It wasn't that long ago that we relied on the heavy brick of a book we called a telephone directory to list our business details so that our customers could find us.That combined with radio, newspaper or magazine advertising and TV (if we could afford the exorbitant prices), and we could place our business in front of our customers and potential customers. Times have changed though – and massively – due to Google's ever-widening reach on how people search.
What is a Google business listing and why do I need it?Having a Google business listing is so much more than ensuring your business appears in search results (although it's that too). A Google business listing gathers your business information – the information you've curated carefully yourself on search, Google maps and Google+. It gives your customers and potential customers all the information they need, from driving directions to hours of operation and, of course, your all important phone number. It also has the added bonus of helping you ‘build a loyal fan base' by allowing your customers to add reviews and giving you the option of responding to these reviews. If you think you don't need to worry about Google because you've got all your info on your website, think again. There are a lot of people out there who will Google your business and never visit your website. These people are generally after a quick bit of info – say, your phone number or your address, or perhaps they've googled to find the closest flooglebinder shop to their house. They're not likely to want to visit your site; they want their info, short and sharp. If you proactively manage your Google business listing, you are in control of what these flooglebinder hunters are going to see. Consider this:
59% of consumers use Google every month to locate a good local business. 71% of searchers value the information contained in local search results.In the past, you would have spent bucketloads on a simple Yellow Pages listing, so you can look at Google business listings as a super-economical alternative (that is going to be much more effective in this century). My favourite line on the Google business listing website is, ‘Playing hard to get: good for dating, bad for business'. And it's true. The number one reason for having a Google business listing is to have your information there ready for your potential customers, curated and updated by you, and it's something that accurately reflects how you want to represent your business.
Creating your Google business listingBefore we get into the step-by-step process of creating your Google business listing, you need to choose the right dashboard. This will make it easier in the long run. Google provides two dashboards for you to manage your information:
- Google My Business Use this dashboard if you are a business with one location.
- Google My Business Locations. Use this dashboard if you're a business with multiple locations. Google My Business Locations lets you manage multiple locations and can make it even easier when you have ten or more locations by allowing you to import a spreadsheet.
Tip! Gather all of your business information on your computer before you start. This should include all of your locations data, phone, email, address as well as a good amount of photos to show off your business.Once you've chosen which dashboard will suit your business you can then follow these simple steps.
- Go to Google My Business and click the ‘Get on Google' button.
- Sign in or create a Google account.
You'll need to sign in to your existing Google account or create a new one – it's free and super easy to set up. For those of you that are already signed in you'll skip this step.
Tip! Before you go creating a Google account just double-check your business doesn't already have one. If you are using Google Analytics to track and measure your website traffic then you will have a Google account already.
- Search for your business. Use the search box to search for your business.
- Select or add your business.
If you're an existing business you may already have a business listing, and by typing in your business name you can choose from the results Google displays. If your business is new, type your business name and address details. If there are no results displayed, click on ‘I've correctly entered the name and address'.
Tip! Make sure you ensure your (NAP) Name-Address-Phone-number appears consistently across the web. The address you use here should be the default you use – for example, St or Street.
- Add your business detail. In this step you will work through the fields to add your business detail. At the end of the form you will need to choose a category for your business. Google uses this category to classify your business based on preset categories or keywords for each industry (you can view a list of these here). Start typing to add your business category. You'll have the chance to add to these categories later on.
- Verify your business. Once you're happy with your business details, you can select the ‘verify now' button. Once you click the button you will be presented with options for verification. Only select options are available for businesses. In the example I've provided below you can see I only have the option to select verification by mail. Google offers 4 types of verification : Verify by postcard. The most common. You'll receive a postcard in the mail. If you want it to be addressed to you make sure you add your name into the field and give your team a heads up that it's on the way. Verify by phone. Make sure you can answer the phone at your business directly. A local number with no extension is best. The code will be provided in the call and you'll need to write this down. Instant verification. If you've already verified your business's website with Google Webmaster Tools you can use instant verification. Just a side note that only some business categories are eligible for this option. Bulk verification. For businesses with 10 or more locations you'll be able to use the Google My Business Locations. Once you have the verification number you can enter it into your dashboard.
Refining, optimising and making your business listing sweet!Once you've verified your business you'll be dropped into the editing area. The look and feel of this changes depending on whether you are using the app on a device – Android app, Apple app or on a desktop machine. Now it's a matter of systematically working through your business listing and updating or adding to the information. You want to refine and optimise and make your business listing as enticing as possible for your current and potential customers. The more inviting, descriptive and shareable content you add the better. Here are some tips for this:
- Edit info Getting the basic business info correct is very important. Check your business name and contact information. Review the category you've selected and add more if necessary. Remember the categories describe what your business is, not what it does or what it sells. Some very useful information here.
- Add photos Photos not only help people find your business but they can also showcase your brand, products and services. They are a brilliant way of visually representing your business. Check out this helpful resource provided by Google, it includes best practice sizes as well.
- Add a virtual tour Let your customers experience your location before they arrive by adding a virtual tour. Virtual tours are Google's answer to the 360 degree view. This is a great site for further information and examples.
- Manage your reviews Reviews provide feedback for potential customers as well as you as the business admin. It's important to manage your reviews and stay on top of good feedback by thanking them and bad feedback by responding. This article from Google has some great tips.
Maintaining your business listingHave I worn you out? Are you exhausted from creating and then optimising your business listing? Well wait, there's more! Just like search engine optimisation Google Business listings are an ongoing investment. Here are some tips for maintenance you can do on a regular basis:
- Review your basic information regularly. Phone numbers change, businesses move to new premises, products and services get added, deleted or updated. Set aside time to review your basic business listing information and ensure you check it across all of your locations.
- Review your photos and virtual tours. Are your photos current, have you got new ones you can add? It's not new research that tells us that customers respond to images and video, adding these progressively will add to your marketing arsenal. Also, review your street view image – make sure it is of your business.
- Manage your reviews. I've indicated this above but to add to this you might like to provide an offer to customers who review your business like a discount or special product offer.
- Take advantage of Google business insights. What an amazingly cool tool this is! Not only can you get your business listing out there on search, maps and Google+ but you can also track how your customers or potential customers interact with your business listing. You can see insights on the total number of views from maps, to photos. You can see who clicks, areas where customers have searched for driving directions, click to call and much more. In your scheduled maintenance it's worth reviewing this information and even adding any insights to your tactical arsenal.