The Crunch: Google My Business gives retailers control of what consumers experience when they search for local products and services on Google. Results that appear on Google Search pages and Google Maps are a prime source of traffic to physical storefronts. The service not only allows businesses to manage the basics of their listing, but it also provides tools for driving customer engagement by responding to reviews, posting updates, and sharing photos. Meanwhile, built-in analytics help store owners understand customer actions and behavior. There’s no doubt that the web has put consumers in the driver’s seat, and Google My Business helps retailers make a case for where they should be driving.
Strong businesses help communities grow. Through Google My Business, Google helps local retailers capitalize on online interest to connect with more customers and grow faster.
Google is the world’s most popular internet search engine, handling about 75% of desktop and 90% of mobile search requests — more than 3.5 billion searches per day. But research commissioned by Google revealed that, in the US, more than 80% of small businesses aren’t taking full advantage of digital tools.
Google My Business aims to remedy that. It is a free service that lets businesses operating physical storefronts manage their public identity and presence on Google. Information generated via the service appears across Google — including on Search and Maps.
Because Google is so widely used and location services are embedded in results, consumers are more likely to use the search engine to discover local products and services than any others — especially when they’re using mobile devices on the go.
“Google is committed to helping people find the most up-to-date, comprehensive, and timely information — and that includes local business info,” said Liz Davidoff, Communications Manager at Google Maps. “We’re always working on new ways to improve how businesses reach customers and how customers make decisions.”
Owners sign up for Google My Business by creating a Google Account and then claiming their business location via an address search. In some cases, a business owner is asked to position a map marker.
The service then lets businesses choose a category — or categories — of operation, confirm the accuracy of basic information including address, website URL, phone number, operating and holiday hours, and more. Google Maps generates and displays directions to the physical storefront. Then owners are prompted to begin the process of verifying their business. In most cases that means having Google mail a physical postcard containing further verification instructions to the location.
“Verification helps ensure the accuracy of business information across Google,” Liz said. “Our research shows that verified businesses are twice as likely to be considered reputable by users.”
Respond to Feedback and Keep Customers Updated with Posts
Verified businesses can add photos to their listing to highlight features that differentiate the store on Google. Adding images gives prospective customers more to consider when making purchasing decisions.
“Our research shows that 90% of customers are more likely to visit a business that has photos on a Google listing,” Liz said. “They showcase the personality of a business and help customers recognize it.”
Customers can add photos as well — along with captions describing features of the business or the customer’s experience or evaluation. Google My Business includes tools for managing customer photos and even flagging them for removal.
Google My Business also supports customer reviews, which are a key engagement tool. The service notifies the business when a review is posted and enables responses.
“Reviews are a two-way conversation between a business and its customers,” Liz said. “They can provide valuable feedback, and constructive replies build customer trust.”
The service also lets businesses post content directly to both Google Search and Maps. Posts place timely information in front of customers at the moment they find a business’s listing on Google. They can be used to share a variety of information and Google encourages businesses to post content that will benefit current and potential customers.
Engaging business posts include details about upcoming events — such as a restaurant brunch or an in-store presentation. They can also include special offers, sales, and discounts; product updates and announcements about new merchandise; and changes in service hours. Posts can also include links.
“Posting regularly ensures that content always remains fresh and gives customers reasons to try a new business or come back for more,” Liz said.
Engagement Tracking Helps Retailers Understand Behavior
Google My Business gives owners a better understanding of how customers use Search and Maps to find their listing — and what they do with the information they find. Through Insights, businesses can review clicks, calls, listing views, and other visitor details, to adjust engagement and targeting strategies and analyze which portions of their listing are prompting the best response.
“Business owners use Insights to help them make strategic decisions about their listings and digital marketing efforts,” Liz said. “For example, after viewing the number of time-specific posts that were viewed or clicked, a business owner might decide to do more of a specific type of post and less of another.”
The “customer actions” section of Insights shows what customers do with the information they find in a business listing. They may visit the business website, request directions, call the business, or view photos. It lets business know which photos receive the most attention and generates a comparative view of that information with other similar operations.
“Insights into customer views and actions help businesses understand more about how they’re doing and how they might set themselves apart,” Liz said. “This helps owners build strategies to better target loyal customers and bring in new ones.”
Manage Results on Google Search and Maps to Drive Local Traffic
Additional tools provide more control of what customers experience when they see results on Search and Maps. For example, a business can build a website on Google My Business and review the statistics it generates in Insights.
In under 10 minutes, a business can create a sleek site that’s easy to edit from a computer or a phone. Business owners can choose a background image and theme, customize a primary call-to-action button to give directions or call a location, and offer other options. For example, restaurants can use the call-to-action button to link to menus, reservations, or ordering.
“The website is a great tool for driving calls and visits to new businesses,” Liz said. “With the business’s phone number and Google Maps location prominently displayed, customers will always be in the know.”
Google My Business also allows owners to chat directly with customers who find their store on Google Search. Responding to customers in real time can help answer questions, tell the story of the business, build buzz, and drive traffic.
The service offers tools to help businesses with multiple locations manage bulk listings. And it’s always adding new location attributes, enabling businesses to indicate whether they permit wheelchair access, for example, or have wifi.
Google My Business Brings Control Back to Local Entrepreneurs
Retailers can easily manage what customers see when they do a Google search by using Google My Business. And the more customers learn about a business via Google, the more likely they’ll be to visit — and return.
“Google My Business enables businesses to make the most of their free Google listing,” Liz said. “It returns control over the listing to the owner and helps energize the entrepreneurial spirit that is so important to success.”
The service recently added a women-led icon to label businesses owned by women, another in a lengthy and continuing series of enhancements and recognitions.
The web can seem like a chaotic place especially to new business owners. And it is. How a business is presented and viewed can make a huge impact. Google My Business helps mitigate that. Every time a customer finds a business on Search and Maps, Google makes it count.