There’s no denying that these are hard times for local businesses around the world, with many being forced to shutter or adapt quickly as measures are put in place to stop the spread of the Covid-19.

During this time, we’re committed to making sure our customers are kept updated on any developments affecting local SEO, and last week we saw the first significant change by Google.

In a post published on Friday March 20th, Google announced that it was temporarily disabling and limiting a number of features in Google My Business, saying:

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.

What features have been removed?

New Reviews

During this period no new reviews will be published to Google My Business profiles. Users will still be able to post and see their own reviews at this time, but they will not be publicly visible.

It is not yet known whether these reviews will be made visible once Google lifts the restrictions.

Review Replies

Review replies have also been disabled. With no new reviews appearing, there’s obviously less need for businesses to be able to respond right now. However, businesses will be unable to respond to existing reviews on their profile. This also applies to editing the content of existing review replies – if that’s even a thing!

Q&A

In perhaps the most significant change, Q&As have been completely removed from profiles. This means all existing Q&As will not be visible and users will be unable to post new questions

In Google’s post about the change, they only made reference to ‘new Q&As’ but having checked a number of businesses, Q&As appear to have vanished.

What features are limited?

Adding, claiming and verifying listings

While no functionality is being removed, Google’s listing review process is being prioritized for health-related businesses. Businesses that aren’t health-related can expect delays when adding and claiming listings and receiving listing verifications.

Google has not yet stated the length of the delay.

Editing business information

Businesses that aren’t considered health-related can also expect delays to the listing edits, including:

  • Open and closed states
  • Special hours
  • Temporary closures
  • Business descriptions
  • Business attributes

This covers edits made by both businesses and users.

Anything else worth knowing?

While not officially confirmed by Google, many SEOs are noticing other changes in Google My Business.

Google Posts

Google Posts are still available at time of writing but SEOs are reporting that they’re seeing a higher number of rejections.

Jason Brown Dumpster Fire@keyserholiday

Seeing a spike in Google posts being rejected. If your post fails, you are not alone.

View image on Twitter

Google hasn’t made any reference about why a higher number of Posts are being rejected or whether new guidelines are in place temporarily.

Until things become clearer, Google Posts are an effective way to ensure important information and changes to operations are visible to searchers.

‘Takeout/delivery available’ in business names

Google is usually pretty strict when it comes to business names in GMB, but it appears to have loosened its guidelines by allowing restaurants to add ‘delivery available” or ‘takeout available’ to their business names.

Why is Google doing this?

From where I’m sat, which is at home practicing social distancing, Google seems to be doing this for two reasons:

  1. To ensure health-related businesses are able to keep customers updated about critical information
  2. To limit the burden on businesses who are likely to be inundated with questions related Covid-19

One one hand, Google should be commended for protecting its staff’s health and prioritizing its focus on businesses that provide critical health services to their communities.

One the other hand, many businesses will be reliant on Google My Business to ensure customers are made aware of changes such as opening hours. If they provide essential services to a community, then up-to-date information is going to be vital to ensure customers aren’t making unnecessary trips

How will Moss Technologies’ customers be affected?

These changes will have minimal impact on the vast majority of features and services provided by Moss Technologies, but there are small implications.

What’s next?

There’s no timescale on how long these changes and limitations will be in place and we imagine these won’t be the last changes we’ll see during the Covid-19 situation.

We’ll continue to keep you posted on our blog, via email and through social media on the rollback of these changes and any new developments.

A final note…

At Moss Technologies, we cherish our clients and customers and promise to stand by your side during this time.

If you need some extra help over these next few months; even work that falls out of scope with our agreement, please reach out and let us know.

We’re more than happy to try and accommodate.

Over the next couple of weeks, we’ll be sharing more about the steps Moss Technologies is taking to help our customers during this period.

Until then, please stay safe!