Google to automatically mark local businesses as 'Temporarily Closed' during coronavirus outbreak
Local data accuracy becomes critical at a time like this.
Yesterday, Google CEO Sundar Pichai posted about all the things that Google is doing in response to the coronavirus outbreak. Among, them Google Search and Maps will show if a place or business is temporarily closed. This follows Google’s admonition a week ago to local businesses to update hours and other relevant information in Google My Business. This morning, however, our inbox was flooded with notices from Google themselves that they took the liberty of marking several hundred of our client's GMB listings as 'TEMPORARILY CLOSED'. Which of course sent us into a mad scramble to correct the issue and notify our clients what had happened.
Deploying Duplex to update store hours. “In the coming days, we’ll make it possible for businesses to easily mark themselves as ‘temporarily closed’ using Google My Business,” Pichai wrote. He also said that the company is using its AI assistant Duplex to contact businesses “to confirm their updated business hours, so we can reflect them accurately when people are looking on Search and Maps.”
Roughly 90% of Google My Business (GMB) accounts are small businesses (have one location listed).
There are a substantial number of businesses that still have not claimed their GMB listings. In 2016, BrandMuscle found that 56% of local businesses had not claimed their GMB listings. The same study in 2019 found that that number was down to roughly 40%. In other words, roughly 60% in the U.S. have now claimed them.
How about takeout and delivery. Duplex may be helpful in the effort to update store hours information. But it will still be very challenging for Google to do this for the majority of businesses listed. Perhaps even more important than hours — in the case of restaurants — is whether they offer takeout/delivery.
In California, Ohio, Illinois, Massachusetts and Washington, for example, restaurants and bars are being closed (to varying degrees) to prevent the spread of the virus. However, New York is still allowing takeout and delivery. California has comparable rules though some restaurants will still be open. And other cities are imposing similar restrictions.
In addition, on Sunday, Pichai said that Google Maps will train its “automated and manual review systems” on “false and harmful content such as fake reviews and misleading information about healthcare locations.”
Why we care. The internet is now the primary source for information about local communities, as well as national news. Local data accuracy, including store/business hours, becomes critical at a time like this. And with panic buying going on in some grocery stores, knowing which restaurants are open and deliver food is no longer just a “first world problem.” We encourage all business owners to be either proactive with the Google My Business listing (after all, it's your storefront away from your storefront) and correct this issue if they are indeed still open or outsource their digital marketing needs to a 3rd party company.