During the past few years, Google has been serving its searchers more and more information directly on the search engine results page (SERP), in many cases removing the need to click through to any particular website. There are featured snippets, the Google knowledge graph, buttons to install apps directly, and the Google Maps pack, just to name a few.
It’s a misconception to think that the only reason Google is able to do this is because of the enormous amount of data they have gathered about every subject imaginable. This is true about a lot of the more broad and general subjects, but as a small business owner operating in a specific field or profession, you actually have several options at your disposal to (partly) populate these new types of search results yourself.
The most important tool to do this with is called Google My Business (GMB). In 2019, it is essential for a small business to have a GMB account. In this blog post, we highlight several ways you can utilize GMB to provide your customers with the information they need.
Google Maps is now being used as a discovery platform
You may not have noticed it, but Google has been working intensively on improving its Google Maps product over the last few years. I don’t know exactly when the change in my own behavior happened (it was probably gradual), but I find myself using Google Maps as a discovery platform for almost everything these days.
And I am not the only one. The days when Google Maps was “merely” a navigation and directions app are long gone.
When I plan to visit a city I have not been to before, Google Maps tells me exactly where I can find every type of business under the sun. It doesn’t stop there, though. It also gives me photos, reviews, alternative venues, and directions telling me exactly how to get there and which transport options I have.
Using the “favorites” option, I have a blueprint of where I want to go before I even arrive in the city.
As a local small business owner, you absolutely should have a presence on Google Maps, because it’s here to stay. You can objectively be the best and most skilled plumber in your neighbourhood, but without a presence on Google Maps, a portion of your potential audience (or someone like me) will not discover you.
Google My Business, which comes with a free Google Maps listing, will provide you with this much-needed presence, and more.
Communicating essential information about your business
Do your potential customers know your opening times? What about the specific services you offer, or your contact information?
Nowadays, people are used to finding all of this information within a few mouse clicks or swipes on a smartphone. The overwhelming majority of people will search for your business directly in Google (whether it’s the search bar or Google Maps), and luckily, Google My Business lets you provide this important information about your business to be presented directly on the search results page.
This small time investment of providing your opening hours may just cause that potential customer to gravitate towards your business instead of your competitor’s, who did not add this information.
Google My Business provides free access to Google Posts
As a small business owner, you can now make your brand stand out with a fairly new feature that is freely available in Google My Business: Google Posts. Ever since Google started phasing out Google+, these Google Posts have started to take a more prominent role in populating brand knowledge graphs.
Here’s an example of how they look:
Google Posts are another free feature of Google My Business and they provide an excellent way of showcasing what your brand is all about, events you are organizing, or products and services that are currently on offer. Or anything else you want to share with your audience, really.
They are surprisingly customizable too, and with some creativity, there are a lot of ways to draw attention to them. You can also determine exactly where that “Learn more” link points to, providing a new opportunity to drive traffic to your website.
Bonus: they appear in the Google search results directly, but also in your Google Maps listing.
Provide options for bookings and reservations directly in Google
It is possible to connect your Google My Business account with a booking and reservations platform to give your audience the opportunity to book your services directly from the search results. The result is a clear booking button that appears right below the brand name.
This is yet another way to leverage people who search directly for your business name: give them the option to book your services right away instead of searching around on your website first.
Which brings me to the final point:
Does Google My Business remove the need for a professional website for small businesses?
The answer to this question is: it depends. On the one hand, Google is presenting more and more information and functionality directly on the search results page, removing the need for a website. On the other hand, if you want to provide just a little more information than the basics Google lets you provide, a website is still the way to go.
Google My Business actually does provide the option to create a basic website from within the platform, with an intuitive page builder. However, do not expect to be able to provide more than basic information about your business (a login functionality, for example, is not possible). For a more advanced website, I recommend WordPress.
In an ideal world, you should be discoverable on as many platforms as possible which people use to discover businesses: Google Maps, social media, but also your own website. However, I do believe that Google My Business is the easiest (and most essential) platform to start your company’s online journey, if you have not done so yet.
Recap: Google My Business features
|Feature||Type of Business Suitable for|
|Google Maps Listing||All businesses||Discoverability in Google Maps and organic search results|
|Business Information||All businesses||Transparency to searchers|
|Google Posts||All businesses||Online Branding|
|Reservations & Bookings Integration||Restaurants, Hotels, Events, Service Providers||Usability & User Friendliness|
Google My Business currently does not support businesses in:
- North Korea
We hope this post has inspired you to take action and give your local business the online presence it deserves.
If you want to learn more about local search optimization, or need support on configuring and optimizing things the correct way, then our team of local search experts can help you. Read more about our local business optimisation services here. We can also help you with tailored and ongoing Google Posts strategies so your brand presence remains fresh at all times.