An online presence is more important than ever for businesses. Eighty-seven percent of the U.S. population actively use the internet, according to We Are Social’s latest Digital 2020 report on the country. The average American spends over 6 hours and 42 minutes on the web. Most of that time is usually spent on search engines, like Google and Yahoo.
The Local Difference
When it comes to attracting more customers and keeping loyal ones, the more specific you are, the better. About four in five customers use search engines to look for local information like nearby restaurants, stores, and services. This is according to Google and Ipsos’ joint research of over 4,500 respondents about their online search habits.
The study found that half of the consumers who conducted local searches ended up visiting a business within the day. It also saw that most customers want advertisements tailored to their city or nearby area.
So how can your business increase its local presence online?
The Power of Google My Business
First-page search results often get the most clicks. An effective way to achieve this is creating a Google My Business (GMB) listing. It’s a free-to-use application that the search engine provides to help owners manage and verify their company’s information on Google.
A properly-managed GMB listing appears on the first page of search results when a customer looks for its products or services. This can appear as an entry of a top-three to five list, also known as a “local pack.” This list will show your contact information and location on Google Maps.
A more specific search, like your company name, can show your full information on the upper-right hand corner of the first page. This section also shows pictures of your business taken by yourself or by customers.
Not only does Google My Business help you get more clicks, but it also enables you to gain more attention from your local customers.
This is why GMB listings are a significant part of your local SEO strategy. But it’s not as simple as registering your company and calling it a day. Much like a Shopify web design alone isn’t enough to improve traffic and sales for your online store, the business listing won’t be effective without optimization.
Here’s how to do it.
Create or Claim Your Listing
If you don’t have a listing yet, search for your business name or address on Google first. If you have an established company, there may already be a listing on Google. All you have to do is claim it by clicking claim your listing” button. If you haven’t found records yet, go to the Google My Business page, click on “Manage now,” and tap on “Add your business to Google.”
Fill it Out
You’ll be presented with a form with a few fields to answer, like your complete business name, address, contact details, business category, and official website. Make sure the information you fill out is exactly the same as the one on your website and social media. This way, you won’t end up with conflicting information that confuses your customers.
Verify Your Listing
Once you’ve saved your GMB profile, you need to verify it with Google. This ensures you own the business on the address you inserted. There are many ways to verify your listing, but a surefire way to do it is through the mail. Click on “verify now” and select the mail option. Double-check if the information and address written on the postcard are correct, and press send.
In about two weeks, you’ll receive the card with a verification code in the mail. Sign in to your GMB profile, click on “verify location” or “verify now,” input the code on the postcard, and submit it. In a few hours, your Google My Business listing should be live.
Set the Hours
After you’ve verified your listing, log in to your GMB dashboard. Add your operating hours and special hours as well if your business takes breaks on holidays. More than half of customers visit a business after they do their online research. As such, you need to make sure they know when’s the best time to swing by your location.
Write an Optimized Description
Next, click on “Add a business description.” This section allows you to present a short summary of your business. It should show what makes your company unique in just 750 characters. Introduce your company name, sum up your services and products, mention awards, certifications, or special mentions, and finish off with a call-to-action to contact you or visit your location. This section is also where a lot of the optimization comes from.
A skilled outsourced SEO provider can insert keywords that your target audience uses to search for your products and services into your GMB description. This can increase the chances of your business being featured on the first page of your customers’ Google search results.
The attributes section allows you to let your customers know what your business offers related to or outside of your products and services like accessible parking, free wi-fi, restroom, air conditioning, drive-thru, and more. Your customers may also add attributes themselves, but you can always choose which ones are relevant to your business.
Upload Professional and Interesting Business Photos
Your listing will have a gallery of photos featuring your business at the Click on post, add photos/videos, and upload essential images, like your logo and your storefront. It’s also ideal to upload photos of your operations.
You can set a picture as your logo by selecting it, clicking on “more” on the top right corner, and click on “set as logo.” To keep your listing looking clean and professional, add a cover photo. Use a professionally-taken photos of your storefront or your employees.
Post Important Updates
Got important updates or a promo coming up for your customers? Apart from posting them on your usual social media pages, you can also publish your new events on your Google My Business page. With a call-to-action button, you have a maximum of 70 characters for your post. So keep it short and captivating to get those clicks.
Get Reviews and Respond to Them Immediately
After your customers visit your place, ask if they’re OK to review your place on Google. This is because 6 percent of customers read a business’s online reviews before visiting its website and location.
You should also reply to reviews when you can. If they’re positive, thank the reviewers. If they’re negative, ask the customer about the problem and what your company could’ve done better. This shows that customer service is a priority for your business. Almost 45 percent of customers are more likely to visit a business again if the owner replied to negative reviews.
Monitor Your Progress
Like Google Ads and Search Console, GMB also has a built-in monitoring tool called Google My Business Insights. This shows you how many people have seen your Google My Business listing, and the demographics of your customers who view and review your listings.
It also goes into more in-depth information, like how many people find your listings through an organic or direct search and which Google platform they found you on (e.g., maps, search, and the like), how many customers requested directions to your place from Google Maps, how many people clicked on your website, and other relevant details.
Organic views happen when customers see your listing while searching for products or services you offer. Direct views happen when customers see your listing upon searching for your business name, address, or contact information. You can use this data to inform your digital marketing strategies.
For example, if you see an uptick in customers that view and review your listing from neighborhoods or places outside your target market, consider targeting people in that area for your next ad campaign. If you find that your listings are not getting enough organic traffic, shore up your SEO efforts.
Companies old and new are taking their businesses online, often through local search engine optimization or SEO. One of the first tools a local SEO campaign uses is Google My Business. It displays your company at the top of the search engine’s results for free. But you need to take extra steps to ensure customers find your listing easily and quickly.
Use these different methods as a guide to optimizing your Google My Business profile. Some may take a lot of effort to do correctly, like responding to reviews and writing attractive posts and descriptions. But they’re necessary to fully optimize your listings. And isn’t it always satisfying to attract and engage with more customers without breaking the bank?