Let’s say you’re a local business owner who’s looking to increase your sales numbers for this month. You have a great site with all the correct markup, inventory’s stocked up, and the layout is professional. However, there’s something missing: your customers aren’t quite reaching you with local visits. Maybe you could increase advertising revenue, and yes, that could help! But that costs money and your budget may be tight. By making sure your Google My Business (“GMB”) listing is accurate you can not only increase your local search results, but also increase potential visitors over time!
What is Google My Business?
GMB is a service provided by Google that displays business information to users who search for that business or the category that business is in. A business’ name, address, contact info, hours, and other information is shown in a card to the right of the search results. It can also contain offers, articles, and more to give information to a user as they need it.
This information is pooled across the various services Google provides as well as other third party sites, social signals, and user contributed information. It is also tied in with the Google Maps service, and it relies on an army of contributors and Local Guides to make sure that Google Maps is the most up-to-date and accurate product out there. And for the most part they’ve succeeded!
Google pulls from these four key information sources when deciding what information to display:
- Your GMB: The more this is filled in the healthier your results will be!
- Your Website: A key authority on information is something you control.
- Public Info: Reviews, visitor graphs, and other things showing public engagement.
- Third parties: Social media posts and information aggregators (ex: Yext).
However, there are occasional inconsistencies which can impact any business if they don’t pay close attention. For example, you might have the wrong number or hours on Google Maps which will impact your local search results negatively by either neglect or even malice. For example, the wrong phone number or website could lead potential customers to contact a dead end or even toward competitor’s information! The wrong listed hours could send customers your way before you open or discourage them from visiting even though you’re still open. Even simple things like an updated photograph can make a huge difference in how a customer sees and interacts with your business.
The best way to counter these headwinds is to be on top of everything that goes on in your business, and one of the best ways to start is with your GMB listing.
OK, I Know What GMB Is, But What About My Search Results?
Google displays local search information in a “local 3-pack”.
These results are often the top thing that is interacted with by people who perform searches in their local area. Visually, the local 3-pack is a bundle at the top of a search engine result page (“SERP”) of the three most relevant links a person would see with geolocated businesses in it. Outside of the coveted 3-pack a person’s interest in finding information drops. Their attention will keep dropping until the point where the second page for a search result might as well not even exist. If a business does place within a local 3-pack it has the potential to create a positive feedback loop of visitors, popularity, reviews, and other signals Google uses to display search results to users.
Some of these signals are:
- Distance (Location Data): It informs Google to show which nearby businesses might be most relevant. Unless you’re targeting a specific brand, you wouldn’t want to see a car dealership 20 miles away if there are several right near you.
- Relevance (Search Keywords): The more specific a request is, the better the results. For example, “car dealership” is very broad, but searching for a “Toyota dealership near Schaumburg” will gain more specific results.
- Prominence (Public Favorite): The more visits and reviews Google records from users and customers the better. A business with 300 4-Star reviews and more foot traffic is going to beat out a business with 90 4-Star reviews.
Remember, information consistency leads to less confusion for everyone involved, yourself included. And with the ever growing rise in mobile and voice-based searches, it pays to be ahead of the game.
How Can I Get Started?
There’s a few things to keep in mind when starting up or managing your GMB page. While GMB helps local SEO, if your business lacks a physical presence or is located well outside your target geolocation, it might not make as large an impact as simply keeping other information updated. But if the business does have a physical address and is located within the target area it’s time to get started.
To begin: Google your business. If you have no GMB profile and would like one just visit their main site and sign up. It’s quick, simple, and free! On the last step, make sure you verify your business when you receive your physical card in the mail in order to continue managing it properly.
If you have a GMB result that’s good! It’s even better if you control it and can update the information either yourself or have a third party manage it for you. Check to see if all of your information is correct and be thorough, as typos in the website or phone number could be off by a single value. Once you’ve verified that everything is correct, it’s time to move on to the next step.
If you have control over your business listing then you can safely skip this step. But what if you don’t? Then it’s time to begin to claim your business!
Begin by going through the verification process and provide as much identifying information as you can. This is a long and tedious process that could last up to a week as the controlling party has a chance to respond to your claim. The reason a business is verified is due to the authority over information that a GMB profile has. If you still can’t gain control you should contact Google’s support team.
My GMB Profile Is Verified And Managed!
Congratulations, you’ve taken a huge step towards controlling your online presence and attracting customers to your business!
But this can be more challenging than it appears, as you have to constantly verify the accuracy of your listing. One example is making sure that holiday hours are up-to-date, but that the business’ information hasn’t changed! That’s right, since Google search results and Maps are collaborative efforts, anyone can update your information as they see fit. Granted, this does go through a verification process to accept their changes, but oddly, not reject them.
Even Google itself can change information on your GMB listing without warning if it sees enough contradictory information on sites! This necessitates constant vigilance and can be a hassle if enough sites have wrong information about your business. The process can very consuming, sometimes even months long as the signals Google checks are corrected.
Let’s Wrap This Up Together!
Wow, this was quite the read, wasn’t it? To summarize:
- Google My Business is a simple, effective, and free tool that can help everyone.
- While GMB is very useful, it requires maintenance. Updating holiday hours, photos, posts, and checking for information accuracy can be taxing.
- There is a wide variety of useful features that can help a business as well as the people who search.
With the help form this article I hope you’ve learned the beginnings of using this new tool in business growth. There might even be a sequel article in the future explaining more features of GMB! Check out our blog for more interesting articles and contact us for more information about our services.