Is Google My Business Important?



With so many listings websites and social media platforms available to help you promote your local business, it can be a challenge for small businesses with limited resources to determine how to best allocate their time and effort. It’s important to weigh the benefits of each platform for your unique business needs, weighing criteria such as how many people you can reach or how that audience is aligned with your target customer.

But regardless of your goals, there’s one platform local businesses shouldn’t overlook: Google My Business. Formerly called Google Places, Google My Business is a one-stop listing which allows your local business to appear on search, maps and Google+.

Why Google? It’s where the people are:

Here are some particularly compelling stats for local businesses:

Listings such as Google My Business or YP.ca are different from (and can complement) your actual website in that they offer additional opportunities to appear within search results. When you optimize your website for SEO, you help your own URL climb higher in the rankings. But Google My Business pages get additional eye-catching placements on search engine results pages and within commonly-used tools such as Google Maps.

Here are some additional reasons why Google My Business is a valuable tool for local businesses:

 

You own your information

Consistency across listings is a key attribute that helps businesses climb to the top of local searches. By claiming your listing on high-value directories such as Google, you can ensure that each citation of your business has the exact same info (even tiny differences such as listing your address on South Main Street on one site and S. Main Street on another can have a detrimental effect).

 

It offers robust tools for highlighting your offering

From details such as menus, product lists, hours of operation and accepted payment types to visual and interactive features such as photos and reviews, Google My Business pages offer a range of tools to attract and inform local customers. You can even add coupons and special offers.

 

You can learn even more about your customers

Google My Business includes extra analytics by platform, enabling local businesses to learn even more about their customers. For example, on Google Maps, data includes where requests for driving directions to your business originate from – something that could help you pick the right neighbourhood to expand to as your business grows.

 

Maximize your resources with the right local listings

In order to get the highest ROI for digital marketing efforts, it’s important for local businesses to think about which platforms provide the highest reach among potential local customers. Yellow Pages can help you evaluate the options and take smart steps to achieve high visibility in local searches on Google.

Google My Business: New Tools for Small Business Owners



Google has created Google My Business, a one-stop shop for small business owners looking to increase their visibility within Google search, Google Maps, and Google+. Users will also be able to access their applications in one place.

In order to avoid the need to make duplicate entries while still providing information across all Google products, users will only need to enter their information one time and it will populate into all of Google’s services. TechCrunch reported that to create ease of use and rival Facebook “owners can post news, events, photos and other updates they want shared with customers.”

Exploring “Google My Business”

Let’s jump right in and take a look at the updates. As soon as you login you will be guided through a tour of the new updates and instructions on how to interact with the platform.

Welcome to Google My Business

Next you will see a screen that houses your basic information that appears on Google+, Google Places, and Google Search. You can quickly update any basic information including phone number, address, URL, and categories.

Google My Business Home Screen

The real meat and potatoes of this new release is what comes next. You are now able to access the following all from one screen:

  • Google+: You can share new text, photos, links, videos, and events.
  • Insights: Once you verify your business you are able to gain insights into your visibility, engagement, and audience. I recently made an edit to our page so it is pending verification.
  • Reviews: Each business is given a Google rating and you are able to manage your reviews on Google and view other reviews around the web.
  • Google Analytics: Quick access directly to your Google Analytics dashboard.
  • Start a Hangout: With the click of a button you can start or join a Hangout.

Google My Business Dashboard

“Google My Business” for Mobile

Google has already launched “Google My Business” for Android and it sounds like the iOS version will also be coming soon. Below is a screenshot of what the Android version looks like.

Google My Business Android

While “Google My Business” is meant mostly for small businesses, all page owners have been upgraded to the new view. How do you think this will change company’s Google+ strategy? What value do you see in these new tools?

Google My Business: What You Need to Know



July 31, 2014 •

On June 11, Google Places became Google My Business. More than an exercise in rebranding, the name change heralded several important changes.

Google+ integration has been improved. Google My Business (GMB) has been integrated with Google+ Local, the business listing that used to appear for local businesses in Google+. As a result, there’s no longer any confusion between Google Place listings and Google+ All the information is right there in Google+.

In its official announcement, Google said the purpose of GMB is to bring together all the services Google can offer business. Google seems to have its sights set on small businesses, with a particular focus on those that have yet to claim their listings. Google’s promotional headlines — like “Get your business on Google for free’” — are aimed at non-users. However, GMB is also the default dashboard for already-existing Places and Google+ users.

Here’s a video from Google, announcing the new service.

Why Use Google My Business?

GMB offers businesses a range of services.

  • Updating business information on Search, Maps and Google+ from one place. Merchants can update business information, including contact information opening or operating hours, website details and business descriptions, whenever they wish. This is the information that winds up in Google’s Knowledge Graph, which appears to the right of search results, highlighting facts, photos, maps and other relevant information that might make searches more focused and successful.
  • Add photos of your business, including shots of employees, customers, products and store locations, displays, facilities and any other business-related images. There’s now a lot more room for pages on GMB than there was on the old Google Places.
  • Connect directly with customers and fans by sharing events and news, updates and more, through the business’ Google+ page.
  • Monitor and respond to Google reviews; another opportunity to connect.
  • Understand how people find the business and interact with it, with custom insights and AdWords Express.
  • Manage information, using two applications: the Google My Business Android app and a more-recently launched iOS app.

If you have a business and you’ve already claimed it on Google you can go straight to “Choose Business Type” and select from (a) “Storefront,” which Google says is for “restaurants, hotels, retail stores, etc.,” (b) “Service Area,” for geographic businesses like taxis, takeaways or any other business based around a physical location, or (c) “Brand,” for non-local businesses. The “Brand” option is for a “product, sports team, music band, cause, etc.” and doesn’t include an address or any other location information.

Setting Up a Google My Business Brand Page

Google My Business, home page.

Google My Business, home page.

To set up a GMB Brand page, here’s what you’ll need to do.

  • Log in with your Google account at the GMB page.
  • Click on the “Get on Google” button. This will take you to a page with a map.
  • Click on “Not a local business?,” which is at the top right-hand corner of the page.
  • Click on “Brand” under the “Choose business types” heading.
  • Pick the Google+ page type you want to create, if you don’t already have a company Google+ page. Choose a name and add your website URL
  • You’re nearly done. Click “Continue” and you can visit the new page to see it as it appears to others, or go to the dashboard to manage it.

If you are a local business, the first two steps are the same. Having reached the map page, you’ll then need to follow these steps:

  • Use the search box in the top left hand corner to locate your business.
  • Having found your business, you can select it, claim it as yours and move on to management.

Once you have your page created, you can follow the instructions to set up your profile details. These will be updated immediately. Because GMB pages are published instantly, your changes will be live as soon as you finish updating.

If you have a Google Places listing already, the next time you sign in you will be directed to the Google My Business dashboard. At this point, if you already own a Google+ page, you can sign into your account to access he new dashboard.

Once you’re in, look for the “My Business” navigation button, located in the upper left-hand corner. This will bring you back to the dashboard home while you’re navigating around it.

How To Use Google My Business

If you’re a merchant, here’s how to get the best out of GMB.

  • Post updates, special offers, news and other content on your Google+ page. Customers can give your content +1s and comments, giving you a direct connection to their feedback. Think of your posts as (hopefully) the beginning of a dialogue – respond to comments and follow people back when they follow you.
  • Promote special offers and sales events using Google+’s built-in mechanism for doing this, Google+ Events.
  • Showcase products or services. Use pictures. Add a profile photo, set a cover image and post videos and images to highlight special offers or behind-the-scenes information.
  • Respond to reviews and ratings as the business owner.
  • Connect to customers face-to-face, via Google Hangouts and Hangouts on Air. Hangouts on Air broadcasts your Hangout live, and records it for on-demand use on YouTube. You can use Hangouts to host a customer appreciation event, announce new products or services, or to connect directly with customers and get their feedback.

Finally, if you’ve used Google Places or the Google+ Pages dashboard to manage your business information, your account will have been upgraded to the new GMB dashboard automatically.

Local SEO: How To Rank Your Local Business



Columnist Matthew Barby shares this handy primer on local search engine optimization.

local-city-with-pins-ss-1920If you own (or do online marketing for) a local business, you understand the challenges that come with this kind of campaign vs. that of a non geo-specific brand.

Local SEO is a lot different from your average SEO campaign, and the local search results are changing more rapidly than any other.

local ranking factors

Image Source: Moz

The above chart shows a breakdown of the weighting of various ranking factors within local SEO campaigns. One of the things to note here is that whilst there are a few slightly different factors compared to the usual SEO campaign (i.e. External Loc. Signals and My Business Signals), links and on-page SEO factors still play a huge part. The only difference is that the type of links you’ll want to focus on will be a lot different.

I’m going to talk you through some of the techniques that you can implement to get results from your local SEO campaigns.

First Things First

Before you go ahead and start chasing links, there’s a lot of up-front work needed on your website to ensure that you’re able to get the best possible results, especially if you want to rank within the local pack listings (see below):

local map packTo rank within the above types of listings, you’ll rely less on the link building side of things, and more on local NAP citations, local reviews and My Business signals.

Google My Business

If you haven’t already, you’ll need to claim your Google My Business page.

I’m not going to go into all the details of setting it up because there are tons of articles that explain this process, like this one or this one.

All you need to know is that once you’ve set it up, you should include the following:

  • Add a long, unique description that’s formatted correctly and includes links.
  • Choose the correct categories for your business.
  • Upload as many photos as possible.
  • Add a local phone number to your listing.
  • Add your business address that’s consistent with that on your website and local directories.
  • Upload a high-resolution profile image and cover photo.
  • Add your opening times/days (if relevant).
  • Get real reviews from customers (I’ll come onto this).

NAP (Name, Address, Phone Number)

Consistency is key here. You need to ensure that you have your full NAP across your whole website (i.e. every page). Furthermore, you must use the exact same details/format when you mention your address on other websites (i.e. local citations).

You’ll also want to use Schema.org markup on your NAP to give the search engines all they need to display your company information correctly.

bespoke music lessons london

Screenshot source: Bespoke Music Tuition

The screenshot above shows how a local business in London has placed their NAP in the footer of their website, marking it up with Schema.org data markup.

Here’s the code that you can adapt to your own website:

<div itemscope itemtype="http://schema.org/LocalBusiness">
<p itemprop="name">COMPANY NAME</p>
<p itemprop="address" itemscope itemtype="http://schema.org/PostalAddress">
<p itemprop="streetAddress">ADDRESS LINE 1</p>
<p itemprop="addressLocality">CITY</p>,
<p itemprop="addressRegion">REGION</p>
<p itemprop="postalCode">POSTCODE/ZIP</p.
<p itemprop="telephone">PHONE NUMBER</p>
<meta itemprop="latitude" content="LATITUDE" />
<meta itemprop="longitude" content="LONGITUDE" />
</div>

All you need to do is change the text in bold to your own details — simple.

For a more detailed look at NAPs, check out this article from Jayson DeMers.

Local Reviews

Local reviews have a direct impact on local search rankings, so you’ll want to spend some time acquiring them.

It’s worth mentioning that this doesn’t just mean Google reviews. You’ll also want to focus on getting reviews on your Yelp page (they’re used by Apple maps), along with other local directories. Your first priority should be Google reviews though.

London restaurants searchTo begin with, you’ll want to capture any low-hanging fruit by getting in touch with your existing customer base and see if they’d be interested in leaving you a review. You could incentivize them for their time (maybe a discount, etc.).

Another great tip that I picked up from Greg Gifford‘s recent talk at BrightonSEO was to create a page on your website that gives instructions to your customers on exactly how they can review your business (i.e. yourwebsite.com/review-us/). You won’t believe how effective this is when it comes to getting in touch with customers, especially the non-technical ones!

You may want to check out the following article for more in-depth strategies for review acquisition, as well as this one from the Shopify blog.

Local On-Page SEO Factors

On-page SEO for local businesses conforms to some pretty old school SEO tactics. There’s quite a large weighting towards the on-page content in the local search listings, so it’s important that, where possible, you squeeze the most value out of your content.

Again, I’m not going to go into tons of detail on this, because you could just read this, but I’ll break it down into a few important bullet points:

  • Try to add your City/Region, plus a relevant keyword, within your landing page title tag.
  • Try to add your City/Region, plus a relevant keyword, within your landing page H1 tag.
  • Try to add your City/Region, plus a relevant keyword, within your landing page URL.
  • Try to add your City/Region, plus a relevant keyword, within your landing page content.
  • Try to add your City/Region, plus a relevant keyword, within your landing page image ALT attributes.
  • Embed a Google map with your business marker into your landing page.

aran sweaters directImage source: Aran Sweaters Direct

Alongside this, you’ve got to ensure that your website is mobile-friendly. This is becoming even more important with Google’s mobile search update (more info here).

mobile search statisticsImage source: eCO2 Greetings eCards

Local Link Building & Citations

Link building within local SEO campaigns is incredibly important and it’s also something that’s often overlooked.

Compared to standard SEO campaigns, local SEO relies much more on links from other local websites that are really relevant to your business. It’s less about getting links from high authority websites (although that obviously helps) and more about getting links from websites local to you that are talking about similar things to what you do.

This means that local directories are a useful resource for link building, especially when it comes to building citations.

“A citation is an online reference to your business’s name, address and phone number (NAP).” (source)

These citations don’t even need to be linked, as long as they’re referencing your business NAP consistently in the same way.

You can use a tool like Bright Local to check out any existing citations you have and then update them so that they’re all consistent. You can also use the tool to track your competitors’ citations and add your own to the same websites.

There are a number of ways to get local citations, but here’s a few that I use:

  1. Use a service like WhiteSpark and get them to find and upload local citations for you.
  2. Go through the extensive list of citations on the Moz website and manually submit your citations.
  3. Use a tool like Ahrefs, Majestic or Open Site Explorer to run competitive link research and find citations that your competitors have gained.
  4. Set up alerts through Mention or Google Alerts to track new mentions of your competitors’ NAP listing.

Local Link Building Strategies

There are lots of way to go about earning/building links, and if you want a load of them, check out my link building strategies guide. For the purpose of this article I’m going to focus on acquiring links that are really effective within local link building campaigns.

Here are a few to get you started:

  1. Go to Meetup.com and search for a list of local events relevant to your industry. Find those that have websites and contact them about sponsorship (most of the time you’ll only need to put on a lunch for them). If they accept, you’ll get a link from their website (local to you) and their Meetup.com page (highly authoritative, local link). Here’s an example.
  2. Create a local resource from public data (here’s 30 different data sources) and reach out to local press to get coverage. That’s exactly what Krystian Szastok did and he got some amazing results (you really should read this case study).
  3. Run your own local meetup or event and bring through links from the local event page.
  4. Sign up to press request services to get quoted in local publications (huge potential for high authority, local links).
  5. Run an AMA on Reddit (within a relevant subreddit to your industry) and within other local communities.
  6. Line up interviews and columns within relevant online publications.
  7. Give a discount to local organizations for your products/services in exchange for a linked mention on their website.
  8. Enter local awards (or start your own if there aren’t any!).
  9. Spend time dedicated to local PR outreach to get online and offline coverage in local news.
  10. Run regular competitive link research and capitalize on any new opportunities that your competitors have gained.
  11. Offer scholarships (you get links from local universities) or offer jobs to students (you can get links from their careers pages).

That should be enough to get you started!

SERP Click Through Rate

Another ranking signal that’s being talked about a lot more is CTR from the SERPs.

It’s no wonder that this is such a strong signal because it’s used as one of Google’s core Quality Score measures within their Adwords platform. It makes sense that they would measure the user experience that searchers are getting with this metric.

Moz’ Rand Fishkin carried out an interesting experiment with his Twitter followers to see the impact of a large increase in SERP CTR on search rankings. The results were pretty huge — he saw several position ranking increases in less than an hour!

I’ve been running some similar experiments over the past few months and found that it does earn some short-term wins, but CTR has to be consistently high to ensure that rankings will stabilize. You also need to reduce bounces from search, as this is a negative signal to Google.

To maximize your SERP CTR, try the following:

  • Ensure you have Schema.org markup set up, with reviews (if relevant).
  • Make your title tag as readable and relevant as possible.
  • Have a detailed meta description, relevant to what users will be searching for.
  • Use Twitter/Facebook/Google+/Reddit to split test titles to measure CTR from social and then take those findings to adapt your SERP snippet.

Here’s a really good resource that looks at increasing SERP CTR.

  • Get your Google My Business page set up.
  • Optimize all of your landing pages with local keyword data.
  • Ensure your NAP listings remain consistently across the web.
  • Generate genuine reviews from your customers on Google and Yelp.
  • Optimize your search engine snippets.
  • Focus on localized link building.

How To Create Cost Effective SEO Campaigns



Are You Having Trouble Creating Cost Effective SEO Campaigns?

cost effective seo

One of the major dilemmas marketers face is the difficulty of showing a positive ROAS (Return-On-Adspend) within their SEO efforts.

There is hope for us yet, however. With the whirlwind of technological advances made by the search engines in the last few years and the demise of old school link building tactics in turn, Organic SEO Campaigns can still show an absolutely ferocious ROAS, especially when integrated with a strategic Content Marketing Program. Even publishing two or three quality blog posts per month on your company’s blog can become one of the most rewarding endeavors you can invest resources in – provided you know how to create cost effective SEO campaigns.

First of all, ditch your old school link building tactics.

I won’t lie, building links manually still works as well as it did ten years ago…But that isn’t the problem. What IS the problem is that manually building links to manipulate the search results is highly frowned upon by Google’s WebSpam team. Not to mention it completely violates every key principle of Six Sigma and Lean Six Sigma. When you invest your marketing budget in old school manual link building, you are literally setting up a vicious cycle of dramatic situational irony for you and your company to exist in until you become acquainted with more sophisticated and cerebral methods which are FAR more capable of increasing brand equity; and in very legitimate and efficient ways to boot. Do you really want to be the Director of Marketing that spends $1,000 on ten mediocre guest blog posts when you could spend just $250 on just one blog post written by a hired industry expert? Choose the latter and reap diverse rewards for years to come. Not to mention effectively streamlining the scope of your SEO strategy and creating a far more intuitive workflow while amplifying your brand much more effectively.

Second, create the best content in your industry.

You may think this is easier said than done, but one of my favorite tactics is to look at the content that is currently ranking for your targeted keywords and has the most linking and social signals. One of the best ways of being successful in anything is to base your efforts around a proven template. A piece of content that the search engines and more importantly the viewers love is certainly worth looking at for use as a proven template. Think of ways you could improve upon this content and make it your own. This could be as simple as taking the top three pieces of content in a particular SERP (Search Engine Results Page) and handing them over to a professional writer and asking that person to create something better with your brand in mind.

Third, content doesn’t promote itself.

When it comes to content promotion, I’ve seen others say to invest as much time in promoting your content as it did to create it. While this is a better idea than writing the perfect blog post and just tweeting a link to it once, I suggest really going the distance with your content promotion. According to many recent studies, content marketing is by far the highest value in digital marketing but is far and away the most difficult digital marketing channel to execute effectively. Why is this? I believe it is simply because these marketers are consistently failing to implement cost effective SEO strategies within and alongside their content marketing efforts. In fact, over 90% of B2B marketers say that they are using content marketing in 2016. However, 70% of those marketers report that their content marketing programs are not effective. Don’t be a statistic!

Fourth, consider fundamentals like keyword research, on-page SEO, and technical SEO.

Before you can create the most engaging content to promote, you need to know your market and who you’re speaking to. Google’s keyword planner is a simple and easy way to effectively analyze any given market today, especially when you throw those same keywords into Google Trends to gauge a waxing or waning market in a visual way. You’re essentially looking for a few dozen (hopefully) keywords  that have two or three words in the phrase and show a consistent or growing search volume over time. Keywords that show buying intent and fit these parameters are your golden goose.

On-page SEO is just about as important as keyword research. Without optimizing your URLs, title tags, meta descriptions, H1 and H2 headings, body copy, and images; you are going to be missing out on a ton of much needed attention from search engines and more importantly again, viewers. Without a clear focus built into the core of your content via on-page optimization, the search engines will give you less exposure in the SERPs and your viewers won’t link to you with desirable anchor text, or at all.

Your technical SEO skills will come in handy when it comes time to speed up page load times by streamlining bloated or nasty code, and by utilizing a Silo structure to organize your content by theme in a crawl-able way.

Fifth, always play by the rules.

It may occur to you to try and bend the rules, or just break them outright. I can assure you that this is pointless. Webpages that don’t deserve to rank are not nearly as profitable as pages that do deserve to rank. Just yesterday I did some outreach to promote a piece of content for a local home service provider,  and I sent just over 100 emails early in the morning. Less than 12 hours later I had already received a blog comment on the content asking for a price quote for service, and I was just trying to get some exposure, the blog comment was just a symptom of quality marketing. By the way, the conversation started by that blog comment will be a more powerful salesman for that company than they could ever hope to hire. He’s on the job 24/7, and will be for years to come. That’s cost effective SEO.