If you’ve ever listed your business on Google+, Places or Maps, you know how powerful each of these tools can be, as they give you direct access to the millions of people who search these platforms for services every day. Powerful, yes, but only if you know how to use each separate one, and if you have the time and energy to constantly manage, update and analyze them.
That, at least, was the state of affairs until early June, when Google released Google My Business, a new tool that combines each of these platforms -- notably, along with Insights and AdWords analytics -- into one, easy to use portal. Want to update your listing on Maps and Google+? Great. Just edit one profile and you’re good to go. Want to see who’s interacting with your Google+ page and what keywords customers are using to find you on Maps? That’s all in one place, too.
And if you think it’s amazing to have everything sync up on the backend for you, just wait until you see what it does for customers on the front end. No matter what platform they use to search for you, they’ll find your correct information every time and have a seamless experience when interacting beneath the banner of your brand.
Still, though you’ll be upgraded automatically, you’ll still need to consciously work on developing your Google presence to be found. Here are a few tips for doing just that.
First things first: if you want to use all of these great products, you have to have a listing. You may have one already either through a local listing or through a Google+ page, in which case you’ll just want to make sure everything is up to date when you login to the new platform. If you don’t have one yet, simply head to Google My Business, sign up and begin filling out your profile (and remember, this will appear on every Google small business platform, including Maps, Search and Google+, so make it good!). Give as much detail as possible and use keywords whenever you can, so that your profile is optimized for the customers who are looking for businesses like yours in their area. Add high quality photos both to your header image and consistently to your feeds so that customers have a good sense of your product and business before even stepping foot in your store. This way, you’ll optimize your site while aptly branding your company online.
Spend as Much Time on G+ as You Do on Twitter
Social media in general is the perfect space for curating a passionate community around your brand. Unfortunately, the lackluster launch of Google+ has left far too many people with the impression that it’s not worth the time needed to keep it updated. That’s a big misconception, as Google+ is actually growing quite fast, and consumers tend to use it to interact specifically with brands, rather than with friends. And why wouldn’t they, when it’s so easy to find your G+ social presence from web searches and Maps? What’s more, Google ranks local G+ pages high in search results, and will even feature your photos and listing in a carousel at the top of relevant searches, which garners many clicks.
All of which is to say: it makes a whole lot of sense to pay attention to your G+ presence. Build a following by joining communities within your industry or within your audience’s interest area. Create and share content to establish your expertise, and reach out to influencers for guest posts to share here as well. The more you share, the more you’ll naturally be using keywords that will get you found, and the more you’ll be building a vocal and passionate following to advocate for you and stop by your store.
Encourage Reviews -- And Respond to Them
Customers today lean heavily on reviews to make their purchasing decisions. When you don’t pay attention to them, you lose control of the conversation. Instead, keep your eye peeled for negative reviews so you can respond quickly and comprehensively; not only does this help you potentially keep the complainer as a customer, but it also demonstrates publicly to other customers that you’re a responsive and caring brand. In addition, encourage your customers to leave reviews by offering incentives on social media, or reminding them in-person at the time of purchase. While all of them won’t be positive, many will be if you’ve done a good job with service, and this will help legitimize your business in the eyes of potential customers in the future.
Hangout With Customers
Whether your core customers live thousands of miles away or just around the block, Hangout on Google+ is the perfect way to connect. Are you a cupcake company? Host a baking or tasting session with 10 lucky customers. Are you a plumber? Hold a how-to session and encourage your customers to ask their most burning plumbing questions while they’ve got you on the line. Hangout is a great way to build your expertise, brand yourself and interact with your community -- and better yet, when you use Hangouts on Air, the video automatically archives to YouTube, so you can use it in your content marketing as well.
Look at Your Analytics and Insights Regularly
One of the best things about listing your business with Google and doing so much of your social media and content marketing with them is that they are the original search engine company. That means you can easily integrate an AdWords campaign with all of its accompanying analytics, and you’ll also have easy access to Insights for your Google+ page. Together, these two features will show you who is clicking on what and what they’re doing once they get to your page. This, in turn, will help you determine how well your marketing efforts are really doing, and when you should think about a change in strategy.
Given the streamlined nature of the new platform, Google My Business is a great boon for your efforts on Search, Google+ and Maps. It will power your SEO and your content marketing all in one. For a more in-depth look on how to master every aspect of the new platform, check out this Google My Business guide for more great tips.
Have you upgraded to Google My Business yet? If so, what are your initial impressions? Let me know in the comments below.
Jessica Edmondson is a content marketer from Distilled, a creative online marketing company. She enjoys sharing topics on content marketing and building an online brand. You can circle her on G+ here.