If someone has a task that needs to be done, they’ll probably hop onto a search engine like Google. They’ll likely be looking for local businesses with high ratings. They might even end up like 76% of people who visit a local business the same day they search for one. Finding a local business that fits your needs is remarkably easy in 2018 thanks to the information provided by Google’s free tool: Google My Business (GMB). GMB has proven itself to be an essential tool in local SEO for small and big businesses alike. Here’s what you need to know.
If someone searches for a service, like “web design”, Google tries to point the customer in the right direction. Seated above the typical link-by-link listing, Google will present a map coupled with a drop-down list of firms that fit the relevant search terms. The map is peppered with red pins marking the locations of relevant businesses in the area while the drop-down menu displays the nearest and highest rated firms. Searching for any of the listed businesses leads to a detailed profile of that company being displayed on the sidebar of the page (known as a knowledge panel). The knowledge panel includes crucial information, such as the name of the business, operating hours, its phone number and website, customer reviews, and even photographs. The information in the knowledge panel exhibits the backbone of what GMB offers: quickly found and easily digested online business profiles. It’s easy to understand why getting this information to potential customers is important, but there are a few things about GMB that business owners should be aware of.
GMB gives business owners complete control over what information potential customers have when searching for their firm. With this in mind, business owners need to be diligent in maintaining absolute accuracy with the information listed in its GMB profile. Furthermore, it’s also crucial that business owners correctly label what category their business falls under. If you Google “web design Raleigh”, every business on the first page will be labeled under the category “Website Designer”. If your business isn’t in the right category (or worse: none at all) Google will find it difficult to determine if your business really fits the search terms being used. As a result, this will make it less likely that your business will appear in subsequent search results. Beyond just making a GMB listing both complete and accurate, there are functions built within GMB to help business owners further optimize the tool.
Two of the more engaging mini-tools within GMB are its Messaging and Post features. Posts function as miniature advertisements for your business. Business owners can make posts regarding events, sales, and specials happening. These posts stay active for one seven day period and they’re displayed on a business’ knowledge panel. Google has also introduced useful Call-to-Action buttons (including buttons like Buy, Learn More, Subscribe, etc.) as a way of making Posts more engaging. While Posts can serve as advertisements, GMB has recently introduced its Messaging which allows customers to directly text questions and inquiries to businesses. If you feel uncomfortable giving out a phone number, Google’s Allo app can act as your messaging medium. While it might seem strange that customers would text the number listed on your GMB page instead of calling it, a recent study found that 90% of potential leads would rather be texted by a business than called by it.
Through its Insights tool, Google has also enabled business owners to understand what their GMB listings are telling them about the strength of their search engine presence. Google Insights can clue owners into many key pieces of information including how and where customers are finding the business, where customers are coming from, and what actions they perform on the GMB listing. Two key metrics to analyze are how customers find a GMB listing and what they do once they’re there. There are two primary ways customers find businesses: direct searches and discovery. Direct searches are those that result from a business being searched for directly, while discovery searches are yielded from a customer finding a business after searching for a general industry or service. Once it’s understood how customers are finding the business’ listing, Insights will further show what actions customers take once they hit a GMB listing. It will show if they’re continuing to the main website, if they’re calling or messaging the firm, or if they’ve searched directions to the location.
Finally, Google’s My Business tool is perhaps most well-recognized for its user-generated reviews. Whereas Yelp discourages business owners from asking for reviews from its clients, it’s actively encouraged on GMB. Paying attention to customer reviews is crucial for the upkeep of any good GMB page for a few reasons. For starters, BrightLocal released findings showing that 85% of consumers regarded a positive review as trustworthy as a personal recommendation. It’s also been estimated that customer reviews account for nearly 10% of a business’ search engine ranking. While this might make it seem like the only acceptable rating is a perfect 5-stars, that’s not exactly the case. There are two especially prudent moves to make when it comes to managing customer reviews on GMB: realize that no one is perfect and respond to as many reviews as possible. Responding to positive reviews shows that a business owner is actively engaged with their audience and listening to what’s working. On the other hand, responding to negative reviews calmly and appropriately displays patient and compassionate business conduct. In fact, the ability to respond to negative reviews is a big deal to consumers, as evidenced by the fact that 45% of customers saying they’d be more likely to visit a business whose owner responded to negative reviews.
Google’s My Business tool is transforming how businesses present themselves and how they interact with their local communities. It’s imperative that any business owner who’s serious about maximizing their SEO and their customer engagement in 2019 make a complete, accurate, and engaging GMB as soon as possible.