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How Google My Business Changed in 2020

2020 sure has been a whirlwind of a year! With everything that has happened this year, businesses have had to adapt their approaches to suit the current social and economic climate. Google is no exception to this.

Google My Business has undergone a number of changes this year including bug fixes, improvements, COVID-19 features, as well as some other interesting additions that we’ll explore in this blog. Changes came quick and fast so let’s reflect on the updates to Google My Business in 2020.

Covid-19 features

The coronavirus pandemic has impacted companies worldwide. Right as the pandemic began to get out of control in March, Google set out to make changes to ensure that it was supporting businesses.

Covid-19 Update

Google My Business implemented a new post type, the ‘COVID-19 Update’, to make it easier for businesses to communicate with their customers and searchers. A COVID post would appear more prominently on the business listing, showing higher up in the knowledge panel. Google didn’t allow images for these posts, citing their goal of ensuring the updates were useful for the customer and as informational as possible.

These posts are able to be displayed for 14 days instead of the seven days for a standard Google My Business post.

Health and safety attributes

Perhaps one of the most significant coronavirus-related features was the health and safety attributes. This gives users the option to display all of the safety protocols they have in place. This could be staff temperature checks or whether an appointment is required. A hugely important tool, we’ve made sure to use it!

Google My Business attributes features

Reviews and photos

While there were Google My Business updates related to the pandemic, Google also suspended some existing ones. This included the ability to receive new reviews and questions, and for customers to upload new photos. Users could still leave reviews, but they wouldn’t appear anywhere on the company’s listing.

As some countries began to exit their lockdowns in mid April, Google began to turn reviews on again for certain areas and industries. Now all Google My Business listings are again able to receive new reviews, with Google planning to publish reviews made during the suspension period.

Other features

Google also added in the option for a location to be reported as “Temporarily Closed” and businesses were encouraged to update their opening hours. Later Google added in ‘COVID links’ so businesses could update their customers on the latest Covid protocols with a link to their website.

Bug fixes

Rejected posts

At the beginning of 2020, many businesses began to notice that their Google My Business posts were being rejected. It was initially thought that the images in these posts didn’t conform to Google’s guidelines. However, Google issued a “fix” to this issue, which suggested that it may have actually been some kind of bug.

This was very tough for agencies who post on Google My Business on behalf of their clients. It’s not easy explaining an issue to a client that isn’t an agency’s fault. Thankfully once the fix was issued, old, previously rejected posts were published.

Local ranking fluctuations

In April 2020, there appeared to be great volatility in the local search results. This was a huge problem for businesses already struggling with the effects of the pandemic. When they fell down the rankings, it was reflected in their revenue. Likewise, in moving back up the rankings they saw an increase in revenue.

A bug such as this in such an uncertain time had a huge impact. The following month, Google issued a fix that stabilised things, but it just goes to show how dependent businesses are on Google and its ability to work properly!

More hours

Some businesses offer more than one service, or as they grow they look to incorporate more services into their brand. For example, a restaurant may have expanded to include a delivery service.

Hours for one service may differ to that of another service and Google took this into account. Now businesses can update their hours to include different services just like the Tesco example below.

More hours are available to companies, such as this Tesco Extra example.

Flag user profiles

Google now provides users with the option to flag a user profile. This could be if they deem it to be contributing false information, uploading offensive content, or taking other abusive actions that violate the Google Maps user-contributed policy.

This is a far more rapid way of reporting a user’s profile then before. Previously a user had to send an email to Local Guides support. However, it is worth noting that this feature is only available in the Google Maps App on iOS and Android for now.

Suggested categories

There are nearly 4,000 different categories on Google My Business in 2020. Google lets businesses select one primary category and up to ten secondary ones. With so many options some may struggle to pick out the categories that suit them best, but Google now helps with ‘suggested categories’. Added into the Products section, Google My Business now displays a number of product categories that it believes most suits your offerings.

Direct Edit Experience

In August, Google began to roll out a new and improved direct edit experience for editing business profiles. Simply by entering the phrase “My Business” in the Google search field, the user is presented with up to three of their local listings (with the option to click on View all Business Profiles). This new interface is available in both Search and Maps. Many of the functions do not need to be carried out on the Google My Business dashboard. Changing hours, responding to reviews and adding photos can now be done directly in Search and Maps.

Performance metrics

Another addition to this feature is the ability to see performance metrics (GMB Insights) in Google search too. By clicking on Highlight business in the search and then on Performance, you can view all your performance-based metrics from the last six months.

Highlight business to show performance-based metrics
GMB Performance-based metrics in Google search.

More search results data

With the aim to inform businesses how many people had contacted them via their listing, Google released a new update with much more search results data. Insights were added so users could see how often people had contacted the business after seeing their profile in the search results. This serves as a useful indicator to listing owners, as it shows how well their listing is coming across to other users.

Summary

Google My Business in 2020 on the whole has been very impressive. With a few bugs at the start of the year (perhaps setting the tone for 2020!), Google has been very supportive of its users. It has continued to help improve a business’ local ranking.

From great new features such as adding in more operating hours and the new direct edit experience to its COVID-19 features, which have been a great help, Google has demonstrated its ability to adapt. It will be interesting to see what 2021 has in store and we look forward to seeing what new features they have in the works!

What do you think of the changes made to Google My Business this year? Have you utilised any of the new features? Let us know in the comments or tweet us.

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