If you own and operate a local business, you likely live and die by the MAP pack. For small businesses that rely on a local customer base, then appearing in the top results makes a huge difference on your landing new customers. From driving Google reviews to boost your MAP pack rankings to expanding your profile with GMB products, continuing to focus on enhancing your Google My Business footprint pays dividends for your company.
As Google expands its product offerings out of the standard search results, they are catering to small businesses. As a result, things like Google My Business offer valuable features for small (or any size) business. In particular, GMB updates continuously allow companies to control more landscape during branded search requests. Additionally, this impacts the importance of appearing on MAP pack results because if customers click on your listing, then you control what they may see.
All of this means that your GMB profile is important to cultivate your reputation and drive awareness to your business. Plus, and equally important, Google continues to expand the tool set, so paying attention to GMB updates and/or working with an experienced local SEO expert will help you stay ahead of the curve and land more customers.
In late 2020 and early 2021, Google released some of these GMB enhancements. So, the following highlights the new features and outlines why it may matter to your business.
Update and/or Edit GMB Profile via Search & Maps
Keeping your GMB profile accurate is important. In particular, changing hours and local regulations means you may or may not be able to service customers at your location. To make it easier to update company information, Google released a new feature that allows individuals (with access to the GMB profile) the ability to make changes directly from Search or Maps (so they no longer need to access via business.google.com).
Google outlines the steps, but the process is pretty straightforward and relatively simple for most business owners that have access to their existing GMB profile. First, ensure you are signed into Google via the email address that verified your business. On Maps, then tap your profile picture (top right) & select “Your Business Profile” to access tools. On Search, simply search for your business.
Upon accessing the tools, owners or operators can:
- update business information
- create posts
- reply to reviews
Additionally, as Search Engine Land points out, the recent announcement also includes upgrades to GMB insights.
“Google is also upgrading GMB insights with a “revamped performance page” featuring new consumer-engagement information. There will also be additional (unspecified) data, as well as “helpful recommendations” about improving the GMB presence. These include the benefits of “adding information to your Business Profile, responding to recent customer reviews, or using Google Ads to help your business stand out.”
To help demonstrate the importance and value of GMB profiles, Google is introducing tools to help measure activity derived from profile views. For example, the updates includes:
- New Performance Page so businesses can view customer interactions directly in Search or Maps.
- Simplified Menu on Search and Maps that allows businesses to edit their profile, promote their business, and connect with customers.
- Q&A and FAQs are now available to let businesses communicate with customers.
Why does this matter?
There is a limited amount of information you can control about your company on the internet. But, you can control your presence on Google by claiming, verifying and maintaining your business listing.
If you own or operate a small business that relies on local customers, have you claimed your GMB profile? If not, rest assured that you are not alone, but make this a priority. Alternatively, if you have claimed your GMB profile, do you routinely monitor the listings? If not, then make it part of a monthly or quarterly checklist and continue to optimize and enhance the listings.
Finally, GMB profiles matter because they provide the initial window that new and existing customers notice about your company. If you don’t keep the vital information updated, then you may miss out on potential customers. These new features allow businesses to keep information updated in a much easier manner.
Google Expands Messaging & Map Analytics
How do you communicate with potential customers? From chat widgets and contact form submissions to Facebook messages and tagged social media posts, potential customers continue to leverage new forms on communication. Google understands customers rely on different channels and released messaging within Maps. As they noted:
“We’re rolling out the ability for verified businesses to message with customers directly from the Google Maps app. Once you turn messaging on from your Business Profile, you can start replying to customers on Google Maps from the business messages section in the “Updates” tab. And soon you’ll also be able to see your messages right from Google Search (via the Customers menu on your Business Profile) and message customers directly from your computer.”
So, for businesses that leverage Google messaging, this new feature allows potential customers to send messages directly from maps (and even posts). The new feature offers potential customers with another opportunity to ask questions when they spot your business on maps. Of course, if your business does not utilize messaging, then this does not impact your day-to-day.
Additionally, as part of the increased messaging, Google also announced enhanced analytics related to GMB.
For many local SEO experts, along with business owners, GMB analytics were deemed vague at best. As a result, Google released more performance metrics that show additional details on search queries used to find your business. Plus, the new details include whether the search originated from a desktop or mobile device and will show the trailing six months of information.
Why does this matter?
Effective communications is the lifeblood of any business. In the modern internet-enabled world, effectively communicating with customers is imperative to engagement and growing a strong brand. The release of messaging via Google Maps helps businesses that offer this service. But, even if you don’t utilize messaging, if you notice an uptick in messages or questions from maps, then you may want to plan to include the feature down the road. And, due to the increased performance metrics, you can understand where and what potential customers are searching for when they find you. Obviously, this has a big impact on identifying non-branded keywords for your SEO activities, but also helps you understand how much mobile traffic your site receives. If you are not actively supporting a mobile experience, then this would highlight and potentially prioritize the need to incorporate mobile UI into your online presence.
Display Years in Business
How long have you been in business? Do you work in an industry that longevity helps create a point of differentiation? If so, this Google update is quite important. Although quite simple, Google now displays years in business within GMB profiles.
To add, simply update the “opening date” in your GMB profile and it will now display in search results. Search Engine Land shares more information on how the years in service renders.
Why does this matter?
Simple, customers feel assured that a business is “more legitimate” by their longevity. For example, as many homeowners search for service companies like plumbers, landscapers, HVAC technicians and more, many “fly by night” businesses pop up to take advantage of the current trend. But, homeowners take length of business into account for these industries (like many other industries). Conversely, new businesses might want to include this date so potential customers understand you are new and looking to build a brand and base of customers. As a result, if you are new to an area or a seasoned pro, generally, length of business will help customers understand how you fit into the local market.