How improving your Google MyBusiness listing can push you ahead of competitors
It should be the cornerstone of your local marketing strategy and yet, as Forbes say, “many businesses aren’t aware of it.” We’re talking about your Google MyBusiness listing, that familiar boxy little summary which appears on Google when you are searching for a business. It captures all the crucial local information a searcher needs, including photographs, that all-important map to get there if it is a physical entity, opening hours if it’s somewhere you can visit or shop at and – crucially – the contact details, including telephone number and website address. Not sure if it’s important? What if we told you that 46% of all Google searches are people looking for local information?
Many entrepreneurs and even some marketers make the mistake of thinking this is an automated, Google-managed listing, which is understandable given that Google often does create a listing without your involvement, pulling information from your website or adding information provided by another user. Obviously, this isn’t an ideal situation, like letting a stranger turn up to design your shop front and hoping they turn out to have a bit of branding talent. You need to take control of your listing.
It’s certainly essential to being properly listed on Google Maps and being high in the search engine results when people look for you. The Maps factor is particularly important when you realise that, as Social Media Today has reported,86% of people search up a businesses address through Google Maps. But it’s more than that. As blogger Neil Patel says, “it’s not just a place to find basic information about your business… it’s a powerful tool that can increase your revenue and provide valuable insights about your customers.”
Getting set up is both free and easy, two of the most beautiful words in the English language. Simply Google your business. If you find a listing and it says “business not claimed” – and an astonishing 56% of local businesses haven’t claimed their MyBusiness listing – then you are in luck: no digital squatter has moved in and taken over (if they have, that’s a whole separate feature). Now you can get started on making this incredibly valuable asset really work for you.
It starts with the sending of a postcard, Google’s way of making sure that your business address is real and you aren’t claiming your neighbor’s flat as headquarters for an international terrorism ring or (more likely) that a competitor doesn’t try and take over your listing and reroute your customers in their direction. Once verified, you have to make sure all of your information foundations are secure, which means of course that your hours, website, and contact details are all accurate, but also means making sure you have a business description and category which are laser targeted at your potential customers. Categories can be crucial: you might not think there is a huge difference between “Employment Agency” and “Employment Search Service”, but Google does and which one you choose will affect your traffic greatly.
It’s also very important to make sure that your core details, your name, address and phone number especially, are consistent across your entire web presence, including your website and your listings. Discrepancies confuse Google website crawlers, and when Google gets confused it will usually punish you by pushing you down the search rankings.
Checking your foundations isn’t a one-time action, by the way, as many businesses have believed to their cost. As a Moz blog points out “anyone can suggest a change (or “edit”) to your business listing — and that includes your competitors.” Given that an unscrupulous editor has the option to change some quite crucial information (such as changing your opening hours so you only open your doors for half an hour on Sundays), you need to be vigilant and check your Google My Business dashboard regularly to ensure that no one has been playing dirty tricks.
There is one contribution from strangers that you will want to encourage, however, and that is of course reviews, the good kind at least. When it comes to Google MyBusiness rankings (not to mention actual customer visits) good reviews are often the difference between business life and death. They can even be strategically helpful in some cases: as Business Insider says “They can illuminate where you’re doing well, where you can improve, and what needs your attention right away.”
And whereas other review factories like Yelp fiercely discourage businesses from asking for reviews, Google actively encourages you to ethically ask customers or clients for online reviews. You need to develop a strategy for doing this since it is too important to overlook. After all, 82% of consumers read reviews for local businesses, which rises to a huge 93% of people in the lucrative 35-54 years old age bracket.
They key to getting more reviews is summed up in the old Biblical quote, “ask and you shall receive”. There are two main ways of doing this. If you have a physical storefront you can simply get your team to speak to obviously happy customers and ask them to write up their love in a review, or you can add suggestions to physical materials like menus or receipts. If most of your business is done online, however, you can include requests for reviews in online receipts or other communications – just make sure you follow Google’s guidelines.
Asking really does work: there is a reason why half the podcasts you listen to will start with a presenter overcoming their reserve to ask outright for reviews, and that’s because it triggers action and makes their shows much more successful. But it’s not the end of the process. Once customers do leave reviews for you — whether positive or negative — you must respond. This doesn’t just show the former customer that you care, it shows potential future customers that you care. BrightLocal are right to point out the benefits of “monitoring, growing and responding to your reviews.”
Another simple way to make your Google MyBusiness listing more effective is to remember the power of visuals. You’d be astonished how many otherwise savvy businesses fail to provide their own professional quality photography and instead allow customers and passers by, often armed with dodgy camera phones and questionable approaches to lighting, to fill up their listing with drab photographs. Make sure you don’t let this happen. You can even add a slick video to really stand out.
There are other ways to make your Google MyBusiness site work harder for you. You can rise up the search rankings through the regular use of “posts”, which are similar to Facebook posts and can use similar content. By showing your business is actively engaged and communicating with the world, you will be found more easily. You can also add business-specific call to action functions, like booking buttons or messaging services. The majority of businesses fail to utilise these functions, but if you use them well then, as Forbes says, they will help “drive online traffic and phone calls to your place of business”.
The Google MyBusiness listing can often sound like one of the duller, more basic parts of building your online presence, but it also happens to be one of the most powerful and underutilised. Taken together, these two qualities add up to one thing for you – a real opportunity to gain advantage over less aware competitors. Get to it!
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