Google my Business is the informational panel that shows up when you Google a business or organization (or school). It shows hours of operation, photos, social media channels, and so on. If you’re not sure if or how your school uses Google My Business, read this quick 101 blog on local SEO so that you can understand the updates you can make in light of COVID-19.
Prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, you may not have taken advantage of all of the tools that are available for schools. From online advertising to virtual tours, there are countless ways to effectively reach and engage with current students, prospective families, and even alumni.
In light of COVID-19, we've noticed that Google My Business is one of those under-utilized search tools that could do a lot more for schools, so we went live on Instagram to chat with one of our experts on what you need to know.
The following are some of the Q&As from our discussion with Paul Luce, internet marketing consultant at Finalsite:
Q: Our physical school is closed, but we’re still in session. What should I do about my school’s Google My Business hours?
A: COVID-19 has created unprecedented circumstances for everyone and everything — even Google. Specifically, in Google My Business, we’ve seen a lot of schools being marked as “this location is temporarily closed.”
Google has an advanced algorithm that reads the information on your website, and from that, tries to auto-populate things to go into Google My Business. So if you have on your website something like, “Our campus is temporarily closed,” Google sees that, and automatically marks your Google My Business as temporarily closed.
We’re advising schools to — as quickly as you can — to go into your Google My Business profile and mark yourself as “open.”
Google is responding very quickly when you [do this]. Pretty much as soon as you click your mouse, you’ll see your school as “open” instead of “temporarily closed.” If you’re going to do anything, I would recommend doing that.
Google is saying that having your profile marked as temporarily closed will not impact your ranking in local search results, but from our testing, that hasn’t been true. We have seen some schools fall in local rankings, and we’d rather see you not take that chance and go ahead and mark yourself as open.
Q: If we mark ourselves as “open,” can we still promote our distance learning program?
A: Yes! Schools are doing such profound things with virtual learning and distance learning, and Google my Business is a great tool to promote that directly in search results. It is an opportunity to really shine and show your differentiators. You can put all of that information into your Google My Business profile so that when someone searches for your school by your school name, you’re instantly associating your brand with your efficiency and ability to handle this while students continue their education. To make edits to your Google My Business listing, head over to https://www.google.com/business/ and log in.
For example, Berkshire School in western Massachusetts is using Google my Business to promote the school’s positive and fast response to remote learning.
Additionally, The Country School in Madison, Connecticut does a great job of getting their message out and letting families know what they’re up to. One thing they’ve done is post a series of letters from their head of school, just addressing the community as Google My Business posts.
Q: What other Google My Business tools can I use during this time?
A: 1. Promote Virtual Events
Google My Business recently automatically added the function to automate event sign-ups. So we’re seeing a lot of schools allowing parents to sign up for events right in the Google My Business profile. When we think of events, we often think of an open house or in-person campus visit. But this is a great opportunity to promote a virtual tour, a conversation with the admissions director, or a live session to chat about virtual learning.
To add an event to your Google My Business profile, simply log in, select your location, select “Create Post” (more on this later), and choose the event option.
2. Add Photos and Videos
We have seen, just based on data, that Google My Business profiles with robust photos build-outs — and videos — tend to have a lot more interaction than static profiles. And once you get families interacting with your Google My Business profile, you can show them what you want them to see.
This is a great opportunity to show kids learning at home, or to upload videos of a virtual tour or virtual learning lesson. Uploading videos, photos, and event opportunities are really where Google My Business shines. It’s no longer a mailer or email, and not necessarily a paid search ad. So while it’s a different medium, it’s still the same message — that you care for your families and that you’re providing a great education even in a time of uncertainty.
It’s a challenging time; COVID-19 is forcing a lot of us to think outside the box. But at the end of the day, we have amazing tools to help students and families continue education.
3. Utilize Google My Business Posts
Posts are a great way to get specific information onto your Google My Business page, almost like your typical social media post. A post will expire after a week, so they are great to use for quick updates on your distance learning program, perhaps a unique initiative for the week, or even a consistent message that you update each week. Posts allow you to have a human voice on your Google My Business profile, so it is in best practice to use them regularly — especially during this time. (Posts is the tool used by Berkshire School and The Country School to promote their distance learning programs earlier in this blog.)
Google My Business is one of those tools that exists without you actively creating it. So, to help control the conversation and the community’s perception of your school, the team here at Finalsite recommends to use it to its full potential.
If you’re not sure where to start, look at what your competitors or other local schools are doing, and see what’s working for them. While we all hope this outbreak could end tomorrow, it is likely going to affect the way we operate for quite some time, and it’s okay now more than ever to take inspiration from each other. The best you can do is keep your community educated — and Google My Business is an excellent outlet to showcase how you would like to position your school.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
In her position as Inbound Marketing Manager, Kristen provides the strategy and creation of content across email, website and social media communications at Finalsite. With over five years of experience in content strategy and digital marketing, Kristen has worked with clients around the country to develop their branding, SEM, SEO, social media, and inbound efforts. She holds and maintains a number of certifications from Google, Hubspot, and Hootsuite