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How to optimise and manage your Google My Business profile

Google My Business is an incredibly powerful tool for any small business looking to attract new customers and provide up to date information and deals to their existing customer base.

However, just because you have a Google My Business profile, doesn’t mean it’s automatically going to work for you. Much like any digital marketing activity, these profiles need regular management to ensure that they work and continue to work for you.

How do people find your Google My Business profile

Most businesses are likely to have a Google My Business profile, however most do not understand the point of it or how it works. Much like your website, your profile needs to be easy for people to find and there are two main ways that someone will be able to discover and visit yours.

By searching for your business specifically

The first way someone can discover your profile is by searching for your business specifically. This happens a lot for national retail stores, for example people might search Tesco Abingdon, or Screwfix Didcot. In this example they already know exactly who they’re looking for and will just be seeking some additional information.

When people search for this there will be a few reasons why they’re searching for it:

  • Maybe they don’t know if there is a Tesco nearby
  • Maybe they need the address
  • Maybe they’re checking the opening or closing times
  • Maybe they’re looking for the phone number

The ultimate goal for any business is when people search for your business specifically. If you have that level of brand awareness and people associate you with the best pizza in town, or the best music shop, the best Sunday roast, then you’re in a very good position and will reap all the benefits that comes with that level of attention.

By searching for local businesses

The second way that someone can discover your profile is by searching for local businesses through a less specific local search. Most consumers search quite broadly when they’re looking for local shops, restaurants and services. For example, they might be searching for Chinese takeaway restaurants, or toy shops, or car garages. It’s in these searches that you really want to make sure your profiles are optimized, so that when you come up, you stand out against your competitors.

Now Google ranks local businesses using a number of different metrics that I won’t go into huge detail here, but the key takeaways are these:

  • Choose the right categories that best describe your business and don’t be afraid to choose more than one
  • Write a detailed description of your business, breaking down everything that you do, taking into account everything that your customers might be searching for
  • Keep your business information up to date: your address, website, phone number etc
  • Get as many reviews as possible and respond to all of them
  • Share content regularly

Understanding the different parts of your Google My Business Profile

For a free product, Google My Business is packed full of really useful features and for local businesses on a budget, you must make sure you’re using all of them to their fullest potential.

There are 12 parts in total to your Google My Business profile.

Home

This is your main dashboard and the first place you’ll land each time you sign into your Google My Business account. From here you’re able to see key performance stats such as profile views and how often your business has appeared in local searches. You can also view your most recent photos & reviews and learn more about other parts of the system.

Posts

Here you can see all of your recent posts and discover how well they performed, by views and by clicks. It is here that you can then create a new post, event or offer for your customers.

Info

For me, this is the most important part of your Google My Business profile. It’s important to ensure that all of the information you provide is correct and up to date. Consumers use Google My Business profiles to find out when a business is open, for example a local shop or restaurant, where the exact location is, perhaps they’ve never been there before and are going to be driving, or find contact information so that they can call or email you.

In this section you’re able to update and provide all of the key information your customers need to know about your business. This includes address, opening hours, phone numbers, website link, the services you offer and a detailed description about who you are and what you do. The more information you can provide, the more likely it is you will appear in local searches and the easier it is for potential customers to interact with you.

Insights

Insights goes into further detail about the data you’re shown in the home dashboard. Here you will be able to see what search terms people are using to find your business, a break down of where people are viewing your business (through search or on the local listings map), a breakdown of customer actions, such as how many website clicks or phone calls they have made and a comparison of how many photo views you have had compared to similar businesses in your industry.

Reviews

Arguably the second most important part of your Google My Business profile. Here you can see all of the reviews your business has received and provides you with the opportunity to reply to those reviews.

Messaging

In order to use messaging you will need to download the Google My Business app from either the App Store or Google Play Store. This feature allows customers to contact you directly through your profile and gives you the ability to reply straight back to them right from the app.

Photos

The photo section of Google My Business is an opportunity for you to share behind the scenes photos with your customers and provide them with an inside look into what they can expect from you. Here you’re able to upload new photos and can also view customer generated photos as well.

Booking

This is a fairly new feature and allows customers to book certain appointments and services directly from your Google My Business profile. In order to use this feature you’ll need to have an account with SimplyBook.me which does have a free subscription plan, with further paid plans starting from about £8 a month.

Products

For any business selling physical products, this section is a must. It allows you to provide a complete product listing right in Google My Business that links directly to the item listing on your website to enable a quick and easy purchase for the customer.

Services

There’s not a lot to this section, but it allows you to choose multiple service categories that sums up what your business does. The information you provide here will update in the Info section and has some influence on your local search results. The more specific you can be about your services, the more chance you have of appearing in searches for a variety of different things.

Website

Through Google My Business who have access to a free website builder. Personally I don’t think it’s a particularly strong feature and I would advise you to work with a web designer or look at another website platform like Wix or Squarespace. However, for anyone getting started with a very minimal budget, it might be a useful starting point to get you going.

Users

As with all Google products you can assign multiple users to manage your Google My Business account, so if you have a business partner, marketing team or you work with an agency, you can grant them access to make changes and update content on your behalf.

Getting the most out of Google Reviews

Whether it’s on Google or somewhere else, having good customer reviews and recommendations is incredibly powerful for your business. Having quality reviews on your Google My Business profile will not only help you to rank higher, but it provide potential customers with more insight about your company and make them feel more confident about working with you.

How to ask for a review

Just because customers can leave reviews, doesn’t mean they will. Some people need to be reminded, some need to be asked, some need to be bartered with and offered something in return. It’s all very well asking someone face to face or via email to leave you a review, but it’s far more powerful to be able to send them a simple link that they can easily follow and complete in a matter of seconds.

Inside of the main Google My Business Home Dashboard, there is a button about halfway down the page that says “Share Review Form”. When you click on this button it will present you with a URL link that you can then copy and paste into an email straight to the customer.

Responding to reviews

Always respond to a Google Review, regardless of whether it is good or bad. Google will rank you higher or lower in search results, depending on how you respond to your reviews. When you’re a customer facing business with high volumes of different customers coming in and out each month, you’re naturally going to get a lot of reviews and of course some will be poor, not necessarily because you provided a poor service, but because there are always going to be people out there who just like to moan.

However, good or bad, it is best practise to respond. If it’s a great review, a simple “Thank you for visiting us” is more than sufficient. If it is a bad review, then the worst thing you can do is try to argue or blame the customer – you won’t get anywhere and it makes you look bad. The best thing to do is to acknowledge their feelings, apologise and maybe add a “we hope we can make it up to you on your next visit” or try and empower them to get back in touch to try and resolve the issue.

When you’re getting hundreds of reviews a month it can naturally be difficult to keep up with them, but it’s good practise and Google will reward you. If you can schedule in a regular time each week to respond to new reviews then you’ll be setting yourself up for success. You can respond to your reviews by logging into your Google My Business account or downloading the Google My Business app on your phone.

Sharing Photos & Videos

Your Google My Business profile is almost like a mini website, providing prospective customers with fairly detailed information about what you do. However, as with any website, the key to success is to keep them up to date and current, with exciting and interesting content for visitors to view.

Photos and videos are a powerful way to keep people engaged and educate them about your business. In just a minute or so, people can learn all they need to know about your business to decide whether or not they want to contact you or not, so it’s best to cover all bases and give them as much information and insight as possible.

When it comes to photos and videos, the more the better, and the more variety the more insight someone will gain.

Exterior Photos

Once you have verified your address with Google, you will find 360 degree interactive Google maps images outside of your premises. Now, as this is taken directly from Google Maps and isn’t bespoke to your business, the exterior viewpoint isn’t always 100% accurate, but it’s a really useful free addition provided by Google that is handy for any customer that has never visited you before, to at least get a sense of what to look out for when trying to find you.

If you’re keen to take this one step further and showcase the outside of your premises, then you can of course upload your own photos of the exterior. This could be particularly beneficial if you have a special parking area for customers, or a great sign you want to show off, or even just an awesome window display that you’re really proud of.

Interior Photos

Interior photos are entirely up to you. For some there might not be much value to you or the customer in sharing the inside of your premises. However I would argue that if you run a cafe, pub, restaurant, hotel, shop or other hospitality or consumer goods business then this is a must. However you’re not just limited to your tables, chairs and shelves. If you run a restaurant for example, share pictures of your food.

It might also be worth looking at getting a 360 degree interior interactive walkthrough made, similar to the exterior 360 interactive Google Map. These walkthroughs allow prospective customers to view your premises before they visit and get a better sense of what you have to offer. There are lots of videographers and photographers around who create these walkthroughs. The prices vary, but you can expect to pay between £200 – £500 depending on the size of your venue.

Customer Photos

Google My Business allows customers to share their own photos of your business. Unfortunately you don’t really have any control over these and they will undoubtedly be poor quality, but for a prospective customer it provides another angle of insight to help them get to know you better through the eyes of your existing customers. People will often share these photos alongside reviews they’ve left which can be particularly useful to new visitors flicking through your reviews and seeing relatable photos to go along with the comments.

Posting content to Google My Business

Whilst Google My Business isn’t a social media platform, it does allow you to share insightful content with prospective customers. The more active you are, the more there is for someone to engage with and the more time they’ll spend getting to know your business.

What should you post?

There are no specific rules around what you should or shouldn’t post and it will vary from business to business. However Google does give you some suggestions including updates, offers and events.

Personally, I like to post a mixture of different things to keep the content fresh for the visitors. For example, a standard update post might feature photos, videos (up to 30 seconds, blog posts, or links to pages on your website. Whilst an offer or event can be more promotional and give people more information about a specific promotion or event you’re running.

How often should you post?

Again there’s no right or wrong as to how often you should post, however the more active you are, the more opportunities you have to share information about your business with potential customers and therefore the more potential there is for them to visit and ultimately buy something from you.

That being said, as we’ve mentioned Google My Business is not really a social media platform, so you don’t need to post everyday. Google themselves recommend around 2-3 times a week, which seems like a realistic number for most small businesses.