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.

Reddit is launching a new ad type which allows brands to “takeover” the discussion site’s trending section.

The new “Trending Takeover” ads let companies run prominent ads on both the desktop and mobile feeds of the Trending Today area for 24 hours. The ads will be slotted in the second position of one of the site’s most popular areas and will be identified with a simple “promoted” text in bold letters.

 

When clicked on, the ads take users to a landing page featuring the latest conversations, posts, and communities related to keywords specifically selected by you.

Due to the high-profile and limited nature of the ads, Trending Takeover promotions are sold on a reservation basis by contacting Reddit Advertising.

The ads signal the latest push by the platform to be more friendly to brands and advertisers, joining several other recent ad formats. As Vice President of Ads Product and Engineering, Shariq Rizvi said:

“With millions of searches taking place every day and over one-third of users coming to Reddit’s Popular feed daily, brands can now be part of where cultural trends are born online — Reddit. For Reddit, a large focus for 2020 is about maximizing new and premium opportunities for brands to authentically engage with Reddit users.”

Still, brands will need to pay close attention to the site’s communities and only highlight the most engaging content to reach the typically ad-averse audience.

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:

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.

New analysis from market research firm FocusVision shows that the average B2B buyer consumes 13 pieces of content before making a purchase or signing a contract.

That finding and more comes from a large survey of executives at companies with at least 500 employees and $50 million in annual revenue. Additionally the participating companies had purchased a marketing technology solution within the past year.

What Content Do B2B Buyers Consume?

Of the 13 pieces of content that B2B purchasers explore, the majority (8) tend to be marketing pieces delivered directly from the company, while the other five consisted of third-party content.

The content also takes a wide range of shapes, including video, blog posts, reviews, customer testimonials, and market analysis.

The B2B Purchasing Journey Through Content

FocusVision’s report suggests it takes an average of two to six weeks and three or four internal decision makers for B2B buyers to make the big decision. Much of this time is spent researching by connecting with content that might inform their purchase.

When asked how they found content, the majority said they found it directly on a vendor’s website or through search and social media.

The complete responses were:

  • Directly through vendor website — 70%
  • Internet search — 67%
  • Social media  — 53%
  • Sent to me via email — 41%
  • Word of mouth — 33%

The study also identified four unique buying stages with specific types of content present during each phase:

  1. Understanding the problem
  2. Looking at vendors
  3. Short-listing
  4. Final decision

The most useful types of content according to B2B buyers were

  • Product specifications and functionality — 67%
  • Product comparisons — 65%
  • Product success stories — 60%
  • Content specifically showing value to internal stakeholders — 54%
  • Product tutorials — 49%
  • Troubleshooting and problem solving — 48%

Notably, the study found some variance in how companies with higher revenues used content to inform their decisions. Those with revenues above $250 million tended to rely more on third-party content and market analysis, rather than first-party content.

What This Means For You

If you provide products or services to other businesses, the findings make it clear that content is essential for marketing your brand to other professionals. Without it, influential buyers may not hear about your product or have enough details to make an informed decision.

When creating content to help your SEO, many people believe they should aim for an “ideal” word count. The perfect number has ranged from 300 to 1,500 words per post depending on when and who you ask. There’s just one problem – Google’s leading experts say there is no perfect word count.

Why Do Word Counts Seem Important?

Since Google is relatively tight-lipped about the exact recipe they use to rank sites on its search engine, SEO experts have traditionally had to rely on their own data to understand the inner-workings of the search engine.

Sometimes, this information is later confirmed. Marketing experts had long believed that site speed was an important ranking signal for Google before the company confirmed its impact.

The problem is this approach relies strongly on correlation – which can be unreliable or lead to incorrect conclusions.

This is also why the “ideal” word counts recommended by “experts” tends to vary so wildly. When we have to rely on relatively limited data (at least, compared to Google’s data), it can skew the conclusions taken from the data.

This is where Google’s John Mueller comes in.

What Google Has To Say

The company’s leading experts have repeatedly denied that they consider word counts to be an important ranking signal. Some have suggested it is lightly considered, but the impact is negligible compared to other factors like keyword relevance or backlinks to the page.

The latest Googler to speak out about the issue is John Mueller, Webmaster Trends Analyst at Google.

In a recent tweet, Mueller used a simple analogy to explain why focusing on word counts is the wrong approach.

Simply put, focusing on how long each piece of content is puts the attention on the wrong area. If you write long posts, simply for the point of hitting a total number of words, there is a high risk of drifting off-topic or including irrelevant details.

The better approach is to create content with the goal of answering a specific question or responding to a specific need. Then, write until you’ve provided all the relevant information – whether it takes 300 or 1,500 words to do so.

In the latest episode of Google’s “Search for Beginners” series, the company focused on 5 things everyone should consider for their website.

While it is relatively straight and to the point, the video shares insight into the process of ranking your site on Google and ensuring smooth performance for users across a wide range of devices and platforms.

Specifically, Google’s video recommends:

  1. Check if your site is indexed: Perform a search on Google for “site:[yourwebsite.com]” to ensure your site is being properly indexed and included in search results. If your site isn’t showing up, it means there is an error keeping your site from being crawled or indexed.
  2. Provide high quality content: Content is essential for informing users AND search engines about your site. Following the official webmaster guidelines and best practice documents will help your site rank better and improve overall traffic.
  3. Maximize performance across all devices: Most searches are now occurring on mobile devices, so it is important that your site loads quickly on all devices. You can check to ensure your site is mobile friendly using Google’s online tool here.
  4. Secure your website: Upgrading from HTTP to HTTPS helps protect your users information and limit the chance of bad actors manipulating your site.
  5. Hire an SEO professional: With the increasingly competitive search results and fast-changing results pages, Google recommends hiring an outside professional to assist you.

The video actually implies that hiring an SEO professional is so important they will be devoting significantly more time to it in the future. Here’s what the presenter had to say:

“Are you looking for someone to work on [your website] on your behalf? Hiring a search engine optimizer, or “SEO,” might be an option. SEOs are professionals who can help improve the visibility and ranking of your website. We’ll talk more about hiring an SEO in future episodes.”