If there is one thing, and one thing only that you are going to do to promote your small business online, it had better be maximizing your Google My Business listing.
Whether it be looking up hours or seeing what's on the menu, the first place most potential customers turn to is Google.
- "When does Best Buy Open?"
- "What is Acme Drycleaners address?"
- "Asian food in Detroit"
Inevitably, it's all about your listing's visibility in the search results.
People use Google to find out information on local businesses all the time.
No doubt you've done a few of these kinds of information lookups too.
Google My Business "Knowledge Panel"
Simply put, this is the name for that box on the right side with the company information (on laptops and desktops). The knowlege panel is placed above the organic search results on mobile phones and tablets.
It is a card that gives your potential customers the most common information they want about your business, such as hours, location and phone number.
Essentially it provides the answers most users are looking for.
Additionally, when you provide accurate and concise information about your business to Google, the better your chances of showing up closer to the top of the results. If Google knows more about what you do and what you have to offer, the chances of your business showing up in related queries also goes up.
When your potential customers do a general location-based search such as "Italian restaurants in Southfield," for example, the knowlege panel appears as such:
Local SEO involves doing everything possible to have your business come up as close to the first spot as possible.
The number of people that click on the "more places" link is far less than those that view and click on the first three visible businesses.
If you were to click on one of the three top businesses in the list, it opens Google Maps and takes you directly to their knowledge panel.
There is a list of other restaurants on the left in this picture, and clicking on one of the others will bring up their knowledge panel.
Keeping The User's Attention Is Paramount!
Since they can easily click around to other business listings, it is very important to try and grab the user's attention and keep it.
The best way to do this is to make sure everything is 100% accurate.
I can't tell you how many times I've looked up a business and the Knowledge Card says they're open. You can probably relate to the frustration felt when I get to the store only to find they don't open for another hour!
Similarly, if the address and location shown are not 100% accurate, you can be sure that people using Google Maps or Waze will still have a hard time finding your business.
Also, for whatever reason, it seems like Google puts a lot of fax lines in their listings as the main phone number for restaurants.
The point is to double and triple check to make sure that your listing is faultless.
If you're a retail shop or another business that changes hours for the holidays, make sure to make the change in your listing!
It's so irritating to find out the shop is closed when the listing says it's open. You also might be missing some business if you don't list your later holiday shopping hours too. Customers may think your business is closed when it really isn't.
Simply put, these are the things that every business should be doing with their Google My Business listing at a minimum, but it's surprising how many small business owners don't even claim their business.
The Business Description
This is the second most important part of your Google My Business listing. Google allows for 750 characters (250 before the read more link) where you can describe your products, services, add value or communicate with your audience.
This is where SEO comes in.
This description should be optimized for best search results possible while making sense and encouraging the user to learn more about your business and stop in.
Google pays attention to these descriptions in the same way it pays attention to the content on your website.
The better it is from an SEO standpoint, the better your chances are of getting listed higher than your competition in the general local search box.
Images Sell Your Business Far Better
Even if you're not a restaurant, clean, professional photographs and graphics sell people on your business better than anything else. It also happens to be the first thing potential customers see.
“Businesses with photos receive 42% more requests for driving directions to their location from users on Google, and 35% more clicks through to their website than businesses that don’t have photos.”
Taking photos with your iPhone and uploading directly to Google just doesn't cut it if you want people to flock to your business.
If you got 42% more business because you hired a professional photographer for $1,000 would you complain?
Didn't think so.
You'd be surprised at how many business owners will try and cut corners and save costs in the wrong areas.
Taking blurry shots (or even ones that are just a tad out of focus) is enough to drive your potential customer away.
Lavishly professional photos instill confidence in the potential customer.
Don't be afraid to load up a lot of pictures either.
It's recommended to have at least five images for any business listing, but the businesses that do well often offer 10 to 30 images for users to browse through.
The reason is that the user will feel more and more confident that you have a good business when they're flipping through professional image after image and can see inside and outside your place of business, some of the people working there, product offerings and whatever else you choose to put up.
A word of caution, you don't want to post any image that doesn't help to sell the visit.
In otherwords, if you're a clothing shop, don't put up pictures of a 5K run you sponsored (put that stuff on your website in the blog). People aren't going to care. Show your products in all their glory. Proudly display your clean, private changing rooms. Sell the visit.
Keep a Close Eye On Reviews
Reviews are a large deciding factor for many buyers if they will engage with your business or not.
Local Consumer Reviews reports that:
- 86% of consumers read reviews for local businesses (including 95% of people aged 18-34)
- Consumers read an average of 10 online reviews before feeling able to trust a local business
- 40% of consumers only take into account reviews written within the past 2 weeks – up from 18% last year
- 57% of consumers will only use a business if it has 4 or more stars
- 80% of 18-34 year olds have written online reviews – compared to just 41% of consumers over 55
- 91% of 18-34 year old consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations
- 89% of consumers read businesses' responses to reviews
Given these numbers, it is imperative that you monitor and respond to your reviews.
Reviews still do influence people's decisions. By nature, your potential customers will look for bad reviews first.
The worst thing you can do for your business as far as reviews are concerned is to not respond to negative reviews.
Other potential customers may feel like you don't care about your customers.
They may wonder if you solved the person's problem or just left them hang to dry. A well written response to both good and bad reviews makes all the difference for your potential customers. At the very least, your customers deserve to hear both sides of the story, don't they?
Use Google Posts To Promote
In your dashboard, you'll find an area where you can post updates to your Google Business knowlege panel.
This area is the most underused part of Google My Business.
These posts alone can sell the visit or get you a phone call. You just post as you would to your Facebook page. This is also an opportunity to bring people back to your website for more information.
I really encourage small businesses to really take their time with Google My Business.
Due to the sheer number of local searches performed everyday, it would be ridiculous not to put the effort in.
If you're not sure about how to update and optimize your Google My Business listing effectively, contact me through WebSpark Digital for some help on this.
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