Updated: 23 September 2020
It’s been a rollercoaster few months in the SEO world – from an algorithm update in January that ‘shook the nation’ (sort of) and another in May (2020) to some weird spikes in searches for ‘face masks’ and ‘hand sanitiser’, it’s certainly been an odd first half of the year.
Hopefully, you’ll all remember my last two blogs in the Google Guides series, on the basics of Google My Business (GMB) and making the most of your profile. If you’re not sure what I’m on about, go read those and then come back to me! This time we’re going to be looking at how Google My Business has changed over the last six months or so, and I’ll continue to update this as we go, so there’s always a lovely source for the latest info on our favourite Google product.
At the time of writing, we’re coming out of an extended 100+ day lockdown period, post COVID-19 outbreak in the UK. Not only has the lockdown and the pandemic caused some waves in the SEO industry, particularly for those who focus more on hospitality and leisure, but it’s also dramatically changed how Google My Business works, hopefully in the long term.
Let’s start at the beginning! When lockdown first hit, us Local SEO Folk were quaking in our boots as Google announced staff furloughs and reduced maintenance of manually reviewed products, like GMB, to protect the safety of staff. While this is great news for staff staying safe, it was not so great for those businesses that rely on GMB to be on point to keep them in front of important customers. The lack of monitoring meant that a lot of businesses suffered at the hands of unusual suspensions, algorithm updates/bugs that need to be rectified by people and also an incredible lack of support services for the first month or so of lockdown.
However – it got better, and now Google have introduced a bunch of really cool new features since lockdown started. To get started, some features that were removed initially are now back up and running – you can now respond to questions and reviews, and generate a ‘short link’ to the review section to send out, which was paused while the worst of the lockdown happened.
There were also some issues with opening times and the suggestions for how to show whether your business was operating online and/or in-store were confusing, to say the least. Some business owners that saw temporary closure had the algorithm suggest the business as ‘closed by google’ which caused a few issues for business owners who weren’t checking their profiles regularly. You should check on your profile as often as you change your underwear! (at least once a day, please!)
Temporary Closure/COVID Post
If your business is still temporarily closed as a retail shop, salon or anything else but you still have a website, you can now add COVID update posts to your profile. These are great for keeping customers up to date on anything but appear right at the top of the profile in search results so your customers know to shop online if they need your services or contact to you. This has become increasingly important for retail stores that have the ability to sell online safely but also have bricks and mortar buildings. You can also mark your business as ‘temporarily closed’ if you are unable to provide your service or products online.
Another awesome COVID update that GMB has introduced is the ‘support’ button. This new feature has enabled businesses and charities alike to request or suggest donations to be made via GMB, or allow customers to buy gift cards for when the business reopens. This enables customers to continue to support venues, shops and salons as they would be, were we not in lockdown and enables businesses and charities to gather back some of the financial loss from what’s happened.
A newly added feature in Google My Business attributes is the ‘Health & Safety’ section. Something that could have an impact in the near future as business may need to especially market how safe they are as cases rise again and maintain the trust of their customers – the health and safety feature highlights how businesses are dealing with staff and customers.
Other Cool Recent Updates
Not a particularly new feature but definitely something that was less visible before the lockdown – you can now take 360 shots and film interactive experiences for customers who’d love to visit, but can’t due to restrictions.
This is very new – it is essentially an option to add that you provide online estimates as part of your business. For example, if you were a dog groomer and you have an appointments page, you can add that link to the ‘online estimates’ part of your profile, and customers can send you pictures of their dogs to estimate grooming cost (or whatever your normal estimation process would be). This will likely be a key feature for service-led businesses where each job is individual to the task at hand.
Another relatively new feature is the ‘secondary hours’ option. Do you open for lunch, then close again before opening for dinner? Previously there was no way to provide these timings as separate hours on the same day, which caused a lot of hassle for both customers and business owners where their listing suggests they’re open when they’re not. Now, you can add more than one set of opening times for each day. This would also work great for things like Yoga classes that run 2 or 3 times a day for walk-ins – you can now easily show those times for classes on your profile.
Incoming one day maybe
An uncertainty, but there have been conversations in the ether about Google launching its own version of booking platforms to allow users to book directly via GMB and never leave the SERP. Nobody knows when or if it will actually happen, but it’s something many salons and other businesses that run on an appointment-only basis will love as long as it works!
So far, there’s still no desktop version of ‘Menus’ for restaurants, salons and more services that have a price list, but it’s expected to appear some day in the UK.
That’s it for now, but I’ll continue to update this post as more stuff rolls out, so keep your eyes peeled for new and exciting features incoming!
Got the GMB bug but don’t want to go it alone? Get in touch with us at StrategiQ to see how we can help you make the most of your website, social media, GMB, email and more.