Google My Business (GMB) was born out of its precursor, Google’s Local Business Center, and in the time since its inception has succeeded in polarizing lots of local business owners who have had to bear with the frustration of frequent changes and gaps in features. However, despite the winding road of its mixed past, GMB offers business owners a effective tool to optimize their discoverability and engagement with prospects and customers.

Powerful connections

When it comes to building a business’s online presence, we’re surprised to hear how often Google reviews and GMB are deprioritized in favor of Yelp, or other industry-specific sites and directories. While Yelp might be your own go-to to check out the ratings of a business, it’s a self-contained ecosystem. The research varies, but anywhere from 90-99% of consumers are reported to use search engines to inform buying decisions.

At it’s core, GMB shines a spotlight on local businesses in order to enhance both visibility and discoverability among local prospects. Google remains the most popular search engine in the world, so when prospects in your area are looking for a solution or product you sell, the search engine will display results that will provide a more in-depth introduction to your business and empower them to take the next steps. Not only do 50% of local mobile search result in a store visit within a day, on average, but 18% of local search results in a purchase at the store within a day. By taking advantage of the tools available through GMB, you can facilitate customer acquisition efforts and set your business up for success.

Setting up your business for success

The first step is claiming your business. You can go to the Google My Business site to get started, and it will walk you through some questions about your location and type of business. Enter your business’s details very carefully, as it’s vital to make sure your formatting for address and other info is consistent across the web, aiding in SEO efforts and customer experience. In order to limit fraudulent claims, GMB mails a physical postcard to the address you provide with a confirmation code. Keep an eye out for this, as it is a requirement to authenticate your listing.

Once your business listing is confirmed, make sure that you devote some time to fleshing it out. There tends to be a correlation between the amount of detail included and number of prospects who will convert into customers. Whether prospects are just beginning the initial stages of their research, or are ready to buy, they’re looking to find:

  • A solution that is as as close to a perfect fit as possible for their needs
  • A business they can trust (has great reviews, testimonials, or case studies)
  • Practical information: store hours, availability for appointments (where applicable), service radius, pricing, address, phone number, etc.
  • Visual aids: Try including photos of your business and the products or completed services you offer. This will help inform prospects expectations and determine if your business is a good fit.

Recent releases to drive customer engagement and acquisition

The past year has brought about a flurry of changes and releases to Google My Business. Make sure that once you’ve completed setup that you make a habit of checking in on your business’s GMB page on a regular basis (weekly is best, if not every day). Here are some features you should prioritize in your GMB strategy:

Google Posts

Google Posts empower business owners to get the word out about any specials, promotions, or events that your business is running. Similar to how you’re already sharing promotions across your various social channels, you can include information about these in Google Posts, that will surface in searches. These also enhance your SEO efforts.

Pros:

  • Posts appear at the top of mobile search engine results pages, securing prime real estate and increasing the likelihood that prospects will see them.
  • You can include a CTA button to drive more frictionless conversions. Current options: Learn More, Reserve, Sign Up, Buy, Get Offer

 

Cons:

  • Posts disappear after 7 days, so you must commit to sharing frequent updates. This should align with your existing strategy, as customers respond best to content that is consistent and fresh.

Q&A

This feature allows prospects or customers to submit questions for your business, that you can answer publicly. This is a feature popularized by a lot of ecommerce giants, like Amazon and aids in buying decisions. Perhaps you already find yourself fielding the same few questions from new prospects over and over again, and can see the value here. Even if not, it’s possible people were deterred from reaching out to get that answer, and simply moved on to a competitor. It’s hard to know what will ultimately be the deciding factor that gets any individual to a purchase decision, but by minimizing uncertainty it facilitates sales.

Pros:

  • Depending on the number of upvotes, the questions and responses will even populate in your business’s listing when users search.
  • Gets ahead of hesitations or anything that might be unclear, from real consumers

Cons:

  • You must have the Google Maps app logged into the same account as the one associated with your GMB profile in order to receive notifications about new questions posted by customers. Unanswered questions will send the wrong message about owner’s commitment to customer service and overall engagement with customers.
  • Customers can edit their questions AFTER you’ve responded to them. For this reason, it’s best to make your answers as specific as possible to get ahead of trolls who might try to misrepresent your business or the response

Search Editor

We devoted an entire post to chronicling everything you need to know about Google Search Editor’s update, if you’re looking for ways to get started. Basically, it removed all barriers to editing your GMB profile, by enabling owners to update their listing direct from the search results page/listing.

Chat

This feature has yet to be rolled out across the board, but is worth getting on your radar now. Evolving consumer trends in expectations prove that customers desire flexibility when it comes to the ways and channels they interact with businesses. Google’s latest Chat feature allows your customers to send your business messages in real time, directly in the search results page.

Pros:

  • Creates a great experience for the prospect or customer, underscoring your commitment to customer satisfaction
  • Instantaneous and in real time, so will not obstruct purchase decisions
  • Offers convenience in a familiar format

Cons:

  • You need to commit to monitoring any chats that come in
  • Unanswered chats could cause a negative affiliation with your business, and frustration for prospects

With an increasingly comprehensive set of tools, Google seems to be committed to empowering SMBs. Still, the manual nature of many of these features may prove to be unsustainable for busy local business owners. You know your customers better than anyone, so be sure to identify which levers will bring the most value to them and your business, and prioritize creation and maintenance in those areas. Although it takes commitment and consistency to manage the potential value speaks for itself as 37% of customers discovered local SMBs via online research in 2016.