Your Digital Storefront
Having an updated Google My Business page is the key for local search engine optimization. This public profile hosted by the world’s largest search engine serves as one of the first connections between a business and the public. Not only this, but Google My Business has the power to integrate small business marketing techniques and search engine optimization, providing huge benefits for all local businesses as it is the easiest and fastest way for your business to show up in Google search results.
To master GMB and truly engage with the local community, small business owners and digital marketing professionals need to understand why and how the platform does what it does.
- Why Google My Business is Important
- GMB features and what they are used for
- How to use these features to promote local search for businesses
GMB is More Important Now Than Ever
For the last few years, but now during COVID-19 more than ever, the first thing individuals do when thinking about visiting a local business is a Google search of the establishment. Prior to March 2020, this was happening often, though usually individuals would only search for a business the first time they planned to visit. Now — as everything remains in flux — there are a lot of unknowns about going to restaurants, stores, entertainment venues and shopping centers. Community members are turning to you and your business to provide guidance; And the simplest way to do so is through Google My Business.
The Makeup a Google My Business Page
As with any other digital social profile, Google My Business has a range of customization options and features that let you tell the complete story of your local business identity. Updating each of these regularly (weekly, if possible) bodes well for you in local search results. Regular posting shows searchers — and the search engine — that you are active and promotes engagement.
Searchers love imagery. It helps potential customers get a real feel for the products and goods your local business offers.
Photos of your business’s exterior help customers find your business on the street more easily when they go to visit it. Note, too, that stock photos are harmful when used in this situation. Why? Ask yourself: If you looked at a restaurant and saw only stock images of food and nothing house-made, would you trust that they would provide a delicious meal? Probably not.
Posts are important for local engagement because they serve as yet another place to share information that would typically be promoted on a Facebook or Instagram page, without excluding community members who may not use popular social media for one reason or another.
Posts appear on a GMB page below the “Updates from…” section. Hyperlinked is the phrase “View previous updates on Google.” When clicked, this opens an additional popup window showcasing posts similar to those that would be seen on other social media platforms. Posts however are a fine place to use stock imagery as long as it matches the content you are sharing or promote a special event or program your business will be hosting.
Hours and Closings
Especially in the age of COVID-19, making sure your business hours are up to date is of the utmost importance.
Any business owner knows this, but when the focus of many is simply keeping the business running, logging on to update hours and temporary closing notices as they frequently change because of local and state regulations or individual choices of business owners may be an afterthought.
If you find yourself in this position, consider the impact on local engagement. If your business hours are not up to date on your GMB page, a customer may come to your business. Then, finding that you are closed when they read you would be open, they become dismayed and have the potential of leaving a negative review for other searchers to read.
One way to keep the community informed as guidelines, business requirements and business as it is known as a whole rapidly evolves is by posting announcements.
Like posts, this additional feature of GMB is meant to update local search engines and users on current happenings at your business. Posts tend to be more informational and often promote things connected to a business. Announcements are informative and serious.
Another way to think about it is: Posts are up for discussion whereas announcements are statements.
Attributes (Factual and Subjective)
An entire article could be written on attributes alone, they’re so unique and beneficial for local search engine optimization.
Simply, attributes are the details that appear at the top of a GMB listing, below the type of business and star rating. Attributes often include notes like “Dine-In,” “Curbside pickup,” or “Pet friendly.” Either a red X or green beside the attribute indicates if a business does or does not offer or function with said attribute.
As you add attributes to your GMB listing, it’s important to note that there are two types of attributes: Factual and subjective. Factual attributes are facts about the business, controlled in the listing by the business owner or GMB page manager. Subjective attributes (such as “popular local spot”) are drawn from user-generated reviews.
Speaking of reviews, each and every one should be responded to in order to boost your business in the local search market.
Good, bad, ugly or fake, Google doesn’t care what kind of review it is. What matters is that you and your business engage with the online community as much as possible.
Local Search and Community Engagement
Think of your Google My Business page as a digital storefront or window display. It is the first thing local shoppers see when they happen upon your business. A fresh, updated display is much more inviting than a dusty outdated one. A well kept GMB listing invites community members to engage with you as you do with them. And especially in smaller cities or communities, word travels fast. An open, engaging and friendly interaction with one searcher or customer online is sure to multiply when handled by your business correctly.
Local search engine optimization is a tricky thing to perfect. And arguably — as Google’s algorithms and rankings change so quickly — it is possible to harness fully.
However, making sure that each of the features of your Google My Business page discussed has updated content is an easy place to start. From there, you can integrate your GMB page with existing small business marketing strategies.
If you continue to engage in this way, update photos and posts as things happen at your business, and engage with the community in the way of reviews, you’re sure to help your local search engine rankings and get closer to a fully optimized GMB page.