It’s Thursday at noon. You have an important appointment with a potential new customer. The meeting is in five minutes in front of the Berlin train station. You’ve already found out via WhatsApp that the new business partner likes Italian food. He asked, “Do you know a good Italian restaurant there?” What to do? Of course, type in the following on Google: “Italian restaurant near me”.
What Google then displays might look something like this, depending on where the searcher is currently located:
This is the well-known local search. How to create your own such entry and optimize it is the topic of this article.
Google My Business in numbers
Google has greatly expanded the local search in recent years and provides more and more exciting marketing features for business owners. If you run a local business, now is the time to get a comprehensive overview of the most important options. But is it worth it at all?
How much potential does the local search offer?
Google My Business (GMB) is by far the most effective way to reach local customers via the search engine. GMB has been around since 2014, and in the same year and in 2018, the search engine published studies that provide extensive insight into consumer behavior in local search:
80% of all searchers use local search, according to Google. 82% use “nearby” searches (source: Search Engine Land, 2018).
2014: 50% of consumers who perform a local search query on a smartphone visit a business within a day. Likewise, 34% of searchers on computers.
2016: 76% of searchers visit a store within a day of a search on smartphone, of which 28% purchase.
18% of local searches result in a purchase within a day. For general searches, it’s only 7%.
Consumers search for local information everywhere and at every opportunity (on the bus, in the store, at work, at a restaurant, bar, hotel, airport, etc.).
In 2018, there was a 900% increase in searches with schema “_ nearby” compared to two years prior (Think with Google, 2018).
The data couldn’t be clearer: local search queries are hugely important and becoming more so. If you’re running a local business and you’re not yet taking advantage of Google My Business, you’re missing out on a lot of potential.
What exactly is Google My Business?
GMB is a free platform that helps to present one’s own business in Google Search and on Google Maps. The prerequisite is that the business or provider could at least have (potential) “face contact” with the customer. GMB is primarily intended for restaurants, hairdressers, florists, etc. However, agencies and other businesses without walk-in customers can also use GMB successfully.
GMB forms are easy to fill out. There is even an option to include more than just standard info, such as company name, address, phone number, opening hours, website, etc. Promotions and other events can also be advertised in a kind of miniblog. The location and the own offer can be presented on pictures and videos. Direct contact via the search results page is possible – even via SMS.
Smaller and larger functions are added all the time. It’s worth staying on the ball here and trying out new possibilities as they come out.
Who is Google My Business for?
General search engine optimization and online marketing activities that are intended to target a national or international audience are often very complex and costly. Not so Google My Business, which is mainly designed for businesses with few resources.
After a short training period, your own listing is quickly created. If you do everything right, you are usually done. However, you can get much more out of a listing if it is regularly supplemented with content and marketing activities. Here again, it can make sense to commission an agency to update and expand your own profile.
Google My Business is particularly interesting for website operators who have done little or nothing in the area of SEO. Finally, it is time to go step by step through the registration process and the profile setup.
Register for Google My Business
The registration could not be easier. On the landing page for Google My Business, all you need to do is click on “Manage now”.
If you don’t have a Google account yet, it’s a good idea to create one right away.
The most important features of Google My Business at a glance
After registration, there is still a lot to do. The listing is only 30% filled out. Every additional field that is filled out holds potential for more customers. Here we go point by point through the individual functions (the left menu).
Google already provides an excellent example of a post. These can be used for different actions to attract interested parties. Offers, events, discount promotions, parties – the more going on in the store, the more attractive it usually becomes.
Here is an example of “Offer”. You can easily define the time period and upload up to 10 images.
News are simple messages, but you can still add a button to them.
Among the options for the button: Reserve, Order Online, Buy, More Information and Registration.
Events are comparable with the offer. But the product post is definitely still interesting.
Here you can advertise any product with price or price range. Your own products directly on Google in the search results: Ingenious!
To the posts is generally still to be noted that they are not permanent. After one week they are archived according to Google. Unfortunately, you have to re-post them every week.
Info – The core of Google My Business
In the info section, you can enter all kinds of information about the company. This is also recommended. The more thoroughly you proceed here, the more Google rewards you, or rather, the greater are simply the chances of being found or displayed.
Often enough, you want to select more than one category. For example, there are various stores that accept mail on the side. Here the additional category “Post Office” could work.
In the business location section, Google then also shows the location on the Maps map.
Catchment areas are important for companies that operate within a narrow radius. Of course, you can set several such catchment areas at once.
Opening hours can be stored very precisely…
… and even own times for holidays can be freely defined. Company vacations? No problem.
It is no problem to add multiple phone numbers.
The primary website can be added later without any problems. But Google My Business can do even more.
If you run a hairdresser, beauty, nail or massage studio, you can send your prospects directly to the appointment booking page.
Optimal for service providers: All services per company category can be determined.
The attributes are highly interesting: Google distinguishes between factual and subjective attributes. Factual attributes can be selected by the company itself. Subjective attributes, such as “Popular with locals,” are based on the opinions of Google users who have visited the business and left feedback, according to Google.
It also depends on which categories a business selects, because not every attribute is available in every category. Google itself suggests possible attributes. However, if these are known, then it is quite possible to draw the attention of one’s own customers to them.
Google: “For example, there are attributes about accepted payment methods, accessibility, or whether a business is LGBTQ-friendly.”
The company description allows you to publish the range of services or products and your own unique selling points, the company history and other helpful information. However, advertising is out of place here, there are separate fields for that. There are 750 characters available. However, one should definitely repeat here the name of the company and also the location 2-3 times.
Statistics and reviews
The Statistics and Reviews sections will be filled with data later. In the statistics section, Google provides data on the success of the listing. In the Google reviews section, ratings can be read and answered. Direct deletion is not possible. However, if a review violates the guidelines, you can report it to Google. If everything goes well, Google will delete this review. However, this may take a while.
It is even possible to receive questions via text message. This way, customers can communicate directly with the company. Under certain circumstances, you might be able to let customers know if there are products in stock at the store or simply close individual deals. Certainly a competitive advantage if done right.
In the photos section, pictures and videos about the company can be published.
It is recommended to upload a logo and a cover photo in any case. Hardly anyone uses videos. Therefore, here is clearly a competitive advantage to get out. Google distinguishes between indoor, outdoor and images of the workplace itself.
The products section is certainly not intended to publish an entire supermarket assortment. But for stores with a manageable number of products, this is an ingenious way to draw attention to their own assortment. It is recommended to offer the most popular products here. Maybe also to get potential customers into the store.
Services can also be offered via Google My Business:
If your business doesn’t have a website yet, you can quickly create one yourself.
Depending on your business, it is recommended to switch to a real website. Although this does not make sense in every case.
If you need help or just want to let professionals take care of this work, here is the right menu item.
The most important settings are done with this. But there is much more.
For example, you can hire an external specialist to film a virtual tour (right), which then works like Google StreetView. Viewers can then virtually walk through the store. Google automatically establishes contact if desired. However, this is not a Google employee, but external specialists. How useful something like this is certainly depends on how “cool” your own store, restaurant or office is.
Once things are going well, many other opportunities open up, e.g. via Google Ads. In addition, several locations can be defined at once.
Optimize Google My Business
If you operate in an area where there is not much competition, it may be enough to fill in all GMB fields as thoroughly as possible. However, if you are pursuing a restaurant, pizzeria, nail salon, hair salon or a similarly established business model, and you have a lot of local competition, you need to try to stand out. Here are the best tips:
Proximity: Usually, the listing/business that is closest to the searcher wins. Therefore, a smart choice of location is the best optimization strategy. However, it is entirely possible that a more distant listing will prevail. But for that to happen, everything else really has to be right.
OnPage optimization: Your own website still plays a major role in optimization. What is on this page, Google can match with the own listing and confirm again how much the present business deserves to rank higher. Therefore, it is crucial to provide your own website with sufficient keywords. A “Wedding Photographer Peters Munich” should not only be deposited at GMB, but also repeated sufficiently on the own website. Please always remember that the texts should not scare a visitor. But visitors are used to search engine optimized texts nowadays, so it is okay to include the terms to be optimized 3-5 times per page (depends on the length, of course).
GMB optimization: Within GMB, of course, all the stops should be pulled:
Choose the right categories. In order for Google to show the listing to matching search queries, you need to select the best possible category. There is a direct correlation between the categories that are available for selection and the search terms under which the listing is displayed. In other words, if the right category is not selected, Google will not show the listing. Pro tip: It is not always clear which categories are available for selection or make sense. A search on Google Maps and a look into the source code may help here. The categories that competitors have entered may be listed there.
It is ideal if the name of the company also contains the main category. But be careful: Here you should consider whether the use of keywords in the name may come across as too “spammy”. Once category terms are in the name, then exactly this name must also be used everywhere – i.e. also on all external websites. Pro tip: If there are keyword spammers under your search term, who place keywords in GMB, but have a different name on their own website, then you can also report this to Google by suggesting a change to their listing.
It is of great advantage to select all relevant categories for the business. Of course, only if they make sense, e.g. “Italian Restaurant” and “Pizzeria”.
The main keyword should also appear several times in the business description.
A service like GeoImgr can be used to add geo-coordinates to images if, for example, they were not automatically embedded in the image by the camera in the correct way. Even if the camera or the smartphone do it correctly, the coordinates may be lost during export. So better be on the safe side and use a service like GeoImgr. Only then upload to GMB. Pro tip: Pictures from the surrounding area around the store can also help with optimization, if they are provided with the correct coordinates.
Reviews: Even if the listing is not overly optimized, authentic reviews trump most other optimization techniques. True, they don’t directly help with ranking. However, it hardly makes sense in the top results to rank without reviews if the competition has many such. For customers, writing a review for a company is not always particularly appealing. Often, they simply don’t have the time or inclination to do so, even if they are enthusiastic about the company. Therefore, it’s certainly a good idea to help out creatively, e.g. by talking to customers when they’re in the store, strategically handing out discount cards, etc. Pro tip: Keywords in the reviews can definitely give a small boost. But how exactly do you go about it without running the risk of customers being “a little too kind” to you? One way is to ask customers to participate in a survey, e.g. they could fill out a form. If they are satisfied with the offer, they can put that there directly. Now, again, you can take the best ratings yourself, slightly “improve” them and add some keywords to them. Then you ask these customers if they would be willing to submit their review to Google. This way, only the best reviews that are also optimized for keywords end up online. For the customer who is willing to provide feedback, the whole process is also greatly simplified.
OffPage optimization: The company website should of course also be optimized as well as possible. The more local signals to be found on it, the better. Of course, everything in the framework – a visitor to the website should of course still have the feeling that the website was written for him/her. Classically, one uses the main keyword, e.g. “Italian Restaurant Berlin Mitte 10115” in the headlines, in 1-2 paragraphs, in the file names of images and videos, in the alt attributes and titles (for videos), etc. However, not always exactly the same string, but always variations of it. Otherwise it becomes too spammy.
Mirror Google: Where possible, spellings should be implemented to look exactly as they do on Google itself.
Use schema: For WordPress, for example, there is the plugin “Local Business Schema Lite by WP-Speed”, with which it is possible to define a so-called scheme for the website. This way, all information of the company is stored in the source code in a readable way for Google. Another indication for Google that the company really exists. For your website, there may be another plugin, if you do not use WordPresss. If in doubt, simply contact an expert. Other directories: It can make perfect sense to submit to all relevant, local directories. Here, too, make sure that spellings always match exactly, e.g. do not write “Musterstraße 123” once and “Musterstr. 123” the other time.
Link building:Links also play a role in local search engine optimization. The advantage here: Significantly fewer links are necessary to remain competitive. Even if link building can theoretically be done by any company itself. As a rule, it is worth hiring an agency for this purpose. Link building can be very time consuming and it is quite possible to make mistakes. So if in doubt, consult an expert. Pro tip: A simple method to get relevant business links: Be a sponsor at a local event. Often the sponsors are happy to include you on their website for a small amount.
Commitment: Google knows everything. That’s how it seems sometimes. That’s because, due to the prevalence of Android, Chrome, and even credit card transactions, the search engine can tell how much is actually “going on” at a business. That being said, it may be a good idea to invest in traditional marketing activities as a way to drive more online engagement. Be it radio advertising, online advertising (even outside of Google Ads), or other methods that lead to more people searching for your business. This can potentially lead to Google showing your listing more and more often.
Google My Business is an absolute boon for local businesses. It currently still offers the opportunity to get new customers without investment, for example, compared to Facebook Ads. Of course, the same applies here: It’s only worth it if your customers are looking for what you have to offer. If this is the case, then you should definitely give GMB a chance. It’s free, easy to use and can bring the first new customers to your store in just a few days/weeks.
What is Google My Business?
Google My Business is a tool that allows you to control, manage and edit your business presence on Google. For this purpose, there is a dashboard through which the data is centrally entered. This makes it available for services such as Google Maps, Google Search, etc.
What are the advantages of a Google My Business entry for your business?
Google My Business improves your online presence. The profile also increases your chance of being displayed in a higher position in search results. It also makes it easier for you to attract customers and improves the user experience.
Why is a Google My Business listing important for local businesses?
Especially for local searches, businesses can benefit greatly from a Google My Business entry. For example, if a user searches online for a pizzeria, Google Maps will show him the businesses with a red marker that also have a Google My Business profile. If a pizzeria is not listed, it will not be displayed here.
How do you create a Google My Business entry for your business?
In order to create a Google My Business entry, you first need a Google Account. Once you have registered with it, you can create a new entry.
What makes a good Google My Business entry?
The first premise of a good Google My Business entry is topicality. If the data available there is outdated, users will only get angry about it. This makes you look dubious and gives the searcher a bad, negative feeling. It is also important that your profile is complete and contains all relevant data.
Should every company have a Google My Business entry?
If you want to be found with your company, you should definitely maintain a Google My Business entry. It gives Internet users all the necessary information at first glance and thus improves the user experience with your company.
Is Google My Business free of charge?
Yes, the Google My Business entry is free of charge. In addition, it costs relatively little time to create a company profile.
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