In one of my recent digital marketing training sessions, I was asked by a number of the small business owners in the class ‘What is Google My Business’ and ‘How do I set up a Google My Business listing’?
Once I’d given the class my answers, I spent the next forty minutes taking a variety of questions from the attendees on the topic of local SEO.
Based on this level of interest, I’d write a blog post about this important aspect of Google’s services that will hopefully clarify for readers, and for anyone who attends any of my courses, what Google My Business is about and how it can be utilised by small companies to leverage local traffic.
So what is Google My Business? Google My Business, or GMB for short, is a free tool that allows small businesses to do three things:
- Connect with their customers through Google search results
- Show up on Google Maps
- Connect with companies if they are communicating via Google Plus
Here’s a thing:
Local search is big business for many companies. For example, many online searchers search for products or services in their locality.
Statistics would seem to back this up.
97% of consumers read online reviews for local businesses in 2017, with 12% looking for a local business online daily.
Source (Bright Local)
There are many local directories online such as Yellow Pages and Yelp where companies can get listed, but Google My Business’s big advantage is it’s interconnection with the Google search ecosystem.
What does this mean:
Well companies with properly optimised Google My Business profiles have a greater opportunity of appearing above their competitors in the Google Local 3 Pack.
What is then the ‘Google Local 3 Pack’? Well lets say you’ve registered for Google My Business and optimised your Google My Business profile. Someone then searches for your business using the keywords you have chosen.
As we can see from the graphic above, when a search of this nature has been executed, it will be the first three companies in the list that now show and not the first seven as was the case previously.
Google have stated that the reason for this is the returned 3 results display better on a mobile screen than they did when the first seven results were shown. With the latter scenario the user , Google felt, would have been inconvenienced as they would have had to scroll down the page to check out the additional listings.
For Google this goes against all the rules of a smooth user experience.
So what does this mean for small businesses when optimising their Google My Business profile? Well now the holy grail for a company is to appear in those first three results.
If users wish to visit the additional websites outside these three , then they will have to click another button, in this instance something called More Places.
Of course this is the last thing you want to force an online searcher to do. Online searchers differ from their real world compatriots in that they want information presented to them quickly and not have to go on long browsing sessions. We can see, for example, in the main Google search pages that online visitors rarely venture outside the top 10 returned search results.
Thus, the key takeaway here for small business owners is you should make the journey of the visitor to your site as easy as possible by reducing the number of clicks they have to go through to arrive at the goal you have set them.
So what are the mechanics behind optimising your Google My Business listing to allow your website to appear inside the Google Local 3 Pack.
Well, firstly, ensure the information you present in your profile is consistent across the Web. For example, when I go searching for ‘mechanics ’ in my local area and click on any one of the links, I am brought to the page below.
The screen above appears to the right of the Search Engine Results Page ,or SERPs for short ,and is called the Google Knowledge Panel.
The details in this panel are extracted from the Google My Business profile. The first thing to note here is all details in the profile have to be completed. No field should be left incomplete ,as incomplete fields will be presented to visitors. This in itself portrays an unprofessional image of your company but you should also take note that visitors to your profile can also complete any incomplete fields.
Also your address details must be accurate as Google Maps will be picking these up and presenting them in the Knowledge Panel. Remember many potential visitors will be locating you solely through map data so you do not want to be sending them in the wrong direction!
Ensure that your opening hours, address and mobile number are correct so visitors can easily contact you. But also, from Google’s perspective, you will want to ensure there are no discrepancies in any of your listings or citations cross the Web as it may cause Google to display incorrect information about your company, or, even worse, when searches are executed, not display information about you at all.
Google has also given citations an overall acronym – NAP. This stands for Name, Address, Phone Number.
So how can you check that the citations about your business are accurate and true?
There are a number of directories where you can find and list information about your company.
Some of these are specific to, let’s say, professions and trades, whereas others are much more general.
The main directories I would list on outside of GMB are Yelp, Golden Pages and Bing Local.
List your business on all three of these and ensure your NAP details are accurate and consistent.
With the address details confirmed and checked across the Web, the next thing you should focus on is completing the Info section of Google My Business.
This portion of the profile is extremely important as it is here you can describe to users, in greater detail, what your business is about. But ,more importantly, you can also include keywords that will enable users to locate you.
When inputting content into the Info section, please ensure the copy you use is unique and is easy for the user to read. Don’t copy the content from other sites and don’t make it sound like you are writing for the search engines instead of people. Google will penalise you if you do.
You will also have the opportunity here to list the opening hours of your business. When inputting these details ensure they are accurate so customers know when to contact you. You can also list any bank holidays when you will not be working.
Finally ,at the bottom of this section, you can add photographs that visually represent what your business stands for. Whilst it is important here to use relevant images that brands your business, what is of equal concern is the way you name the image files.
For example, it is important to include in the image file name a keyword that will help people find you as well the name of your location. So, lets say, you were a car mechanic in Liverpool you’d name the file ‘Car Mechanic Liverpool’.
Posts are a relatively new feature of Google My Business. Here you can engage your audience in short, snappy details about important aspects of your industry.
They allow you to provide an authentic voice for your business and give searchers an insight into what you are about.
You are left a maximum of 300 words to make your point in posts, so Google are encouraging you to be concise.
Links may also be included within the post so they do carry with them some SEO benefit.
From a positioning point of view, posts take up substantial real estate at the bottom of the Knowledge Panel on the SERPs page.
They also give you considerable digital real estate on a mobile phone screen placing your content above that of any competitors.
Posts need to be constantly worked on as they expire after 7 days. An additional feature you should take note of also is the way you can check the number of people who have viewed the post since you first created it.
This will allow you to review what is and isn’t working and adapt your posting strategy accordingly.
Customers also have the ability to leave reviews on your Google My Business profile. These reviews are important as the greater their number, the better chance you have of getting your listing into the top 3 places in GMB.
You should take note of the importance of reviews across so many platforms from Facebook to Amazon to Google.
Google My Business is no different. For example, in terms of influence:
97% of customers buying decisions online are impacted by the reviews they read.
The quality of the reviews are equally important. For example:
Almost 33% of online customers do not trust a product if it does not have a mix of both positive and negative reviews.
Source: Smart Insights
OK, so we know how important reviews are in increasing the visibility of your profile , but how do we go about actually receiving them.
Well one way is to just go and plain ask your visitors. You could do this on any of your online profiles but there are also indirect ways this can be done. You could ask customers for reviews when you issue an invoice form. This information could be placed on the invoice itself. Alternatively, you could insert a request in an email footer on a website or below your contact details in an email signature line.
Once you have fully optimised all your information, you’ll want to check out GMB’s analytics reporting tool.
Insights provides you with feedback on what your GMB profile is achieving for you in terms of traffic generation. It also provides you with location information on where this traffic originates from.
If you scroll down the listing you can check how people found you; was it through Search or was it on Maps?
You should also review how your information appears in both these channels and see if there are ways you can optimise what’s there further to attract additional traffic.
You can also see what are the most common ways people contacted you and even check the times they contacted you.
This could prove useful if you were running an AdWords campaign and you wanted to run an Ad Campaign at a specific time when your customers were online.
A Google AdWords campaign can be seamlessly run from within the Google My Business environment.
So, in conclusion, if I am now asked by any of my students ‘What is Google My Business’ I will be able to tell them how crucial it is to small business owners who want to get their products in front of local consumers.
Getting your business registered on GMB is the first step in getting connected to Google’s Local Pack, which includes Local Finder and Maps. If done correctly a Google My Business listing can be a powerful force in increasing a company’s visibility in local markets.