The unprecedented Coronavirus pandemic has had extensive and far-reaching implications on many (if not most) small businesses Australia-wide. Though, with the crisis being so significant on a global scale, even some of the largest companies in the world are feeling the impacts.

As the company follows recommendations for employees to stay home, Google has suspended a number of GMB features to reduce the need for people to come into work.

In a blog post announcement, the tech giant wrote:

“During the unprecedented COVID-19 situation, we are taking steps to protect the health of our team members and reduce the need for people to come into our offices.”

This will, of course, result in some temporary limitations and delays in support for businesses who are working to keep their online presences up-to-date in the ever-changing COVID-19 landscape.

So, what are the updates that you should be aware of?

Health-Related Listings Prioritised

Google has stated that it’s prioritising reviews for edits of GMB business information for health-related businesses. At this time, the search engine is also prioritising the following edits for other business’ GMB listings:

  • Pending Reviews
  • Special hours
  • Temporary closures
  • Business Descriptions
  • Business attributed edits

If your business doesn’t operate in a health-related industry, you could notice some delays before any edits appear on your GMB listings.

No New Reviews

Google have stated in no uncertain terms that, at this point in time, no new reviews will be able to be published to Google My Business profiles. Users can still post new reviews; however, they will not be made publicly visible.

Business-owners have also temporarily lost the ability to reply to GMB reviews.

Presumably, any newly submitted reviews or replies will eventually be published when Google has the resources to do so.

Q&As De-Activated Across All Listings

In one of the more significant changes that Google has made to the GMB platform, existing Q&A sections have been completely removed from profiles. This means that no previously asked and answered questions will be visible and users will be unable to publish new questions.

Expect Delays for Newly Created Listings, Claims, and Verifications

Again, Google have stated that its support team will be manually reviewing new listings, claims, and verifications for critical health-related businesses as a priority. While they prioritise these critical services, businesses in other industries can expect a delay for publication of new listings, claims, and verifications to Google Search and Maps.

Keep Your Customers Informed with Google Posts

Google’s statement contained nothing to suggest any impending changes to the Google Posts functionality. That means that if you have new updates to share with your customers (especially those that Google might be delayed in getting live on your GMB), you can still use your listing to publish posts. Working from home? Google Posts are a great way to let clients know that you’re not in the office anymore, but can still be contacted.

Using the New “Temporarily Closed” Option

Google have introduced a new feature, which gives business-owners the options to mark their business as temporarily closed. The capability is under the “Close this business on Google” section of your GMB listing.

Businesses using this will likely experience a drop in local pack rankings as open businesses are (understandably) prioritised by Google, however there is nothing to suggest that this will have any long-term effect on rankings once businesses reopen.

With so much uncertainty in the marketplace, changes to how businesses can operate are coming in on an almost-daily basis.

Since your Google My business listing will be one of the very first places customer will go to find out any changes to your operations, it’s pivotal that you’re making sure that all of your information and messaging is as up-to-date as it can possibly be.

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