Before Google My Business (a mash-up of Google Places and Google+), it wasn’t long ago the phone book was the most practical way to find restaurants, service providers, retailers and more.
It was a slow-moving world, huh?
Sure, you could find the business after a lot of flipping through pages, but even then, you had no easy way to tell if the business was positively rated, reliable, experienced, or safe to use.
Today, we now have the power of a phone book and much more in our pockets at all times.
Google revolutionized the way we consume and the way we do business — the way customers search for and find products and services, especially locally, has forever changed.
That’s where Google My Business comes in.
Google My Business (GMB for short) of course functions as much more than a digital phone book.
The platform is a complex series of algorithms that work hard to match your business with the customers that are Google searching for products or services like yours. The algorithm is constantly matching criteria, which we’ll discuss later, to help send your most qualified potential customers to your door.
Ready to learn how Google My Business works, how you can add content, and how to encourage positive reviews that can help your business find more local customers?
We’ll explain why Google My Business is important and show you how to optimize your Google My Business profile.
What Is Google My Business?
Google My Business is an online platform and website you can build within Google’s own ecosystem. In some ways, it’s similar to creating a Facebook page, except it lives within Google search.
Once you’ve registered a business and optimized your Google My Business profile, it allows Google to recommend your business to people who are searching for products and services your business offers.
A great example of the power of Google My Business is within the restaurant industry.
The last time you traveled to a new city and you were looking for suggestions for a great restaurant, you probably did a quick Google to see options near you, right?
The restaurant recommendations shown first on the map are called the Google 3-pack. They’re the result of a number of criteria like proximity, proper category listings, how authoritative your website is and more. Many of the factors determining results in the 3-pack are positively affected when you have a completed, active Google My Business profile.
As you can imagine, every business wants to be in the 3-pack, because it’s among the first results potential customers see, and a powerful tool that helps drive foot traffic (or website visitors) to your door.
In a small 2017 study by IgniteVisibility, clickthrough rates for the top ten positions in search results showed an obvious trend — that there’s value in being in any of the top 10 positions, but those at the top clearly receive the vast majority of clicks.
We don’t believe this study took into account Google’s 3-pack, but it’s reasonable to assume being in the 3-pack is going to lead to more customers finding your business, lead to more phone calls, and lead to more people visiting your website.
From a customer’s perspective, Google My Business provides a summary of the address, telephone number and website for the business. It is also linked to a map, that customers can use to GPS (via Google Maps) the business.
It’s easy to see how these elements could increase the number of local customers visiting you.
Lastly, the photographs and reviews on the business profile allow customers to get a glimpse of your business and read about the experiences that other customers have had with your establishment.
Google My Business is like a personalized handshake from your business to prospective customers, and today it is more essential than ever to optimize your appearance in search to stand out from the rest of results.
That starts with ensuring Google has the correct information about your business.
What’s Required To Create A Google My Business Listing?
Before you can set up a Google My Business profile, you need to meet certain criteria.
Do I need a physical address to be listed on Google My Business?
Businesses with a physical location can add their address, which helps Google serve specific suggestions if someone is in close proximity to your store, restaurant, office, and so on.
Businesses that operate exclusively online — including e-commerce retailers, virtual service providers, or consultants that do not have a brick and mortar location — will also need to enter a physical address, which can then be hidden (e.g. if you use your home address, you can hide it from public visibility).
Beyond those requirements, to use Google My Business…
- Your business must be currently open or plan to open within 90 days
- The Google/G-Suite registrant setting up the account must be the owner or an authorized representative of the business
Once you’ve set up your Google or G-Suite account, which will be used to access your GMB profile in the future, you will then want to complete your business page.
There are many tools available in your Google My Business dashboard that allow you customize your presence, like adding location(s), unique information about your products or services, photographs, and other details to help you attract new customers through local search marketing.
You’ll also have the option to build a “website” within Google My Business. While there are different website themes, customization to match your brand’s fonts, colors, and so on is quite limited.
Nonetheless, the option is there to feed Google correct information about your business — the most important takeaway.
Here you can see an example of JP Digital’s Google My Business website.
What Can You Publish on Your Google My Business Website?
1. Contact Information
Rule number one of digital marketing: keep it simple
Once Google serves your business as a local option in the Google 3-pack or on Google Maps, prospective customers will often want to schedule an appointment or call for more information.
Adding your contact information to Google My Business, including a telephone number and a link to your website, makes it simple and quick for your prospects to reach you or find the information they need.
2. Business Hours of Operation
There’s nothing like getting excited about heading to a restaurant, then you get there and find out they’re already closed.
That’s not the first experience you want to give your potential customers, is it? And in the future, they’re certainly less likely to come back, because they can’t trust the hours of operation listed online.
Be sure you update what days of the week your business is open and your hours of operation on Google My Business, including holiday hours or closures.
3. Photos Of Your Business
A picture is worth a thousand words and they stand out in search results, so if ambiance is part of the appeal of your business, show off that atmosphere through quality pictures of your business.
As time goes on, Google My Business will provide statistics on how many people are viewing your photos monthly — similar to how Facebook or Instagram provides analytics on interactions with your posts.
4. Google Posts
Creating posts on Google My Business allows business owners to create special offers or publicize events or new products.
There are four types of posts that business owners can create:
- Offer Posts: for incentives, contests or special incentive campaigns to draw new customers *big opportunity for eCommerce shops*
- What’s New Posts: for general information and photography of an event or your location
- Event Posts: to announce or invite customers to attend an upcoming event
- Product Posts: to showcase your merchandise or the services that you offer
Each type of Google Post has a dedicated CTA (call-to-action) to allow customers to click through for more information, whether that’s claiming a discount, learning more about a service, ordering a product, or signing up for an event.
When someone searches for your website, posts made on GMB will be shown in search results. Here’s an example…
Use Google Posts to keep fresh content flowing and engage customers in search with targeted messages by adding new pictures, discounts and incentives.
- Restaurants can spotlight new menu ideas or offer specials to customers who show the discount to their waiter/waitress
- Bars can publicize drink specials, daily/weekly beer menus, or happy hours and other events
- eCommerce stores can run a promotion for first-time or return customers with a discount code
- B2B businesses can highlight their top partners or advocate for their services
Google Business Reviews and Why Reviews Matter
On the topic of reviews, Google says, “High-quality, positive reviews from your customers will improve your business’s visibility and increase the likelihood that a potential customer will visit your location.”
That’s not to say a business without reviews will never rank in the 3-pack, but those businesses who do rank and have reviews are more likely to receive interest.
A study by Search Engine Land found that 88% of online consumers have read reviews in an effort to determine quality of local businesses. 72% say positive reviews impact their decisions and inspire trust.
We discussed earlier that it is a veritable digital arms race for local businesses to appear in the Google 3-Pack.
It’s been officially stated Google My Business does not have an impact on search rankings.
Nonetheless, a completed profile with accurate business information and positive reviews is surely a prerequisite to competing with other businesses in search, especially in the 3-Pack.
Don’t offer financial incentives or free product for positive reviews. Instead, provide an exceptional experience and ask clients or customers who you have a good relationship with to leave a review.
On the topic of negative reviews, avoiding them is impossible if you have a large customer base.
However, your business can respond with integrity to negative reviews directly on the Google Reviews platform, showing other customers you are listening and you care when they have a less than positive experience.
Make time to respond to all your Google Reviews if possible or sign with a digital marketing team to monitor the reviews and respond on your behalf.
Having an active Google My Business isn’t the end-all, be-all of search engine marketing, by any means. There are many aspects of optimizing your search presence that are of far more importance.
However, it doesn’t take much effort to create or maintain a Google My Business page and it can certainly improve the appearance of your brand in search results, plus serve as a platform for engaging prospective customers researching your business.
Jonathan Payne is a Louisville digital marketing consultant, leading as the CEO of JP Digital with nearly a decade of digital marketing experience helping both small businesses and national brands like Old Forester, Early Times, KORBEL, and University of Louisville.
JP Digital exists to replace that feeling of being overwhelmed by digital marketing with confidence and optimism about the future of your business. Let’s chat if you’re ready to take charge of your digital marketing.