How to Rev Up Your Local Listings for the Business Resurgence

Many sites publish local business data, but only a handful are vital to local presence management. Although citation consistency across these sites is important, its impact on visibility has decreased in recent years. Google, Yelp, Facebook, Bing and Apple are the heavy hitters combined with industry-specific vertical leaders; however, Google reigns supreme when it comes to local search visibility. Google My Business (GMB) is the single most important factor influencing local search ranking.

Considering that 91 percent of consumers turn to local search to find information about businesses near them, a fully optimized GMB profile is critical. Not only does a GMB listing increase the chances of your business appearing in search and maps results, but it can also appear in the Knowledge Panel displaying rich business details when a user searches by business name.

GMB is in a constant state of evolution that has accelerated even more due to the coronavirus pandemic. What was once a method for distributing a static local listing within the marketplace is now becoming increasingly engaging and transactional. Having a robust GMB profile will help your business be found and communicate accurate information to consumers during the pandemic and beyond. A partner like Mindstream Media Group can help multi-location brands manage local listings at scale with ease.

Critical Local Listing Updates During the Crisis

GMB has played a crucial role in helping businesses keep their customers informed of changes to their business as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. During the crisis, Google slightly relaxed their guidelines for listings, temporarily allowing unique services like virtual visits, appointment only, drive-thru or curbside pickup to be added to business names. As the pandemic subsides and operations begin to return to normal, businesses will need to revert back and adhere to standard name guidelines.

Businesses have also used GMB to communicate temporary closures, altered hours and other changes to operations. Updated business descriptions help inform consumers of additional or specific products or services being provided, changes to the purchase or return process, modifications to cancellation policies, any expected delays, etc.

Google also launched COVID Posts designed for announcements related to COVID-19. These posts appear at the top of the business profile in local search results and remain visible for 14 days (or more). Every business, regardless of category, has the option to add these posts to note things like updated hours of operation and closures, changes to regular service, safety precautions and hygiene practices and stock announcements for the availability of high demand products.

Stuck in COVID-19 Limbo

It seems we’re stuck in limbo with some areas of the country following a phased reopening process, others completely open and some facing a resurgence of coronavirus cases. This makes it even more difficult for multi-location businesses to provide accurate information to consumers as states, and even individual counties within them, reopen (and in some cases reinstate restrictions) at a different pace. Lockdowns and stay-at-home orders are no longer uniform. Businesses must communicate clearly and provide thorough, up-to-date location reopening information to customers. We’re helping our clients maintain fully optimized GMB profiles to keep customers informed and enhance their visibility in local search results.

How to Optimize Your GMB Profile for Reopening

  • Provide all requested profile data, paying special attention to hours of operation. Be sure to include a thorough business description, list all products and services you offer and include pricing information, if possible.
  • Use categories and attributes. The business category determines which attributes will be available for your profile. There are two types of attributes: factual (like payment options) and subjective (like whether your business is popular with locals). Subjective attributes are based on feedback from Google customers that have visited your business.
  • Customers want to know what the physical experience of interacting with your business will be like in the “new normal.” Clearly communicate what they can expect. Continue to share information on the actions you are taking to address safety concerns to keep customers and employees safe. For example, if you offer curbside service explain how the process works. If your business is enacting social distancing protocols, limiting capacity, modifying traffic flow, requiring masks, etc. include this information in your profile.
  • Include a cover photo and secure a short name. The short name allows customers to find your listing easily and can be used to drive traffic to your GMB profile. Also include photos and videos to show how your business is accommodating changes in regulations and what customers can expect when they visit your business.
  • Replace special COVID Posts with regular Posts to share messages directly on the search engine results page. Posts appear for seven days and are an easy way to drive e-commerce or share offers, products, news and events. Historically, API support has not been available to help businesses with more than 10 locations manage updates. However, it is currently available on a temporary basis and is expected to eventually become standard.
  • Monitor reviews. Although temporarily disabled at the height of the pandemic, reviews have started to reappear on listings. Don’t ignore them! Google is the single most important local review site and review signals are the third most significant local ranking factor. Reviews will become even more impactful during reopening as customers seek validation that a business is safe to visit and is fulfilling their consumer promises. Be sure to respond to reviews – both good and bad – in a timely manner.
  • The Q&A section is another important area that is often neglected by businesses. As a result, the majority of questions are answered by Local Guides, which can lead to inaccurate responses. This section provides an opportunity to proactively provide information by seeding questions, similar to an FAQ.
  • Leverage Google’s expanded transactional tools for booking, food ordering, quote requests and messaging to maximize additional commerce opportunities.

Keeping location information updated is important under normal circumstances and even more imperative as your business rebounds in the long-awaited comeback. Complete, accurate local listings are a must. However, for multi-location marketers, managing local listings at scale can be a challenge. A partner like Mindstream Media Group can ensure local listings are given the attention they need as part of your omni-channel media strategy.

 

How to Optimize Local Listings for the COVID-19 Rebound

During coronavirus quarantine, sites like Google, Facebook and Yelp became lifelines for users looking for business information. As many businesses begin to reopen and the world starts to adapt to a new normal, it is important to ensure that your location information is being updated on prominent sites where consumers are searching for local business information. We’re working closely with our multi-location brands to ensure individual location information is up to date across these critical platforms. Click here for a handy downloadable checklist to keep track of your update progress.

 

Update Google My Business Listing Information

  • Remove temporarily closed status
  • Remove “Temporarily Closed” from Business Name, if applicable
  • Ensure accurate Hours, Phone Number and Website
  • Add Appointment and/or Order Online URL, if applicable
  • Ensure Attributes are updated
  • Update your website location page, if applicable

Google Posts and Events for Communication

  • Let customers know a date your location will open
  • Advertise current promotions
  • Make customers aware of the precautions your business is taking

Additional Items

  • Update Google Q&A – This section is a great way to keep your customers informed with anticipated questions, and/or repeat questions you get, such as: What precautions is your business taking? Do I have to wear a mask? Do you have special hours?, etc.
  • Review Management – Continue monitoring and responding to reviews.

 

Update Facebook Profile Information

  • Remove temporary closed status
  • Ensure accurate Hours, Phone Number and Website
  • Use Posts and Events to notify consumers of reopening, updated hours, etc.
  • Utilize Facebook ads to promote your business

Update Yelp Profile Information

  • Remove temporary closed status
  • Ensure accurate Hours, Phone Number and Website
  • Add Appointment URL, if applicable
  • Apply new “Virtual Service Offerings” attribute, if applicable
  • Share updates via Customized Banners and Yelp Connect
  • Advertise current promotions
  • Update Business Highlights – Yelp has recently introduced new highlights that allow businesses to showcase availability and offerings during COVID-19.

For multi-location marketers, keeping location information for hundreds or even thousands of locations up to date can be tricky. Do you find yourself having to update information on several different sites and think, “there has to be a better way”? Need help with Review Management or Facebook advertising? Mindstream Media Group has several solutions to help with listings management, review management and digital advertising (paid search, social or display). Contact us today for more information!

Google My Business Expected to Become More Powerful for SMBs Post-COVID-19

During the COVID-19 crisis, many local businesses have turned to Google My Business (GMB) to keep their customers informed of business updates related to the pandemic (updated hours of operation, temporary closings, etc.). Keeping location information on Google updated is important under normal circumstances, but it is even more important to keep relevant business information updated during a pandemic. As users adapt to a new normal of social distancing, it’s imperative that businesses ensure their location information is up to date to keep customers informed and safe.

Engagement and Search Query Shifts

It is no surprise that engagement and search queries have shifted on Google My Business over the past couple of months as many businesses have had to drastically change how they operate. Instead of users searching “What are your hours?” users are searching “Are you open while we shelter in place?” Driving direction requests are down 60 percent across all verticals while website clicks and phone calls are starting to increase.

The COVID-19 impact on Google reviews is still a mystery at this point. In March, Google announced they would be temporarily disabling reviews (leaving a new review, responding to reviews). However, over the past few weeks reviews have started to trickle back onto listings. Turning reviews back on signifies that GMB functionality is returning to normal, meaning businesses and marketers will need to once again monitor reviews on Google.

As online behavior shifts, so should local businesses. In addition to keeping location information on Google up to date, consider updating your website and social media channels with relevant business information and updates.

GMB More Powerful Post-Pandemic

As businesses begin to reopen and customers start to venture out of quarantine, users will turn to Google My Business for quick and accurate location information. According to a study by BrightLocal, 68 percent of local marketing experts said GMB was more important now than it was a year ago. Businesses should be prepared to use GMB as a tool to communicate reopening information to customers.

One feature of the GMB tool kit expected to thrive post-pandemic is Google Posts. Google Posts allow businesses to more easily communicate with customers by publishing information in the search results. Due to the ease of use and ability to quickly communicate, Google Posts will likely gain wider adoption among GMB users after the pandemic.

Google My Business is anticipating the reopening of businesses and evolving their digital tool kit in response. To tighten up integration of online ordering, Google acquired TheOrdering.app and Pointy, both online ordering systems. Additionally, Google may roll out new tools in the pipeline earlier than expected.

Google My Business has always been a valuable tool for businesses to publish their location information for customers. Over the past few years, it has evolved into a local marketing platform that allows businesses to directly communicate with customers through Google Posts, manage reviews, purchase local advertisements, etc. Over the next few months, we will continue to see the GMB platform evolve as customers progress towards normalcy post-COVID-19.

Google My Business Limits Features During COVID-19 Pandemic

In March, Google announced they would be limiting Google My Business (GMB) features and functionality due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The limitations come as part of an effort by Google to focus on the quality and reliability of the location information on Google Maps, and to keep Google employees safe and healthy.

Google My Business resources are being shifted to focus on edits to essential features to ensure brands and business owners can keep their customers updated on their business in this unprecedented time. Essential features include hours of operation, marking a business as temporarily closed or closed, business descriptions and business attributes. In addition to focusing on essential edits, Google is temporarily prioritizing business edits to health-related businesses. Brands and business owners should expect delays in non-essential business edits and possibly delays if your business is not health-related.

In addition to delays in business edits, Google has temporarily disabled several features. With a limited GMB team and many business edits coming in, Google disabled these features to ensure resources are focused on the essentials.

Temporarily disabled features

  • The ability to leave a new review
  • The ability to respond to a review
  • The ability to add to/edit Q&A (customer FAQ on GMB listing)
  • The ability to upload new videos

The Google Posts feature was temporarily disabled, but is now back up and running. Google is working through previously rejected Posts that were submitted during the time the feature was disabled. Additionally, Google has added a new Post type: COVID-19 update. The new Post type allows a business to add information about updated hours, change in business operations, change in business management regarding hygiene/safety and requests for support.

Although Google said to expect delays for some business edits, it is still important for local businesses to submit any business updates to Google My Business. Mindstream Media Group clients needing edits to local business information should contact their representative. We will process the edits immediately and monitor them until they are live.

As you are waiting for edits on Google to be reviewed, we recommend updating customers through other outlets, such as: Google Posts, social media, email, a blog post or adding a banner to your website.

With shelter-in-place orders in more than 40 states and non-essential businesses being told to close their doors, it’s more important than ever to ensure local business information is accurate.