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Ask SCORE: Using “Google My Business” during COVID-19

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Mark Klipsch of the St. Louis Bi-State region of SCORE offers these tips to help small businesses keep open lines of communication with customers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Regardless of the industry, businesses find the current uncertain times to be demanding. During these times of crisis, customers expect continuous and clear communication on how COVID-19 is affecting your brand and the measures you have taken to minimize the risk.

A new McKinsey Global Survey reveals that COVID-19 has accelerated digital adoption by several years, and this trend is here to stay. Consumers increasingly have moved to online channels to find businesses and make purchase decisions.

Customers also have taken to Google to find what’s changed with their favorite businesses. To be more specific, they are referring to Google My Business profiles for up-to-date information about the status of local businesses.

To engage and retain your customers, it makes sense to update and optimize your Google My Business listing. Doing so will help keep your customers aware of your current hours of operation, temporary closures, operations changes (such as “takeaway only” for restaurants) and proactive measures to ensure their safety.

As businesses navigate through temporary store closures, special hours to minimize the risk of spreading infection and remote working, they also need to prioritize exceptional customer service. Google My Business offers several features that empower businesses to stay connected and update their audiences with vital information.

Among the GMB sections that businesses can use:

  • Business name
  • Temporarily closed and business hours
  • Contact number
  • Website links
  • More hours
  • Support links
  • Attributes
  • Description
  • Category
  • Questions and answers (is back!)
  • Google posts
  • Events

So, let’s see how you can use GMB to stay competitive during these challenging times.

Update your business description

Your business description differentiates you from your competition and informs customers about your business — its mission and history, and the services and products it offers. This 750-character business summary needn’t remain constant. In fact, during the COVID-19 era, this section should speak to customers about the pandemic and the ensuing changes in business operations.

Make sure your business description shares information, such as whether your business is operating only for takeout or delivery, providing extra services to the community or delaying services.

Mention how your business has been affected by the pandemic and share information about the precautionary measures you’re taking to ensure the safety of your customers. This is also a great opportunity to talk about the new services you are offering and the delivery options available to the customers.

Create a COVID-19 post

Businesses are increasingly sharing COVID-19 posts to quickly connect with customers and generate traffic from shoppers. If you haven’t used this feature yet, it’s time to do so.

Google allows you to share details related to business hours, changes in regular services, safety precautions, out-of-stock or in-stock announcements, and other updates on your business profile. Such COVID-19-related posts will be pinned to the top of your GMB listing, making it easier for customers to see the updates.

Also, create a coronavirus-impact page on your website and add a link in your GMB listing. This page should mention the following:

  • How COVID-19 changed your business, the changes you made to overcome challenges and how those changes will affect the customer
  • Locations that are closed
  • How customers can help
  • Availability of gift cards or announcements of special promotions or discounts to encourage customers to buy
  • Relief or charitable efforts with which your business is participating.

It’s critical to share how you are handling things with your employees. For instance, a remote working company can share details about the measures they are taking to keep their remote team safe and healthy.

Follow these steps to post an announcement related to COVID-19.

  1. Sign in to Google My Business.
  2. From the menu, click on Posts.
  3. Now, choose the ‘COVID-19 update’

Fill in all necessary fields (hours of operation, changes, updates and requests for support) and preview your post before publishing it.

Mark your business ‘Temporarily Closed’

The pandemic forced many businesses to shut operations, offices and outlets at the request of the government and to stop the spread of the pandemic. A majority of organizations have shown their remote readiness by encouraging their employees to work from home.

To indicate if a business has closed doors, Google introduced the ‘Temporarily Closed’ label to indicate its status from its Google dashboard. As Google’s Danny Sullivan confirmed, marking yourself ‘Temporarily Closed’ will not harm rankings or visibility.

Remember to check your GMB listing daily

Uncertain times call for real-time response, and Google changes GMB events, rules and best practices daily.

For instance, Google is using government information to auto-label listings as closed. In such a case, if your business is open, you need to connect to your GMB dashboard, in the ‘Info’ section and click on ‘Mark as opened.’

Remember to check your listing regularly to stay on top of such updates.

Everyone from small businesses to large corporations has been affected by Covid-19. They have had to quickly adapt to changing customer preferences and habits in real time. Because customers increasingly use Google to stay updated on their favorite brands, it’s important to optimize your GMB listing to clearly communicate your status and effectively navigate COVID-19.

Since 1964, SCORE “Mentors to America’s Small Business” have helped more than 11 million aspiring entrepreneurs and small business owners through mentoring and business workshops. More than 10,000 volunteer business mentors in more than 250 chapters serve their communities through entrepreneur education dedicated to the formation, growth and success of small businesses. For more information about starting or operating a small business, call 1-800-634-0245 for the SCORE chapter nearest you. Visit SCORE at www.score.org.

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