For any business owner optimizing their Google My Business listing is a crucial task in digital marketing. It is often overlooked in its importance, which is a serious error. Consider the level of detail given in a restaurant or retail store when customers are inside. The establishments are clean, silverware is perfectly placed and merchandise is in the perfect spot. Service providers similarly focus on creating positive customer experiences since that leads to repeating purchases, referrals, and recommendations that can be shared with coworkers, friends, and family.
A message I want to stress is that your digital presence matters greatly. The Pew Research Center reports that Millennials will overtake Baby Boomers in 2019 as the largest generation in the USA. This generation uses phones, tablets and personal computers in every facet of their personal life. They will seek products and services online and make buy decisions in accordance with what they read. An important foundational step is making sure your business is found and that it accurately depicts its products or services. These ten tips help business owners optimize their Google My Business listings and make sure that people are getting the right message online. Also, read more about the process and importance of Local SEO here.
Utilize the Dashboard to Correct Deficiencies
The first tip is to utilize the dashboard. The dashboard has evolved dramatically over the last few years and from my perspective become much easier to use. Take a look at the below image underneath the “Manage Photos” area. There appears a section called “Complete your listing” which points out immediate issues. This business does not have a description. It shows a completion of 80% due to the lack of the description.
There is a plus button just to the right that can be selected and a description keyed in. Then you can review how that changes the percentage completion after the data is entered. This section is very important and should be visited on a regular basis. Since new features can become available or changes to existing components made, this is the easiest way to see any deficiencies very quickly.
Ensure Address and Phone Number are Correct
A common mistake that is a huge negative is an incorrect address or phone number. Mobile devices are so important to peoples’ lives today. Multiple times a week the average person looks up an address or number on a phone and dials it or seeks map directions. Consider the impact if either of those two data elements is incorrect. A person wastes their time, gets upsets and goes to another business instead of yours. When information is incorrect it becomes less likely over time that the wrong information will appear for their searches. Thus, the internet polices itself by removing information not helpful to humans or pushing it further down in search results.
A good practice to address integrity is to ensure that the format matches that of how it appears on Google maps. An easy way to check is to enter it into the search box and see what is returned. It’s interesting to consider the example below. I typed in the following:
11757 Katy Fwy Suite 1300, Houston, TX 77079
What I received from the search result was as follows:
11757 Katy Fwy #1300, Houston, TX 77079
The takeaway in this exercise is that the address should look just as it appears on Google Maps. Make those updates to the business listing and to the firm’s website.
The phone number is perhaps the single most impactful element of as potential customers can reach out with the push of a single button. What happens though when it is not the main number or one that is out of service? Once again a human feels frustration, hangs up and seeks another provider. Make sure this piece of data is correct. Another consideration is businesses commonly have extra lines for after hours, Spanish speakers, or other reasons. There is no issue with that. The important thing to remember is to have the numbers appear in proper sequence. You may want to list them in the following order: 1) the main number; 2) after hours; 3) Spanish. Use your judgment as to which order will best serve a potential customer.
Be Truthful in all Information
I kept coming back to being truthful as I developed the top ten list in my head. It seems like an obvious comment but can be overlooked in pursuit of profit. I can attest first hand that information on listings is validated. I have received calls at my business to confirm it is a working number and that I present the entity name correctly. This reach goes beyond name and number. Categories selected should be services and products that you offer. The description should not overreach anyway. Also, if customers can come to the physical location then do the setup that way. Don’t feign a P.O. Box as a place that customers can visit. Public information such as utility bills, tax records can present a different picture and that is something you want to avoid. Be truthful about your company and what they can do for customers.
Take Advantage of Photos
Humans are visual beings. Any person can look at a photo and have their own feelings about it. Further, imagery is the universal language. Whether speaking Chinese, English, Spanish or French, any of those native speakers can look at a picture and develop emotion about it. This is why photos are so vitally important to your business listing. Do not underestimate their power. A great example for me to convey this is the restaurant industry. Looking at photos of mouth-watering dishes can make your stomach grumble and get you in the car driving there for a meal! I know as I have done that. Conversely, seeing non-appealing images or a lack of them keeps one searching for the right place to dine at.
The below image was taken right from a dashboard and tells an interesting story.
Photo Views for this Month:
You – 41
Businesses Like You – 1,330
You – 2
Businesses Like You – 6
“Your photos receive 96.9% fewer views than similar businesses. Post more photos”
The amount of lost visibility is astonishing. I wonder what it might mean if this entity was exposed to another 1,289 people last month. Surely, sales and profits would be positively impacted benefiting owners and employees.
Utilize Google Virtual Tour
Within the control panel, an option will present itself for creating a virtual tour through Google Street View. I have used the service several times and it is great. The process is that a trusted photographer will contact you about doing a photo shoot of the business.
Look at each individual photos to gain valuable insight. Data is recorded on how many views each one is receiving. Use this information to determine what is capturing the interest of potential customers. From that lens, you can develop plans to procure more related imagery which fits what humans are seeking. I have placed a sample from a dashboard below where you can see the year posted and view counts for each image.
Select the Correct Categories
Another of the most important elements in a well-constructed listing is the use of categories. Think about how a house may be organized where the furniture is in the right place, clothes are put away in dressers, dishes are stored in cabinets and papers tucked away in an office space. Organization is critical to a business so the correct services are communicated to prospective customers. Categories cannot be created by us, but are selected in a drop-down menu. The best approach is to search in the drop down for the best answer as to what your business provides. The top choice should be the most specific which fits the primary services. For example, if you are a nail salon, don’t put in “salon”. Google encourages us to be as accurate and specific as possible so the correct businesses are shown to customers in maps and search.
A good resource for learning more can be found in this help article on Categories. One great point is not to select a category which is not your specialty. The example mentioned is a health club that has a cafe. This business owner should not select “cafe” as a category.
Encourage and Respond to Reviews
Reviews are so important to consumers these days. Studies show that 85% of people read reviews and 78% of people say that they trust them as much as referrals. That is a staggering shift in behavior in the last ten years. As a business owner encourage customers to leave reviews. Make it easy for them by providing a link from the website or even an information card on how to do so. These first-hand accounts will be valuable and give your company more credibility.
Never sign up for a fake review service or encourage non-customers to leave reviews. This action is disingenuous and can permanently damage a reputation. There can also be legal ramification. In this article, Amazon sues retailers which benefited from fake reviews while damaging the retail giant’s reputation. The history of the web is amazing and requires governance. Large companies fought intervention for years claiming no responsibility and freedom of speech. The culture is changing creating a need for more Corporate responsibility so think how that applies in small business as well. State Attorney Generals and plaintiff lawyers could pursue fake reviews and seek to penalize.
Responding to reviews is absolutely fine to do. Be sure the comments are well thought out and on point. They should not be a pitch to sell more products and appear as a polite and professional conversation between two parties. Negative reviews, in particular, should have a response. Invariably, there will be some disagreement about whether it be perceived or actual events which transpired. Offer a good response that tries to address the person’s concerns. If possible, make it right if it was an error made by the business. Consumers are not turned away by one “bad review” and in fact, it can appear natural. A pattern of them is another problem altogether and one which should be closely investigated.
Have the Correct Schedule and Open Hours and Update Holiday Hours
One way I am infuriated is going to a place and finding it closed when the online information states that they are open. Most businesses have regular hours so this should not take much maintenance to maintain. You can also indicate if appointments are required or if “drop-ins” are welcome for that type of service business. Clear information is vital to keeping customers happy. Bear in mind also that a bad experience is usually relayed first hand to family and friends. People tend to let others know of a bad experience so be cognizant of the risk. Holidays are very important to document properly. Google does a good job of sending emails asking if hours will be different on a holiday or a business even closed. Take a few minutes to make those updates. This can be done in advance so every January all closures could be entered at a time if that makes the task more simple.
Take Advantage of Local URLs
A great feature from Google is the use of local URLs. What if you could add a link that would allow a person to reserve a table in your restaurant or book an appointment at the hair salon? I can’t tell you how powerful this feature is if it applies to your business. There are many applications of the technology that can help provide a better customer experience. Time is so valuable to all people and one commodity which we cannot create more of. Make the process easy for people and it will help your business. Google has a great resource article on local URLs which is a worthwhile read to think of possible applications in a business listing. Some examples are viewing a menu of products or services, placing an order or searching for items.
Take Advantage of the Messaging Feature
It is important to hear from customers right away when you have their attention. The messaging feature is wonderful in that a person can find the business and reach out right then. Think about how many people will not come back to the listing even though they have the intention to do so. Life moves very fast and this feature makes communication simpler. Chatting can also be performed through the feature which is a very cool benefit if you can engage back right away. Each owner should assess if this makes sense to use or not. For example, a lawyer or doctor might not choose to do this as there is not an established professional relationship. Just consider if this makes sense to enable to make improve communication with customers. Note that sensitive data such as credit cards, medical records, login IDs and social security numbers should not be shared on the platform.