The crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic spreading across the globe has prompted an image that only the most radical retail apocalypse theoreticians could imagine: empty avenues, blocked access to shopping centres, restaurant services reduced to takeaways and entire hotels at the disposal of healthcare systems. Thousands of shops have been forced to close, which has dramatically changed the approach to digital marketing strategies; in order to capture the current situation, one of the channels that needs to adapt urgently is Google My Business (GMB).

How to adjust the Google My Business profile

Changes made to any Google My Business profile will show up in the search results and on Google Maps:

Change opening hours or mark ‘temporarily closed’

Two possible situations may arise, depending on governmental restrictions:

  • Businesses must close for an undetermined period of time: from the GMB profile it is possible to mark the tag ‘temporarily closed.’ You can find the instructions for that here. Conversely, it is not advisable to mark a business as permanently closed unless this will be the case after the quarantine period is over. If you do, there will be limitations in the options when using Google’s help centre and other GMB features.

Publish posts and information in the GMB description

In the description field, you can add information about the overall status of the business, such as what safety measures are being taken to work under these circumstances, if there are special services available or if there will be delays in the deliveries. In some cases, it might be helpful indicating that e-commerce will be active throughout this situation. Here are the instructions on how to change the description in Google My Business.

On another note, GMB publications are mainly useful to convey information about updates instantly, although generally this section is mostly geared towards communicating offers or specific actions. This GMB page can help you add your publications.

One of the main advantages of Google My Business is the option of giving information about what is happening in real time, which is an essential feature in exceptional occurrences such as the measures taken to deal with the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Without a shadow of doubt, bringing the reality of businesses closer to local clients is an important priority.

David Moreno, Digital Marketing Consultant at Labelium

How changes in GMB might affect Google Ads

There are two main instances:

  • If all the shops belonging to the brand are closed, Google Ads will directly stop showing location extensions in the ads throughout the entire account.
  • If certain shops remain open and others are closed: when it comes to location extensions using GMB, it will be necessary to tag those shops that remain open and then apply a GMB filter. For the affiliated location extensions, you can use location groups to select those venues that are open.

Impact on ‘Store Visits’ data

The analytics for Store Visits will not show data when the GMB profiles indicate a business has been closed. However, when using extrapolation and data model techniques to ensure the privacy of the users, Analytics or Google Ads might show visit data despite the shop being closed.

Google My Business in specific industries

Without a question, certain industries have been especially affected by the effects of COVID-19:

  • Restaurants: Despite being closed to the general public, it is worth highlighting in the listing description if there are delivery services available, as well as stating which delivery companies you work with. If there are special promotions, it is worth mentioning them in publications.
  • Hotels: If they have been affected by the restrictions, it is convenient to mark ‘temporarily closed.’ In the case of having a free-cancellation policy, it is advisable to highlight it with a publication.
  • Supermarkets, petrol stations and other businesses considered basic necessities: it might be required to adjust the information about business hours. Especially in the case of foodstuffs, it would be interesting to mention in the description if they manage orders online as well as stating which delivery services they work with, if applicable.

Artificial Intelligence applied to Google My Business

Google My Business features aim to ensure the quality and trustworthiness of the information are maintained throughout local queries with ‘Search’ and ‘Maps.’ In fact, to reinforce these changes, Google has tasked Duplex, their artificial intelligence algorithm, with tracking companies across the world and confirming as soon as possible their new opening hours or any alterations in their business.

That being said, they posted a warning from the search engine itself saying the settings approval may be delayed, since their own staff is reduced in light of the situation and they are prioritising healthcare facilities.

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