Google My Business: Get Ready to Welcome Customers Back22.05.2020
With a route out of the UK’s COVID-19 lockdown outlined, many businesses are busy planning and preparing for welcoming customers back in person over the coming days and weeks.
Alongside in-person considerations, such as Perspex screens and one-way systems, there are ways to adapt and improve your online presence to better communicate with and attract customers to your business.
You might have already considered improvements to your website or what to post on your business’ social media profile during the crisis – but you might have overlooked a great tool for helping local customers find you – and that’s Google My Business.
What’s Google My Business?
Google My Business, or GMB for short, is a free tool provided by Google. It can be used by businesses with either a physical location or offering services to a specified geographical area.
You’ll most likely know it from Google Maps – the results shown when you search for a nearby restaurant, shop or plumber are powered by Google My Business profiles.
It provides businesses with an opportunity to gain more visibility in local searches – as well as being shown to people searching on Google Maps, a ‘local pack’ – consisting of a map and three top-rated search results – also appears on the standard Google search results for relevant queries.
If your business address has been listed online for a while – such as on your website, on a Facebook business page, or on online directories – then you might find that you already have a GMB profile which has been automatically generated.
However, to get the most benefit from this tool, you need to ‘claim’ your profile in order to be able to manage it directly.
What are the benefits of claiming a GMB profile?
Claiming your GMB profile will allow you access to manage the information about your business currently provided, as well as add more content to your profile to better demonstrate what your business provides to customers.
With a claimed profile, you’ll be able to:
- Update any inaccurate information about your business, such as an old address or out-of-date contact details.
- Respond – as the business owner – to customer reviews, whether they’re good or bad.
- Add more detail to optimise your profile, such as a description, products and services provided and photos of your business.
- Receive and respond to direct messages from customers.
- Add ‘posts’ – like social media updates, with text, photos, videos and links – to highlight your latest offers, news and updates.
How to set up your GMB profile:
1. You’ll need a free Google account to be able to claim, create or manage a listing. If you’ve not already got one, head to Google.com and click ‘sign in’ in the top right. Then on the sign in page, click ‘create account’ and ‘to manage my business’. You’ll be able to create a Google account either using an existing email address, or set up a free gmail account.
2. Search for your business on Google. If a profile appears, look for the ‘own this business?’ link and click – it’ll send you to a confirmation page where you need to click ‘manage now’. You’ll then be given the available options to receive a verification code, which prove that you own the business – this can include receiving a call to the phone number Google already has for your business, being sent an email to an ‘@yourdomain.com’ address, or having a postcard sent to the registered business address. You’ll be able to make edits to your profile straight away, but they won’t go live until the changes have been reviewed and the listing has been verified.
3. Set up a listing if one doesn’t already exist. Your Google search might not have shown up an automatically generated listing for your business – this is normal if your business has only recently started using online channels, or you don’t have an address for your business listed online anywhere. Go to https://www.google.com/business/ and click ‘manage business’ which will take you to the ‘manage locations’ page. Click the blue button for ‘Add a location’ and then ‘add single location’. The tool will then guide you through a series of steps to input your basic business information, such as your business name and location. You’ll need to verify that you own the location, and this will most often be done by receiving a postcode with a verification code to the business address you’ve entered.
5 basic checks and optimisations for your newly claimed listing:
1. Check the name of your company is up to date and accurate.
Consistency is key – so your business name should appear as it does elsewhere, for example on your website, business cards, any company vehicles and on online directories. Don’t be tempted to try and stuff keywords into it – this goes against Google’s policies – and if the profile was automatically generated before you claimed it, check for and remove any strange characters that have appeared.
2. Ensure your opening hours are correct – or add them if they’re missing.
You can add temporary hours if you’re not running your usual opening hours – for example, because of changes to service with COVID-19 or due to a bank holiday. It’s important to ensure the information is accurate so that customers aren’t left frustrated if they turn up and you’re closed.
3. Check your contact details.
You can include a phone number and your website, as well as your location if customers can visit your business address.
4. Add a description.
There’s space for 750 characters for you to add a brief description of your business – what makes you different, your history or something you want customers to know straight away. This appears on your profile and is a quick way to introduce your business without relying on people visiting your website to find out more.
5. Add any appropriate photos or images.
This can include:
• Your logo
• A suitable cover photo for your profile
• Photos of the inside of your location – to show customers what to expect and influence their decision to visit
• Photos of the outside of your location – to help customers find you and recognise your business. This could also demonstrate the experience with you – for example if you have outdoor seating or a scenic location.
• Photos of your team, or ‘at work’ photos
• Photos of products or services
Photos need to be between 10KB and 5MB, and should be a minimum of 250px square (750px is the recommended size). The criteria from Google is that the photos should be taken at the business location and should be a realistic reflection of the business – photos with excessive filters or stock filters may get removed.
Maintaining your business listing:
To get the most from your profile, it also needs to be updated and monitored on an ongoing basis – in a similar way to a social media profile. Here are a few of the top things you should be looking to do each month:
• Reply promptly and professionally to any customer reviews – whether they’re good or bad! Replying to positive reviews helps to maintain a high level of customer service and demonstrates that your profile is being maintained. Negative reviews also need a calm and professional response to resolve the issues raised.
• Create posts to showcase your products, services or latest news. Posts will stay on your profile for 7 days then disappear – unless they’re promoting an event, in which case they’ll remain visible until the event date has passed. Posts can include text, an image and a link to direct customers towards more information.
• Use COVID-19 updates to provide the most current information to your customers. This new feature is likely to come in handy for many businesses as they navigate the different stages of lockdown. Unlike a normal post, which will disappear after 7 days, the COVID-19 updates appear to be staying visible for a longer period of time. They’re also placed in a prominent space on your listing, in order for customers to quickly get the information they need. The COVID-19 update can be used as a space to communicate whether you’re open, changes to services (for example, moving online or providing delivery), whether gift cards are available to support your business, or what you’ve put in place to keep customers safe.
These are just a few of the things you can do to get started with Google My Business. It can be a really powerful tool when used well – helping you to gain more visitors from Google Maps and local searches – leading to in-person visits, increased website traffic, calls and enquiries from potential customers.