When it comes to building a strong online presence for your business, having a high-quality website is important, but any experienced SEO professional will tell you that it’s only one step in finding digital marketing success on the web. In fact, there are a few things that will provide a huge bump to your company on Google that have nothing to do with building a website, the easiest of which is creating and maintaining a Google Business Profile.
What is a Google Business Profile?
Previously known as “Google My Business,” Google Business Profiles are a free tool offered through Google that allows businesses to manage their online presence across the Google search engine and help increase exposure.
One of the primary benefits provided by a Google Business Profile is the ability to put all of your business’ important information in an easy-to-read sidebar when users search for you on Google. The type of content typically found in a Google Business listing includes your company’s address, phone number, hours of operation, a link to its official website, directions to the location via Google Maps, and many other customizable options that will give people the information they need before even visiting your primary site.
The Google Local Search feature is integrated with Google Business listings to show nearby businesses that fit in with a specific Google search. For example, if you are an Italian restaurant owner, Google Local Search can go a long way in introducing you to potential customers who search for things like “Italian restaurants near me”. If you aren’t using a Google Business Profile, all the other businesses that are will have a leg up in the digital marketing space. Given that Google Business is a free tool, there is no reason not to utilize its powerful marketing potential.
Is a Google Business Profile a Good Alternative to a Website?
Google Business Profiles are a powerful marketing tool that should be used by any business that wants to rank on Google, but relying solely on a Google Business listing, rather than using it in conjunction with an actual website, is not going to yield the desired results. Your Google Business Profile should be a compliment to your business website and not an outright replacement.
While a Google Business Profile offers a plethora of great opportunities to provide information to potential customers, it does not have the capabilities to provide more detailed information about specific goods or services your business offers. A full website allows users to make more informed decisions and gives you the opportunity to sell them on your merits over other businesses in your industry.
How to Get Started With Your Google Business Profile
The first step to maintaining a Google Business Profile is to check if your business is already being listed on Google. Many businesses may already have a listing and not even know it. If your business has been around for a few years, it would not be unusual for there to already be a listing you weren’t aware of. If this is the case, all you need to do is claim the listing and you will be able to make any updates or changes.
If you do not see a listing for your business, simply visit the Google Business page to create one, after which you can immediately begin inputting your company’s information.
Google Business Profiles Are Tied to Physical Locations
Before going through the effort of filling out your Google Business page, it’s important to understand that, aside from a few exceptions, your business MUST be tied to a physical location with a mailing address. Without one, you will be unable to verify your listing, which is the final step in setting up your profile. Google does not accept PO Boxes as a valid physical location.
We also strongly discourage the creation of profiles for “satellite locations,” which are meant to artificially increase the range of your business’ services or enhance its SEO potential. While you may initially find success by “gaming the system” this way, the downsides far outweigh the benefits, as Google will ultimately detect the discrepancy and shut the profiles down.
As long as your business has a physical location that customers can visit (or if you travel directly to a customer’s location), you are safe to proceed with setting up your profile!
Verifying Your Google Business Profile
Once all the information is correctly submitted, you will need to verify your listing. Doing this is crucial for performance and visibility of your Google Business Profile. There are several options available to achieve this, but the easiest way is having a postcard sent to you through the mail with a five digit code that will allow you to finish your verification. Completing your verification this way will confirm to Google that the address you used is real and mail can be received there.
Be sure to note the option that asks if the business being created delivers goods or services to customers at their location. This is valuable for many businesses that operate away from their brick-and-mortar headquarters, or may not have a physical location for customers to visit. This is often the case for e-commerce businesses that operate entirely online.
Maximizing The Impact of Your Google Business Profile
In order to reap the potential rewards of a Google Business Profile, you’ll need to make sure that you fill out as many of the sections in each available tab as possible, ideally completing all of them.
The types and variety of these sections may differ depending on the kind of business you have, but the goal of providing comprehensive and accurate information remains the same.
Another area to take advantage of is the “From the Business” section. Unlike the Google-provided description of your business, which cannot be altered, this section allows you to describe what you offer in your own words. You have space for 750 characters, and it’s recommended that you use all of them (or close to all of them) to articulate what makes your company stand out from the crowd.
Choosing The Best Categories For Your Profile
Choosing the right primary and secondary categories for your Google Business Profile is paramount to success, as they will help connect you to the people searching for the services or products you provide.
When picking the primary category for your business, it’s important to choose the one that is the most specific to what you offer. In other words, if you are the owner of an allergist office, be sure to choose “Allergist” rather than simply “Doctor.”
Google only offers a fixed amount of possible categories, but the list is expansive, so be sure to investigate your options thoroughly. The more specific your primary category, the better.
Additional categories are where you can show off the other services you offer. Continuing with our Italian restaurant example, appropriate additional categories could be “bar” or “pizza delivery.” That said, be sure to only include categories that apply to what your business actually offers, or run the risk of alienating potential customers.
Lastly, as important as proper categorization is, Google recommends that you use the fewest number of categories it takes to describe your business, as going overboard will hinder the listing’s reach in the long run.
Engaging Your Audience Boosts Your Profile
Active engagement and interaction with your online audience is a key component to expanding the reach of your Business Profile.
One very effective way to achieve this is by actively engaging with reviews that are left on your Google Business Profile. Regularly responding to reviews, positive or negative, shows you are engaged and willing to communicate with customers. Positive reviews also make a great first impression on potential customers researching your business, and can increase your business’s visibility in search results. Including a section on your website that encourages people to leave a review can give you an advantage against competitors in your industry. In addition to thanking people for positive reviews, it is also important to respond to negative reviews in a calm, professional way.
Maintain Your Profile With Regular Updates
Setting up and fully fleshing out your Google Business Profile is only half of the battle when it comes to optimization; the other half is regular updates and general maintenance.
Many companies employ a “set it and forget it” approach with their listing, which often results in outdated business information alongside the loss of potential customers that a fully-optimized profile would have otherwise brought in.
Google wants to see that you are active with your profile, and you can show that you are by uploading fresh sets of pictures and publishing written posts on a weekly basis, personally answering questions posed by your online audience, and continuing to engage with reviews.
An optimized and regularly maintained Google Business Profile is a powerful tool for growing your company, and if you have questions about setting one up or how to update it, contact JSMT Media today.