There’s a world of opportunities for every business to have its local online presence stand out from the crowd. That requires thinking differently, so I’m going to share some great examples and little known secrets to show you how brands can maximise their success at a local level.
Google My Business was recently revamped and is a great tool to increase local visibility and help manage your local business on Google across all its applications, including Google Search, Google Earth, Google Maps and Google+. The user only needs to enter information once and it will automatically populate it across all Google products, reducing the risk of duplicate entries.
The following points will be discussed in this article:
- What changed?
- What is the difference between Local Pages and Brand Pages?
- 5 steps to optimise your local SEO
- Social Media Presence
- Why are online reviews important?
- 4 ways to encourage customer Google reviews
- How to manage negative online reviews
Google My Business has a new interface which is more user-friendly, allowing you to access different business features in one place. You can easily manage and update your information on Google Maps, share social comments and updates, keep a close eye on your customer reviews and even track your web analytics.
Key features of the new Google My Business dashboard include:
- Business Information – this feature allows you to, as its name suggest, share your business information with searchers. You can enter the name, address, phone number, opening hours, photos, category and description of the business. All of that information will then be displayed in the listing.
- Google+ – here you can choose to share social updates such as status, photos, video links and events with your circles or the general public.
Insights – this tool provides you with information about your current visibility, engagement and audience levels. It shows you how many impressions were made, how many clicks were received, which followers you’ve gained, which posts have been shared and commented on, and more.
Reviews – this section allows customers to rate you and provide you with feedback about your service or products on Google and also picks up on other online reviews.
Google Analytics – this interface offers you an easy and quick access point.
Start a Hangout – This is a nice option provided by Google My Business and only requires one click to start or join a Hangout.
What is the difference between Local Pages and Brand Pages?
When setting up a new account, make sure that you choose the right page type for your business. Google My Business offers you two options: Local Pages and Brand Pages.
In order to create a Local Page, your business needs to have a physical address or serve customers in a local area. Google My Business labels those two options Storefront businesses and Service area business. Examples of Storefront businesses are shops, restaurants, hotels and hairdressers. Because these sort of businesses require customers to physically travel to their location, they need to be visible on maps.
Service area businesses do not need a physical location to serve their customers. Some businesses operate from a home address and others are mobile with no central location. Examples of Service area businesses are plumbers, taxi services and pizza delivery.
If you meet one of the requirements of Local Pages, your business will appear on Google Maps and other Google properties. Additionally, you’ll get a Google+ page to engage with your customers and fan base. Another benefit of a Local Page is that it will allow you to more effectively run local marketing campaigns.
Even though Brand Pages look similar to Local Pages, they are quite different. Firstly, Brand Pages don’t appear on Google Maps. Entities such as bands, organisations, sport teams and artists can apply for Brand Pages. If you’re only looking for an online presence and don’t need to serve people directly, a Brand Page is what you want. You won’t be able to get a Local Page, but you can create a Google+ page to connect with your followers, fans and customers on Google.
5 steps to optimise your local SEO
The most important function of Google My Business is to help your customers to find you. According to a study by Brightlocal.com, 59% of consumers use Google every month to find a positively reviewed local business, and another 71% of searchers value the information offered by local search results.
Google My Business will likely take on a key role in local search rankings. Due to Google’s regularly updated search algorithm, Google My Business is much more than just another social networking platform. Everything is interlinked on Google, and its latest algorithm update Pigeon targets local search results.
1) Business information needs to be complete and accurate. Google is concerned about the accuracy of Google+ pages information and that it remains up to date, so it is no surprise that Google plans to incorporate that information into its ranking factors. And that’s why you should optimise your Google+ page, as it is going to play an important role in achieving higher rankings in search results.
Did you know that according to a study conducted by Placeable.com 73% of consumers have lost trust in a brand due to inaccurate location data? With that in mind, you want to make sure that you always display your business location accurately.
Photo Credit: <a href=”https://www.flickr.com/photos/89347716@N00/7416685846/”>Ben Husmann</a> via <a href=”http://compfight.com”>Compfight</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/”>cc</a>
Let’s assume that you’re a retailer and a customer looks you up on Google Maps and goes to your store only to find that you’re closed, despite the opening hours you shared stating that you’re open. You might not just be left with one angry customer, but with a bad review on your account as well!
So make sure you enter the following business information correctly:
- Ensure that the business name, physical address and phone number are added correctly and appear exactly the same as on your website’s contact page.
- Correct the business location on the map by dragging the map marker to your exact business location so that users can easily find you.
- Add your business website on Google+, as Google uses information from your website to improve search results.
- Incorporate business details on your profile, from opening hours to payment type, so that users get all the essential information.
- Read and understand the Google My Business quality guidelines.
Another thing you should do is to check for duplicate listings and make sure that you delete any you find so that you don’t confuse potential customers.
2) Select the most suitable and correct categories for your business.
- Choose a category option provided by Google so your business will show up in google searches.
- Be specific when selecting a category, as Google will highlight your speciality in general searches as seen in the image below. If someone is searching for “Music Shop Soho”, Google lists different options such as “Guitar Shop”, “Musical Instrument” or “Record Shop”.
3) Add photos to your local listings as 60% of consumers give more consideration to local results that have images attached, according to Brightlocal.com’s study. However, you should ensure that you only use images of high quality and high resolution. You don’t want to add blurry photos. You could even incorporate a virtual tour of your business.
4) Engage with customers and share your blog posts and other content such as photos or other interesting information via Google+ pages. It is important to regularly update your Google+ page, not only because Google wants you to, but because it helps you to increase your brand awareness. And, of course, it is also a great way to interact and communicate with your followers. With the right strategy you will be able to foster a loyal following on Google+ that shares your content and endorses you.
The new dashboard allows you to manage and communicate with your customers easily, whether by Search, Google Maps, Google+ or other mediums. In some ways you can look at it is as your new CRM system, where you can read and manage reviews (you want reviews, and lots of them, to achieve better rankings), manage your online reputation and monitor customer feedback.
5) Optimise your Google+ page, it won’t take you long but you it can have a massive impact on your visibility. Make sure you fill out all the fields with the accurate information and quality descriptions. Aside from adding pictures, you will be able to share social updates and manage reviews. A few other things you want to make sure are in place:
- Complete the About section
- Ensure that all your listings have the correct name, address and phone number. You can be seriously penalised if you forget to update your listings.
- Don’t be shy when using #Hashtags, as they will expose you to a large new audience.
- Join Google+ Hangouts so you can chat with people who have similar interests and promote your business in your community.
Social Media Presence
Having a great social media presence is crucial for all brands. According to Social Media Examiner, 97% of marketers use social media to promote their business.
Photo via Flickr by Jason Howle
Here are a few reasons why social media marketing is important for businesses:
- Boost brand awareness – Each post helps to increase your visibility online
- Increase brand loyalty – According to a study by Texas Tech University, brands which engage via social media channels enjoy higher loyalty from their customers.
- Create opportunities for customers to convert – Every post you make on social media offers customers another opportunity to convert.
- Improve conversion rates – Social Media Marketing results in higher conversion rates due to the fact that a brand becomes more humanised in the eyes of potential customers by interacting on social media channels.
- More brand authority – Interacting with your customers and followers shows people that you appreciate them. And don’t forget that consumers often turn to social media to talk about products and services they received, thus presenting a way to increase your credibility and the level of trust in your brand.
- Increase website traffic and search rankings – By utilising social media you won’t limit your traffic to people who are already familiar with your brand. And the more often people share your content, the better your search rankings will be.
- Fewer marketing expenses for more leads – According to Hubspot, 84% of marketers found that only about 6 hours of effort helped them to generate increased traffic. Paid advertising on Facebook or Twitter isn’t that expensive or time consuming. Apparently social media marketing helps you to drive leads for one third of the cost.
- Improve consumer experience – It is a great way to communicate and interact with customers as 0it demonstrates your high level of customer service and helps you to enrich your relationships with customers.
- Learn about your customer – You can gain valuable information about what your customers are interested in and how they behave on social media, so take some time to study what your audience already likes and shares and make sure that the content you share both aligns with your brand and is valuable to your audience.
- Target consumers effectively – By using geo-targeting you can target your message to a specific audience based on their location. Twitter and Facebook both offer tools to make sure that you are effectively communicating the right content to the right audience. To reap even greater benefits, consider scaling your local landing pages.
- Monitor social media – Doing this will allow you to gather information about your competitors and thus achieve a higher level of market intelligence. That intel can help you make better strategic business decisions that guarantee to keep you one step ahead of your competition. Hootsuite, for example, offers search streams to observe mentions of competitors’ brand names and products.
Social media is very important, as when done right it can help you increase your customer base, generate more traffic and conversion and glean valuable market insight.
Why are online reviews important?
Online reviews of your business are really important as online reviews help businesses to control their online reputation. It allows businesses to actively and positively interact with consumers. It also helps consumers create a solid foundation for a relationship with a business. As previously mentioned, a study by Brightlocal.com found that 79% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations.
Research by BrightLocal.com
More consumers are going online to read reviews about services and products they intend to buy. Reviews play a big part in consumers’ pre-purchase research and is an important factor in their buying decisions.
However, consumers have become faster in forming an opinion about a business, whilst at the same time reading fewer reviews. That means that companies need to closely monitor their online reputation so that they can deal with negative reviews immediately and positively.
Here are a few reasons why online reviews are crucial for businesses:
1) Increased sales – Online reviews provide searchers with the information they are looking for to make buying decisions. Don’t forget, people are always much more likely to buy a product or service if it has been recommended by others
2) Understanding consumers – Online reviews are a great way to find out whether your business is doing well. If there is a problem, this will help indicate what you are doing wrong, offering you an opportunity to improve your service and products.
3) Help to improve rankings – It’s not just about creating and maintaining a better relationship between your business and customers. Online reviews help you to improve your website’s ranking on search engines such as Google and Bing. The more people write about your business online, the more important your business appears to search engines and the higher it appears in search results.
4) Higher keyword content – In SEO terms, online reviews help your business to create a steady flow of keywords that will lead to a more prominent online presence. Online reviews usually contain many keywords that will help your business list in the search results of consumers who are looking for a particular service or product that you provide.
5) Show consumers that they matter – Online reviews provide your customers with a voice and the ability to provide you with feedback. Consumers who take the time to leave feedback are more likely to feel a certain degree of loyalty to your business and keep coming back.
6) Consumer engagement – There is a level of sociability connected to online reviews, as they facilitate an active social community where consumers can leave feedback and comments and return later to see what others have to say about your products and services. This is an important way to engage with consumers that also encourages them to form an attachment to your other customers and your business.
7) Let consumers promote you – Positive online reviews are very beneficial to your business as they will still be visible long after they have been posted, serving as a sort of constant positive advertising that you don’t have to pay for. This will help to increase your brand awareness not only in the short term, but also in the long term.
8) Encourage others to leave a review – People are more encouraged to review your service or products if others have already done so.
4 ways to encourage customer Google reviews
With reviews becoming more and more important to consumers and their purchasing decisions, you should try to get more of your customers to write an honest review about you. Here are some steps that you can take to get more valuable reviews:
Flickr photo by Gayla Baer-Taylor
1) No incentives – Don’t offer your customers incentives to provide a review. There are plenty of customers that are happy to do it for free. Paying your top brand ambassadors is also not the best way to get reviews. They may eventually get turned off by it and result in lowering their enthusiasm for your business.
2) Request Google reviews – A good way to get your clients to review your business is to ask them. But make sure that you and your employees understand Google’s guidelines for reviews first. Only Google email addresses are able to write reviews on Google Reviews. As a result, it’s important to only request clients who have Google email addresses write reviews. To do that, it may be worth separating out Gmail addresses from your newsletter contact list or customer base and only asking those customers to write a review.
3) Don’t wait – If you want feedback from your customers, try to get it right away. The best reviews are written when someone is still enthusiastic about the new hairdo or service they just got. The longer you wait to ask them for feedback, the less likely it is you will get a review from them.
If you are a business that people spend time at while you’re providing a service, you could improve their experience by offering them a tablet. You could either ask them to quickly review you online if they are willing and have the time or, alternatively, you could setup a background image or the locked screen image on the tablets that says something like “Review us on Yelp and Google”.
4) Follow up -If you have a customer’s email address, you can follow up your initial review request with a reminder email containing links for review submissions three days later. Sending reminder emails can account for a huge percentage of review conversions.
How to manage negative online reviews
If a client of yours leaves you a negative review, it can be quite gutting. But don’t see it that way. Turn it into something positive by accepting the negative comment, responding in a friendly manner and showing how great your service and products are.
The owner of Bri’s Ice Cream Pies did a good job replying to a negative online Google review (see image above) by following these quick steps:
- Be prepared and have a strategy – When you approach negative reviewers, make sure that you have a strategy that will show readers that you have rectified the issue. By having a plan, you will be able to maintain a professional appearance when put on the spot.
- Be sure to tell your future customers what you’ve done to make sure that this will not happen to them in future and offer to fix the reviewer’s problem. Don’t get personal, be nice and keep it sweet. Don’t forget that your response will not only affect your relationship with the reviewer, but future possible consumers as well.
- Reply publicly – Google allows businesses to respond publicly or privately to user reviews. Depending on the review, it might be good to reply publicly – how else would other consumers know what you did to avoid those issues occurring in future?! You don’t want users to assume that you don’t care because they can’t see that you reacted instantly and publicly.
- Don’t ignore it – Not responding to negative reviews could easily make it appear that you don’t care about customer feedback or customer satisfaction. You want people to know that you care, and that your customers’ happiness is a priority. If you don’t react, it could potentially backfire, damaging your brand’s reputation and drawing even wider circles by spreading beyond Google and other review platforms to blogs and news sites, creating bad digital PR issues for your business.
It often doesn’t take much to de-escalate a situation. A few words from you will help calm most people down and get the conversation back on track.
Google My Business Checklist
- Go to http://www.google.com/business/
- Enter Business Name and address to find business (If you can’t find your business, add your business)
- Choose business type (i.e. Shop Front, Service Area, Brand)
- Add business name
- Add business information i.e. address, phone number, website
- Select correct category and be as specific as possible
- Choose correct business location on the map
- Add business details e.g. opening times, payment types accepted, etc.
- Add photos to your local listing (at least 500×500 px)
- Add virtual tour to your shop or restaurant
- Optimise your Google+ page
In short, to benefit from Google My Business, you need to continuously update your account with accurate and timely information, manage your social presence and encourage customers to review your business. If you get a handle on these tasks, you will rank higher in local searches. To make sure you don’t miss anything, download our local search checklist here!