Google has a symbiotic relationship with the businesses that appear in its search results. Yes, businesses benefit from the search traffic that brings customers to their websites. However, Google also benefits from offering accurate and useful results. Their ‘customers’ are the searchers, and the searchers want to know that the results they get are the best options available.
Google has added sidebars that pop up if the search algorithm believes that you’re trying to find a particular business. For instance, if I enter “The Lily Pond Children’s Clothing” into Google, and it finds a business with that name, Google wants to show me the best, most up-to-date information possible, even if their website hasn’t been updated recently.
To do so, they might show me a Google Business Profile. When you want to manage your Google Business Profile, you’ll use a tool called Google My Business.
Beyond the Basic Listings: How Google Has Changed the Search Engine Results Page
Google’s simple interface made it popular in the early 2000s, and they’ve mostly stuck with that look. However, the results page has a few new features.
For instance, if you ask Google a factual question, like “how many tablespoons are in a cup,” it will try to answer that with a sidebar, like a measurement conversion box. If you ask it where the nearest coffee shop is, and it has access to your location, Google will show you a map of cafes in your area.
One of these new sidebars is the Google My Business profile. It’s triggered by searches that Google evaluates to be looking for a particular kind of business, location of business, or even the business’ actual name. If your company is strongly associated with that particular search keyword, Google may pop up a special profile box rather than just showing the typical search engine listings.
If you Google a business in your area, you’ll likely see a sidebar with text and photos pop up on the right side of the screen. Usually, a Google Business Profile features:
- The name of the business.
- A photograph and location.
- Directions, the website, or a phone number.
- The address, hours, and products.
When these profiles began, the details were automatically scraped from websites or Facebook pages. However, Google realized that businesses welcomed the chance to make changes to these profiles to meet their needs, like when their business name changed. It’s free to do, so you can easily optimize your search rankings and communicate clearly with organic search engine traffic.
What You Need to Know About Google My Business Listings
If You’ve Already Got a Listing
When you look your business up, chances are that it already has a Google Business Profile. If it does, you can scroll down to “Own this business?” in order to claim and verify your ownership. Clicking this link will allow you to connect your Google account to the business profile (if you don’t have a Google account, you’ll have to make one).
Now, Google won’t let you just take over anyone’s business profile. They’ll use your profile information to send you a unique code that you can use to verify that you do indeed own that profile.
From there, you’ll have access to management tools to make changes to your Google Business Profile.
If Google Hasn’t Created a Profile
If you’re starting a new business or your business hasn’t had an internet presence before, never fear. You can start a GMB profile from scratch! Start by logging into a Google account, ideally your Gmail associated with the business. Then visit Google.com/business and click the “Start Now” button.
You’ll enter the information that’s relevant to your business, like hours of operation and the description. If you’re not sure how to answer a question in the Google My Business profile, consider searching Google for other businesses similar to yours. You can see how other business owners have chosen to describe their services, how they talk about their service areas, and what business categories made the most sense for them. A little research can give you lots of ideas.
For instance, if Lily Pond Children’s Clothing is the best children’s clothing store in New York City, but customers regularly visit from all over New York, you might be better off listing your service area as New York state. This would make sure that people outside New York City find Lily Pond Children’s Clothing. Other businesses might be better off restricting their service areas to a narrow range.
Take your time with this process, because the more accurate it is, the easier it is for Google to show your profile to the users that want to see it.
The Recipe for a Google My Business Profile
The fastest way to see what your Google Business Profile will look like, whether you’re new or have an existing profile, is to Google your business. But you should be prepared and ready to go when you claim your business. Here’s what to expect.
Photo and Map Header
The profile may automatically pull a photograph that was submitted with a review and automatically gather the address. However, you can choose a better photograph and, if necessary, update the address.
Updating the photograph periodically can draw in new customers or highlight a new product. If you change the photograph, you can check the Insights panel afterward to see if it changed your clickthrough rates.
Business Name and Logo
While the name and logo spots may seem straightforward, there can absolutely be errors in a business’s name. Because it’s the most important thing that a user will see, take ten seconds to make sure it’s perfect, and double-check every time you make changes to it.
If you already had reviews under your old business name, those reviews can be migrated to your new business name. Claiming and taking charge of your Google My Business profile creates continuity in your online presence.
These are the buttons near the top of your profile. They might let a user call you with just a button push, or lead to your website, or open Google Maps with your location preloaded.
Making these buttons work for you means tracking their performance. If you find that most users visit your website, but no one calls your phone number, consider switching out the phone button for another call-to-action that you’d like users to try.
Use the business description section to carefully and precisely showcase your offerings. If you’ve invested time and money in writing compelling copy for your website, social media, or marketing materials, this is where to put it. It’s a great way to draw in users who weren’t looking for your specific business, but were looking for related services.
Your business description doesn’t need to be static. Once every quarter, consider whether new product offerings or an expanded service line means that you should update your description. It’s your first impression on the customer, so make it count.
Links to Reviews
If people review your business on Google, their reviews will be featured prominently along with the average star rating on your profile. If you scroll down in your profile, however, you’ll also find a “Reviews From the Web” tab that you can populate with links to other review sites. For instance, if you have a 5/5 on Facebook, you can create a link to your Facebook reviews, boosting your credibility.
These sections are going to vary by the kind of business you have, but it’s worth it to experiment with the attributes and details sections because they can really make your profile stand out. For example, some businesses want to proudly showcase that they have fresh fish, or that they only take cash, or that their business is wheelchair accessible.
Certain attributes can answer your most frequently-asked questions. A good place to start with your attributes and customizable details sections is to ask yourself what customers ask most about. These questions may be answerable without a call, which saves your employees time and gives your customers the answers they need.
For brick-and-mortar businesses, the most important details in a Business Profile are your location, how to contact you, and when you’re available. There’s a reason why these sections are set apart and located high in the profile. Customers are usually looking for this information.
If you’re planning to move, change your phone number, or update your hours, make it a priority to update these on Google My Business as well.
If you’ve ever looked up a business on a holiday weekend, you’ll see that their Google Business Profile notes that holidays may change the available hours. You can get ahead of the curve by setting special hours yourself and displaying them when someone searches for your business.
Updates About Your Business
There are three sections you can post to, like a social media account or a mini-blog within your GMB profile. These include “Updates,” “Overview,” and “From the Owner,” which only appears on desktop sites, not mobile devices.
Google offers a variety of posts that you can put in these sections. For instance, updates to policies related to COVID-19 prevention can be quickly added and modified so that your customers know what to expect when they enter.
If you’re running a special, you can post it as an Offer on Google My Business. Not only are people drawn in to use the coupon you’ve given them, you’ll also get some evidence of how successful it is, since Google My Business can track how many people click on offers.
You can post individual products, upcoming events, or special announcements like expanded hours. Anything you want customers and prospective customers to know is truly fair game.
Your Google My Business Profile Options
If you haven’t worked with your GMB profile before, the options available to you may seem opaque at first. That being said, Google prides itself on making the interface clean and easy to use. If you run into issues, they offer a very comprehensive tutorial.
Here are some of the dashboard sections and portals that we find most useful as you customize and improve your Google My Business profile.
Information Update Sections
The heart of the dashboard is the section for updating your information. You can also announce a sale, discuss an event, or send a message to potential customers via this screen.
Insights for Data Analysis
The insights panel gives you additional data into how people are finding your profile. For instance, you can find out how many people are searching for your business directly compared to how many find your site through keyword searches.
For Lily Pond, if “children’s clothing store in New York City” is taking people to their profile, and it’s a frequent search query, that’s very useful information! You can also follow the “journey” of the searchers. You can see what buttons and links in your profile users clicked. If users are interested in your reviews, you may want to focus on encouraging regular customers to write new reviews.
If users have been clicking through to purchase an item, but many never complete the purchase, you may want to consider improving your checkout process.
Chat and Review Options
Your users can already contact you by email — why would you enable chat in Google My Business? Think about the user’s experience. If they have to click to your website, find your contact page, and then copy and paste an email address, you’re going to lose users just because they don’t want to bother. By enabling chat on the Google My Business profile, they can correspond with you immediately. It’s a powerful source of customer interaction.
Google stores your questions and allows you to reply right from your Google My Business account. That being said, Chat is a double-edged sword. If you don’t respond promptly, it’s almost worse than not having Chat in the first place, and Google reserves the right to deactivate chat if you aren’t responding in a timely manner. Someone at your business should be in charge of sending quick, clear replies through Google My Business and checking it frequently. Otherwise, turn the Chat feature off until you can do that!
Taking Your Profile From Good To Great
Most businesses set out to thrive, not just survive. Optimizing your profile according to Google best practices can really help you stand out.
SEO, or search engine optimization, includes a variety of ways you can make your business more authoritative and make it appear more often for the kinds of searchers who will be most likely to make a purchase.
We’ve already discussed some SEO best practices in the filling-out process, but let’s look particularly at a few features that can really make your profile pop.
Consider Your Keywords
Before you finalize the text of your profile, do a little keyword research. You can look at the analytics portion of your own website, for instance, to see what kinds of search queries are leading people to your website. You can also see what kinds of searches are prompting Google to show your profile from the Insights Panel in My Business.
While you don’t have many characters to work with, if you make sure that these specific keywords appear in your profile, you can make your business more relevant to Google’s algorithm. Just be careful with how you incorporate keywords. You don’t want to write sentences that are clumsy and hard-to-understand, or awkward sentences where the keywords are just jammed in.
Pick the Perfect Profile Picture
The picture that appears in the top left corner of your GMB profile is a big deal. It sets the tone for how someone evaluates your profile going forward.
If you don’t feel like you’re equipped to pick the perfect photo to draw in customers, poll some customers with three or four photo choices. You can ask them for their favorite, but you can also ask “which has the most similar feel to our store or our product?” and “what do these photos make you think of?” Trust the people who know your brand best to help you pick a profile picture.
Create a Welcome Video
Google My Business lets you add a 30-second-or-less video to your profile. While you can just upload a quick hello from the owner, video is engaging, and you may want to take a little time to make it great. Here are just a few strategies for making your video appear to the best advantage.
- Google recommends not using text slides, relying instead on still images and video footage only.
- If you use effects on your photos and video, make them minimal. The line between looking nice and appearing cheesy can be very thin.
- Don’t rely on stock footage. Google wants these videos to be high-quality content that’s relevant to your company.
- If you’re stuck, remember that you can’t go wrong with a neutral background and a warm greeting and explanation of the business from the owner.
Not sure about your video yet? You don’t have to include one, so it may be worthwhile to give yourself some time to get it right.
Particular Benefits for Local SEO for Google My Business
While all businesses can gain customers from these profiles, brick-and-mortar stores that want to get local customers are going to get a particular set of benefits for their local SEO.
A more restrictive “service area” in the Google My Business profile can actually be a good thing. If you ship products, so you make the whole world your service area, you’re competing against everybody else in the world. Our small children’s clothing company would be trying to outrank Amazon listings and Ali Baba. If however, you’re one of the best children’s clothing stores in the borough of Brooklyn, you may rank highly and be more likely to have your profile show up for keywords like “children’s clothing store in Brooklyn, New York.”
There are also a variety of questions answered in a Google My Business profile that are relevant to a brick-and-mortar shopper, like whether you’re open right now. Similarly, quick access to your phone number can help motivate searchers to call and see if you have a particular item in stock.
Finally, the Google My Business profile is tied to Google Maps. If someone searches for “shopping Bedford avenue brooklyn,” Google will populate a map with related results. The same information from your GMB profile could be listed in this map in truncated form, helping a shopper add your store to their trip.
How a Google My Business Profile Boosts Your Business Prospect
Given that a Google My Business profile is free, investing even minimal time can really make a difference. That being said, ongoing attention to the Google My Business profile is generally worthwhile.
There are many benefits in terms of gaining additional business as well as connecting with existing customers who need to be able to communicate with you.
Create a Two-Way Communication With Prospects
Google My Business tools make it possible to connect with customers in a variety of ways. For instance:
- They can quickly connect to your website and any contact forms you have available there.
- They can reach out via your social media pages, which are easily displayed as icons on the GMB Profile.
- They can use the chat feature to message you directly from the profile.
- They can see you in-person or call.
Customers have a wide variety of preferences when it comes to how they engage with you. As long as you have the staffing to respond in a timely manner, it’s good to give your customers a variety of outreach methods.
When you can communicate quickly, clearly, and positively, you’re doing more than just handling another task. You’re building trust and a reputation for excellence. The experience of being treated well often sticks with them for a long time.
Help Them Find Your Business Right When They Need It
It’s in Google’s best interest to use the data in your profile to show your business to people they think will be interested in you. If a searcher who has never heard of the Lily Pond Children’s Clothing Store searches “kid’s clothes in New York,” Google’s complex algorithms are going to pull the results the search engine thinks are credible.
However, if the algorithm finds a comprehensive and consistently-updated profile of The Lily Pond and a patchy, unclear profile for another children’s clothing store that might not even be open, they’re going to feature your store. New customers who know nothing about you can find you because you’ve made a compelling profile and are keeping it up to date. Google rewards your work by showing you to customers who want the products and services you offer.
Save Yourself Time If You’re Juggling Multiple Locations
Google My Business has robust features specifically designed for businesses with multiple locations. “Add Location” helps you manage the information for businesses with multiple locations, like customized hours of operation.
Being able to manage all of your locations from a single profile can save a lot of time, and you can see what percentage of your web traffic is going to which location. In conjunction with other metrics, you can figure out which locations are employing the best customer service strategies or are best situated for certain demographics.
Fitting Google My Business Into Your Digital Marketing Strategy
Here at Redstitch Digital, we specialize in helping both large and small businesses figure out the right priorities for them when it comes to the wide world of digital marketing. Google My Business is a key part of your strategy, but it isn’t usually enough on its own to get the kinds of growth you’d like to see.
The thought work you’re doing to create great descriptions and attributes for your Google My Business profile is also the springboard for other aspects of your digital strategy. Connect with us today to learn more about your next digital marketing steps!