In all likelihood, you may have seen a Google My Business (GMB) listing for someone else’s business when searching for a service provider on Google. Ever wished if your local business could also appear there when people searched for similar businesses? It isn’t a difficult thing to achieve. But before you start putting efforts to get your business there, you must know what Google My Business is all about.
What is Google My Business?
Earlier, people used to turn to the bulky phone directories to get contact details of a business. But that method had countless drawbacks. Those directories weren’t updated, and in order to get information about all the newly established business, one had to buy a new directory every month. Also, directories didn’t give the exact geographical information. People couldn’t add their reviews or ask queries with these directories without actually calling the business. Those days are gone, and physical directories are replaced with online directories and listings. Google My Business is one of them.
Google My Business is a free listing tool provided by Google that lets local businesses, brands, and local service providers list themselves so that their name appears when online users are in search of a relevant business on Google. Getting on Google My Business can increase the chances of showing up in Google’s Local Pack, Local Finder, Google Maps, and organic rankings in general. As online users rely more heavily on Google to find the answers to every question they have, Google My Business is becoming a big part of how they discover products and services in their area.
Not sure why you should care about Google My Business or consider it for your local business? Here are some notable benefits that you simply can’t overlook.
A complete and optimized Google My Business profile can help your business land on the top of the organic results when people look for a relevant business. You must have seen while searching for a business on Google, 3-4 business names and their details appear in a panel right below the paid ads and above the organic search results. This panel is where your business listing will be placed if it is optimized. This panel is also known as the local 3 panel as it shows three business listings without clicking on the ‘More businesses’ option. Giving as much information about your business and linking your social profiles and websites to Google My Business will help you rank higher in Google’s search results.
It Offers a Plethora of Features
It is true that your GMB listing can act as a mini website of your local business with all the necessary information available on it. And the customer reviews you get on your listing can be compared to the website testimonial. Google has rolled out several other features in recent times which are much beyond a simple directory or listing page. Within the Google Questions and Answers feature, online users have the opportunity to ask questions directly from their smartphones or from their desktops. And business can answer their queries effortlessly. In select countries, Google is also allowing GMB admins to message customers directly from their listing when they find the business through search. Another amazing feature is Google Posts which allows you to promote sales and offers. You can upload an image, advertise your upcoming event, put up an ad copy and it even includes a CTA button specific to what you upload. One of my favorite new features is that Google can even help you build a basic website if you don’t have one. The website credentials are auto generated from the information that you’ve already shared with Google.
You can completely understand where your customers came from and how they found you? Where did they click? What images are getting the most views? How many customers tried to call you? Based on these insights, you can make informed decisions about your strategy. You can find all these analytical data in the ‘Insights’ tab in GMB. You can select a particular analysis, and the information will show up on a chart. Visibility, engagement, and audience are the three sections provided under the Insights tab. All of this information can be used to optimize your GMB listing and other tactics to target your customers better and acquire new leads.
It Widens the Scope of Communication
Today, numerous communication platforms are available for you to engage and converse with your potential as well as existing customers. Google My Business is yet another scope of communication. It encourages online users to review your business, leave comments, and ask questions. You can respond to your audience and assist them with what they are looking for. This increases the likelihood of converting potential leads into customers. Not only this, when people see that you respond to the comments and queries of people, they tend to consider you as a good option to choose when they are in need of relevant service. According to the Local Consumer Review Survey 2017, positive reviews make 73% of consumers trust a local business more. Also, 85% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations.
It is Cost-effective and Easy
As I mentioned above, Google My Business is a free business and service listing tool by Google. Not only this, Google is one of the biggest search engines that people use. Like Google My Business, there are also several other prominent directories online for different industries. However, these listings often come at a price, whether it’s a monthly fixed rate or yearly rate. This means that by listing your local service business on GMB, you are putting your business in front of many potential customers, that too at no cost. All your business information, your contact details, your business operating hours, reviews by other clients, and amazing new features that make online marketing simpler – all at no cost to you. And the best part is that setting up your GMB listing can be done effortlessly. It’ll only take a few minutes of your time to set up your local business listing but will boost your business’ visibility exponentially when searched for.
How to Create Your GMB Listing?
As I said, setting up a GMB listing isn’t arduous at all. All it takes is ten minutes and complete attention to fill accurate information about your local business. Here is a complete step-by-step guide for you.
It is essential to have a Google (Gmail) account to list your business on GMB. Select the Google account you want to use and sign in to that account. If you don’t have a Google account, you will first have to create that and then move on to this step. Click ‘Get on Google’ if you don’t have an account or ‘Sign in’ if you already have an account.
You will then have to find your business to claim it. Type in your business name and address in the “Find My Business” search tab to find it. If your business doesn’t already have a profile but does show up in the results list, tick the right checkbox to confirm that you have the authorization to claim it. If your business doesn’t show up in the results at all, you’ll need to click ‘None of these match’ and add your business.
While adding your business, you will be asked to fill in your business details. Enter all your business information such as the name-address-phone number (NAP) details, operational hours of your business, email, website, etc. In this step itself, you will have to categorize your service business correctly. Select the right category from the drop-down menu. Numerous category options are available with GMB. Make sure you be as specific as possible while selecting the category. When done, click on ‘Continue.’
Your Google My Business profile and account will be created. You will be asked to verify the address of your business so that Google can send you the verification postcard. This postcard will take 1-2 weeks to arrive. Once it does, it will contain instructions on how to verify that you are authorized to claim your business.
Once your address is verified, you can access your Google My Business dashboard. Click on the grid of squares in the top-right corner, and you’ll get access to all the Google tools. This is where you’ll connect your YouTube account, Analytics, Google+ page, and so on. It will also give you access to your reviews, and allow you to respond to them.
Add your business’s logo, company photographs, other additional details and edit your company information to have a complete business listing.
Click ‘Done Editing’ and you are done with the profile creation.
If you don’t have a physical location, you’ll have to create a Brand Page. Click the ‘Not a local business?’ link in the top-right hand corner of the page. Then, under “Choose business type” click ‘Brand’. You’ll be prompted to create a name for your brand page and to enter your website address. Once done, you can edit your profile, much as described for the local business pages above.
Tips to Improve GMB Listing
Many local businesses just claim their GMB listing and forget about it. What you have to do after creating your GMB listing is, follow these tips, optimize your listing, and get good returns.
Add More Photos and Videos
We all know that more visual content on the internet appeals the online audience. You can use this as an advantage and add relevant photos and videos within your Google My Business listing. The ability to add photos to your Google My Business listing has been around for a while, but adding videos is a relatively new feature that Google introduced. You can now add a 30-second video about your company that will grab people’s attention on Google. Although you can upload longer videos too, it is always better to keep it short as people today have a shorter attention span. Once you have two or more videos on your GMB listing, you’ll get a Videos subtab that shows up on mobile devices.
Some things to keep in mind for uploading videos on GMB listings:
The size of videos should be up to 100 MB.
The videos should have the resolution 720p or higher.
The videos should be taken at your business’s location.
People in the videos should be directly related to your local business.
Google can remove the videos if the primary subject of the content is not related to the business location.
Adding photos and videos to your listing is pretty simple. You can either click on the options of ‘Add Videos’ and ‘Add Photos’ on your listing dashboard, or you can also click on the blue ‘+’ sign on the right top corner to add a photo or video.
Craft an Appealing Business Description
Google now re-allows business owners to include a business description on your Google My Business listing. Google has provided us with some guidelines to follow for creating a business description. Google has given a brief description of what you can and can’t include in your description. It’s important you adhere to these rules because Google does review your business description to make sure people aren’t deceived.
To start with, first, find one or two keywords that describe your business the most and are also what people commonly look for. You can find the right set of keywords with the help of Google Keyword Planner. Make sure you use those keywords early in the paragraph and then talk about what makes your business stand out and explain why people should visit your business. Keep in mind that you only have 750 characters, and only 250 of those characters are visible in the listing’s Knowledge Panel. Therefore, brainstorm and create a description that educates online users in the least word count possible.
Some keys to keep in mind while creating your business description:
Don’t add URLs and links
Don’t use all CAPS words
Don’t stuff the description with keywords
Don’t make it sound like a sales pitch
Don’t waste space on statements like “Family Owned” or “Locally Owned”
You can add emails and phone numbers in the description if needed
I recommend that you write out several versions of your business description so you can have a few backups just in case one is rejected by Google. On a desktop or laptop, the business description appears in the Knowledge Panel towards the bottom, below the reviews people have added for your business. On a mobile device, you can only see a business’ description if you click on the About tab.
Make the Most of GMB Posts
Google Posts are somewhat similar to the mini-ads or social media posts that appear in Google search in your Google My Business listing and on Maps. You can promote the following in your Google Posts:
A new blog post on your website
Any and every type of event
Ongoing sale, offers, or discounts
A new or old product or service
Holiday, festival, or occasion wishes and greetings
The possibilities with Posts are endless! By creating posts, you can place your timely text, video, or photo content in front of customers when they find your business listing on Google. When writing a post, you are given several options such as upload an image, write text (up to 300 words), an image, a call-to-action (CTA), and even including a link to another page or website, or add an event (with start and end dates and times). You can add call-to-action buttons including “Learn more,” “Reserve,” “Sign up,” “Buy” or “Get offer.”
Some things to keep in mind while setting up Google Posts:
The first 100 characters are what shows up in the Knowledge Panel and on Maps. Make these characters count by being appealing and descriptive at the same time, and make sure your sentence doesn’t get cut off.
The best size to use for the image is 750×750. If you use anything smaller than 250×250, it won’t be accepted.
If you have multiple posts, the newest ones will show first, and the older ones will show in a carousel format. Google will scroll up to 10 posts in a carousel, but only the first 2.5 are seen in the search results without scrolling. So, decide smartly.
The posts only stay live for seven days, and there currently isn’t a way to schedule posts. Events will stay live until the event is over. Therefore, post often to be visibility consistently.
Google is beginning to index emoji-relevant search results. This is similar to the way that slang and acronyms were incorporated into Google SERPs, where Google incorporated them in order to display the best results for user intent. Using emojis in GMB helps the local SEO of your local business as well. To increase the importance of the optimization of your Google My Business profile, and gain more exposure for your local business, you should have a relevant emoji within your Google My Business profile. You can use relevant emojis in your listing’s title or your brand name, in the Posts you advertise from time to time, or in the business description. For instance, if you are a pizza store located in Toronto, you can use “pizza emoji + Toronto” in your Posts or listing description. This way, when people look for “pizza emoji + Toronto” or people located in Toronto look for “pizza emoji + near me” your listing will appear in the in the search results and Maps.
Google has introduced a new gateway for your potential and existing customers to get in touch with you directly from your GMB listing. This feature is known as Google Messages. Although messaging is only available to mobile web users and is not available to the mobile app or desktop users currently, you can still use it to stay connected with your customers. When an online user searches for a local business like yours, and if you get listed in the top results of the panel below the paid ads, a ‘Message’ option will be available along with the Call, Directions, and Website buttons. However, this option won’t be visible in the Knowledge Panel or on Google Maps. In order to get started with the Message feature, you will first have to log in to your listing account. You will see the ‘Messaging’ option below the Home and Insights options. Enter your mobile number which you wish to use for communicating with online users. If you don’t want text messages sent to your personal phone number, you can download Google’s Allo mobile application. When you set up your Allo account, use the same phone number connected to your Google My Business account. Now when someone messages you, the message will be sent to the Allo app instead of appearing on your personal text messages. This way, you can manage the messages you receive from listings separately and not get confused between your personal texts and the messages you get from your GMB listing.
After you verify the number, it lets you set up an autoreply to customers who click on the Message button on the listing. This way you can now message your customers directly via your Google local panel in mobile search.
Include a Booking Button
If you have any type of business that relies on customers making appointments, you no longer need a third-party appointment booking website or software. Google My Business’s new feature enables your audiences to book their appointment right from the listing itself. Google finally added a feature to let you easily add a ‘book online‘ button to your local business on Google Maps or Google Search. This can make it even easier to get new customers as they don’t have to leave Google to book an appointment with you. If you have an account with one of scheduling providers supported by Google, the booking button is automatically added to your Google My Business listing. When you log into your Google My Business account, you will see a new button on the Home section named ‘Sign up for Bookings’ next to the “Accept bookings on Google” section.
Once you click on that button, you will be taken to a page to choose your booking provider. Google has teamed up with several booking merchants and providers that you can choose from. GMB’s Insights will show you your bookings, how much money you made on those bookings, how much overtime and each booking as well.
Upload Services or Menu
If you are a business that has a rate card, service card, or menu card with different products or services and their prices, Google My Business has a helpful tool for you now. The Service or Menu feature is available for restaurants, hotels, cafes, any type of eatery, home improvement service providers such as plumbers, florists, health and beauty service providers such as spas and salons, and even for website developers who have a rate card and that don’t have a third-party menu link. This feature allows you to categorize and list out all your services or products and prices so that potential customers can easily see what you have to offer. To access this, log in to your Google My Business listing, click on the ‘Info’ tab, scroll down and look for ‘Services.’ Click on it, and a pop-up will appear where you can add or edit your items. You can also add an optional description of each item here.
If you don’t have any rate or service card of your business, you can overlook the ‘Services’ and continue with other features by GMB.
The more interaction between users and your Google My Business listing, the better your chances of improving your organic rankings. That means you need to engage more and more with your audience and keep optimizing your Google My Business listing to get more traffic on your listings. As new features come out, plan on using them to keep your GMB listing fully optimized. This way, you’ll stay ahead of the competition with other similar businesses in your area and have the edge over them. Google has been and will continue providing beneficial services, tools, and features through it’s Google My Business. So, ensure that you utilize them to their fullest.
Ali Salman is an online marketing strategist who have worked with Coca-Cola, Extreme Pita, Mucho Burrito, KIA, Honda and other Fortune 500 companies. Ali Salman now heads Rapid Boost Marketing - Canada's fastest growing search marketing agency. RBM clients include Fortune 500's and medium size businesses across North America. Ali as RBM CMO leads his team in building and managing quality, high-performing and cost-effective interactive campaigns and programs for our company's customers and partners. In his career, he has significantly improved campaign performance for large brands such as Government of Alberta, Liberal Party, Workopolis, Cathay Pacific, as well as medium to large retailers and high-tech B2B-enterprise niches.
Ali and his team develop online promotional concepts that spark viral growth through search and social media for RBM clients, devising strategies that use search engines and more to reach key demographic segments in the ways they're most likely to be receptive. Ali Salman also oversees corporate marketing initiatives for Rapid Boost Marketing, including strategic communications counsel, public and analyst relations and client education programming.