If your business is more than just a website, then there is a tool that you need to use.
Google Business Profile is a free business listings service which works directly with Google Maps, Google Search, and Google Ads. Google Business Profile creates profiles of businesses which it shares with Search and Maps, and by claiming your profile on Google Business Profile you are able to provide the public with useful information about your business.
Information such as opening times (including special opening times during holiday seasons), amenities (like gift-wrapping, free wifi etc), your menu or services, what types of payments you take, your specialities, (snazzy) photos, your logo, and of course your location.
You can also reply to reviews, post updates, and answer questions from the public which makes it a great customer service tool.
[Please note: I am not being paid to endorse this product, I just like it]
It’s important to note that in most cases, a profile on Google Business Profile will exist for your business anyway. Google Maps wants to be as helpful as possible, and so gathers information about every business it can so that people can find them. This means that signing up to Google Business Profile is a no-brainer – you are simply taking control of something that already exists. By controlling it, you can make sure all the information is correct, plus you will be alerted to the reviews and questions that were rolling in anyway.
So, because it is free to use, has many helpful ways of talking to your customers, and is happening whether you like it or not, I highly recommend Google Business Profile.
Get Found on Google
According to a study by Google, 4 in 5 consumers use search engines to find local information. More than that, the same study says that “50% of consumers who conducted a local search on their smartphone visited a store within a day, and 34% who searched on computer/tablet did the same”. If you have a business with a storefront, it is vital that you are visible on Google.
But what happens if you don’t have a storefront? Well, if you have a business that either doesn’t want people to come to your office or typically does go to your client, there is a helpful option for you too. On Google Business Profile you can choose to either direct people to your location, or set up a local service area. The latter is exceptionally useful for any businesses which send their staff out to where the problem is – such as plumbers, tree surgeons, etc or freelancers of any stripe.
This means that if someone searches “Plumbers in Bedford” (for example) and your service area includes Bedford then your search result should come up (assuming you rank higher than your competitors).
Look at this screenshot of the “Local Pack” – out of the three plumbers, only the one in the middle one lists their address, and is presumably the only one with an office people can visit:
So whether you have a location that you want people to visit or an area that you work within, Google Business Profile can help you. It goes further though, as it also helps you to control your “knowledge graph” which is the block of information about a business which appears on the right-hand side of search:
By inputting information about your company in Google Business Profile, you can control most of what goes in that block (it is also sometimes populated from other sources). If someone is looking up your business specifically, it can be amazingly helpful to be able to show them your best side.
It also just makes sense to have up-to-date opening hours, phone numbers, and more available so you make the journey from thinking about buying from you to actually being in touch as short as possible.
Talk to your customers
On Google Maps, anyone who goes anywhere can review that place. Reviewing places is encouraged via a scheme called “Google Local Guides” which means that locations which would never have been reviewed before (such as parks, playgrounds, newsagents etc) are now reviewed. In a lot of ways, this is a good thing, but if you are the owner of a business which is receiving a lot of bad reviews it can be a terrible thing.
Especially if you don’t even know it’s happening.
As I said – Google Maps is trying to gather as much information as possible in order to be the most useful mapping program possible, which means a listing for your business likely exists whether you set it up or not.
[Note: It’s easier enough to claim a listing for your own business – you just click “Claim this listing” and then get them to phone you to confirm]
This means that your business is likely racking up reviews, and reviews sometimes need managing. For nice 5 star reviews, it’s always great to say thank you and turn that warm feeling that drove the customer to say something nice into a genuine connection and repeat business.
For terrible 1 star reviews, this is where your customer service skills can shine. If the bad review makes a good point, it’s a vital bit of feedback which could help you to fix a broken bit of your business. If they had terrible service, perhaps you can apologise in a way that makes them reassess what made them dislike you – possibly by offering a discount or voucher for their next visit.
5 Star reviews are wonderful to receive. 1 Star (or 2 Star) reviews can be an opportunity though – either to improve your business or to try to talk round someone who otherwise would have been telling everyone how terrible your business is (without you knowing). Often when people hate something, they just take that hate with them and talk you down to people at random. If they leave a review, then at least you have a chance to do something about it.
[Pro Tip: The goal of talking to someone who has left a 1 star review is to give them such great customer service from that point on that they voluntarily change their review to 5 stars. You should never give an angry reply to bad reviews as they are shown publicly, and you will likely just make things worse]
If your company has a “knowledge graph” (as shown above) then within it could be a section for questions.
Like reviews, these questions are coming in whether you have set up your business profile yourself or not. These questions can also be answered by members of the public, which sometimes works out well, but sometimes not so much.
The questions you get asked via this function are often odd, but the answers are sometimes just incredibly wrong (or weird) and this can be a real problem for a business. I have seen people confidently give the wrong phone numbers, or opening hours, or just completely misdescribe a business’s function within these questions. Every business is much safer answering these questions themselves.
Google Business Profile has a feature which all Local SEOs are obsessed with… but I’ve never actually seen used in the wild. You can post updates on your Google Business Profile profile, and these at least theoretically can be excellent to promote sales, special offers, new products or services. As I say though – I have never actually seen one, nor met anyone who has. Moz did an excellent report on whether or not businesses actually use them (and if they are valuable) and both answers were yes apparently.
I would therefore highly recommend that your business starts using them too, but I don’t have anything more to say about it than that.
As well as Google Business Profile being the best way to help your Local SEO, it can also help your Paid Search. Google Business Profile links up to Google Ads, and generates “location extensions”. This means that you can add the name, address, and phone number of your locations to your ads which can be excessively helpful. If you add multiple location extensions to the same ad then the location(s) closest to where the searcher is located should show up (although in practice this is not always the case).
With Google Ads, as with Google Search, one of the biggest factors of whether or not someone clicks on your result is simply how much space your result takes up on the page. It sounds ridiculous but it’s true – so getting your ads to be larger via location extensions is a great way of increasing clicks.
Google Maps has about 70% market share, but other major business listing services are available. I would recommend that businesses should try and get on as many of them as possible. However, if you sign up to Google Business Profile, not only do you get onto Google Maps, but you also get the weird bonus of getting onto Bing Maps. This isn’t automatic – but you can simply import your Google Business Profile listings into Bing Places, which means you essentially get two mapping sites for the effort of one.
[For detailed instructions on how to sign up to both Google Business Profile, Bing Places, and more mapping sites, read this post]
If your business is old then your business profile on Google Business Profile probably already exists, but it’s simply unmanaged right now. Leaving a powerful (and free) marketing tool like this to manage itself is obviously not the best idea and you should claim your profile as soon as possible.
If your business is new, then Google Business Profile immediately gives it a chance to be noticed. Getting on Google Maps and in Google Search gives your business a solid start in life, and you should do this right away.
If you are advertising your business, then Google Ads is a solid place to find new customers and Google Business Profile will likely give your ads a big bump in CTR.
Google Business Profile is one of the rare services where there is no reason not to sign up. Do it now >