Today, when most people are using the internet to find local services and businesses, having a strong online presence isn’t just a bonus—it’s a must-have.
Central to this is how many businesses show up on key platforms, especially on Google. For the small business owner, diving into online marketing might seem like a tall order.
But there’s good news. The Google Business Profile is here to help. It’s a straightforward, free tool, that can put your business front and centre, making it easier for customers to find you and for you to shine online.
What is Google Business Profile?
The Google Business Profile, once known as Google My Business, is a complimentary free business profile, that empowers companies to shape their online image on Google and its ancillary services, notably Google Maps.
When someone punches in a search on Google, the initial results you spot are the ads. Following these, you’ll often find the Google Business Profile listings displayed prominently the next page, complete with maps pinpointing local businesses. Given that a vast chunk of internet users turn to Google for their queries most business owners, this service has become pivotal in making sure businesses stand out effectively and with precision.
The shift in name from “Google My Business” to “Google Business Profile” signifies Google’s intent to hone in on the importance of individual business listings, underscoring the vital link between businesses and their clientele.
Key Features and Tools of Google Business Profile:
Profile Management: Businesses can provide crucial details like their business name, business hours, business address, website URL, and other details, ensuring customers find accurate and relevant business information anywhere.
Engagement Tools: Direct messaging, reviews, and the Q&A section allow businesses to engage with their customers directly, answer queries, and respond to feedback.
Visibility on Google Search & Google Maps: Once verified, a business’s location will be visible on both Google search and Maps, and the business profile on Google will appear in local search results, helping potential customers easily locate and learn more about the business.
Insights: A detailed analytics section provides businesses with data on how customers searched for their business and from where they are coming. This includes data on discovery searches, how many customers called through the Google listing, or even sought directions to the business location.
Post Updates: This feature allows businesses to share timely updates about what’s new, upcoming events, and promotional offers.
Photo and Video Uploads: Adding photos and videos, including a cover photo and interior photos, gives a visual overview of the business, aiding in attracting more customers, and building trust.
The Benefits of Google Business Profile for a Small Business Owner
The digital age has brought about vast opportunities for small and medium-sized businesses, to reach wider audiences and compete on larger stages. At the forefront of this digital revolution stands the GBP.
Let’s delve into its array of benefits tailored to the needs of small business owners:
Engagement with Customers:
Engaging with your clientele isn’t just about face-to-face interactions in a brick-and-mortar setting. With GBP, you have tools at your fingertips to keep your audience informed and engaged. Post timely updates about new products, special offers, or upcoming events to keep your audience looped in.
Moreover, the platform allows you to respond to reviews, both positive and negative, fostering trust and showing potential customers that you value feedback and are keen on continuous improvement.
Visibility on Google Search & Google Maps:
The online search arena, particularly on platforms like Google, is the new High Street. When local customers search for services or products you offer, having a well-optimised business profile ensures your business pops up prominently.
Whether they’re directly searching for your business name or more general services in the area, your presence on both Google Search and Google Maps means they can your customers find you easily. This access is paramount as most customers tend to engage with businesses they find on the first page of search results or in the immediate vicinity on maps.
Insights into Customer Behaviour:
Understanding your customers is the key to business success. With the Insights feature, you gain a window into their behaviour. Learn how often they’re calling your business directly through the profile, the queries they use to find you, or even the directions they seek to reach your business location.
This valuable data can influence marketing strategies, business hours, or even the services you spotlight on your profile.
Power of Reviews:
Google Business Profile allows businesses to gather, respond to, and showcase customer reviews. This not only enhances trust and credibility but also provides businesses with direct feedback and a chance to foster a loyal customer base. In a world where word of mouth has transitioned online, positive business reviews can significantly influence potential customers and set you apart from competitors.
Cost-effective Digital Presence:
GBP acts as a mini-website, allowing businesses to have access to an online footprint without the associated costs.
It’s a free business profile, yet it offers functionalities that mirror many features of a website, from posting updates to sharing a gallery of photos or even facilitating direct customer engagement.
GBP isn’t just a tool; for small business owners, it’s a comprehensive digital strategy compacted into an intuitive platform, offering a blend of visibility, engagement, insights, and cost-effectiveness.
Why Every Small Business Owner MUST HAVE a Google Business Profile
In a world increasingly driven by digital interactions and online discovery, the importance of carving out an authoritative online space for one’s business cannot be overstated.
GBP, isn’t just a luxury—it’s a necessity. Here’s why:
Customers are more discerning than ever. When they see a business with a verified profile, complete with business hours, address, reviews, and accurate information, it immediately elevates the business’s credibility.
A verified profile signals to customers that your business is legitimate and that Google recognises it as such. This trustworthiness is crucial, especially when potential customers are deciding between multiple businesses for a service or product.
Local SEO Benefits:
Search Engine Optimisation, or SEO, is a term many business owners are familiar with. Local SEO, however, zeroes in on optimising a local business name’s online presence to attract more customers from relevant local searches.
By maintaining an active and well-optimised profile, businesses enjoy a significant boost in local search rankings. This means when someone nearby searches for services or products you offer, your business is more likely to appear in the coveted ‘local pack’—the top three businesses showcased by Google.
Customer Feedback Loop:
The dynamic nature of businesses requires constant evolution based on customer needs and feedback. GBP offers a direct window into this feedback through its reviews and Q&A features. Customers can leave reviews, to which businesses can respond, fostering a two-way communication channel.
This not only aids in addressing grievances but also in celebrating positive feedback. The Q&A section, meanwhile, allows businesses to address common queries, ensuring potential customers have all the information they need before engaging with the business.
Setting Up Your Google Business Profile
Ensuring that your business has a robust online presence is vital. One of the most efficient ways to achieve this is by setting up your profile. Thankfully, the process is straightforward, even for those not particularly computer tech-savvy.
Here’s a detailed, step-by-step guide to getting your business profile up and running:
Create a Google Account or Use an Existing One:
To start, you’ll need a Google account. If you already have one (perhaps for Gmail or another Google service), you’re all set. If not, visiting the Google account creation page will guide you through a simple sign-up process to create an account here.
Ensure that the account you use is one you’re comfortable associating with your own account or Google business account, as it’ll be the primary means to manage your profile.
Visit the Google Business Profile Website:
Once you’ve got your Google account sorted, head over to the Google Business Profile website. Here, you’ll be greeted with prompts to begin the process of your google business account profiles. It’s user-friendly and intuitive, ensuring you’re guided every step of the way.
Enter Your Business Name and Details:
This step is where you start shaping how your business will appear online. Input your business name as you want it displayed. Following that, you’ll be prompted to fill in other details:
Business Category: Choose a category that best represents your business, as this helps Google determine when to show your business in search results.
Location: Provide your business address. If you’re a service-based business that doesn’t operate from a fixed location, you can define a service area instead.
Contact Information: Add a phone number and a website URL if you have one. This ensures potential customers can reach out to you directly from your profile.
Business Hours: Fill in your operating hours so customers know when they can visit or call.
After entering all your business profiles and details, Google will need to verify that your business is legitimate and that you’re its rightful owner. There are several verification methods available:
1. Postcard Verification (The most common): Google sends a postcard to the person or business address provided. This postcard contains a unique verification code which you’ll then input online to complete the verification.
2. Video Verification (Rare Scenarios): In certain instances, when Google might need some additional information, they will require a verification via video, where you’ll be asked to show your workpalce, signage of your business, etc..
Remember, once you’re verified, you can further optimise your profile with photos, special offers, and more, ensuring you make the most of this powerful tool.
How to Claim an Existing Google Business Profile
It’s not uncommon for businesses to discover they already have a presence on Google, perhaps established through customer feedback or other auto-generated means. Claiming this existing profile is imperative for a business owner to manage its portrayal and engage effectively with its audience.
Key Steps Exclusive to Claiming:
- Discover Your Unclaimed Profile: Search for your business on Google. If a listing pops up with tags like “Claim this business” or “Is this your business?”, you’ve found an unclaimed profile.
- Initiate the Claim: By selecting these tags, you’ll be steered towards a verification process to prove ownership.
What Comes Next? Post-verification, the journey of refining and maintaining your profile is remarkably akin to the procedures outlined in our “Setting Up Your Google Business Profile” segment. Revisit that section to grasp the nuances of tailoring your profile to best reflect your business’s ethos and offerings.
Optimising Your Google Business Profile
Congratulations! With your Google Business Profile set up, you’ve taken a significant step in enhancing your online presence. But the journey doesn’t stop there. To maximise the benefits and ensure you truly stand out in Google search and Maps, optimisation is key.
Here’s a comprehensive guide on making the most of your new profile:
1. Upload High-Quality Photos:
A picture speaks a thousand words. Start by adding a clear, high-resolution logo for brand recognition. Follow this with a cover photo that encapsulates your business’s essence.
2. Craft a Compelling Business Description:
Your business description should be succinct yet comprehensive. Highlight what sets you apart, be it your decades-long legacy, a unique approach to services, or exceptional customer care.
3. Ensure Accurate and Updated Information:
It’s essential that every detail on your profile—from your business hours to your website URL—is accurate. Regularly check and update this information, especially if there are changes like special holiday hours or a new business address.
4. Engage with Reviews:
Customers value businesses that engage. Respond to reviews, both positive and negative, in a professional manner. Thank reviewers for their feedback, address any grievances, and celebrate positive comments. This not only builds trust but also demonstrates your commitment to customer satisfaction.
5. Utilise the Posts Feature:
Use the posts feature to promote special offers, events, or news related to your business. It keeps your profile active and provides users with fresh content, drawing them in.
6. Define and Expand Your Service Areas:
If you operate in multiple areas or have expanded your services, make sure to update your service areas. This ensures you appear in local results for larger businesses in all relevant locations.
7. Incorporate Relevant Keywords:
While crafting descriptions and posts, integrate relevant keywords naturally. This SEO strategy helps improve your profile’s visibility when potential customers are searching for services or products you offer.
8. Regularly Check Insights:
Google provides valuable data on how users interact with your profile. Regularly check these insights to understand customer behaviour and adjust your strategy accordingly.
Remember, setting up your Google Business Profile is just the beginning. Regular optimisation of google business profiles ensures that your business remains relevant, appealing, and easily discoverable by potential customers.
Do You Need a Physical Address for a Google Business Profile?
Google Business Profile places significant emphasis on the accuracy and legitimacy of the physical addresses businesses provide.
Here you can see the Guidelines for representing your business on Google.
Here’s a structured guide to navigate these requirements:
Precise Locations Matter:
- Your business address should be your genuine, real-world location.
- Mailboxes or PO boxes, particularly in distant locations, are not accepted.
- Use ‘Address Line 1’ for your primary address.
- ‘Address Line 2’ should be reserved for additional specifics, like suite or mailbox numbers.
- If your official address doesn’t provide enough clarity, consider adding landmarks or cross-streets.
- If your business employs a rented postal address without operating from there, this won’t be eligible for a profile.
Co-working Spaces Criteria:
- Such spaces are acceptable if your business displays distinct signage.
- The space must be staffed by your team during operational hours, and customers should be able to visit.
Be Relevant with Address Details:
- Avoid adding unrelated details to your address, such as web URLs or keywords.
One Page per Location:
- Create only one profile for business account at each of your business’s physical locations, irrespective of account numbers.
Specific Entity Guidelines:
- Individual professionals and departments within larger entities (like universities) can maintain separate profiles.
Permanent Signage is Essential:
- If you’re displaying your address on Google, it’s crucial to have consistent signage at the specified address.
Addressing Challenges with Mapping:
- For addresses lacking clarity or a street number, you have the option to mark your business’s location on the map manually.
Guidelines for Service-area Businesses:
- Maintain a single profile for your central office, specifying its service area if you serve customers at their locations.
- Virtual offices are only valid if they’re staffed during business hours.
- Hybrid entities, like a repair shop offering both storefront services and home services, can specify a service area in addition to displaying their address. However, this place must be staffed and open to customers during the specified hours.
Distinguishing Shopfront from Service-area:
- Businesses without a shopfront but offering services directly at customer locations should have one service-area Business Profile.
- If operating from multiple sites with distinct service areas, you can maintain separate profiles for each.
- If you’re a service-area business based at a residential address, ensure your address remains hidden on your Business Profile.
- Ensuring your Google Business Profile aligns with these guidelines will not only enhance your online presence but also instil confidence and build trust, among potential customers.
To the small business owners out there, if you’re yet to embrace this platform, now’s the time. Dive in, claim or create your free business profile now, and optimise it to ensure your business remains at the forefront of local searches and potential customer interactions. In an era where digital footprints are as crucial as the physical ones, let your Google Business Profile be the stepping stone to greater visibility, engagement, and success.