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?

I know how it is. You’ve got amazing product pages on your website. Top photography, all the specs, and you’ve even paid some geek to SEO it for you.

But you’re still not getting enough leads. And that means you’re not getting enough sales.

It’s not necessarily because your site’s shit. I mean, it might be, but there are other reasons.

It’s far more likely that you’re just not talking to your customers at the right time.

Understanding the customer journey

At the start of a project we always review or create your customer journey and buyer persona. It means everything else we do is built around your actual customers.

That seems obvious, but you’d be amazed how often businesses start talking to themselves. They start creating stuff that they need and want, rather than what their customers want.

So we put together the persona of a typical buyer of your product, who we’ll call Customer Clive. Clive’s persona includes a lot of detail. We’ll look at what his job is, how much he has to spend and where he procrastinates.

We also need to know what Clive worries about, what he wants to do this year, and what he already knows about things.

Once we’ve painted a picture of Clive, we can use the persona to create his customer journey. This starts from the moment Clive realises he has a problem all the way through to you resolving his problem.

However, not all of Clive’s problems are equal, so the customer journey can be quite different.

For example, the customer journey for Clive’s wedding anniversary might start at lunchtime when he finally realises why Mrs Clive had the hump with him this morning.

In Clive’s infinite wisdom, he has a quick web search for flowers. He promptly decides they’re too expensive and buys some from a petrol station on the way home.

Clive sleeps on the sofa that night.

Fortunately, Clive puts a lot more effort in when he’s looking for your product. He does loads of research on different solutions, gets a number of quotes and eventually buys from one of your competitors. And never speaks to you.

Right place, right time

So why didn’t your business get a chance to speak to Clive? Well, it’s all about information, and timing.

The early stages of the customer journey are all about the customer understanding their problem. They’re not looking for a solution. In fact, they’re probably trying to work out how to get rid of the problem without spending money.

Clive’s not ready to buy anything yet. He’s going to be mightily pissed off if he gets a call from you selling your thing.

But he does want to find out if other people have had this problem, and what they did about it.

Once he’s discovered that other people pay to solve this problem, Clive starts working out a budget. But he also wants to know the minimum amount of action he can get away with.

This is the point where Clive begins to look at options. But this is an area he knows nothing about, so he needs to learn what’s important, and what’s unnecessary.

He starts downloading a guide which tells him what he needs to look for in his solution. He downloads a checklist which tells him what to prioritise. Clive even finds a useful little blog post which explains all the jargon, so he doesn’t have to ask a salesperson what the acronyms mean.

Clive’s now established a relationship with three different suppliers. He knows they supply a solution to his problem, and he trusts them because they’ve helped him.

So when he gets a phone call from the business he got the checklist from, he’s more than happy to talk about his problem.

First impressions count

Chances are that Clive knows all about your business. He’ll have found you when he was doing his initial research. He knows you have a product that solves his problem.

But he doesn’t really know you. He’s got a good feeling about these other businesses who’ve already helped him, and he likes them. So even if your product specs are better than everyone elses, he just doesn’t trust you.

By giving Clive what he needs in the early stages of the customer journey, your competitors have given themselves a big headstart when in comes to relationship building.

Which is why we swear by proper customer journey documentation. It tells us exactly what Clive needs to make his decision, and also tells us what he already knows.

So when Clive comes onto your site he can find the information he needs in return for a few contact details.

Your sales team can see where Clive is on his customer journey by what he’s downloaded. And that means the first conversation they have with him is appropriate to how close he is to making a buying decision.

Content = leads

I can’t stress this enough: if you provide useful content you will open a relationship with your potential customer.

If the purpose of your website is to generate leads and enquiries then you can’t rely on a contact form. People know that as soon as they press send you’ll be jumping in with your finest sales spiel. And everyone hates that.

In today’s world we need to start working with our customers well before they’re ready to buy. Great content means we can do all of the early relationship building at the customer’s pace, without picking up the phone until they’re ready.

That relationship means they’re happy to share their information in return for more content.

And when they answer your call, they’ll already feel like they know and trust your business.

Want better leads from your website?