Start using Google My Business

Stylised view of the Google search page

You know the box which pops up on Google when you search for your business? Did you know you can control it, for free? It’s part of a Google service called Google My Business.

Believe it or not, it’s also completely free. Which means there’s no excuse for the information being wrong.

Why bother with Google My Business

One: it means customers can find the right information about you, fast. Not Google’s guesses.

Two: It makes it easier for people to contact you. Which means more leads and sales.

Three: It improves your local SEO. People nearby are more likely to find you.

You know how Google often throws up a map with three businesses when you search for a service? 25% of the signals Google uses to do this come from Google My Business profiles..

Activating your listing gives you control over what the search engine knows about you and your business. Crucially, it also gives you the means to update that information yourself. Google My Business is also part of Google Maps, meaning you’re more likely to show up in searches made near your business location. It really is a free SEO boost from Google.

How to setup Google My Business

Claiming and setting up your listing takes fewer than 10 minutes. You’ll need a Google account first, which can be created with your business email address and gives you access to loads of other free tools.

Start by going to google.com/business. Login, then enter the name of your business. Next, your business location – this must match the address on your website. Then drag the Google Maps arrow to your actual location. The arrow defaults to the middle of the postcode you entered, so doing this helps customers find you.

Google then wants to know what kind of business you are. Again, try to match this with information on your website. If you’re a bank and don’t mention anything about banking, there’ll be a penalty.

The next stage, ‘Make connections’, is optional, but one of the most useful. It’s where you connect your listing to your website and submit your phone number.

Finally, you have to verify that you’re who, and where, you claim to be. You can choose to receive a postcard at your business address with a code inside. Enter the code and you have full control over your listing.

How to update Google My Business

Well done. You’ve set up your profile, added your info and some pictures. Now you can leave it forever, right?

Afraid not. There’s a few reasons you should check back regularly. The first is that anyone can suggest a change to the information you’ve entered. Somebody suggests you sell a product which you actually don’t? Google may add that to your profile.

Which is really annoying for you, and the people who are ringing you about something you can’t help with.

So accuracy is one reason. Another is reviews.

Reviews on Google My Business

Now, you might not be reliant on reviews in the same way service businesses like restaurants are. But they still contribute to how potential clients and customers see you.

Imagine looking up a potential supplier and seeing this:

One Star Google review: "Cut up by one of there operatives driving one of their vans, a display of dangerous driving at its best. If that’s their attitude to other road users I would hate to think what their attitude is towards customers. Do these people realise that when they are driving sign written vans they are advertising ambassadors to the company they work for."

Of course, we’ll never know if ‘reviewer was cut up’ or ‘reviewer was in the wrong lane’. But your response can give clients a good indication of what you’re like as a business.

Ignoring the review may cause you to be seen as a business who’ll ignore customer problems further down the line.

Replying with “Dashcam shows you were in the wrong lane and nearly caused an accident” shows you’re prepared to look into it and respond honestly. There’s nothing wrong with backing your business and staff when you’re in the right.

Alternatively, use “We’re unable to confirm that this incident took place, but we’ve reminded our drivers about what we expect from our drivers” to cast doubt on the initial claim, whilst demonstrating you take the issue seriously.

Posting on Google My Business

Ever heard of Google+? It was Google’s attempt to take on Facebook, but it was terrible and they closed it down. Which tells us that even the giants aren’t perfect. But I digress…

A horse resting its head on a fence post, with the text "I love this post".

Google have recently stuck some of their Google+ tech into My Business. Initially, that means they’re pushing for businesses to post updates through My Business, not just social media.

At the moment each post lasts a week from publishing. They haven’t really explained why they want businesses to do this, but some people in the industry are suggesting these posts could be displayed before the search result list.

This is obviously a really good place to be, but adding any content to Google’s ecosystem usually has some form of SEO benefit for your site, which is also nice.

We’ve got four different post types to play with.

  • Offer
  • What’s New
  • Event
  • Product

All quite self explanatory. Want to promote an upcoming event? Create an event post. Just want to share a generic update (like new contenting on your site)? Use What’s New (yes, the lack of question mark is upsetting me too).

You can (and should) add image to any of your Google My Business posts. Use a 4:3 aspect ratio, or the image will be cropped to fit. Google also gives you a call to action button on all posts except Offers.

Managing multiple locations

Does your business operate from more than one place? Well I’ve got just the Google My Business feature for you!

With location groups you can access all of your business locations through one account. Which is good. And you can delegate permissions to individual users; so each of your store managers could look after the Google My Business profile for their store.

However (and it’s a big however), there’s no way to post an update to all of your profiles at once. Which is a big flaw. But perhaps it’s for the best; it means smaller businesses are more likely to post and get visits than bigger chains.

So, no more excuses. Get your My Business profile sorted!

Does your local SEO need a hand?