When’s the last time you searched on Google or your Google Maps app for something “near me”? My husband and I do this for restaurants on road trips if we need to find a place near the highway, particularly if we have a specific hankering.
When you search for something “near me,” you are using Google local search. And if you’re a business that has a physical location, Google local search (or local SEO) is a tactic you should not miss for marketing your small business. And your Google My Business listing is the best (and easiest!) way to boost your local SEO.
In this article, we’re going to discuss how Google My Business fits into your small business marketing strategy and some easy ways to score GMB wins.
Why You Need Awareness Marketing
If you’ve been developing your small business marketing strategy, you may have reached a point where you need to create a plan for what tactics you’re going to use in each point of your marketing funnel. A marketing funnel is a visual way of describing your customers’ journey from awareness to conversion. It’s wide at the top (where you have the most potential customers) and narrow at the bottom (where you have the fewest) because not every potential customer will convert.
In order to grow your audience of potential customers, you need to focus at least some attention on “awareness,” or the top of your funnel. This is the stage of the customer journey where potential customers become “aware” that you fulfill one of their needs.
Now in an earlier article on developing small business marketing strategies, I said that many small businesses spend too much time focusing on awareness-only marketing. Awareness marketing is only bad if you don’t have a way to track ROI, or if it’s the only section of the funnel that you focus on. You definitely need to have a plan for nurturing potential customers through the funnel. But in order to nurture customers, you need to get them into your funnel in the first place. And this is what awareness marketing accomplishes.
Google My Business as an Awareness Tactic
Local SEO is one of the best ways for growing audience awareness without investing in digital ads (see our article on choosing the right platforms for your business). We’ve already talked a little about local SEO. But in case you’re new to the term, here’s a great definition from Moz, an SEO data company:
“Local SEO employs a wide array of technical and creative efforts to convince search engines that a business should be prominent in their results as a relevant answer to online searchers in close proximity to each business location.”
As it’s not overly technical and requires only a little creativity, Google My Business is one of the best efforts you can use to boost your local SEO.
And if that’s not enough to convince you, here’s some statistical reasons why you should use Google My Business in your awareness strategy:
- Google’s share in search engine use was 92.06% as of mid-2020.
- “Near me” searches in Google have increased by nearly 400% over the past 5 years, according to a Forbes article on GMB best practices published in April 2021.
So if you’re not fully utilizing a GMB profile, you’re missing out on a huge opportunity for growth.
Using GMB well also builds credibility for your business and trust with your audience. Your digital presence, especially your GMB profile and your website, functions as the storefront of your business. If your GMB profile looks out-dated, unused, or incomplete, your potential customers (and Google too) will see a red flag discrediting the authenticity of your business.
Because Google My Business is also a hub for customer reviews, it helps to build trust between you and your potential customers. Multiple five-star reviews on your profile can make the difference between a conversion and getting passed-by. And that review activity also helps Google rank you higher in SERPs.
Easy Google My Business Wins
Using GMB for your small business marketing does not need to be overwhelming or overly technical. Here are three easy ways you can set yourself up for local SEO success and awareness growth by using GMB.
If you’re looking for an in-depth technical description of GMB and how to use it, I recommend this article from Google on how to set up your GMB profile and this article from Moz on boosting your local SEO.
1. Be Accurate and Complete
Having a complete and accurate GMB profile is the easiest way to score a win with GMB. Spend time filling out as much information as possible on your profile. The more info you provide about your business, products, hours, location, etc., the more easily Google will be able to match you with local searches.
Also note that inconsistent information (e.g. your phone number is different on your website) or incomplete information (like missing business hours) will hurt your local search ranking.
2. Post Updated Photos Regularly
GMB allows you to post photos of your business on your profile. Now, these are not random, but images potential customers will find helpful. You can post images of the exterior and interior of your business, teammates, products, and more. You can even tag your business coordinates in your images.
Just keep your potential customers in mind when you post an image. Would the image you’re posting encourage a potential customer to invest the time to drive to your location and then spend their money?
3. Respond to Reviews
Anyone can post a rating (one to five stars) and review your business. Regardless if the review is good or bad, true or false, respond to reviews within a day to demonstrate that you are listening.
Your responses don’t need to be long. A raving fan could get a response such as, “Thank you for the compliment! We are so glad we could serve you, and we hope to see you again soon.”
People who complain especially need a response, and it builds trust with prospective customers when they see that you always want to make things right. This isn’t a time to argue with the negative reviewer. A gracious reply such can go a long way. An example would be “We’re sorry you weren’t happy with your experience! Please give us a call so we can talk about it and make things right. Our phone number is 123-456-1111.” You probably won’t get a call, but if you do it’s a chance to review the facts and win their loyalty back.
Sometimes you’ll get a random one-star rating with no review. Reply to these as is described above. Report the review to Google if you have no record of doing business with the individual. Sometimes Google will remove the review.
4. Publish Updates Regularly
Finally, regularly posting updates in your GMB profile will help Google rank your business higher. You can share information about your business like upcoming events, new products, or sales. Just have a plan for posting on a regular basis. This will help you appear relevant to both potential customers and Google.
And as with photos, be intentional about what you post. The same question applies: Will this post help encourage a potential customer to convert?
Grow Your Audience with Google My Business
Google My Business is a powerful tool for growing your small business’s marketing audience. If using this tool sounds right for you but you’re not sure where to start, we can help. We specialize in strategic marketing strategies for small businesses. We invite you to schedule a no-obligation, marketing consultation with one of our consultants.
Are you ready to grow your small business?
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