Looking impressive on Google is important, no matter what type of business you run. As little as ten years ago, if you owned a small coffee shop, the online sphere might’ve eluded you. But these days, Google has the power to sway even your regular customers, and business leaders can no longer afford to be ignorant to this.

Local searchers often refer to Google My Business before making purchasing decisions.

What is Google My Business?

Google My Business (or GMB) is a unique company listing that you can set up for free, which shows as a featured snippet in search results. This means that your business and other local competitors will appear before the organic search listings in an information box at the top of the results page.

When will Google My Business show up in search results?

Business snippets are most likely to appear for mobile users, as Google aims to serve the most useful content to users, and those on the go are most likely to be looking for information on places nearby. Desktop users will also see this type of answer when they search for either a business name or a phrase that is suffixed by “near me” or a specific location.

In practice, if somebody types into the search engine “bakeries near me” or “bakeries in New York”, Google will automatically spit out relevant results.

If the searcher had instead queried, “what is the difference between a bakery and a pâtisserie?” Google would instantly recognise this as a knowledge-based question and display results such as blog posts, pictures and infographics. In this case, a local business snippet is unlikely to appear.

So how can you make the most out of Google My Business?

To get the most of out of your free business profile — one that’s widely trusted by consumers — there are a few things that you should keep in mind.

As a general rule, you should keep your business information accurate and updated, just as you would with any other online account. When you’re thinking about updating your social media, you should remember to update your Google My Business account — treat it as an extension of your social pages.

For advanced knowledge on the topic, we’ve created this blog post to break down each section of the search snippet so that you can look the most impressive when compared to your competitors.

Ramp up Your Reviews

The five-star rating feature that appears directly below your business name immediately indicates to the searchers the level of quality they can expect from a given company.

Star rating and reviews are often the first things a customer considers when looking to eliminate businesses from a long list of search results. It’s important to have all the information needed to support searchers who are looking to make a quick decision — they could be hurriedly choosing a cosy coffee shop to hide out in while they wait for the weather to clear up. This means, at most, they’ll want to expand only a few potential options.

What contributes to my Google Review?

Google searchers who are signed into a Google account can leave a star rating and a review when visiting your business. Google mostly uses these organic reviews to determine your star rating.

However, when there are fewer Google reviews to rely on, the search engine may sometimes use third-party results from relevant review websites like Yelp or Tripadvisor. Although Google does refer to these websites for indication, Google relies mostly on its own review system. It’s widely accepted that four to five business reviews are needed to create an actual Google star rating.

How can I get better online reviews?

It’s clear that if you have mediocre (or zero) online reviews, you should want to improve this. Reviews act as a quick visual aid, and this alone is enough for customers to decide whether they want to look into your business further or dismiss you. In saturated markets like city-centre restaurants, coffee shops and bars, online reviews are even more paramount.

These are a few ways that you can ramp up your review traffic:

  • Add a pop-up button or CTA on your website

If your customer has made a purchase or reached a certain point in their buyers’ journey, design a prompt for them to leave a review.

This link can appear moments after they clear their shopping basket or 24 hours after the sale in a follow-up email. Alternatively, you can ask visitors of your website to review their experience after they have digested a piece of content, such as an embedded video or a blog post.

  • Target customers within your store

The most authentic reviews will come from customers who have had a physical experience in your store. You should create promotional materials like small business cards that prompt customers to leave a review. Otherwise, you should politely ask in person and work to build genuine relationships with your regulars, who will become your biggest endorsers.

If you’re tech-savvy, a subtle way to ramp up your reviews is to include a quick star rating option that appears after a purchase is made. This quick tap of a button can be linked to your Google review console.

  • Include it as a competition entry requirement

A sneaky way to raise your volume of reviews is to include it as a competition entry requirement.

Companies always practice this type of exchange model, where they offer the chance to win a prize if users carry out a few vital actions. These are often to like and share social posts or sign up to an email list, but if your reviews are lacking, you should make this your top priority.

Link up Your Location

Local search results are driven by location and, as such, your business should have an updated address. GMB not only displays your business name, review rating and basic information but it also lists those of your competitors.

If the searcher hasn’t researched about their destinations ahead of time, the chances are that search phrases like “bakeries near me” and “coffee shop near me” are a spur-of-the-moment, spontaneous query.

The motivation for local searches can be due to a number of reasons; perhaps the searcher bumped into an old friend on their lunch break and needs a place to eat, or maybe they desperately need a rest from wandering around the city. Whatever the reason, time is of the essence and the business with the best location and the least walking distance will usually win the fight.

You should use your address to your advantage if you are:

  • Located near a beautiful landmark

Tourists are much more likely to enjoy a cup of marked-up coffee if it overlooks a famous landscape.

  • Close to nearby transport stops

If your business is parked just outside of a metro or bus stop, you’re in an ideal location for passing trade and hungry customers who are rushing to and from stations.

  • Situated in a residential area

Particularly if you boast late opening hours, local residents and temporary travellers will need a place to pick up the bare essentials, like milk, bread and eggs.

In fact, without a user even conducting a search, potential customers can still find you. If your location is logged, your business will appear on Google Maps when users are scouring the area.

Google will use the information you have provided to categorise your company. Doing this makes it easier for location-enabled users to instantly see nearby restaurants, for example, which are signposted by the small cutlery icon marked in orange.

Contact Details Are Crucial

If star ratings and address information aren’t enough for customers with specific requirements, contact details are also key.

In certain situations, local users will need contact details to get in touch with a staff member. This communication will often answer a qualifying question, such as “do you have wifi?” For this communication, while a phone number is vital, having a business email address and social profiles can also help.

When would this situation arise?

It may be surprising, but not all information is held on Google! Let’s imagine that a local Google searcher is looking for a coffee shop — they might be in any number of different situations that requires them to speak to a member of staff. This doesn’t mean that the customer isn’t ready to purchase today but that they have a set of requirements they need to check off before deciding to visit you.

Here are three example scenarios where contact details are necessary:

  • Situation A

The searcher is looking for a coffee shop to either study or work from their laptop. For this, a solid and free wifi connection is vital. They need to call you to make sure this is available.

  •  Situation B

The searcher has specific dietary requirements, allergies or intolerances. They want to call to check if you have any suitable items on your menu so that they know you can cater to their needs before making the journey.

  • Situation C

The searcher is querying at a time where it’s likely that commercial stores will be closing. They want to find out if you are open late and what time you stop serving to make sure they get there on time.

What if I don’t have a landline?

We hear you. Phone landlines are just another unnecessary expense for businesses that don’t frequently take calls. Plus, social media is all the rage these days, right? Can’t you just answer your customer queries on Facebook?

In reality, although your social channels can cover a lot of bases when it comes to interacting with your audience, phone calls are preferred by customers when they are seeking a quick resolution.

If you don’t have a physical landline and don’t want to fork out for one, try out a virtual landline number instead, which gives you the same service without any of the traditional restrictions.

Why can’t I just use a mobile number?

It can be frustrating paying for multiple phone plans, but when it comes to business, it’s smart to keep your personal and company number separate.

Not only will this prevent you from accidentally texting your customers, but using a business number (instead of a mobile) also sends the right signals to your customers and to Google.

Just as having a professional email address is key to building customer trust (that means ditching your high-school Hotmail account), so is adopting a professional business number. Popular prefixes like 0800 freephone numbers provide the added bonus of posing no financial obligation to the customer, making them more likely to willingly contact you.

Take Professional Photos

Speaking of professionalism, you shouldn’t just sound professional with the information that you provide — you should look professional too.

Making a good first impression is vital, and image goes a long way — platforms such as Instagram prove that. With this in mind, make sure that everything visually connected to your brand is as clean and polished as possible, as well as relevant to your core message. You never know how users will first interact with you, so you need to be consistent across all areas — that goes for graphics creation, your website, social media posts and pictures on review websites.

In regards to your Google My Business profile, there are a few specific elements that the search engine is likely to pick up on and that you’ll want to address:

  • Review site photos

Just as your star rating is important, so too are the photos that go with it. If the searcher decides to delve further into the rating bar, they will begin to scroll through photos, either taken by recent customers or management.

Realistic amateur photos that have unfortunate lighting are always going to appear, and that’s okay, as long as they sit alongside professional photos that you’ve provided. The caption will clearly show the searcher that your photos have been uploaded in-house, but, nevertheless, clean and clear photography can make all the difference when consumers are deciding where to buy.

  • Shop-front graphics

To help guide the user, Google will often show a recent picture of your shop front for practical navigation purposes. This image will likely be pulled from Google Maps footage, and as the photo portrays your business from the outside, it’s likely that your brand logo will be present.

This tip certainly helps with Google My Business, but it also piques interest from passing trade too. Upgrading your storefront with well-kept and inviting signage can make a huge difference. A vibrant sign can also make you stand out, making it easier for individuals new to the area to find you.

  • Landing page layout

Along with your business details, your domain should definitely be included on your profile.

We believe that you should constantly be working to create an awesome website. This means making sure, above all else, that your homepage is clear and easy to navigate, it speaks to the visitor in the copy, it compels the searcher with enticing photographs and contains a clear instruction (or call to action) on what that visitor should do next.

Consider Creating Moving Images

This last tip isn’t for everyone and, for some businesses, it’s not actually necessary. If you have a content-based business, a tuition business or any organisation that informs or educates as one of your main selling points, you should keep reading.

Google My Business recently released an additional video attachment feature to its profile setup. As a business leader, you can now upload a helpful video to your profile. This moving image will appear on Google Maps and in local search queries.

Think of this as an opportunity to showcase the best parts of your business, like a trailer for a movie. A local language school might use this to its advantage to show a reel of classes being taught, an overview of its amazing facilities and an animated catalogue of the different packages it offers.

Why not go the whole hog and create a YouTube channel? Not only will you benefit from search traffic on YouTube itself, but Google also often pulls videos from YouTube (which is owned by the search engine) to appear in its search results. Google wants to keep you on its platform for as long as possible, so creating useful and engaging videos is a great way to benefit from visibility in the search results and funnel traffic to your content. As an example, if you search for a holiday destination and click on the snippet, the chances are that, after some factual text and pictures, a variety of YouTube travel guides will follow.

Maintaining yet another profile may seem like unnecessary work, but when it comes to increasing your reach and getting more customers through your door, it’s well worth the effort.

About The Author:

Rory Whelan is the marketing manager for virtual call handling provider eReceptionist. He’s also an expert in giving businesses advice about how to set up remote firms, look great on Google and ditch the office when necessary. As an advocate for complete corporate freedom, Rory’s friendly advice can be found in most online business publications.