These three Google tools can help you keep customers informed as your company's hours and offerings change.
As business hours and offerings evolve, customers need easy access to current information. That's especially an issue as businesses comply with government mandates during COVID-19 containment efforts.
The following tools let you update your business info for Google Maps and Search, create multiple custom Gmail signatures, and add an announcement banner in Google Sites. Even if you don't otherwise use Google tools, most business owners or managers should make sure Google My Business content is accurate.
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How to update Google My Business information
Businesses may sign up for free, to ensure the accuracy of information that Google displays in Google Maps and Search drawn from Google My Business is accurate. The information includes content customers want: Your business location, hours, and contact information. Google Assistant also draws from this information in responses to voice inquiries. Since so many businesses have been affected by COVID-19 restrictions, Google's My Business page displays a prompt to encourage people to update hours and add a post (Figure A).
To access Google My Business, go to business.google.com, then sign in (or sign up). You can include information about your business, including sector, services, location, hours, contact information, and more. Google requires verification for new My Business accounts, so in many cases you'll need to confirm control of your account with information Google will send you via the postal service.
If you already have an active Google My Business account, review your information and update hours or other information, as needed.
How to manage multiple signatures in Gmail
Gmail on the web lets you configure multiple email signatures, each with distinct text, formatting, and images. For example, you might configure a signature with your current hours to use as your default and another signature that omits this information. You may choose one signature as the default for new email, and also set a default signature to use when you reply.
Google's support pages indicate that "you can put up to 10,000 characters in your signature." In my testing, I was able to create a signature that contained slightly less than all of the Declaration of Independence. I strongly recommend you keep your signatures significantly below this limit. A signature with a name and contact information will likely be sufficient.
To configure Gmail signatures, open Chrome on a desktop or laptop, then go to gmail.com and sign in. Select the sprocket, then choose Settings, then the General tab. Scroll down to the Signature section. Here you may edit existing signatures, create new signatures, and adjust default signature settings. After you make changes, scroll to the bottom of the page and select Save Changes (Figure B).
How to add an announcement banner to a Google Site
Google Sites includes the ability to add an announcement banner that displays at the top of your Site. This banner, which you may choose to display either on every page or only on your Site home page, lets you share a short bit of text along with a link. Most often, you'll want to link to another page on your Site, but the link also could take visitors anywhere you choose on the web.
If a Google Site serves as your business website, you could add an announcement tab to feature modified hours, a special offer, or other important information. For example, if your hours or offerings changed due to COVID-19 restrictions, the announcement bar could feature those changes: "Reduced hours and limited menu due to COVID-19" with a link to a page on your Site to provide details.
To add an announcement banner, go to Google Sites, open a Site, then select the sprocket. Choose Announcement Banner from the options on the left, then add and adjust banner settings on the right as desired. Publish your Site to make your changes available to visitors (Figure C).
What's your experience?
If you adjusted your business information in Google My Business, how long did it take for the information displayed in Google Maps or Search to reflect your update? If you use Gmail, do you find the ability to add and select multiple signatures helpful? Let me know what your experience has been, either in the comments below or on Twitter (@awolber).
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