coronapage

 

COVID-19 Local Search Updates

 

Check here for the latest news and updates affecting local search platforms during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Some updates sourced from internal communications. Where available, the issue name links to the relevant news story. Newest updates in red. If you are a small business owner, click here for guidelines on communicating important changes. This page last updated April 20, 2020.

Google My Business

Issue Description  Last Updated 
Virtual services Google has launched attributes in many categories designed to help feature online services: "online classes," "online appointments," and "online estimates." These attributes will eventually be shown more prominently in profiles, similar to pickup, delivery, and other recently featured attributes.

5/29/2020

Questions and answers Q&A disabled, announced 3/20/20, hidden from public view for all profiles. Update 4/30/20 : Q&A have begun to reappear in some listings. Update 5/27/20 : In a modified message on its COVID-19 help page, Google now says Q&A are live globally for all businesses except some in medical categories. Google also says Q&A are unavailable in the API.

5/27/2020

Link to GMB Help Center

Reviews Reviews and review response disabled, announced 3/20/20, gradual rollout for reviews but all response functionality was globally disabled in dashboards on the day of the announcement. Update 3/31/20 : Google's messaging to those who attempt to leave reviews, as of Friday 3/27, indicates that publication is delayed, rather than completely disabled. Mike Blumenthal writes on Twitter 3/31: "Google indicates that their aim is to moderate and publish review content that was suppressed when things get back to normal." Update 4/7/20 : Review response has been restored for older reviews. In Google's update to its help page on limited functionality due to COVID-19, they now say: "Review replies are now available. Over the coming weeks, new user reviews, new user photos, new short names, and Q&A will be available. Their availability will gradually expand by country and business category." Update 4/10/20 : A small number of new reviews are starting to appear for some listings. They may be more likely to publish for locations not marked temporarily closed. We will keep tabs on the situation. Update 4/28/20 : Google now says they are "gradually publishing delayed user reviews and photos submitted to Google Maps." Update 4/30/20 : We are beginning to see Google Q&A being restored for some verticals, such as retail and grocery. Users attempting to post new questions and answers may see delays due to the gradual rollout. Update 5/27/20 : Google's COVID-19 help page now reads: "Review replies, user reviews, user photos, and Q&A are now available in all countries."

5/27/2020

Link to GMB Help Center

Listings for hotels Google My Business has published a new help page offering guidance for hotels affected by COVID-19. Google as also added a special attribute for hotels that allows them to indicate they have special offers available for first responders.

5/19/2020

Link to GMB Help Center

Secondary hours Secondary hours are now live in GMB for various use cases including Senior Hours, Drive-Through Hours, Delivery Hours, Takeout Hours, Visiting Hours, and Pickup Hours.

5/14/2020

Attributes Google has released an update that shows these attributes more prominently in listings: "Takeout," "Delivery," and "Dine in." They will show whether marked "yes" or "no," with the typical use case for many restaurants being "Takeout" yes, "Delivery" yes, "Dine in" no. A check mark indicates "yes" and an X indicates "no." We see this live in mobile search but not yet in the Maps app or on desktop; we are told the full rollout will occur in the week of 3/30. Update 4/2/20 : Google has added the attribute "Curbside pickup" for all dining and shopping categories. Update 4/10/20 : Google in the coming week will add the attributes "No contact delivery" for dining and "Online care available" for healthcare, and will make the following attributes more prominent: "Curbside pickup" and "No contact delivery" for dining, "Curbside pickup," "In-store pickup," and "Delivery" for shopping, and "See COVID-19 info for patients and visitors," "Online care available," and "Get online care" for healthcare. "See COVID-19 info" and "Get online care" will be linked to URLs provided by the practice or doctor. Update 4/24/20 : Shopping categories are now prominently displaying "Curbside pickup," "In-store pickup," "In-store shopping," and "Same-day delivery." Update 5/5/20 : Google has created a new section called "Service offerings" in shopping categories that collects all prominent attributes: "Curbside pickup," "Delivery," "In-store pickup," "In-store shopping," and "Same day delivery."

5/5/2020

Coronavirus testing centers 4/17/20 : Google has begun displaying coronavirus testing centers in search, with a new box displaying in search result pages for searches like "coronavirus testing anaheim," linking to a special local finder view that provides information and a map with testing locations. Update 5/5/20 : Local packs are now appearing for coronavirus testing searches with local results. They include prominent attributes such as "Appointment required," "Referral required," "Referral not required," "Testing for all patients," "Testing limited to certain patients," and "Drive-through," with a new exclamation point symbol indicating "important" as opposed to the green check ("yes) and red X ("no"). The modified local finder that presents additional results is also updated to display the same prominent attributes.

5/5/2020

Photos  There are reports that user uploaded photos are not showing up in listings (not business uploaded photos). Update 4/28/20 : Google now says they are "gradually publishing delayed user reviews and photos submitted to Google Maps."

4/28/2020

Link to Local U.org

 

Healthcare listings  GMB has a new support page for healthcare providers that advises them about how to create effective business profiles and emphasizes the importance of telemedicine as well as other special services. Such services can be indicated using service attributes as well as in descriptions and Posts. Update 4/7/20 : Google has added URLs to GMB healthcare listings for COVID-19 info and telehealth. Update 4/8/20 : Google is auto-populating the COVID-19 URL for many healthcare listings with the COVID-19 page on the healthcare provider's website. Both new URL types can be updated via dashboard, bulk upload, and API. Google also recommends in their help page that providers indicate telehealth availability with service attributes; providers in the U.S. are invited to use Google Hangouts Meet for telehealth appointments. Update 4/10/20 : Google has announced that they will add support in the coming week for the new attribute "Online care available," and will make that attibute as well as telehealth and COVID-19 info URLs more prominent in search. Update 4/14/20 : COVID-19 info links have begun appearing prominently in mobile search, with the label "See COVID-19 info for visitors." Update 4/22/20 : Telehealth links are now appearing in mobile search, with the label "Get online care." Update 4/28/20 : Telehealth links may now be labeled "Virtual care link" in the GMB dashboard. Some providers may see the attribute "Video visits" in place of, or in addition to, "Online care."

4/28/2020

Link to GMB Help Center

Google shopping Google has announced that it is now free for online and brick-and-mortar businesses to upload product inventory in Google Shopping for display in consumer product searches.

4/21/2020

Link to Google Blog

Posts  Google has released (3/24) a new post type for COVID-19 updates. Update 3/25/20 : The new COVID-19 posts will tentatively stay live for 14 days but this is subject to change. Update 4/13/20 : The COVID-19 post type is now available in the GMB API.

 4/13/2020

Link to Twitter Post

 

Temporary closures  Temporary closure flag live in GMB dashboard 3/25/20. New Google help page explains how to use. Update 4/8/20 : The temporary closure flag is now live in the GMB API.

 4/8/2020

Link to GMB Help Center

Listings for retail business Google has a new help page advising retail businesses how to use GMB in response to COVID-19. They indicate that temporary closure should only be used if no services at all are available at the location, and that "Pickup," "Delivery," and "Curbside pickup" will show prominently in retail listings with checkboxes indicating "yes" or "no."

4/7/2020

Link to GMB Help Center

New schema tag Google has announced that it will begin indexing the new special announcement schema type for COVID-19 announcements, but support will be initially limited to government and healthcare sites.

4/6/2020

Link to Search Engine Journal

Listings for food-related businesses Google has published a new help page offering guidance to food-related businesses affected by COVID-19.

4/3/2020

Link to GMB Help Center

Maps display of important features Users are noting that Google Maps now displays next to map pins, in place of the ordinary short descriptions, the phrases "Temporarily closed," "Takeout available," and "Delivery available" where appropriate. If the business offers both takeout and delivery, the note reads "Takeout and delivery available." For businesses marked temporarily closed, the map pin and notice are grey.

4/3/2020

Link to Twitter Post

Ranking  Google's Danny Sullivan has stated that temporary closure has no impact on ranking. His tweet on the subject on 3/29 reads, "Temporarily closed doesn't impact ranking or visibility." Google has also modified its help page on COVID-19 by adding: "Marking your business temporarily closed will not affect search ranking and it will be treated similar to open businesses." We asked for further clarification, because we previously saw some impact on discovery search. Sullivan responded: "It does not have an impact. It is a recent change. We expect to provide better messaging soon."

3/30/2020

Link to Twitter Post

Events Google is displaying a message in the Events section of the Knowlege Panel (this section only appears when Google has event content to add to a location): "COVID-19 alert: Event information may be out of date due to the coronavirus (COVID-19). Confirm details with event organiziers." 3/30/2020
Hours Google is displaying a special message next to hours of operation in the Knowledge Panel: "Hours or services may differ due to COVID-19." This message appears to display only in cases where the location is not marked temporarily closed and has not set special hours. 3/30/2020
Posts error Google has announced that Posts were temporarily disabled for some businesses but are now re-enabled. Their full message reads: "Attention: Business posts were temporarily disabled for some businesses and have since resumed. We’re working to reprocess previously rejected posts - please check within a few days to see whether your post is live, or create a new one. In addition, if you are creating a post about business updates related to COVID-19, you can now create a 'COVID-19 update', which will be featured more prominently within your Business Profile."
3/30/2020
Support resources GMB phone support and chat support no longer work. The only way for most businesses to contact GMB is to send an email.

3/24/2020

Link to Local U.org

Keywords in business name We are told that keywords in business names such as "Temporarily Closed" or "Pickup and Delivery Only" are not officially sanctioned by Google and can cause suspensions. 3/23/2020
Special hours bug There is a bug where setting special hours causes all hours to disappear in Maps (though not in Search); has been reported to Google but no resolution yet. 3/20/2020
Edits All edits delayed due to reduced staff and increased scrutiny; critical edits and healthcare prioritized.

3/20/2020

Link to GMB Help Center

 

Yelp

Issue Description  Last Updated 
Virtual services 3/20/20: Yelp will launch features to make it easier for consumers to find virtual versions of local services. Update 5/11/20: Yelp has added virtual offerings, such as virtual classes and consultations, to some categories as Service Offerings attached to the primary category.

5/11/2020

Link to Yelp Official Blog

 

 

Attributes 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.

5/11/2020

Link to Yelp Support

 

Temporary closures  Yelp has a method for marking temporary closure via API or in the Yelp account; must have a reopen date. Update 4/3/20 : Yelp has offered some additional advice on the use of this feature. They say businesses that are still offering online, takeout, and delivery services should not mark themselves as temporarily closed. Instead, they should use the new COVID-19 banner or the specialties field to denote any updates to their offerings. An example would be a gym that is offering online livestreamed classes. Update 5/11/20 : Yelp says that businesses marked temporarily closed will be demoted in search.
5/11/2020
Special messaging  Yelp has added special messaging to all profiles -- except those already marked temporarily closed or that have special hours in place -- saying: "COVID-19 Advisory: Business operations may be affected. Due to ongoing precautionary measures, please contact the business directly for updated hours and availability." This message can be edited by the business by logging in to the Yelp dashboard. Businesses that are marked temporarily closed or have special hours can also edit a special message that will appear in profiles, but the standard message quoted here will not show. Update 4/2/20 : Yelp has added the ability to edit special messaging to the API. 4/2/2020
Fundraising for SMBs Launching donate buttons for SMBs in collaboration with GoFundMe.

3/24/2020

Link to Search Engine Land

Ads Ad fees will be waived for SMBs especially restaurants and nightlife.

3/20/2020

Link to Yelp Official Blog

Contact-free-delivery Yelp will highlight this option in cooperation with GrubHub; slated for release the week of 3/23.

3/20/2020

Link to Yelp Official Blog

Pickup and delivery Yelp will help restaurants highlight this option where dine-in closed.

3/20/2020

Link to Yelp Official Blog

Review moderation Yelp announced more stringent restrictions on reviews that mention COVID-19 or blame businesses for reduced services due to COVID-19; any reviews can be submitted to the moderation team : Yelp Support.

3/20/2020

Link to Yelp Official Blog

 

TripAdvisor

Issue Description  Last Updated
Pickup and delivery Businesses can indicate availability of "delivery and pickup only" in the TripAdvisor dashboard. 3/24/2020
Ads TripAdvisor will waive ad fees for restaurants in closed areas and all fees for Premium. 3/24/2020
Special hours Businesses can add special operating hours in the TripAdvisor dashboard. 3/24/2020
Temporary closures  TripAdvisor accepting requests that a temp closed flag be set for affected locations; a date for temporary closure can be set in the dashboard but cannot be set in bulk. 3/20/2020
Pickup and delivery TripAdvisor will be showcasing in search restaurants that offer pickup and delivery over other services like reservations. 3/20/2020

 

Apple Maps

Issue Description  Last Updated 
Testing sites 3/17/20 : Apple supports a new category for testing sites called health.diagnosticservices.laboratorytesting.virologicaltests. Update 5/14/20 : Apple Maps now showcases "COVID-19 Testing" as the top suggested category in the app. Apple invites healthcare providers, labs, and other businesses to submit testing center information via the Apple Business Register tool. 5/14/2020
Temporary closures Apple allows you to set a temp closed flag; must have a reopen date. 3/17/2020
Special hours This is a relatively new feature that you can use to set temporary hours due to special circumstances. 3/17/2020
Amenities Apple recommends using amenities to indicate special services like availability of pickup or delivery. 3/17/2020

Bing

Issue Description  Last Updated 
COVID-19 help page Bing has launched a new COVID-19 FAQ page to help business make updates in Bing Places, and has announced the ability or SMBs to link GoFundMe campaigns to Bing profiles.

4/30/2020

Link to Bing

 

GoFundME Bing now supports linking GoFundMe campaigns with your Bing profile.

4/30/2020

Link to Bing

Special announcements  A new COVID-19 announcement is live in the Bing Places dashboard. Businesses must specify a duration and can add descriptive text and a link.

 4/8/2020

Link to Bing

Temporary closures Bing has added a temporarily closed flag in the Bing Places dashboard and the API so that businesses can mark themselves closed due to COVID-19; must provide reopen date but the date is used internally so the flag does not stay live forever; date does not show publicly. Setting the flag may cause listings to become less relevant in search but they will not disappear.

3/26/2020

Link to Bing

Special hours Bing supports special hours, so businesses can mark their hours as reduced or modified due to COVID-19 within the Bing Places dashboard or via API.

3/24/2020

Link to Bing

New schema spec Bing has announced that it has adopted the new Special Announcement Schema specifications for COVID-19.

3/23/2020

Link to Bing

 

Schema.org

Issue Description  Last Updated 
New specifications  Schema.org has launched v7.0 with new special announcements, testing center location type, and event updates including virtual events.

3/16/2020

Link to schema blog

 

Facebook

Issue Description  Last Updated
Temporary closures and special circumstances Facebook does not have a good method to indicate this; but you can select "No hours available" and use other messaging to communicate that you are temporarily closed. Update 4/2/20 : Facebook has added a Temporary Service Changes menu to store pages that allows businesses to indicate they are temporarily closed, or to showcase that they are open but with changes such as online services, pickup, delivery, or other changes that can be explained in a post on the store's page.

4/2/2020

Link to Facebook for Business

Fundraising Offering $100M in small business grants and ad credits to assist SMBs.

3/18/2020

Link to Facebook for Business

Special hours  Update standard hours to indicate reduced availability.  3/18/2020 
Special announcement  Best recommendation is to use pinned posts; these can explain any special circumstances and give you a chance to add photo content and brand messaging. 3/18/2020

 

Foursquare

Issue Description  Last Updated 
Special hours Foursquare has released a new specification making it easier to mark businesses as temporarily closed, having reduced hours, or having separate hours for specific services like drive through. 3/24/2020
Description Foursquare descriptions are prominent in profiles on City Guide and Swarm and can be used to communicate any special circumstances. 3/24/2020

 

Neustar Localeze

Issue Description  Last Updated 
Special announcement  Neustar's tagline and keyword fields can be used to indicate special circumstances such as "Delivery and takeout only," "Open by appointment only," or "Temporarily closed." Update 4/1/20 : Neustar has added a new description field that can also be used to communicate special circumstances. 4/1/2020
Processing time Businesses should consider that, due to the time it takes for updates to be syndicated and published, Neustar updates should be reserved for information that is likely to stay current for a few weeks 3/25/2020

 

Infogroup

Issue Description  Last Update 
Temporary closure  Infogroup has a new field that allows businesses to indicate they are (1) temporarily closed or (2) open but with limited offerings (such as open for delivery only). Optionally, businesses can also indicate a start date for temporary closure as well as a reopen date. Update 5/18/20 : Infogroup is suspending this feature for the time being. 5/18/2020
Attributes New fields let businesses indicate that, although operations are limited, the business still offers delivery or pickup; is open by appointment only; or is open but offering online services only. Update 5/18/20 : Infogroup has announced that it is limiting attributes to pickup and delivery only. 5/18/2020
Special announcement  A new field lets businesses provide text (up to 4,000 characters) with information about special hours, special circumstances, or anything else that should be communicated to the public. Update 5/18/20 : Infogroup is suspending this feature for the time being. 5/18/2020

 

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