Local businesses are getting pummeled by the COVID-19 outbreak. According to Facebook’s State of Small Business Report, the businesses impacted the most are hotels and restaurants, with service-based businesses trailing close behind.
Business owners want to keep employees safe, stay in touch with customers, and keep the doors open in the era of the coronavirus. To help, Google has declared this week (June 22nd-27th) International Small Business Week.
Each day, Google is touting new features designed to support local businesses as they navigate the unchartered territory of the ongoing pandemic.
Many of these features are centered on local business listings, usually the first thing your customers see in search results (sorry…it’s not your website!). Updating your listings during this time should be a huge part of your business’s COVID response strategy. This means updating your hours (or marking your business as “temporarily closed” if needed), or changing the types of products and services you offer.
Let’s start with a look at the two biggest local listings: Google My Business and Bing Places.
Google My Business & Bing Places
Setting up free accounts in Bing Places and Google My Business is a core element of local SEO. For “brick and mortar” businesses, having these profiles is non-negotiable. They help search engines’ local ranking algorithms accurately match your business listing to user searches, in addition to giving users information they need about your hours of operation, location and more.
These profiles are also a key part of your business’s COVID-19 strategy, as we’ll see.
Here is a great (and brief) explanation of the benefits of having a free Google My Business profile, so be sure to start here if you haven’t yet set one up. If you aren’t sure whether or not you have a Google business listing, click here and click “manage now” and Google will start the process for you.
Already have a profile? Click here to get personalized recommendations about how to improve your profile and make it easier for customers to find you online. When you’re ready to take your online profile a step further, Google also has a Digital Toolkit to help business owners leverage Google properties such as YouTube, Google Ads and Google Analytics.
Don’t stop with Google. Your Bing Places for Business listing is another opportunity to boost your online presence and communicate directly to people looking to learn more about your business. Bing even has a feature to import data from Google My Business, so you only have to update everything in one place.
Both accounts give you opportunities to add a deal or discount, promote limited offers, temporarily change hours, and more. Updating them regularly won’t take much time but will certainly pay off for you in increased foot traffic and phone calls.
Updating Your Business Profiles For The COVID-19 Landscape
As you know, consumers are reluctant to go out to shop, travel and do all the other activities that are considered non-essential. It’s important to assure your customers that as local restrictions are eased, you are taking every necessary precaution to keep them safe.
COVID-19 has made it clear that having a digital presence not only enhances your business, but it’s also a key principle for survival. As part of Small Business Week, Google announced features to support brick-and-mortar stores in a variety of ways, including:
- A $200 million increase to Google’s annual Ad Grants program will support nonprofits, including those focused on COVID-19 response and recovery.
- If you’re a local service provider, you can use Reserve with Google to help mobile users schedule an appointment. Participation is through Google’s partners, Housecall Pro or ServiceTitan.
- As shoppers seek to limit their in-person interactions, searches for “curbside pickup” and “in stock” have surged by more than 70 percent. Google’s shopping tab is now displaying real-time local store information such as product availability, locations, and fulfillment options like delivery and curbside pickup.
- Just like before the coronavirus, you can leverage Posts to communicate timely information, like delivery options or inventory updates. But now you can also choose the “COVID-19 update” tab to announce changes in your normal hours of operation, changes to how your business operates (such as takeout or delivery only) or to reassure your customers that your employees are taking necessary safety and hygiene precautions.
- This one isn’t specifically coronavirus-related, but Google’s new ‘Grow My Store‘ website can help you boost your online and in-store visibility. Once you’ve entered your relevant business information and signed up, Google will give you a report with industry benchmarks and rate how well you’ve presented information about your store and how you’re handling customer service factors like contact phone, live chat, returns policy and social media.
Additional Bing and Google features are available for small businesses struggling to cope with the impact of COVID-19. These include providing integrations with GoFundMe for donation links and allowing customers to buy a gift card or donate to your business.
If your business needs help optimizing your Google My Business and Bing Places listings or with any other aspect of your COVID-19 response strategy, contact Jungle Communications now and we’ll help. At Jungle, we believe in building campaigns that connect and convert consumers into community. We’ll partner with you to ensure you survive this tumultuous time and come through stronger than ever.