How to Use Google My Business Covid-19 Tools

Google My Business (GMB) is a huge help to local businesses that want customers to see their location, hours and reviews easily in search results.

Whenever you need to make an update—for example, because you’re only open for curbside pickup and delivery now due to social distancing regulations—Google My Business is one the first places you should post those changes. 

After you submit your GMB changes, Google staffers usually review them before they’re published, to ensure no one’s defacing your listing. But like every other business, Google has had to adjust the way it operates because of the coronavirus pandemic. 

To maintain safe social distancing for its employees and to make sure health care business changes are approved fast, GMB teams are taking longer to review and approve information changes for other types of businesses—unless they’re specifically related to COVID-19. 

What do the current changes with Google My Business mean for your business? 

It depends on the kind of local business you own.

If your business ISN’T health care related: To update your customers on changes related to the pandemic—and to keep your GMB updates from getting stuck in Google’s review queue—create a COVID-19 post in Google My Business. We’ll walk you through how to do this in the next section. This is a new feature that helps get your changes reviewed and approved faster.

If your business IS health care related: Your GMB updates will go to the top of the review queue automatically. And GMB has added the ability for health care providers to list their services. For example, if you offer telemedicine or drive-thru coronavirus testing, you can now include that in your GMB listing.

google my business updates for health care prioritized

OK, so you’ve got changes to make. How exactly do you get them done? 

How to Create a COVID-19 Post in Google My Business

In May, Google said that more than a million businesses had used COVID-19 posts to communication with their customers, and those posts are generating millions of clicks from shoppers each week. If you’re not already sharing COVID-19 posts to keep your customers up to date on hours, products and services, you may be losing out to competitors who are. 

A COVID-19 update will get approved faster than a regular update. Your COVID-19 post will also be easy to see, because Google will pin it to the top of your GMB listing.

1. Start by logging into your Google My Business account from a computer (not your mobile device). 

2. Choose “Posts” from the menu on your GMB account page.

3. Select the tab labeled “COVID-19 update.”

4. Add or edit your temporary information. You can:

  • Set special hours if you’re not operating on your normal schedule.
  • Remove the “information may not be up to date” disclaimer that Google has automatically added to many listings. 
google my business "hour or services may differ" disclaimer during covid-19
  • Mark your business temporarily closed without affecting your local search ranking.
temporarily closed banner on google my business for covid-19
  • Add new services you’re offering during the pandemic.
  • Let customers know you have gift cards for sale.
  • Note if your business is only open for carryout, curbside pickup and/or delivery. 
google my business covid-19 post updates for new services like pickup or carryout

Note: This will update your Google Maps location display, too.

google maps changes due to covid-19 updates
  • List local services (like Favor and Door Dash) that will deliver from your business.
google my business covid-19 updates for order delivery service partners
  • Explain any delays in order fulfillment or delivery.
  • Explain how your business is protecting customer and employee safety.
  • Request that customers call your business for more information. 

5. Preview your COVID-19 post to make sure your updates are correct.

6. Adjust the visibility time of your COVID-19 post. 

  • Click “menu” on your post.
  • Select “schedule” and then click “change” by “visibility time.”
  • Pick the end date and time you want for your post—up to 14 days from the publish date.
  • Save your visibility changes.

7. Click “publish.”

8. Make a note to publish another update in 14 days if your changes are still in effect, because the COVID-19 post may expire. 

Note: If your business has more than one location, you’ll need to repeat steps 2 – 8 for each location that has changes to share.

Other Google My Business updates for food businesses

In addition to changing your hours and showing your takeout and delivery options, you may need to update your menu. 

For example, if you’re offering a pared-down version of your dine-in menu for delivery, or if you’re offering new items like pantry supplies and groceries along with prepared meals, you can show those changes in your GMB listing. To do this: 

  • Click “info” on the left-side menu on your GMB page. 
  • Select “menu URL.” 
  • Make your menu updates. 
  • Click “apply” to save them. 

If you have more than one location, you’ll need to repeat this process for each one. 

5 More Best Practices Google My Business Recommends Right Now

Google continues to roll out new tools to help local businesses cope with the changes brought on by temporary closures, phased reopenings and reduced in-store traffic.

Here are some new options you may want to use for your business. 

1. Add secondary hours

Secondary hours are different from special hours, which we mentioned above. Secondary hours (also called More hours in GMB) are a way to let customers know when different parts of your business are open. That’s especially important when you may be changing hours often because of safety restrictions or cleaning requirements.

Here’s an example from a restaurant that has different hours for its dining room and its drive through. The main hours listing is for the dining room. The secondary hours tool is what they used to make the drive through schedule visible.

google my business listing with secondary hours for drive through

What if you run a business with different hours for more than one service or department? No worries. You can add more than one set of secondary hours—and when customers click on See more hours, they’ll get a dropdown menu for all your hours for every day of the week. 

Here’s a grocery store’s dropdown menu with lots of secondary hours:

google my business secondary hours for grocery store

Add your secondary hours by choosing the location you want to edit in GMB. Then

  • Choose Info.
  • Choose Edit next to More hours.
  • Choose the types of hours you want to add under Add hours.
  • Enter your hours for each day of the week.
  • Choose Apply.

Check your work in your profile and enjoy the fact that your customers now have the most up to date information about when your business is open.

2. Get support from customers during COVID-19

Selling gift cards can help you in several ways when your business is temporarily closed or has limited hours: 

  • You can use the income from gift certificates as a kind of interest-free loan to help pay your bills. 
  • When customers buy gift certificates for themselves—for example, to pay for a haircut and color in advance—they’re also making a commitment to come back to you when you reopen. 
  • When customers give your certificates as gifts, they’re helping you connect with new people to grow your base. 

Google now lets businesses with a physical storefront add a gift card purchase option to your profile, so customers can buy directly from your GMB listing. Google is working with four payment processors for gift card sales—Clover, Square, Toast and Vagaro. You can also add donation links to your profile, with payments accepted through GoFundMe and PayPal. 

Here’s how to get started.

How to Add Gift Cards or Donation Links to Your Google My Business Profile:

  1. First, set up a link for gift card purchases or donations with one of the providers GMB supports. (For gift card purchases, you also have the option to link to a page on your business website.)
  2. In your GMB account, choose the location that you want to have a gift card link or donation link. 
  3. Choose Posts from the menu.
  4. Choose COVID-19 support
  5. Type your message to customers. Google recommends keeping it positive, specific and somewhere between 250-300 characters. For example, “Hi, everyone! We’re looking forward to grooming your bunnies again just as soon as we can reopen. Please consider treating yourself and your favorite house rabbit to a gift card now, good for their next brushing, tooth check and nail trim.”
  6. Add your gift card purchase or donation link(s).
  7. Select Post.

Once your updated post is live, double-check your links to ensure they’re unbroken.

3. Get more control over your local delivery options

If you run a restaurant that relies on takeout sales, you already know how much the fees from delivery apps are affecting your bottom line. To help restaurant owners shop around for the lowest fees and best service, Google says it’s working on giving eateries more control over which delivery services they want customers to use.

If you want, you can completely opt out of the Order Online feature in your profile.

  1. Select the location in your GMB profile you want to edit.
  2. Choose Info from the left menu. 
  3. Scroll to Food ordering.
  4. Choose Edit.
  5. Find Delivery, takeout and order ahead.
  6. Set Accept partner orders on Google to off.

You can also remove unauthorized delivery providers (while keeping the authorized ones) by filling out and submitting Google’s opt out form.

remove delivery providers from google my business profile

4. Take bookings for online classes and appointments

Google’s working on helping businesses book digital services like online classes and virtual appointments from their listings. This upcoming tool is an especially helpful option for dance and fitness studios, people who teach classes online, and professional counselors and consultants. 

 To get started, add one of these attributes to your GMB profile:

  • Online classes
  • Online appointments
  • Online estimates

Once your attribute is selected, Google says it should be visible on your Search and Maps profile within a few weeks, if not sooner. 

You can also see if your current online booking service is a Reserve with Google partner, or find one that is. When you work with one of their booking partners, your customers will be able to reserve appointments or sign up for classes and add them to their Google Calendar from your GMB profile. 

As part of the process, you can give your customers information about how to pay for their virtual appointments or classes and how to attend sessions online.

add virtual appointments and classes to google my business profile

5. Other recommendations for optimizing your business presence on Google

You can activate Google My Business messaging so customers can reach you quickly. You can also create automatic responses, so you’re not overwhelmed by sharing the same information over and over. 

If your business runs Google ads, be sure to update the information in those messages. (New to advertising on Google? Read our guide to setting upyour first Google Ad.)

If you mark your business temporarily closed, be sure to mark it open in GMB when you reopen your business.

You can find more ideas to keep your business running safely in HostGator’s COVID-19 Business Tips library, or check out these popular posts:

Casey Kelly-Barton is an Austin-based freelance B2B content marketing writer. Her specialty areas include SMB marketing and growth, data security, IoT, and fraud prevention