Google has always been on the leading edge of the search business, but because the company has numerous search platforms that focus on “local search," and competition from sites like Yahoo, Yelp and Tripadvisor, getting attention for a small business could be challenging. Google's local search functions were also often branded with lots of different names and functions, so telling the difference between Google + , Google Places, Google Maps and Google Local could be dizzying.
It's easier now. Last year, Google rolled out an integrated, streamlined application called “Google My Business" to make the process of managing local business data, customer reviews and social interactions much easier across all of its platforms including Google Search, Google Maps, and Google +. The company calls it “a free and easy way to find and connect with your people, wherever you are." In short, it's a great tool for local listings. But are you using it right? Here are a few tips to help you make the most of your Google My Business experience.
1. First, Fill Out Your Business Information
All of Google's applications function on the quality of data that you provide, and Google My Business is no different. Simply listing your address and phone number might have been good enough in the days of the yellow pages, but today's customers are used to having accurate information at their fingertips. Your address should be correct so customers can find you on the map. You also want to be explicit in elements like your hours of operation, payment options, and other categories. Google My Business is also excellent in integrating imagery, so adding photos, videos and even a virtual tour is a good idea to entice customers into visiting your business. Properly managed and maintained, all of your small business' information, content and data can be provided to your customers via Google My Business. This gives you the edge over your competition because your customers have all the valuable information they need at their fingertips, while your competitors have forced them to wander through a potentially confusing website just to see when they open or what's on the menu.
2. Go Social with your Customers
There are lots of ways to engage with your customers using Google My Business, and if you have a loyal fan base, this is a great way for your customers to show their gratitude with ratings and reviews, using the +1 button to praise your content, and re-share your posts across the web and with their own social network.
Another fun way to connect with your customers is the ever-popular Google Hangout. You can get together with your customers to answer their questions, share new products and techniques, or offer a spontaneous cooking lesson for 10 or 15 customers. Google Hangout also allows you to stream and archive your videos, which generates content for you to share not only on Google My Business but also on other popular social networks like YouTube and Facebook.
3. Reviews are Good
Online reviews can seem complex, but they're good for you and your business. Online reviews have opened up a new frontier for word-of-mouth marketing and Google My Business can be a powerful source of free advertising for your services. It's also a way to respond to not-so-great reviews by responding to your client or customer. Simply respond quickly with modesty and decency, and offer an authentic explanation to that unhappy customer. It's not just about responding to reviews, either. It is definitely worth your time to monitor reviews of your business on a regular basis to ensure that your online reputation and word on the street about your place of business is good. You can even set up a Google Alert, to inform you when key words specific to your business appear online.
4. Engage with your Customers in Meaningful Ways.
Remember that Google My Business is not just a static page. It's a constantly evolving creation that can be used to engage in creative and meaningful interactions with your customers. By blogging, leading a Hangout, posting fresh content regularly and responding to your customers, your company's presence on Google My Business gives you a much better chance of being found by new customers. It is also worth grading yourself regularly to gauge how well you are engaging with your customers. Take the time to explore Google Trends and Google Analytics to help you identify who is a fan of your small business, what kind of content turns them on, and how much they want to see, so you can better engage with them in the future. But in the end, if you build it, they will come.