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Coronavirus: Managing Your Businesses Online Presence

Use your owned platforms, including business profiles, websites and Schema markup to give searchers the latest information for your business.

For business owners, employees and customers the current Coronavirus pandemic means that very little is operating as normal. Customers are wondering whether you are open or not, if you have products available, if those products are safe etc. There are several steps that you can take in the short term to make sure that your customers can get the answers they want and need when searching online.

Local business listings

For local businesses, the first thing that customers will see when searching for your business online will often be a directory listing rather than your own website. Be sure to keep your Google My Business listing up-to-date and use it to highlight how your business is adapting during these difficult times.

Businesses should review their listings across Google My Business, Bing Places, and other directories where they may be listed and that customers may find you. Updating your social media profiles such as Facebook, Linkedin and Twitter, will also be a good step to take at this point.

Homemade Alameda‘s Yelp business description, which was updated to address health concerns during the coronavirus outbreak.
Homemade Alameda‘s Yelp business description, which was updated to address health concerns during the coronavirus outbreak.

In the above example, the business has chosent to emphasise their delivery service and assures customers that they won’t have to engage in any unwanted contact.

Update hours and closure dates

Google has said that it has deployed its AI assistant, Duplex, to confirm business hours so that they are accurate across Maps and Search. However, you don’t have to wait for Google to ask for an update: you can manually update your operating hours, or even show as temporarily closed

Create Local Posts

GMB owners and managers can create google posts to keep their customers informed on the status of their business. These posts will often show up in Search and Maps and are live for a week, but can be extended for up to 14 days. Regularly posting will give customers greater confidence that the information they are seeing is relevant and up-to-date.

Your business site

You can use a range of tools on your business site to give customers confidence in how you are tackling the current crisis.

FAQ pages

A lot of brands including local businesses will need to address common questions regarding how they are dealing with the pandemic and how their business practices are adapting to restrictions that are in-force.

A great way of conveying thsi information is to use FAQ pages and sections. These will allow you to detail who comes into contact with your products, how your processes have changed to emphasise health and safety and policy changes for existing orders. The FAQ section is also a brilliant way of explaining any delays that might occur such as fulfillment delays.

Dedicated pages for Coronavirus

For those businesses who are going to be significantly affected by the pandemic, it may be neccessary to explain how you are adapting on a separate page or on your homepage. This can be crucial if you are going be significantly affected on a weekly or daily basis and will give your audience a single point of information to get all the information that they need.

Larger brands can also make use of the media relations/ PR sections of their sites for this purpose. In your statement, outline the situation for your custoemrs and keep this information up-to-date.

Structured data and product feeds

The structured data on your website will let help you to keep your customers informed.

Product availability

For retailers, make sure taht yoru product availability is updated as close to real-time as possible as consumer demands are likely to change quickly. This include product schema on product pages and in your product feeds.

Using the ItemAvailability type of structured data can be used to indicate whether a product is InStockOutofStockDiscontinued, hasLimitedAvailability, as well as whether it is available InStoreOnlyOnlineOnly and many more besides.

Event Status

Organisers of events can set theeventStatus markup property so that EventCancelled or EventPostponed will be displayed for relevant events on their pages.

Advice from Google is that organisers should maintain the original  startDate until a new date is confirmed. After you’ve rescheduled, you can update the  startDate and endDate and mark the eventStatus field as  eventRescheduled.

Now-virual events

For events that have now been moved online from in-person, use the VirtualLocation as the lcoation types and set  eventAttendanceMode to  OnlineEventAttendanceMode.

Special Announcements

The  SpecialAnnouncement type was created with schools, healthcare providers, pharacies, police, local government and community groups in mind. This markup allows these groups to create a date stamped textual update with appropriate weblinks to associate an announcement with a situation, such as the current pandemic.

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