Rewind a few decades and people searching for items like this would be thumbing through a thick copy of the Yellow Pages, or asking a local passerby for directions.
Now, with the common currency of internet searches, Google is helping businesses get found online with their own business directory tool, Google My Business.
What Is Google My Business?
Google My Business is a free platform that allows businesses (even those without a strong web presence) to be included in and manage how they appear on Google Search and Maps. Amongst other things, your free Google My Business listing features your business name, location, and hours.
Google My Business provides an all-inclusive way to monitor and reply to customer reviews, add photos, accept bookings, gain insights on how and where people are searching for you, and share updates about your business.
Why Does Google My Business Still Matter?
Google My Business can improve your business’ visibility through local SEO, give you opportunities to connect with new audiences, and help you understand online customer behavior surrounding your business. While there is a degree of time and effort involved in maintaining your listing, the benefits of Google My Business far outweigh the investment required to get started.
So is Google My Business right for your business? Definitely and here's proof. Google Trends data shows the dramatic increase in "near me" search queries providing businesses with an opportunity to target potential customers seeking a local business.
Appearing in hyperlocal searches can mean big business for your business. Did you know that one in two people who conduct a local search visit a store that day, and 76% of people who search for something nearby on their smartphone visit a related business within a day? Google does have a few guidelines, however, regarding the types of businesses that can use their service.
For one, Google My Business requires businesses have some level of face-to-face interaction with their customers. So you must have a physical location rather than just an online store. Ditto for businesses that are under construction, or have yet to open, rental or for-sale properties, and ongoing classes or services held at locations not owned by the business. (You can read more of Google guidelines here).
Features of Google My Business
What does Google My Business offer business owners? Here's a few of the most popular features:
Insights: Google’s dashboard provides key looks into customer activity and interaction, allowing businesses to learn what’s working—and what’s not—on their listing. In addition, it can help them understand their community better as they target new customers. How did searchers find your business? Where did they come from? How are your photos performing? Google My Business insights highlight the answers to these questions and helps businesses optimize and improve over time.
Posts: Easily post custom updates and offers on your local listing, inviting customers to make return visits and engage further with your business. Updates can be made anytime from your phone, tablet, or computer for on-the-go maintenance. Not sure what to post about? Try a few ideas we know customers will love, like limited-time offers, contest promotions, and partnership announcements.
Bookings: Allow customers to schedule an appointment or book services directly from your listing with a simple click. Integrated scheduling partners help you easily organize, track, and manage your bookings in one place.
Review Management: Did you know? 91% of consumers read online reviews, and 84% of people trust reviews as much as personal recommendations from friends. Online, reviews are everything. Engage customers in two-way communications as you receive and respond to reviews.
Q&A: Respond to customers’ direct questions about your business and pin frequently-asked inquiries for easy viewing.
Photos: Strong visuals are crucial for good first impressions—and they’re key to a more well-clicked business listing. Google My Business allows you to upload your best photos and videos to entice customers to visit you.
Accuracy Across the Web: Google is Google. It powers so much of the internet, and many third-party sites use Google for their info. Meaning, the business info you post on your Google My Business listing helps disseminate consistent and accurate info about your business across the web.
Research shows that 60% of consumers have searched for a business at least six times in the last year. So if your business checks these initial boxes, Google My Business could help you become a more accurately represented, visible, and visited business. Ready to set up your GMB listing? Let’s walk through the process step-by-step
Getting Started with Google My Business
Now that you know all about the benefits of Google My Business, you're probably ready to create your listing...if you haven't already. These instructions will walk you through the process of setting up your GMB listing for the first time.
Step One: Log in to the Google account you want associated with your business.
Step Two: Visit Google My Business and click "MANAGE NOW" to get started.
Step Three: Enter the name of your business.
Step Four: Enter the address of your business and select the service area.
Step Five: Select the category that best fits your business.
Step Six: Enter your company's contact information.
Step Seven: Verify your business. There's a few different ways to do this, and Google has instructions on each method.
How to Optimize Your Google My Business Listing
What's the point of a GMB listing if it doesn't lead to more business? Once you’ve got your business verified, you can visit your Google My Business dashboard and start updating info, uploading photos, and providing potential customers with useful information, like your business hours and attributes (e.g. free wifi, kid-friendly). The more information you supply, and the more you maintain the listing, the better.
If you have the time and resources, there's a lot more you can do to turn Google clicks into new customers. For example, Local Services ads are an excellent way to instantly see new business from a modest budget. Likewise, if you haven't already set up Google Click-to-Message, it allows potential customers to text your business. Finally, getting consistent and quality Google Reviews will help boost your GMB listing to the top of search results. If you haven't already, invest in a text-based review product like Podium to see your ratings and reviews skyrocket on the sites that matter most to your customers.
Google My Business is an essential tool for local business owners. Within just a few minutes, you can have your listing verified and start showing up in searches from local customers trying to find a business like yours.