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On April 10, Google shared with partners (including Reputation.com) updates to features that help businesses serve their customers more effectively during the COVID-19 pandemic. These all apply to the Google My Business (GMB) listings for locations ranging from restaurants to hospitals.

New Attributes

Google is launching attributes that help healthcare providers, restaurants and retailers prominently list services that speak directly to the reality of doing business during COVID-19.

Attributes consist of descriptive content such as the services a business provides, payment methods accepted or the availability of free parking — details that may not apply to all businesses. Attributes are important because they can influence someone’s decision to visit you. COVID-19 attributes range from “online care available” for healthcare providers to “curbside pickup” for restaurants.

Google had previously announced these new attributes were coming for restaurants. Google then told its partners that new attributes are also available for retailers and healthcare providers. The attributes are:

Dining Attributes

  • “has_curbside_pickup” > “Curbside pickup”
  • “has_no_contact_delivery” > “No contact Delivery”
  • “has_delivery” > “Delivery”
  • “has_takeout” > “Takeout”
  • “serves_dine_in” > “Serves dine-in”

Shopping Attributes

  • has_curbside_pickup” > “Pickup”
  • “has_delivery” > “Delivery”
  • “has_in_store_pickup” > “Pickup”

Healthcare Attributes

  • “COVID_url” > “See COVID-19 info for patients and visitors”
  • “has_video_visit” > “Online Care available”
  • “telehealth_url” > “Get Online Care”

In the list above, the words designated with an underscore (e.g., has_curbside_pickup) and appearing to the left of the > symbol provide the application programming interface (API) designation for each attribute. (See below for more insight into what APIs are and why they are important.) The words listed to the right of the > symbol (e.g., Curbside pickup) display how each attribute will surface on Google Maps and Google Search when customers search for your business. Newly released attributes are stylized in bold and will be rolled out over the coming week.

Not all attributes are appearing yet for each vertical. When they are rolled out, they will prominently appear on a business’s profile on Google Maps and Google Search results when customers search for your business. Supported attributes will have a “✓” and non-supported attributes will have an “X.” Per Google,

Please keep attributes up to date. Only apply attributes after confirming a business’ operating status with the merchant and only at the direction of the merchant. Only use attributes that accurately represent the services/features offered by a business. 

Also, attributes will not appear for businesses that have been marked as temporarily closed. (See below for more insight into marking a business as temporarily closed.)

API Support for COVID-19-Related Features

Google announced that business and partners (such as Reputation.com) can use the GMB application programming interface (API) to manage some COVID-19-related features that Google rolled out earlier this year.

The GMB API lets developers build applications that interact directly with their business location information on the GMB server. Consequently, businesses and partners can manage large, complex GMB listings more quickly and easily than is possible using the Google dashboard to make changes manually.

GMB support is now available for the following features:

  • Marking a business or location as temporarily closed. In March, Google rolled out a “Temporarily Closed” option for businesses shut down by COVID-19. Using this feature is important because it mitigates the risk that Google will think your location has closed for some other reason, which could result in your GMB account being suspended. API support makes managing this feature much easier, especially if you operate multiple locations. (Learn more about marking a business temporarily closed via the GMB API.)

According to information that Google shared with its partners, when using the GMB API, you should only set the OpenInfo status if you aim to explicitly mark a business as temporarily closed, closed or open. Doing so will override the temporarily closed status that Google proactively set. In addition, you should ensure that every location update uses the updateMask parameter and does not include the OpenInfo.status field in the FieldMask, unless to reopen closed or temporarily closed businesses at the express direction of merchants.

Also, if a business is using an enhanced operating status such as delivery, curbside pickup or takeout (per the above news about attributes), and remains open, it’s important to not mark the business as temporarily closed. Instead, use the corresponding attribute to designate the business’s operating status. Using the temporarily closed status will prevent attributes from displaying on business profiles. 

  • Providing business updates through the special COVID-19 Post type. The COVID-19 Post type (which we discussed originally on April 2) facilitates updating COVID-19 content (such as reduced service) and displaying it more prominently in Google Search. The content appears in an organization’s knowledge panel – the information about a business that appears in a box alongside a search result, both in Google and Google Maps.

Per Google, to create a COVID-19 post, use the new Alert topic type and specify the “COVID_19” alert type. COVID-19 posts only support a summary and a call to action button. Learn more about how to create a post via the GMB API.

Updates to Reviews, Q&As and More

Google made it official: Review replies are now restored and should be available for use (as we reported on April 10). Google also told its partners that it will gradually restore additional functionality such as new user reviews, new user photos, Q&A and so on.

Contact Reputation.com

All of these updates demonstrate Google’s responsiveness during the pandemic, even as Google operates with reduced support. As always, this is a rapidly evolving situation. We will update our blog with new content and revisions, as needed. For help in the meantime, please contact Reputation.com.

For further reading, please see these recently published posts: