5 Lesser Known Google My Business Tips for Small Businesses

If you’re a small business, chances are, you’ve already set up a Google My Business profile. If not, stop reading this and immediately set one up.

Google My Business is a critical feature for small businesses. Whenever a user searches for a local service, whether explicitly local in intent (e.g. bicycle repair Manchester, vegan lunch near me) or that Google interprets as local in intent – e.g. anything where you wouldn’t travel more than a few miles for; dentists, restaurants, hotels – Google will return local results in the form of a map with three listings. This is thought to occur in around 15% of searches on Google, resulting in about 1% of all Google.com searches clicking on a local result (this figure is excluding people already in the Maps app). It’s estimated that even over 70% of iPhone users choose Google Maps over Apple Maps.

Therefore, getting listed in Google Map results is extremely beneficial in growing your business, and it’s worth investing some time in getting in right. But did you also know that once set up, you can gain insights about how people discover your business?

1. Brand vs Generic Search Performance

If you’re putting a lot of effort into SEO, such as by building backlinks, or optimising your site, you might want to know whether this is paying off. Or maybe you’ve seen a spike in new customers and want to know how they’re finding you.

The “How customers search for your business” can help. It will tell you what proportion of people who view your business searched for your brand name (e.g. Jane’s Recycled Furniture Emporium) vs. what proportion searched for a generic product or service that you offer (e.g. recycled furniture). An increase in generic searches would point to your SEO efforts paying off, as you show up for searches not related to your brand name. An increase in branded search would point to you branded marketing activities paying off, such as PR or social media, or even word of mouth.

brand vs generic gmb

2.  Driving Directions Requests

When looking to invest marketing budget, one problem that small businesses face is how far will people travel for you? This is important information if you’re looking to set up or optimise paid search adverting, book bus or out of home advertising, or even paid social.

The Driving Directions Requests shows where people are located when they use Maps to get driving directions to your location. This is a great indication of where your customer base is, as it signals clear intent to visit.

driving directions requests

3. Using Photos Wisely

Adding photos is important for two reasons – if you’re storefront is a bit hidden or difficult to recognise, it allows your customers to recognise what they are looking for when they come to find you. Secondly, it allows you to give a flavour of your brand and environment, so customers can get a feel for who you are. Food outlets should share images of their food, gyms should share their facilities, and bars should share their interior vibe.
This sounds obvious, but not everyone gets it right. Handmade Burger Co. in Manchester, who specialise in freshly made burgers (and offer FIVE different vegan burgers) have the following image as their main Google Business image:
This image isn’t exactly pulling me out the door to get there. I haven’t learned anything about their environment, seating, or menu, and it’s unlikely to convince new customers to visit. Compare this image to Gourmet Burger Kitchen’s lead photo (offering one vegan burger, for anyone who’s counting), located just 0.3 miles away:
The size of that patty! It’s a very natural image, the product is huge – I’m far more enticed to visit. No, it’s probably not the best photo ever taken, but at least I’m getting hungry.

4. Posts Are Your Friends

Posts can naturally feel a bit uncomfortable, like Google is awkwardly trying to stray into social media territory (again). Don’t be put off – they are a very simple way to highlight special events, news and special offers. You can create posts just as a standard announcement (e.g. new menu items), a special offer (BOGOF through January!) or even events. See Siren Asylum below, whose Yoga Inversions workshop is appearing in search results, offering a point of difference compared to other search results for yoga classes:

siren maps

5.  Free Website Builder… is OK

In June 2017, Google announced its free website builder as an extension of Google My Business. This is targeted at small, busy businesses who don’t have the funding, skills or time to develop a website themselves or pay a developer. Another good use for this is if you are a new website and you plan on building your own, but haven’t got round to it yet, or are waiting on developer availability – it can plug a gap.

If you fit into the descriptions above, it may well be very useful for you – and the templates available do look nice:

gmb wwebsite example

However, for anyone serious about growing their business, it should only be seen as a stopgap. Although it’s free, and very simple, it naturally has limitations. As you would expect, to get a custom domain (fredstastypizza.com) is an extra cost, otherwise the free option would be the spectacularly ugly and impossible-to-remember fredstastypizza.business.site. Other drawbacks include the site you create is only one page and you can’t link to social media profiles. However – if it’s the only option available, it is definitely better than nothing, and a great interim tool for getting new businesses off the ground.

There are loads of other benefits and features of Google My Business – the best advice is to make tweaks, test things, and keep an eye on your performance stats on the Insights tab. Give us a shout if you get stuck!

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