How can you create and optimize your Google My Business Profile?

It’s no secret that Google is the top search engine in the world. Every day, all over the world, people are using Google to find the best pierogies in Poland or a salon specializing in curly hair in Brooklyn, New York or the best diving company in Thailand. The result of these queries is the infamous Google 3-pack or the top three businesses Google displays for the searcher. These top three displayed businesses benefit from free unmatched levels of exposure. While it should be the goal of every small business owner to land in the Google 3-pack, many small business owners will need to start with simply getting on the map. If you are a new or even an establish business owner, creating a Google My Business Profile is one of the simplest and most effective ways to create an online presence. Google My Business is free, easy to set-up, and allows you to keep customers informed about your business, respond to reviews, build a website and most importantly, to appear on Google Maps and in Google Search. Let’s take a look at how to set up and optimize all of the features of your business Profile on Google so that one day you may find yourself in the Google 3-pack.

Create a free website

Don’t have a website yet? No problem. If you are not ready to deal with a complex web builder or hire a professional, you can create a website for free in under ten minutes with Google My Business. The first step requires nothing from you. Google will automatically use the information from your Business Profile to create your web page. The next step is to edit your page. You can customize the template by adding text explaining your business, uploading captivating photos, and choosing a theme that is consistent with your business branding. Google even optimizes your website for mobile devices so people on the go can look you up. The best part is, you won’t have to do any maintenance as your website will automatically display the latest updates you make to your Business Profile. Although this free Google website won’t have all the bells and whistles you might get with a web builder, it is a viable short term option for those just getting set up.

Share posts on your Business Profile

A relatively new feature of Google My Business is the ability to post offers and updates on your Profile. Through posts, you can interact with your audience more directly, and share the latest information about what’s happening at your business via text, pictures, and video. Google offers you four different posting options: “What’s New”, ”Event,” “Offer,” and “Product”. Use these spaces to share season or daily deals, new products, and exciting events. Although you have up to 1,500 characters to use in your post, Google suggests limiting your text to 150-300 characters. Finally, add a call-to-action. Your options are: “Buy,” “Book online,” “Learn more,” “Call,” or “Visit.” Posting can be done quickly with three simple steps. Create your post using any device. Publish your post so it goes live on your Google Profile, Search, and Maps. Finally, use Google Insights to see how it’s working and what you can change to generate more success.

Set-up your Bookings

One of the CTAs is “Booking” which will allow your customers to book an appointment or reservation directly from your your Profile page. In order to enable this feature you’ll need to login into your account and find the “booking” tab (the booking tab will not be displayed for ineligible business categories and regions). From there, you will pick a scheduling provider and within a week your scheduling account and GMB account will automatically link. After this happens you are ready to start receiving bookings. Google makes it easy to monitor your bookings through your account. GMB is compatible with scheduling providers you are already using, but you may be charged a fee by that provider for booking through Google.

Use Insights to monitor progress

Google Insights allows you to see what you are doing right and what you can improve upon. With Insights you can investigate the locations customers are traveling from to get to your store, which photos are the biggest hits, and how you stack up next to your competition. You can also analyze Profile views, calls, and clicks. This free feature is important to take advantage of so you are always evolving and meeting the customers’ needs.

Eligibility

In order to use Google My Business you will need to meet certain criteria. Firstly, you must have a brick and mortar business or a business that can travel to meet the customers at their location. In other words, your business cannot be 100% online. Secondly, all of the information on your Profile must be straightforward and up-to-date. Your business must be represented as it is usually recognized elsewhere with branding and signage. Finally, you are required to use as few categories as you can when creating your profile. These guidelines are important to keep your account in operation.

Optimizing your account

As mentioned above, becoming a part of Google 3-pack is unbeatable free exposure for your business and something every small business owner should strive for, but this won’t happen overnight and without some work on your end. Google rewards businesses that make an effort to follow the rules and treat their customers well. Just think, Google didn’t become what it is today by promoting bad businesses. So there are a few things you can do to get on Google’s good side. The simplest and most effective way to improve your search rankings is to be honest and thorough. Your business profile should be completed entirely with the most up-to-date information. Simply put, this will allow people searching for your products and services to find your products and services. You should also verify your account as this will greatly improve your ranking. To verify an account you only need to provide Google your business address and Google will send you a postcard with a verification code within a week. You then log-in to your account and enter the code to verify it. Verification can also be done by email or phone if your business is eligible. Updating your business hours on your Profile regularly to reflect holidays or special hours creates trust between you and your customers. Your customers know that they can count on your store being open if your profile lists it is open. Google rewards this by raising your ranking. Finally, responding to reviews not only serves as a line of direct communication with your customers, but it shows other potential customers you are willing to accept their feedback and make changes. Positive reviews and your review activity all look good in Google’s eyes.

Utilize Smart campaigns

Google Smart campaigns are ads that are designed to be used alongside Google My Business. Smart campaigns are a great tool for small businesses that are still growing and don’t have a marketing team because Google does all of the work for you. You can create an ad in a few minutes. Just tell Google what type of products or services you would like to advertise, write the text, and set a budget then Google will take over. Your ad will appear with your business address, icon, and telephone number on Google Search and Google Maps when someone’s query matches your products or services. The best aspect of this tool is you only pay for the ad when someone visits your website or calls. If your business is located in a multilingual location you can opt to translate your Smart ads with Google Translate or hire a professional translation company. As cities are becoming increasingly cosmopolitan it is very likely that while your brick and mortar store is local by nature, you will be serving a multilingual audience. People tend to ignore words not written in their language so creating translated versions of your ads could help extend your local reach significantly.