Since the COVID-19 pandemic started, Google has been scrambling. Quite frankly, they are not set up to have GMB employees working from home, so this has put stress on Google My Business support. But, they have released some new updates and disabled others to help local businesses manage their business during this pandemic. GMB is a vital and handy FREE tool that must not be ignored. It is crucial that you use GMB to share your most up-to-date information.
Google My Business is one of many places that should be updated often during the pandemic. In addition to updating GMB, don’t forget to also:
- Add pinned posts to social media
- Update your answering machine message
- Adding an autoresponder to your emails
- Pause ad campaigns
- Create a dedicated COVID-19 landing page on your website
- Update Title Tags and Meta Descriptions to bring everything together
It can all seem very overwhelming, so we have broken down the updates you should make to your GMB listing. What should you do on your website? We have a separate resource for that!
Keep Your GMB Listing Accurate
This is critical. Keeping your GMB listing up-to-date and accurate is more important than ever. Google remains the first place people look for business information, even during these lockdowns. For many, GMB is an afterthought but is a very important tool for local pet businesses. It is a tool that gives you an advantage over the Rover and Wags of the world.
- Temporarily Closed: GMB has launched a new feature that allows you to mark your business as “temporarily closed.” If you are closed, make sure you mark your business as temporarily closed. It is now safe to mark your business as temporarily closed without running the risk of losing your ranking. You can make this chance on the “Info” tab in your account. Just make sure you re-open it once you are up and running again!
- Update Business Hours: If you are still open but operating at different hours, make sure you update that on your listing. To update these, use the “Special Hours” feature on GMB. Adding special hours will remove the below alert from your profile and give customers accurate information. Check your public listing often to make sure it’s correct.
- Location/Service Area: If you do not have a physical location where customers can show up during office hours, then you MUST hide your address. Otherwise, you could get suspended. And trust me, you don’t want to get suspended. I have seen it happen, and it can take months to get live again. You may lose some reach, but it is not worth the risk. Make sure your service area is accurately listed, so Google understands whom to show your listing too.
- Your Website Must Match: Any changes that you make on your GMB listing also must be applied to your website. You can do this with an announcement bar (hello bar) that has an up-to-date status on your company that links to a blog post. You could also update images on your website to better relate to the current situations.
- Products: This is a great way to showcase your products and services despite it being named the “Products” tab. The “Products” tab shows right below your listing information, so it is more visible than posts. This is some valuable real estate that you can use to showcase any products that you be offering. You can also use this to display any online products (courses) that you are selling or even add your services!
- Business Description: Use your description to keep clients and potential clients informed. If your services have changed, make sure your description is updated to include your changes in operation. Ex: Curbside pickup? Touchless services? New services? Temporarily closed? Virtual services? Delivery?
Use GMB Posts
GMB Posts is one of the only features on Google My Business that is working well. Local businesses should be posting 1 or 2 times per week on this platform. If you are sharing news on other social media outlets like Facebook and Instagram, you should be sharing on GMB as well. Many potential customers will see your GMB listing before they see your social media or even click on your website.
Pro Tip: It is best practice to use custom images that portrays your business.
- COVID-19 update: Be proactive and transparent. Google has created a special post type for COVID-19 related updates. These are basic; text only updates that you can use to direct people to a COVID-19 related blog post or page. These posts are useful to use as they go to the top of your listing. You can use these to communicate your current status, safety measures that you have in place, your limited offerings, etc..
- Offer: Offering new services? New Products? Gift Cards? Advertise them here to get additional exposure! You can use this post type to create limited-time offers!
- What’s New: This is a suitable post type that you can use for just about anything! Post updates about what’s going on in your business. Show photos of updates you have made to your business. Show the precautions you have been taking by showing staff wearing masks and gloves if they are still walking dogs. Use this to keep your business top of mind. Even if you are at home with only your dogs, keep these “What’s New” posts coming!
- Event: Since we can’t do in-person events, if you are hosting any online events or contests, don’t forget to add it on here as well as your other social channels.
- Product: Many pet sitters are resorting to selling products. Don’t forget GMB when you are promoting new products that you are offering!
Prepare for When the Lockdown/Ban in Lifted
For now, a lot of user-generated functionally has been disabled. Reviews, for example, we disabled earlier to protect local businesses form an abundance of COVID-19 related poor reviews that don’t truly represent their company. Some companies were getting bad reviews because they were out of toilet paper, which isn’t really fair. So good job, Google! But, it is also hurting those local pet businesses who rely on these reviews. The good news is that reviews are starting to appear on Google again. These reviews are being manually vetted, so it may take some time for them all to appear. In the meantime, here are some ways you can prepare your business for when the bans are lifted!
- Reviews: Since we all know that collecting reviews is very important, we don’t want to stop. But with GMB being unpredictable at this time, we need to do some prep work. What you should do is create a spreadsheet. Collect emails and information from clients you have been working with during the pandemic. Add a note on what you did for them. Once GMB is back to normal, you can now reach out to those clients and ask for a review. It’s a good excuse to ask! You can mention that GMB reviews were down, but now that it is back up, you would really appreciate a review about your experience during the pandemic to help your business rebound.
- Questions & Answers: This feature remains disabled. So what can you do? Start drafting up questions and answers for once the ban is lifted. Business won’t be back to normal right away, so now is the time to prepare. Here are some questions you can start with:
- I have an upcoming appointment (grooming, pet sitting, dog walking, etc..) what do I need to do to prepare for it?
- Are you still operating as usual?
- What health and safety protocols do you have in place for dog walking service?
- What health and safety protocols do you have in place for pet sitters in my home?
- What are your hours of operation?
- Are you still offering all services?
- How do pick-up and drop-off work at the kennel/daycare?
- What are you doing to keep your employees healthy?
- What is your refund policy if we need to cancel due to COVID-19?
- Photos: Take photos!! Especially if you are still out walking dogs. Now is a great time to build a collection of photos that can be used for marketing. Get in front of landmarks, or places that are usually busy with people. Get creative and have fun – but don’t break any laws!
- Support: Google announced a new support page for Google My Business. They are currently prioritizing healthcare-related listings, but it is a useful link to have saved.
Erika Godwin is the President of Barketing Solutions and the Co-Founder and CMO of ProPet Software, an industry-leading kennel management software. Erika has over 8 years of experience with WordPress and graduated from Elmira College in 2009 with a BS, Business Administration- Marketing and Management.