In this week’s update, learn about the restoration of Google reviews; Yelp’s new features in light of COVID-19; Google’s launch of secondary hours; support links in GMB for businesses in need; Facebook’s emails to businesses; and McDonald’s reopening plans.
Restoration of Google reviews continues
Google My Business is undergoing a slow process of restoring reviews after a period of delayed publication that began on March 20. As I’ve discussed before in the Monday Memo, Google disabled review publication, and several other features, in order to conserve GMB bandwidth and cut down on misinformation in the early days of the pandemic.
Sometime around April 10, we began to see new reviews for some locations, in particular restaurants and retail categories. We noted at the time that reviews seemed more likely to appear for locations that were not marked temporarily closed. On April 28, Google announced that reviews were gradually being restored to publication. After this date we began to see reviews written by users during the March 20-April 10 period begin to appear in publication, as well as more new reviews appearing for additional business categories.
Brandify’s own client base includes multi-location brands in many categories. According to our most recent reporting, reviews have been restored for all locations in the following categories:
At least some locations are seeing newer reviews in a longer list of categories:
Banking and finance
Note that even for locations where reviews are now publishing, review volumes have been very low compared to normal circumstances. To some degree, this may be due to a lower likelihood for consumers to leave reviews during the pandemic, when many businesses are serving fewer customers. But we suspect that Google may be holding additional reviews in a queue and releasing them slowly, perhaps due to enhanced quality control measures designed to remove inflammatory content related to COVID-19.
Yelp launches new attributes, updated messages, and more to support COVID-19 communication
Yelp continues to roll out features to help businesses communicate special circumstances due to COVID-19. As I noted last week, you can now indicate virtual services offered by a business using service attributes associated with the business’s primary category. In addition, Yelp now lets businesses specify the following attributes: "Delivery," "Take-Out," "Curbside Pickup," and "Contactless Delivery." "Delivery" is available only for restaurant and food categories; "Take-Out" is available for all restaurant and food categories except grocery.
The company launched a special COVID-19 message field in April that lets businesses explain safety procedures and any other important information; the capabilities of that feature have since been updated to include checklists of available offerings such as gift cards, contactless delivery, and table spacing to support social distancing. The Business Highlights product, one of Yelp’s paid offerings, has also incorporated a wide range of icons for COVID-19 related services.
Yelp Business Highlights related to COVID-19
Google launches secondary hours
Last week, many Google My Business locations began to display a new feature called secondary hours. In addition to normal operating hours, businesses are now able to display a separate set of hours for the following:
These secondary hours appear in the Knowledge Panel and in local pack results, in a section linked to but separate from standard operating hours. So far, I haven’t seen secondary hours in Maps results on desktop or in the Google Maps app.
Secondary hours were initially available only to GMB partners like Brandify as a special beta offering, but they are expected to appear as soon as this week as a feature in the GMB dashboard.
Google My Business to add support links for businesses in need
Google will soon publish links on GMB profiles so that customers can purchase gift cards and contribute to fundraising campaigns, in support of businesses that are struggling due to COVID-19. According to the company’s announcement, businesses in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia, and New Zealand will be able to add a gift card link, a donation link, or both to their profiles, with donations operating in partnership with GoFundMe and PayPal. Gift card links can go to the business website, or can utilize Google partners such as Square, Toast, Clover, and Vagaro.
The features are rolling out initially to a subset of businesses, with public links expected to go live later this month. Google has published a help page to guide businesses through the process; the page describes certain restrictions such as the requirements that the business operate out of a brick and mortar location and have a GMB profile that was verified before March 1, 2020. Donation and gift card solicitations will take the form of a new type of Google Post with the type “COVID-19 support.” Users can start the process on the Posts tab or by clicking “Get support from customers” on the Home tab.
Image courtesy Google
Facebook encourages businesses to update pages if services have changed
Facebook is sending emails to users who manage store pages for local businesses, encouraging them to update their pages to reflect changes due to COVID-19. As previously reported here, Facebook has released features that allow business owners to mark their business as temporarily closed, or to indicate they are open but with modified services, such as delivery only. This option is called Open With Service Changes.
As a reminder, business owners can also indicate modified hours by updating Facebook’s standard hours of operation, and can use tools like posts, Messenger, and store page CTAs to communicate with customers, answer questions, and conduct business virtually.
The email Facebook is sending to businesses
McDonald’s plans for reopening with extensive guidelines
McDonald’s has issued a 59-page document to franchisees, outlining modified practices that should be implemented as the restaurant chain prepares to reopen for dine-in service in states that are loosening restrictions on businesses. The guidelines include floor decals to help maintain social distancing, mandated use of safety equipment including masks, and a requirement to clean and sanitize restaurant tables every 30 minutes. Employees must wash hands once every hour, and touch screens and keypads must be cleaned after each use. Self-service beverage bars and PlayPlaces must remain closed, and the dining room must be marked clearly in order to maintain social distancing while customers are moving or seated.