Google My Business is like the Snoop Dogg (or is that Snoop Lion, or Snoopzilla?) of the Google-sphere.
The online dashboard – which allows businesses and organizations to expertly manage their online presence – has changed identities so many times it’s easy to see how users could be confused.
It all started as Google Local back in 2004, then transitioned to Google Places with the addition of mapping services six years later, before segueing swiftly into Google + Local, which wrapped all business data up into one tidy, easily accessible package.
In 2014, the directory settled into its Google My Business persona and its role as a mega SEO-builder for local businesses. Good news: if you used one of those earlier versions, you were automatically upgraded to a GMB account.
But the benefits don’t end there. Google My Business is:
- 100% free.
- Intuitive and easy to use.
- Accessible from virtually any location, at any time.
- One site for all of your business’s pertinent information – location, map, photos, reviews, and more
- An aggregate for customer reviews that allows you to respond and communicate with your customers.
- A gateway to all Google tools, including AdWords, Google Maps, and more, which allows you to seamlessly manage and integrate your online presence, increasing your chances of being found online.
Additionally, setting up a company listing in Google My Business is a snap, requiring nothing more than a Gmail account (also free).
The trick to maximizing GMB’s potential, however, is creating a complete, verified, and optimized listing. Google ranks based on relevance, distance, and prominence, so making sure all of your ducks are in a row is integral to landing in the top spots on an SERP.
Surprise – Your Business Might Already Be Listed
According to a 2016 study by the Local Marketing Institute, approximately 56% of small businesses have not claimed their Google My Business listing.
Don’t be one of them.
You can search GMB for your business here. If it already exists in the directory, claiming it is critical.
“But, wait,” you say. “How did this even happen?!”
Google does this sort of thing. They extract various data about businesses from the depths of the Internet, massive marketing lists, Yelp, Yext, the government, and other sources, and use this information to populate their interface.
Until you confirm that your listing is, in fact, yours, competitors could potentially swoop in and claim it as their own – which is why it is important that you locate, claim, and verify it.
How Important Is Verifying Your Business? It’s So Important…
Verification prevents imposters and competitors from claiming your business as their own. It lets Google know you are the rightful owner of your business, increases the chances that your company will show up in a local search, and allows you to categorize your services.
Most often, after you claim your listing, you will receive a postcard and accompanying PIN in the mail. (Make sure your coworkers don’t toss it.) Follow the instructions on the card to complete the verification process.
It is important to keep in mind: a Google My Business listing is “owned” by whoever verifies it. On occasion, when searching for your business, you may find it has been verified by someone else already.
Often, this is an honest mistake – the result of a former employee or a forgotten email address – and can be remedied with an email, a transfer request, and a smile.
Other times, competitors or other duplicitous individuals may pose as you and verify your listing as their own. Imposters can even edit that listing to direct potential visitors away from your website.
In cases like these, you’re going to need to get Google involved directly.
Get Ready, Get Set, Optimize
Once you’ve claimed and verified your Google My Business listing, dig in and make sure everything is up-to-date, accurate, and optimized. Here are a few starters:
- Use your complete, exact street address, down to the last comma. Do NOT use a PO Box. Add your suite or office number separately.
- Use your local phone number, not an 800 number.
- Triple check your business hours to ensure accuracy.
- Encourage your customers to submit reviews. Respond to all reviews in a professional and polite manner.
- Choose a few select categories that best represent your business and its purpose. Do not throw everything at the wall, hoping that it will increase your visibility.
- Upload engaging, high quality photos.
Using Google My Business couldn’t be easier. At the same time, it couldn’t be more involved. Like your company or organization, the key to success is diligent observation, involvement, and fine-tuning.
Need help? IMPACT Marketing & Public Relations has known Google My Business since those early Google Local days. We’ll be here for the next name change, too. Give us a call.