Changes to Google impacting your digital marketing

Joe Iribarren, Beyond Creative
By Joe Iribarren

These are hard times for many businesses across the globe. Local government is forcing companies to stop operating, while others are voluntarily doing so. And everyone is trying to figure out how to adapt to this ever-changing landscape quickly.

I want to give you an update on some changes to Google and how they can impact your digital marketing.

Google stated they would be temporarily disabling and limiting some Google My Business features. They wrote the following in a post published Friday, March 20, 2020:

"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."

So, what features did Google remove?
For now, there will be no new reviews published to your Google My Business profile(s). Although a user will still be allowed to post and view a review, they won't be publicly visible (at this time). We don't know yet if reviews made now will become visible once Google lifts their current restrictions.

GMB review replies
The capability of dealers to reply to their Google My Business Review has been disabled, too. There is a lesser need to reply if customers are not able to publish new reviews. Dealers will not be able to respond to reviews that have had already been previously made to their profile, however. Dealers will not be able to edit replies they had made to their reviews either.

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GMB questions and answers
One of the most significant changes that Google has made to your My Business profiles has been to remove Q&A capabilities from your profiles altogether. All of your existing Q&A will not be available to viewers. Users will be unable to ask new questions, either.

What features are limited?
Google is not removing any functionalities related to adding, claiming, or verifying a My Business listing. The listing review process, however, is naturally being prioritized for businesses in health-related industries. Since dealerships are not health-related, we can expect delays when it comes to adding and claiming new listings, as well as getting listing verifications. Google has yet to share what the expected length of this delay will be.

Editing business information
Dealerships can also expect delays when making business edits, which includes the following:
• Open and closed states
• Special hours
• Temporary closures
• Business descriptions
• Business attributes

Delays apply to changes made by both the business owners or managers and Google users.

Is there anything else you should know?
It is still unclear exactly how these Google My Business updates are affecting Search Engine Optimization (SEO). We are noticing traffic influxes though.

Google Posts
As of this now, Google Posts are still available. Our Search Engine Optimization (SEO) team has reported a spike in the number of post rejections.

On their official post, Google did not make any references as to why they are rejecting posts in higher numbers. Google has not yet referenced whether there are new guidelines temporarily set in place.

Use Google Posts as an effective way to communicate critical information updates and changes to your dealership's operations. Google Posts hold a substantial amount of real-estate on search.

User-Generated Content
Google has not confirmed this yet, but by all accounts, it seems as though Google has suspended all user-generated content as well.

What Comes Next?
Google did not provide a timeline on their post about how long they expect these changes to remain in place. And unfortunately, our crystal ball is at home practicing social distancing. We do not think these will be the last changes Google will make due to the Coronavirus pandemic.

For now, this might be a terrific time to look beyond Google and explore how you can expand your online reputation on other relevant networks for SEO, such as Facebook.

Stay healthy, and please reach out with questions and comments.

Joe Iribarren is the principal and founder of Beyond Creative; a Florida-based digital marketing firm that specializes in serving motorsports, RV, and marine dealers. He is a long-time boater, fisherman and watersports enthusiast. He can be reached at joe@beyondcreative.com

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