Today, small businesses, no matter their size, need to gain online search visibility to remain competitive and attract new customers.
As the most popular search engine in the world, Google is the top destination for potential customers to compare their options before they buy. That’s why optimizing for Google search is a cost-effective—and necessary—way to grow your brand awareness and make sure that comparison shoppers don’t leave you out of consideration.
As an integral part of that optimization process, a Google My Business (GMB) profile is essential to improving brand awareness and ranking higher on search engine results pages (SERPs).
Not only does GMB help customers find your information more easily when they are searching for your specific business, but it also helps brands rank under non-specific queries to get in front of potential customers. In the modern landscape of one comparison shopping, your search ranking can make a substantial difference for your bottom line.
While GMB tools offer an opportunity to improve a business’s positive online presence and SEO, most businesses aren’t taking full advantage of what they have to offer.
The Importance of Google My Business
Google My Business is an essential tool for helping customers quickly and effectively find information about your business online. Simply claiming and regularly updating your Google My Business profile with current information gives you a better chance of ranking higher for local SEO, but that’s not all.
GMB also allows you to interact directly with customers and build brand loyalty through reviews, and it offers a range of valuable (but often overlooked) tools and analytics.
Local searches are on the rise as mobile devices make it easier than ever to perform a quick search while they’re on the go to find goods and services near them. Local SEO is a type of optimization specifically geared towards providing those results. The best part is that these Google searches translate directly into actual transactions, with 1.5 billion people visiting destinations related to their Google searches every month.
Optimizing your online presence for local searches is essential to ensuring that your business shows up in relevant searches, and the best way to do that is through your Google My Business profile.
Local SEO has unique ranking signals that are independent of traditional and organic SEO, including things like:
- Searcher’s location
- Google My Business listing
- Online reviews
- Responses to online reviews
- Social media
- Name, address, phone number (NAP) citations
- Google maps “star rating”
Google’s Map Pack
A cornerstone of local SEO is the map pack (also known as the “local pack”) of search results. The map pack includes three local businesses relating to the search query, a map of where they’re located from Google Maps, and other information like their phone number, address, hours, and reviews.
For example, a quick search for coffee shops in South Beach, Miami, returns these three locations at the very top of the search results page with the remaining search results in the standard format below the local pack.
Keep in mind that the map pack can be displayed even when the original search query isn’t location-specific. If by analyzing the search intent, Google determines that the user may be looking to buy from or visit a location in their area, the algorithm will still display the local pack.
For example, a Google search for just the word “breakfast” will generate a map pack of three local restaurants that serve breakfast.
Appearing in the map pack gives your business a direct link to customers looking for information on the goods and services you provide. It also gives customers clear information about how to contact your business, where you’re located, and when your business is open.
That’s why your local SEO ranking can be the difference between a potential customer contacting you or your competitor.
Your Google My Business profile is the most significant factor for Google when determining local pack rankings. Without a complete and up-to-date profile, you’re unlikely to win a top spot from your competitors in the map pack.
Google My Business allows customers to leave reviews about their experiences with your products or services. Reviews are extremely important for comparison shopping and can make the difference between a customer choosing your business or opting for a competitor.
Consumers use reviews to choose who will ultimately win their business. Research shows that around 87% of consumers read reviews of local businesses, and 79% of consumers say they trust online reviews just as much as they would trust a personal recommendation from friends or family.
Google My Business helps brands develop an authentic reputation via reviews and interactions, which is also essential for Google’s search quality evaluations.
Google evaluates the quality of websites and pages based on, among other things, the site’s expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness (EAT). The quality guidelines are even more stringent for pages that are considered YMYL (your money or your life). YMYL sites include shopping websites or any other that could impact a person’s “future happiness, health, financial stability, or safety.”
According to Google, reputation is also an important criterion for a website or page to be rated “high quality,” and it helps to determine the EAT of the page. A brand with no reviews or ratings makes it more difficult for search quality evaluators to assess the site and lowers its perceived trustworthiness.
Websites that adhere to these quality standards are more likely to rank higher in related searches.
Even with the benefits of GMB’s review platform, business owners are sometimes hesitant to open themselves up to possibly receiving negative comments or backlash.
While negative reviews might seem like a setback, they provide the opportunity to address an issue and improve your service. Every business makes mistakes, but acknowledging and committing to fix them shows that you put your customers first.
Reviews are essential to building trust and transparency with consumers, and managing reviews are just as (if not more) critical. Google’s search quality raters examine reviews with an eye toward the overall sentiment toward a brand or business and whether the business owner is willing to resolve problems. One or two bad reviews among dozens are unlikely to move the needle enough to influence how they view your business overall.
Fake negative reviews, however, are a real concern for business owners. These coordinated, strategic attacks can damage your reputation, but rest assured that there are ways to remove them.
GMB Valuable Information and Tools
In addition to promoting your business and improving its online visibility, GMB also offers valuable tools to help you better understand your market. At a glance, you can see who’s searching for your business and visiting your GMB profile.
Insights is a tool that GMB offers to give you an inside look at how people find your online business listing. The tool shows how customers find your business (either from organic search or your paid advertisements) and the actions they take once they land on your listing.
Some of the data provided by Insights include:
- How Customers Find Your Listing: This gives you a breakdown of how many people find your listing via direct search vs. discovery search vs. branded search.
- Where Customers Find You on Google: With this data, you can see exactly how many people are finding your business from their mobile vs. desktop device, and which Google service they are using (Google Search or Google Maps).
- Customer Actions: To help you see how searches are translating into conversions or sales, Google gives you data on what actions people took from your GMB listing, including website visits, requests for directions, and calls to your business.
- Photo Views: Google tells you how many people are interested enough in your business to scroll down and browse your photo gallery.
- What Your Business Is Known for: This section will give you an overview of your general brand perception. Google will compile data from reviews to show you what customers really think.
Digging into these metrics will help you discover detailed information about your audience to help you improve your marketing strategy. Businesses using tools like Insights will be better positioned to define their markets and target potential customers through SEO.
The best part is that these tools (and GMB) are all free, meaning that you have nothing to lose!
GMB: A Free and Easy Way to Drive Sales
Google My Business provides customers with easy access to necessary information about your business, including your phone number, address, hours, and website. It also offers companies the opportunity to interact with customers through reviews and gain critical insights about their online interactions with your business.
Whether customers are searching for your business directly online or doing general searches in your category or industry, your GMB profile allows you to give potential customers easy access to your information. It will also help you gain a competitive edge with comparison shoppers.
Bottom line: Google My Business provides exposure, trust, and business insights. These advantages to your brand are invaluable, and even better, they’re free to use. GMB is the easiest way to improve your business’s local and organic SEO and increase your brand’s online visibility.