Apr 20, 2020

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Use New Google Search Features to Give Patients Vital Information During COVID-19

By Healthgrades Staff

Consumers are depending on their local health system to keep them updated during this health crisis. With normal hours disrupted, entire service lines suspended, and public health messaging going out around the clock, reaching your patients with the latest updates is now mission critical.

In response to the pandemic, Google is giving businesses a wealth of new features and flexibility to communicate changes to their customers. Healthcare marketers should leverage these features to deliver the most timely, reliable information to patients and caregivers — changes to hours of operation, visitor policies, health and safety guidelines, etc. You’ll find several options for highlighting important information in the GMB dashboard.

Beware of publishing delays, however. While Google has publicly stated that they are prioritizing critical businesses related to health and safety, moderation capacity is limited. Changes to listings are taking longer than usual to be published.

Temporarily Closed status

A new status allows businesses to mark their listing as “Temporarily Closed.” The status is clearly visible in search results as well as search and Google Maps. Listings that appear as Temporarily Closed will still be visible in search results, both in the 3-pack and the Knowledge Panel/Business Profile should users be looking for information about the business. Once the location is reopened, it can easily be marked as Open again.
google review

COVID-19 and telehealth links

On April 7 Google added two new links in the GMB dashboard: COVID-19 information and Telehealth information. In some cases we have seen the COVID-19 information page being pulled in automatically when the page is clearly titled on the website. Both links can be uploaded in bulk rather than listing by listing.

While these links are available within the GMB dashboard, we are not yet seeing them publish in the listing in search or Maps. As an alternative, consider replacing the Appointment link with a relevant telehealth URL, whether the user can schedule an appointment from that page or get more information.
picture of links

Reviews, Q&A

Starting on March 20, Google suspended all new reviews, review responses, and Q&A content – in hopes of lightening the managed support needed by the Google Support team. However, that restriction was lifted on April 9 and is being rolled out regionally. It’s a good idea to redeploy Google review monitoring and response strategies to catch new feedback as this content returns.

Google Posts are currently fully functional and a new COVID-19 post format has been added that includes a text field and call-to-action button options. Once published, the post will be visible for 14 days (one week more than standard posts) and will be displayed at the top of the Google Post carousel. The COVID-19 Post type appears prominently in mobile search, directly under the business information with the heading “COVID-19 updates from the business.”

Whether using the image format or the COVID-19 Post type, this real estate is a great space to share more detailed information such as telehealth options, limited services, temporary appointment locations, visitor restrictions, and beyond.
closed due to covid sign

Other features

That’s not all. Your Google listings’ Business Description is a text field within GMB that accommodates up to 750 characters, 250 of which are visible in the Knowledge Panel/Business Profile.

Two COVID-19-specific attributes call out pharmacy and medical supply locations that are open for curbside pickup or delivery.

Maintaining an accurate presence in local search is more important than ever. With the features and tools offered through Google, healthcare marketers have many options to deliver the most reliable, up-to-date information to patients. Take advantage of them.

Best Practices for Responding to Online Patient Reviews
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