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Overview of Recent Google My Business Changes

We will update this post as new information becomes available.

Announced and Reported Changes

April 10, New Reviews are Posting
We have started to see new Google reviews flow into LocalClarity and post to Google. It’s a very slow pace compared to before the March 20th shutdown and is very inconsistent across industries and countries. We are only seeing reviews with current timestamps and nothing from March 21st through April 8th.

April 8, Review Replies are Back
Overnight we noticed the update on the announcement page for Limited Google My Business functionality due to COVID-19. We have tested the functionality and it appears that replies to any historic reviews are pushing to Google and publishing as normal. Based on the announcement, access to new reviews is expected relatively soon. Update: We are seeing this roll out slowly to different countries.

Review replies are now available. Over the coming weeks, new user reviews, new user photos, new short names, and Q&A will be available. Their availability will gradually expand by country and business category.

https://support.google.com/business/answer/9792336

April 8, COVID-19 Google Posts
Google rolled out a new post type, COVID-19. These posts will last up to 14 days as opposed to the normal 7 days posts but don’t yet permit a photo. This post type is not yet available in the API so it needs to be built directly in the GMB portal only.

April 7, “Temporarily Closed” Status Control in Bulk
LocalClarity worked with the Google API to test and quickly launch the ability to mark individual locations or entire accounts as Temporarily Closed.

To update the status of a location, go to Manage Locations Section and click on the link to activate the detail pane. Click the pencil edit icon and then click the button. I dialog box will ask you to confirm. To see the status in bulk, simply email us with instructions as to which locations and we will execute immediately. We have seen the status update taking effect in as little as five minutes.

April 7, New COVID-19 and Telehealth Links
Google added a link for TeleMed Appointments as well as a link to Covid-19 related resources. These links are expected to show in their Business Profiles. There is no news as to when (or if) these new elements will be added to the API to permit bulk updates. Also, it seems that this is rolling out by geography instead of being universally available.

UPDATE
We are seeing the new links in the API feed and available for both individual and bulk updates in LocalClarity. We are testing the connections today.

April 2, Update Recommendations for Restaurants
Google shares specific recommendations for what to update for Restaurants. Specifically: manage your dining options, update your menu, and create a post.

March 31, Google Updates New Review Messaging
Google changed its messaging upon the submission of a review that implies that reviews are being queued up and will be moderated and published once the pandemic-focused changes and restrictions are over. It is expected that reviews would be moderated and published when they removed the moratorium on new reviews.

March 30, Hourly Warning Messages Add to Local Results
Google added a warning message regarding hours and services being impacted by COVID-19 on most search results.  We’ve been seeing this label in search results, but it’s more widespread now in maps results and on individual business listings.

If you wish to have this message removed, you can set special hours for the next couple of weeks. When Google sees that special hours are presented, this message will be removed. Email us will your questions, or if you need help to bulk edit hours.

March 27, Google Posts Permitted for Chains
Google Posts have been temporarily permitted for chains. Bulk posting for more than 10 locations prior to this change was impossible. Now multi-location businesses can take advantage posts to keep consumers informed via the API – but not hotels or lodging as these are structurally unavailable.

This is one of our strongest recommendations at this time. We are seeing great traction with Google Posts for Chains. Several clients are on pace for millions of impressions per month with very high engagement rates compared to ads. See below for recommendations.

March 26, “Temporarily Closed” Status No Longer Impacts Rankings
The new status was added last week to the GMB dashboard on 3/24. But prior to the 26th using the label could make businesses disappear from the search results. This prompted many businesses not to use the label as they didn’t want to disappear and wanted to be “back in business” when safety measures are lifted.

March 26, Takeout and Delivery Attributes
Google has added takeout and delivery options to several categories. We see this surfacing in a few different spots: the local business listing (or local knowledge panel) and within search results.  Within search results, we’re seeing an addition to the restaurant carousel that adds a card for takeout and delivery before the regular restaurant category cards. We’re also seeing a label of Dine-in, Delivery or Takeout right on the business listing.

March 24, GMB Support Options Reduced
GMB phone support and chat support no longer work. The only way to contact GMB is to send an email form.

March 24, Google Prioritizing Edits
Many edits made in the GMB dashboard and via API are pending. Updates for hours, attributes, and business descriptions are not being prioritized.

March 20, Reviews No Longer Received
Google has shut off the ability for businesses to receive new reviews. This includes reviews left via Local Services ad listings. If a user goes to leave a review, it appears to work as normal but the review doesn’t show up anywhere.  Based on the flow of data (see dashboard chart below), it looks like the reviews stopped flowing midday on March 20th. We don’t yet know if these “held reviews” will eventually be released or delete.

March 20, Full Stop of All User Generated Content
Review responses posted by the business owner are not publishing. Google has shut off the ability for businesses to receive new reviews. The Questions and Answers section on Google has been completely removed from listings. Photos that are added by users to a business listing are not showing live.

March 20, Mark As Temporarily Closed
Google has updated the GMB Portal to allow businesses to mark locations as “temporarily closed”. This is what the option looks like in the portal and how it presents in desktop knowledge panel (it has been active in Italy for the last two weeks). We have requested that this choice be made available as an API control, but in the meantime, the only way to set the designation is individually in the GMB portal.

Recommendations

We are strongly encouraging all customers to focus on the core searcher experience to make absolutely certain that every location’s knowledge panel is a strong representation of the brand.

A) Update Descriptions
Brands and agencies should be looking to update each location’s descriptions share critical updates Here are a few examples of businesses demonstrating best-in-class information management in a crisis by strategically leveraging the Description field.

B) Leverage Google Posts
Posts are now populating the UPDATES navigation in the Google Knowledge Panel mobile presence. Now, more than ever, Posts are an exceptional vehicle for timely customer engagement. Here are a few great examples:

C) Affirm all Days of Operation, Hours, and Contact Details
Make certain that all core availability information is accurate across all listings. We are seeing an incredible increase in calls and clicks for locations. Make certain that customers have a path towards resolution.

D) Expand Categories & Attributes
Now’s the time to review all possible categories and attributes for improved search discovery. Virtually all brands and agencies have an opportunity to secure more local and map impressions for long-tail searches.

Please let us know if you have questions about how best to set your location details or create Google Posts.

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