In the week that saw COVID-19 officially declared as a pandemic, Google responded with a global response to help people stay safe, informed, and connected. Consequently, this news takes precedence in this week’s digest, where we look at the wide range of updates by Google relating to COVID-19.
This includes removing thousands of videos publishing COVID-19 misinformation and making premium features of its video conferencing app Meet, free for a limited amount of time to help recently made remote workers worldwide.
This Industry Helping One Another
Before we get into the Google updates, a quick personal side note. We are all in this together, despite political differences, geographic locations, industry, race, or gender. The truth is, we are going to have to help one another to navigate this pandemic and reach the end physically, mentally, and financially stable.
There are a lot of things we can do to help each other. Here are some quick examples from our industry:
- Aleyda Solis set up a watercooler group so people from home can chat with others about work or stress or anything else; this helps remove the isolation and loneliness many will feel.
- Michael King has put together a massive spreadsheet of freelancers that have lost gigs due to the coronavirus and that are looking for work. Freelancers can add their names here.
- Cindy Krum has set up an online conference anyone can drop in on to talk about anything. Just tweet at Cindy or your pals and let them know you are logging in.
- Adam Riemer put together a fantastic article with tips for industries that have lost jobs or can't work due to the virus and explains to them point-by-point how they can make money online - Service Industry Professionals – How to Make Money During Coronavirus.
I know everyone is stressed and tired, but if you have extra time and could share some of that amazing knowledge in your head that could help others, I encourage you to do so. If you have already done something you think is helpful, please share in the comments below.
UPDATE - Limited Google My Business functionality due to COVID-19
Google announced on 3-20 "During the unprecedented COVID-19 situation, we are taking steps to protect the health of our team members and reduce the need for people to come into our offices. As a result, there may be some temporary limitations and delays in support as we prioritize critical services."
They stated new reviews, review replies, and new Q&A will be unavailable during this time.
To learn about other changes visit Limited Google My Business functionality due to COVID-19.
Google Removing COVID-19 Misinformation
Google is removing COVID-19 misinformation on YouTube, Google Maps, and on developer platforms like Play. On YouTube, it has already removed thousands of videos related to misinformation about COVID-19. It continues to remove videos that promote medically unproven methods to prevent coronavirus in place of seeking medical treatment.’
On Google Maps, they are continuing to remove harmful content such as fake reviews and misleading details about healthcare locations, through their automated and manual review systems.
Google Search and Map Premise Closure Updates
Google Search and Maps will now show if a place (such as a local business or school) is temporarily closed. They have also announced it will make it possible for companies to easily indicate they are ‘temporarily closed’ using Google My Business.
Google is also using its AI technology Duplex whenever possible to contact companies to confirm their updated business hours, so these can be then also updated on Google Search and Maps.
Website Dedicated to COVID-19 Education, Prevention and Local Resources Nationwide
Another update Google announced is a partnership with the US government to develop a website dedicated to COVID-19 education, prevention, and resources nationwide. Google says it will update it with additional resources on an ongoing basis.
Promoting The ‘Do the Five Campaign’
On the Google homepage, users see the ‘Do the Five’ campaign, which has been promoted to raise awareness of simple steps people can take to help reduce the spread of COVID-19. This is based on the advice given by the World Health Organization.
Learn more about what Google is doing to help at Protecting People From Misinformation.
Google My Business Provides Advice For Local Businesses That May Be Affected By COVID-19
Google My Business has published advice for companies affected by COVID-19, advising that they should update their Google My Business profile so that customers have the most accurate information. Updates will appear on your Business Profile on Search and Maps.
Remember that Google may review your changes for quality prior to publication, meaning that the changes may not be available immediately on Google Search and Maps.
Update suggestions by Google for Business impacted by coronavirus include:
Changing business hours: If these have changed, update the times when you are opening and closing. These hours will appear when the customer visits your business profile.
Manage information: Sharing whether or not business operations have been affected by COVID-19, such as delays or any additional precautions being taken.
Create a post: Provide up-to-date information on the latest company news.
Phone number update: Ensure your phone number is correct so customers can contact you.
Support For Google Ads And Google My Business May Be Unavailable Or Delayed
Google has updated its Google Ads Help Section to inform users that in light of COVID-19 developments, support options for Google Ads and Google My Business may be temporarily delayed or unavailable.
This message appears on the homepage of the Google Ads Help section:
“As a precautionary health measure for our phone and chat support specialists in light of COVID-19, some Google Ads support options may be unavailable or delayed. You can still reach us through the Contact Us form. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause and appreciate your patience. This message will be updated as the situation changes.”
A similar announcement was made on Google My Business’s Help section:
“As a precautionary health measure for our support specialists in light of COVID-19, we're operating with a limited team. Thanks for your patience, as it may take longer than usual to connect with us. For additional support, consult the Help Centre.“
Google Ads Has A Temporary Ban On Ads For Respirators And Medical Masks
Google has announced in its latest COVID-19 update that since January it has, “blocked hundreds of thousands of ads attempting to capitalize on the coronavirus pandemic, and last week we announced a temporary ban on all ads for medical masks and respirators.”
Google has a sensitive events policy that does not allow advertising that may attempt to capitalize on tragic events such as death, conflicts, or natural disaster.
More info available at Businesses Affected By COVID-19: Provide Customers With Updated Info
Google Extends Deadline to Adopt Parallel Tracking for Video Campaigns
The Google Ads team will be extending the deadline to adopt parallel tracking for Video Campaigns in light of recent global events. This deadline is now June 15, 2020.
Google says those who have completed the majority of the work already needed to adopt parallel tracking can still finish the process and opt-in, but this step will not become mandatory until June 15.
Webmaster Conference Postponed
Google says it will be postponing all global Webmaster Conferences due to COVID-19 concerns, following guidelines set by WHO, the CDC, and other organizations. The Webmaster Conferences events organized by Google last year took place in over 15 countries.
On the postponement of the conference, Google says:
“While we're hoping to organize events later this year, we're also exploring other ways to reach targeted audiences. We’re very sorry to delay the opportunity to connect in person, but we feel strongly that the safety and health of all attendees is the priority at this time.”
Video Conferencing App Meet Available To All G Suite Customers At No Cost For A Limited Time
In response to more employers asking people to work remotely, Google has made its video conferencing app free for all G Suite customers until July 1, 2020.
Google said, “As more employers have asked workers to stay at home to help slow the spread of COVID-19, we’re seeing more people using the premium features of Meet, our video conferencing app, which we made available to all G Suite customers at no cost until July 1, 2020.”
Google Creates New Distance Learning Resources
Google has created new distance learning resources to help educators worldwide; this includes the following:
A new YouTube Learning Hub
Additionally, Google has said it will be launching a Distance Learning Fund to enable learning to continue across the world.
For educators around the globe, we’ve created new distance learning resources, a YouTube Learning Hub, and webinars. We're working with groups around the world, e.g. in HK JP, IT, to help teachers for teachers use G Suite for Education. https://t.co/v6uMaK7lZO— Urs Hölzle (@uhoelzle) March 15, 2020
Google Webmasters: How to change my Google Search result snippet?
This is a helpful video for many. You can see all the episodes here.
Schema.org 7.0 added some options to help with announcements such as CovidTestingFacility information and options for events. You can learn more in this article - Schema for Coronavirus special announcements, Covid-19 Testing Facilities and more.
We know there were not a lot of updates this week, but to be honest, I am a bit relieved. I am not sure everyone could keep up at the moment. If we have missed any updates you feel are important, please let us know. If you have thoughts you would like to share about any of the news stories above, please let us know in the comments section below.