The COVID-19 virus has created a lot of upheaval for many businesses. Restaurants are having to convert to strictly carry-out methods, stores are facing empty shelves and high demand for products like toilet paper and bread, and scores of employees are now working from home.
Instead of being understanding and flexible, customers are upset and are sharing their anger in the form of reviews. There’s been a spike in negative business reviews as customers complain about shops being short-staffed or closed when they’re normally open.
Because of COVID-19, Google has recognized that businesses may be vulnerable to bad reviews and misleading information. Google itself is short-staffed. An official notice said the company is “taking steps to protect the health of our team members and reduce the need for people to come into our offices.”
Customers can still write business reviews. However, the reviews aren’t being published at the moment. Instead, the reviews will be saved by Google. Those with Google My Business access can see the reviews written about their company, the reviews are just not yet available to the public.
As a result of Google’s staff shortage, the company also isn’t accepting responses to reviews. This is temporary but can affect those wanting to immediately reply to a comment.
Individuals wanting to update or change their Google My Business listings may also face delays unless they’re in a health-related field, in which case their reviews are listed as a priority.
“We will also prioritize reviews for open and closed states, special hours, temporary closures, business descriptions and business attributes edits for other verified businesses,” stated Google. New listings for critical health-related businesses will be prioritized.
Yelp is likewise making changes to its review procedures in response to COVID-19. The company said their updated review guidelines “protect local businesses from reputational harm related to these extraordinary circumstances.”
For example, Yelp will not permit reviews that claim COVID-19 was contracted from a business or employees or “negative reviews about a business being closed during what would be their regular open hours in normal circumstances.”
One struggle that we have in helping our clients improve their search rankings is to get photos and other images from them. The average user is more visually oriented than ever before, so it’s important that your website, Google My Business (GMB) listing, and social media pages have fresh and interesting pictures.
(If you don’t have a social media presence that is a discussion for another blog.)
People want to see themselves on your social media postings and potential customers want to see you on the job. We know that you and your team is probably busy when they are at work, but it takes only a few seconds to snap a few pictures with your phone.
Some suggestions for photo opportunities include taking pictures of people at your store or restaurant, pictures of your staff at work, especially in candid shots, images of your equipment or vehicles, or nice photos of your building. If you or your staff sponsor or participate in charity events and fundraisers, make sure to document that and share it. People like to know that the businesses they use have a heart and care about their community. Show that you and your team has a personality and not some faceless entity.
BrightLocal recently issued a report, Google My Business Insights Study, that analyzed 45000 business in 36 industries around the world. They were looking to see if there were any correlations between the number of images on the GMB profile and other metrics such as conversions, clicks, search views, and so on.
According to BrightLocal’s report, businesses that posted more than 100 photos received 520% more calls than the average business and if the GMB profile only has one image, those businesses receive 71% fewer calls. Also, the +100 club gets 1065% more website clicks. Yes, over 1000% more.
Earlier, we discussed a few ways to get more images for your website and profiles. Here are some other ways that have been successful for other clients.
Photos need to be more than just posed staff pictures, it needs to show your customers, services, and other experiences. If possible, hold an open house or other event and take pictures of the people that stop by. Images of the interior and exterior of your business are always good, just make them interesting. People probably don’t want to see a picture of a file cabinet or copier.
On the GMB platform, customers can post pictures to your site. This is a double-edged sword at the moment because it can be difficult to get some images removed if they’re poor quality. However, if you ask the customers to post a picture along with a review, you are more likely to get good content. You’ll notice a lot of car dealerships posting a picture of a person with their new car, thanking them for their business. This shows the customer appreciation and shows potential customers that you think of each purchase as an individual, not just an entry on a ledger.
If you don’t have a physical location, ask the customer if you can take a photo of them with your project or at the worksite. They’re likely to appreciate the recognition and you can show off your happy customers.
Almost every social media platform has a way to check in to locations or tag businesses. Encourage customers to tag you or check in on their own social media profiles. Can you think of a less expensive form of advertising? If you notice a tag or mention, make sure to comment a thank you or another acknowledgment. This will go a long way to creating goodwill and a positive impression in the public eye.
Make sure your website is updated with quality images. If you can do it yourself, great. If you have someone handle your website make sure to send the images to them. Make sure you include a short description of the picture. You may know exactly what it is, but the person handling your website will want to accurately describe the image. Also, details like where it was taken and what the project or event is can be used to help SEO, improving your search rankings.
For more ideas about making your social media profiles and website fresh and interesting, give the experts at Team WTI a call. We’ll be happy to go over your site and provide you with some suggestions to help drive traffic to your business. Contact us today for more details.
Google My Business has new API features with an update that came in November. Here is a list of some the important changes:
Why do I even bring this up when we work in the world of websites? Because I think it is important to point out the extent to which the world depends on Google My Business. If you aren’t on Google My Business you are missing the boat. It’s free, and it allows you to control how others see your business online. Have a consistent listing to other online listings as well as your website can help in a big way with local SEO. Claim your listing or let us help you claim your listing and you will get found more often, especially in the Google 3-Pack. CLICK HERE to see how it works.
Google has this handy form for when third parties violate their Google My Business Policies with SPAM or repeated calls. If you have a third party as described by Google that is causing you issues that you can’t resolve with them directly you can go to Google with this information. Read all about it here: https://searchengineland.com/did-you-know-you-can-report-google-maps-related-spam-calls-and-other-violations-to-google-308728
A great way to learn about what is new with Google is to visit the Developers page. They have a blog that can help keep you up to date. Recent topics range from topics on virtual reality to machine learning. While topics are geared towards developers, it’s a great place to find out what is up and coming and then Google topics to learn more in “laymen’s terms”.
Need to show up on Google Maps or Google My Business? We do this as part of our search engine optimization services here at WTI. We can also do it as an a la carte sevice, but recommend doing SEO on an ongoing basis to really get good results. Any questions? Give me a call at 309-489-0026
Digital Marketing Manager at WTI