‘Google My Business’ For Small Businesses & Why It Matters
If you’re not a tech-savvy solopreneur, not yet running a small business online, or don’t yet have a website — keep reading— ‘Google My Business’ is for you.
What is Google My Business?
Let’s start with what it’s not.
Google My Business is not the same thing as your Google Business Profile. Instead, think of it as an additional layer of control over your Google Business Profile — one that allows you to optimize its visibility and effectiveness for driving traffic to your business and/or your business’s website.
Your Google Business Profile is simply your business listing on Google. Setting up this profile (correctly) means your business appears on Google Maps and in local search results. Based on your business name, category, and address, a Business Profile is essentially the same as creating a pin in Google Maps.
Once verified by Google, your Business Profile will start to appear in local searches and provide customers with the opportunity to leave reviews and interact with your business. Google might even add additional, relevant content pulled in from other online sources. Clearly, as the business-owner, you want to have full control over your Business Profile.
So that’s where Google My Business comes in. This free tool allows you to optimize the content that appears on your Business Profile through search and maps. By setting it up, you not only have the ability to manage your profile, you’ll gain access to powerful functionality that can increase your online visibility.
Why do solopreneurs and small businesses need Google My Business?
According to research from Google, 60% of smartphone users contact businesses directly from the search results. And when you consider that (as of December 2021), Google accounted for 86% of the search market — that’s a huge amount of potential traffic heading your way.
Google My Business lets you take control of your Business Profile, so when customers search for you, you have a say in what they see and read about your business — from relevant images to customer reviews. Should your business hours change, move location, or temporarily close; all of that information can be updated and readily available at the fingertips of anyone searching you out.
The most obvious benefit of Google My Business for solopreneurs and small businesses is that it helps you get discovered. Your business listing helps customers find you on foot or online because you provide details like your address, opening times, website, and phone number. And if you’re a small business owner or solopreneur, your business’s pin will also appear in ‘nearby business’ searches on Google Maps.
Another advantage of Google My Business is social proof in the form of ratings and reviews. Now, a good business has nothing to fear, but you may have understandable concerns about customers leaving negative and potentially harmful reviews. In fact, evidence suggests that customers find a mixture of reviews more trustworthy. Plus, you have the facility to respond, and openly demonstrate that you’re prepared to go the extra-mile for your customers. You can also request removal if a review doesn’t meet Google’s guidelines.
As well as being an invaluable tool for building trust through social proof, Google My Business has the added benefit of enabling you to interact with customers by responding to reviews, answering questions, and direct messaging. This opens up a whole new channel for customer engagement with your brand and business.
Once you’re up and running (more on that later) with Google My Business, you’ll very quickly start to accumulate data on your local search performance and audience. In a world of ‘big data’, any forward-thinking solopreneur or small business looking for growth would do well to take a data-driven approach. And while the path to actually doing that might be unclear for a lot of companies, Google My Business lowers the barrier to entry.
Another amazing thing about Google My Business are the powerful and simple-to-use analytical tools included — for free. You don’t need to be a computer scientist to uncover some useful insights, including:
- Searches people made to find you.
- Unique users who viewed your profile.
- The number of customers requesting directions.
- Call button and website links clicks made.
- Bookings made (through a third-party provider).
- The number of unique conversations in your messaging.
This data can also help you formulate a more effective Search Engine Optimization (SEO) strategy. If you’re less technically inclined, SEO is simply the process of making web pages more visible to search engines (and customers).
On a fundamental level, search engines need certain information to be able to effectively crawl (discover), index (imagine a library) and rank web pages. By optimizing your Google My Business content, you can increase your visibility in particular searches, based around specific keywords linked to your business category and geographic location (which is why the ‘searches people made to find you’ data is so handy).
As we’ve already explored, every website requires SEO fundamentals to ensure pages get picked up and correctly categorized by search engines. But SEO really comes into its own when you’re competing on a local level.
How can you use Google My Business to boost your SEO?
When you’re up against large, global competitors on the search engine results page (SERP) it can be tricky to keep your content on the first page of results (and most people don’t look beyond this). However, gaining a competitive advantage through well-optimized Google My Business content at a local level is very straightforward.
Start with your business description. You’re only allowed 750 characters — so make them count! In your description, include keywords associated with your business, including geographic information. Keep it natural-sounding. Try to do the same thing in any other written content you post, such as responses to reviews.
For solopreneurs, another good tip is to include your company name alongside your own name when you input the name of your business. This means that whether people hear and remember your business name or you, they’re sure to find it more easily.
Take this example from KHULA Design Studio™ client, Kaelan Hanslo. A Google search for Kalean or his business, The Wellness Hub, Randburg, brings up the same Business Profile in the top-right panel. Try it!
As with website SEO, you need to keep your written content natural-sounding, trustworthy, and on target. At the same time, you need to keep your data updated and as accurate as possible.
Make sure any changes to your contact details, location, opening hours and so on are kept current. Making regular posts, including business photos, will also help signal an active business and improve your visibility.
Google My Business allows you to add photos to ensure you’re making the right impression. Alongside your cover photo and logo, you’ll also want to include different photos to highlight key aspects of your business. They’re also a great way to differentiate your business from your competitors.
Another tip is to rename photos before uploading them, ideally with some of your keywords. This should help to increase their visibility, and are another potential route for searchers to arrive at your Business Profile or website. Google’s research shows that businesses that add photos to their profiles receive 35% more click-throughs to their websites.