With the world affected by the impact of Covid-19, most people are kept at home more than ever now. Thus, it is ever more essential for businesses today to have a dedicated website which will listed on the Google Search Engine Results Page (SERP) and also for users to find out more information about the business offering. Being listed high on the SERP is highly beneficial as it can help your business attain wider global reach.
However, if your business is reliant on targeting local consumers (as most small business usually are), it is also vital that the business has a Google My Business (GMB) listing. This listing allows the business to create a dedicated profile on Google which displays critical information such as location, operating hours, contact information and other important details. Businesses should always be mindful to display updated information on this listing. With the pandemic changing work and lifestyles behaviour, it is ever more so crucial to be able to keep your prospective customers informed of any changes to your businesses.
This article will cover the topics related to having a GMB account, such as the set-up, management and also optimisation of the account.
What is Google My Business?
Google My Business is a free tool offered by Google for the sole purpose of local businesses to create a business profile on Google. This tool actually also allows businesses greater control over what type of information appears in the Google SERP. Once you have set up your GMB account, you can envisage that your website might also experience improvements in traffic as well. This is because GMB is also a core component in local SEO. When you have successfully built the SEO ranking on your website, your website will effectively be able to take up more real estate on the Google search engine results page (SERP) as it will appear on both the search engine as well on the Google Maps area.
Additionally, if you are using GMB, you will also be able to make use of additional features provided in this free tool such as adding photos, captivating the user’s attention with your compelling business descriptions and even monitor your replies to customer reviews. If you have downloaded the GMB app, all these features will be available to you on the go as well.
Google recognises that data is very important. Hence, GMB is also equipped with a free analytics feature that helps you to understand how people have found your business online.
How Important Is Google My Business?
Google My Business can be seen as a perfect complement to your SEO efforts. This is because when you implement good SEO practises, the business affiliated to your GMB account will also appear in the same SERP as your actual website, resulting in greater visibility! (shown below)
In the example above, you can see that the user is searching for “digital agency mescalon”. The ads featured in the SERP are usually businesses which have competitive bidding for the same or similar keywords to the search term that the user has typed in. Although our ads may not be placed first all the time, this can be overcome with higher budget spend and/or with excellent implementation on best SEO practises.
Below the ad space are the organic search results that Google deems to be most relevant for the search term . You can now clearly see that if you are able to rank highly for your organic keywords, have your GMB set up correctly and also be running a paid search ad for the same keywords in your website SEO efforts, you will easily be able to dominate the real estate on the SERP. Thus, although
This is especially important as typical user behaviour dictates that most people would be doing a local search on their mobile devices. In fact most of these mobile searches will usually end in a store visit on the same day itself! This makes it even more important to be able to display information that is easily accessible to your users so as to further encourage them to either explore your website, or visit your physical store.
Thus, good management of GMB allows you to improve on your local search presence and also enhance your SEO efforts. Now that you are aware of the benefits that come with having a GMB account, let’s get you started with setting up an account.
How To Set Up Google My Business?
Head over to https://www.google.com/business/ and click on the “Sign in” button on the top right hand side of the screen. Google will then prompt you to answer a series of questions such as your business name, business address, business contact number, business operating hours and other relevant details.
Make sure that all the information that you input is accurate, down to the capitalisation and punctuation marks, especially so for your business name and business address. You may also consider uploading your photos about your business offerings, and provide a strong write-up about your business description to further encourage customers to visit you.
After the forms are completed, Google will require you to verify your business address in order to complete your GMB account. There are 3 different ways for you to verify your business.
How Verify Google My Business?
1. Postcard Verification
This is the most common means of verification and is available to any type of business. A postcard which is sent by Google to the physical address you have provided. This postcard will have a unique code which allows you to provide the final confirmation that you are indeed the owner of the business. Once this is done, your GMB account will effectively be confirmed and active!
2. Phone Verification
Some businesses will also have the option of verifying their business over the phone. If your business qualifies for this means of verification, you will be able to see the “Verify by phone” option. If you have decided on this method, you will receive an automated message with the verification code. Once you have input this verification code into GMB, your listing will effectively be confirmed and active!
3. Email Verification
Similar to the phone verification method, this option is only available to some businesses. Businesses that are eligible for this option will have the “Verify by email” option available to them. If you select this option, you will receive a verification code in the inbox of the Google Account that is associated with your GMB listing. If you decide to proceed with this option, be sure to have access to your inbox.
Other verification options available include instant verification and bulk verification. For instant verification, you will need to have already verified your business website with Google Search Console. Bulk verification is only available for businesses with 10 or more locations. For more information, do check out this comprehensive guide by Google.
An important note for you is that even though you have verified and claimed the business listing as yours, people are able to suggest edits to your business. This feature allows customers to alert Google of any changes in the business information, or even to inform Google if the business has closed down. This, be sure to regularly check your GMB listing to ensure that the information displayed is accurate.
Basic Tips To Optimise Google My Business
As mentioned, GMB operates in tandem to your SEO efforts. It requires regular maintenance and updates. This is especially crucial since GMB is arguably one of the most critical factors determining the success of your website on a local search results page. Any business who wishes to retain their competitive nature in the local search networks should strive to optimise their GMB listing.
Here, we have listed some simple suggestions that you can take in order to optimise your GMB listing:
1. Provide Accurate Business Name and Basic Information
This is the most basic step in knowing how to optimise your GMB for success in your local search. Do make sure to conduct routine checks on your business name, address and phone number to make sure that the most updated information is being displayed. This is especially so since your competitors and any member of the public may also suggest Google to make certain edits on your business profile.
Things to check include the spelling of your business name, especially when it comes to capitalisation or punctuation of certain characters. The information that you provide in your GMB needs to be consistent and match exactly the information provided anywhere else.
2. Provide Compelling Business Description
This refers to the 750-character description of your GMB listing as part of your local optimisation efforts. Your business description should be able to portray your business in an authentic and engaging manner. Avoid putting in any sales or promotional offers.
This section is used primarily to inform search users of your brand story, your mission and your business history. You may even want to highlight your unique selling points here. As this is strictly a text only description, Google prohibits any promotional content or links in this section.
A good note of advice would be to carefully select 1-2 keywords and draft out your description based on these chosen keywords. You might also want to consider including a location keyword as part of your business description too. You can always tweak and edit your business description whenever necessary.
3. Select A Suitable Category And Sub-Category
This is especially critical as the category that you choose for your GMB listing plays a central role in determining the local search ranking of your business as it informs Google what type of searches are relevant to your business.
The category chosen should be as specific as possible. For example, rather than just selecting the generic “salon” as your business category, it will be more worthwhile to select “nail salon” as your primary category
While that is simple and easy for some businesses, this approach might not be as straightforward to a business that offers multiple services. For example, you may be managing a supermarket with a pharmacy and a deli in the premises.
In this case, the general approach would be to select the primary category of business that is most important to your business and then select the secondary categories as the portion of the business offering the additional business. In the example provided, the primary category should be “supermarket” while your secondary categories should be “pharmacy” and “deli”.
4. Provide Original Photos & Video
Google shared that businesses with photos see a 42% increase in requests for driving directions to their location and 35% increase click through rate to their website. It is no surprise that businesses with high quality photos and videos seem more appealing to potential customers. Photos are also a strong indication to Google that the business is legitimate. This is a fantastic piece of data and businesses should definitely try to reap the rewards of uploading a photo. The recommended photo size should be 720px x 720px, no larger than 5MB in size and should be uploaded in jpg or png format.
Other than specifications on the size and format of the photos, Google actually provides you with the freedom to upload any business-related photo. You can consider adding interior or exterior shots and even 360-degree shots of your business. As a general rule, try to upload at least 3 images of your business, be it physical location, popular products, or even shots of you staff rendering services to your customers.
There are several types of photos that you can upload. Some photo options may not be available to some businesses. Do check the Google Support for more information on this.
5. Amass Quality Reviews
This is a very important optimisation step. A study by BrightLocal indicated that 91% of people surveyed trust online reviews just as much as personal recommendations and that 82% of consumers read online reviews of a business. These numbers should clearly indicate the gravity of generating reviews.
Reviews can have a direct impact on sales. Typically, consumers are more likely to visit a local business website, visit the business location or contact the business directly after reading a positive review. Additionally, if your business profile has Google Reviews attached to them, your GMB profile is also more likely to be ranked higher in the SERP. That being said, not all your customers will leave a review without being prompted. Most people would require certain cues before they decide to leave a review. To address these types of people, your business will need a consistent process to encourage customers to leave a genuine review.
Generating reviews is actually much more simple that you think. Here are 2 suggestions for you to encourage your customer to leave a review:
- Google (https://support.google.com/business/answer/7035772?hl=en) has created a link which you can share with your customers to ease them into leaving a review for you.
- Send an email to thank your customers and request for a review at the same time. You can even explain how their reviews will help support your business and inform them that it should take only 5 minutes of their time.
Note: Always remain engaging to your customers. Reply diplomatically, and offer a solution(whenever possible) to negative reviews. Express your appreciation of the positive reviews. Replying to your reviews takes time but it definitely helps in increasing engagement from your customers.
6. Boost Conversions By Using Google Posts
Google Posts is essentially a content sharing feature which allows business owners to announce news updates, offers or showcase a newly-launched product. Your Google Posts can even reference an article, blog or events within your website. If you are able to include keywords in your posts, having a Google My Business post can impact your search rankings and further boost your local SEO efforts. This is because Google posts are displayed more prominently on mobile. Aim to post regularly as each Google Post expires within 7 to 14 days, depending on your set up of the post.
How To Optimise Google My Business Amidst Covid-19 Pandemic
In response to the constantly changing situation of the pandemic, Google has also introduced some new features which allows you to provide updates to your current and prospective customers with regards to any changes that might occur due to the Covid-19 situation. This is an important addition as the information that is provided through this feature will be pinned to the top regardless of any other daily postings that your business may have.
While your Covid-19 related posts may be pinned at the top, do take note that such posts only have a validity period of 14 days. This time frame may change, in response to the changing circumstance. However, you will always retain the ability to edit or delete any posts that may not be relevant to your business anymore.
Also, do not hesitate to business as “Temporarily Closed” if this applies to your business. This will not affect your local SEO rankings. Most importantly, your priority and Google’s priority is to remain transparent and be able to provide the most accurate information to your customers.
1. Adjust Your Marketing & Messaging
With the pandemic affecting everyone globally, it is also important to adjust the your marketing messaging accordingly as well. More than just staying relevant to the changing circumstances it is also important to not come off as insensitive. Here are some considerations for the changes that your can undertake:
- Consider using more relevant CTAs such as “Register For Virtual Classes”
- Promote your pandemic-safe offers and promotions such as “Contact-less Delivery, At-Home Kits, and Virtual Sessions”
- Remove insensitive use of languages such as “Go Viral” or “Killer Content”
- Check any scheduled content or automated emails for relevancy
2. Add relevant business attributes
Describe applicable services such as “Contact-free delivery”, or even announce changes in your operating hours. make sure you take the time to go through your GMB profile and tick off pertinent attributes to the situation such “Delivery, “Pickup” or even “Drive-thru ” options.
3. Use Events Post
The “What’s New” posts disappear after 7 days. It is better to use the “Events” post where you can control the timeframe for which your posts can be seen.
Creating and managing your Google My Business profile is fast and simple. Most importantly, it will definitely have a positive impact on your SEO. However, many local businesses tend to overlook this.
By taking some time to set up and optimise your GMB profile, you will be able to truly unlock its power such as attaining greater search visibility, quality reviews and relevant information for local consumers. Thus, having an optimised Google My Business account is extremely beneficial in reaching this objective. Google have also provided a short guide for businesses to provide them with pertinent advise on how to keep their customers updated with the latest Covid-19 related information, affecting your business operations.
Google My Business is a free tool offered by Google for local businesses to create business profile online. It is an important component of local SEO and can help to improve your site traffic.
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