Before search engines became a convenient access point for almost any type of information searched for, information searching had to be conducted manually. We’d flick through mail-order catalogues to satisfy our retail therapy needs, and we consulted the Yellow Pages if we needed to find local business information.
These days, such services are only a quick ‘Google’ away. A few taps on a smartphone enables us to easily discover the most reputable company for any product or service we require.
With the popularity of such convenience rising year by year, Google began to optimise this service to improve their user experience. While the focus is predominantly on the consumer, this type of service provides business owners with an incredible opportunity to enhance their presence both on and offline.
What is Google My Business?
Although there are many major search engines available, Google has become the go-to service of choice for the majority of web users. It’s My Business feature is essentially an online Yellow Pages that allows consumers to easily find the most suitable business offering the product or service they’re seeking in their area.
Rather than displaying online-only organisations, this feature displays all companies that have a web presence in order of relevance – including bricks and mortar business.
All the information a consumer needs to make a purchasing decision is displayed, such as business address, telephone number, website link, business hours, aggregated reviews, and photographs wherever relevant. Depending on the type of business, consumers are also able to view a company’s busiest times, allowing them to choose when to visit.
What does Google My Business look like?
Google uses your location to display relevant businesses near you. If you were in Sydney and searched for ‘top SEO’, the results would look something like this:
Using a multitude of factors, Google’s algorithm calculates which businesses are shown to the web user based on their relevancy.
Properly search engine optimised sites tend to appear higher, meaning they’re deemed to be the most relevant result for the consumer’s search term. In this example, Top 10 SEO based in Sydney is the company Google considers the most appropriate business for that particular search term—or key phrase—followed by two other organisations order of relevance.
As shown in the image, Google displays the name of the company, its average review score, the organisation’s location, contact number, opening times with live business hours, a link to the company’s website if applicable, and access to directions from your current location to the business address using Google Maps.
This combination of information is two-fold. It allows users to quickly assess the suitability of the company to their needs, while also providing Google with the information required to display the company in results in the first place. Without this information, businesses will not show up in Google search results.
How did Google My Business begin?
To improve user convenience, Google merged their existing Local Business Centre with their Maps service in 2005. This moment was significant for the evolution of SEO, as it allowed businesses to provide the most pertinent information their potential customers needed to make a purchase decision.
With all business information condensed and displayed in a single location such as contact details, business hours and driving directions, consumers could easily decide which business they would use.
Five years later, in 2010, Google relaunched their Local Business Centre as Google Places. Rather than a simple name change, the search engine giant included many important updates such as new image features, options for local advertising, and geo-specific tagging options for applicable markets.
Perhaps most importantly, Google’s focus on the local element of web searches allowed Places pages to align with localised search results, thus making the connection between users and local businesses quicker and easier than ever. However, in order to become and remain relevant in online searches, bricks and mortar businesses had to make local SEO a priority in their marketing strategies.
Up until 2015, Google displayed seven businesses in their results. An updated version of Places saw the search engine reduce this number to three, meaning businesses had to work much harder to earn a spot on the first page of results.
What are the latest features of Google My Business?
More than just a business directory, My Business allows business owners to streamline the management of their online presence, while providing a multitude of additional benefits and useful features. Here are the most recently updated of these.
1. Call-to-Action button
Customers can easily find your business using Google’s feature, and take specific actions. As an example, for online reservations, consumers can search events by typing in the date or location, and have Google display all relevant local results.
Google can do this for you, but a much better way of achieving relevancy is to create a Google My Business Account, and then add a call-to-action button directing users to booking or reservations page on your website.
2. Creating and Updating Google My Business Posts
If, for example, you’re a restauranteur, you’re now able to display your menu online for potential customers to view at their convenience. Not doing so could lead to losing business to your competitors, as you can be sure they’re already doing this.
The latest Google My Business Console update makes publishing this type of information easy for business owners – and is a feature you certainly ought to be taking advantage of.
You can display and update menus and other useful information such as sales banners or similar campaigns, and they’ll show up whenever a web user discovers your listing. These posts last for seven days and can be changed or edited whenever required. You can see my latest post I have added in my business page while writing this article for you, in the second image. Google is trying another way to keep Google posts alive with the business page integration.
How can I ensure my business is displayed?
As Google are always refining their process to improve usability and relevance of results, 2018 has seen even more changes, with the business page dashboard expanding to allow for the increasing number of options.
To promote equal opportunities, Google often rotates the businesses it displays in its search results. However, there are steps you can take to increase the likelihood your company shows up for certain search terms more often than not.
When creating and publishing Google My Business posts, keep the following tips in mind:
- Although you’re allowed to include up to 300 words, try to keep your posts between 80 and 100 words.
- Optimal image size is 750 x 750. Keep images centred to ensure it still looks suitable if it gets cropped.
- Images below 250 x 250 will not be accepted, so ensure your image is at least that size, and ideally larger.
- Preview your post before publishing so you can see how it looks and make any tweaks if necessary.
- Images with text may not be suitable on mobile devices, so try to avoid including text on your images whenever possible.
- Write your posts in tone suitable for your target audience. A conversational tone is suitable for most industries.
- Ensure the content and theme of your post align with the landing page you’re sending your visitors to.
3. The types of Google My Business Posts you can publish
Google My Business posts can be used for a variety of purposes such as promoting deals, events, sales, products and services directly within Google search results. The different types of posts you can and the different buttons offered include:
- Booking (appointments/reservations)
- Buy Now
- Order online
- Sign Up
- Learn More
- Get Offer
Apply some creativity when constructing your message, but make sure you use an appropriate call-to-action button. For example, use the ‘Order Online’ or ‘Buy’ buttons when selling a product.
If you’re directing visitors to your business or store, create a dedicated page on your site displaying the product featured on your Post, including your contact details. This makes finding your store’s phone number and physical location easier for potential customers.
Should you want visitors to book an appointment with you, you should select the ‘Book Now’ option and include a link to your website’s bookings page, or include a booking telephone number to make booking an appointment a simple process for your visitors.
4. Using the Google Website Builder
Another useful tool in the Google My Business features is their Google Website Builder. This feature allows small businesses to easily build and manage a website for free, although a small additional charge applies if you wish to use a custom domain name.
Unlike many other website hosting packages, these sites are mobile-friendly, which is a significant contributing factor to any website’s SEO efforts. Furthermore, updates are applied automatically, and sites created using the Google Website Builder can be managed easily, while creating and publishing new posts is an incredibly straightforward process.
What’s next to come from Google My Business?
While it’s impossible to predict what else Google has up its digital sleeve for their My Business features, the fact remains that their consistent updating of features suggests that they’ll keep improving and expanding the features, to better streamline the relationship between business owners and aligning them to their existing and potential customers on Google search. Please contact me on the link below to find out more.
Senka Pupacic has advised and worked with companies across the globe and is the Founding Partner and Principal Consultant at Top 10 SEO Services, www.top10insydney.com.au.