While the economic impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic is far-reaching, hope is not lost. By pivoting your strategy and communicating openly, you can protect your brand’s presence online and continue to thrive. Now is the time to pay closer attention to your business listings, not only on Google, but on Yelp, Facebook, and other online review sites as well. Listed below are four things business owners should know to weather the storm and help improve their brand’s reputation online.
1) Make sure all business information posted online is up-to-date, and take advantage of the temporary features provided by Google and Yelp.
If your business has remained open, make sure business hours are accurate on Google My Business and other online listings. Essential businesses and restaurants are getting priority with updates. In fact, restaurants can now update their GMB listing to mention if they offer pickup, delivery, and curbside pickup. Businesses on Yelp can now keep the community informed of important updates with a custom alert at the top of your Yelp listing, to remind people to check current hours and availability. Yelp has even added a new feature that allows businesses to update their listings to include any virtual service offerings for customers practicing safe social distancing, including Virtual Classes, Virtual Consultations, Virtual Tours, and Virtual Experiences. According to Yelp, these will show up on your business page as search filters so customers can easily find you.
2) Stay connected with your customers through social media.
Post updates on Facebook and Instagram as often as you can about changes in your business operations including hours, appointments, delivery information, etc. Even if your business is not currently open due to the nationwide quarantine, you can still post status updates to keep your customers informed and connected with your brand. If possible, encourage followers and customers to buy gift certificates for services that can be claimed later on. Updating the business description or bio on your Instagram and Facebook profiles is another effective way to provide useful information to your customers. Now would also be the time to explore TikTok as a platform for your business if you haven’t already.
3) Refocus your review strategy.
The public is looking for ways to continue to help local businesses during these times, so encourage your customers to support your business by leaving a review. For our clients, we have tweaked our custom review templates to include a message that serves as a reminder and a call to action: “Help support us by leaving us an online review.” Due to the current limitations on GMB’s review features, now would be the opportune time to shift your attention towards generating positive reviews on other sites like Facebook and Yelp. Don’t forget to include industry-specific sites that may be relevant to your business like TripAdvisor for travel services and restaurants, HealthGrades and Vitals for the medical field, Zillow for Real Estate, Home Advisor for Home Improvement services, and Caring.com for Senior Care and Assisted Living.
UPDATE: Review features on Google My Business are now back to normal. Customers can now publish reviews as usual, and business owners can once again respond to their online reviews. Please note, users may experience a delay when publishing their reviews.
4) Google Support can still help with your Google My Business Listing.
Although Google is working with a reduced staff, you can still get assistance with issues like inappropriate negative reviews, photos, and incorrect business information. If you haven’t noticed already, there are current limitations on the ability for your customers to leave new reviews. Please keep in mind, however, that reviews received during this timeframe will publish once Google is fully operational again. Continue to be vigilant about cleaning up your Google My Business listing by making an effort to get fake or illegitimate reviews removed.
It’s the little things that will help us get through this together. Something as simple as staying at home has proven to help keep the disease from spreading. Posting a “Thank You” message on social media to all the healthcare workers is a simple yet powerful gesture that can give encouragement to those who need it. Likewise when it comes to protecting your online presence during this worldwide pandemic, taking the small steps— updating your business information, paying closer attention to your online reviews, and communicating with your customers through social media— will help your brand in a big way.