Digital marketing expert atÂ NUVEW, helping businesses expand their online presence through custom website design and development & SEO.
At this point, I probably donâ€™t need to explain that placing well in Google search results is an important marketing tactic. After all, itâ€™s not terribly surprising to most people to hear that Google Search is being used for over 90% of all internet searches worldwide as of October 2020.
But while many leaders and entrepreneurs have embraced the benefits of digital marketing, including search engine optimization (SEO), many still seem to misunderstand the importance of a basic but critical resource: Google My Business. GMB, as itâ€™s often called, is a simple-to-use, free platform that allows any business which serves customers at a physical location to have a listing on Google Search and Google Maps.
Maybe itâ€™s the ease of availability that leads some professionals to disregard this listing, believing that nothing free can be that valuable. But itâ€™s worth noting that if Google has its way, GMB may not be free much longer. Recent â€œexperiments,â€ like displaying competitor ads on some listings, or offering upgraded profiles for a monthly fee, have been seen by many SEO pros as blatant efforts to monetize GMB.
Google clearly recognizes the growing value of its business listings and will continue looking for ways to turn that into profits. But as long as the listing is still free, letâ€™s examine why it pays for businesses to devote some time and effort to this platform and the types of maintenance that should be prioritized.
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The Value of Google My Business
A 2019 study of more than 45,000 GMB listings led researchers to conclude that â€œGoogle My Business is clearly a critical channel, with 96% of local businesses being viewed at least 25 times per month in Search results, and 86% receiving more than 25 in Maps.â€
GMB listings are particularly influential for local businesses. When Google believes a user is looking for something local, or â€œnear me,â€ then the search results will include a map section featuring three businesses, known as the local pack. This is often the first feature on the page, directly below any paid ads, leading some to refer to this as ranking in â€œposition zero.â€ Many professionals who specialize in local SEO reported in a recent survey that GMB listings are the single most important factor in determining placement in the coveted local pack.
Maintaining GMB Is Tedious, But Itâ€™s Worth It
I wonâ€™t say itâ€™s all benefit and no work â€“ keeping your listing current can be time-consuming, but it is important. Here are a few of the top reasons to regularly check your listing.
â€¢ Business categories: That same group of local SEOs mentioned above identified a businessâ€™s primary category as the most influential factor in determining whether the listing would appear in searches for particular keywords. The primary category indicates the industry youâ€™re in or the type of services you provide. As Googleâ€™s own guidelines put it, if your primary category is â€œPizza restaurant,â€ your listing may be displayed for local searches that include â€œRestaurants,â€ â€œItalian restaurantsâ€ or â€œPizza.â€ While youâ€™ll obviously need to stick to a category that accurately describes what you do, and you shouldnâ€™t change this field too frequently, itâ€™s worth checking for updates occasionally, as Google is continually adding more categories.Â
â€¢ New features:Â The pandemic has inspired Google to add a variety of new features and updates that need your attention if you havenâ€™t logged in recently. If you offer services like contactless pickup or delivery, there are now options to indicate that in your listing.Â
â€¢ Responding to reviews: Dealing with negative feedback can be tough, but not acknowledging the comments at all can be just as damaging to your business as a bad review. Plus, thanking your happy customers is great for engagement. Regularly checking your listing will allow you to respond to reviews in a timely manner.
â€¢ User and Google-generated updates: Anyone who believes your information is incorrect can submit an update request to Google. When you donâ€™t respond to these update notices, they may automatically be accepted and your listing changed. Even a well-intended but misinformed user can initiate a change, like stating that you donâ€™t offer a wheelchair-accessible entrance, which negatively impacts your companyâ€™s image.
â€¢ Requests for access: Pay special attention to any request you receive asking for access to your GMB. These requests can be generated through the â€œOwn this business?â€ link in your GMB profile, and theyâ€™re sent to the Gmail account(s) associated with your listing. Even if you work with an agency or outside marketing team and suspect that they sent the request, always verify first. Like the updates, this request can be automatically accepted if you donâ€™t respond; and cases of unethical marketers using this to, for example, alter a competitorâ€™s phone number to redirect leads have been reported. Some sources are indicating that these hijackings have been on the rise recently.
It Pays to Invest Time in Your GMB Listing
If youâ€™re still unsure about spending your time on GMB work, consider what could happen if you donâ€™t â€” potential customers near your location, searching for your services, may never know that your business exists. Youâ€™re likely missing opportunities to connect to buyers with serious intent. Even your loyal customers can be turned off by a frustrating experience like showing up at your door only to learn that the hours have changed but no one updated your listing.Â
The actual cost of a poorly maintained GMB listing is impossible to measure, but it is surely steep. The time you and your team spend updating and maintaining your Google My Business listing should be seen as an important marketing function and prioritized appropriately.