As we all know, situations are changing daily amid the COVID-19 pandemic. These changes are continuing to affect localized marketing and multi-location businesses around the world. One of the most recent updates includes Google, who announced that it would be pausing reviews, replies, and its Q&A feature until further notice. Additionally, Google has shared it’s prioritizing listings, claims, and verifications for critical health-related businesses. Businesses should expect a delay in the publication of new listings for other types of businesses to Google Search and Maps. If you’re wondering how these changes will impact your current marketing strategy, this blog will help answer some of your questions. 

Why Google Made This Move

Like most businesses, Google has to make changes to its structure during this time of crisis. To reduce the number of employees that have to come into work, Google has decided to pause specific capabilities on Google My Business (GMB). While new reviews, replies, and questions on Google Q&A are on hold, Google is focusing its attention on essential features, including updated listings that highlight closures for businesses and updated hours. While these are temporary limitations and delays in support, they are refocusing their efforts and prioritizing critical services.

While most reviews will be unavailable, Google will still be allowing reviews that provide critical information about health-related facilities. If your business does not fit this criteria, new reviews will not be available. 

See this example from our customer, Ace Hardware. Typically, with review replies, there is an option for the business owner to edit/delete the response but the buttons have disappeared. 

 

What Your Multi-Location Business Should Do With This Information

GMB reviews play a significant role in many localized marketing strategies. Data from our State of the Market report found that over the past year, GMB received 14x more reviews when compared to any other search or social platform. Now that reviews are temporarily off the table, what are other tactics your multi-location business can use to keep your localized marketing strategy up and running?

The number one thing your multi-location business should do is ensure your local business listings on GMB are up to date. For instance, if you have to change your business hours, or temporarily close because of COVID-19, make sure your local listings reflect those changes. Google is also allowing businesses to include other critical information on the listings, like whether your business is offering take-out or delivery. This is not generally permitted per GMB guidelines, but it will be for the foreseeable future. 

It is also essential that your multi-location halts any requests for reviews if you are currently doing so in your localized marketing strategy. In this time of uncertainty, make sure consumers feel connected to your business and have clarity on what measures you’re taking to protect both consumers and employees during this time. 

Google is not halting one critical feature – Google Posts. Marketers can create Posts with more detailed and timely updates about what’s going on with your business during this pandemic. According to our Localized Marketing Benchmark Report, only 23 percent of business locations are utilizing Google Posts, and due to the prominence of Posts on Google Maps and mobile searches, this is a key tactic to utilize during times of crisis, and normalcy. 

While communicating through GMB is changing, for now, other options like email, social media, and even Google Posts, can and should be used during this crisis. 

How SOCi Can Help

At SOCi, we want to make sure that your business is getting the latest news and updates that might affect your localized marketing strategy. While there are both benefits and challenges that come along with this decision from Google, your business can still find ways to effectively communicate with consumers and empathize with them during this difficult time.

If your multi-location business needs guidance on how to navigate through this time of unknown, SOCi can help! Reach out to us at help@meetsoci.com, and we can provide you with the information you need to maintain a successful localized marketing strategy for both your business and its consumers.

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