With the world changing around us on an almost daily basis as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak, communication from businesses who serve local customers online, through SEO, PPC or Social Media is vital in allowing them to understand which services they can and cannot access whilst people move into self-isolation, social distancing, government advice updating, or for any other reason. 

Some quick-fire stats on local searches:

  • 46% of all searches on Google have local intent. 
  • 72% of those searches result in a customer visiting a store within 5 miles. 
  • 88% of searches for local businesses on mobile devices result in a phone call or a visit within 24 hours. 
  • 80% of consumers use search engines to find local information. 

What is clear, is that as a society, we depend on accurate information when we search, and the current situation worldwide means that keep your Google My Business profile up to date is more important than ever before. Your customers, existing and new, will be looking to see if you’re open or not – don’t let misinformation be the reason they don’t visit you again in the future when everything returns to normal. First impressions count irrespective of external factors. 

What Is Google Doing To Help?

Google has been sending messages out to businesses and encouraging them to update the information on Google My Business profile. Core things to check over are:

  • Business Hours – Have your business hours changed? Are you staying open longer? Closing earlier? Or only open certain days of the week? It’s crucial that this information is updated as and when the situation changes to ensure you customers have access to accurate information. 
  • Business Description – You can update your description to explain how COVID-19 is affecting your business operations. You can share information about how your business is taking extra steps to help keep customers safe for example. If you are a restaurant/pub who is changing to takeaway/deliveries you could also include more information on this.
  • Phone Number – Make sure that your phone number is up to date. If your customers need to reach you, make it as easy as possible for them to do so. 

Alongside this, Google has announced that it will be making it easier for businesses to mark themselves as “temporarily closed”, and is using verification to ensure the information is correct. 

What Else Can You Do?

A massively under-utilised feature of Google My Business is Posts. These appear on branded searches on the right-hand side, and also when you click for more information on a business listed in maps/map-packs. You can use these to provide timely updates to customers. A good example here would be a restaurant which is no longer open for seatings, but it providing take-away services and/or delivery. Think of a post as the same as a social media update – if it is relevant to your customers there, it will also be relevant in search. 

These are unprecedented times, but realistically, customers will still need to shop, eat, and also services. Marketing and online presence is more important than ever to ensure that you’re in front of the audiences that are searching for you. If you’re a small business who needs some advice, you can find me on LinkedIn – no catches, no sales pitches, just advice if you need it. As a marketer of nearly 10 years, this is just another obstacle, and another opportunity to find fresh ways to thrive in unique circumstances.