Google and Yelp Turn Off Reviews Feature During Pandemic

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In what can only be described as ‘sensible and just’, the people at Google, and subsequently Yelp have disabled the publish a review feature in light of the current situation with COVID-19. In an announcement made by Google towards the end of March, they switched off the publication of new reviews, replies to review, and the Q&A feature.

As of this week, businesses now have the ability to reply to reviews, but individuals are still unable to have a Google review published or use the Q&A feature.

If your company has a Google My Business account, you should still be able to see the reviews that are being left, but they are not being published at present. Now, these reviews are still being accepted, they just aren’t being published. So, at some point in the future, you may be able to access reviews that were posted during this period, but right now, there are no clear guidelines in place for how Google or Business Owners should be handling this.

It is expected that for any reviews relating to opening hours, closures, or COVID-19, these will not go live. However, the intricacies of this will probably become clearer as the global situation improves.

Why Has Google paused reviews?

Google My Business has decreased functionality and applied temporary limitations to the support they’re offering as a direct result of COVID-19. Google took the decision after seeing a significant hike in the number of 1-star reviews that were being left for businesses due to them being closed or, in some cases, being accused of spreading the virus. Aside from this, Google themselves have significantly scaled down their operations, and at present, the Google My Business (GMB) team is only responding to emails, with live chat and phone both being offline.

COVID-19 is an unforeseen, unexpected challenge that so many if not all businesses, have been impacted by in some way. Thousands, if not millions of companies across the globe, could have their online reputations tarnished because of this pandemic; and the decision taken by Google to suspend the publication of reviews, Q and A, and review responses are going to help these organizations protect their credibility during this time.

Yelp Announce a Similar Show of Support

On March 20th, which was, coincidentally, the same day Google made its announcement, the team at Yelp published updated guidelines in a similar theme; to protect business owners from reputational harm due to COVID-19.

Both platforms, along with others, are doing what they can to help support businesses through these unprecedented times. Critical services are being prioritized, and both Google and Yelp have stated they intend on gradually phasing these services back to normal levels, but there are no definitive guidelines in place for when this will happen.

Delays at Google for New Business Listings

As we’ve already mentioned, things at Google aren’t working as efficiently as usual right now. As is the case with so many other companies, they have to prioritize certain elements of their service. For any businesses that are in a health-related field, they are receiving the fastest level of attention from Google at present. These listings are being handled manually by the team. So, if you are trying to get your business listed on Google, and you aren’t in the health sector, then you are going to face delays.

What Else has Google My Business Limited?

#1 Business Closures

Business hours and listing information on Google is something else that’s getting a lot of attention right now. There have been several reports made by business owners who have seen their status change on Google, from being open to closed, without their input, and when, in fact, they are actually open.

#2 Special Hours 

For any business looking to update its special hours, business description, or temporary closures, these are all being worked on as a priority by the team at Google. If your business has been incorrectly marked as closed, then you can easily request this. Here’s a link to a video put together by Google Small Business that explains how you can do this. If you don’t like videos, then just go to your Google My Business platform and look for the option below.

How to reopen your business on Google.

For any business looking to update its special hours, business description, or temporary closures; these requests are all being worked on manually by the team at Google.

#3 COVID-19 Notice Appearing on Listings

Business owners are reporting there are COVID-19 notices appearing on their listings. This is a general notice that informs people that the services or hours of a particular business might not be accurate.

Google actually applied a bulk update to most businesses across a wide range of industries, including:

  • Schools
  • Retailers
  • Educational Services
  • Hardware Stores
  • Trades – Such as Electricians, Home Repair and Maintenance Services
  • Auto and Bike Shops

If you want to get rid of this notice from your listing, just add/update your special hours, and as soon as they are applied, the warning will be removed.

Final Notes

Understandably, we’re all dealing with unforeseen circumstances right now, and the team at Google are doing their best to prioritize those whom they feel are most in need at present.

Things at Google My Business are changing on a daily basis; so, if there is a particular update you are waiting for, or you want to get a message out to people who are looking for you on Google, then there are still a couple of solutions and ways around having to wait for their team to respond.

Google Posts are still working, so if there is a message you want to post on your listing about opening hours or altered services, the best way to do this at present is to create a new post on Google for your business.

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