We are open for business and available to help, Monday – Friday, 9 am – 5 pm. With a “stay-at-home” order in place for all non-essential businesses, our office in Lancaster city is closed, and our team is working remotely. You may reach us at (717) 553-2274 or using our contact form. We are conducting all meetings via RingCentral (similar to Zoom).

If your business operations have been altered by COVID-19, there are a number of steps that you should consider taking, which we have listed below and are available to assist with as needed. See below for more details.

If you were, are or would like to run ad campaigns for your business, there may be available grants for you. See below for more details.

Items Covered in this Article

(click the links to jump to each section)

  • Website Notifications: If your operations have been altered, it’s a good idea to let users know on your website. We’ve been helping our clients add “notification bars” at the top of their website.
  • Online Directories: If any of your business locations have closed or adjusted business hours, you’ll want to let users know on key properties such as Google My Business, Apple Maps, Facebook and Yelp.
  • Advertising Grants/Credits: Businesses affected by COVID-19 may be eligible for credits or grants from several large ad platforms including Google Ads, Facebook Ads, and Yelp Ads.
  • Social Media: With more people staying and working at home, social media use is up significantly. Now is a great time to be leveraging social media to update and stay in touch with your audience.

Website Notification Bars

Whether your business is open or closed, users are still visiting your website. Customers may wonder if you are open, what your business status is and how to contact you. Prospects may be looking for a new partner and wondering if you are open and available to take new inquiries. And you may have important things to communicate to your online users as well, such as changes in services, office hours and contact information.

We have been helping our clients communicate these items thru the implementation of “notification bars”. We’ve been placing these notification bars above the header with a short message relating business status and a link to a page where the user can read more details. For example, here is a screenshot of the notification bar on our website, which leads to this page on our blog.

[insert screenshot of our notification bar]

With nearly daily changes, many of our customers are using these pages to provide current updates. to their customers, prospects, and vendors.

Online Directory Updates

Your business is listed on any number of online directories that are used to find local businesses. Many of these directories contain relevant info such as business hours, location addresses and contact information. While it may not feasible to update every listing for a temporary change in status, there are several that are important to update. These directories can also serve as a great tool for communicating with your customers and prospects.

Google My Business

Guidance On Updating Info & Temporary Closures:

  • Temporary Closures: If your business is temporarily closed, Google has provided specific recommendations. See the section of this page that also includes FAQs about this status.
  • Change of Hours: If your business is open, but hours have changed, the hours in Google My Business should be changed.
  • Announcements to Customers: There’s now a new COVID-19 post type that we highly recommend using. Note that not all businesses are eligible for this (ex. lodging, retirement homes are not). Improve & Grow can help with implementing this. Please let us know if/how you’d like to proceed. According to Google, you may include the following information in the post:
    • Hours of operation and temporary closures
    • Changes to how the business operates, such as takeout or delivery only, call for details, or others
    • Updates to how the location is being managed as it relates to safety and hygiene
    • Requests for support
  • Enable Messaging: You can let customers message you directly from Google Maps and your Google listing in regular Google search results. Note that you have to use the app to do this on your smartphone or tablet. “Download the Google My Business app [Android | iPhone/iPad] and turn on messaging as a way to help your customers reach you. If you aren’t reachable by phone or it’s after your business hours, messaging can help customers get the support they need. Tip: To let your customers know your business status, you can write an automatic welcome message.”

NOTE: If you are an existing customer, we are available as needed to help you implement the above changes.

A few more important notes regarding Google My Business:

  • You can’t reply to reviews, add videos, or ask/answer Q&A.
  • Customers can submit a review, but it won’t be published immediately (and could take a while to go live). According to GatherUp (formerly “GetFiveStars”), “On Friday [3/31/20], Google changed the messaging upon leaving a review and now Google has now indicated that they will in fact attempt to republish reviews and review responses that have been filtered during the COVID-19 crisis. Their aim is to moderate and publish that content as they resume normal operations.”
  • …more details

Other Important Directories to Update

If your business hours or contact information have changed, we would also recommend updating your listing information on the following platforms. Click the provided link to view information on what and how to update.

Advertising Grants & Credits

If you were running digital ads prior to the COVID-19 situation, chances are that you have seriously evaluated whether to continue and may have even paused or cut back on your ads. This is understandable, due to reduced cashflow, business interruptions and lower demand. However, with ad inventory down, ad costs are lower, so for businesses that are still open, this may be a great opportunity to get in front of new customers at a lower cost.

In an effort to help businesses affected by COVID-19, several of the large ad platforms are offering grants or credits to help businesses continue their marketing and aid in their recovery.

Google has recently communicated their “COVID-19: $800+ million to support small businesses and crisis response”, which includes Google Ads credits to current Google Ads advertisers like you.

Here is an excerpt from Google CEO Sundar Pichal’s March 27th message, regarding Google Ads credits to SMBs.

“$340 million in Google Ads credits available to all SMBs with active accounts over the past year. Credit notifications will appear in their Google Ads accounts and can be used at any point until the end of 2020 across our advertising platforms. We hope it will help to alleviate some of the cost of staying in touch with their customers.”

In a linked Google Ads support article, Google provided answers to common questions. Here is a selection of the Q&A’s that cover eligibility as well as how and when the credits will be available.  

Who is eligible for the ad credits?

The ad credits will be available to small and medium businesses, who advertise directly with us or through partners, around the world with active accounts since the beginning of 2019. Credits will be provided to SMB advertisers that have been active advertisers since Jan 1, 2019 and comply with all Google Ads T&Cs

How and when will eligible customers receive the ad credits?

Small and medium businesses worldwide that have been active advertisers since the beginning of 2019 will be informed in the coming months through notifications within their Google Ads account.

How long are the ad credits valid for?

This Google Ads credit can be used at any point throughout the year and will expire on 31st Dec 2020. Any unused portion will be removed from Google Ads accounts.

From these communications, we see that Google plans to notify us of the ad credits directly in the Google Ads interface for your account. Currently, Google has not set a specific timeline for when the notifications and credits will appear in your account, but that we will be informed in the “coming months”. Once the credits appear, we will have until December 31, 2020 to use them.

We continually monitor your Google Ads account and notifications, and we will be watching for this one closely. We will advise you when we see the notifications and credits appear, and we ask that you please do the same for us, for as the account owner, there is a possibility that you will receive a separate communication via email or other means.

We will also advise you of any significant updates to the Google Ads credit program.

Facebook Ads

Facebook has recently announced that they will be offering $100M in cash grants and ad credits for up to 30,000 eligible small businesses. To be eligible to apply, your business must:

  • Have between 2 and 50 employees
  • Have been in business for over a year
  • Have experienced challenges from COVID-19
  • Be in or near a location where Facebook operates (click here a list of the areas)

Visit this link to learn more about the program and to view the list of eligible areas. We will be monitoring their program closely to see if there are any changes, such as additional areas are covered.

Yelp Ads

Yelp recently announced that they were providing $25 million dollars of relief “in the form of waived advertising fees, and free advertising, products, and services” to restaurant and nightlife businesses affected by COVID-19 (see article here). Additional details on eligibility and how to apply can be found here.

Social Media

Many users are looking for updates and ways to connect with family, friends and the businesses they frequent. Now is a great time to leverage your social media presence on Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram and other social media platforms to update your customers, share positive news and engage your audience with relevant content. Here are some links to a few articles that give some great advice for how to communicate with your audience on social media over this time.

Check back for updates

We’ll be updating this page as we learn more. If you have any questions about what you read here or would like to talk to someone directly, please reach us at (717) 553-2274 or use our contact form.

Meet the Author:

Carl Lefever

Carl Lefever, Founder & Strategist

Carl is the founder of Improve & Grow, LLC, where his primary passion is helping businesses grow by improving their online marketing. He leads the team and is involved in developing and executing internet marketing strategies for our clients. Carl's background is in continuous improvement disciplines, focused on sales and marketing operations. He is a certified Lean Six Sigma Master Black Belt. He is a proud father of 4 girls and loves traveling and supporting missions work.