It’s no secret that almost 85% of searches go through Google’s behemoth search engine. over the last several years Google has developed many products for website developers and small business owners to improve and enhance their online presence. 

What is Google My Business?

Google My Business connects people searching online with your business

One very important tool is Google my business. Like all other basic Google tools Google my business is available for free to businesses. 

When somebody searches for a product or service on Google, Google uses the data it has in its maps product along with Google my business as well as your website to serve some results which Google feels may be more relevant to the search that is being put in. 

For example if you were searching for pizza delivery, Google will show you pizza places that offer delivery around you. Furthermore it will pull from Google my business the most recent and relevant pizza delivery promotions and options that Google recognizes as most relevant to your search. 

So if the local pizzeria that is around the corner from you offered a two for one special with any medium pizza through the Google my business listing chances are that it would show up in your search result making you click that link and ending up on the page where the pizzeria wanted you to go. 

So it becomes extremely vital to ensure that every small business sets up owns and maintains their Google my business page. It isn’t just important for local search engine optimization but more so because that’s where people can write reviews and you can respond to them. 

How to claim your Google My Business listing

Claim your listing on Google as soon as you can and keep your account credentials safe.

if you haven’t already done so it’s important that you have access to your Google my business listing here are a few steps you can take to ensure that it belongs to you. 

  1. Search for your business on Google; if your business shows up there should be a little sign next to it saying claim this business.
  2. Click on claim this business while you are logged into the primary Google account you will use to maintain this business and follow the steps in the verification process. 
  3. This may involve Google sending you something in the mail or perhaps making a phone call but you have to follow the process to claim access.

Claiming your business is not (always) instantaneous

This will probably NOT be something that you can do within span of 5 – 10 minutes, the entire process may require up to 2 weeks as Google has a verification process. Some businesses Google will call the number which it has on file with a validation code, others will require a code to be mailed to (postal mail) and that can take up to 2 – 3 weeks. So before you do this, make sure you note your Google Account and write down all the information that you’re entering. 

Once you have successfully claimed your business make sure you keep the username and password handy and also download the Google my business mobile app so you can post updates view reviews and respond to people right through your phone. 

Most users first encounter with a business is through Google My Business. 

When people search on Google for a product or service it’s not necessarily just the website that they’re looking for; people look at the business listing provided through Google my business and determine if they will call or visit the business or not. The Google My Business listing has pictures of the interior and exterior, reviews by customers and  responses to those reviews by the owner, a overall rating based on reviews, promotions, hours of business, availability, questions and so much more. 

This decision making process for the consumer makes it essential for the business owner to establish a reputable and impressive Google my business presence can directly affect the bottom line. 

What to post and add on Google My Business – a mini guide

It may seem like a daunting undertaking to set up and maintain a Google My Business listing but it need not be so. A way to make this manageable is to  break it up three into segments.Before you do this 

  1. Set up your business basics 
  2. Dealing with reviews
  3. Ongoing maintenance

Set up your business information on Google My Business

Once you have your business verified, log in to your google my business account (usually through https://business.google.com/) and go to the “info” section. 

Google My Business is a great way to keep your clients up to date

This is where you need to make sure that all the information is accurate and as you wish to be seen when searched for on Google. The information required here is:

  • Name of Business
  • Type of Business (the description of the business, eg: Restaurant, Media company, nail salon, etc) these description are provided in a simple search by Google go in your primary category. You also have the option to add “additional categories. 
  • Location : physical address of your business
  • Service area : The geographical area where your business serves its customers
  • Business hours
  • More/Additional hours (holidays, weekends, etc)
  • Phone numbers
  • A short name (username / handle) which can be tagged on when sharing your business profile URL
  • A website address 
  • A list of your products
  • Attributes : This is where you can list things more relevant to your companies operation (current examples as of Feb 2021 include : “staff wear masks, NFC payment, delivery options etc)
  • A long description of the business. Think about this when writing it. It impacts your listing on Google and will be what people read the first time. 
  • Opening date (When you started operations)
  • Photos : add pictures of your place of business, products, services, customers anything you want that you feel will help your business get a better response.  

Though not all these points are mandatory, these are the basics and this should take at least 5 – 10 minutes, better if you can take up to an hour. 

Dealing with reviews on Google My Business

Consumers like to read reviews and make a decision about engaging with the business or not. It doesn’t matter what type of business it is; everything from restaurants, hotels, personal care salons, financial institutions all have reviews and people like to read them to get an idea of how other customers feel about working with the business before calling you. .

It’s a safe bet that now in 2021 the most relevant place for reviews is Google because it determines how a business will Rank and Google’s massive ‘eco-system’ makes it more relevant than facebook, yellow pages and other less significant services. 

Whether you have reviews or not…and whether they are flattering or not its important to have an overall strategy for reviews.

Here are some basic points based on industry standard and an overall policy.

  • Ask every happy customer for a review. 

Most satisfied customers DON’T leave reviews, the ones that are unhappy are usually the first one to do so. When the business is concluded, ask the customer via email or text “Are you happy with the service?” If the answer is yes reply with a thank you and an invitation to your google my business listing to leave you a 5 star review with 1 or 2 simple lines describing the experience. If the answer is “No” then ask them for direct feedback (using the email or text) on what can be improved. This way, you’ve internalized the complaint and can use it to improve the overall experience. 

  • Respond to all reviews (or as many as you can):
    • Yes, I know, business owners are busy Sometimes its impossible to keep up with reviews however this is important. A simple thank you on every good review is great and a message acknowledging the issue and perhaps steps to resolve the complaint on the “not-so-good reviews” would be great. 
  • Avoid fake reviews:
    • Don’t make fake reviews, don’t buy them, take the time and build your review reputation. 
  • Contacting Google about abuse toward your business.
    • Google is a giant. Millions of business listings are modified every day so its hard to get attention for your one…single…business, but there are ways. Google allows you to flag reviews based on specific criteria, but doing it just once may not get you the desired results. You might have to ask a few friends to do it as well. Google does have a customer care team that looks after this department so you can try to contact them via email. If you do so, include all relevant information including screenshots and any proof to further your claim. 

Ongoing Maintenance of your Google My Business profile

This is really why I started this blog! Its probably the most important aspect of the entire Google My Business “chronicle”. 

Once you’ve got the basics down, Google my business has a section called “posts”. Think of this as a social media platform for your business but without worrying about likes and followers.

The posts section (as of February 2021) has 5 segments:

  1. COVID-19 update : Let customers know about any changes to your business due to COVID-19
  2. Add Offer: this is where you can let customers know of any promotions and offers such as a discount or a coupon that may be available. You have the option of offering time-sensitive offers as well.
  3. Add Product: this ties in with the product section in Google my business where you can list a product its description what category it belongs into and also a link to where they can see more or purchase the product
  4. Add Update : Think of this like an enhanced status update for your business; you can write about renovations in your store, steps you’ve taken to improve customer experience, anything you like can be written in a long post combined with up to 10 photos or videos as well as the all important button linking to your website
  5. Add Event : This add event feature lets you literally add any event that can be in store or virtual, such as a sale, seminars, information sessions. This in turn is shows as upcoming events in your search. 

It’s best to create a schedule perhaps a week in advance if not a month in advance of what post you’re going to put for the next few days or weeks. You don’t have to post every single day but once a week is usually something reasonable to aim for even if it is repetitive but done as an accurint update but with different words and phrases would be better than posting nothing at all.

It’s important to put yourself in the customer’s shoes when you do this exercise. Remember, customers will be seeing these posts along with the other information about your business when they are searching for you and your competitors. 

Suggest imagine if a customer sees that your last post was 8 months ago whereas two of your competitors posted something in the last week. In this example the quality or content may be less relevant than the time elapsed between the posts. Customers may start to wonder if your business is still operational. Its always good to be current. Even something as basic as “We are open this week to serve you.” is better than nothing at all. 

Some final tips:

  • Be short and sweet – don’t write stories, quick updates are better
  • Always use high quality pictures and videos, avoid unprofessional or badly edited videos. 
  • Catchy headlines always work better  
  • Spend some time in developing a collection of reusable unique images either do it yourself using something like Canva or hire a graphic designer 

Summary:

If your business benefits from having an online presence (and almost all businesses do) then having access and maintaining a current Google my business profile is important in this era.

Put some time aside and invest in claiming and then setting up your Google my business profile if you don’t have the time to do any of this we are here to help our team has been helping businesses all across Canada and the US develop a strong online presence build and maintain digital marketing profiles across all social media platforms please contact us if we can be of any help