In this week’s update, learn about Google’s restoral of service for review response and some new reviews; new GMB attributes for healthcare, dining, and shopping; a new GMB help page for retail businesses; addition of temporary closure and COVID-19 posts to the GMB API; Bing’s new COVID-19 announcement; Google’s support for telehealth; and Apple’s guidance for testing facilities.
Google restores review response, begins to enable new reviews
In an update to its help page describing limited functionality due to COVID-19, Google My Business announced on April 7 that review response had been re-enabled. You’ll recall that review response in GMB, as well as publication of new reviews and new questions and answers, was disabled on March 20 as part of Google’s COVID-19 response. According to our testing, as of April 7, all business owners could respond to reviews in the GMB dashboard and via the GMB API -- but only older reviews from before the shutdown.
In the same help page update, Google announced they would gradually restore reviews, questions and answers, user photos, and short names. On April 9, users began reporting that new reviews were appearing for some businesses. Early testing seems to indicate that reviews are being posted for some verticals (restaurant and grocery stores, for example) but not for businesses marked temporarily closed.
There’s been no evidence yet that Google is publishing queued reviews written between March 20 and April 9, though the standard message when leaving a review does state that publication “may be delayed,” suggesting some number of those reviews will eventually see publication.
Google announces new attributes for healthcare, dining, shopping
In a message to GMB partners on April 10, Google announced several new attributes would roll out over the next week for healthcare, dining, and shopping categories. All of these attributes will, according to the announcement, display prominently in search and Maps in a manner similar to the display already live for takeout, delivery, and dine-in for restaurants, with a check mark indicating availability and an X indicating no availability.
The newly prominent attributes will include:
Curbside pickup and no-contact delivery for dining categories
Curbside pickup, in-store pickup, and delivery for shopping categories
COVID-19 info links, telehealth links, and “online care available” (whether or not a link is provided) for healthcare
Some of these attributes -- such as curbside pickup for dining and shopping and COVID-19 and telehealth URLs for healthcare -- can already be added to GMB profiles.
It’s important to note that none of these prominent attributes will be displayed if a business is marked temporarily closed. Google has issued the recommendation that businesses should not mark themselves temporarily closed if they are offering any services at that location.
For reference, the screenshot below shows the display of prominent attributes in a typical local pack for restaurants.
New GMB help page for retail businesses
Google published a new GMB help page on April 7 for retail businesses affected by COVID-19. Google recommends that retail businesses modify their operating hours if needed; businesses open only for pickup or delivery should change business hours to reflect availability of those services. Retail stores should mark themselves as temporarily closed if they are not open for any services. If stores are open for curbside pickup, in-store pickup, or delivery, they should use GMB attributes to showcase these options.
Google posts can be used to communicate special precautions retail businesses are taking to ensure customer safety. Google says that posts containing phone numbers may be rejected. Google suggests that posts can be used by retailers to communicate the following:
Information about temporary closures or reduced hours.
Precautions you’re taking and what products are available.
If you provide extra services for the community.
Whether customers can expect delays.
Google also recommends that retailers enable messaging functionality in the Google My Business app in order to provide an easy way for customers to communicate with you.
GMB API adds temporary closure flag, COVID-19 post type
The capability to mark a business temporarily closed was added to the GMB dashboard on March 25. On April 8, the same capability was added to the GMB API. Importantly, the GMB API also allows businesses and GMB partners to reopen locations marked closed in error by Google.
In addition, Google announced in an update to GMB partners on April 10 that the new COVID-19 post type, discussed here two weeks ago as a new dashboard feature, would be available in the API as of today, April 13. This new post type will be displayed prominently in search for 14 days and can only include a text message and CTA.
Bing Places adds special COVID-19 announcement
Following similar updates from both Google and Yelp, Bing has added a special announcement to Bing Places designed to help businesses communicate important information to consumers related to COVID-19. Businesses can edit the text of the announcement and provide a URL for more information. Bing special announcements must include a start and end date, though the end date is used internally and is not shown to the public. More information is available in the Bing Places dashboard.
Google helps healthcare providers communicate virtual care options
Google has announced several new updates to assist healthcare providers in surfacing virtual care and COVID-19 information. As mentioned above, healthcare providers and facilities can, as of April 7, add URLs to business profiles for telehealth and COVID-19 information pages. On April 8, we began to see Google auto-populating COVID-19 URLs in GMB. If you are a healthcare provider, it would be a good idea to double-check to make sure Google is linking to the correct resources.
In a new information page, Google has showcased how virtual care options and COVID-19 information will be displayed in listings.
The same information page explains that a new search experience will help patients access virtual care options directly from search results. Links for virtual care will show pricing information for those without insurance and will offer a means to link directly to the virtual care platforms supported by various providers.
Apple explains how to upload COVID-19 testing locations
On March 17, Apple announced support for a new business category so that listings in Apple Maps could be created for COVID-19 testing facilities. Now, Apple has published an FAQ to help testing facilities list their services properly. In addition, Apple has made a template available for bulk upload of testing location information, which can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.