If you are a small or medium sized business, there is a good chance one of your main goals is to show up in a Google search when your customers are looking for your product or service. From dentists and daycares to leatherworkers and construction contractors, showing up in Google search can be an extremely effective way to grow your business.
Showing up in Google is the entire goal of SEO, but it is not the only strategy you can use to get found by local searchers. Or, rather, there is a slightly more niche version of SEO called Local SEO that is designed to help your company get found by local residents in your area.
One of the first steps in Local SEO is to set up a Google My Business account.
If you are thinking “But, wait, is this just another thing I am going to have to update all the time? I don’t have time for that!” In fact, it is one of the most effective steps you can take to be found locally – AND it is totally free. We will walk you through exactly what Google My Business is, what it does, how it works, and how it can help you.
What is Google My Business?
Google My Business is a free tool created by Google that allows you to easily manage all the information Google has about your business all in one place. This includes the information users find through Google searches, Maps, and any other Google products. This is by far the strongest tool for any local business who wants to get found by their customers or potential customers. And, best of all, it is totally free to use.
Isn’t this the same as “Google Places?”
Not quite, though it is close. Google Places was the original iteration of what is now called Google My Business. The new dashboard incorporates a variety of software acquired by Google over the years and combines it all into one place. It is easier to use and has more functions than Google Places.
What are the features?
Now that you know what Google My Business is and how it differs from Google Places, let’s talk about what features it offers. The short answer is – a ton. You can share so much information with your customers through Google My Business.
Here is a rundown of the features:
- Display and edit your name, address, and phone number
- Share a link to your website
- Share pictures, menus, services lists, and more
- Share a virtual tour
- Manage multiple locations
- Respond to reviews
- View insights about who views your page
How Does It Work?
Setting up a Google My Business account is quite simple, even for the not-so-tech-savvy. You will, however need a Google account if you don’t already have one.
Then, go to google.com/business and click “Start Now”. You will be directed to sign into your Google account, and then be taken to this page, where you can create your listing and verify that you are the owner. This is generally done through a post card, which includes a verification code. Once you have created your account, you will be able to manage and update all the information Google has about your business.
Why Does My Company Need it?
Think about the last time you needed something – anything, really. A new dentist, a massage, a haircut, or even just wanted pizza for dinner? What did you do? Most people go straight to their smartphones and start searching. They type in phrases like “pizza near me”, “hair cut Rogers Park Chicago”, or “family friendly dentist.” Getting found on Google allows you to reach customers when they are ready to spend money.
Did you know that 3.5 billion searches are performed on Google each day? And, that number will continue to grow as more and more people gain access to the internet through their smartphones and tablets. If your business is not on Google, your business has little chance of being found.
Have you ever had someone complain that your hours weren’t right online, but when you checked your website or Facebook they were correct? Or a customer complain that your prices were higher than what they found online? There is a good chance that Google is returning outdated information for their web search. Creating and updating Google My Business helps you control all that information so your customers get the right information.
Can I still use Google My Business if I don’t have a store front?
Generally, no. According to Google: “In order to qualify for a Google My Business listing, a business must make in-person contact with customers during its stated hours.” Businesses that only interact online or don’t have a store front (Think e-commerce, artists, or organizations that are not open to the public) are encouraged to create a brand page instead of a Google My Business page.
Google My Business offers small to medium-sized businesses a unique opportunity to connect with their customers and compete with larger, more established brands. Set up your page today, and get ready to connect and share with your customers.