In this age of instant access to the whole of human knowledge through magical devices we call smartphones, it is imperative that all businesses utilize every possible means of reach and engagement.
It has become a common practice to look up ideas on what to do and where to go before venturing off onto the streets. No one wants to arrive at an establishment just to find out that the business is closed. We have the Internet to advise us, saving us time and frustration.
So what is one of the easiest and most impactful ways to bring more customers through your doors? A properly updated and managed Google My Business listing. In other words, getting your business on Google.
The Rise of Local Search Results
Today everybody and their mothers (and probably grandmothers) have smartphones. All smartphones have GPS features that can tell Google (and other apps and search engines) the specific geographic location of the user. This may sound Orwellian to some, but for business purposes it’s not a bad idea to take advantage of what is already widely accepted.
Not too long ago, search engines needed users to include the location they wanted search results from, e.g. “marketing agency in Los Angeles.” Now, when an individual performs a search through their smartphone (and even most desktops), location is already accounted for through the GPS and other location tracking methods. And since Google says people are searching more on their phones than on their computers, location prioritization takes place in the majority of searches. This effort boils down to Google’s ultimate goal of bringing you the most relevant search results to increase CTRs (click-through-rates).
Particularly when you are searching for a tangible product or service, a Google Map image of your area will appear along with a list of 3 relevant local businesses (this is called the Local 3-Pack).
Above are sample results for “washing machine repair” on a desktop.
Above are sample results for “sporting goods” on an Android smartphone.
Users have become accustomed to this type of search result because it’s useful. Right off the bat the user can clearly find the hours of operation, phone number, and a link to the website. Clicking on one of the boxes takes you directly to Google Maps on desktop, and to the listing page on smartphones where you can obtain directions, see photos, see the map, and read reviews. All of these things are set up through a Google My Business listing.
Get Your Business on Google
Search for Google My Business, click on the main site and then follow directions. You will be able to verify ownership through a postcard or phone call. Make sure all of the information on your listing is up-to-date because it’s the only thing that matters. You don’t want a potential customer to drive to your store only to find out the hours of operation was changed but not reflected in the listing. They may not give you a second chance. Spend some time taking decent high-quality pictures of your store (inside and out), store logo, products, and (possibly) employees to upload onto your listing. Reviews will eventually roll in, or you can politely ask your customers for some. All of the above will aid in making your listing (and subsequently your business) appear alive. It will be a familiar place that people want to visit.
Once you are done with set-up, your business listing will appear in Google search results and in Google Maps — both very important sources of new customers. Don’t worry if you don’t see your listing right away. Google occasionally takes some time to refresh their systems.
Above is Salted Stone’s Google My Business dashboard.
We Got a Review — Now What?
Reply, reply, reply! Doesn’t matter if you got a good or bad review, it’s a best practice to always respond. The reasoning is simple: The reviewee took the time to find your page, and craft a message. It’s only polite to reply and let them know they’ve been heard.
If the review is positive, then simply reply with a thank you message (like you would in real-life!). If not so positive or even hostile, be patient and leave a polite message asking about the person’s experience and, if possible, a way to remediate it. A review is essentially a first-person view of the customer’s experience with your brand. It would be completely foolish to ignore this as there must be a reason why they felt compelled enough to take the time to leave a review. Ideally, they respond in a positive way and you get a chance to publicly alleviate the situation. If they don’t respond or respond in a negative way, you will appear like you’re trying to fix the situation with someone who doesn’t want to cooperate. At least you tried. Either way, your brand will appear responsive and personable, both traits that are good for your brand.
Other Business Listings
There are business listings for Bing and other search engines that you can set up in similar fashion. Always start with Google, however. They currently hold more than 60% search engine market share. Bing comes in second, so focus on that next.
Google’s recent tendency of favoring local businesses is great for everybody. All businesses with a storefront should quickly set up their Google My Business listing (you can easily set up for chain stores as well) to benefit from increased reach and visibility.
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