By Amine Rahal, CEO of IronMonk, a digital marketing agency specializing in SEO & CMO at Regal Assets, an IRA company.
Google My Business (GMB) is no longer optional — it’s an essential part of any business’s online presence and often the first place customers look for up-to-date information about your company. In the age of Covid-19, this is more true than ever.
If your customers want to find your new opening hours or want to call you to inquire about your health and safety protocols, you can bet they probably aren’t going to crack open the Yellow Pages. Instead, they’re going to Google your business’s name and check the right-hand panel for the information they need. If it’s not there, they might look elsewhere.
In a post-pandemic world where businesses are reopening at a blistering rate — it’s crucial that your Google My Business profile is constantly refreshed. Otherwise, you will bleed customers.
As the founder of two digital marketing agencies, I’ve spent more than a decade helping customers improve their business’s online visibility. And now I’d like to share some of my top suggestions for perfecting your Google My Business profile, at a time when it’s more important to do so than ever.
GMB 101: Why is it so important?
Google My Business has always been important because it’s often the first thing your customers notice when they search for your business. The benefits of GMB are many. Here are a few key benefits to give you an idea of what’s to gain by optimizing your GMB account:
• A completed GMB listing can single-handedly improve a business’s local SEO ranking.
• It sets an immediate first impression for searchers who see your business’s essential info listed on the right-hand side of the interface.
• GMB has Google Maps integration, which makes it easier to find your business on the world’s most widely used mobile map and directions app.
• Direct messaging optionality — customers can send messages directly to your company phone or email via the GMB interface.
• Customer reviews are displayed under your GMB profile, giving your business social credibility that rivals Yelp or Trustpilot.
Plus, the relative decline of crowd-sourced review apps like Yelp has helped propel GMB to new heights. More often than not, I find that customers are using GMB to source opinions and reviews of a business rather than other platforms, so it helps to keep your GMB active and well-curated.
Covid-19 And GMB: Why The Pandemic Has Changed The Game
The events of the past year have catapulted GMB into the digital marketing spotlight. Whereas before business hours were relatively stable and predictable, nowadays that’s not always the case given that public health orders are changing so rapidly. Consequently, you have to be able to communicate any changes in your working hours and health protocols to your customers immediately.
This is where GMB shines. Since Google is the first place your customers go to source information about your business, you need to keep your GMB updated with your latest business hours and any other relevant information your customers might need. Fortunately, GMB lets you input your business’s operating schedule on the GMB panel, so it makes it super easy to communicate any scheduling or operating changes to your audience.
Also, Google lets you write a 750-character description (i.e., one-two paragraphs) about your business. This paragraph should describe how your business has adjusted to the changing public health environment and should include information about how you’re complying with sanitary measures.
GMB Optimization For 2021 And Beyond
If your business has been affected by the ongoing pandemic, your first order of business is to change the operating hours on your account. To make changes to your GMB account, follow these simple steps:
• Sign in to your Google My Business account.
• Navigate to “Info.”
• Navigate to “Edit.”
• Adjust your normal business hours for each day of the week.
• If you want specific hours dedicated to certain types of services (i.e., takeout only), add these under the “More hours” box.
• Once finished, hit “Apply.”
Whenever you have to adjust your business hours, always make sure your GMB profile reflects the hour changes. This way, you’ll have a reference to point in case a customer complains that you’re not open when you used to be. Whenever you adjust your hours, your customers will be notified of the change via orange text that appears in your GMB panel.
While you’re at it, change your business’s description by adding a line or two about how you’ve taken steps to combat the spread of the coronavirus. Be specific. If that means you know only accept contactless payments, mention that. If you’ve recently ramped up your cleaning regimen, mention that too. GMB is an excellent way to build trust with your customers and assuage concerns, so don’t blow the opportunity.
Next, update your business’s photos periodically. If you’ve made changes to your business’s interior due to the pandemic, or for any other reason, then have your photos reflect these changes and delete the old ones. For instance, include a photo of the social distancing markers on your store floor, if you have any.
For a better local ranking, make sure your business is properly categorized. In your GMB control panel, navigate to the “Primary Category” box and select the category that best describes your company (i.e., “nail salon” or “casual dining restaurant”), and add a secondary category if needed.
Master GMB For Better Business In 2021
A recent Google report found that 60% of smartphone users contacted businesses directly through the GMB interface using the “click to call” option. Clearly, GMB is no passing fad, as the majority of shoppers have used it as their primary contact method with local businesses.
Amid the Covid-19 pandemic, it’s more crucial than ever that you utilize and optimize GMB to display accurate, updated information about your business. Think of your GMB panel as the first point of contact between you and your customer. If your business hours or description is out of date, you can lose a customer’s trust and miss out on the lifetime value of the relationship.