It’s crazy to think that this time last year, the term COVID-19 was being learned worldwide. We had no idea how much chaos would ensue or that we would still be living with the virus today.
In March 2020, searches for the term ‘Coronavirus’ were at an all-time high. Google’s mantra is:
“…To organise the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.”
So, it’s no surprise that Google now has a range of tools to help businesses navigate the waters of search amidst a pandemic. If you haven’t added these to your virtual toolbelt, we highly recommend that you do.
COVID-19 and structured data
Who is it for: Government agencies and health organisations
Who is it not for: Anyone publishing news articles
Structured data covers a range of topics, from highlighting specific products, news articles and organisation information. Now, you can make coronavirus-related announcements through this medium too. Whether it’s:
- Announcing shop closures
- Quarantine guidelines
- Event information (such as cancellation or transitioning to an online platform)
- Shopping restrictions
- Revised operating hours
And more, you can utilise this tool to get your message to your target audience directly in the SERPs.
You can use ‘special announcement structured data’ via the backend of your website as you usually would, or you can submit an announcement via Search Console.
Bear in mind that this tool is in beta, so may not be available worldwide, and results may not be implemented straight away. The announcements also have expiry dates, so keep that in mind when posting.
We recommend that any companies that could make use of announcements take the steps and implement the code as soon as possible to go live when it is made available to you. Be sure to keep them updated, though, so your audience isn’t delivered out-of-date information.
Google my Business updates
Anyone who used to only operate in a brick and mortar store has had to move their offering online wherever possible. To help, Google has added additional GMB accounts options to showcase what services companies are now offering online.
Whether it’s booking an online appointment or arranging an estimate online for financial services, this is a great way to showcase your services straight on the search results page. Google also has plans to transition this onto Google Maps too, offering further advertising without a customer having to scour through dozens of websites to find this information.
Additionally, Reserve with Google is being expanded so that customers can make a booking directly on a Google my Business page. To get in on the action, you need to qualify and register your interest with Google Partners. This is another fantastic touchpoint to encourage potential customers to invest in your business.
If your company has had to reduce its operating hours or close temporarily, you can specify this via their Google my Business account. You can even add in secondary hours relevant to the pandemic, rather than replace your usual opening hours. You can even choose options like ‘curb-side pick up’ and ‘no contact delivery’ to help potential customers understand their options and feel safer ordering from you.
If you don’t already have a Google my Business account, now is the time to get one as part of your online organic marketing strategy.
Free Google shopping (Surfaces across Google)
Who is it for: The United States and the UK
Paid ads are listed at the top of the search results, so they are the place to be if you want to increase your brand’s visibility and the chances of someone buying on your website. By April 2019, Google was offering Google Shopping or ads services for free in the US and has plans to expand this to other countries- the UK was introduced in May 2020.
Surfaces across Google are controlled via your Google Merchant Centre account and require you to upload a product feed that meets Merchant Centre requirements.
This is fairly simple if you use Shopify or WordPress. Shopify’s Google section will take you through the basic setup and connect your site to Google Merchant Centre, plus produce you a feed. Whilst on WordPress there are many Product Feed Manager plugins that will walk you through setting up a feed which can then be added to your Merchant Centre account.
If you are an eCommerce business based in the US or UK and are not making use of this, find out how to get listed for free.
These are just some of the ways that Google is responding to the pandemic, doing everything they can to help businesses stay afloat and current by making it as easy as possible for users to interact with your brand in the SERPs.