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Using Google My Business to reach local customers

22.05.2020
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With on-and-off restrictions, tier systems and multiple lockdowns, customers can easily lose track of whether businesses are open and whether they can still buy from them.

This is where the free tool Google My Business comes in. Frequently overlooked, it’s a great tool for reaching local customers and getting your up-to-date opening information directly into Google maps and search results.

Here’s how to use it to keep customers updated during the Covid-19 pandemic:

How does Google My Business work?

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, such as a shop or café; or offering services to a specified geographical area, like a plumber or electrician.

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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.

GMB 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 results for relevant search 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 to be able to manage it directly.

If you don’t have an automatically generated profile already, you can create a new listing from scratch.

Short on time? Find out more about our Google My Business Optimisation and Management service.

What are the benefits of claiming a GMB profile?

Claiming your GMB profile will allow you access to manage and edit the information about your business, as well as add extra 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  • Update any inaccurate information about your business, such as an old address or out-of-date contact details.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.
  • Optimise your profile, by adding a description, products, services and photos.
  • Receive and respond to direct messages from customers.
  • Add posts (a bit like social media posts) with text, photos, videos and links; to highlight your latest offers, news and updates.

How to set up your GMB profile:

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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 by using an existing email address or setting up a free Gmail account.

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2. Search for your business on Google. If a profile appears, click ‘own this business?’ and then ‘manage now’.

You’ll be given the available options to prove that you own the business, which can include:

  • A phone call to the number Google has for your business
  • An email to an ‘@yourdomain.com’ address
  • A postcard 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.

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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 postcard with a verification code to the business address you’ve entered.

Once you’ve verified your listing, follow these 5 quick checks to make sure your customers find the correct information:

 

1. Check the name of your company is up to date and accurate.

Consistency is key here – so your business name should appear the same everywhere. This includes on your website, business cards, any company vehicles and on online directories. Don’t be tempted to try and stuff keywords after your business name on GMB – this goes against Google’s policies. If you had an automatically generated profile you may need to 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 due to COVID-19 or a bank holiday. Accurate information here can cut down on phone calls to ask if you’re open, or customers becoming frustrated if they turn up and you’re closed.

3. Check your contact details.

You can include a phone number, a link to your website and your business address if it’s a location that customers can normally visit in person.

4. Add a description.

There’s a 750 character limit, which gives you space for 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 and capture attention without relying on people researching further to find out what you do.

5. Add photos or images to really ‘sell’ your business

These could include:

  • Your logo
  • A cover image
  • Photos of the inside of your location – to show customers what to expect and why they should visit.
  • Photos of the outside of your location – to help customers find you and recognise your business. These could also show the experience on offer – for example if you have outdoor seating or a scenic location.
  • Photos of your team, either posed or informal behind the scenes images.
  • Photos of products or services

Any photos uploaded 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 – images with excessive filters, GIFS and stock photography may be removed.

Need more help? Our Google My Business Optimisation & Management service covers all this and much more to fully optimise your listing.

Now you’ve got some basics set up, make the most of your profile by monitoring and maintaining it:

You wouldn’t (or shouldn’t) create a social media profile without updating it regularly and a GMB listing is similar.

Here are a few of the top things you should be looking to do each month:

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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 aren’t all bad – a calm response which aims to resolve the issues can paint your business in a very good light.

• 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 keep customers aware of any changes – such as whether you’re still open, providing online ordering or delivery, or what you’ve put in place to keep customers safe. This new feature is likely to come in handy for many businesses as they navigate the ever-changing landscape of restrictions.

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.

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Looking for more support?

Save time and get a fully optimised and effective listing with our Google My Business Optimisation and Management service!

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Hannah Wade

Founder of HeyYou! Digital. Avid drinker of tea.

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