Google My Business is Google’s free offering for businesses to organize their presence on Google search and Google Maps. This helps brands and businesses to have an added presence on Google.
What is Google My Business (GMB)?
“To achieve digital marketing success by leveraging a location-based strategy, most seasoned SEO professionals start at the same place: creating a Google My Business listing.”
– Sam Hollingsworth, Search Engine Journal
Can a Google My Business be an alternative for your business’s website? No, it cannot be. In no way is a GMB listing an alternative for your brand’s website. Your brand website is essential, independent on whether you have a listing on GMB.
As a platform, Google My Business helps you connect with your local consumers. It helps them find a gist of what your business is all about, and reach out to you. GMB as a platform can be favorable to both product companies as well as services companies.
Search- Cafes in New York City
A casual search of cafes in New York City shows the following search results. This list is a Google My Business listing. The brands on the list have a great and active profile on GMB. This helps them scale the list and shows them right on top.
Coffee Project NY has an active follower base on GMB. They routinely put up pictures, post about their café, and ask visitors to check-in. This helps Google identify the café as a good product and service establishment.
The Benefits of Google My Business for Local Businesses
Almost all the experts in the digital marketing industry will tell you that GMB is crucial for local SEO. If you are a local business, that is dependent on customers that live within a 5-mile radius, Google MY Business is necessary for you.
Many times, people ask me what kind of establishments should have a GMB Listing. In order to make such people and establishments happy, I have come up with a small list.
- Eateries/Cafes and restaurants
- Doctors and Medical Practitioners
- Legal Advocates/Tax Attorneys and Insurance Agents/Companies
- Yoga/Gym/Fitness Studios
- Auto Dealers
I feel that the above-mentioned types of establishments can benefit incredibly well when it comes to Google My Business. I might be missing some other businesses and services, but please feel free to add them in the comments section.
Google My Business is crucial from a local SEO point of view. However, just on Google search and maps let us look at some of the major advantages of GMB.
- Drives active walk-ins to your establishment.
- Increases direct tangible physical offline sales for your business.
- Increases repeat customers (depends on your service quality).
- Helps businesses become community-centric.
- Makes existing customers your ambassadors (asking them to review, check-in, post pictures, etc.).
- Integrates Google’s Local Guides into the structure.
- Increases credibility and reputation for your brand.
- Interactions with real customers become better when you respond to their reviews.
Maintaining your digital presence on Google’s ecosystem is critical towards making your brand discoverable. A staggering 81% of all searches that happen in the world take place on Google. That means that Bing, Yahoo, Baidu, Yandex, and others just contribute to 19%.
What kind of Information does Google require on GMB?
If you are not familiar with GMB or are just starting out, let me help you with an analogy. I am sure you are familiar with social media, at least some platform or the other. Think of Google My Business as social media for your brand. It is nearly the same thing. In fact, in many cases, it is simpler and much more effective than business pages on social media.
If you are planning to open a Google My Business listing for your brand after reading this article, please keep the following information handy-
- Name of business
- Address of business
- Phone Numbers of the business
- What timings your business is open through the day (working hours)
- When is your business closed (Holidays and Off-Days)
- Category of Products and Services (Your business offerings)
- Google Map Location (pin)
- Links of social media pages of your brand
- Facilities that your business provides to customers- Wi-Fi, Pet-friendly, Open-seating, child feeding area, etc.
- External links to aggregators like Yelp, Online delivery of services, etc.
- Photos and Videos of your business
Once you are done with the information, Google will verify your business through a postcard (the most preferred choice of Google). It will send it to your business address. The letter will have a ‘code’ from Google. You will require the code to authenticate the establishment.
Once the business is verified, you will have a platform on Google My Business.
How to Optimize your Google My Business Listing?
Creating a profile on GMB is the first step towards discovery and business. However, in order to complete the cycle, you need to optimize your listing. Setting up a profile is simply not enough. To gain maximum traction from the GMB listing, you can take help from the following points.
Be active on your Google My Business Listing:
Yes, GMB is not as dynamic as a business page on social media. However, Google is innovating on ways to keep brands maintain a more active profile on GMB. A good start from brands would be to start posting creatives on the platform. This is similar to what you do on social media pages. Regular posting means you are active and engaging more and more people.
Encourage customers to Write Reviews:
According to Google itself, more than 80% of consumers read Google reviews before visiting a local establishment. It is always a good idea to ask your customers to write reviews for you in a polite, non-intrusive manner.
Encourage customers to post Pictures in Reviews:
You can always ask your customers to take pictures and post it. This will increase the chances of others looking at them and getting impressed. Photos and written reviews will help increase your reputation and credibility of the business establishment. People will exactly know what you have to offer.
Respond to Customer Reviews Instantly:
By responding to customer reviews of your business within 48 hours, you will be engaging in Google’s best practices. This will demonstrate that your business cares about its customers and keeps them engaged and responds. Google lists this as a top best practice for Google My Business.
Add Keywords on GMB Profile:
This is where you can be smart and have proper keyword integration across the sections of the description. For example, if you are a salon in Wisconsin, you can add the long tail keyword- Top Salon Shop in Wisconsin in your description. The key is to emulate the same long tail keyword on your website for best optimization.
Photos and Videos:
People are more receptive to images and videos. That is just science. To optimize your GMB listing, you need to have attractive looking pictures and videos of your establishment. From the products to the décor, to people enjoying, etc. This will help people close down their decision-making.
According to Google, more than 70% of people visit an establishment of fewer than 48 hours of viewing the listing online.
Image: Restaurant Kei, Paris.
Why Google My Business is going to be the Next Big Thing?
Many industry experts at Silicon Valley have heard chatter in and around Google’s headquarters at Menlo Park. The chatter revolves around the demise of Google Plus. There is news that top executives at Google have taken this failure quite personally.
For many, the demise of Google Plus is kind of a question mark on Google’s credibility. Something that they are very determined to overcome. However, the biggest news in all this cacophony is what Google is going to do about it.
While some talk about Google getting back into the social media game with a brand new product, others think otherwise.
For them (this is also my personal thinking), Google is going to re-evaluate its existing products and add functionalities. The belief is that Google My Business is going to be Google’s social media for Business Pages. Google holds a clear advantage over its competitors like Facebook and LinkedIn. Neither of them owns their own search engines, Google does. This might sound unfair, but it’s a smart strategy for Google.
I firmly believe that Google My Business is going to be given a push by Google in the coming years. Businesses who are taking the first mover’s advantage are going to reap the benefits. For local brands, Google My Business should become their second home.
GMB Fun and Emojis:
Google might not be trendy as Snapchat or Instagram, but it sure is smart. Google realizes that it needs to stay relevant. It also knows that youngsters use many emojis as part of every day. What has Google done? It has started indexing emojis. Google also promotes the same when it comes to a business.
For example, I typed a pizza emoji followed by a near me search command. This is what Google showed me-
I know where I am heading for lunch today!
By adding the relevant emoji describing your business, you would be opening up your brand to newer audiences. You need to speak the lingo of a generation, and Google will help you do that. This is a cool and smart feature. Many brands do not even know about this.
Call-To-Actions (CTAs) on Google My Business:
Google allows brands to use a host of CTAs to optimize the nature of what suits their brand the best. This means that as a brand, you can select from-
- Book an Appointment
- Call Now
- Visit the Website
- Order Online
Whatever you want your consumers to do; Google My Business lets you do that. ‘Book Now’ is a great feature for a restaurant or a salon shop to have. If you are a services related company, you can have a ‘Call Now’ CTA, just for the direct engagement with customers.
Apart from this, ‘Website’ and ‘Directions’ and the standard showcases that pop up on your GMB listing. GMB also allows brands to personally message consumers. This is quite a novel and hidden feature that many are still unaware of. Whenever you message someone, it goes to the email id of the person. This is a great way to connect with audiences and consumers.
It is also a great way to send them any notification that you would like to share with them. This makes it a sort of personal, private, exclusive brand communication.
GMB offers brands to upload information under-
Each one of them has a special feature, and it would be worthwhile for you to engage with all the four categories. (This is also a reason why I believe GMB is reinventing itself as a business social media platform).
Google My Business: The Final Word
If you have made it this far, I am sure you are interested in setting up a GMB listing for your brand. Setting up the GMB listing is easy. However, following up on it regularly is the challenge.
I always tell my clients that you need to make it a habit like social media. When social media started, many brands had the same reservations. Will I be able to post every day? Now, no one ever complains about posting 10 posts and 20 stories in a day.
I believe given the potential GMB has to offer, brands should take this seriously. Local SEO is intrinsic to GMB, and it is the first step towards maintaining your local presence in the digital world.
If you need any other information on Google My Business, please drop me an email. If you feel, you can contribute meaningfully to the discussion, please comment in the comments section.
Feel free to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org