What is Google My Business?
Google My Business allows potential customers who search for a product or service on Google to easily find relevant local businesses; it also allows business owners to manage how their businesses are displayed across Google properties such as Maps and Search Engine Results Pages.
When you search on Google for a product, service, or for a business category—for example “used car dealers”, at the top of the search results page will be a Google Maps list of local businesses that are relevant to the search term. The most relevant businesses (in Google’s eyes) will make the top 3 in the list, also known as the Google 3-pack.
You can therefore find information such as business name, address, telephone number, and opening hours—(depending on how much information has been added to the business profile) all without leaving Google’s organic search results page. By clicking on any business in the 3 pack, you will be taken to a Google Maps page that lists up to 20 businesses, with a ‘fly-out’ containing additional information on each business in the list.
Additional information includes directions, website URL, photos, questions and answers; and reviews. This is the workings of Google My Business, a business directory that incorporates data from other Google platforms such as Google Maps, Google Search and Google+.
By providing additional information on each business in the local pack search results, Google aims to help its users save time they would otherwise spend researching a business; (with a verified status)—give them the confidence that the business is legitimate and still in operation; help inform their expectations of service quality and customer experience; and equip them to compare offerings from several businesses.
Business owners have the opportunity to optimize how their businesses are displayed across Google properties. They are encouraged to claim or create, and verify their business profile, and by providing as much information as possible such as:
- business categories
- opening hours
- phone number
- website URL
business owners will be able to take the first step in guaranteeing accurate information about their businesses exists across Google.
An optimized Google My Business profile will help a business improve its ranking in the local pack on the first page of Google search results. It is not simply created and then forgotten, but must be regularly updated with customer reviews, feedback from the business owner (or designated representative), photos, and posts—which is content similar in nature to social media updates, that are prominently displayed in the Google My Business listing.
Any brick and mortar business that serves a specific geographic region, or a multi-location business regardless of size or location, can benefit from Google My Business.
97% of consumers looked online for local businesses in 2017, with 12% looking for a local business online every day—BrightLocal
5 Benefits of Google My Business
1. Consistent presence across Google:
Google is aiming to make the first page of search results be the primary online frontier of a business by providing as much information as possible to potential customers, making it easier for them to do almost all their research about a business without ever needing to click through to the business’ website. A well executed profile on Google My Business includes an appropriate description, interesting good quality pictures, and positive reviews from past customers. An optimized profile with all available information about a local business has been shown to increase calls and inquiries to the business. A profile in Google My Business translates to consistent information across other Google properties such as Maps and Google+, as well as third party apps that rely on Google for information.
2. Free marketing:
There is no charge associated with using the Google My Business toolset, however, it does require an investment of time and effort to create and maintain an active and engaging profile. According to Google, businesses that add photos to their profile receive 42% more requests for directions on Google Maps, and experience a higher rate of 35% more clicks through to their own websites than businesses that don’t. The payoff of visibility in the Google local search pack and Maps; and the potential of improved ranking in Google’s organic search are justifiably worth the effort.
3. Direct customer interaction:
Customers have the opportunity to write reviews, and business owners can view and respond to these reviews, essentially having a 2-way conversation.
Google encourages businesses to ethically ask their customers for reviews, which are displayed in the Knowledge Panel of a business listing in local search results, and beside the business listing in Google Maps. According to BrightLocal – Local Consumer Review Survey 2017:
- 85% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations
- Positive reviews make 73% of consumers trust a local business more
- 49% of consumers need at least a four-star rating before they choose to use a business
- Responding to reviews is more important than ever, with 30% naming this as key when judging local businesses
Questions and Answers is another important feature of Google My Business that allows direct communication between a business and its customers. People ask questions of the business, and the owner or designated representative has the opportunity to answer. It is advisable that businesses be proactive in monitoring and answering questions since anyone can ask a question, and anyone can answer as well. To guarantee the accuracy of information being disseminated, businesses will want to provide the answers, or at least monitor answers provided by third parties. It is also a good idea to display a list of frequently asked questions with answers.
4. Customer insights:
Businesses that use the platform benefit from the analytics tools that provide data such as which search terms customers used to find their business profile, where those customers come from, how and when they were able to find the business’ entries, and how many people called the business directly from the phone number displayed in local search results from the Google Pack and Maps. These data sets help business owners to figure out where customers are seeing their businesses—and guide them when employing further optimization strategies.
5. Improved visibility across the web:
Many third-party apps and sites across the internet rely on Google for data, and having an optimized Google My Business profile is a good way to improve the prospect of having your business featured on these apps and websites. Outside of Google’s organic local search results this is a great way to get free exposure to potential customers/ clients.
Many business owners still have not jumped on the Google My Business bandwagon, whatever their reasons. Those who are missing out, should realize the competition may be taking away some of their potential customers. The platform provides a hands-down simple way to optimize the online presence of a qualified business without the need for professional SEO help (this in no way replaces SEO or other forms of web optimization). Considering that 4 in 5 consumers conduct local searches on a search engine, 30% of smartphone searches occur right before a consumer visits a store, and 18% of local searches lead to actual sales; not optimizing for Google My Business is like leaving money on the table. With a minimal investment of time, it is open avenue for business owners to attract customers, engage with an audience, improve the chances of their business being found, and generate more targeted traffic to their website and/ or physical business location.