For business owners in the United States today, having an online presence is no longer optional. Even if you do all of your business in person, many people will use the internet to find you or to help them decide if they’ll choose you or a competitor.
To be competitive, and even to connect with new customers, you have no choice but to be online. For many, that may mean building your own small business website or just a social media page.
Both of those are excellent options. A complete online marketing strategy, however, requires more. To maximize your reach and accessibility to customers, you should also be familiar with Google My Business.
What is Google My Business?
Google tries to provide helpful information for its users by creating online business profiles associated with real-life businesses and locations. Consumers looking for a business of a certain kind will find the compiled data there, including hours of operation and reviews.
Google My Business is a free tool businesses can use to update and manage their own public business profile on Google. You can file and create a business profile listing for your company if necessary, but you might find that locals have already created one for you!
Google My Business is specifically a tool for companies that have direct contact with customers. If you’re entirely online and don’t come into physical contact with any customers at all, it may not be helpful for you.
Why Small Businesses Need a Google My Business Account
No matter what you do, potential customers are going to Google your business. They might find your home site, or they might find your Google business profile. You need a GMB account to control what they see in that profile and make it into a more effective tool for outreach.
Managing your GMB account and profile is an easy and vital part of any digital marketing strategy today. With Google My Business, you can connect with local customers and grow your business with social media engagement across multiple platforms.
GMB helps would-be customers find out about your business. If they don’t know you exist, they can’t consider what you have to offer. Google uses its maps and business profiles to tailor search results to specific local areas.
That means that your profile will show up specifically for users in your area. However, your profile needs to have accurate and helpful information about what you offer for that to work.
As soon as a would-be customer discovers you, it should be as easy as possible for them to take the next step. The Google My Business web profile can end up serving as the first line of marketing that shows up for customers, piques their interest, and gives them the contact information to follow up.
Up to Date Information
If there’s already a listing for your business that you weren’t aware of, there’s a good chance the information isn’t correct. If you create an account, you can manage your information and make sure it’s as accurate and helpful as possible.
This is a quick way to keep public-facing information up-to-date. Your regular customers don’t want to have to scour your home page to find your current hours if their Maps application can give them what they need.
Boost Customer Confidence
The GMB listing may be the very first encounter customers have with your brand. That encounter needs to give them a good impression and invite them to find out more. With an informative and positive profile, you give customers the confidence to take the next step.
How to Create a Google My Business Listing
The first thing to do is search for your business and see if there’s already a listing. If there’s not a profile for your business already, you can create a new one.
Sign in to your Google account. Whichever account you sign into will be linked to your business profile, so think carefully before getting started.
Add Your Business
Now go to Google.com/business and click “sign in” or “manage now.” It will prompt you to identify your business listing if one already exists. If a profile doesn’t exist, click “Add your business to Google.”
Then you can type in your company’s name and pick the primary category of business your company falls under. Try to be as specific as possible, but you can pick something more general if Google doesn’t have a category that fits you perfectly.
Enter Your Location
Now you include the physical location for your business. For example, if you have a storefront, that will be your location. If you deliver your products or services from a private address, you’ll still use your private address location, but you can tell Google not to share that address publicly.
Enter Your Contact Info
Next, you should enter the contact info for your business. What phone number, website, or email do you want customers to use? The goal is to set up this profile as an entry point into an effective sales funnel for your business. This is a public profile, so be cautious about what contact information you use.
Finish and Manage
That’s everything you need. You’ve finished creating your listing! All that’s left to do is verify your business with Google.
How to Verify Your Business on GMB
To ensure accuracy and integrity, Google requires each business owner to verify their business before managing their public profile. Verification prevents someone from recklessly making up information for a business they have no connection to.
If there’s already a public profile for your business on Google, then verification will be the very first step.
The beginning of the GMB process will be the same, whether or not you already have a listing. First, sign in to the Google account you plan to use for your company profile, go to Google My Business, and tell Google which listing you’re trying to claim.
Now you need to choose how you’re going to verify your identity as the business owner. You have several options. Once you’re done with this process, the public profile will show that the verified owners manage it.
Your first option is to verify your business on GMB with a postcard. Google will send a postcard to the given name and business address in the listing. You should get the postcard in about five days, and then you can use the five-digit code on the card to prove that you are who you say you are and verify your business.
You can request a new postcard if you don’t get the first one, but each new one you request will invalidate the previous card and code.
If your business profile already has a phone number listed, you may be able to use the phone number to verify your business instead. First, check to be sure the listed number is the right one, and then tell Google you want to verify by phone. You should immediately receive an automated call with a code for you to enter online.
GMB might also give you the option to verify your identity and business by email. This is only possible if the business profile already clarifies that the business is associated with a specific email.
If you’re sure GMB has the correct email address on file, you can tell Google you want to verify by email. Then all you have to do is find the email in your inbox and follow the link to complete your verification.
How to Optimize Your GMB Profile
Once you’re verified, you can do anything you want with your GMB profile. This is a free marketing tool for you to take advantage of. Here are a few tips for getting everything you can out of this listing.
Fill Out Everything
Don’t leave any information fields empty. This is your chance to give interested users all the information they need to consider their options and come to you for their next purchase. There’s no point in being coy when you’re trying to stand out online. The more data you give them, the better.
Photos can do so much to add excitement, share the personality of your business, and invite customers in. An excellent visual of your store will be enticing, but it will also show customers what to expect. You can include photos of the exterior, the interior, and anything related to your goods and services that might help attract customers.
The goal is to make them feel comfortable, safe, and invited to walk through that door. A business profile with photos is going to get more results than one without.
When your hours or services change, don’t neglect to mention that on your profile! Not only is it essential to give customers the newest information, but it also shows observers that your business is alive and well! An active profile invites interest and engagement from active consumers.
Add Special Features
There is so much you can do! Include essential selling points and features in your profile to help people understand what you have to offer. For example, you can include a menu with pricing, whether you provide food or any other kinds of goods. You can also add brief videos to your profile to help show off your company’s personality and appeal.
The more you and your customers put into your GMB listing, the more worthwhile it will pay off. Encourage customers that come to your store to rate your business and leave a review on your page. That way, their experience will be there for others to see when they find you online.
You want your business profile to be a lively and engaging place with real customer interaction. Getting social with your small business is a way to invest in your customers and elicit more significant investment on their part as well.
Respond to Reviews
When it comes to reviews, any and all engagement is good. You want people to stop and think about your business and the experience you provided. Unfortunately, bad reviews are inevitable, and there’s nothing you can do to avoid them. Sometimes people have a bad day and look for a reason to be upset, and sometimes you or your employees will mess up.
The important thing is that you pay attention to your reviews, both good and bad, and that you respond to them. You want your page to be an active place with real engagement. Respond to good reviews, affirm that customer’s experience, and then respond to bad reviews. Try to empathize with upset customers and see what you can learn to help you improve in the future.
Work with an Expert
Whether you’re an established business owner or you’re starting a new business, marketing is essential. There’s so much that goes into growing and managing your company’s brand as it evolves! Don’t hesitate to seek out professional accounting and marketing services as you start your business. Hire an expert to help you make the right decisions for your company.