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Google My Business has long let businesses mark their profiles with the special services or offerings your business provides in the real world. But, what about your online services?

When it comes to GMB attributes, online services have been the glaring omission for many businesses.

That is finally changing, as Google is introducing four new attributes you can add to your GMB listing – all of which highlight online services you provide. 

The four new attributes appearing for use in GMB profiles include:
Online care

  • Online appointment
  • Online estimates
  • Online classes

Anyone can add these attributes to their listing. Once added, the tag may appear in search results when relevant. 

For example, here is how the “Online Care” attribute appeared in a search result:

These attributes join the long list of existing tags businesses can add to their listings, including “WiFi available,” “outdoor seating,” “cash only,” and many more. 

With many consumers still preferring online or contactless shopping options, these tags can be an important tool for signaling that you can help. 

How To Add Attributes To Your Google My Business Listing

The process of adding attributes to your current GMB listing is quick and easy. Simply follow the steps below:

  • Sign into the Google My Business app or website
  • Select the location you would like to manage if you have multiple locations
  • Click “Info” from the menu
  • Find “Add Attributes” then click “Edit”
    • Here you can either scroll through the list and select those which apply to your business, or search for specific attributes
  • Once you have selected all the attributes you wish to add, click “Apply.”

It is important to note that you may not have access to specific attributes depending on which industry you are in. For example, home repair services like carpenters or plumbers are unlikely to find the “Online care” or “Online classes” attributes.

Google is making a change to how featured some featured snippets function by taking users directly to the associated text when clicked. 

Featured snippets are the highlighted search results that appear at the top of some results pages, showing a specifically relevant bit of text.

The company announced the update through its Google SearchLiason Twitter account, which posted:

“As we have done with AMP pages since December 2018, clicking on a featured snippet now takes users to the exact text highlighted for HTML pages, when we can confidently determine where the text is.”

While it is a relatively small change, it makes featured snippets even more useful to searchers (and thus, more essential for businesses to put in place). 

Surprisingly, the company says there is no additional code or special markup needed to prepare your featured snippets for this change. 

Instead, the search engine is essentially using a trick that highlights specific text by tweaking the URL for each snippet.

As Roger Montti explained over at Search Engine Journal, this is a feature previously used for Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP), which has the dual benefits of being easy to implement and trackable.

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Google has been rapidly releasing new tools to assist shoppers looking for contactless pick-up options, delivery, and keep consumers up-to-date on frequently changing business hours or closings and openings. 

Now, the company has released a way for retailers to easily signal that they provide curbside pickup for products appearing in Local Inventory Ads. 

Delivery Is Overwhelmed, Consumers Shift To Pickup Options

With many stores across the country closed, many shoppers quickly turned to online retailers like Amazon to find their necessities and enjoyment during quarantine. Unfortunately, this led to shipping being massively overwhelmed, creating delays of up to a month for any product deemed “non-essential.”

Google says this situation directly contributed to a 70% global increase of searches for “in-stock” products within just one week from March 28 to April 4 and has continued to be an important search query for shoppers. 

While the company doesn’t provide specific data, it also suggests that searches for “curbside pickup” have been elevated since late March. 

How To Add Curbside Pickup To Local Inventory Ads

To help advertisers alert customers to alternative pickup or delivery options, Google has implemented a new label for products shown in Local Inventory Ads available with curbside delivery. 

The label is a small but significant badge for many shoppers, even as businesses reopen across the country. 

Although technically still in beta, Google announced it was opening the badge to all advertisers running Local Inventory Ads who have completed the process of onboarding for store pickup. 

Because it is still in beta, accessing the feature also requires a few unique steps. Specifically, advertisers must contact a Google Ads rep or fill out this form.

The new tag is available to all eligible advertisers anywhere Local Inventory Ads have been launched, including Australia, Austria, Brazil, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Japan, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, the UK, and the U.S.

If you do not fit the criteria for this feature or are not utilizing Local Inventory Ads, the company notes that you can still use your Google My Business profile to notify shoppers to curbside pickup or delivery options by adding these attributes to your listing. 

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, consumer behavior was prone to shifting quickly. Now, it seems buyers’ needs are changing daily – if not hourly. If there is any place this is reflected, it is in our Google searches. 

Product and purchase-related searches have been rapidly evolving as people respond to the daily updates related to the pandemic and their state’s handling of the situation. To help businesses track these changing needs and consumer behaviors, Google is launching a new tool called Rising Retail Categories.

“We’ve heard from our retail and brand manufacturing partners that they are hungry for more insights on how consumer interests are changing, given dynamic fluctuations in consumer demand,” said the company in the announcement.

“That’s why we’re launching a rising retail categories tool on Think with Google. It surfaces fast-growing, product-related categories in Google Search, the locations where they’re growing, and the queries associated with them.”

Specifically, the tool shows the biggest shifts in product-centric search categories, as well as their associated queries and the locations where the product categories are showing making the biggest waves on a weekly, monthly, or yearly basis.

The company also says “this is the first time we have provided this type of insight on the product categories that people are searching for.”

Currently, the Rising Retail Categories tool includes data for the US, UK, and Australia.

In the announcement, Google suggested a few different ways the information could be helpful for brands, including content creation, product promotion, and even the development of new products. 

Facebook has started rolling out a new tool for all users in the US and Canada to easily transfer their photos and videos off the platform and onto Google Photos.

You can find the tool in your Facebook settings menu, under the “Your Facebook Information” tab. From there, all you have to do is connect your Google account before you start transferring your photos over.

The tool was actually launched late last year in Ireland and has been slowly expanding to international markets until now.

Much of the motivation behind the tool is Facebook’s participation in the Data Transfer Project, a collaboration between some of the biggest names in tech to establish ways for people to easily transfer data across online platforms. Some of the other names involved include Apple, Google, Microsoft, and Twitter.

Of course, it is safe to assume that the threat of international regulations and policymakers concerned with data transparency.

Facebook’s Director of Privacy and Public Policy, Steve Satterfield, told Reuters that the company views the data tool as a significant part of its plan for satisfying the demands of legislators around the globe.

“It really is an important part of the response to the kinds of concerns that drive antitrust regulation or competition regulation,” explained Satterfield in an interview.

While Facebook’s photo and video transfer tools currently only support Google Photos, the company has indicated that it plans to integrate support for other services in the “near future.”

Google has released a detailed document they are calling the COVID-19 Marketing Playbook to help you create a strategy for marketing your brand during and after the ongoing pandemic. 

The recommendations included are based on Google’s own observations of how businesses are responding to the quickly changing situation and the company’s internal data.

The Three Stages of COVID-19 Marketing

According to Google’s guide, there are three stages of marketing as the situation has unfolded:

  1. Respond
  2. Rebuild
  3. Recover/Re-frame

Here is what each of those stages mean and how you can do to help your business during each step:

Respond

What’s Happening?

Businesses are responding and adapting to fast-changing consumer behavior and fluctuations in demand.

What Can You Do?

Solve what matters today to get your business ready to rebuild.

Rebuild

What’s Happening?

Businesses are planning for the recovery and rebuilding their marketing fundamentals, with deeper insights, tools, and measurement.

What Can You Do?

Prepare to capture dynamic demand and position yourself well for the recovery.

Recover/Reframe

What’s Happening?

Businesses are reframing their business models and digital marketing practices to restart or maintain growth.

What Can You Do?

Implement marketing learnings from the crisis into your long term business strategy to drive sustained growth.

The Three Stages of COVID-19 Marketing Strategy

Similarly, Google says there are three steps to marketing your business during the pandemic:

  1. Use consumer insights to drive your approach
  2. Assess the impact on your business
  3. Take action now

How COVID-19 Has Affected Search

Google has identified three specific ways the ongoing COVID-19 situation has affected search patterns so far:

Shock

Sudden change in behavior, unlikely to be sustained

Example: Quick rise and fall in school-related searches as shelter-in-place orders were implemented.

Step-change

Sudden change in behavior that may sustain

Example: Quick increases in exercise-related searches have stabilized at heightened levels during this time.

Speed up

An acceleration of existing behavior that may sustain

Example: Google has seen an acceleration in the growth rate of delivery-related searches that appear to be maintaining for now.

How Google Has Responded To COVID-19

To illustrate how to put these concepts into practice, Google points to its own response to the COVID-19 pandemic and highlights five principles to ensure your strategy remains effective and relevant:

  • Context – Related to localization
  • Constantly Reassess – Being flexible and responding to changing trends
  • Creative Considerations – Evaluate if artwork, tone, words, and other create aspects are appropriate
  • Changing priorities to navigate uncertainty – Being helpful in a way that fits the current reality
  • Contribution at every opportunity – Identifying ways your brand can help that are specific to the pandemic

 

Download Google’s COVID-19 Marketing Strategy Playbook here (PDF) or read the full announcement about the playbook here.

Across the country, governors and mayors are implementing “shelter in place” or “safer at home” orders which are requiring a significant number of businesses to temporarily close during the COVID-19 epidemic.

In response, business owners are making hard decisions to cut costs and tighten belts to make it through these weeks. One such question on many business owners’ minds is whether to continue paying to maintain their website, or if they should take it offline in order to avoid paying hosting or maintenance costs.

Google Says Don’t Shut Down Your Website

It may be tempting, but disabling your site for any amount of time – even just a few days – can have long-lasting effects on your search engine rankings. Not only does it completely shut down the ability for people to find out about your products and services for the time being, it essentially removes your site from Google’s index.

In this situation, Google will have to reindex your website when you come back online, putting you back at square one.

What To Do Instead

In new recommendations, Google is suggesting that businesses limit their site’s functionality rather than go completely offline when you need to pause operations.

The company suggested a number of steps you can take to suspend your online services while still keeping customers informed and preserving your search visibility. These steps include:

  • Keep users informed with a popup or banner explaining how your business has changed. Follow Google’s guidelines for banners and popups to ensure that you’re not interfering with the user experience.
  • Adjust your structured data to reflect event updates, product availability and temporary closures. You can also mark your business as temporarily closed through Google My Business.
  • E-commerce sites should follow Google’s Merchant Center guidance on availability and, if necessary, disable cart functionality.
  • Inform Google of site updates by requesting a recrawl through Search Console.

If You Absolutely Must Take Down Your Site

As a last resort, Google does recommend a few things you can do to protect your search visibility if you must take your site down:

  • For a temporary takedown, use the Search Console Removals Tool.
  • If you’re taking down your site for one or two days, you can return an informational error page with a 503 Service Unavailable code.
  • For longer site takedowns, put up an indexable homepage placeholder for searchers using the 200 HTTP status code.

Don’t Overreact, Think Ahead

It is easy to get caught up in the current situation and lose sight of the long-term picture. While the COVID-19 epidemic is a serious concern for businesses, it will eventually pass. When it does, you want to be ready to hit the ground running, not starting again from square one.

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.”

Google is kicking off October – which just so happens to be Cybersecurity Awareness Month – by announcing three new ways for users to hide or delete their personal activity data when using Google products like Maps, YouTube, and Google Assistant. 

Incognito Mode For Maps

Incognito mode has been allowing people to browse the web while preventing data from being saved to their Google account or computer since 2008. Earlier this year, the company expanded the feature to YouTube, and soon it will be coming to Maps.

Once it is live, you’ll be able to quickly toggle incognito mode on and off by selecting it in the menu that appears when choosing accounts.

 

 

While the feature is coming to Android within the month, the company could only say it would be coming to iOS “soon”. 

Auto-Delete YouTube History

Google is also introducing a way for users to automatically delete their YouTube activity after a set amount of time. Specifically, you can select to keep data for 3 months, 18 months, or until you manually clear your history. 

A similar feature was introduced earlier this year for users’ location history and web activity and is expected to launch for YouTube this month. 

Managing Google Assistant Data

The search engine has introduced a way for people to control their Google Assistant activity using simple voice commands. 

For example, users could ask the Assistant to clear their history for the last week by saying “Hey Google, delete everything I said to you last week.”

 

This will be available to all Google Assistant users next week.

Google has announced they will be rolling out a broad update to their core search algorithm starting later today. 

While the updates are a regular part of maintaining and improving the company’s search engine, Google has typically been reluctant to give advance notice before the update has rolled out. In some cases, they have even been unwilling to address algorithm updates in-depth after their implementation. 

This is only the second time the search engine has announced a broad core algorithm update ahead of time, suggesting they are being more proactive in communicating with webmasters. 

Google’s Danny Sullivan says the update should start very soon and will take up to a few days to complete. 

The company’s announcement didn’t add any new guidance or recommendations for managing your site during and after the rollout of this update, but Google did recommend reviewing the existing guidelines for core updates:

  • Widely notable effects are to be expected, which can include drops or gains in search rankings.
  • Core updates are “broad” in the sense that they don’t target anything specific. Rather, they’re designed to improve Google’s systems overall.
  • Pages that drop in rankings aren’t being penalized; they’re being reassessed against other web content that has been published since the last update.
  • Focusing on providing the best possible content is the top recommended way to deal with the impact of a core algorithm update.
  • Broad core updates happen every few months. Sites might not recover from one update until the next one rolls out.
  • Improvements do not guarantee recovery. However, choosing not to implement any improvements will virtually guarantee no recovery.