I recently visited my grandmother who has a house on Block Island, RI. This tiny town is a beautiful vacation spot in the northeast and thrives off of its tourism. Upon arrival, I searched to see what food options we had available to us, and quickly discovered that none of the businesses claimed their Google My Business Listing.
What does that mean, you ask? That means I did not have accurate business information to find a restaurant, partake in activities...nothing! So what is a customer that’s new to the area supposed to do?
Businesses on Block Island don’t really have to advertise online too much because when you’re there, you have no choice but to do business with the companies that are on the island. They rely on one little book to guide you. And people that visit in the off season typically know of the handful of places that are open year round.
I used this somewhat extreme example because it’s far from uncommon to see small businesses that don’t know to claim it. After returning from my trip I knew I had to create a how-to guide so businesses - and consumers - can have the most accurate information appear for local searches.
What is a Google My Business Listing (and Why Should I Have One)?
Google My Business is free online listing from Google that helps businesses to be found locally. Think about the last time you looked up a business on Google. There’s a box to the right of the search results that shows you photos, hours, a map, reviews and more. That is the listing!
Here’s an example - I used one of my favorite places on Block Island:
This free local listing helps your business show up amongst bigger brands in your neighborhood. When you claim or create your listing, you are in control of what shoppers see about your business. So, unless you want upset customers because they cannot find correct information, take the time to claim it. It doesn’t take long, I promise!
Steps to Claim Your Google My Business Listing
If you’re already signed in, click the big green Get Started button. Start typing in the name of your business and choose your company if shows up in the list. If it’s a new company simply type it out.
Next you’ll come to the address page. Enter your store address, even if you don’t want it published (I’ll show you why soon).
If you’re like me and don’t have customers coming to your home office, select the box next to “I deliver goods and services to my customers.” After selecting that box, a new one will appear directly under it that says, “Hide my address (it’s not a store).” Check that box and click next.
The next section will ask you about your service area. You can choose one of two ways to select your area: Distance from your business or specific areas, such as cities, states and countries. Click the one that best fits your business and click next.
Now it’s time to choose a category for your Google My Business listing. Luckily, these categories are pretty specific so you shouldn’t have trouble finding the best match.
The next screen will ask you for contact information that will be public for users to see. I can tell you from experience that if you run your company using your cell phone, it’s best to get a Google voice number or something similar. Enter the info in that you’re willing to share with the public and click next.
That’s it! All you have to do is click finish and your listing is now in the Google system.
Remember when I said to put your actual address in even if you’re not publishing your address? Well now I can show you why. Google will want to verify that you are in fact associated with the business. The way they verify physical addresses is to send a postcard with a special code for you to enter in. Complete that info and wait for your postcard to arrive. Your listing will not be live until you verify it.
In the meantime, let’s look at your options in your dashboard.
Additional Options in Your Google My Business Listing
While you wait to verify your business, take the time to set up the rest of your listing. The menu on the left includes:
- Home (Dashboard)
- Create an ad
- Add new location
- Manage locations
- Verify location
I’ll take you through each tab:
Here is where you can change most of the settings you just put in addition to other details like store hours, contact info, services and more. Some of the fields apply more to franchises than local businesses, such as store code and labels.
Make sure you add all the contact and business information you can so customers don’t have to go out of their way to find you.
You can discover information about your customers here that you may not see elsewhere. Once your business is verified, Google allows you to see how your business compares to others, how many people are finding you because of your listing and what actions they take.
One of the many cool features with a Google My Business listing is allowing customers to message you without having to give up your cell phone number. If you have younger audience that does everything from their mobile device, this could be great for your customer service.
Add your logo, storefront image, staff photos and more in this tab. Video is also accepted and is a great way to capture the attention of future customers. Remember that anyone in the area will see these when they search your store, so make sure they are current.
If you do not have a website, you can let Google create a quick page for you. If I’m being completely honest, I have found that oftentimes sales and/or conversions do not happen on amateur sites. So please proceed with caution.
This section allows you to give access to your staff or marketing professional for updating. The business owner should be the primary owner and give rights to users. I’ve seen it get ugly when a staff member creates an account for the business they work for and nobody knows how to get in after they’re gone.
Create an ad
Add new location
When your business expands and opens multiple locations, this is where you would add it. You’ll go through the same verification process as the first time.
This tab allows you to manage all of your locations and customize each one.
Choose this tab when you get your postcard in the mail to enter the code.
You can connect other Google accounts, such as Analytics, AdWords and more to your Google My Business Listing.
Last on the menu is support, where you can reach Google if you need help with your listing.
Setting up your Google My Business listing is easy, it just takes a little time. Keeping it up to date is important. And if you really want to go all out, check out this great article from Moz, detailing how to optimize it.
Until next week...