Have you ever found yourself wondering where this whole Google Local thing came from? What is Google Local exactly and why should it even matter? Read on to discover the ins and outs of Google Local for small business and why it’s important to your SEO strategy.
Google Local for Small Business: What is it Anyway?
Google Local listings are the businesses and maps that display at the top of Google’s search results when you’re looking for a product or service. It used to be that these listings would show when you searched for a keyword accompanied by a specific city (i.e. Omaha pizza). But it’s no secret that local SEO is becoming increasingly important to Google, as evidenced in recent updates giving increased preference to listings within proximity to user locations.
Consequently, users no longer have to include a specific city or location within their search queries. Now, Google automatically gives preference to the listings nearest to the user’s location, as long as the query is determined to have local intent. So if you’re searching Google for a pizza place, simply typing the word “pizza” will show you the restaurants that are nearest to you first.
What’s more, Google has begun to more adequately tie all its information together under simple user accounts and dashboards. For businesses, this means that your Google Plus, Google Local, Google Maps, and other Google information is all tied together under one platform called “Google My Business.”
From here, you can claim your local business and optimize your profile. This lets users get place recommendations, publish their own photos and reviews, view your posts, and engage with your company in meaningful ways directly from their search results.
In short, optimizing your Google Local listing now involves optimizing ALL your Google information under one, easy-to-use platform.
This guide gives you a basic walk-through of Google Local SEO and Google My Business. You’ll learn how to improve your Google Local and Map rankings, communicate with your customers, control your online presence, and generate more leads across multiple devices using Google.
Showcase Your Business with GMB
Google My Business (GMB) provides a huge advantage for local businesses who claim their listing because while Google does prefer listings within proximity, they also give preference to listings with accurate and easy to validate information. The more you showcase detailed, accurate, and engageable information through GMB, the more likely you are to earn a top spot in Google’s local search results.
Here are some recent stats to show you how much your business listing can benefit by appearing in Google’s top search results:
These stats show clearly, it’s absolutely vital to optimize for Google local in 2020 and beyond. As such, Google My Business is an essential tool for your company to use in its SEO strategy.
GMB 101 – What is Google My Business?
Have you ever noticed the little profile that appears on the right-hand side of Google search results when you search for a business? It’s commonly referred to as the Knowledge Panel, but when it showcases business information it’s a Google My Business listing.
Google My Business (GMB) is a free tool business owners can use to manage the way their business appears in Google search results and Maps. You can claim your local business listing and update or validate your contact information, website, location, driving directions, business hours, photos, services, and much more.
Beyond just providing information about your business, GMB also provides a dashboard to respond to your customers’ reviews, upload photos of your business, gain insights on how and where people are searching for you, and share updates and informative posts about your business. If you have a service business, you can even accept bookings or share your menu.
GMB is a crucial tool to use in any local SEO strategy because it makes it easier for customers to find your business, learn about your services, and share reviews. It’s vital your information on Google is accurate, complete, and optimized since it improves your online visibility, SEO ranking, and ultimately, your sales.
Learn why you need to list all your locations in Google My Business.
GMB 101 - How Does Google My Business Work?
When someone searches Google for products or services, local business listings will dominate the results. So, if your business services match with their keywords and you’re located within proximity to them, your GMB listing should be displayed in their results.
The closer your business location is to the user, the more your business information matches with their query, and the higher you rank for the specific keywords the user searched for, the more likely you are to earn a top place and be seen. This is why it’s so important to use GMB and provide accurate and engaging information on your business profile.Your GMB information will display in three different places in search results, depending on how well you rank:
The user will be able to see your location, contact information, hours, and possibly other information from your GMB listing. In this way, businesses throughout the world are using GMB to stand apart from their competitors and attract more customers.
By optimizing your GMB listing, you gain opportunities to engage with your customers and learn more about them. The GMB dashboard allows you to see the audience your listing attracts, where they’re from, what they’re really searching for, and how well your business is matching up with that.
GMB 101 – Why Use Google My Business?
Whether you initiated it or not, your business is likely listed on Google. They collect information from various sources and the fact is, anyone can enter your business information and register it with Google. As such, you likely already have a GMB listing.
Go ahead and search for your business to see.
If you find your business, you may as well claim ownership of it. Google makes it easy for you by providing a link directly within the Knowledge Panel in the search results. Click on “Own this business?” and follow the prompts.
Think of it like this, would you rather make sure your listing is accurate and represents your brand well or just leave it in the hands of random strangers?
Claiming your GMB listing will help your business appear more prominently and professionally in local search results and trigger the Knowledge Panel to display important details. This leads to improved exposure online and creates opportunities to engage with potential customers and increase your sales.
Sure, you’ll need to spend a little time to optimize your listing and make an involved effort to keep it maintained. But Google has made the process fairly simple, plus the benefits far outweigh any investments it may require to keep a clean and engaging GMB listing. Furthermore, showing up in local searches can lead to big business.
Here are a few more stats to prove it:
Now imagine if you haven’t claimed your GMB listing and someone has shared old, outdated information. How many customers are you missing out on because they’re calling the wrong number or going to the wrong address? How many customers choose a different business because they can’t find out when you’re open?
Information about your business is going to exist online whether you put it there or not. You ought to make sure it’s at least accurate. But just in case you need more encouragement, here’s a detailed list of reasons why you should be using Google My Business in your local SEO strategy:
When someone searches for products and services, typically the first couple listings in Google’s results will be advertisements, followed by a map with the Local 3-pack, then organic results. Google will give preference automatically to relevant businesses within proximity to the user.
By creating a Google My Business listing, you can significantly increase your chances of making it into the Local 3-pack, showcasing your business on Google Maps and placing it before the organic search results. Since your GMB listing shares and verifies details about your business such as location, contact information, hours, etc., Google considers it a trustworthy source and makes it easier for customers to find you and potentially convert.
What’s more, local listings dominate mobile search results. Location settings enabled on mobile devices allow searches users make near your business, or within the area, to lead directly to your GMB profile.
Creating and optimizing your GMB listing doesn’t cost a thing and gives you almost immediate exposure, driving more traffic to your business. Utilizing such a valuable resource allows you to concentrate your marketing budget elsewhere. On the other hand, a Google Ads campaign requires a significant budget, while relying on website SEO alone takes too long to show results.
Through GMB, not only can you share your business information, but you can create posts which are showcased in Google Search and Maps. So, you can get found locally and simultaneously raise awareness about topics relevant to your business.
Users have become familiar with the GMB profiles appearing in their Google search results. Not only do they look professional, but they provide key information and engaging content - from driving directions to recent announcements to special offers on new products. Visitors want to know these things about the businesses they frequent and in fact, they’ve come to expect it. GMB helps you appear as the credible authority.
GMB has a messaging feature, allowing you to chat directly with users who find you in their Google search results. You can quickly answer questions from interested users in real-time, as well as provide support to your current and potential customers.
Reviews are crucial to consumers considering a purchase. In fact, 97% of buyers read reviews for local businesses. Google My Business makes it easy for your customers to leave feedback and reviews, so future buyers have an easier time finding you.
You can get honest insights into the things you’re getting right and the areas where your business could improve. You can also respond to reviews from your GMB dashboard to solve problems or note your gratitude to your customers. And if that wasn’t enough motivation, you can have it all featured in your listing within Google’s search results so users can see it right away. It’s a no brainer for boosting your appeal, building trust, and creating confidence for your current and potential customers.
GMB collects and displays data for you to better understand user behaviors. You can discover how your visitors found you, what actions they took, and what they’re searching for. This can help you to better optimize your listing or even your website so it’s easier for users to find your business and become customers.
Your competitors are likely to have a GMB listing, so you should have one too if you want to remain competitive. Then you can optimize it to focus on the areas where your business stands apart from your competition. But if your rivals don’t have Google My Business, then you’ll gain the competitive edge by claiming and optimizing your listing and earning a preferential place in search results.
GMB 101 - Google My Business Features
Google My Business provides business owners with a host of free features they can use to increase their business exposure in Google local search results. Here are a few pretty awesome ones you should be taking advantage of:
Website: Let’s face it. Building, hosting, and maintaining a business website can be very expensive and very time consuming. Google has set out to alleviate this pain point for smaller businesses by allowing them to create a simple website within their Google My Business platform.
Insights: The GMB dashboard displays key data about user activities and interactions regarding your business listing. This lets you learn what’s working and what’s not so you can optimize your listing in a way that attracts consumer attention.
Posts: You can post custom updates and offers directly from your GMB dashboard, and they will show up in search results. Invite customers to make return visits, share your blog, introduce a welcome offer, or get the news out about an upcoming event!
Menus and Bookings: If you’re a service business like a restaurant or salon, you can allow customers to schedule appointments or place orders directly from your GMB listing in their search results.
Manage Reviews: Keep track of your customers’ reviews and respond to them directly from within your GMB dashboard. Learn what you’re getting right, what you can improve, and how you’re ranking compared to the competition.
Q&A: Users can ask questions about your business directly from Google search results, so you’ll want to be sure you’re keeping an eye on this feature and responding in a timely manner. Other users can answer questions too, so you want to make sure you’re answering first and getting the right information out there. You can even pin FAQs to try and get ahead of the game.
Photos and Videos: Consumers respond more to businesses with professional, high-quality, and engaging visuals. Google My Business allows you to upload photos and videos to attract users to visit you. Just make sure they’re directly related to your business and keep video length to a minimum.
How to Manage Google Local for Small Businesses
So, now you’ve learned all about Google Local, Google My Business, and why you should be using these tools in 2020. The logical next step is to learn HOW to use these tools. Fortunately, Google has made the process extremely simple with tutorials and prompts built directly into your dashboard. So, for the sake of avoiding redundancy, we’re going to direct you to a previous guide we’ve written on that topic here:
Google My Business Checklist
10 things you can do to make your Google My Business page attract new customers.
But claiming your GMB listing is just the start of your local marketing journey. The initial set up is fairly simple, but then you’ll need to keep it maintained by consistently updating new or changing information, providing engaging content for Google users, managing reviews, keeping up with Q&A, tracking performance and making changes accordingly… This is the part where it can get tedious.
As a small business with all sorts of operations, procedures, and orders to keep track of (and limited employees to help) it can be easy to let your GMB listing take a back seat.
To make the process easier and get more from your GMB listing, perhaps you should consider letting us help. Inline Complete Marketing is a full-service digital marketing agency, offering everything from web design services to SEO to email campaign automation – and yes, we can help you save some time and hassle easily by managing your Google Local so you can just sit back and reap the benefits. We can:
Manage your local reputation:
We’ll help you manage the creation and optimization of your GMB listing every step of the way and maintain it into the future. We’ll verify and update your information, make sure it’s presenting correctly, suggest features you should be using, make you aware of new features, help set up your FAQs and mobile features, and remind you when you have unanswered reviews or questions. Your local listing will always be current and engaging, so Google users looking for a business like yours won’t have to look far.
Publish GMB posts to increase your following:
Regular business-related posts on your GMB listing help your page rank higher in search results. We can post special offers, announcements, news, events, new product or service offerings, and your blog posts - complete with call-to-actions that pull potential customers into your landing pages, website, or social profile. We always add pictures and videos to your posts to attract more viewers and increase engagement.
Provide performance reports:
We’ll provide you with a printable report on your Google My Business analytics and insights, including metrics such as reviews, user actions, post views, and search performance. By understanding what Google users are looking for and how they’re responding to your listing, you’ll be able to optimize your profile and ensure your business is being put in front of the right users at just the right time. Grow your business and popularity, create a community of loyal followers, and drive sales!
Google My Business is an absolute must for small business owners who need to build a local following. Within minutes, you can start showing up in searches from local customers trying to find a business like yours.
But while GMB features give you everything you need to target potential customers locally, it does require regular engagement and a highly optimized listing. At Inline Complete Marketing, we make it easy for you to maintain a consistent presence on Google and drive more traffic so you can earn more paying and loyal customers.