Imagine that you own a small business in a cosy, chic, up-and-coming suburb. The hipsters are pouring in, on the search for the next vintage op shop or the authentic ethnic restaurant serving up out of this world eats.
Regardless of what the business is, the question you need to ask yourself is “How am I going to get found?”
You need to get the word out that your business is THE business to go to. But how are you going to accomplish this!?
Being a good business is not enough. What you need is exposure.
If only there were some way to advertise yourself that wasn’t time-consuming and that didn’t cost an arm and a leg.
Well, you’ll be glad to know that there is. And it’s called Google My Business.
If you haven’t already heard about it, Google My Business is an online business profile that allows a business to display its contact information, upload photos, have a conversation with customers, and post regular updates as frequently as you like.
And the best part? It’s 100% free to use.
Since it’s made by Google, once you have a profile set up it will instantly be able to be found on Google Search and Google Maps.
56% of local business owners haven’t claimed their own Google My Business account and are missing out BIG TIME – don’t be like these businesses.
Making sure your information is up to date and accurate is crucial. After all, you want your customers to be able to find you, right?
Luckily, Google My Business is also extremely user-friendly and straightforward; which makes it easy to use from your computer, phone, or tablet.
From the mobile app you can change incorrect information as needed, you can reply to reviews, and post any updates that may tempt customers to pop in for a visit.
Keeping your profile updated will help to ensure that you’re not missing out on prospective customers due to something as simple as an incorrect phone number or trading hours.
It may also be worthwhile to sort yourself on Apple Maps because while it is not as popular as Google Maps, iPhone owners are still 1/3 of all smartphone users, Apple Maps is the default maps browser on iPhone, and Siri shows their directions results on Apple Maps as well.
Making the Most Out of Your Google My Business Profile
At this point, you may be asking, “All I have to do is make a Google My Business profile and my sales will skyrocket?”
You see, Google My Business is just the starting point. It is the platform that allows for visibility.
The rest is ultimately up to you.
Did you know that 87% of smartphone users use a search engine (at least once) every day? That’s a LOT of people!
And of those, 46% of all Google searches are local searches.
This means in your area alone, there are people searching for businesses just like yours every single day.
So how do you reel them in?
While it may very well be possible to find your business on Google Maps once your profile is set up, it probably won’t rank high in the list of local businesses that offer a similar service to yours at first.
And rank is EVERYTHING.
So when you type in a generic search that looks something like: “*insert industry here* near me”, you are specifically looking for a business that is local which offers the service you desire for a price you are willing to pay with reviews that you can trust. 88% of local searchers trust online reviews from other customers.
To put things into perspective, “near me” searches have increased 146% year by year on mobile devices alone.
This is MAJOR. If your business is not available to be found by these mobile users, then you are basically rejecting free advertisement and turning away potential customers!
Let’s say, for example, that it is a Monday night, it is 11 pm and you are really in the mood for pizza.
Surely you can go for the big chains such as Domino’s, or Pizza Hut but let’s pretend you are in the mood for something a bit more authentic. You want the blood, sweat, and pizza sauce of a close-knit family-owned, neighbourhood Italian Pizzeria.
From the comfort of your own home you pull out your trusty smartphone (which is always within arm’s reach), you open up Google Maps, and you type in “Pizza near me”.
After your “near me” search, what pops up first are paid ads. These are followed by the most relevant results to your specific search. This relevance is a combination of proximity, reviews (and ratings), keywords, on-page signals, behavioural signals, and so on.
The issue is most customers will not go further than the first page. So, if you are not on the first page and preferably within the top three on Google local search, your company is virtually invisible.
That is until you start to build your profile and rake in those 4 and 5-star reviews.
To begin your climb up the results page, start by focusing on these key things:
- Accurate NAP (Name, Address, Phone number) information
- customer reviews
- responding to customer reviews
- a good click-through rate
- fixing any incorrect edits
- using Google Posts to keep your customers informed
How Do I Get Reviews? (Do’s and Don’ts)
Reviews are the tricky part.
It seems that people only want to write a review when they are angry.
And since you offer a superb service and everyone leaves your establishment happy and fulfilled, how the heck are you supposed to get those positives reviews to start pouring in?
In a perfect world, people would pay you a visit, be satisfied with the service, and go home to write about how great your business is.
Unfortunately, this is rarely what actually happens.
They are a range of ways to push for customers to review your business, although it is worth mentioning that dodgy practices to generate tainted reviews should be avoided.
One thing you should never do is generate fake reviews. Or extort customers into giving you a 5-star review for a discount. If the customer’s intent isn’t genuine, then the review won’t be either.
And it will be obvious to everyone.
What you are after is detailed descriptions of real experiences between you and your clientele.
This is not to say that encouraging customers to review your business is a bad idea. But the way you go about it is important.
After all, we want the reviews to be genuine and truthful, they should reflect how your business actually is.
A 5-star review with no description of what compelled them to rate you so highly is far less useful than a 4-star review and a detailed description about all the pros and cons of what you have to offer.
What to do When You Get a Bad Review
It is unrealistic to expect 5-star reviews from everyone.
You may get one bad review and think you are ruined. But this is not necessarily true.
While bad reviews can certainly be damaging, they are also an opportunity for you, as the business owner, to respond to that upset customer publicly so that others who read the exchange can see what kind of a businessman (or woman) you are.
Most customers that write bad reviews are wankers anyway. Many times, you can read a bad review and come to the conclusion that the fault wasn’t on the business at all but the customer is just an entitled waste of space.
So what should you do when you get a bad review?
The short answer is nothing.
But realistically, try to work out the problem with the customer in the comments section.
Even if they do not respond, everyone else can see that there is someone in the business generally trying to be a problem-solver. This will go a long way for your credibility and reputation in the long run, promise.
Other than that, inspire others to leave positive reviews and eventually it should right the ship.
Sometimes fake negative reviews can surface and hurt your reputation.
It’s not okay… But it happens.
Sometimes it is an accident, sometimes not.
If you have a similar name to another business or one of you have incorrect information on your profiles, a mix-up can most certainly occur.
But assuming it is intentional…
These could come from a competitor, a disgruntled ex-employee, or some bored kid with too much time on their hands.
If you do believe that someone is actively trying to sabotage you, reviews that come across as suspicious can be flagged by anyone and reported to Google. This does not guarantee that they will be removed, though.
Google My… Website?
Most believe that a good website is the most important component toward driving your business when, in fact, a Google My Business account is substantially more impactful.
Websites are time-consuming to create, can become expensive if you hire a web designer, and for a lot of industries just aren’t all that necessary.
Statistics will show that businesses that don’t have a website but rank higher in local search have had significantly more traffic which leads to more customers and increased visibility.
Many industries simply do not need a website to gain customers but virtually all industries need exposure on local search if they wish to reach more customers in their area.
Most websites are incredibly simple and missing information while others can be confusing in an attempt to be cool and abstract. Your Google My Business profile provides all the information on a familiar, easy to navigate page that is mobile friendly.
And most importantly, they have reviews that the business owner can’t get rid of.
So don’t waste your time (and money) on a fancy website if you don’t need to. Besides, if someone really wants to see your website, Google My Business can send them there with the click of a link.
So What Are You Waiting For?
Every business that relies on customers in their general area should have their Google My Business page setup. Period.
It doesn’t matter if you don’t have nice pictures, a lot (or any) interesting updates to post, or __.
Even something as simple as choosing the right category for your business is impactful. Just simply stating that your business is a café, or a guitar repair shop will already be taking a step in the right direction to getting your business noticed.
This is a great opportunity because you will only get as far as you’re willing to allow yourself to go.
Some people are content where they are. Not everyone wants to be the biggest and baddest shop on the block.
And that’s completely okay.
Don’t want to be the number one ranked business on local search? Don’t really care about expanding your customer base exponentially? No sweat. Get a couple of reviews to look legitimate and be on your way.
Your business won’t thrive but will still survive and might be able to be found by those adventurous customers that don’t mind scrolling for a while.
But if you have a bit of ambition for your business and want to reach the top of that local search page, then this is a perfect, cost-efficient opportunity to get your business noticed.
Either way, the last thing you want is for your business to miss out because you simply didn’t take the time and use this free tool at your disposal.
We all know word of mouth travels fast but, if done properly, an online presence will spread like wildfire ? ? ?
Google My Business is a very powerful tool that can not only lose out on potential customers but can potentially sink a promising business if neglected.