The current Coronavirus outbreak and the spread of Covid-19 has meant a drastic reduction for businesses and the economy, not only here in the UK but across the globe. Many of our businesses have had to close their doors and change the way business is conducted. Staff have been furloughed and working life in factories and warehouses across the country have had to find new ways to continue, whilst keeping staff safe and secure.
On the web, there are a couple of tools customers use every day, that have been affected by the spread of the coronavirus and the way business is conducted. Google MY Business and Google Places. These sites help us all communicate quickly with customers and potential customers about our business. Letting them know about where we are and what times we are open.
Now as you can expect if your business has had to close it’s doors or even just change the way it works, the information that Google and Bing are promoting about you is now incorrect. It’s important we update this information to make sure we remain credible and don’t add more stress to customers everyday lives. But up until now, the only option open to us was to mark our business as permanently closed. This is not a good option as hopefully many businesses will reopen after the lockdown is lifted. Plus it can affect your Google SERPS (Search Engine Ranking Positions). Telling your Google your business is permanently closed means that Google will not be expecting it to open and start trading again. Therefore Google will not be showing your business in search results as there is no point. As far as Google is concerned you no longer exist
So what options are open to us?
Google My Business
In Google My Business, there is now an option to mark your business as temporary closed. They have brought this measure in, just for this current pandemic. It allows you to tell Google and by default your customers that your premises may be closed, but you will re-open when allowed.
Important: If you mark your business as “Temporarily closed”, it won’t affect local search ranking, and it will be treated similarly to open businesses. Businesses that offer pick-up or delivery services should not mark their business as “Temporarily closed”, otherwise those services won’t show on Google.
Google also allows you to add a Covid-19 statement to tell your customers your response under the current conditions.
If your business has not fully closed but is trading under reduced hours or differing days then there is an option to use the ‘special hours’ feature within your listing to keep your customers informed. This can be utilised and updated without affecting your standard hours, so you are not re-entering your normal operating hours at the end of this pandemic.
To access this option you will need to login to your Google My Business account. Google support has full instructions on how to do this.
If you do not have a Google My Business account, you can claim your business by going to the Google My Business website and clicking Manage now button and following the instructions.
Bing Places has now also introduced a temporarily closed option to its listing engine, as well as a few other options to help your business if you are currently closed or working through the Coronavirus crisis.
Just like Google My Business, there is a temporarily closed feature. This new feature in the Bing Places Listing dashboard adds a ‘temporarily closed’ tag to your Bing listing, so visitors, customers and others will now you are closed due the virus outbreak.
There is also a new announcements section. Now, this can be used for any information, not just linked to Coronavirus, but you can use it to let customers know what you are doing whilst closed or to inform them of, say, your delivery service. It can also be used to inform customers about offers, vouchers, promotions or just general information.
And finally, there is a special hours section, again, very similar to Google My Business. This allows you to post temporary hours on your listing whilst keeping your normal hours available to use later.
All the options are available for you yo use now. They are free to use and we advise that you make use of them. The alternative of not doing anything alienates your customers and reduces your trustworthiness with Google and Bing. If Google and Bing think your information is out of date or incorrect, you will begin to suffer within the search results. This would then become a major headache when businesses open up again and the economy unlocks.