Google My Business is really one of the best free business tools on the internet. In 2004 Google released Google Local as a solution to help local businesses get found by combining the business name, address, and phone number. Google continued tweaking this tool for local businesses over time, until in June 2014 they finally unveiled their revamped and improved replacement for Google Local and Google Places for Business, the Google My Business feature.
Since launching Google My Business, the search engine giant has helped more than 150 million local businesses to connect with their customers and potential customers through business-specific online searches. Today when people conduct business searches on Google, they are likely to type in very specific search terms like “vegetarian restaurant near me” or “fast food restaurants in Mount Airy.” They are also interested in diving deeper to find restaurant menus, prices, hours, whether the restaurant accepts online reservations, and more.
Google designed Google My Business to better meet the needs of its users. For example, Google My Business is much easier to use on mobile devices. If it’s an online restaurant reservation you want, you can find one and make the reservation on your smartphone in no time thanks to Google My Business. Google continues rolling out enhancements to this feature to help businesses more accurately represent themselves online, AND become easier for searchers to find.
Below are some of the more interesting new Google My Business features that can really help skyrocket online traffic for your business:
1) Engage Users with Your Latest Offers
In October of 2018 Google added a “Follow” button to its business listings. In much the same way that social media users can “follow” individuals and organizations, Google added this feature to allow its users to be able to “follow” local businesses. This feature has greatly helped to improve the visibility of business listings and direct more traffic to business websites. Whenever you post offers or new features related to your business, users who “follow” you will receive notification of your offers and can save them for personal reference in their offer folder.
The only limitation with this feature is that it’s not yet fully integrated with Google Maps on all devices; right now it’s limited just to Android devices. But if you have an IOS device, don’t fret – Google plans to roll out IOS functionality soon. If you have a Google My Business listing, you should definitely take advantage of the opportunity to have customers and potential customers follow you in the same way that they follow individuals, groups, and organizations on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
The more frequently you share offers and updates, the greater your potential to attract, engage, and retain customers and users with your business products and services through the Follow function. In addition to finding the Follow button on business listings, users can also find and use this feature under the For you tab on Google Maps.
2) Bring Users to Your Listing using Short Names
In April 2019 Google announced a new short name feature in Google My Business. The short name is a custom URL representing your business. Google recommends associating your short name with the name your business is known by, as well as with your location to make it more distinct. If you have a verified business listing on Google, you can create a short name or custom name to make your business more visible for customers who are searching for you.
How to create a short name
Sign into your Google My Business account and click the Info tab, then click Add profile short name. Once you create and share your short name, customers can directly reach your profile using: g.page/<your-short-name>. This makes it much easier for customers to learn about you and also leave their reviews on Google.
3) Get More Traffic with Local Service Ads
Local Services ads on Google was initially called “Home Services ads” and was launched in the San Francisco area in 2015. In 2017, Google made the program global and renamed it “Local Services ads” (LSA). Google Local Services is a pay-per-lead advertising platform where business owners can feature their business at the top of the Google search results page. This feature is a potent opportunity for a local business to ramp up its visibility for search engine users who are looking for the services that you offer.
How to Run Local Services ads on Google
It’s fairly easy to get started. You simply have to sign up as a service provider with Google and follow their verification process, set your ad budget, and then start running your ads on Google! You have the ability to control when ads start and stop, and you can also pause ads at any time if you get swamped with leads or if you’re going to be away.
Where are your Local Services ads made visible?
These Local Services ads typically trigger whenever a user conducts a relevant search query to find local services. Ads are visible on the top of the Google search results page in both desktop and mobile versions. One thing to note is that the ad format only allows companies to display their business name, review rating, service location, phone number, and hours.
Because of these ad parameters, it’s very important that you work to earn and maintain a very positive review rating, if you want to realize the full potential of increasing brand awareness in your local market.
4) Take Control of Photos
Before 2018, Google didn’t allow business listing owners any control over which photos displayed in search results. Thankfully, you now have the ability to upload relevant business pictures you want to feature, and even set a cover photo to be seen as your listing’s preferred display photo.
Like the profile cover photo, as the manager of a verified business you can also add a designated logo to your profile, helping to represent your business and increase brand awareness at the same time. Your logo appears on the top left of your Google My Business listing.
- Control of Gallery Photos
Speaking of photos, you’re not just limited to a cover photo and a logo. You also have the ability to upload multiple additional photos to your “gallery.” Choose photos that will highlight different features of your business, and that will give customers more to consider when making their purchasing decisions. You can caption your photos, too. Customers can still add their own photos too, but the more photos you choose to intentionally add as the owner, the more you can define what your searchers will see when they find you on Google!
Some of these features are still being fine-tuned, with more being rolled out by Google all the time. What to do first? Start by creating a Google My Business account (if you haven’t already). Second, it’s important to maintain your business listing and keep it as current as possible – Google is always watching, and they are known to take down listings that appear dubious or that display excessive inactivity. Finally, follow the tips and start using the tools we have identified for you in this blog, and you’ll start seeing your web traffic significantly increase in no time!