If you own a small business, you probably spend time looking for new ways to increase your visibility and attract more customers. This is where your Google My Business profile comes in. GMB is a free online marketing resource devoted to optimizing Google local business listings. It can help your company shine in local search results when people are looking for the kinds of products or services you offer.
Getting Acquainted with GMB
You may be familiar with older Google products, like Google Local or Google Places, but if it has been a while since you logged in, you may see GMB come up and wonder what happened. Basically, your account information was simply shifted over to the new product. GMB was developed to combine the old dashboards and provide users with a more streamlined experience. If you have an account with Google My Business, your information can now appear on Google+, Google Maps and Google Search. If you are brand new to GMB, your next step will be to establish a new account and verify your business. Once this is done, a postcard containing a special code will be sent to you. It may take a week or two to arrive, but while you wait, you can set up a good portion of your account. Just be aware that nothing will be visible on Google until you receive and activate your new code.
When you begin thinking about how to show your business in the best light, here are five important ways you can optimize your listing.
1. Ensure Your Contact Information is Accurate
Whether you know it or not, your name, address and phone number, also known as NAP, may appear in many places online. These citations might be found in the online yellow pages, or in one of your local business association pages. You should shoot for having as many citations up as possible. There are dozens of sites where you can create a listing for your business, including local business listing websites, known as LBLs. However, not only must your contact information be correct, it must also be consistent for all search engines and directory sites. If you list your business location as 123 Main Street spelled out, you must not use the abbreviation “St.” anywhere. Be sure you correct your name, address and phone number wherever this information appears, especially in the local context. Also, eliminate any duplicate listings that may have existed and correct the remaining information. Remember that search engines can be confused; they are not human and therefore cannot reason out which of your listings is correct. Here is a tip: Google uses the online database for the United States Postal Service to verify NAP information.
In addition, take a look at the hours of business you might have posted on one of the older Google sites. Are those hours still in force? Also, be sure that your business is listed in the proper category. Lean toward more descriptive terms than simply “groceries” or “shop” because using a little creativity will help your business stand out from the competition. Some experts say that adding more information about your business helps with the click-through rate. They advise making sure the pertinent information you have on your website is correct, then simply copying that into your GMB listing.
2. Write a Compelling Introduction
Describe your business in an engaging, reader-friendly manner. Be aware of the eye-path of your reader; the text should flow naturally from the headline you choose. Avoid hype. Write clearly and simply. People who are seeing you and your business for the first time will be somewhat wary; they will need to feel that they can trust you, so honesty is important. Remember that you only have a few seconds to hook the attention of a reader, so follow a few simple tips:
• Keep paragraphs short
• Avoid run-on sentences
• Use subheads
• Use bullets when possible
Remember to include pertinent details. You might mention your great customer service, free shipping, years in business or any other points that might be of interest to a prospective customer.
3. Add Visuals
People love pictures, and they sometimes say more about your business than words do. You should consider adding a picture of yourself plus photos of key staff members, at least. If you have a very small company, photos of all employees would be good. You should include images of your office or facility. GMB users choose images that will help in optimizing Google local business listings. If you have been using older pictures, take new ones, or use a higher resolution. Show your products in a creative way, preferably with people in the pictures. Show a familiar area such as a lobby, and a couple of photos of customers entering the building, shaking hands with employees or being helped at a service desk. In fact, include people in your pictures as often as possible; they make a scene come alive.
In addition to photos, you might consider adding a virtual tour of your business. You will see 360-degree street views on Google Maps that show locations from every vantage point. You may want to do the same thing with the inside of your office, warehouse or other facility. Your GMB account will have links to approved photographers, and one will come to your business to create a virtual tour.
4. Gather Reviews From Your Customers
Have you ever gone online to write a review for a local business? Having this kind of experience is a good idea when the shoe is on the other foot. Some sites discourage reviews or ban them completely, but they are fine with Google, so ask away. In fact, search engines like reviews, so posting them can boost your rankings. You know who your good customers are and you should not be shy about asking them to provide reviews on your GMB listing. Let them know that you want honest feedback—emphasize that. If they have never written reviews, give them some simple instructions. Make sure they understand that they do not need to be too specific, or get too personal. Their goal should simply be to describe your business and the kind of service they experienced.
According to a 2016 survey conducted by BrightLocal, 7 out of 10 consumers will write reviews if businesses ask them to. In addition, 84 percent say they trust online reviews as much as they would a personal recommendation. Good feedback provides a comfort level; the more positive your reviews are, the more likely people will be to do business with you. Thank your customers when they provide good comments, but respond to those who give negative reviews, as well, because criticism will help you to improve your business. Keep in mind that customers know things sometimes go wrong in business. If they see that you have responded in a professional manner to a negative review, the message they get is that you are the kind of business owner who can deal appropriately with a bad situation.
5. Post to Your Google+ Page
If you are brand new to most things-Google, you might not know about Google+. Basically, this is a social network, which you can activate easily once you have a Google account. This is where Google and Android ecosystems meet. The app connects you with other communities of people who share your interests. You can create a profile, and put up posts and photos. Best of all, you can create a business page, which will help increase your exposure. Put up a cover photo to highlight a new product or an upcoming sale. Write about industry news, or a future happening in your locality. Start using hashtags. Build a community of followers. In general, you can use Google+ to get your message out to people who are interested; there are millions of users. Since by joining you will be sending a positive message to Google, you might even see an upswing in your rankings.
The Importance of GMB
As internet technology evolves, so does the impact it has on many aspects of life, especially business life. The recent survey by BrightLocal indicates that the best local business marketing technique is simply local search. If you are busy running your business, however, you probably do not have a lot of extra time to devote to marketing. This is an excellent reason for optimizing Google local business listings. Think about it: If you do not have Google My Business, your company will not be displayed on local Google map references, which appear for the majority of local queries. GMB acts as the mainstay of local marketing campaigns, and it will not require a lot of after-hours work to get started. Going with the basics is best; for on-the-go business owners, it is all about getting the word out relative to what you do, and how you go about doing it, in the most expedient way. If you employ the five steps we have discussed, you will optimize your local business listing and be well on your way to increasing your visibility and building a more robust customer base.