Google My Business (commonly known as ‘GMB’) is one of the most valuable digital marketing assets available to businesses. Every day, millions of consumers use Google to research businesses, products and services. Most recent studies have shown that more than half of the searches conducted on mobile devices have local intent - that means people are looking for local businesses. Your GMB profile is what shows up first for customers, and it’s packed with the top level information that most users are looking for. It includes your business name, address, phone number, website, details about your business, customer reviews, and photos.
Helpful to consumers? Certainly. But it’s also empowering for businesses. Previously, we’ve discussed the role of search signals in making a business visible to the all-seeing eye of Google. Your GMB profile (or lack thereof) plays a big part in how you show up - and in converting online prospects into satisfied customers. It’s quite literally the first impression that your business makes.
For years, business owners and marketers have been told that their website is where first impressions are made. But times change, and that’s no longer the case. It’s not that your website isn’t important. A well-branded, easily navigable website full of rich, unique content is a cornerstone of any successful business. It helps Google to recognize your value.
But with the way search works today, customers don’t have to click through to your website to get the top level info they’re looking for. At a glance, it provides them with key information they need to make quick decisions, such as:
Gone are the days of white pages and yellow pages. If someone is looking for you, they’re doing it online. So, it’s important to make certain that your GMB profile is set up with all the correct contact information. Business name, physical address, phone number, and website; they’re the bare minimum expected if you want people to find you.
GMB verification requires confirmation of your business’ physical location. Why is this important? Two words: Google Maps. It’s how prospective customers will find your business, so it’s important that Google knows you’re really at that location.
In a recent study by Google, it was determined that businesses who took the time to upload photos to their GMB received up to 35% more clicks to their websites and prompted up to 42% more requests for driving instructions. You only get one chance to make a first impression, so be sure to make it count. Upload awesome, high resolution images.
An estimated 91% of consumers regularly check online reviews, and 84% of users trust online reviews more than reviews from friends or family members. GMB prominently displays reviews, so it’s important for any business to be conscious of all reviews (both good and bad). Make sure you’re asking for customer reviews, and make sure you’re honestly responding to ever review you receive.
Questions and Answers
Google’s new Questions & Answers section can be a valuable resource, but did you know that the ‘answers’ can come from anyone? It’s true. While most users assumed that it’s a messaging feature, it’s actually a community discussion feature. That means anyone can jump in and answer questions being posed by your customers. Misinformation can spread fast, so stay on top of your Google Q&A. Answer any and all questions, then upvote those answers to make sure your answers show as the primary answers to questions. You can also ask your own questions, so upload the most common customer questions and set up a pre-site FAQ section.
As we said, your GMB is one of the most valuable assets available to local businesses. As we continue this series, we’ll be exploring many avenues of Search Engine Optimization to help you lay the groundwork for a successful SEO strategy. If you aren’t already optimizing your GMB Profile, the time is now.
What is SEO?
For those of you unfamiliar with SEO (Search Engine Optimization) it’s the process of optimizing signals both on and off a website, influencing how successfully that site can be found when someone searches particular keywords on Google.
Regardless of the vertical you’re in, your ranking in Google Search Results should be one of your primary considerations. Failing to prioritize your search rankings could render you invisible to people looking for your products or services. And if prospective customers can’t find you, how do you expect to grow your business? And if you don’t rank higher than your competitors, how can you expect to expand your market share?
You might have noted that we mentioned the need to optimize signals “both on and off a website”. In other words, SEO is a process that works on multiple levels, and a well-designed SEO strategy should be structured in the same fashion.
And making things even more complicated, there are multiple algorithms in Google, which means there are multiple kinds of SEO. Most people are familiar with Traditional SEO, the process which targets Google’s standard algorithm. Traditional SEO targets specific signals, and their relationship with one another, to increase a site’s value in the all-seeing eye of Google.
Local SEO is a more complicated sub-set of traditional SEO that targets Google’s local algorithm. Local SEO targets many of the same signals as Traditional SEO, but it includes additional signals as well. Local Search is a more nuanced, complicated process designed to get a website to show up in searches in a particular geographic area. Any business with a physical brick-and-mortar location - or that serves customers in a certain geographic area - needs to be doing Local SEO.
In this weekly series, the team at Wikimotive will explore Local SEO, offering you a better understanding of the process - along with quick, actionable tips that are designed to improve your business’s ranking in local search results.
You don’t need to be an expert in SEO. That’s what’s we’re here for… And each week, we’ll have Just the Tip for you.
What Are "Signals"?
We’ve defined SEO as “the process of optimizing signals both on and off a website, influencing how successfully that site can be found when someone searches particular keywords on Google”. So, what do we mean by ‘signals’? We’re referring to ranking signals - characteristics or elements present on a website that a search engine recognizes - and then utilizes to calculate its rankings. In layman’s terms, signals are what makes your site look good or bad in the all-seeing eye of Google. If your site looks good, you’re viewed as a relevant authority and ranked higher in Google Search results. If not, you have problems. But there are all kinds of signals. Content Signals. HTML Signals. Architecture Signals. Domain Signals. Granted, those are just broad strokes and we could break down each of them further - but we’re trying to keep things simple. Each of these signals is considered to be an ‘on-site’ factor - directly controllable by the site owners themselves. They speak to the quality and relevance of a site’s content and the ease of its user experience, as well as the site’s overall performance. There are ‘off-site’ signals as well. But as with anything in SEO, they are constantly changing and evolving. Until recently, one might have emphasized the influence of social media activity and third party review sites like Yelp. While those are still influential to the individual user and can help to increase visibility (for better or worse), linking and citations currently provide more impactful search signals. When other sites link to yours it communicates the popularity and relevance of your content. And citations on those sites reinforce who and where you are. As a business serving customers in a certain geographic area, you want to rank above your local competitors. You want prospective local customers to choose to do business with you, over anyone else. Your site and search rankings are a critical part of making that happen. And to perform well, you need to optimize your signals. So what does optimization entail? In terms of content, it means creating unique, relevant and linkable content that supplies a specific demand. In terms of page architecture, it means using properly-formatted title tags, URL’s and incorporating image alt text. It’s a lot to take in, and these certainly aren’t light-switch fixes. But by following best SEO practices you’re far more likely to rank higher and improve traffic, with the potential of converting more customers and increasing sales over time.