If you’ve ever typed “find pizza near me” (or any of the other essential things, like coffee, an ATM, or a gas station) you’ve used the power of Google local search. And chances are that a local business profited.
Local search provides information for people who are looking for nearby businesses and places. These search results show up in both Google Maps and Search (including Google Assistant searches). People can search for a particular type of business, or simply view what is near their location. Reviews of the business also appear in these searches, along with images, to make it easy for a searcher to find what they are looking for.
If your business doesn’t rely solely on on-line sales- you run a shop, an art gallery, a restaurant, showroom or etc. – you need to be on Google local search. It’s free, its super-effective, and it’s easy to utilize. And even if your business is listed in Google local, you can probably optimize your listing so that it drives even more customers to your business.
Start by getting a Gmail email account for your business, if you don’t already have one. You’ll need to use your business email to use Google Local effectively. If you use a personal Gmail address, your private contact information may be displayed online instead of your business location, phone and email.
Improve your business’s local search ranking
“Google My Business” is where you go to work with Google local search listings. First, you provide some simple information – the name and location of your business, the type of business, your business contact details including phone (hint: use a number with a local area code) and website (and if you don’t have a website – make sure to click on the option that reads “Get a free website based on your info.”) And then you’ll need to “Verify” your connection with the business which requires a single click if you have a Gmail account. (It’s important to use a business email account here, as noted above).
Once you’re verified, you can add your logo and additional information about your business to local search results. You can also add images of your business, yourself (and your team, if you have
employees) and your products or whatever you sell. This is your chance to tell your story, engage with potential customers, and build your online presence. Think about what you’re going to write, what sets your business apart from others, and how to make your business a place that people want to experience.
Take your time filling out your listing. Type it out in a program like Word so you can check spelling and punctuation. Or have a friend or two read it to spot problems and give you feedback. When you’re happy with the content, post it in Google My Business.
Choose photos that support your business’ story (your brand, in marketing speak). You can also create a video walkthrough of your business, and post that on local search as well.
And you can create, for free, posts with special offers, news and other content to keep your listing fresh and interesting. If you got a free website from Google, the posts will appear there as well. Google also offers discounts on ads that appear on local search – typically you’ll get one hundred dollars in free advertising, which is a great way to see how advertising works for your business.
Keep Your Listing Current
If your business details change, make sure to update the information in local search. You can get bad reviews, and appear way at the bottom of search results, if your business information isn’t accurate. No one likes showing up at a business that states it is open only to find its closed.
If you don’t stick to regular hours, note that in your listing (“Please call to confirm that we’re open!”) or set your opening hours to times when you know you’ll be there – perhaps an hour or so later than you usually open or close. And make sure to provide hours for holidays, vacations and other special events – you may stay open later near the holidays, or close for vacation, etc. so let customers know.
If you want to really connect with your customers, download the Google local search app (you’ll find a link on Google My Business). The app not only lets you update your info, ads and other messaging from your mobile phone, it also lets customers message you directly for information about your business. You can reply using the app – and it’s totally free of charge.
And if you accept appointments or reservations, click “Accept bookings on Google.” You’ll then be shown services that enable electronic reservations/appointments. Select one or more, and your customers will be able to easily access your services.
Manage and respond to reviews
Reviews are a blessing and a curse. Respond to the good ones and the bad ones. Positive reviews build your business; negative ones can really have a adverse impact. Be honest when responding to negative reviews. Made a mistake? Own up to it, explain how you’re addressing it, and find a way to make it right for the customer. If a review is unfair, respond and calmly explain why you object to the review, but don’t get into an online battle.
Make each response unique – a slew of copy-and-paste responses will annoy customers. And make sure to respond professionally; check spelling, punctuation and your tone of voice. If you’re really angry, step away from the computer/device for a while, take a few deep breaths (or a long walk) and then write your response to a bad review.
You can encourage your customers to leave feedback by using the “review” feature in Google My Business to create a link that they can easily use to post reviews.
Google determines how your business will show up in search results using a complex algorithm designed to find the best match for a particular search. Reviews, hours of operation, the products/services you sell and how you describe them all determine whether Google will recommend your business first, as opposed to one down the street or even in another neighborhood. Proximity is important, but it’s not the only factor.
Make sure to post complete and detailed business information, and keep it current and specific, to help Google understand your business and match it to relevant searches. You may think that describing your business as the “Most Unique Incredible Wonderful Caffeine Supplier in the World” will draw attention – but chances are no one is actually searching for the Most Unique Incredible Wonderful Caffeine Supplier in the World, they just want a good cup of coffee. Keep it specific, and skip the grandiose claims. A good way to decide how to describe your business is to ask yourself what words your customers would likely use to find you. Or, if you were searching for a business just like yours, what words would you use?
There are other things that really affect your ranking, but you probably won’t be able to fix them right away. The most important is “prominence.” This reflects how well-known a business is – is it famous? Is it a popular tourist attraction? Does it have a strong presence on the web with an easy to navigate website that’s frequently updated? Does the business have a lot of positive ratings? Is it mentioned in online guides to the neighborhood, in social media, etc? All of these factors contribute to your ranking.
Your search ranking can be built up and improved, the same way that you build your business. Creating content, updating information, and requesting and responding to reviews are the “working capital” that drives your business’ online success.