Optimizing Google My Business and How To Get More Local Customers

How to optimize Google My Business to attract more local customers
How to optimize Google My Business to attract more local customers

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…

Showing Google Posts on Google My Business. Add special offers, events, products and more.

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.

Why online reviews matter and the value of Google My Business reviews.

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.

Key Takeaways

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.

5 Louisville Businesses Killing It With Instagram Marketing

It’s not every day you find local, homegrown businesses with a clear social media strategy and nailing the Instagram marketing game. We thought we’d have a little fun and give major props to these six Louisville businesses making their mark using Instagram.

1) Louisville Cream

Louisville Cream is a small batch ice cream company who, by their own account, are “nuts about ice cream.” They have the Instagram presence to prove it — with over 13,000 followers, they’re doing something right.

That something is a combination of exceptional, mouth-watering photography and fun captions that convey the brand’s relaxed vibe.

Follow LouisvilleCream on Instagram!

Louisville Cream Instagram Profile

Instagram Post by Louisville Cream

2) Hi-Five Doughnuts

Another tasty, sugary treat…

We’re not advocating for diabetes, promise!

Hi-Five Doughnuts is a Louisville doughnut shop and food truck where customers can build their own tasty treat with a bunch of different glazes and toppings up for grabs. Much like Louisville Cream, their claim to Instagram popularity are the bubbly, colorful photos and the always-playful captions that convey the brand’s happy feels.

Follow Hi-Five Doughnuts on Instagram!

Hi-Five Doughnuts in Louisville

Doughnuts from Hi-Five Doughnuts

3) Louisville Tea Company

Love. Leaf. Live.

Louisville Tea Company brings flavor to Instagram as a family-owned, local option for Louisville tea lovers! They do an exceptional job appealing to  customers with their colorful, themed photography, especially playing on the different seasons. One great takeaway is they always seem to find creative ways to integrate the product without coming across as too sales-y or self-promoting.

Follow Louisville Tea Company on Instagram!

Screenshot of Louisville Tea Company Instagram Profile

Louisville Tea Company

 

4) Against The Grain Brewery

Calling all beer fiends!

Against The Grain is a hometown favorite around Louisville — if not for their amazing beer, then for their food at ATG Smoke House. Their Brewery Insta is packed full of thirst-driving beer photography, and they combine that with a laid-back tone that makes you feel like you’re chatting with the guy or gal behind the bar.

Follow Against The Grain Brewery on Instagram!

Against The Grain Brewery Citra Ass Down Beer

5) BiteMeals

You don’t get to 105,000 Instagram followers by accident. If there’s anything that screams Instagram, it’s fitness. BiteMeals is a Louisville-based meal planning service that delivers a set number of meals straight to your doorstep every week.

They do a super good job presenting their meals, letting customers know what new meals are being released, and getting their customers to spread the word about BiteMeals (evidenced by the “Tagged” section of their Instagram).

Follow BiteMeals on Instagram!

BiteMeals Instagram BiteMeals Instagram Account

Taking It To The Next Level

There’s no doubt these Louisville businesses are dominating Instagram, and in especially impressive ways for those that are in a narrow niche like Louisville Tea Company and Louisville Cream.

One big area in which all of these businesses could up their game is pushing more discounts or sales via social media. The data below comes from the 2018 Sprout Social Index and shows an interesting divide between what many brands/marketers think consumers want on social media vs. what consumers state they want.

You’ll see that 72% consumers responded saying “Discounts or Sales” are the top type of content they want to see on social media. So, if you’re running an eCommerce business like Louisville Tea Company or BiteMeals, it’s in your best interests to share discount codes and other offers directly on social media.

Or even better, incentivize your followers to subscribe to your email list in exchange for a specific discount code.

social media statistics

Key Takeaways From These Top Instagram Performers

Bold Photography Wins on Instagram

Photography on Instagram is king. No surprise there. One key element all these businesses have in common — along with every other successful Instagram brand — is their photography is top notch and the style perfectly fits what users of Instagram expect when they log in.

Show Off That Personality

Personality sells. One trouble most brands find themselves in on social media is they deliver plain boredom. Corporate, stuffy, self-promoting content is the opposite of what consumers want to see. If you consider the rest of the data above, besides discounts and sales, social media really boils down to three basic categories: entertain, education, and inspire.

If you look at many of the companies on this list, they have a standout voice in their captions that really captures the essence of the brand, is welcoming, and makes you feel like you’re just talking with your buddy — now THAT’S social media.

Any Other Louisville Businesses You’d Add?

Pop a comment below if there are other Louisville businesses dominating Instagram or other social media channels! We know they’re out there. Self-nominations are welcome!

 

Social Media Marketing 101 for Small Businesses

Social Media Marketing 101 for Small Businesses

Social Media Marketing 101 for Small Businesses

Guest submission by Victoria Greene.

Social media marketing and advertising are almost universally-applicable — they scale up to enterprise businesses, and right back down to entrepreneurs.

They’re also essential tools for local small businesses, like restaurants who are increasingly taking proactive steps with their social game — social has the spectacular power of offering access to engaged communities of customers.

Not every small business should be running off and posting daily videos on YouTube, or has the resources to support a unique visual social strategy across multiple social platforms!

Read on for actionable tips on social media marketing for your small business.

Developing a Brand Personality on Social Media

Growing a presence on social media often comes down to having something interesting to say, so developing a distinct social voice is key to standing out from the crowd and attracting followers.

Social media is an opportunity to show the personality behind your brand. When planning your campaigns, consider how your brand will be able to cut through the noise.

  • How can the way you speak differ from your competition?
  • Is there a hidden story that’s waiting to be told?
  • Is there room for a spokesperson or mascot figure in your brand?

Remember — don’t promote your own product or service in every post. Instead, allow your brand values and personality to shine through in a subtle, yet sincere way. Be comical. Be entertaining. Be authoritative. Be motivational.

Decide how you want your brand to be perceived and what customers will likely respond to positively, then drive your social tone in that direction.

Creating and Curating Social Content

With content that entertains or speaks to your customers’ pain points, a small business can form a strong bond with followers.

So how do you go about curating and sharing social content?

Sharing Your Own Social Content

Sharing content from your blog attracts prospects to click through to your website, so periodically work in your own content accompanied by strong calls-to-action, enticing headlines, and quality images. You can share the same blog more than once, especially if it’s evergreen content, but test out different times of the day and switch up the accompanying copy to speak to different stages of the buying cycle — cascading from neutral to more hard sell, but keeping the focus on quality content rather than “buy, buy, buy.

Curating Social Media Content

Writing content is time-consuming. There’s no great way to automate this process, since social always demands a human touch. To cut down on time, you can source content from other blogs or articles and share on your social platforms. Just be sure you tag the writer or company that published the article to give them proper credit (and potentially generate a share). My suggestion is to set up a Feedly account and subscribe to RSS feeds of relevant blogs and media outlets in your industry, then you can quickly scan these sources when you need help thinking of fresh content.

Emphasis on Visual Content

Visual content is emotive and captures peoples’ attention in feeds, so use images and video in your social content strategy. You can easily find design help online, from free self-help tools like Canva to affordable freelancers on Upwork or Fiverr. So don’t rule design out for your business, because of time or budgetary constraints.

Carefully Craft Your Calls-to-Action

Think about exactly what action you want your followers to take. Do you want them to share, click through, like, buy, or follow? How do you want them to feel?

When writing your social media posts and your calls-to-action, always filter your ideas through to the KISS method — Keep It Simple, Stupid. The second you leave your audience guessing what they’re supposed to do is the second they scroll past your update.

Also, consider using emotive, persuasive words and phrases that are likely to grab peoples’ attention, and think about how you can clearly imply value using a few words. Words like ‘free’, ‘now’, ‘exclusive’, ‘limited time only’ and ‘join’ are popular for a reason — they work!

These words and phrases are even more important in your paid social advertising campaigns, where brevity and value-added are key drivers of success. Wasted impressions or clicks = wasted money.

Be Savvy With Scheduling

For your social media delivery, it’s a good idea to set up a content schedule to ensure you publish posts consistently. The old adage “failing to plan is planning to fail” rings incredibly true with social media.

While you definitely need to keep the door open to real-time posts, I suggest having the bulk of your posts planned in advance. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself struggling to carve out time some days to post, and that quickly becomes a bad habit.

Before you know it, you’ve gone dark for a week or two on one of your platforms — that just looks untrustworthy and disingenuous as a business.

Don’t be afraid to re-post the same piece of content more than once, if it’s appropriate and in line with the etiquette of the social platform.

For example, you can get away with sharing the same blog post on Twitter multiple times a week or month, but that’s less acceptable on Facebook or LinkedIn. With Instagram, you can drive people to the same content regularly in the captions of individual posts, but you should use different photos each time.

Another way to vary your delivery on social media is to re-purpose content using different media formats.

For example, re-purposing a successful blog post by turning it into a video is a great way to make your content go further. Or break down your blog post into multiple social media updates, creating a unique image for each social post.

Keep an Eye on Goals

As with any business initiative, especially marketing, it’s important to know how effective your social media presence is.

So you definitely need to measure the impact of your activity on website traffic, sales, and overall social engagement (which factors into metrics like brand awareness, brand loyalty, community growth, and so on).

You can keep track of your social activity using social analytics tools and, of course, make sure your Google Analytics account is properly set up to record web traffic. Check these analytics tools every month or two, and make note of trends.

  • Do certain types of posts perform better, like photos vs. videos?
  • Is your overall community size growing organically? If not, you might need to allocate some of your budget to social ads to increase community growth.
  • Are your social updates not driving enough traffic? Maybe you need stronger calls to action in your posts or incentives to encourage clickthroughs.
  • Do people visiting your site from Facebook convert at a higher rate than people coming from Twitter? Instagram? LinkedIn?

Don’t Bite Off Too Much Early

If you’re worried you’ll get overwhelmed by social media, you should start with just one platform and expand later. So often, businesses jump into social media and try to build a strong presence on multiple platforms, but it’s unlikely you have the resources or expertise to make that happen immediately.

Pick one platform you’re confident you can give full attention to, test to determine if your audience is present there, then invest time into growing a community on that platform.

As you feel more comfortable generating content and you understand what your customers like to see on social, you can expand to other platforms.

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About The Author

Victoria Greene: I love working with my small business clients — together we focus on creating content and campaigns that add value, stimulate conversations, and bring in new business.