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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.

Google My Business

Issue Description  Last Updated 
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." 3/31/2020
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
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section only appears when Google has event content to add to a location): "COVID-19 alert: Event information may be out of date due to the coronavirus (COVID-19).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
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 3/27/20: Google has temporarily lifted the API limitation that previously blocked accounts with 10 or more locations from creating Posts. Now Posts can be sent via the GMB API but they must contain updates relevant to COVID-19. 3/27/2020
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 by early next week. 3/27/2020
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. 3/26/2020
Temporary closures  Temporary closure flag now live in GMB dashboard. New Google help page explains how to use.  3/25/2020
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 
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
Photos  There are reports that user uploaded photos are not showing up in listings (not business uploaded photos.) 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
Questions and answers Q&A disabled, announced 3/20/20, hidden from public view for all profiles. 3/20/2020
Edits All edits delayed due to reduced staff and increased scrutiny; critical edits and healthcare prioritized. 3/20/2020

 

Yelp

Issue Description  Last Updated 
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
Ads Ad fees will be waived for SMBs especially restaurants and nightlife. 3/20/2020
Contact-free-delivery Yelp will highlight this option in cooperation with GrubHub; slated for release the week of 3/23. 3/20/2020
Pickup and delivery Yelp will help restaurants highlight this option where dine-in closed. 3/20/2020
Virtual services Yelp will launch features to make it easier for consumers to find virtual versions of local services. 3/20/2020 
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
Temporary closures  Yelp has a method for marking temporary closure via API or in the Yelp account; must have a reopen date. 3/18/2020

 

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 
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
Testing sites

Apple supports a new category for testing sites: health.diagnosticservices.laboratorytesting.virologicaltests.

3/17/2020

Bing

Issue Description  Last Updated 
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
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
New schema spec Bing has announced that it has adopted the new Special Announcement Schema specifications for COVID-19. 3/23/2020

 

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

 

Facebook

Issue Description  Last Updated
Fundraising Offering $100M in small business grants and ad credits to assist SMBs. 3/18/2020
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
Temporary closures 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. 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

 

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