Google wants to help people find the most accurate and relevant information possible, and with all the changes surrounding COVID-19 this is more true than ever. At 97th Floor, we want to ensure that SEO strategies are adjusting to the recent industry changes as well. Here’s a breakdown of some Google My Business tips, along with some suggestions for SEO strategy you can incorporate into your current digital marketing plan.
Google My Business: Temporarily Closed GMB Feature
In Google My Business accounts, you will now see a new option to mark your business temporarily closed. Many businesses have been closed because of this pandemic sweeping the world, and many people are unsure of what is still operating at this time. This button is an easy way for businesses to communicate with Google (and by extension, their customers) about the current status of the operation.
The types of businesses that could benefit from this would be restaurants, event venues, theaters, or any other business that have to close its doors due to social distancing. If your business has temporarily adjusted hours and non-persistent closures, you can also use the Special Hours feature to keep your customers up to date.
GMB: A note on Google Limiting Google My Business Functionality
Google just released the following statement regarding functionality limitations for Google My Business:
During the unprecedented COVID-19 situation, we are taking steps to protect the health of our team members and reduce the need for people to come into our offices. As a result, there may be some temporary limitations and delays in support as we prioritize critical services.
Our current focus is on the quality and reliability of information on Google Search and Maps. We want to ensure users and business owners have access to essential features like whether the business is open or has special hours. Learn about best practices for affected businesses, and what you can do to keep your customers informed.
Below is a summary of the limitations as well as what they mean for your brand:
- Business information edits
- Health-related businesses are being prioritized for GMB business information edits
- Google will prioritize edit reviews for open/closed states, special hours, temporary closures, business descriptions, and business attributes edits for other verified businesses.
- Expect some delays on all types of edits. During these delays, Google recommends business communicate with their customer base via business attributes and posts.
- Newly created listings, claims, and verifications
- Critical health-related businesses will get priority for new listings, claims, and verifications.
- Reviews, Q&A, and more
- New reviews, new review replies, new short names, all videos, and all Q&A are unavailable during this time.
It looks like Google is hoping to get things back to normal as soon as possible, but for now this will be the new normal.
SEO Strategy Tip: Event Schema Updates
Conferences, events, and other professional gatherings have also seen significant impacts because of COVID-19. As we try to flatten the curve, many events have changed plans to protect attendees from being infected. A new schema update allows publishers to share the status of their event with their users, without having to remove it from the event experience. Using the schema.org eventStatus property will allow you to mark events as canceled, postponed, rescheduled, or moved online. Likely those same businesses who are having to temporarily close their doors or adjust their hours should also look into using this markup for their events, where it applies. This is all outlined in greater detail on Google’s webmaster blog.
SEO Strategy Tip: General SEO Advice For Business
If your team can afford to invest in SEO, I’d recommend you still keep your foot on the gas pedal where possible. This is largely due to the fact that once this virus has been contained and the pandemic is over, the market/demand will return. Once that happens, you want to be sure your business is ready to take part (from an SEO perspective).
For example, if you are a niche ecommerce brand and sales are currently down, you’ll first want to take care of your people and customers. Once you’ve done that, you can pivot your organic strategy to focus more on building your brand’s topic dominance via new content. This content should address topics relevant not only to your brand, but also to the way your customers are being impacted by the pandemic. While all these pieces are gaining traction and organic strength, you can utilize internal linking. Linking from these posts to other focus pages on your site will ensure the organic momentum you’re building is being passed on to those key pages essential to your customer journey.
SEO Strategy Tip: Use Free SEO Tools Where You Can
As an agency, we completely understand that running and maintaining an SEO campaign can be costly. And if your business has been negatively impacted by this pandemic, here are some free tools I’d recommend in order to help lessen the financial burden of continuing your SEO efforts:
- Screaming Frog SEO Spider (free version) - Crawl (500 URLs or less) and diagnoses technical SEO issues
- Google Search Console - Provides up-to-date readouts on SEO site performance
- Google Analytics - Delivers site-performance tracking data
- Google Pagespeed Insights - Checks website speed
- Structured Data Markup Helper - Helps you mark up your web pages so that Google can better understand them.
- Answer the public - Provides free keyword research
- SEObility - Assists with keyword research, backlink analysis, and content analysis for your website
- Spyfu (free version) - Offers insights into competitors’ keywords
- Grammarly - Helps improve emails and other written communication
- SERP Trends - Identifies SERP movement within a SERP you’ve seen in the past
- Keywords Everywhere - Explores keywords and related keywords in Google Search
- Redirect Path - Identifies redirect issues on your website
- Wappalyzer - Uncovers the technologies used on websites (cross-platform utility)
- VidIQ - Analyzes YouTube SEO metrics
- Google Tag Assistant - Troubleshoots your Google tag manager deployment.
- NoFollow - Identifies no-follow links shown on page
- Hunter.io - Finds emails to websites
- Lighthouse - Improves performance, quality, and correctness of web apps (open-source, automated tool)
- Pixel Width Checker - Checks the pixel width of title tags and meta descriptions
- Hot Jar - Facilitates heat mapping and recorded sessions
Running an SEO strategy during a pandemic is challenging to say the least. We acknowledge all SEO practitioners out there who are rolling up their sleeves and getting to work even with the recent changes in the market. It’s safe to say that no one has gone through this situation before — we’re all pandemic SEO noobs. But as we all come together and make sharing information a priority, we’ll be able create a better search experience for users and our clients.