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What to Do About Google’s Response to COVID-19

April 2, 2020 | Digital
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Your Google listings matter, now more than ever.

COVID-19 has thrust us into a world of uncertainty, full of questions. Is my physical therapy office still open? What are the new visitor restrictions for my local maternity ward? Did my pharmacy shorten its hours of operation? Typically, we expect our audience to do a quick search and find this information easily in our brand’s search engine results. But in the whirlwind of emergency communications, did your brand’s listing data get updated?

If the answer is ‘no’, you’re not alone. The good news is there’s still time to publish those updates. As everyone from Delta Airlines to Jimmy John’s announced their COVID-19 response procedures, Google was no exception. As the world’s largest search engine, they know that accurate listing information is the best tool for combating confusion, misinformation and poor user experiences. Here’s what you need to know about Google’s response to COVID-19:

  • New reviews and review replies will be temporarily paused. Users can still leave a review during this time but it will be delayed in appearing on your listing.
  • The Q&A feature has been temporarily disabled.
  • Newly created listings, verification procedures and claim requests will be manually addressed by Google. According to their statement they are prioritizing critical health-related businesses. Expect this to mean any changes to an ER listing to function as normal but requests regarding non-essential medical and other business listings may take a little longer.
  • Listing edits are also being prioritized by critical health-related status.
  • A new “temporarily closed” designation has been added. If a clinic or location has been closed as a result of COVID-19, brands can use this to communicate to their audience clearly with (hopefully) little confusion.
  • Two new profile links are available for healthcare and medical organizations. The first is the COVID-19 info link that can take users directly to relevant COVID-19 resources and information. The second is a custom service category for healthcare and medical organizations who are offering telemedicine services. These organizations can use this profile link to connect patients and telemedicine providers.
Make it work for you, not against you.

Recommended Edits and Updates to Listing Information during COVID-19

  • Business Hours. Confirm whether your listings’ hours are correct. If a clinic or location has extended or shortened hours, use the special hours feature to designate new hours of operation. If the location is closed as a result of COVID-19, use the temporarily closed designation.
  • Services. If a clinic or location has added services or temporarily suspended a service, make an update in the Services section of your listing to add or remove those services.
  • Information links. Include the URL to any COVID-19 resources in the new COVID-19 information link section. If your organization is offering telemedicine, include that URL as well.
  • Description. There’s no need to delete your current description information, unless you reach the character limit (750 characters). Simply share a new message in front of it and create space below it using ‘Enter.’ Updated description information should include visitor restrictions, limited staffing, entrance availability and screenings requirements.

For example:

As of [date], [Name of Listing] has restricted all visitors. This location is staffed by essential personnel only at this time. Patients with prior scheduled appointments should enter at the Main Entrance from [time, ie. 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.] or Emergency Room entrance 24/7. All persons entering [Name of Location] will be subjected to a COVID-19 screening which will include a brief questionnaire and a thermal temperature will be taken. We appreciate everyone’s patience and cooperation during this time.

Communicate with Google posts

Google posts are a remnant of Google+. While the social media aspect of Google+ no longer exists, posts have thrived as brands take advantage of them to update their consumers directly in their search results. A valuable reminder though, posts on Google are only live for 7 days, which means you have the opportunity to update information regularly. For essential information that won’t change, include that in your description space. Use Google posts to communicate these key messages to your audience:

  1. Communicate the actions your hospital/clinic/etc. is taking to address COVID-19 response, safety, prevention and spread.
  2. Reminder about any visitation policy changes.
  3. Share information about COVID-19 hotlines, websites, pop-up clinics or other resources that are available.
  4. Encourage best practices of social distancing, hygiene and other prevention tips.
  5. Guidance on how someone can get screened if they think they have COVID-19.

We have spent a lot of time talking about Google, but it is important to recognize the other listing sites that are a part of your online presence. If you make an update on Google, make sure that that update is also made on the other sites like Bing, Apple, Facebook and Foursquare.

Your online presence matters.

Make it work for you, not against you. Our dedicated digital team is here to help you not only manage your online reputation on sites like Google but build it across a wide network. Contact us

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