Google, a company that has become a verb. Google has changed the way people look for information, and sometimes makes me question why I even went to college when everything I ever could need to know is a quick search away. Google has a multitude of tools, from document sharing to e-mail hosting, to help anyone navigate life in this increasingly digital world.
Gone are the days of the yellow pages in the phone book. Now, when anyone is looking for a local service provider, they boot up and search online. Google My Business (www.google.com/business) is the FREE way to set up an online listing and not only provide your contact information to local searchers, but also improve your visibility and local SEO (search engine optimization) and offer a place for customers to leave reviews.
So, where do you go from here? I have outlined below the best way to create and optimize your Google My Business listing.
1. Sign-up and Claim
Visit the Google My Business page and set up your account. Click “Sign up” or “Manage Now” to either sign up and create a listing OR to claim a listing, which means to start to manage a listing that has been created by users organically that represents your business.
Even though this is part of the Google suite, you should be able to sign up with your business email address. This is ideal because then notifications will get sent to your main email inbox.
Remember, consistency is key! I would recommend naming your business in the same way as your Facebook Business Page. Not only does this naming convention capture your business well, but it will also help improve your visibility in search and reduce customer confusion. Also, you matching information will link your account to your Facebook account so it shows within your listing.
You must add in your address here, however, I recommend clicking the box that says “I deliver goods and services to my customers” and hide the listing because that will hide your address from public view. This way, you will still be geo-located to come up as a listing in local search, but your exact home address won’t be found! If your business is in a physical location (a storefront or kiosk) then you would not want to hide your address.
4. Fill everything out!
Make sure you are filling out all of the fields for your listing. Include a service area (be it zip-code or a radius), a business category, and all contact information. The more information you use to fill out this listing, the more information is pulled into local search and the more likely you would appear in local searches.
5. Verify your business
After you set everything up, a link will be sent to your email or a postcard will be sent to your home and will prompt you to verify your business. Click on this link or enter the postcard code and let Google know this is really you!
6. Your Dashboard
On your Google My Business Dashboard there are many options to further customize your profile and improve your search appearance. Make sure you are filling out as much as possible for this profile. The most important tab on the right hand side would be the “info” tab, where you will edit all of the pieces of your listing including hours, contact information, and business description. To edit, just click on the little pencil and it will prompt you to update your information.
Use posts to market events you are hosting, special sales or deals, or any announcements you may have. These posts will stay active for 7 days, and up to 10 posts will display on your carousel in your listing. In a post, you can write up to 300 words of content and include a photo. These words will also optimize your SEO, so it is important to keep posts on your listing! This also shows that your business is active, and you can leverage posts to communicate offers and events to the public.
Not only do you have the ability to choose a cover photo for your listing, but you can also create photo and video albums to showcase your service, expertise, or products. Everyone loves to scroll through photos, and having a visual component to your listing rounds it out by appearing knowledgeable and professional. Additionally, customers can add their own photos and share their own experiences in reviews, showing first-hand the awesome work you have done for your wonderful customers!
I want to touch upon the importance of the questions feature. Of course, a Google listing is geared toward having a prospective customer call or message you, however, anyone can also ask and answer questions that will live on your page. For example, A potential customer may ask “Does this business book cruises?” You can then go in and answer this question, letting both this prospective customer and others know “of course!”
10. Update, Maintain and Share
Posts, photos, hours of operation, and review and question engagement. Anyone can go to your Google listing and suggest an edit, so it is very important to check your page and ensure all information is accurate. Keeping up to date with this listing will keep you at the top of the local search list, and the more people interact with your listing, the more likely your business will be more prevalent in search results. Be sure to go to the info tab and see what your listing looks like by clicking “View in Search” or “View in Maps.”
Of course, you can also leverage your existing and past customers to leave reviews on your page. You can send anyone a link by going to your page and clicking “Share.” You can copy this link and send it via email, social media, or (if you are viewing in a mobile device) you can even text it to someone!
There are so many opportunities with a Google My Business Listing and additional information that you can learn and optimize using this program. As always, the more you explore, the more you will learn about this marketing technology, so go forth and Google away!
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