The World Health Organization has declared COVID-19, or novel coronavirus, a pandemic. For a great majority of the U.S. population, this is an uncertain time, with plenty of unknowns. Countless businesses are struggling during this time, as many see a reduction in customers as well as a limited financial income and support. Although no one has all of the answers as to how to keep a business a float, there are certain factors you should consider if you have a small business that is currently experiencing a shift.
Google Is Not Immune to COVID-19
Through their online help center, Google has recently announced a limited Google My Business functionality due to a limited team. This will include business information edits, newly created listings, claims and verifications, reviews, Q&As, and more. Google has also made it very clear by placing a notice in your Google My Business Dashboard, seen here:
What This Means to Business Owners
For businesses looking to attract new customers, the Google My Business, or GMB, is one of the largest sources for inbound website traffic for local businesses. The tool helps potential customers find a business on the Google search engine and Google Maps. Additionally, the Map Pack on the search engine results accounts for much of the online traffic a website generates, particularly for those businesses who are optimized enough to hold a position on page one of Google search. If you have worked hard to hold one of these positions, you understand how important this is for your business.
Whether you have an established business or a new one, you should know that publicity and an active online presence is everything to all businesses. Optimization is a great tool that will help your business beat out competitors in your market. As a result, becoming familiarized with the tools at your disposal is beneficial to your growing business. Here’s how the recent Google changes will be affecting businesses:
- If your GMB profile is established and has had no recent changes, you likely won’t be seeing a difference. The major shift you may see will be in reviews. Unless you are in a priority category, you will not be seeing client reviews being published on your profile in a timely manner (delayed in some cases). They are being held from the view of the public, but still visible to the person who left them. (See more about reviews below).
- If your GMB profile is established, however you need to make updates on your general information or other, you may see delays in this updating to your profile. Based on your particular industry, these delays may take an extensive period of time.
- If you are a new business or have just recently tried to claim a business, create or verify a listing, your requests are likely to experience the greatest of delays. The claim and verification process is usually about 10 days from when you request verification via postcard, until when you get it in the mail. Currently, we have a test on this where we requested a verification about 4 weeks ago, and still no postcard in our mailbox.
What Proactive Measures Can Business Owners Take?
Simply because Google is not prioritizing new businesses and is also limiting some of its functions, this does not mean that you cannot continue to use GMB to support your business. Here, Google has posted a resource that provides business owners support and guidance during this challenging period.
Google encourages all business owners to update their business hours, mark temporary closures, edit their descriptions, and provide other business updates, such as roadside pick-up availability. While these updates can take a prolonged period to publish, they are important for keeping your current and potential customer base up to date. With an update on your business, customers can assume that your business is temporarily or even permanently closed. Moreover, these updates can let your customers know what they can expect from you, and consequently, let them know that your business is still active and ready to assist them.
Google Posts Are Still Being Published
If you have used Google Posts on your GMB, this is great, as these are still going live instantly. The post will appear in your business profile panel when conducting a name search. For clients we handle social media for, we continue to see no interruption with the tool. In short, keep posting! Be mindful, however, that these posts are only live for a period of seven days, so it is important to keep them fresh. We recently put out an article on using the posts functions of GMB, and you can check that out here. Additionally, Google has now activated a special post type: COVID-19 posts. Google proclaims that posts relating to COVID-19 provide important updates to your client base with regard to how your business is working amidst the pandemic. You can read more about it here.
Troubleshooting For Reviews That Are Not Being Published
In many categories, we are seeing reviews being stalled after a reviewer has published them, but before being published to a GMB profile. As frustrating as this may seem, this is not uncommon and you are not alone. When it comes to priority categories, we continue to see reviews go up instantly as they did before. Here you can see our experience with it. We reviewed a restaurant we recently visited (May 5th, 2020) and the review was instantly published.
If your clients are expressing to you that they have recently posted a review for your business but cannot see it, it is likely the review is being held up in queue. From the client’s perspective, as soon as you post the review you get a message “Your contribution may be delayed at this time” and for certain business types, the review will show as pending in their dashboard.
We had to try many different business categories to find a listing where the review wouldn’t publish immediately and we found that hidden gem by way of bowling alleys. I did a search for non-essential businesses, and looked for the most non-essential I could think of. Then I googled my local lanes. Here we can see that I published a review, and from my end the review appeared published. When I look at the business reviews from a non-logged in account, the review has not made it live yet, see the side by side here:
Further, this could be because the business is marked as “Temporarily Closed”.
As inconvenient as this is, the good news is that if you are in an industry that is being affected, your competitors are experiencing the same issues and are also being equally affected and you won’t be seeing your competitors getting a leg up. This is a critical time for you to keep working hard for your reviews, because they will eventually be published. Once these reviews go live, you will have a head start on the business owners who just gave up. (You can learn more about GMB reviews in my article here on LinkedIn.)
The Pandemic Has Affected Everyone and Everything, Including Your Online Presence
The worldwide pandemic has created a new time for everyone, and this includes Google. If you are a business owner, this may be a good time to tackle spring cleaning or other special projects. This is, however more importantly, a very good time for you to stay focused on the growth of your business. As difficult as this time period is for you and your loved ones, we encourage you to stay motivated and stay consistent. It is very likely that we will see plenty of business closures in the near future, but it is also important to recognize that the businesses who stay on top will come out stronger as a result of their GMB and online presence.
Help, Only a Click Away
If you have been thinking about getting started on review generation, there is no time than now. Our Review Generation for Attorneys programs not only work to cultivate more positive reviews, we also monitor incoming reviews, help business owners respond as well as interface directly with client’s GMB accounts. You can learn more about our team, or contact us here.