Google Rolls Out New GMB Tools to Help Sustain SMBs Amidst COVID-19

Many small and medium-sized businesses have faced challenges due to the effects of the pandemic to the economy. Amidst this difficult time, however, consumers all over the world have begun to seek out ways to support their favourite companies and establishments, especially in places like New Zealand, where restrictions have begun to lift.

Recent statements by Google have highlighted just how much web traffic is dedicated to this. According to them, searches for “how to help small businesses” saw a huge increase over March, by more than 700%.

In response to the rapidly changing currents of online interest, Google has started making changes to Google My Business (GMB), a service which has always played a huge role in the visibility of SMBs in their local area. The changes consist of both updates and expansions to existing features as well as the addition of new features, which we explain in-depth below.

Support Links

The first major change is the global expansion of support links. In early May, Google released support links as an option for Business Profiles, explaining that “merchants will be able to add a donation link, gift card link or both to their profile. They can also share a personal message in their post to inform customers how funds will be put to use.”

These were initially rolled out to English-speaking countries including the US, U.K, Canada, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand. Google has made clear that they are now rolling out to 18 more markets, including Japan and Italy. 

The donations are currently made possible via PayPal or GoFundMe through a partnership with Google. While Google has not made clear whether or not these have seen widespread use thus far, it is true that they provided the links in response to seeing an enormous wave of demand for such options.

GMB support link page by Google
GMB Support Link page

Secondary Hours

Google has also provided new options for listing open hours, as many SMBs have found that providing accurate information on trading hours has skyrocketed in importance during global lockdown periods. 

Secondary Hours allow businesses to list multiple versions of their opening times, and many have already begun using this to list pick-up or delivery hours alongside their regular hours. Secondary hours can be viewed by clicking “See more hours” on a GMB listing.

Additions to Reserve with Google

Businesses that typically rely on face-to-face interaction have pivoted towards virtual meetings or online appointments, so Google is aiming to improve its offerings in this area.

Besides planning to integrate online appointments into Business listings in a way that will highlight them to users, Google has also changed the way Reserve with Google works to accommodate the major cultural shift. Currently, Reserve with Google allows users to book in-person appointments through a wide range of third-party companies.

To help SMBs that are trying to shift toward online consultations or appointments, Reserve with Google will soon allow vendors to offer bookings for online meetings through third-party partners. 

Changes for Hospitality Business Listings

Finally, Google has outlined plans to give restaurants and other food delivery businesses more control of how their product is delivered. 

This comes in response to several controversies surrounding food delivery, including the revelation in New Zealand that Uber Eats was charging restaurants between 30 – 35% in some cases during the first phases of lockdown. Google intends to allow restaurants to select preferred delivery services, in an effort to curtail this.

Google has also added more attributes to business listings including “no contact delivery” and “curbside pickup” to help businesses provide as much information as possible to users.

Why do changes to GMB matter?

While it’s true that other institutions in the digital space such as Yelp are offering similar (or more) features to the ones covered above, GMB is a point of particular interest. Google’s willingness to help SMBs is worth comparing to the options offered by other companies, but it’s undeniable how much sway GMB has on the SERPs.

GMB is often the first port-of-call for any campaign tailored to a small business—it’s value can’t be overstated for businesses that operate on a local scale, or hold multiple locations. 

These changes, while great, raise significant questions. Will these tools stay in place indefinitely? If we assume that they will, does this mean GMB will become a major hub for online as well as offline transactions? Only time will tell, but signs point to a much larger shift towards eCommerce than some might suspect.

Need help optimising your GMB listing? Pure SEO can help. Get in touch with us today and ask us how we can take your online strategy to the next level.

Sam Mannell

Sam Mannell has been a writer for the Pure SEO content team since August '18, and is now Lead Editor. He quickly found his place in the company as resident Dungeon Master and coffee expert. Sam holds a BA from University of Auckland, where he double-majored in Linguistics and English.

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