2020 has proved to be the year of change. From toilet paper shortages to extra time on our hands, everyone has had to adapt to new ways of life.
Businesses are making huge strides to stay competitive. Google has even gone about implementing changes to GMB (Google My Business) to support these businesses and help keep searchers in the know.
Continue reading to learn about these changes and how utilize them to keep your local business competitive online.
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Updates To Functionality Due To COVID Staffing
Back in March, Google reduced its in-office team, leading to the removal of support chat and direct call lines. From what we’re seeing, support is starting to return to normal, but chat and phone call options may still not be available. However, submitting an email form is still a reliable option.
Google also released a statement earlier this year that they were pausing reviews, photo uploads and Google Q&A. While these features have since returned, you might still see some delay as reviews are approved by Google. As we will discuss a little later, businesses in the healthcare industry were prioritized during this time.
In an effort to make users less dependent on support channels, Google released an update in August making the platform easier to edit.
Now, instead of having to log in and navigate to the GMB dashboard, managers can make updates directly from the listing in search. For example, businesses can now make Google Posts directly from the listing.
New Google Post Type: "COVID-19 Update"
On March 25, users saw a new Google Post type for COVID-19 updates.
This post type is used to update searchers on any changes your business is experiencing, from temporary closure or changes to business hours to take out and delivery promotions.
Unlike normal Google Posts, this COVID-19 update is featured higher on a profile and lasts 14 days, instead of 7 days. Another difference is that you cannot include an image. Google stated they wanted these posts to be simple and serve as a quick, relevant update to customers.
Updates to the Info Tab
In the last few months, Google has made many changes to the "Info" tab, including secondary and senior hours, attributes and new appointment booking options.
Sometimes in response to government mandates and sometimes just as a way to keep people safe, many businesses have cut hours or added hours specifically for seniors to visit in person.
You can now update your GMB listing with these new hours—including information on pickup and delivery, takeout, drive-thru, happy hours, kitchen, online service hours and more!
Check it out!
There have also been a ton of attributes added this year. From surface cleaning, masks and temperature checks required to online appointments, these features notify your customers of the steps you are taking to keep everyone safe.
As we mentioned before, those in the healthcare industry saw an increase in features especially geared toward them.
One such update was a new link to schedule an appointment with telehealth. Doctor's offices that utilize such a feature should absolutely link to it on their GMB to set themselves apart. It could be the difference your business needs to be chosen over the competition.
The last update we need to mention when it comes to the "Info" tab is the new “Mark as temporarily closed” button.
You can find this in your dashboard alongside the “Mark as permanently closed” and “Remove listing” buttons. It’s a way for businesses who cannot operate remotely to communicate closure with customers without their listing being shut down.
If your business falls under this category, make sure to use this feature until you can reopen.
Suggested Categories for Products
The changes aren't exclusive to "Info", there have also been changes to the “Products” tab!
In February, Google released an update mainly for businesses in the retail industry. The feature will now suggest categories based on your products.
For example, some suggested categories for automotive products include “spark plugs, toolsets, batteries” etc.
Not all businesses will utilize the products tab, but if your business sells any type of retail items, make sure you are keeping this tab updated, especially if you sell products that are relevant right now (masks, hand sanitizer, immunity boosters, etc.).
What You Can Look Forward To
There are many features still on the horizon for Google. A few of these are currently in beta testing for certain industries.
One such feature is the call history preview. This fall, some businesses were reporting a new widget on their GMB homepage where they could preview call history. This small-scale rollout could foretell a 2021 Google update.
Another new feature that has been rumored for 2021 release is the “Google Guarantee” badge for all industries. Currently only available to certain industries running Local Services Ads, a green checkmark will distinguish your business from others in searches.
Businesses running Local Services Ads are qualified by Google through a pre-screening of your business license, insurance employee background checks and reviews. Many users believe this badge will be a premium feature associated with a Google subscription.
We will keep an eye out for all these changes, so if you are interested in staying up to date on any Google updates, subscribe to our blog!
Many of the 2020 updates that have been released by Google seem to be here to stay. We can also expect new 2021 features as Google adapts to best serve its customers.
If your business has not taken advantage of these new features, you might be behind the competition.
But working with a digital marketing agency that stays on top of trends for you is a great way to ensure your businesses can get ahead.
Interested in learning more? You can receive a free demo from one of our digital marketing consultants in your neighborhood by contacting us today!