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Google My Business listings. What, How and Why.


Google My Business (GMB) is one of the best ways to get local rankings and improve your business visibility, if you haven’t already done so you should claim your GMB listing as soon as possible. An added bonus is that it is totally free.

GMB has a host of new features but it isn’t always apparent what is the best way to use and optimise it. In this article we are going to show how it can really work for you and also to address some of the questions surrounding Google My Business. This should make things a lot clearer for you and encourage you to take full advantage of this service.

Why should you use Google My Business at all? 

GMB is a great way to put your business in front of potential customers in your local area as it is tied into Maps and Google search. That listing of three local businesses that pops up on your phone when you search for something? That’s the Google Map Pack which draws its information from your GMB entry .

Until recently Google delivered seven results, recently that has been reduced to three (known as the local three pack) so it is in your best interests to keep on top of GMB to improve your visibility.  It will also pop up a Knowledge Panel to the right of the listing, giving more information about you that Google has found about your business, from reviews, posts etc.

Like so many features to be found within the Google ecosystem, GMB has seen many improvements and enhancements. To benefit you need to take what’s there and make it work for you.  Did you know that you can manage multiple business locations from a single dashboard?  No? You can, and if you have more than one location, you should!

Along with all the new features come a slew of questions and some confusion as to best practice do’s and don’ts. Here are Inspire’s 5 Google My Business questions asked and answered.


Question: Can anyone make changes to my Google My Business Listing without my knowledge?
Answer: Yes, they can!


It’s hard to believe but anyone, including your competitors, can make changes to your GMB listing - more worrying is the fact that you might not be notified of any changes, even fundamental ones like changing your businesses address or hours of operation.  The only way to stay on top of the information contained in your GMB listing is to first of all claim the listing and set an email address that you regularly use to get the notifications, finally regularly log onto your dashboard and check that all is as it should be. You’ll find a box that allows you to “Review Updates” and all changes should be reported here. In theory you should receive an email when a change is made but this feature appears to be a bit hit and miss.

When reviewing GMB, switch to “Classic View” on your dashboard and select “Google Updates”.  You will see a box allowing you to “Review updates”.  Some of the changes you may find have been made by Google themselves because they have found additional information about your business.  We’d suggest that you have a quick look at that link above, although you might want to sit down while you do, it makes scary reading in parts!  We don’t want to get drawn too far into what Google can do (with, we assume, the best intentions) but you should know about this and keep an eye on what’s happening.

The problem here, with Google-generated updates and other “suggested edits”, is that they can go live without your knowledge (Google may trust a 3rd party to know more about you than you do!!) and that could be problematic for you and your business.  We cannot stress too much therefore that you do need to keep an eye on what’s happening so that anything untoward is caught early and dealt with.


Question: Do hashtags in my Google My Business posts help people find trending keywords and search phrases?
Answer: No, they don’t!


GMB posts aren’t social media posts, although you might think that they are from their appearance.  You’re limited to 1,500 characters but only a limited amount of this is immediately visible, so work on the basis that you have to say what needs saying in the first 150-300 words.  After that the reader has to click on the piece to read the rest.  Consequently you have to make the best use of that limited space and hashtags add nothing to visibility, readability or rankings.

A much more profitable approach is to use GMB business posts to alert customers to items of interest such as:

 
  • News.  Has anything exciting happened recently?
  • Events.  Don’t put anything more than the event name in the title
  • Offers.  If you’re handing out bargains, tell people.
  • New Products

These posts stay live for only seven days, after which they go “dark”. Previous posts are still visible but only when the current post is clicked, allowing interested viewers to scroll through your earlier posts. Business posts are pretty immediate things; remember that and use them to their strengths.

Events and dated posts, things like sales which have a fixed life, will expire at the end of the dated period, which is useful as it should help avoid those ‘discussions’ with customers about whether or not a specific offer is still valid!

GMB is still web-based and isn’t immune to the lure of attractive images, if you have an excellent image that is relevant to your post, use it, it can only help attract attention.  Remember that Google will resize the image so try and keep the best and most relevant part of it centred and ensure that it is of high enough resolution to look good on computers as well as mobile devices.


Question: It looks like I have fake reviews on my Google My Business listing. Can I have them removed?
Answer: Are they truly fake?  Are they just negative reviews that you don’t like?  Google won’t simply remove reviews that upset you.


Your first port of call is Google’s Review Policies to see if the reviews actually violate their policies. If it does violate their terms and conditions, the best thing to do is to tackle it head on - by responding to the reviewer - politely.  We appreciate that you may not feel like keeping a cool head, but it creates a far better impression of you as a business to be seen to acknowledge the negative review and to be dealing with it.  Helpfully, Google has a guide with tips on how to reply to a reviewer:

That done, log onto your GMB dashboard where you can flag the review.  Go to the review that concerns you and click on the three dots next to it: Now click on the option “Flag as Inappropriate.”

There are a couple of very good reasons to do this; firstly, flagging a difficult or fake review within Google My Business dashboard is more effective than doing so through your browser; secondly, you will get a response from Google acknowledging that they have received your request.

Within three days you should get a confirmation email from Google and you will now have the opportunity to explain why you have a problem with the review.  Be rational, use facts and don’t get emotional about it.  The more detail you can provide about the review, the reviewer and the circumstances the better.  Explain why you believe that the review should be removed.

You can also make use of the Google My Business forum to explain your problem - there is a chance that a Google Top Contributor might be willing and able to assist you to contact someone at Google who can help you get the review removed.


Question: I think a former employee might have claimed my GMB listing - I know we verified it but I can no longer log in.  How do I regain access?
Answer: Take a deep breath and approach this logically!


Contact any previous employees who you think might have access.  Ask them for the log in details, or request that they make you the make you the primary owner.
If your business has worked with a digital marketing agency it’s a good idea to talk to them as well.  Best practice is for you, the business owner, to claim the GMB listing and then to permit the agency access as managers of the listing, so that they can work on your behalf.

However, it can happen the other way around and if that’s the case you should insist that ownership of the listing be returned to you.  Ultimately as the owner of the business, you should always have control of the listing - that’s what Google expects.
If after doing all of this you are no further forward your next steps are:

Go to GMB Create and enter your business name.  You should get a message saying that the listing has already been claimed, and you should also be shown a snippet of the email address that was used to lodge the claim.  This may be enough to remind you of the correct login. 

On the other hand, if you do not recognise the email address that was used, click on the “request access” button and fill out the form that follows.

Once completed and submitted, the current owner of the listing will receive an email, so will you.  The current owner of the listing then has seven days to respond to your request and you can monitor the status through the link in the confirmation email you received after requesting access.

If you are successful, Google will email you letting you know and you will be able to log in and take control of your listing.  If on the other hand Google declines your request, you can still make suggested edits or appeal their decision in some cases. 

Alternatively, if there is no response after the seven days, you may get the option from Google to claim the business listing yourself.  You can double check this by logging into Google My Business and looking to see if there is a Claim or Verify option available against the business listing on your dashboard.

Finally you can perform a Google search for your business and see if there is an option to claim the business in the Knowledge Panel on the right hand side.  If there isn’t, that means that the listing is not eligible to be transferred.


Question:  Is there somewhere I can obtain specific answers to my questions?
Answer: Absolutely! 


The Google My Business forum exists specifically for that purpose. On the forum you’ll find experts from industry and Top Contributors who are there to help you get the most out of GMB, with answers to questions or hints and tips to maximise the benefits you can get from the service. Top Contributors can additionally make contact with Google itself if you have requirements or changes which only they can deal with.

The forum is not just about resolving problems, it is a great resource for learning more about the workings of GMB, how to get the best from it and how to leverage its considerable power to help your business.


Final thoughts

Google My Business is one of the best ways to help rank and promote your business locally. There are a lot of features that can assist you to improve your rankings, increase your local visibility and reach out to potential customers.  There are pitfalls, as we have laid out throughout this article, and there is no avoiding the fact that to get the best from GMB you are going to have to be involved - this is no one-off, fire and forget solution.  It is undoubtedly worth the effort however, Google being Google will not only help you improve your visibility to new and existing customers but it will help you by feeding back valuable information about reach, how well your listing is performing and other vital data.

Want to speak to Google Directly? They rum a series of sessions covering digital marketing at the Northern Business Expo across the 17th & 18th March at Manchester Central. They’re free to attend, and are designed for small businesses. You’ll also find other industry leading digital marketers hosting skills workshops, seminars etc., along with the biggest networking opportunity in the North of England. All you need to do is get your free ticket online now, and then come along for free!

 
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