March 30, 2020 Hanna Selman

COVID-19 Impact: Google Business Reviews Are Suspended

Local businesses are reeling in the wake of COVID-19’s quick spread across the globe. From restaurants closing dining rooms to distilleries brewing hand sanitizer instead of booze, we’ve noticed it right here in our community, mirroring what’s happening in local economies across the country. In the digital sphere, one significant impact for businesses is the fact that Google Business reviews are suspended for the time being.

What features are suspended?

Last week, Google My Business announced that it would be limiting its functioning due to COVID-19. This means that at this time:

  • No new reviews or replies to reviews are available via Google My Business (GMB). Users will still be able to make and see their own reviews, but they will not be visible to the public.
  • The Q&A feature is not available.
  • Business information edits will still be available. However, GMB will be prioritizing those requests critical to health-related businesses.
  • GMB will also prioritize information edit requests involving being open/closed, special hours, temporary closures, business descriptions and business attributes edits.
  • GMB will be manually reviewing new listings, claims and verifications for critical health-related businesses. This means a possible delay in the approval and publication of these items for other types of businesses.
  • Google has released a new Google Post type, called a “COVID-19 update.” Businesses can use this to let online users know about changes they have made to their usual operations.

Why did GMB temporarily halt reviews?

Does the fact that Google business reviews are suspended seem counterintuitive? Wouldn’t businesses rely on these reviews now more than ever? Don’t worry—existing reviews aren’t going away. But GMB’s reasons for preventing new reviews at this time may be two-fold.

On the one hand, Google needs all hands on deck paying attention to GMB listing updates for critical health-related businesses. This is why those types of businesses’ GMB requests are being prioritized.

On the other hand, it may be to maintain a level playing field during this time of volatility. Businesses aren’t operating as they normally would, with hours and services being altered due to the CDC’s recommendations for social distancing.

Sure, most people respect the actions that businesses are taking right now to stop the spread of COVID-19. However, there are still those out there who may be frustrated with their corner store’s limited hours or lack of inventory.

In this unprecedented state of affairs, businesses should be protected from being judged unfairly. In addition to limiting volume so it can focus on critical updates, GMB’s reason why Google business reviews are suspended right now could have something to do with that fact.

What can my business do?

At McNutt & Partners, we constantly emphasize the importance of online reviews for your business, including those left on Google. In addition to displaying (hopefully) positive information about your brand to the public, reviews are important because SEO algorithms prioritize those businesses with multiple good reviews over others.

Though Google reviews are suspended, there are an abundance of other places your patrons can leave you online reviews, including Facebook and Yelp. Industry-specific sites like Zillow (for real estate), OpenTable (restaurants), TripAdvisor (hotels) and Edmunds (auto dealerships). Here’s a list of more industry-specific review sites.

Find a platform specific to your industry and post about it on your social pages. Share with your followers that Google is not allowing reviews at this time, and ask them to review you elsewhere.

Support local by leaving a review

Looking for a free, easy way to support a local business you care about? Leave a review on a site other than Google! Even if you have not been there recently, you can mention your past experiences, or even just comment on their quality social media content, for example.

Summary

Google business reviews are suspended right now in response to a societal shift during the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s just one among many things to add to the list of how our lives have suddenly changed. There are still an abundance of places to leave online reviews and in turn bolster local businesses during this time of economic instability.

McNutt & Partners is a full-service advertising and digital marketing agency. Contact us today for your marketing needs! Call 334-521-1010, or visit our contact page.

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