Virtual improvements result in more real life customers, thanks to the on-the-go search habits of today’s customers. It’s not just Millennials who are shopping from their phones, it’s everyone – 92% of teens own a smartphone and so do 65% of their grandparents. As a result, it’s easier than ever for people to have a sudden need (“My car is making a funny noise!”) or whim (“I want a coffee!”), do a quick search, select a business and visit straight away. With Google dominating UK search with almost 85% of the market, it’s clear that whatever Google says about your business is going to have a big impact. Thanks to Google My Business, you can have a say in what that is.
What is a Google My Business listing?
If you search for a business type on Google (try “web design firm” or “car mechanic”) then the first result you’ll get, whether you’re at your computer or on a smartphone or tablet, will probably be a map of your local area with several push pins marking nearby businesses or a Google shopping result. This is obviously insanely helpful as proximity is often the most critical factor in selecting a business to try. Below the map, you’ll see a bit of information about each business – this is the ‘Google My Business’ listing for that company, and will be made up of information provided by the company; details gathered automatically by Google’s bots; and customer reviews.
Why managing your own GMB listing is essential
Most business owners don’t update or edit the Google My Business listings for their own companies or individual sites. This means that the information available is only what Google can find using their automatic scripts. As a result, key information is often missing and this can drive customers to other businesses – opening hours, particularly over holiday periods are a good example. Imagine you’ve got a headache and want to buy painkillers. You pull out your phone and search ‘pharmacy’. Google tells you there are 2 within a 5 minute walk. One, it confidently asserts, is open now (“Tuesday: 09:00-18:30”) the other has no opening time information. Which do you go to? How about if it’s Sunday, or a bank holiday? By taking control of your GMB listing, you can ensure that the information it provides your customers is accurate and up-to-date. You can also use the service to your advantage, for example by promoting offers and learning more about your customers. As a bonus, the service is, at time of writing, completely free.
Tap into what Google knows about your customers
By claiming your Google My Business listing, you’ll also get a backstage pass into what information their search engine holds about your customers. As an example, you’ll be able to find out how your GMB listing performs; how many searches you appeared in; whether customers were looking for your business name or generic terms; what percentage of customers clicked through to your business; and so on.
Promote your business for free
Google My Business has a number of features that let you promote your business. A few examples:
- Add photos – reassuring for potential customers (“It’s real!”) and potentially very attractive (“Mmm, cake…”)
- Post ‘posts’ – mini stories which let you promote an offer or event
- Link to your newsletter – another way to boost sign-ups
- Link to your booking system – ideal if you have an online reservation system
- Link to your website – really basic, really important
- Let customers book directly – GMB now has an integrated booking system
- Respond to customer questions – a great way to reassure potential visitors
- Respond to customer reviews – reviews can swing a potential customer one way or the other, and your response to problems makes a big impact.
What you should do to optimise your Google My Business listings
The first step to unlocking the power of your GMB listing is to claim it. You may have to jump through some hoops to prove that you are the owner or manager of the business – this is annoying, sure, but also an essential security feature. Once you’ve claimed your business, the next step is to update all the basic information such as opening times, contact details, web address, and so on.
Beyond the basics – filling out your profile
After you’ve got the basic facts right, it’s time to create a fuller profile. Ideally, if Google gives you the option to include information, and it’s at all relevant, you should include it. For example, if you need customers to book ahead (perhaps for a hair cut or MOT) then activate the GMB booking tool. If customers typically need to contact you before coming in, activate the messaging tool.
While you should check your GMB listing regularly (weekly at least) you don’t want to have to update every field every time you check in, so make as much of your content timeless as possible. This includes featured photos and a brief company description which are key to making your business stand out from the crowd.
Maintaining your GMB listing
You’d probably like to set your GMB listing up once and then forget about it, which is certainly what a lot of business owners do. However, by doing this you miss out on many of the great free features the page offers which could attract customers to your business. Instead, schedule a few minutes once a week to check into your Google My Business listing and check if there are:
- suggested edits – customers can suggest edits to business details, such as opening times or location
- new questions – anyone can ask or answer a question, so you want to get your official line in first if possible
- new reviews – responding to reviews is a great way to reassure customers that you’re an active business, interested in your customers, and willing to tackle any problems
You should also plan to add a new photo or a post at least every week.
What’s a Google My Business post and why should I use it?
A new feature from Google, this lets you post a short article with a link and an image. These expire after 7 days or, for event posts, when the event has occurred. They show up as part of your Google My Business listing, which means they’re a great way to highlight new products, to showcase events, or to share enticing news about your business. For many companies, the type of content needed for a GMB post will be exactly what you’re already sharing elsewhere, on your website or social media pages, so adding a regular update to your rota should only take a couple minutes.
Any other questions?
Google services, from SEO to Google shopping results, can seem hard to use and harder still to understand yet their equal-access platforms are often a huge boon to small and medium sized businesses. If you have any more questions about how to optimize your Google My Business listing or want some expert advice on interpreting the statistics it’s giving you, get in touch today – our team of web designers, SEO experts and marketing professionals are ready to help you.