For local businesses, brand exposure is extremely important, not just when it comes to growth, but also to survival. It’s why local SEO (search engine optimization) is so essential. Local SEO is what allows you to attract local leads like potential customers in your area who are searching for specific products and services.
In the recent past, this applied to people who were roving about town looking for something to eat or to buy, but these days it’s more of a search they either do from home or via mobile with more specific intent given quarantine and social distancing rules.
While circumstances for your customers may have changed, their needs have not. As part of your local SEO strategy, you should submit your business info to various local directories, like Yelp or Angie’s List to get your business on more people’s radar.
But Yelp and Angie’s List are not in the title of this blog, are they? This is where we come to Google My Business. If there was only one directory that you could choose, Google My Business is the one that will have the most impact.
What is Google My Business?
Why will it have the most impact? Because it’s owned by Google, the same people who are aggregating search data around the world and serving it up in neat lists for the over 5.6 billion searches they get in a day.
Google My Business is a platform built by Google that allows businesses of all shapes and sizes to list important company information, including their contact details, their product and service categories, their business hours, their address, their website URL, customer reviews, and posts.
You’ve seen it before, though you may not have known that it was a Google My Business entry, also referred to as a Knowledge Panel. If there’s a GMB profile that can be placed that’s the most relevant for the search, you’ll see it on the upper right-hand side of your search results:
In this example, I’ve used a local Austin fashion favorite, Parts & Labour. As you can see you can get the following information from their GMB profile:
- Link to the website
- Directions to the store
- A save button so you can come back to this business’ information later
- The average rating for Google Reviews
- A brief description of what they do
- Hours of Operations
- A link where users can suggest edits
- The ability for users to share information about the location
- Reviews from around the internet
- The ability to check and see when the business is busiest based on time of day and day of the week
- An option to upload your own photos
- The ability to add and read Google reviews
- A message from the company
- Their social media profiles
- Similar businesses that users who search for Parts & Labour also searched for
This is…a lot. And if you’re thinking “What’s the point of even having a website if this all comes up anyway?” and you’re not the only one asking. Pre-COVID there was a debate raging against this and how local business websites were supposed to rank and get traffic if GMB was right there giving it all away right from the SERPs. That’s a topic for another blog, however, so let’s move on to the benefits of a GMB profile.
The Benefits of Listing on Google My Business
The following are some of the reasons why setting up a Google My Business listing is beneficial for the success of your business:
- Increase your exposure. Your Google My Business listing will show up on all devices, including mobile devices, when users search for your business. It makes you easier to find for customers who are specifically looking for your business and helps you attract potential customers who are searching for similar businesses in your area.
- Build your brand authority. Your website, your social, and your PPC efforts all help drive traffic and show that you are, in fact, a fancy, legit business BUT having that added boost with the Google My Business entry takes your authority to the next level. “Oh, look at this!” consumers say. “This is a business I can trust. I’d like to give them all of my money.” This dramatic reenactment may not be 100% accurate but you get the idea.
- Gather all of your information in one place. One of the issues that customers often have is trying to find a particular piece of information, like the phone number or the store hours of business. Google My Business allows you to gather all of your important information in an at-a-glance format for your customers.
- Take advantage of analytics. Google My Business provides the use of insights stats, including where customers are viewing your business, how they search for your business and more. This information can be very helpful, especially if you are investing money into PPC (pay per click) ads and other paid efforts. Set up multiple service locations. If you have more than one location for your business, you can use Google My Business to provide info on each location. The way it works is that customers searching for your business will automatically find the information you’ve provided for the location nearest to them.
At last check, the maximum number of listings a single business can have is 5.
- It’s free. That’s right, Google My Business is free to use – so why wouldn’t you take advantage of it?
How to Create a Google My Business Profile
Learning how to use Google My Business is fairly easy and set-up doesn’t take long at all. The following are the basic steps you’ll be prompted to take as you set up your Google My Business listing:
- Go to Google My Business page and select “Start Now.”
- Enter the name of your business.
- Search for your business or input the name and address of your business.
Note: If you deliver goods and services to your customers be sure to check the box—you will be prompted to answer a couple of questions!
- Enter your type of business:
- Add your phone number and website. While this is listed as optional, we recommend that you do this!
- Authorize that you are the person who should be managing this entry:
- Verify your business. You’ll have to either have them call you or you can receive a postcard in the mail. You won’t be able to fully manage your listing until you have entered the verification code. This is Google’s way of making sure that these entries are real and legitimate.
- Go in and fill in the rest of your entry. You’ll be taken to your Google My Business Dashboard:
Once you finish editing, the listing will be published! Google My Business will not only allow you to boost your local SEO and increase brand exposure, it will also allow you to gather all of your company’s important business information in one place for the convenience of your customers.
Google My Business New Features
We’ve all heard that these are “unprecedented times” and as a result, a lot of businesses have to pivot. Whether it’s going from in-house dining to take out only, or in-person appointments to video calls, Google has implemented some new features to help local businesses weather the COVID-19 storm.
- Support Links.
Support Links are currently only available in English-speaking markets but have recently expanded to include 18 new countries. A support link allows a business to add a gift card and/or donation link to their profile using things like PayPal, GoFundMe, Square, Toast, etc.
- Online classes and virtual appointments.
With the shift away from in-person services amid health concerns, Google is now allowing businesses to add new attributes to their lists like “online classes,” “online appointments,” and “online estimates.” These let the user know that the company is willing and able to conduct business virtually.
- Secondary Hours.
The most common example of a business that would want to utilize secondary hours would be a grocery store or pharmacy that wants to have separate shopping time set aside for elderly or vulnerable populations to shop with minimized risk.
If your business has secondary hours, you can update your profile to include them which can help reduce confusion with your customers and provide more insight to people new to your business.
Google My Business is a good (free) investment
With mobile, voice, and text search on the rise, it’s critical that your local business can be found by the people who will benefit from your services. Google My Business is free and has a ton of options (with more along the way) to help local businesses stay afloat and be more visible in a quickly deepening pool of competitors.