When was the last time you started an internet search and didn’t turn to Google? Statistically speaking, it may have been a while ago – since 2015, Google has taken an 80% share of the UK search market.
This means, in business, Google has become something of a digital high street, connecting customers to companies of all kinds. Google’s advertising products look set to soar until at least 2024, but adverts are just one way the search engine powerhouse is used to forge connections.
People turn to Google to find local businesses, services and contact details – which is why Google business listings are so important.
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What is a Google Business Listing?
First thing’s first, a Google business listing is a type of profile – it’s used to summarise your organisation and display key details, including your Google Maps location. It helps customers to find your business, and provides a top-level overview about your work, brand and story.
Google business listings are free to set up and this is done through Google directly. Head to the Google business hub to get started.
Managing your own profile allows you to control what appears in your listing. This can help to avoid points of confusion – such as those that might arise if you have recently moved premises, if your services are niche or when opening hours change.
Why having a Google Business Profile account is important for small businesses.
Small and local businesses depend on drawing in the right people – word of mouth works great, but a Google Business Profile can be instrumental for achieving this online. Once, we turned to local and national directories to find businesses, but the landscape has changed. Google could be the first place customers go for key information about what you do and how to find you.
If you have a well set up website or online store and social media presence customers should be able to find you through those. And you should have both - they’re vital in today’s business world. But a Google Business Profile is a powerful addition to those things that is free and easy to create. It’s a missed opportunity for any business that doesn’t make the most of it.
In fact, Google My Business profiles are designed for firms with a physical base – they can only be created for businesses with set premises a customer could visit, or those that travel to visit customers as a point of policy. The address for your premises should be accurate and precise, according to Google’s guidelines – so it suits small businesses especially.
A Google Business Profile may lend authority to even the most fresh-faced of firms – once verified, your nail salon might start to appear in Google Maps results for local search terms, for instance. This potentially opens the door to new customers pursuing local solutions.
Writing your own custom business description helps Google to understand exactly what you do – useful if you deliver multiple services or product types.
How to get started and create a Google Business Profile
Sign up to a Google service
It’s simple to get started with Google My Business – first, you’ll need to head to google.com/accounts to create a free account. If you already have an account, you can sign into your Google business account.
Add or find your business
Add your business details, starting with the company name – make sure to format this correctly.
Next, enter the address – this needs to be specific to your business. If your business is customer-facing – say, a boutique store, restaurant or salon – select ‘storefront’ to let users know you’re open for visits. Select your business category, then add your phone number or website.
Not sure if you already have a Google business profile? Use the ‘Account Summary’ bar when you log in to check.
Verify your business
Google business listings require verification – and they do this the old-fashioned way to ensure you have access to the listed premises. Click ‘verify location’ or ‘verify now’ in your account, then follow the instructions to request a postcard verification number.
When this arrives, enter the code in the same place – with care. Inputting the wrong code more than five times means you’ll need to delete your account and start again.
Keep your information up to date
Mighty as Google is, it’s not a mind-reader. If you make meaningful changes to your business, like adding a new location, altering your opening times or contact details, you need to make sure your Google My Business account is also up to date. Another important way to keep your information completely accurate is nipping any duplicate accounts in the bud. A duplicate may be the culprit if your old address keeps appearing, for instance. You can lose vital traffic this way, so it’s worth checking for duplications and taking steps to remove them.
How Local Search can help your business.
Once you’re set up, the world – or the local neighbourhood, at least – is your oyster. Your Google business profile can do more than just deliver accurate information, however.
Target specific audiences
Optimising your Google business listing description for certain keywords may help you to target niche audience groups. If you wish to target those searching for ‘Swedish massage’ in a certain city, for instance, this can be a great way to achieve it.
Alternatively, turn on location targeting within your Google Ads account to target leads more aggressively. You can then track these using Google My Business Insights.
Typically, ‘near me’ Google searches feature a list of three businesses. These are among the highest rated and most relevant nearby establishments. If your business appears here, it’s just a few clicks through to your site’s reservation feature – so optimising your listing and asking customers to leave reviews could boost future conversions.