Digital Marketing 101 March 9th, 2020
The first thing to learn before deciding if you need a Google My Business listing is what exactly it is. Who better to define the service than the creator of it?
“Google My Business is a free and easy-to-use tool for businesses and organizations to manage their online presence across Google, including Search and Maps. By verifying and editing your business information, you can both help customers find you and tell them the story of your business.” (Google)
If you have ever searched for a business or company on Google, you have more than likely interacted with a Google My Business profile. These business profiles appear across Google, in both Search and Maps, and help make the customer journey as seamless as possible.
In the below screenshots, you can see a difference in how Google is showcasing Google My Business listings based on the device. Desktop is focused more on online information gathering, while mobile is focused on local action, such as calling the business or getting directions based on your current location.
Over 64% of searchers use Google My Business listings to find local businesses’ contact information. Google My Business is one of the easiest ways to get your company in front of the eyes of possible customers. Google Business profiles allow customers to skip the clicks required to navigate your site to find contact details. It also provides valuable information that can help you stand out from your competitors, such as reviews, products, services, posts, photos, and more.
Your Google My Business allows you to better connect and communicate with your customers with more recent features. Not only is there Reviews that you can respond to, but Google also has incorporated a messaging system via your Google My Business listing as well as a Question and Answer section. Keep communication open with these features to showcase your customer service.
A quick way for customers to narrow their decision-making process is to eliminate businesses with poor or no reviews. According to a 2017 study, 86% of customers read reviews of local businesses before making a decision. This trend has not changed as online reviews are trusted nearly as much as personal recommendations, and the way that a company responds to these reviews can tell customers just as much.
Google My Business reviews are not just a place for customers to post their thoughts on the company; it is expected that they will be heard. For small local businesses that do not have a large team to deal with customer complaints, this is the first line of defence. It is important that customers feel heard and treated appropriately. If dealt with appropriately, review responses can signal to customers that you are a company that can be trusted and that they want to do business with.
Your Google My Business affects everywhere you can be found in a Google search (even in ads). Linking your Google My Business listing to your ads will allow for more extensions to be used on your ads, increasing their overall marketing power. They also can be found in organic searches twice as well as in Google Maps searches.
In an organic search, your Google My Business pulls double duty by showing on the right side as well as in the Local 3 Pack near the top of your search results. The listing on the right shows more for branded and service keywords, while the Local 3 Pack is influenced more by proximity based on your current location. Lastly, for Google Maps searches that show a larger area for local searches, without a Google My Business listing, you will not show here at all.
You may have noticed I mentioned how your Google My Business could affect your Google Ads. With an optimized and verified Google My Business listing connected to a Google Ads account, you can add location extensions to your ads. These location extensions will display your business information such as name, address, and phone number, which can help users interact and connect with you and your services. Google has also made Google Ads available to businesses without a website with the use of their verified Google My Business listing.
Google has given business owners opportunities to make themselves more visible on their search engine with these free Google My Business listings. All you need is to create your free Google account, create your listing, fill out as much information as you can and then get verified by either receiving a postcard, a phone code, or an email.
I suggest you take advantage of this while you can. In typical Google fashion, Google has made some moves that indicate this service may not be free forever. In 2019, SEOs and marketing agencies received a questionnaire from Google that may show their plans to charge for their Google My Business listings. A section of the questionnaire asked what monthly subscription plan the user would be comfortable paying for their listing, leading most to believe that Google My Business listings may not be free forever.
Zero-click searches have risen to over 50%, and it’s no secret that Google has been making its search results page more and more user-friendly by adding information, boxes, and other media items right on the page. This means users can find the information from Google instead of going to the website where Google is getting that information.
The Google My Business listing is an evolution of this strategy, and might even be the origin of the strategy. For local businesses, a Google My Business listing allows people to communicate or get information about a business without ever going to the business’ website. This may hurt web traffic to your site, but it will likely end up getting local business’ leads. It saves them the time and energy to search your site for contact information, which can then lead to more conversions.
The short answer is, yes! Google My Business is essential to a strong SEO and overall business strategy. Although there’s the scare of possible subscription fees coming, for the time being its a free service from Google. Take advantage of it now to be found in more places on Google and to extend communication to your customers. It’s a great way to give your potential customers a way to interact with you, find more information about you, and ultimately buy your service and/or products.