If you run a local business and want to start generating sales through your website, the step you should take right away is setting up a Google My Business (GMB) profile. Not only will doing this get your website into search results that you may have missed out on before, it’s an essential part of your wider search engine optimisation (SEO) strategy.
But what is Google My Business and how does it work?
And what are the common mistakes that businesses make when putting together their My Business profile? Let’s break it down:
What is Google My Business?
Google My Business is a free service provided by Google that puts your business, quite literally, on the map. When Google gets a search query that it thinks relates to local business of some kind, the top section of search results will usually look something like this:
Our company is based out of Grange, so when I Googled “pizza Cork”, the results I received reflect what Google thinks I want. The top three businesses that show up — what are sometimes called the “Three Pack” — are local businesses that Google thinks will meet my search criteria, which includes location data i.e. where I’m searching from.
It’s difficult to overstate the importance of being in the Three Pack. Search users rarely click “View All” and fewer still will scroll down to look at results that aren’t verified businesses.
Setting up your Google My Business profile correctly is a good start to getting into this section, but it needs to be combined with a solid SEO strategy that lets Google know that your business is exactly what customers are looking for when they enter a relevant search query.
So now that we’ve established the end-goal of a My Business listing, it’s worth examining why My Business exists at all and how you can maximise its effectiveness for your business.
In the big bad world of the internet, it’s important for search engines like Google to know that your business is real, authentic and relevant to the search queries of its users. Google My Business is part of how you establish your businesses authenticity and relevance. In that sense, GMB is like a Yellow Pages listing for the digital age.
It’s not just your location however; a GMB listing through Google Maps will let you easily communicate your opening hours and contact details, as well as providing an opportunity for you to link to your website. Since the onset of the Covid-19 Pandemic, Google lets businesses advertise whether they are taking appropriate health and safety measures, including whether mask-wearing is mandatory on your premises. Making that knowledge available could easily be the difference between making a sale or not.
Crucially, Google will also display reviews of your business. Getting good, authentic reviews will help bump you up the rankings in local search queries, and are definitely helpful for turning search queries into business. Creating a process for collecting such reviews should be part of your marketing strategy.
In an Irish business environment where searches for local businesses and shops increased by more than 540 percent, the local dimensions of search engine marketing are more important than ever for generating sales for your business.
More and more companies are catching on to the relevance of such a listing: there are around 200,000 Irish businesses using My Business right now.
Essentially then, a My Business profile delivers three things for your company:
- Link your business’ website and social media accounts to a listing on Google Maps.
- Let Google know what kind of business you are — propelling your wider SEO strategy.
- Gives prospective customers assurance that your business is authentic and legitimate through reviews and an address.
Without a My Business profile, your business is completely locked out of this essential aspect of search marketing. Luckily, the initial stages of setting up your account are fairly straightforward.
How to Set Up Google My Business
It starts, fairly obviously, with visiting the Google My Business website.
Here, you’ll link your new My Business account to a new or existing Google Account — it’s sensible to use your business email rather than an employee or personal email that you might lose access to at a later date. If you’ve ever used a Google service before, you’ll have an account ready to go.
If you’re an established business, chances are you’ll have a listing on Google Maps already that’s been crowdsourced from information that users have supplied themselves. Once you find and claim your entry on Google Maps, you’ll be able to change the (potentially incorrect) information that kind strangers on the internet have given already. An unclaimed listing will look something like this:
As you can see, this business has an address and opening hours, but no contact information or other details. When you find your business, click on the “Claim this business” button and follow the prompts on screen.
Most of the settings are self explanatory, but one thing you’ll need to think carefully about is which category you identify your business as. Google has a limited number of categories and the choice of category can heavily influence which keywords Google prioritises when it’s determining your search ranking.
You’ll likely need to verify your request with Google. Typically, they’ll send a postcard to the address of the business with a code that you can enter to verify your identity. Sometimes they might just call your phone number and check your identity that way.
So I’ve got myself a listing, what next?
Good reviews, up-to-date information and a link to a strong website will all help in getting into the Three Pack.
By keeping your images up-to-date and adding small posts with relevant announcements, promotions or just colourful commentary, you can let Google know that your business is active and engaged with potential customers. Consistent and authentic work here will be recognised by the algorithm. It won’t happen overnight, but if you make sure that your listing is populated by the kind of relevant content Google is looking for, you can give yourself a leg-up against your competitors.
The journey to effective SEO can be a long and hard one, but for a properly setup and maintained My Business profile is an essential starting point.