What is Google My Business?

The focal point for your business online, Google My Business, is your digital shop front window.

In this first article, we explore Google My Business. This post will explain what this critical tool is, all the facilities and functions it offers for your business and why they are helpful. It will explain how this tool can be used as the focal point of your online marketing efforts, acting as your digital shopfront window. 

What is Google My Business and how will it benefit my company online?

Google My Business is a free online platform. Companies can create a digital profile on the search engine to display their business to search engine users. Google My Business calls its listings 'Business Profiles', and these profiles have no cost to companies who list themselves here, aside from the time required to set up and nurture your presence with ongoing updates. Doing this has multiple benefits for your company, as outlined in this article. You can see an example image of a profile on the platform on the right below, being an architectural design business called Ecclesall Design based in Sheffield:  
As you can see, this profile is the first thing that a search engine user will find when they search for a business using Google, which makes this a vitally important asset. This profile serves as a digital focal point for your business in search engines. The importance of this is ever increasing as the covid-19 pandemic means that many companies prioritise their digital footprint over brick-and-mortar premises. Google My Business started life tending to focus on companies with a physical presence; however, it is beginning to be widely used by companies without a premises where customers can visit after some adaptations by Google. A Google My Business presence can appear on Google Maps, as shown below, or on Google search results, as shown on the right:  
Google My Business Maps

What kind of info can I list in my profile?

There is a wide and varied range of information that you can display in your profile. These features and facilities on your profile give your business a crucial online focal point on Google. You can display your business name alongside a map location. For companies with a physical presence, you can display a map marker showing the location of your premises alongside a street view of your location so potential customers can see the area that you are based. Interestingly, you don't have to have this information listed if you, for example, are a business that works from home and doesn't want to make your address public. If you work from home, you can choose to have this section hidden from public view, as shown below:  
Google My Business Address
It is advisable for all businesses, whether or not they have a physical presence, to use Google My Business due to the vast range of benefits it can provide you, as we will explore further below.  
An example Google My Business presence
Google My Business Profile

Location, opening hours and category

You can use your profile to share; your location with Google, service areas where you operate geographically, opening hours and business category. You get the choice of a primary business category and several additional categories. This information is essential, as it allows you to tell Google where you are, what you do and when you are open. Knowing this means that Google is aware of you, that they know where you are based, and when you trade, allowing Google to suggest your business to those who use its search engine looking for specific products or services in a particular geographic area. For example, if you use Google Maps to search "pub food Newcastle", Google will suggest businesses to the searcher that have listed that they are a pub that is open and serving food using Google My Business. This feature matches a searcher looking for a specific product or service in an area with a business that can meet their requirements. If you don't use Google My Business, your business won't get suggested, and you will miss out as customers will go elsewhere.   
Google Maps Food Search
Another important section is opening hours, meaning that Google is aware of when you trade. Knowing your trading hours is especially crucial for businesses with a physical presence, such as a barber who may be closed on a Monday, which is often a quiet day for this type of business. Letting Google know when you are open and when you are closed will ensure customers know not to attend your premises when you are shut, meaning that you will not get customers coming to you only to be disappointed. Interestingly, this can give you an advantage over competitors. If your business opens later than competitors nearby, then customers will be more likely to choose the business that is open the longest in an evening. Google also automatically shows popular times at businesses with a physical location. By using smartphone technology that records the GPS signal of everyone who carries mobile phones, companies where Google can establish enough data automatically show the busy and quiet periods per hour within a physical location, such as shops. This allows users to see when the busiest times will be and if a place is more quiet than usual, as shown below:  
Google My Business Popular Times

This feature is particularly useful for hospitality businesses, as it allows users to see if a cafe, for example, is overly busy, which will make customers more likely to avoid this venue. Meaning if your restaurant is full, you do not have to turn people away, as they can already see this on Google. This is useful, as turning customers away when you are too busy is a negative experience and can make some people less likely to return. By seeing this information before travelling to a location, it will push potential customers to visit you during your quieter periods, giving your business a better spread of custom throughout the day. 

If your business is usually closed on public holidays, you have a feature on Google to input days that you will be closed for a public holiday in advance. You can list all days that you plan to close in the future, which also helps avoid the odd customers showing up expecting you to be open when you are not. A further feature here allows you to list your business as temporarily or permanently closed. The temporarily closed feature is handy if your business is unlucky to be affected by a fire, flood or electrical fault. In this unfortunate situation, at least you can quickly use Google to inform your customers that you will be closed for a short time. This feature means you won't have to constantly turn people away in person, adding more stress to an already difficult situation.

Company bio, your services and products

Google My Business also gives you the chance to display a 750 character bio on your profile, this describes your business to those browsing to see if they wish to use your services. Here you get the opportunity to explain who you are, what you are, what you do well and why people should choose you. It is a great area to outline your unique selling points and show off what makes your business special. 

Your bio sits alongside areas in the platform which allow you to outline both your services and products. Services are grouped into the categories that were explained earlier. You can list multiple services with names in each primary and additional category. In these you can show prices information for each service, such as free, fixed prices and from costs with a 300 character description for each service type. The service section forms an excellent tool for outlining the different facets of your service and gives clients the information they need to see before inquiring with you. If you are a product-based business, you can list your goods on Google My Business also. Like with services, products link with your business category. You can also upload an image alongside an item description with a link to that product on your website, which is helpful for e-commerce businesses. If you sell your stock using e-commerce, you should showcase your primary or highest margin items on Google My Business to ensure they get exposure on Google.  

Google My Business images

Google My Business Images

Alongside name, map location and street view, you can also upload pictures to your profile. These photos are significant as they give the first impression of your business to anyone who sees your company on Google. There is a range of different images that you can upload to your profile, including overview photos, interior pictures, exterior pictures, pictures of your team, pictures of you at work and photos of the general identity of your business. You can also upload 360-degree photos that an approved Google My Business photographer can take for you, with the ability to also upload videos to your profile. Both features are ideal for restaurants, hotels, gyms, or other places where customers will want to see the interior of a business before going forward with their choice. Google has a database of approved and trusted street-view photographers that can be found here: Google Approved Street-View Photographers.

Two other types of photos that you can display on your profile are logos and cover photos. A logo image helps customers recognise your brand. You can also upload an image that is not your logo to this section, too, to help reiterate what you do. For example, a pizza restaurant could upload their most popular pizza here, which would help to reinforce what they do well to potential customers. You could also show a cover photo, which generally appears as the first image displayed on Google. 

With images on Google My Business, there are some considerations to be aware of. As a business owner, you have a limited say over the photos shown on your profile because Google will automatically select the images it wants to show first. Less control is especially true of your cover image, which is certainly not guaranteed to be offered by Google as the first image displayed on your profile. Furthermore, customers can upload pictures of your business to your profile themselves. Customer pictures can be incredibly annoying for restaurant owners, who go to great lengths to arrange professional photography of their food, only for a customer to upload an image of a half-eaten dish to Google. Google may then select this unsatisfactory image to be shown as a prominent image on the profile, with no way to change this. As a business owner you only want your products to be shown at their best, and the restaurant example of customers uploading half-eaten food is one that is seen often. Unfortunately, you cannot remove these customer-uploaded images. When uploading your photos, your pictures should also be not blurred and should not overly use filters or alterations, which can mean your images no longer genuinely portray your business. 

Quick access buttons

One great feature of your profile, in how it features as a focal point for your business online, is how it can filter your prospective customers into what they want to do after seeing your presence. The desktop version of Google My Business has several prominent buttons to filter your customers with one going to your website. Another button brings the customer directions to your business through Google Maps, another button saves your business as a favourite place, a place you want to go, or a starred place on the users' own Google Maps app. You can also call the business through your laptop by using, for example, a VoIP or voice over internet phone. The mobile version of Google My Business allows similar features, giving the user the ability to call straight from their mobile phone, share the profile on WhatsApp, or chat with the business using Google My Business messages.

Google My Business mobile messages

One key feature of Google My Business is the message facility, allowing customers to send messages to your company through your Google My Business presence. However, the Google messaging facility can only be used on mobile devices. To set this up as a business owner, you will need to download the Google My Business mobile app. Messaging is a great feature to allow customers to contact you and for you to start a conversation with your customers, which you can use to give them advice and answer their questions that they would like answers to before they buy from you. After downloading the Google My Business mobile app, you can set personalised greeting for when a prospect first contacts you and get notifications to your mobile phone when a someone sends a message. Messaging on Google is a great tool to help your business, but there are some important considerations to think about before activating this feature. Google is very sensitive about response times. You must respond to messages in less than 24-hours; a response that takes longer than this could lead to Google deactivating your message facility to ensure that they maintain a standard response time amongst all profiles that are using their platform. Those visiting your profile to send a message will be able to view an average response time, indicating how long it takes you to respond to your messages:

  • Usually responds in a few minutes
  • Usually responds in a few hours
  • Usually responds in a day 
  • Usually responds in a few days

Messages provide an excellent way for you to build engagement and trust with potential customers on Google. But you need to ensure that you can meet the recommended minimum response times required, being a 24-hour response, with your first response being the critical one which is timed. However, it is best practice to send an answer to all messages. Even when a customer sends a message saying "thank you, goodbye" it is advisable to respond here too with something like "you are welcome". 

Request a quote facility

Google My Business Request A Quote

One new feature that Google is slowly rolling out to all eligible accounts with messaging active is a request a quote facility that appears as a prominent button on the desktop and mobile versions of your Google My Business profile. This facility will allow a potential customer to send an enquiry to you regarding what service they are interested in and when they would like the service to be delivered, with any further details they wish to include and their contact number. The request a quote button is an excellent facility, as it provides your business a means of receiving enquiries which can lead to sales. Quotes have the same responsibilities as messages, such as response times, and needs messages to be activated to show. So you need to respond promptly to any quote requests. 

Bookings and appointment links

Google My Business Booking

For appointment based businesses such as hairdressers and barbers, you can sync your Google My Business profile with an online appointment booking provider, such as: Booksy.

This facility will appear as the same style button as the quote facility on desktop and a similar style button on mobile devices. Your customers can use this to go through the form and select the type of service they wish to have with prices displayed and a calendar of slots that the customer can then book. As of October 2021, Booksy is currently providing a free trial for their platform. The setup process is relatively straightforward to sync your booking facility with Google; you can find more information here: Google My Business Bookings.

Google also allows syncing with many other booking platforms, which offers many providers for a wide range of business types: Google Booking Platforms.

You can also include a link on your profile that will allow users to click to go through to your website to book an appointment. This link is handy for businesses such as a letting agent, where a client would need to book through a separate window to discuss their requirements with a staff member and view available properties. This link is not done through a third party booking provider but would send a potential client through your website appointment booking form. A business such as a letting agent could then choose to have this form on their website, which collects important information from a client. The company then will view this completed form and then contact the prospect to arrange an appointment if the business knows that they can satisfy the requirements of those enquiring. 

Customer reviews on Google My Business

Google My Business Reviews

Every Google My Business profile has an area where customer reviews are displayed. Sometimes this can fill a business owner with fear, as they dread the thought of a negative review, but this need not be the case. Reviews are a great way to allow businesses that prioritise their customer service and offering to shine above competitors. Anyone who has a Google Gmail account can leave reviews on any Google My Business profile, graded from a minimum of one star to a maximum of five stars. Because Google pushes businesses up search engines with the most positive reviews, you should find a way to link your business operation to Google's review platform. Linking your business to Google's reviews to encourage more of these can be done quickly and easily. For example, after a customer comes and purchases from your store, you could email them a receipt containing a link to leave a review on your Google My Business profile. Generally speaking, if you are good at what you do and use techniques to encourage these, you will get many positive reviews. You can use Google My Business to respond to thank your customers who take the time to review their experience with you. The more positive reviews your profile gets, the more likely people will choose your business over local competitors. 

It is understandable and natural that service can slip or not meet your usual high standards on the odd occasion. If this occurs, it can be upsetting for a business owner to see a one-star review appear, with pictures outlining why the customers were unhappy, such as poor quality food. However, in this instance, you do get a chance to publicly reply to the review to outline your side of the story or to ask the customer if they would like to get in touch with you privately so you can put the matter right with them, for example over a telephone call. Nobody should leave fake reviews on your profile and if this does happen then you must take action. There are functions in the review algorithm so that Google can find fake reviews and remove these automatically from your profile. Also, if a review contains profanities, you can flag the review to Google, which they will then remove. As always, the best way to avoid bad reviews is to ensure that your customers are happy. Preventing bad reviews is always better than dealing with them after they occur. A straightforward way to avoid bad reviews is to ask customers if they are happy at the end of their experience with your business and to iron out any issues then and there. For example, if you are a cafe or a restaurant business, ask your customers at the end of the meal, "was everything alright with your visit today?". It is challenging to remove negative reviews unless, for example, a competitor leaves a fake malicious review on your profile. In this case, again, you can flag this to Google and begin to bring this to their attention. Despite being difficult to remove, it is important to know that it is possible and can be done, Six Six Marketing has achieved this for clients previously. Interestingly, Google has also recently begun to bring reviews in from other platforms to be displayed on your profile, as seen above with reviews from Houzz, Yell and FreeIndex.

The reviews facility is in your interest as a business, as it allows you to show on search engines how great you are at what you do. Negative reviews will happen occasionally, which is unfortunate but understandable; you can't be perfect every time. Using the platform, you can ensure that your negative reviews are genuine and use the reply facility to publicly explain how sorry you are and how you will put the issues right for the customer. By addressing a negative review publicly using Google, you can take a negative situation and turn this into a positive. The odd negative review handled well also lends weight to all of your other positive reviews, as it shows that these are genuine. However, it is always best to take the time to ensure that you ask the customer if they have any issues before they leave the premises. This way, you can make sure that they don't feel they need to go home and leave a bad review. Profiles with many good reviews are recommended first by Google and will help to bring more customers to your business. 

Additional information and posts

You can also use your profile to list some crucial additional information which is very useful to display to prospects who see your profile on Google My Business. Aside from reviews, there is another way that search engine users can publicly interact with your profile. Google users can ask questions on your profile that display on your presence, with your answers to these questions listed publicly also. This can be useful, for example, if someone asks about parking at your location. In this case, you can publicly answer the question, which means you don't have to answer it constantly by other means such as through telephone calls, as you would if it was not shown in this public and prominent way.

Google My Business Posts

One of the most useful features in Google My Business is the post facility, allowing you to share offers, updates, events and product news. This area allows you to share the latest info about your business, promote an offer, list an event, and give details on a new product using your profile. These will then be shared publicly on your profile for all to see, offering a brilliant way to communicate the latest details about your business with customers. There is a wide range of further information that you can display in this section also, which helps show how you stand out from competitors and highlight what makes your business unique. You can say when you first opened your business, which allows you to highlight your years of experience in your field, with customers tending to trust long standing businesses more. 

Further additional information that you can list is that your business identifies as being women-led or LGBTQ friendly. You can show that your business is wheelchair accessible, so disabled people can come and visit your location and use your services. Another feature displays what measures you are taking in light of the covid-19 pandemic, such as that an appointment is required and that staff disinfect surfaced between visits. An area alongside this allows you to highlight how you carry out your service, such as if you deliver services at your site, or onsite services away from your location, or if you carry out both. This information is all helpful as it can allow a potential customer to choose you over a competitor. 

Finally, Google's algorithm will automatically find your social media profiles and include handy links to your social channels at the bottom of your profile. The social profile area is excellent as it provides a different way to build up your likes and followers on your profiles and means that more people will keep in touch with your business on social media. You just need to ensure your business is called the same name on your social media profiles and has the same details such as address.

Conclusion and insights

Hopefully, this article will have allowed you to learn all the benefits of having a presence on Google My Business. The vast array of information that you can display on a Google My Business profile is key for effective digital marketing. It really can make the difference between whether you get a customer or do not. For example, some customers need to see that your business has wheelchair access before they will visit. Other clients will want to choose an experienced and established business that has been trading for some time; further information on your profile gives you a chance to shine and share what you do well and why. If your images are appealing and inviting, then customers will want to come to you. If your reviews are positive and genuine, a customer will have more trust in buying products or services from you. If customers have any questions that need answering before they purchase, they can use the questions and answers facility or send you a message directly through your profile. The booking capability, appointment link and quote request facility gives you an extra means of acquiring sales aside from your website, growing your business as it feeds new leads and sales into your pipeline. You can also post regular news, offers, events, and products that you want to highlight onto your Google My Business presence. 

With these many varied features, your presence on Google My Business is a powerful digital marketing tool, allowing you to showcase your business and connect with your customers. It provides a focal point for your presence on search engines, being the first thing a customer will see when searching your name in Google. This forms a digital shop front window, the first impression a customer would get of your business online; just as a shop window is the first thing that greets a customer as they walk past a physical store. If you don't use this presence and manage it correctly, then you will be missing out. Google can also automatically generate a presence on the platform, these are done for established businesses who have not created themselves a profile. However, these automatically generated profiles contain minimal information and look poor compared to a well managed, fully updated profile with all information complete. Importantly your Google My Business listing forms a way that prospects can decide to use your business without having to take that extra step to go onto your website, giving you business growth. It will always be live on Google, even if your website goes down due to hosting issues or regular maintenance. 

You can also use a facility in Google My Business called 'Insights', here you can see marketing data collected by Google for you. This data shows how customers search for your business, what keywords they use to find you with data on calls, requests for directions and where they come from, reviews, bookings and other interactions customers make with your profile. This will help you to learn more about your customers, further increasing your knowledge and profit-making ability. 

Need help setting up your presence on Google My Business?

Now you know all about Google My Business, you are ready to set up your presence and get started. Below are two handy links, one of which will take you to Google My Business to register your profile and begin to create and populate the information required. Another link will take you to the contact form for Six Six Marketing; if you need some further help or don't have the time to set up and manage your presence yourself, then please get in touch, and you can get the assistance that you need. 

Get started on Google My Business
Contact Six Six Marketing for help