You've probably heard of and seen these little local search packs pop up when you've searched for a restaurant to take your honey out on the weekends. Little did you know that there's a pretty big game going on behind the scenes to show up there... a big part of it is fed through the Google My Business platform.
Google My Business is a free tool for any organization (business, non-profit, artist, you-name-it!) to centrally manage their information across Google search properties. The tool allows you add vital information including Name/Address/Phone (NAP), website, hours of operation, industry/niche/catagory, photos, company description, etc. which are then used to fuel search and map results.
Why Should I Care?
Google My Business = free visibility, leads, and sales. Why? Showing up high in search results and with attractive, differentiated listings vs. the standard results are key to your customers choosing you over your competitors and building trust with your brand.
I have personally seen a business verify their listing, fill out their profile, and the first month their profile was active they got over 11K views and 100 directly attributable sales from calls to the unique phone number plus the many more that came through eCommerce from customers clicking to the website from their listing.
How it works:
Google My Business listings power search results in a couple of ways
Google's algorithm for local results looks primarily at relevancy, distance, and prominence. As we've seen, it is critical to rank in the top 3 in a local box for non-branded queries, so here are some tips to optimize:
1. Ensure your listing information is complete and correct. Incomplete info will ding your relevancy scores and you may not show up for your niche.
2. Delete duplicate / incorrect listings. This can be hard to wrangle sometimes if you don't have control over a profile, but if you find multiple listings it is worthwhile, especially if they have diferent information. Luckily, you can contact the Google My Business team for some help here.
3. Set up other non-Google My Business local listings and ensure they're correct. Having profiles on other platforms will help boost your prominence score for Google's local results and can also generate some additional traffic for you in the process. BUT you must ensure they are correct or you could end up hurting yourself with conflicting/incorrect information.
4. Leverage the most descriptive categories possible. You can find a complete list of the categories for all countries here. For example, if you are an air conditioning repair service, selecting "Air Conditioning Repair Service" is INFINITELY better than "contractor"
5. Respond to reviews, positive or negative - as Google says: "Responding to reviews shows that you value your customers and the feedback that they leave about your business." If you have customer with a negative experience, I typically recommend offering a channel for the customer to engage directly with a manager.
6. Ensure your service area is set properly. You want to maximize your distance score, so you want to include all the areas you service if you service folks at their location (i.e. you're a lawn care professional who services a 25 mi. radius from his home base).
7. Verify ALL office locations. There are definite distance benefits to having the office closest to your customers verified. It can also help you as a manager of all of them keep tabs on how things are going at each location from looking at customer reviews. This information will help you take corrective action if needed.