By Michael Raine
You know how when you google a local brick-and-mortar business, the whole right-third of the screen is occupied by a company listing? It shows the business’s location on Google Maps, the address, store hours, maybe some photos, reviews, etc. Is your store taking advantage of this valuable web real estate?
Storeowners can maximize this feature via the internet giant’s Google My Business service, which is designed for businesses that serve customers in their local area.
“It’s that whole right-third of the screen on your desktop, so by not taking advantage of it, you’re leaving a lot of that [search engine optimization] juice on the table. There is a lot to SEO that takes place off of your website and this Google My Business listing is one of those,” says online marketing expert Liz Jostes of Eli | Rose Social Media, who gave a NAMM U presentation on this topic at Summer NAMM 2018.
Jostes notes that Google has a penchant for sort of throwing services out into the wild and seeing what sticks. One such service is Google Plus, the company’s attempt to take on Facebook in the social media world that was launched in 2011. It was a pretty good platform, though never caught on widely with the public; however, many businesses found Google Plus to be a useful tool, particularly as an SEO “hack,” because Google favours content posted on its own platforms (like YouTube, which it also owns) in search results. This is mentioned because if your business already has a Google Plus account, then the first step to taking advantage of Google My Business is already done. It’s all handled from the same log-in credentials.
But even if a brick-and-mortar store doesn’t have a Google account, it still likely appears on Google Maps and as a listing in that right-third space on searches. So, here’s the first step: claim and verify that listing.
“If they haven’t claimed their Google My Business listing, they might still see themselves show up on the map listing that you see with those upside-down red teardrops. They might think, ‘Well I’m already showing up so I don’t need to do anything.’ But you should claim it. It’s a really quick process, and claiming it is what lets you control the information on there and some of the features you can’t really access otherwise,” says Jostes.
To verify the account, you just need to request a verification code that Google sends via text, phone call, or snail mail. (Naturally, Google has helpful videos on YouTube. Watch the video titled “How to verify your business on Google” on the Google Small Business channel.)
“Once you go ahead and claim it, not only can you make sure that your address and phone number and hours are correct, but it allows you to add photos,” explains Jostes. “When you access your Google My Business dashboard, they kind of have it separated out into interior photos and exterior photos and there are photos of your employees you can put up there…”
[Pictured: Liz Jostes of Eli | Rose Social Media]
There are also photos by others, and Jostes says that’s important to keep in mind. “Your Google My Business listing is out there and it’s public, so people could be leaving you Google reviews about your business. If people visit your business and they choose to leave a review, Google actually asks them if they’d like to add a photo to their review. So, you could be having photos and reviews being posted to your Google My Business listing and you’re going to need to go ahead and claim that and verify it so that you can respond to that, if needed, or thank people or reply to questions that people might ask and that kind of thing.”
The Google My Business listing is a valuable resource to potential customers, which makes it a valuable resource to retailers. It provides driving directions, operating hours, and contact information. On mobile devices, it also includes a “Click-to-Call” button. Without verifying the listings, retailers can’t ensure this info is correct. The dashboard also allows the account administrator to specify holiday hours and other useful details.
“Once you claim your listing, you get to publish Google Posts and that’s not something you’d be able to do [otherwise]. Google Posts can be anything and almost work as a mini blog post, but you can have an event, you can have some kind of product, and there is even a field for price and you can include links so people can clickthrough to visit your website or a blog post or a product listing,” adds Jostes, noting it could also be something like a coupon or an event promotion with a specified end date. “You only get one at a time and they last for seven days and then they fade away. So, unless you really have tons of stuff and you know people are checking you out every single day, there is not a lot of benefit to doing more than one per week because only one is featured in that big Google My Business listing that shows up in search results.”
As mentioned, the listing includes customer reviews and businesses can only respond if the account is verified. And, as you should know, responding to reviews can be important. Helpfully, Google will send an email when a review is posted so you don’t have to keep checking manually.
“A lot of times, replying to reviews isn’t so much about changing that negative reviewer’s mind as it is about letting other customers see that you actually care to respond and try to fix any kind of issues,” she notes.
One cool feature of Google My Business that Jostes says is very underutilized is that it allows you to capitalize on a great review by instantly turning it into an eye-catching quote image designed for sharing on social media.
Lastly, Jostes advises, make sure to fill out all the fields in the backend dashboard. Much of this information isn’t prominently featured on the listing that the public immediately sees unless they click and scroll further, but that is not the entire point. For example, there is an About section that isn’t prominently featured on the public listing; however, this section is very important for SEO. “You want to have good descriptive key words in that section. That helps you in terms of Google potentially matching your listing to more searchers’ results versus somebody else. But that About section isn’t what’s prominently displayed. There is still a purpose for some of those things even if they’re not showcased. It’s almost more about letting Google know as much about your business as possible so that you get the best chance at showing up in as many searches as possible.”
In the end, the world’s biggest search engine is essentially giving you free advertising space to showcase yourself to local customers. Why not take advantage?
Michael Raine is the Senior Editor of Canadian Music Trade.