The coronavirus pandemic has taken a massive toll on businesses and Google is making some changes to Maps to help them out.
On Wednesday, Google revealed a host of small changes to how it presents business information in Maps. Most notably, it will now indicate if a business is temporarily closed, or if a restaurant is only offering takeout or delivery due to the pandemic. Businesses will also be able to post news updates about their operations on their Maps’ profile pages for curious customers.
As part of the new update, restaurants that offer delivery through third-party apps like Grubhub or Caviar can now choose to display their preferred delivery providers on the Maps page. This is likely because some delivery apps are better for businesses than others. Another new addition is a space for businesses to show special pandemic-related hours that might differ from their normal schedule.
Oh, and if a restaurant decides to forgo dine-in eating permanently, they’ll be able to get verified by Google’s business platform anyway. Google had previously not allowed this for what it deemed “virtual kitchens.”
Another big change that’s coming to Google’s search engine is the ability for businesses to add donation support links to search profiles. That means if you search for a restaurant on Google, for example, that business can display a relevant GoFundMe link or a way to buy gift cards to help keep it afloat.
Last but not least, Google is expanding the ability to make reservations directly through a business’s profile. So if a salon offers online appointments, you may be able to book one directly through Google Maps.
All of these changes are much needed since the old Google Maps interface didn’t necessarily work with the new era of social distancing. You could, say, tell if a business was closed, but not always if it was permanent or temporary, or if the hours on the Maps page were pre-pandemic or post-pandemic.
In other words, the pandemic has introduced an element of uncertainty to Maps that Google is now trying to address with this update. If it all works properly, you likely won’t ever again have to trek outside just to find a piece of paper on a door telling you to turn back.