your business page routes to the appropriate line. We anticipate clicks to call will increase with phase one of Opening Up America, as customers seek to find out if your location has reopened for business and new safety protocols you may have in place.
Google Posts are a great way to communicate more information about your business, updates, and extra safety precautions you’re taking to searchers. Google Posts appear on the Knowledge Panel, mobile search, maps, and apps at this time, across desktop and mobile. Recently, Google introduced COVID-19 Posts, which appear more prominently on your business page, allowing customers to more easily understand the current status of your business and how you operate during these times. COVID-19 Post types will appear for 28 days on your business page, however, you may need to adjust the duration based on the ongoing status of COVID-19.
You may also want to take advantage of the other post types available including:
- What’s new
Posts are free to use and allow you to use a call-to-action button, so long as you are maintaining a GMB profile.
Your customers can reach you in real-time via your GMB profile. They can ask you questions regarding your store’s reopening or they can simply start a conversation with you. During these times where questions from customers are more likely than ever to surface, we recommend businesses across all verticals turn on messaging as an additional way to communicate with your customers. Google recommends responding to all messages your business receives within 24 hours. If you do not respond during this timeframe, Google may deactivate messaging for your business.
By turning on this feature, your business benefits by:
- Instilling trust
- Encouraging engagement
- Creating a positive experience
- Building your brand reputation
- Providing superior questions
- Moving the customer more seamlessly through the buyer journey
The Importance of Local Pages
Your local pages present another opportunity to communicate changes to your business operations in a more in-depth, visual, and engaging manner. Additionally, if you’re working with a local marketing partner, you can also pack your pages with schema markup to bring critical keywords to the surface during the local search experience. Local pages can also:
- Improve your local search ranking
- Build visibility for COVID-19-related services you’re offering
- Highlight positive customer reviews you’ve recently received
- Reduce friction in the path to conversion with click-to-call and click-for-directions
- Allows you to accurately measure online-to-offline across thousands of locations within a single dashboard
Want More Local Marketing Guidance?
As always, we will continue to keep you informed of any COVID-19-related local marketing updates that may impact your multi-location brand with our COVID-19 resources page. We will update this often, especially as we approach the different phases of Opening Up America.
For guidance specifically tailored towards Healthcare brands, we recommend following the Official Google Webmaster Central Blog.
For official updates on Yelp’s COVID-19 response and support for local businesses, click here.
Want to check your business accuracy and presence on search engines? We will audit your local presence for free.