How to Handle Temporary Closures on Google During the COVID-19 Crisis

As businesses around the world grapple with temporary closures during the COVID-19 crisis, French digital marketing company Partoo (part of Boxoffice Pro corporate parent, Webedia) is offering five useful tips on how to tackle temporary closures without affecting SEO.

1. “Permanently closed”: the worst thing to do

This is probably the worst thing to do right now; however, there are many establishments falling into this trap, as it may seem as the most simple way to handle your listing on the Google My Business interface.

  • Advantage: None, except for it’s easy to be done.
  • Disadvantage: it will make you lose all of your local SEO, so that when you decide to “reopen” it, your listing won’t be able to appear in search results for months! It’s even possible that after a long period of time you will no longer be able to reopen it anymore, thus causing your loss of all reviews and information!

2. Changing standard hours: a false good idea

If you don’t click on “Permanently closed”, and you don’t have that much time to make a decision, your first reflex will probably be to indicate the closed establishment by modifying the so-called “standard” opening hours. Unfortunately, if you indicate that you’re closed every day, Google will understand that you don’t have any available opening hours and will as such indicate the hours as “missing” to all users.

  • Advantage: it’s less negative in terms of SEO than closing it permanently and it doesn’t require too much time!
  • Disadvantage:
    • Your customers and prospects won’t know if you are closed or if you just forgot to complete your opening hours.
    • You will negatively impact your local SEO in the long-run
    • After some weeks of inactivity, you might have forgotten your previous opening hours, which will make it quite difficult for you to list them all over again when you try to, considering they have disappeared from the system.

3. Planning a store opening: negative for your SEO?

Some establishments sometimes plan a grand opening event: this is the case for stores like Casino on Champs-Élysées and the first Burger King in France! Additionally, on their big day, the store staff has 1000 things to do other than the planning and creation of its Google listing. Thinking about situations like this, and considering the number of customers that are anticipating the opening of their beloved store, Google has launched a feature that announces such events, making it completely public to Internet users through Google My Business!

Several brands, such as GoSport or Uniqlo in New York have used this feature to handle the Covid-19 situation. However it is not what we advise you to do as it is a deviation of a feature that was not intended for this situation. As such, it has some disadvantages…

  • Advantage: 
    • It displays the reopening date of the establishment
    • This retains your standard opening hours, which will be displayed in the classic way at the end of the specific period.
  • Disadvantage:
    • It’s a feature that isn’t in its classic use, meaning it has eventual bugs.
    • Some of the listings that have used this method have disappeared from Google or have been suspended for suspicious behavior.
    • This will negatively impact your local SEO in the long-run.
    • Your file won’t be indicated as closed but as having “missing hours.”
    • Since we don’t have a clear date of reopening, that can potentially be seen as misleading information by some Internet users.

4. Special closing times: the standard method

This is the method officially communicated by Google to adapt to the current situation! Special closing times are used in different cases such as during construction work, during the owner’s absence or in specific cases like the one we are currently facing.

  • Advantage : 
    • This is the method recommended by Google: it does not affect your SEO and you do not take any unnecessary risks!
    • It displays your listings as closed
    • This method will retain your standard opening hours, which will be displayed in the classic way at the end of the period.
  • Disadvantage:
    • If you don’t do it with Partoo’s assistance, it requires time as you have to indicate it on a daily basis (either through an “Excel” file for mass modifications or manually for each establishment). If you work with Partoo, simply notify your Customer Success Manager, who will gladly take care of this for you. Otherwise, you may go directly through our interface where you can fill in different periods for several days – which is not available directly on GMB.
    • This does not give the date of reopening to Internet users. For that, we advise you to make a Google Post : don’t hesitate to read our article on all the best practices on GMB during Covid-19 crisis.

5. “Temporarily closed” : a mysterious feature…

Another feature is currently visible on some Google listings like that of “UGC,” one of our clients: the “Temporarily Closed” mention!

However, this feature has some problematic behaviors that we have identified. For instance, the label “Definitely Closed” seems to have a mid-term negative impact on the listing, which is linked to a bug on Google My Business. At least, that’s what local SEO experts in the United States have indicated to us. Find more about that on this article.

If you still want to use this feature, please note that it is not available through API or GMB interface. To have your GMB listing marked “Temporarily Closed”, you need to contact Google My Business support – which is currently saturated. Google recently announced that “within the next few days they will make it easy for businesses to mark themselves as ‘temporarily closed’ using Google My Business”, but it seems that the technical implementation is taking longer than expected.

Apart from this exceptional closure on Google My Business, many questions arise in these difficult times: it can be about issues in recovering your listings, duplicates that you are unable to delete or Google Posts that you want to publish to warn your customers on certain subjects (prevention, delivery, specific measures, etc).