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How to Optimize Your Google My Business Listing for Local SEO

Local SEO is an imperative digital marketing strategy for small respective businesses to constantly form awareness with new customers. By focusing on your local surroundings, you can narrow down and implement the strategy which best suits the local demographic. This will make it easier for potential customers to gain exposure to your business and see what services you offer. For example, if you were a restaurant owner, your target is to always attract new customers while maintaining loyal regulars. Showing the latest deals, updated menu, affordable prices, and having positive reviews are the best features to attract new customers. Your business listing is a backlog for your business URL, information, images, and reviews. Google My Business is the most efficient platform used to manage your business listing. GMB has many benefits and is one of the strongest factors for local SEO service. Users can search your business name or keywords related to your business using Google search or Maps and find additional information already compared to the normal search result. This includes location, office hours, services offered, and posts, which is excellent for converting users into sales. GMB allows you to add a link that directs to a specific service, making it easier to funnel a customer to a desired action, e.g., appointment scheduling.

Local SEO is a strategy used to enhance the website’s visibility and rank higher in the local search listings. It is an effective marketing practice for businesses with a physical location, enabling searchers to target and find your business based on the search query. Local SEO, by standard, is implemented to target local search results. Normal SEO will target any location as it does not always depend on the search phrases. For example, if you are running a small computer repair business and operate in London, a regular SEO strategy may show your business in results when searching “Computer repair Kingston,” even if you don’t operate in Kingston or have any intentions of targeting it as a location. With local SEO, your business will only be visible to those who you are operationally marketing to.

Importance of Local SEO

For local enterprises which are depending more and more on online advertising to get their goods and services in front of potential clients, ignoring local SEO will be lethal. As Google continues to dominate the search sphere, this results in local enterprises having a lot more opportunities to be seen by potential clients. Local SEO is crucial to your company. Reports demonstrate significantly that customers have a tendency to search for the trade or service that they require quickly before taking a step to buy. Often, this involves typing a well-known trade name into a mobile phone to assist in finding the exact site of the trade or to make a quick phone call. There’s no better place to do this than Google on mobile, with the click-to-call functionality and small map-triggered listings often appearing first in a search.

Benefits of Optimizing Google My Business Listing

One strategy to consider is to shift some effort towards optimizing your presence on Google’s first page that doesn’t involve your website. Good placement of your local business on the right sidebar of the search results can be more achievable and still very effective. This sidebar is powered by Google Maps and includes a list of 7 businesses relevant to the search term. If you’re able to get your business into this list of 7, the visibility of your location will receive a substantial boost. One way to get into this list is to improve the organic SEO of your website such that it appears higher in the main results, thus increasing the chance of it being relevant to Google Maps searches. This is a long term strategy though and there’s no guarantee it will ever put you into the 7-pack. An alternate strategy is to put more focus on optimizing the position of your business on the Google Maps section itself. This sidebar is powered by Google Maps and includes a list of 7 businesses relevant to the search term. If you’re able to get your business into this list of 7, the visibility of your location will receive a substantial boost. The Google Maps results are based on the location of the person searching, so if your business is located in a region with a lot of potential customers, showing up on the local map can have a big impact. This is often more effective than the 7-pack on the traditional Google search results because the map can be manipulated to show a much smaller region, meaning less competition. If you’re able to go to the extent of getting your business in the top position of the A-G listing on the Google Maps results, you will very likely receive some phone calls from customers saying that they found your business while looking for other local services.

When you’re trying to increase your online visibility, it’s important to take every step possible to move closer to the first page of the search results. For businesses serving local markets, this usually means trying to get your website on the first page of a Google search including the location as a keyword (like “Austin dry cleaner”). Realistically though, there’s only so much room on the first page and a lot of competition for the top spots. And moving onto the first page for broader search terms may not be worthwhile if you’re only serving a small region.

Optimizing Your Google My Business Listing

Make sure that your business information is correct and complete. How do you do this? Google your business. Sometimes, your business might be already listed on Google Maps, South Africa without you even having added it yourself. If this is the case, you can claim this listing as your own. Create a new Google account, if you do not already have one. Then, go to Google Maps, and click on the listing that shows your business. In the information window that appears, click on the link that says ‘Business owner?’. You will then be prompted to either sign in to your Google account, or create a new account. After this is done, you can follow the instructions to claim your business. This generally involves selecting an option to verify that you are the business owner, followed by Google sending you a PIN code on a postcard to your business address. This PIN code is then entered to verify your ownership. If your business has not yet been listed on Google Maps, the first step is to type your business name into the search bar that appears when you click on the link ‘Put your business on Google Maps’. If your business is already listed, the best way to claim it is to follow the same process as mentioned above. If your business does not appear in the drop-down menu with suggestions after typing your business name into the search bar, this means you will need to create a new listing for your business on Google Maps.

Claiming and Verifying Your Listing

Before you can optimize your GMB listing, you need to confirm it’s been claimed and verified. This can be done by navigating to google.com/business. If you have a GMB listing, you’ll be able to see it on the right hand side of the screen. If you don’t see your business, click on the “add your business” or “claim your business” button. From here you’ll be prompted to log into your Google account. Google will then make you search for your business title. If it comes up, it means there already is a listing for your business. This may have been done by a third-party. If this is the case, that listing may have already been verified by somebody else. You’ll need to request access or claim the listing. If no one has claimed the listing, you’ll be able to claim it as your own. If there was no existing listing for your business, you may start creating a new listing. You’ll need to confirm your country or region. Then you’ll be asked for the primary location for your business.

Providing Accurate Business Information

Your Google My Business listing relies on accurate information. Put yourself in potential customers’ shoes and perform searches using the keywords of your page. Is it your location that shows up on the map? Is the marker in the correct place? If not, this can be corrected in Google Places. Are the details correct? If your business has multiple locations, this can be managed in bulk with the locations tool. Make sure the location you registered your business for is the correct one. This is a common mistake. In the location tab of your dashboard, you can specify the countries or regions where you provide your services. This will directly impact what searchers see when looking for the type of business you purport to be in a specific location. If there is no match with the location they are searching from, you do not exist in their eyes.

Choosing Relevant Categories

When choosing the most relevant categories for your business, it’s important to think like a customer performing a search. What category would I search to find this business? Google’s goal is to connect businesses with the right customers, so the more accurate your categories, the more likely Google will display your listing for the right searches. The primary category you select will be the most important category for your business. You also have the option to add more categories if your business spans multiple industries. Categories are meant to describe your business and what it does, and Google has stated that they can determine your primary category from the information on your website. If you find that your business does not fit into a specific category listed, choose the most general category that still accurately describes your business. An inaccurate category selection may lead to your business being removed from Google Maps.

Adding High-Quality Photos and Videos

To add this content: Sign in to Google My Business and choose the location you’d like to manage. Click on the “Photos” tab. You can add photos and videos one at a time, or in a complete folder (this is a new feature). Videos will appear under the “By owner” tab and not the video tab.

Finally, photos and videos should be relevant to your business. Don’t use stock photos, logos, or other branding images. Google wants customers to be able to visualize what it would be like to visit your business, so show them what they can expect. This applies to chains and brands, where each location should have location-specific photos and videos.

First and foremost, photos should have a minimum resolution of 720×720 pixels, and JPG or PNG files are preferred. Photos can be in either 4:3 or 16:9 aspect ratio. Business interiors should have a minimum of three photos. Your chosen cover photo should be representative of your business and of good quality – landscape photos work best here. You can now also add your own videos and Street View virtual tours. Videos should be 30 seconds or shorter, and less than 100 MB in size.

Uploading photos and videos to your Google My Business listing is one of the most beneficial things you can do. Visual content not only makes your listing more attractive, but it also increases engagement. According to Google, businesses with photos on their listings receive 42 percent more requests for driving directions on Google Maps and 35 percent more clicks through to their websites than businesses that don’t have photos. Customers also perceive businesses with photos to be more credible. Google provides some excellent guidelines for creating and uploading photos and videos; we’ll summarize these and add a few extra tips.

Enhancing Your Google My Business Profile

– Don’t stop encouraging new customers to give reviews (you can use segmentation by sending emails or even affirming the service).

– Optimize your store/product image, keep doing (or create, if you haven’t) regular posts, and keep updating the information regarding your store hours and availability.

– Take time to optimize your GMB “product” section, select the right product available for showcasing, and enable special offers for potential customers.

But here are some short tips for maintaining or improving your GMB performance in the long run:

Google’s decision to close or limit some of the GMB functionalities amid the COVID-19 crisis (such as new reviews, review replies, Q&A, joining new GMB forum, or messaging) surely complicates local marketing for the majority of businesses. As a short-term solution, you can read our post about local search marketing during the pandemic to know how you can navigate local search marketing during such difficult times.

Encouraging Customer Reviews

When it comes to local SEO, customer reviews are valuable and can be a great free method to market your business to potential customers. Encouraging customers to leave a review on your business is something you should be looking to actively do. They can be a valuable resource of constructive feedback. Reviews are a two-way conversation which gives you, the business owner, the chance to respond and resolve any issues the customer may have experienced. One thing to remember is that consumers are more likely to leave a review after a negative experience rather than a positive one, so it is important to try and incentivize all customers to leave a review, not just the unsatisfied ones. An incentive that works well when trying to get the customer to your review page is to provide a “how did we do” leave a review card with your company’s details such as a link to your GMB review page and QR code. This can easily be printed and given to the customer with a receipt. It is a great method which provides the customer with everything they need to leave a review and also a physical reminder of the service they received.

Responding to Reviews

Responding to customer reviews on your Google My Business page is an important practice that should not be neglected. Both good and bad reviews deserve responses from your company. Of course, thanking a customer for their 4-star rating can only further good relations; showing future potential clients that you care about the experience that people have had. Indeed, the positive reviews should be responded to in a way that builds both your brand’s image and rapport with customers, and so here are some steps to succeeding with this. A critical part of this process is contacting the customer directly (if the review platform allows it) to let them know that you’re aware of the problem and making an effort to right the situation. Thank the customer for their review and explain that you want them to have a good experience with your company and are taking this specific feedback as a chance to improve. This can go a long way in not only changing the customer’s opinion but also help salvage your brand image. After hopefully resolving the issue the customer had, you can ask them to consider updating their review based on the new outcome. This is not a request to remove or alter the review but about showing that you care about the feedback received and want an accurate portrayal of the customer’s experience. Done correctly, this can actually lead to better reviews from disgruntled customers who have seen the effort that you are putting into customer satisfaction.

Utilizing Google Posts and Updates

There are many benefits to using Google Posts. One being that it is simple and quick. Posts can be created and published in less than 5 minutes, making it a great tool for communicating time-sensitive information to customers. For example, if a bar and nightclub were to have a spontaneous event on a slow night, they could post about the event, and it will be visible in search results for the duration of the event. This can also be extremely useful for restaurants and similar businesses with quiet nights. They can create a quick post declaring a special of some kind for that night in attempts to attract more customers.

Google Posts are a feature introduced in June 2017, which allows businesses to create short and informative posts that appear in Google search results as well as on Google Maps. These posts can include images, videos, animated GIFs, as well as offer and event announcements. This new form of post is a great way for businesses to communicate with their customers and potential customers without them leaving the Google platform. Posts can be used to communicate events, offers, new products, or any general update from the business. This feature is extremely easy to use. Through your Google My Business dashboard, you can create a post in a matter of minutes.

Showcasing Products and Services

Your Google My Business profile can be used as a platform to showcase your products and services. In the Google Places dashboard, within the description section, there is an option to input information about the products offered. This should be utilized to its full extent and include keyword-rich descriptions. By doing this, you are ensuring that Google has all the information needed to display your product listing in the most relevant way. Include menus. This is especially relevant for restaurants but can also be applied to other businesses. Use the Google Places dashboard to upload a PDF file of your menu. This can also be used for special promotions or events that may have their own dedicated menu. Video/Images – Upload as much multimedia as possible. For one, it makes your Places listing look more attractive but also will give visitors a better sense of what your business is really about. Try to add keyword-rich descriptions to your images and videos. This will serve two purposes – if your multimedia does get indexed, there is a greater chance of it being found, and secondly, it adds more keyword relevancy to your Places page. As long as the images or videos are directly about the business, they will help enhance your listing. Special Promotions – Google has noted that coupons are one of the features most clicked on by visitors of a Places listing. While they may not be directly within the Places dashboard, coupons are managed through the Google Offers tool. If you have not used Google Offers, it is essentially a way to create online coupons and have them displayed within your search listings. After creating a coupon, it will ask you to fill in information about your business, including a place name. By filling this information with your Places page URL, it will be displayed in a manner similar to a product or service listing.

Adding Special Offers and Promotions

Once you have more advanced Google My Business features such as posts and a fully populated listing, you can use special offers and promotions to give searchers an added incentive to use your services or visit your location. People love a good deal, so if you can entice them with a coupon at the exact moment that they are looking for a business like yours, they’ll be more likely to convert. Whether you offer a product or service, you can give people an extra push to choose you with a special offer. Using a predefined option in your Google My Business dashboard, you can choose to offer a coupon. Coupons will require an initial setup through the Google My Business API and can later be edited from your Google My Business dashboard. When searchers find your listing on Google, they can print the coupon to redeem at your place of business, or they can mention the offer when they call you. Remember though, coupons show up as a tab on your listing, so you’ll first need to have the searchers attention with a well optimized listing to keep the potential customer from straying and instead clicking on the listing above yours.

Monitoring and Analyzing Your Listing Performance

Another piece of information you can gather is customer actions. This data will tell you what has been clicked on in your listing. Do customers click for directions to your business? Do they click through to your website, if you have one listed? Or are they mostly finding your phone number and calling you directly from the search results? This data will be helpful to determine the needs of your customers and can help make additional marketing decisions for your business.

Here you will be provided valuable information such as how customers are finding your listing. This information boils down to the search terms they used and whether they got results from the search or from a map. You’ll also be able to see where on Google your customers found you, whether it be from the normal web search or a search within Google Maps. This information can help you determine which direction of local search you should focus on to increase how customers are finding your business.

Tracking Insights and Metrics Once your listing is live and customers are interacting with it, you’ll want an easy way to understand how it’s impacting your business specifically in local search. Google My Business provides a free and easy-to-use tool for just that. Log into your GMB account and go to the ‘Insights’ tab on the left-hand side.

Your existing Google My Business listing is a powerful tool to reach potential customers. In this last section, we talk about how to monitor your listing performance so you can determine what is working and what areas need improvement.

Tracking Insights and Metrics

Now that you have a listing published and the core sections completed, managing and improving it is very important. To do something, you have to know what you want to do. When you want to make improvements to your listing, you have to know what needs to be improved. Right from your dashboard, you can see whether or not your listing is active. An active listing is one that has been accessed by Google Maps or refines search in the last 30 days. If your listing is not active, you need to work on getting more search exposure within Google Maps. High activity could just mean that you’re getting many views that aren’t converting into click-throughs to your website. Measure local customer interest in your business by tracking how many clicks and requests for driving directions to your business you get. This can also help you gauge the effectiveness of how well your listing is refined to your business, as someone who is looking for a specific service you offer is more likely to click and request directions to your business.

Analyzing Customer Interactions

Upon looking at the feature found in the Google Insights tab, the ‘customer actions’ section helps you to monitor the type of action that people took on your listing. It shows whether they visited your website, requested directions to your business, and if they called you directly from the search results. This function is a godsend to many businesses as it now allows them to see how the customer is interacting with their listing and whether it is actually aiding them in gaining more business. For businesses that rely on a website conversion or a phone call to gain new business, they can now ascertain that the money and/or time thrown at reaching top listing has been worthwhile. This kind of information can also provide a wake-up call to those businesses that may have only improved their listings ranking for ‘bragging rights’ yet it has not helped them in gaining more customers.

4.3. Making Data-Driven Improvements

Comparing Discovery Method data with competitors’ similar data can show which areas the competition is investing in and perhaps why they are receiving more views. Another useful comparison is search result data. It is possible that John and Jennifer’s business is being overshadowed by competition simply because their search result listings are appearing lower down. This kind of comparison can affirm John and Jennifer’s confidence in their listing or create a determination to change and improve it. High competition data can be stored and reviewed frequently to see if the changes made to the listing have resulted in a higher position compared to competitors.

After analyzing interactions, John and Jennifer may want to make improvements to their listing to try and increase customer interactions and ultimately sales. Firstly, they should compare their insights and metrics with their competition. Making a direct comparison with competitors can be an eye-opener and give an indication of how their listing should be performing given the market and area. John and Jennifer would look at similar insights that they have already reviewed, including how customers are finding their listing.