If your dental practice has temporarily closed or has adjusted its regular opening hours because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Google wants you to let your community know via your practice’s Google My Business listing. In this article, we’ll explore Google My Business listings and how your practice can use them to help your patients and local community.
At the time of writing (March 31, 2020), Australia has been in the grip of the COVID-19 epidemic for many weeks.
The novel coronavirus was first seen in our country towards the end of January, a time when the threat of the worst bushfire season we had ever known was still very real. As I write, over 4500 Australians have contracted the infection, 50 are in intensive care, and 19 have died.
There are also very real concerns that community transmission has commenced.
To reduce the incidence of transmission of infection in the community, Australian dentists have been told to apply Level 3 Restrictions. This level is triggered when the risk of infections exponentially escalating without drastic and immediate community action including by the dental community is significant. Only urgent or emergency care can be provided at this level of restriction. Coupled with the reluctance of people to venture into the community for anything other than essential services, the demand for dental care has greatly diminished, and practices have very limited work on their books.
As a result, many dental practices in Australia have already closed their doors with the intention of returning only when deemed safe and viable to do so. Many more practices are likely to close in the next week or two.
Other practices have adjusted their opening hours to accommodate the reduced demand for dental care.
If your regular business hours have changed in response to the COVID-19 epidemic, Google recommends that you let your community know by updating your Google My Business listing.
What Is A Google My Business Listing?
In the words of Google itself,
Google My Business is a free and easy-to-use tool for businesses and organisations to manage their online presence across Google, including Search and Maps. If you verify and edit your business information, you can both help customers find your business and tell them your story.
Your Google My Business listing allows you to
- Manage your practice’s most important information and help people find you or to easily make contact with you through Google Maps and Google Search
- Help people to know who you are and why they should choose you. You can do this by uploading photos of your practice and short posts on topics of interest. According to Google “Businesses that add photos to their Business Profiles receive 42% more requests for directions on Google Maps, and 35% more clicks through to their websites than businesses that don’t.”
- Improve your online visibility. Google provides data which tells you how people have interacted with your Google My Business listing, including how many people have called you or clicked through to your website for more information.
Google provides a great “Getting Started” guide if you don’t already have a listing.
I recommend to my dentist clients that they make good use of this valuable resource by:
- Keeping all of their details up to date
- Updating opening hours for public holidays
- Adding photos of their practice regularly
- Uploading a weekly post on a topic that is likely to be of interest to viewers (informational posts expire after 7 days, so it’s a good idea to add them to your listing on a weekly basis).
During this pandemic, it’s even more important to keep your practice’s Google my Business details updated.
Businesses Affected By COVID-19: Guidance On Updating Google My Business Information And Temporary Closures
From its detailed post on the subject (updated on March 30, 2020), Google is recommending:
If your business is affected by COVID-19, update your Google My Business profile to provide the most accurate information to your customers. For example, change your hours of operation if you’re closing early, or add more details to your description, or mark your business “Temporarily closed” on Google
Google My Business Updates For Dental Practices
Depending on your situation, you might decide to take one or more of the following actions:
- Update Your Business Hours – Make sure you keep your community informed of your availability. If you have changed your opening hours, this should be reflected on your website, your practice’s social profiles and your Google My Business listing
- Share Information About Whether Your Business Operations Have Been Affected By COVID-19 – For example, you may wish to let your community know that you are only providing urgent and emergency care. You might also let them know about the availability of telephone consultations, or the changes you have made to keep them safe
- Write One Or More Posts Sharing Updates – Google Posts can link to your website where you can provide detailed information on any topic. There is even a specific post type for COVID-19 updates that you can use. Don’t forget to include an image to make your posts stand out (currently NOT available on the new COVID-19 Update post).
- Mark Your Practice As Temporarily Closed – This will not affect your practice’s search ranking, but it will assist people looking for dental services to find assistance as quickly as possible. In case you were wondering, Google has made it super-easy to mark your practice “open” again.
- If you haven’t done so already, claim your business on Google My Business and go through the process to verify your listing
- It’s a great opportunity to make sure your listing is current. Review your business details, contact information, and photos.
- If COVID-19 has affected your practice opening hours, update these or mark your practice temporarily closed if applicable.
- If you are still open, update your hours for the Easter long weekend and ANZAC Day public holiday if applicable.
- Change your business description to provide additional information about your practice’s response to the pandemic.
- Create a short update (Google Post) and post it with an image to your listing.
- Plan to add a new post every week.
- Don’t forget to mark your business open and/or update your business hours when the restrictions are over.
- Don’t lose touch with your patients and community! Send updates via email/newsletter and keep posting on your social platforms. Focus on being helpful, upbeat and reassuring. Reach out to help local businesses and grassroots organisations if you can.
These are difficult days, but things will get better. Take some time to work on your business if you can. Watch this website for more actionable steps to ensure you remain connected with your patients and community even if your practice is closed.