Google announced several features and updates Wednesday aimed at helping small and brick-and-mortar businesses re-emerge as local economies begin reopening.
Noting some of the ways changing consumer behavior during the coronavirus pandemic has impacted local businesses, Google said searches for “curbside pickup” and “in-stock” surged by more than 70 percent in recent months. And searches for local services have risen by 50%.
Pay-to-stay pricing model for hotels. In addition to the announcements below, Google made a major change to its travel product this spring, allowing hotels to choose a pay-to-stay pricing model in which Google gets a commission only when the person shows up for their stay. “We wanted to move to a model where we could have incentive alignment during this really difficult time with our hotel chains and our individual hotels,” said Google Ads lead Jerry Dischler in an interview Tuesday. For now, it’s a temporary program and Google will continue to evaluate it. Dishler added that it released the functionality in about 10 days after talking with travel advertisers.
Local store details in Shopping tab. There is now another reason for retailers to update their Google My Business listings and create local product feeds. Starting today, local store information including product availability, locations and options such as curbside pickup or delivery will appear in the on Google Search Shopping tab in all countries where it’s available.
Google fast-tracked adding free listings to Google Shopping in April due to the coronavirus crisis. The local inventory information will be available for both ads and free listings in the Google Shopping tab.
As you can see in the screenshot below, merchant listings indicate if curbside pickup or delivery options are available, click to call or get directions links as well as individual product listings from their product catalog.
Google also started testing a “curbside pickup” badge in Local Inventory Ads in May to give added visibility to retailers now offering the option during the pandemic.
In-ad bookings from Local Services Ads. In addition to making phone calls or sending message leads, users can now book service appointments with some providers directly from mobile Local Services ads.
To enable bookings for your ads, you’ll need to work with one of Google’s booking partners, Housecall Pro or Service Titan. You’ll then be able to view the bookings and make appointment time changes in your partner account. Service providers must also be backed by the Google Guarantee consumer protection program to use the new booking feature.
Local services consumer site. Google is also launching a mobile site for users in the U.S. and Canada to find, compare and book appointments with local service providers later this month.
Free Promoted Map pins for Smart campaigns. The automated campaign type Smart campaigns is designed for small businesses to quickly launch a campaign across Google properties based on a goal such as generating phone calls, website visits or requests for directions. Through September, Google will now show Promoted pins for advertisers using Smart Campaigns and advertisers will not be charged for clicks on those pins. The pins in Google Maps include a square business category logo. When users click, it brings up business listing information.
“The idea is as local markets open up and shelter-in-place orders are lifted, if you’re using Smart campaigns for your small business, then we’ll drive traffic to your in-person locations … and we’re not going to charge you for that, ” said Dischler.
Small businesses can also now set up Smart campaigns faster using the Google Ads app.
Tools for SMBS. Grow My Store is a new tool for small businesses to benchmark their online store against others in their industry and get tips to improving their online presence. It’s now available in the U.S. and Europe.
To use Grow My Store, enter the website URL, select the industries you’re in and whether the business is online only, in-store only or both. Google then generates a report. To see it, you’ll need create a Google profile with your name and business name and agree to having Google communicate with you about the report.
Businesses can also get information about how to improve their Google My Business profiles with a new Local Opportunity Finder tool starting this week.
Last month, Google introduced the Rising Retail Trends tool for retailers to see fast-growing product searches.
Grants and credits. Google also announced it is giving an additional $200 million in Ad Grants for nonprofits, particularly for those working on COVID-19-related and racial justice issues. That brings Google’s total Ad Grants commitment to $1 billion.
The free ad credits program is also continuing to rollout. Google is distributing the $340 million in ad credits to qualifying businesses in phases, starting with New Zealand, Australia, Germany and Taiwan. Dischler said that list will expand over the next few weeks.
Google Marketing Live. The company’s annual event to announce ads and analytics features will be held virtually over the course of several weeks with a weekly video series.