Google has introduced a new way to quickly and easily show that your business is temporarily closed in accordance to Oklahoma’s “Safer at Home” order and other states’ shelter in place laws during the ongoing COVID-19 epidemic.

This comes at a critical time as people are turning to Google’s local listings to see what essential businesses are still operating around them and what revised hours they may be operating. For example, although grocery stores are remaining open, many are changing their hours to allow time to restock and let employees rest.

Meanwhile, countless others have been forced to close up shop for at least two weeks for the sake of public safety. Google is the first stop many are turning to in order to see what type of changes your company has had to make.

How To Temporarily Close Your Business On Google

To help, Google has shared easy-to-follow instructions explaining how to “mark a business temporarily closed.”

The first step is to sign in to your Google My Business account and select the “Info” section in the menu on the left.

From there, you will find a section marked “Close this business on Google.”

Within this section, you will be presented with three options – to mark you listing as temporarily closed, permanently closed, or entirely remove your listing.

Why It Is Important To Update Your Listing

With so much confusion and uncertainty, people are relying on the internet for up-to-date information more than ever. This is especially true for Google’s local listings.

However, the surge in GMB updates has overwhelmed Google’s reduced staff to the point that many areas of local listings are being suspended – such as reviews and Q&A’s. Closing your listing temporarily is currently the easiest way to let people know that although you have had to close for the time being, you will be back in action soon.

In light of a limited workforce and the unique needs of people during the COVID-19 pandemic, Google says it will be temporarily removing some features from Google My Business to better prioritize important updates for the time being.

“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.”

For the foreseeable future, these Google My Business features may be limited or removed.

Reviews and Q&A

Perhaps the most noticeable change for businesses and customers alike is that GMB will no longer be publishing new reviews, review replies, or new Q&A responses until further notice. However, existing reviews and Q&A’s will remain visible on your listing.

Although the company hasn’t clarified, most take this to mean that any reviews, replies, or questions submitted during this period will be held until Google has the resources and available workforce to properly review these updates.

New Listings or Verification

Google My Business has instructed its team to prioritize critical health-related businesses when reviewing new listings, claims, and verification for GMB listings.

This means that while new listings for non-health-related businesses will still be processed, they may be delayed in favor of more critical updates or listings.

Business Listing Updates

Similarly, Google will be prioritizing healthcare-related listings when reviewing edits to existing business listings.

This includes edits relating to:

  • Changes to open and closed states
  • Special hours
  • Temporary closures
  • Business descriptions
  • Business attributes

GMB says it is working to keep customers updated about all business changes during this time, though it must focus on those to health-related businesses.

Google Posts

Although Google has not made any official comments about Google Post functionality during the coronavirus epidemic, many have noticed extreme delays when publishing new Posts. This may lead to issues with updating customers about new hours, product shipments, or new services like delivery or curbside service. Instead, Google appears to be allowing businesses to temporarily add these details to their business name.

As Joy Hawkins explained in a recent Local Search Forum post, “Google said that they are fine with restaurants adding ‘Delivery Available’ or ‘Takeout Available’ to their business names during these crazy times.”

As businesses and organizations across the country are racing to respond to the spread of COVID-19, Facebook is attempting to support small businesses which have been closed or are enduring hardships during this time.

Along with creating a dedicated hub for businesses affected by the epidemic, the company announced it would also be launching a $100 million grant program for small businesses.

Dedicated Small Business COVID-19 Hub

To help small businesses endure the ongoing coronavirus outbreak, Facebook has launched a dedicated hub with immediate actions you can take, a brief guide of quick actions to bolster your business, and a full 30-page business resilience toolkit.

For those who aren’t used to taking full advantage of Facebook’s virtual tools and connection abilities, the company is directing business owners to free courses designed to introduce you to virtual events, live streaming, and selling your products on the platform.

While brick-and-mortar stores may be shuttered or running reduced hours, Facebook says it recommends leveraging the available digital channels to maintain your business.

Small Business Grant Program

In addition to digital resources, Facebook is putting forward $100 million to help 30,000 eligible small businesses in more than 30 countries.

The program is still in the early stages and details are limited, but Facebook has provided a few bits of information about how the program will help companies:

  • Keeping the business’s workforce going strong
  • Assistance with rent costs
  • Connecting businesses with more customers
  • Covering operational costs

Applications are not open yet, but will be available in the coming weeks. To be notified when applications become available, you can sign up here.

A new survey of over 900 Americans suggests many business owners may not understand the basics of search engine optimization (SEO), such as how Google ranks websites.

Compared to non-business owners, the 394 business owners surveyed were slightly more informed – though both groups showed a clear knowledge gap.

Based on the survey results, almost 1 in 4 business owners and more than 2 in 5 non-business owners said they were not at all or only vaguely familiar with SEO.

When asked specifically about how Google ranks pages, over 1 in 3 business owners and more than half of non-business owners said they had little to no understanding of the process.

As Fractl, the company behind the survey, explains:

“Not only does that mean they might not be implementing the most effective content strategies and optimizing their websites appropriately, but they’re also likely missing out on low-hanging fruit, like improving site speed and considering site structure.

The good news is that if they learn about SEO now, they can make leaps in the right direction that will help them against their competitors.”

How About an Actual SEO Quiz?

Rather than entirely relying on self-reporting, Fractl also gave survey participants a simple 8-question quiz on SEO. When the scores were averaged, business owners received a 48.7% on the quiz, while non-business owners scored a 38.7%.

Notably, the majority of the survey participants said they believed SEO is either “moderately” or “very” important to the health of their business, indicating a disconnect between the desire to learn and having the time or access to resources to do so.

As the study concludes, “With greater SEO knowledge, companies can see massive gains in their marketing and sales goals and establish a foundation for greater long-term growth.”

Google is asking businesses to update and revise their Google My Business listings if their operations have been affected by the spread of COVID-19, commonly called coronavirus.

The company released a new help document listing ways companies can use GMB to update customers, including sharing updated business hours, ensuring phone numbers are accurate, and even using business descriptions or Google Posts to provide more detailed information.

To raise awareness of the recommendations, Google has placed a prominent alert at the top of all Google My Business-related support pages which reads: “If your business is affected by COVID-19, update your profile to provide the most accurate info. Learn more.

What To Do

If your business has been affected by COVID-19, Google recommends using your GMB listing to update customers by doing the following:

  • Change your business hours: If your business hours have changed, update the times when you’ll be open or closed. The hours will show when the customer visits your Business Profile, and they’ll know exactly when to visit.
  • Update your business description: Explain whether or not your business operations are affected by COVID-19. You can share information about any extra precautions the business is taking, if you’re providing any extra services to the community, or whether you’re experiencing delays.
  • Create a post: Share more detailed and timely updates about what’s going on with your business through Posts. For example, add information about what products and services you have available, and link to other resources. You can continue to use Posts to directly communicate with your customers on a regular basis as your business changes.
  • Update your phone number: Make sure your phone number is correct so that customers can reach you.

Keep Your Customers In-The-Know

Updating your Google My Business listing should always be a first step when making changes to your business, whether that means changing your business hours, moving locations, or just launching a new promotion. This is especially true during issues of public concern, like the ongoing coronavirus spread, when even regular customers may be checking your listing for the latest information.

Mask icon courtesy of Freepik

YouTube is expanding its analytics tools to allow content creators and channel managers to better compare their metrics against other data and competitors.

Specifically, the company is changing how its “Deep Dive” section of analytics functions by allowing you to compare multiple metrics side-by-side simultaneously.

Deep Dive Data

The Deep Dive section is designed to allow creators to compare their channel’s and video’s performance over time. It can be found after clicking the “see more” button next to any metrics in your overview screen.

Initially, this section only allowed video managers to view the performance of a single metric at a time – such as their video views over time.

Now, you can view multiple metrics at the same time within the same graph, making it easier to get an understanding of how specific metrics improve your overall channel’s performance or how some metrics feed others.

For example, YouTube recommends checking out the comparison of ‘views versus comments’ to show if some videos are getting more or less comments compared to other videos with similar view counts.

Another recommended comparison is the chart of ‘views versus revenue’ if you are monetizing your content.

Other Ways To Compare Data

Along with allowing you to monitor several metrics at once, the Deep Dive section is being improved to make it possible to compare a few other types of data, such as:

  • Period over period: Compare month versus month performance, or year versus year.
  • Top videos: Compare a channel’s overall top videos from one month over another.
  • Audience: A geographic comparison shows where your audience is coming from month to month.

For more information about the new analytics comparison features and other upcoming improvements to YouTube analytics, check out the full video below:

After gradually applying its “mobile-first” algorithm to qualified sites over the past few years, Google is signaling it will be expanding the indexing system too all sites within a year – whether they are ready or not.

As reported by Twitter user @KyleW_Sutton and Search Engine Land’s Barry Schwartz, Google has begun sending out Search Console notices to sites who have yet to be included in the mobile-first index describing why their site is not ready.

Within the alerts, the company says “Google expects to apply mobile-first indexing to all websites in the next six to twelve months.”

What Is Mobile-First Indexing

Recognizing that more searches were beginning to come from mobile devices rather than desktop computers, in 2016 Google announced it was launching a new ranking system which prioritized sites that had taken steps to be “mobile-friendly.”

For example, sites with responsive mobile designs, fast loading speeds, and had removed Flash would be prioritized over those which had issues rendering on mobile devices in search results.

Initially, this took the form of an entirely separate indexing system for search results exclusively on mobile devices. However, the company has been working to create parity by making mobile-first indexing the primary method of crawling all sites.

The announcement that mobile-first indexing will be applied to all sites within a year marks the opening of the final chapter in the years-long effort to ensure all search results will load well whether you are at an office computer, using a phone on-the-go, or lounging with a tablet.

What This Means For You

If you have received this email or alert, it is a major warning sign that your site isn’t ready for a huge number of modern devices. Depending on what issue is present, it could mean something as small as an issue with a specific image presenting errors or as bad as your site being entirely unable to render on smartphones.

Either way, there is a large chance the issues present on your site are already affecting your rankings by preventing mobile-searchers from finding your site in search results. This will only get worse as Google moves forward with applying mobile-first indexing to all sites unless steps are taken to resolve the issues Google has observed.

Google is making some changes to its image search results pages by removing details about image sizes and replacing them with icons indicating what type of content the image is taken from.

For example, images pulled from recipes show an icon of a fork and knife, those from product pages show a price tag icon, and pictures pulled from videos include a “play” icon.

Google’s Search Liaison Danny Sullivan says the change is coming later this week for desktop search results and shared a few examples of what the icons look like in action:

As you can see, by mousing over the icons users can get additional details including the length of a video.

Where To Find Image Size Details

To make room for these new icons, Google is removing the traditional image dimension information provided in the search results.

However, the information is still available to users after clicking on a specific thumbnail and mousing over the larger image preview.

Sullivan also shared an example of this:

Licensing Icons In Beta

Along with the announcement, Sullivan provided an update on a test to include licensing information alongside photos.

Currently, the company is beta testing the ability to pull licensing information from structured data on a website, though it is unclear if or when this feature will be widely available. Interested image owners can find out more about how to mark up your images in Google’s guide.

Facebook is launching a mobile app version of its Creator Studio which helps users monitor and manage their page and content on the go.

While the iOS and Android apps will allow you to keep better in touch with your content while out of the office, the mobile version is still intended to be a companion to the more comprehensive desktop version.

As the company says in its announcement:

“The app is an evolution of and mobile complement to Creator Studio, the desktop hub dedicated to helping creators and publishers manage their content, track performance, and connect meaningfully with their audiences on Facebook. The new experience offers the same actionable insights and meaningful engagement metrics, all from the ease of a mobile device.”

Although the Creator Studio app does not provide the full suite of features available in the desktop version, it does include some of the most popular and informative tools for page managers, such as:

Facebook Creator Studio Insights

  • Rich Insights: Data and engagement metrics about how content is performing, like “1 Minute Views” and “Avg. Minutes Viewed”

Facebook Creator Studio Content Management

  • Post-Uploading Edits and Fixes: Ability to edit video titles and descriptions, delete and expire posts, publish drafted posts and reschedule scheduled posts, enabling easy content adjustments

Facebook Creator Studio Messaging

  • Connect with Audiences: Reach fans and followers in real-time, from anywhere with the ability to read and respond to Facebook messages and comments using Inbox directly in the app

Facebook Creator Studio Manage Multiple Pages

  • Multi-Account Support: Manage multiple Pages on Facebook and toggle between them from the same app in the same session–no need to log out of one to log into another to access multiple Pages
  • Notifications: Immediate in-app notifications for key milestones

The most obvious omission is the ability to upload content or create new posts. At the moment, the Creator Studio app only allows you to manage or edit content that has already been posted or scheduled.

Bing revealed major overhauls to its Webmaster Tools suite this week. The new layout and features aim to make the tools available to SEOs and webmasters faster, easier to use, and more actionable.

As SMX West, the company said the first phase of the overhaul would be coming the first week of March, with a sleeker interface and three primary new features:

  • Backlinks Portal: The current inbound links report will be merged with a disavow links tool to become part of the backlinks report portal.
  • Search Performance: Similarly, the company is combining its page traffic and search keywords reports into a unified search performance report.
  • Sitemaps: Bing is giving its current sitemaps page a general overhaul to make it more valuable to online marketers and webmasters.

When It’s Coming

As the company said in its announcement:

“We are delighted to announce the first iteration of the refreshed Bing Webmaster Tools portal. We are releasing the new portal to a select set of users this week and will be rolling out to all users by the 1st week of March.”

What It Looks Like

Search Engine Land provided several screenshots of what the new portal will look like once it goes live:

Search Performance Report

Backlink Report

Disavow Link Tool

Sitemaps

Once they go live, anyone with a Bing Webmaster Tools account can access the new features by navigating to the Sitemaps, Inbound Links, Page Traffic, or Search Keywords reports.

Why It Matters

Despite being frequently overlooked by brands and marketers, Bing has been quietly cementing its grasp on a significant percentage of the search market. The new tools will make it easier for those taking advantage of this opportunity to better understand their website’s performance and refine their efforts for even better performance in the future.