Google Me, Baby

When was the last time you Googled yourself? How about your biz?

One of the most obvious, but important, factors for marketing your business effectively is making sure you can be found. If a customer is looking for you or a business like yours, that little Google search bar is likely to be one of the first places they look, and there's a really good chance they'll be searching on their phone. Will you show up?

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Have you ever heard of Google My Business? This is a free tool offered by Google (obviously) to help you manage how your business looks when users Google it. Here's an example of what shows up when we search for donuts in Washington, D.C.:

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Google bases the results that appear off of multiple factors; read this explanation for details, but it boils down to:

  • Relevance (is your business what a customer needs/wants?)
  • Distance (is your business located where the customer needs you to be?)
  • Prominence (is your business verified, popular, and active?)

If you’re at all looking to reach people in a specific area – maybe you have a brick and mortar business, or maybe you’re offering services only in a certain city or town – it’s a good idea to sign up and make sure you’re managing what appears when those people search for you. This info is also what shows up on Google Maps and helps people get directions to your location. You can imagine why that’s important, right?

Your profile on Google My Business will include the following:

  • Your business name and logo
  • Address and phone number
  • Photos of your business
  • Hours of operation and popular times to visit
  • Customer reviews

One note: If you’ve ever signed up for Google Places or Google+ in the past with your business information, you are already on Google My Business and your information was imported over. You still should log in and make sure everything’s verified and up-to-date! Here's how.

Let’s Get Google-able

Visit google.com/business to get started; click “Start Now” at the top right corner.

First, you’ll be asked to put in your location and find it on a map. Pro tip: Make sure your business address is listed the same way on your profile that it is on your website and on other sites where you might be listed, such as local directories. This is important for search! And yes, it matters if you put in “Street” or “St.” Be super consistent.

If your business doesn’t have a physical address, you can use a tenant address in a co-working space (like WeWork). You just can’t use a P.O. box. Instead of putting your business address on your profile, you can instead list one or multiple areas where you provide services; use these steps to set up your listing this way. You’ll still need to put in some kind of address where Google can verify you exist, but you do not have to list that address publicly.
 
Once you’ve located yourself and verified the info, Google will create your profile and account. Google is going to send you a physical postcard to your business address to verify it; look out for it and get that verification done as soon as possible. It usually takes around a week.

After you’re verified, you’ll have access to your dashboard, where you can add your logo, add photos, add more business information, and (very important) add a link to your website.

You’ll be asked to pick a category for your business; be specific when making your choice, and use additional categories to tell your potential customers more about what you provide. Here’s a guide to picking categories based on your business type; you can’t create your own.

It’s Show Time

Write an introduction that describes your business compellingly and use links. If you offer a free consultation or online appointments, this is the place to say so. Include any notes on payments you accept or types of services people should know about.

If you have some photos of your business, upload the best ones that show you off. If you don’t have photos, maybe it’s time to invest in some! Photos make a big difference and show your customers that you are professional and serious; make sure you’ve got some high-quality images that clearly show your location, your staff, your products, or your office. Your customers can also take and submit photos to appear on your listing, so keep that in mind too. (Here are some example photos from Astro's Chicken and Donuts; they're doing it right!)

Photos help customers know what to expect when they walk in the building, and it’s one more opportunity for them to see the value of what you’re offering and incentivize them to come on in. (Another pro tip: If you are offering a service that people might be nervous to try for the first time, such as hair cuts or therapy, showing that your location is friendly-looking and welcoming can even help them feel more confident about coming in!)
 
And, if you’re ready to be really extra or you have a hard-to-find location, you can hire a Google-approved photographer to take a 360-degree photograph of your business for Google Street View. This allows a customer to take a virtual tour of the inside of your restaurant, office, or building. If you’re bored this afternoon, get lost in these Streetviews for a while – you can tour Disneyland!
 
Now that your business profile is all set up and users are ready to find you, let’s boost those search results! Talk to some previous and current customers and ask them to leave you a review – this is the best way to build some trust in your business listing and show Google that you’re supes legit.
 
Whoops, did someone leave you a bad review? Respond directly and handle it as though this person were giving you this review in person. Offer to solve the problem and explain the situation; this is an old article, but read it for some great advice on handling these reviews with panache. You can't avoid bad reviews entirely, but you can at least learn to handle them like a pro.
 
Keep Your Listing Alive
 
Now that you’re set up, don’t forget to come back and update your information as needed on a regular basis! Put a reminder in your Google Calendar (or however you manage your appointments) and, at least once a month, check on your listing as well as your other social profiles and business directory listings. If your address or phone number changes, your hours change, or you just have new photos to add, let your customers know! They’re out there searching for you... right now.

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