What is Google My Business and why should I use it?
We all use Google, don’t we?
We use it for searching the internet; we use it for email; we use it for watching videos; we use it as a word processing package; we use it for our calendar; we use it for its maps and so the list goes on.
But if you’re a small business, do you use the business tools Google offers too?
Many of these tools are free and one of the most powerful free Google tools you can use is Google My Business.
Now, don’t be mistaken, this is not Google+ or a replacement for Google+. Google+ is well and truly dead but Google My Business is alive and kicking
If you don’t have a Google My Business profile and you’re a small business, you’re missing a trick.
Google My Business is probably the most comprehensive business directory ever created.
And local search is on the increase so it’s essential for businesses that serve customers in their local area.
And did I mention that it’s free – there are not many powerful business tool that are free, but Google My Business is.
So what is local search?
Local search is when people type something like one of these phrases into the Google search engine:
- Restaurant near me
- Photographer Burton on Trent
- Dentist DE13 9PD
And do you know that:
88% of consumer local business searches on a mobile device either call or visit the business within 24 hours.
46% of all searches on Google are for local information.
97% of people search online to find out about a local business.
What is Google My Business?
Have you noticed that when you search for something locally Google often shows three businesses at the top of the page?
It looks something like this:
Those businesses are one’s that match your search criteria who also have a Google My Business profile.
So, as you can see, these businesses have a better presence in search results because Google My Business is displayed above the standard search results. And it’s probably a double whammy as these businesses are very likely to be displayed within the standard search results too – so that’s two first page listings rather than one!
Their individual Google My Business profile in search results is displayed on the right hand side of the screen on desktop and looks something like this:
If you have a bricks and mortar premises where you’d like customers to visit, you can also have a place marker on Google Maps. You’ve probably seen them, they look something like this:
However, don’t worry if you work from home, you’re a freelancer or you don’t have clients visit your office because you don’t have to be featured on Google Maps. This is one of the questions you’re asked when you set up your Google My Business profile but you can change it at any time if your circumstances change.
Google will offer directions for businesses that are shown on Google Maps.
How Google determines local ranking
When someone does a local search, Google ranks your business using a combination of factors:
Relevance refers to how well a local listing matches what someone is searching for.
Distance refers to how far each potential search result is from the location term used in the search.
It’s worth bearing in mind that Google will rank a more relevant listing that’s further away higher than a less relevant listing that’s close by.
Prominence refers to how well known a business is.
This doesn’t mean that your business has to achieve celebrity status. It’s based on information that Google has about your business from across the web (such as links, articles, blog posts, directory listings etc). Your Google review count and score are also factored into local search ranking – more reviews and positive ratings improve a business’s local ranking. And your position in the standard web results is another factor that’s taken into consideration, so SEO best practices apply to local search optimisation too.
Getting started with Google My Business
You’ll need to set up a Google account first.
Then go to Google My Business to get started.
Or alternatively if you notice that your business already has a place marker on Google Maps (probably a relic from Google Places) and you don’t have a Google My Business profile you can claim your business by clicking on the place marker, selecting ‘Claim this business’ and following the Google My Business Setup Wizard.
The Google My Business Setup Wizard asks you to complete a series of basic question about your business.
Once you’ve done this, you’ll need to verify your business to confirm that you are a genuine business.
This can be done in several ways including by phone, by email and by post. Yes, that’s right, Google will send you a postcard in the post with a verification code on it and instructions of how to verify your business. You need to do this within 7 days of receiving the postcard.
Now it’s time to complete the rest of your listing.
The best way to do this is to go through each section one at a time completing as much information as you can.
While you’re completing your profile, bear in mind that keywords are key so make sure you use words and phrases that people use to find a business like yours.
A really useful tool to use for keyword research is Ubersuggest as it will give you some great keyword ideas.
Anyone can suggest an edit to a Google My Business profile (and sometimes Google may automatically make the suggested change to your profile without informing you) so make sure you complete every section as fully as you can so no one can have an excuse for suggesting an edit!
And don’t forget to add a cover photo and profile image. If you want to add additional photographs too that’s a bonus as businesses with photos see 35% more clicks to their website and 42% higher requests for driving directions in Google Maps. And if you want even more brownie points, you can add some videos to your profile too.
As the reviews that appear on your Google My Business profile have an effect on how your listing is ranked by Google in a search, make sure you ask for and respond to reviews from your customers.
On the home page of your Google My Business profile, there’s a link you can send to your clients to ask them for a review. It looks something like this: g.page/the-lady-in-the-shed/review
Creating a post on Google My Business
This is why people have been getting Google My Business confused with Google+ – you can now add posts to Google My Business.
When you select ‘Create Post’, you’ll see something like this:
You can add four types of post – What’s New, Event, Offer and Product.
For each you can:
- add a header image or video.
- use up to 1500 characters in your description with the first 100 characters being key as they are what show on your Google My Business profile. You should always consider keywords in your description, but hashtags are meaningless so don’t use them.
- add a call to action button that can link through to your website. The call to actions that are available include Book, Order online, Buy, Learn more, Sign up and Call now.
- share your Google My Business post on Facebook or Twitter.
- add voucher codes to your ‘Offer’ posts.
The unusual thing about Google My Business posts is that they expire after 7 days, except events which expire after the event. Once a post has expired, it’s not displayed on your Google My Business profile although if someone really wants to find it, it will still be there in the bowels of your profile. Google My Business will email you to let you know that your post is about to expire.
You can only have 10 Google My Business posts live at any one time but only the most recent post is displayed on your profile and, in fact, if you have more than one post live the thumbnail image gets smaller!
For this reason, many people decide just to post once a week, so they always have one active post on their Google My Business profile. This is especially important if you have important news as you don’t want it hidden away. In fact, you could argue that if you have all 10 posts active at any one time you are actually competing with yourself in search.
Adding products to Google My Business
Google My Business now has a Products (beta) tab that is only available for small businesses. You can add collections of products which are displayed in a carousel under a Products tab. However, if you want to showcase products, you have to use Product posts with the normal post rules applying – a maximum of 10 active posts that expire after 7 days.
So, is Google My Business worth the effort?
Most definitely, it gets results, but there’s no need to get hung up on it. It’s not social media!
Sarah Liddle is The Lady in the Shed. She is a virtual assistant specialising in marketing, admin and techie solutions for small businesses, a smallholder, a sheep farmer and a farm bygones dealer. She loves supporting small business owners to do whatever they do by enabling them to use their time more effectively.