How many times have you heard this in the past few weeks? “The COVID-19 crisis is affecting everyone and everything.” Well, even Google is no exception. In an effort to reduce the number of employees in their offices, Google has decided to temporarily suspend several of its features. Suspended features include a lot of user-generated content, including Google My Business reviews and Q&As. 

Until further notice, Google will not be publishing or reviewing GMB reviews, review responses, or Q&A submissions. Customers can still submit reviews, but they won’t be verified or published on your listing. You should also expect delays on any reviews of new non-health industry business listings, claims, and verifications. Have questions about how Google’s COVID-19 response might affect your business? We have answers. Here’s everything you should know:

Why did Google stop publishing reviews and responses?

There are a couple of reasons. First and foremost, managing and verifying GMB reviews is simply a very resource-consuming task. With fewer employees on site, it’s difficult for Google to devote the time to it that they normally would. 

GMB reviews and Q&As are natural services to suspend right now for another reason, too. In the midst of COVID-19, tensions are (understandably!) high, and there’s a lot of misinformation being spread around. It’s very likely that Google has seen an influx of reviews and questions relating to the Coronavirus, many of which may be inaccurate, irrelevant, or accusatory. Between their diminished capacity to respond and the increased need to vet reviews, Google decided to suspend the service altogether and focus on other functionalities.

What is Google focusing on instead of reviews and responses?

Right now, Google’s remaining staff are temporarily focusing on reviews for edits to critical health-related businesses and new health-related postings. They are also working to prioritize reviews for hours of operation changes, temporary closures, new business descriptions, and business attributes edits for already-verified GMB listings. 

In other words, Google is focused on the information most likely to be affected by COVID-19. Expect some delays on all other edit types, verifications, and changes.

When will Google start publishing reviews again?

We don’t know yet (stay tuned!), but you should expect to go without new reviews for at least the month of April.

What’s happening to newly-submitted reviews?

Google hasn’t been totally clear about that, but the presumption is that Google is still collecting the reviews and responses coming into your GMB listing. They just aren’t reviewing or publishing them right now.

Will Google release these reviews when the crisis is over?

As of right now, no one knows for sure (again, stay tuned!). Google has indicated that all other core business edit types are delayed but not unavailable, so GMB reviews and responses will likely follow suit… as soon as Google has the resources to vet them to their usual standard again.

Will my listing be overwhelmed with reviews when Google starts publishing again?

That’s a legitimate concern! The fear is that, while GMB reviews are done, you’ll amass a high number of reviews. Then, when Google starts publishing reviews again, they’ll all populate at once, burying each other and potentially warping your reputation score or overview star rating. 

We don’t know how Google will handle the backlog of reviews and responses, so we can’t say for sure that this isn’t something that will happen. While it’s more likely that Google will have to take the time to vet reviews and responses as soon as they have the capacity, it’s possible your review score will be altered once Google lifts its restrictions on publishing.

How should I respond to this?

First thing’s first: update your business information! Let your customers know how you are responding to COVID-19 with a blog, home page update, or Google post. Google is NOT restricting access to Google posts at this time. If you have important information you’d like to share with your customers immediately, a Google post would be a good way to do it. Even if your business is temporarily closed, you’ll still be able to update your GMB listing information (including description updates). 

Because all other business information edits may be delayed, we recommend making them as soon as possible. Update your GMB posting with your latest hours, product descriptions, and other pertinent information as soon as you make changes. You should also make sure this information is readily available in another location on your site. Keeping your customers up to date on the latest news and updates is a great way to show that you’re still engaged and available.

Should I still be soliciting GMB reviews?

Hypothetically, there’s no reason not to have your customers post Google reviews. Hopefully, when Google is running at full capacity again, those reviews will populate as normal. In the meantime, however, it may be worth seeking out an alternative form of reviewing, even via a third party or on your own site. 

How can my agency help?

As always, your digital agency can help manage all aspects of your GMB listing. We’ll keep an eye on reviews, make sure your businesses’ latest hours, services, and information is concurrent and easy to see, and make sure your customers are finding all of your COVID-19 updates. 

If you need help navigating your digital presence in these strange times, Gemini Agency is always ready to be of assistance. If you have any more questions about how COVID-19 might be affecting your businesses’ digital presence, get in touch today.