As people rely more heavily on Google to find the answers to their most pressing questions, Google is becoming a big part of how users discover products and services in their area. You may not even realize that Google My Business (GMB) is a free and easy-to-use tool for businesses and organizations to manage their online presence across Google. If you are a business owner, there are several benefits of using your Google My Business profile to enhance your online visibility.
Let’s talk more about why your Google My Business profile matters, Google My Business optimization tips and Google My Business updates for 2017 that can help you state up to date on the most recent changes.
What Are the Benefits of Google My Business for Small Businesses?
People turn online multiple times a day to find information to make their lives easier. As the main search engine to help you find what you need, Google has developed a way for businesses to stand out: Google My Business. Whether through a search result or a maps query, over five billion searches are made each day through Google. That means that a large audience can see your Google My Business profile. In an era where Google not only is a noun but a verb, since searching on the website is so universal—”just Google it!”—improving how your business appears on Google can have a big impact.
Google My Business is Cost-Effective
As we already mentioned, GMB is a free business listing on one of the biggest search engines on the internet, putting your business in front of many potential customers. Like GMB, there are also several other prominent directories online for different industries. However, these listings often come at a price, whether it’s a monthly fixed rate or yearly rate.
Your GMB listing gives potential clients easy access to your hours of operation, phone number, website and directions with a click of a button—all at no cost to you. Your free GMB profile also gives customers an inside look at your business by giving insight into your busiest hours as well as review ratings. If you are just starting out or have a limited budget, every dollar counts, and having such a valuable resource for free can allow you to direct your resources elsewhere.
Visibility on Google Search & Maps
One of biggest benefits of your profile on Google My Business is the prime real estate it can occupy in search results. GMB profiles appear in the Local “3-pack” area and in Google Maps results. When you perform a Google search, the first three listings are typically reserved for Google Adwords advertisements, otherwise known as “paid search”. Next, you’ll typically see a a map with three local results highlighted (hence the name “3-pack”). You will then see “organic” results.
The Local 3-pack used to be a list of seven to ten results. The change to three was made to better serve mobile users who are increasingly looking for results which are closeby on a small screen. The Local 3-pack is located in a valuable and highly visible space on the search results page on Google. The information which appears about your company or organization in the 3-pack is your Google My Business listing.
Having your GMB profile appear in Local 3-Pack for search terms that are valuable to your business can mean you can tap into potential revenue since your business will be prominent in results. Since you don’t pay to appear in the Local 3-pack, your Google My Business listing is affordable in comparison to paid ads that appear in the top of the search results.
As seen in the image above, the Ads above the Local 3-pack are called Cost-per-Click (CPC) ads, meaning that each time a user clicks on the ad, the advertiser must pay a certain amount for that click. Depending on the business category and the competition, some advertisers can spend thousands of dollars per month on paid search ad campaigns. However, with a highly optimized GMB profile, your business can appear near the top of search results for nothing.
Claiming and Optimizing your Google My Business Profile
A GMB profile that is optimized and up to date signals to Google that your profile is relevant for users searching for your product or service and can potentially show your profile in the Google local 3-pack. There are simple steps you can take to optimize your GMB profile.
Before you can optimize your Google My Business profile, you’ll need to claim it. Check on whether you have already claimed your business by going to Google My Business and clicking on Start Now. You’ll need to sign into the Google account you use for your business and enter the name of your company into the top field of the form next to the map of your country. Confirm that you are authorized to manage the business.
After you have claimed your listing, you’ll want to make sure that your business information is correct and up-to-date. This means making sure your operating hours are accurate, that your service category is appropriate and that there are no errors in your payment methods or other fields.
Once you take a look at your business information, you’ll need to make sure your company’s name, address and phone number (also known as NAP) are consistent across all your online profiles, including Bing, Yelp and other industry-specific sites. Having inconsistent information confuses potential customers and negatively impacts your ability to rank in searches.
After you make sure the details of your business are correct, you’ll want to add images which help potential customers “see” what you do. Use high-quality images of your business to help your profile stand out. Select pictures of the inside of your business, your staff members, what your company looks when you drive up and other photos that can help customers make the decision to choose your business over the competition.
What matters to your potential customers? Online reviews. If you don’t have any reviews, try building a strategy to get reviews from your clients. These endorsements will help set you apart from other businesses in your industry. The fact that your company’s star ranking shows up beside your name and address in the 3-pack underscores the importance potential customers place on reviews when making purchasing decisions.
Google My Business [Updated 2017 – 2018]
To keep abreast of changes in Google My Business, you can subscribe to the RSS feed of the News & Updates, which is part of the Google My Business Community. Google My Business has released two major updates to its platform in 2017. As a part of those updates, companies have two more ways to interface with current a potential customers: through Posts and Messaging.
One is the ability for businesses to make Posts. Posts are a way companies can promote offers, news, events, product updates and announcements. These updates will show up on Google Search and Maps to provide businesses with even more ways to keep in touch with potential customers.
Google recommends that before posting, you consider what you want to encourage customers to do. Do you want to drive customers to visit your bricks and mortar location? Do you want to raise awareness about a sale or special? Do you want to announce a new feature, service or product?
When sharing information using Google Posts, use high-resolution photos that reinforce your message. The title of your post should describe your promotion in just four to five words. Although you can use up to 1,500 characters to describe your promotion or update, try to limit the length to between 150-300 characters. Make sure your post contains a Call to Action, with language to compel the user to take an action, such as “Buy,” “Book online,” “Learn more,” “Call,” or “Visit.”
To make the most out of this new feature, keep the following in mind:
- Make sure to attach UTM Codes to your Posts, since Google Post doesn’t integrate well with Google Analytics.
- Although you can use 150-300 characters in your Post description, only the first 100 characters or so (two lines of text) will show up in the “snippet”, so make every character count.
- The lifespan of a post is seven days, so post frequently to stay in front of potential customers. The exception to this is for an event type post, which will stay live until the event is over. Your Post are displayed from newest to oldest in a carousel format.
- Make sure your images are “center-weighted” so they avoid getting cropped off at the sides.
- At this time, Google Posts do not support animated GIF and videos.
Messaging Through Google My Business
Google also recently launched a messaging feature that lets businesses directly chat with customers who find their profile on the search results page. Through this feature, businesses will be able to quickly answer questions and assist current and potential customers. You’ll need to turn on this feature within your Google My Business dashboard to begin receiving messages.
Google will not share your phone number to users and gives you the option to receive and respond to these messages through SMS or Google’s own messaging app, Allo. When you activate this feature, individuals visiting your Google My Business profile will see a clickable Message icon. On an iOs device, the user will go directly to their messaging app to communicate with the business. As a business owner, you can designate a staff member to answer customer questions. Google also cautions users to avoid sharing sensitive information such as credit card, social security information or login credentials via the messaging feature. This feature gives you the option to either opt into or turn off the feature if messaging doesn’t align with your business.
Google cautions users to avoid sharing sensitive information such as credit card, social security information or login credentials via the messaging feature. If messaging doesn’t align with your business, you can simply leave this featured turned off.
Videos are now available for customers and business owners to uploads. The video maximum length is 30 seconds and can take up to 24 hours before the video content is available on the listing in Google Maps or local search results. Business owners will have the ability to flag inappropriate videos through their dashboard.
How can your business take benefit from videos?
– Videos lead to higher engagement
– Opportunity to showcase your business products, customer service, inside of your business operations.
– Videos can be informational in nature about your services
Videos don’t have to be a big production but a natural shot of your business environment. These videos should be taken at your place of business. Google will take down any videos that are not related to the business location. Business owners should avoid using stock images, stock videos, or “marketing bling videos.”
Google Business Video Guidelines include:
– Video Max Duration: 30 seconds
– Video Max File size: 100 MB
– Video Min Resolution: 720p
Videos are also supported in Google Posts, Events, Offers, Products.
Menus now available for Restaurants GMBs
Restaurant owners who are managing their GMB profiles have access to a menu editor which enable owners to create and edit their menus that are displayed on mobile. This new feature now gives business owners the ability to have full autonomy without having to use a third party menu service. The new menu editor enables owners to add & edit titles, descriptions, prices of their menu items, break menu into sections i.e. appetizers, entrees, and desserts.
GMB Heat Map Insights
Google My Business Heat Map insights is giving business owner more transparency through a heat map of locations where searchers are requesting directions to their business. This new insight gives owners the ability to uncover untapped geographic territories where owners can potentially expand given the demand for their service.
The heat map shows the most popular areas where people ask Google Maps for directions to your address. The map gives the total number of request broken down by city or neighborhood and lets you zoom in & out.
This new type of Google Post is designed to highlight your products. Business owners can add a photo or video to best showcase the product’s features, product name, minimum & maximum price or Range, a 100-300 word description and a Call to Action button.
Google Offer Posts
Google introduced Offer Posts were recently introduced in May 2018. These types of post enable business owners to offer a promotional sale or offer from your business. This is a great opportunity for Business owners to take advantage of a free feature that otherwise would be paid for such as Pay-Per-Click Ads. Business owners can use offers for any seasonal promotions or service offer.
Offer Posts display:
- Title of Promotion
- Start & End Dates & Times
- A Call to Action button such as “View offer”
- You can add photo or video
- Coupon Code
- Terms & conditions to post
Add Picture of an Example offer & a Post empty by itself.
Business Description & Service Field Descriptions
Owners can now add a business description for your business. Business owners have 750 characters to write a description to give users a brief information about your business.
Service Field Descriptions
The service feature description is similar to the menu feature but applies to business that offers services. Businesses can organize their services based on Categories and have sub-services under each category. Each sub-service categories contains the following information:
- Item Name ( or name of service) – 140 character limit
- Item Description ( Description of service) – 1000 character limit
- Item Price (optional)
Search Engine Results Change—And So Should Your Strategy
Claiming your Google My Business profile is the easiest first step in building your online visibility, which can make or break your company. As a small business, keeping track of the daily changes to search engine algorithms and listings can be challenging. Whether you choose to try to stay on top of the changes or you hire a firm to execute your SEO strategy, putting resources into your constantly adjusting online presence is vital in today’s increasingly digital and ever-changing landscape.
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