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In the Da Vinci Code, if they really wanted to send Tom Hanks and Audrey Tautou for a loop, they didn’t need a fancy codex. They could have just as easily asked them to get a local business set up on Google Maps, Google Places, Google+ Local, etc. While that might have made for one boring movie, it’s a fitting challenge. Over the last five years, these services have changed so frequently that it often feels like you need your own personal symbologist or cryptologist just to keep things straight.
We’ve written extensively about Google’s constant changes:
- Bye Bye Google Places
- What Happened to Google Places?
- Is This the End for Google+?
- Will I Lose My Google Places Reviews?
- Why Aren’t My Google+ Reviews Showing?
Google is trying to change this with a new service it has launched called Google My Business. The goal of Google My Business is to make life easier for business owners, marketers, and agencies by creating a unified interface that integrates information from multiple Google properties—AdWords, Google+, Maps, Search—into a single location.
What You Can Do with Google My Business
- Edit information across Search, Maps, and more from one location
- Share company news and updates with prospects and customers
- Respond to real time customer reviews
- Get access to powerful analytics data that shows how customers find your business
Overview of the Google My Business Dashboard
Google My Business has a cool dashboard that integrates all your company’s information into a single location. The dashboard is broken down neatly into eight sub-sections.
Here’s a brief run-down of each one:
1. Business Description
At the top of the page—where you see the red number one in the screenshot above—you have general information about your business, which includes:
- Description and the category that best describes your business
- Contact information
- Link to your website
- Your service area
- Pictures and the option to have a virtual tour
- Profile photo, which is used across multiple Google properties
2. Social Sharing Section
Below this section is a Google+ integration. From here, you can post status updates, share photos and videos, post information about an event, and more.
3. Community & Customer Insights
In section three, when you click to “View Insights,” Google breaks things down by visibility, engagement, and audience. Within the visibility sub-section, you’ll see how many people have viewed your page, clicked your page, and requested driving directions (by zip code). In the engagement section, you’ll see what actions people have taken on your posted information, recent posts, and average actions by post. In a way, the Insights section seems to be gunning for Facebook for business. The audience section shows how many followers your business has and offers insights about your followers—the countries where they live as well as their age and gender.
4. Online Reviews
Historically, managing reviews has been a royal pain in the ass. Over the past two years, we’ve received dozens of inquiries from companies that have lost all their reviews on Google during one of the many changes to Google Maps/Places/Local—we’ve even had it happen to us, despite following best practices! With the Google My Business dashboard, business owners can easily and quickly manage and respond to their online reviews.
5. AdWords Express
Google AdWords Express is a streamlined version of AdWords, Google’s pay-per-click (PPC) platform. Given the fact that Google makes most of their revenue from PPC ads, it’s not surprising that they’d offer a link to encourage more SMBs to sign up to try PPC advertising. To learn more about using Google AdWords to generate leads and sales for your business, read this post.
6. Custom URL
Google’s standard Google+ URL is a long string of digits. In order to make it easier to promote your page on Google, you can get a customized URL for your business. Based on your business name, Google will allow you to use a URL that they’ve preapproved or you can create your own—subject to their review.
7. Google Analytics
Link directly to your Google Analytics account from your Google My Business dashboard or set up Google Analytics if you’re not already using it.
8. Start a Google Hangout
I’d venture to say that most small business owners have no idea what a Google Hangout is, but that will surely change soon. Google Hangouts makes it easy to create video conference calls. These are great for interviews, internal group meetings, and even client calls.
Initial Thoughts & Takeaways
After years of feeling neglected, small business owners are finally getting some respect. Web giants like Facebook and Google are engaged in an intense battle to become the go-to resource for small business advertising and marketing. Google My Business provides business owners, marketers, and the agencies that serve them with a clean interface to quickly and easily access a suite of powerful promotion tools. But, you should be very careful when setting things up. Some mistakes can’t easily be undone.
Recently, we encountered a situation where a local business had three pages for their business. Two of the pages were for two unique locations. The third page was created as a duplicate of one of the other pages. For this reason, it was flagged and disabled by Google. This alone doesn’t constitute a problem except that the disabled page had the company’s preferred URL (http://www.google.com/+companyname).
Once you create a custom URL for a page, you cannot ever change it—it’s like a social security number for your business. Even if you kill that page, that page name (ex. +Bluecorona) will never be able to be used again. Like most things on the web, it pays to have a well-thought out strategy before charging forward with implementation.
If you own a small business and would like help creating and executing an effective digital marketing strategy for your business, drop us a line. We can also help you create a unified and optimized presence on the web—including Google My Business. Alternatively, you can enter your website address below and our team will do a free review of your business on Google:
About The Author:
Ben Landers is the President and CEO of Blue Corona, a data-driven, inbound internet marketing company. Submit an inquiry to book Ben to speak at your next conference or event.
View more blogs by Ben Landers