Welcome back, small business owners, to our blog series on how to market your business without a huge budget, extra staff, or a marketing degree. Today we’re introducing you to a digital marketing tool that fills all those gaps on your behalf: Google My Business.
This post is Part 3 of our “How Do I Market My Small Business” series. In Part 1, Set a Marketing Goal, and Part 2, Measure Your Marketing Goals, we talked strategy. Specifically, we discussed the importance of establishing a target for your marketing efforts and tracking your progress toward that target.
Now we’re going to talk tactics. With this intro to Google My Business, we are moving from goals to the methods and tools you can use to achieve those goals.
What is Google My Business?
If you’re following along with this blog series, the transition from marketing goals to Google My Business might seem kind of random. But we assure you, it’s intentional.
Google My Business is like the Jennifer Lopez of marketing goals – it does it all.
Okay, yes, let’s leave J.Lo out of this.
But for real, Google My Business is one tool that tackles many marketing goals. Remember the four main ones that we covered in both Part 1 and Part 2 of this series? Here they are again:
- Increasing awareness of and affinity for your brand.
- Building thought leadership in your industry or area.
- Generating high-quality customer leads that turn into sales.
- Delighting customers to retain them and grow their value.
Google My Business is great for increasing your brand awareness. And if you use it to its full potential, it is also very good for building thought leadership and generating customer leads.
That’s right, Google My Business addresses three of the four main marketing goals we’ve been discussing.
Plus, Google My Business is perfect for small business owners for a bunch of other reasons. It has:
- No cost (it’s free!)
- Very little learning curve (it’s easy!)
- A dashboard that enables you to market your business from your computer or phone (it’s convenient!)
- A wide variety of marketing activities for you to choose from (it’s multifunctional!)
- The power to give legitimacy and recognition to your business (it’s effective!)
Basically, whenever you’re wondering how to market your small business, Google My Business can be at least part of your answer.
So in this article, here’s what we’ll do:
- Introduce you to Google My Business.
- Explain why it’s important to you as a small business owner.
- Walk you through some prep steps that are helpful in using Google My Business successfully.
Then with the next article in this series, we’ll show you how to create and optimize your Google My Business listing so that you can help your company grow.
All righty. Here we go!
Meet Google My Business
You are likely already acquainted with Google My Business, which we’ll show you in three images.
The Local Pack
The Local Pack is the portion of Google’s search results that lists local businesses related to whatever search term you entered.
For example, here is the Local Pack that appears upon Googling “pizza in Pittsburgh PA”:
The Local Pack is powered by Google My Business. It consists of three businesses (or in a mobile search, two) that Google determines are the best fit for your search.
Note that the Local Pack is always changing, depending on where you are geographically when you search, what search term you enter, and what Google decides are the best two or three businesses to show you.
Also note that when your small business uses Google My Business as a digital marketing tool, you get the opportunity to appear in the Local Pack. We’ll get into that a little later in our blog series. For now, let’s keep getting to know this digital tool.
Full List and Map of Search-Related Local Businesses
Second, here is the list and map that appear upon clicking “View all” under the Local Pack:
The list and map are also powered by Google My Business. They are designed so that you can discover even more local businesses – not just the two or three in the Local Pack – that are relevant to the search term you entered.
Finally, the Knowledge Panel is what Google displays for a business when you search for that business specifically by name.
For example, this is the Knowledge Panel for Mineo’s Pizza. It is also powered by – you got it – Google My Business:
The Knowledge Panel contains a business description, contact information, hours of operation, and all kinds of other details to help you learn more about the business you searched.
Why Use Google My Business?
Earlier we listed the qualities that make Google My Business attractive when you’re deciding how to market your small business: it’s free, easy, convenient, multifunctional, and effective.
But it also has qualities that make it important, and not merely attractive, for small business owners.
It Makes Your Business Discoverable
As you can see in the images above, Google My Business enables customers to find your business and learn about it when they are searching for you, or when they are searching for businesses like yours.
Google My Business has actually become so helpful for customers that it can take the place of business website pages.
Here’s what we mean by that: when people search for a product or service, they often find all the details they’re looking for right in the search results, thanks to Google My Business. So they can often skip a website visit.
So if you’re not using Google My Business, you’re often invisible online. Your business is either missing from the search results, or its information looks a little thin to consumers.
You want to get on the Google My Business train so that potential customers don’t leave the station without you as a real-world destination – even if you don’t have a storefront (like if you run your business out of your home, or mostly via the internet).
It’s the New Word of Mouth
Perhaps as a small business owner, you are thinking that your online discoverability is not that big a deal. “Eh, word of mouth is my bread and butter,” you might be saying.
Well, word of mouth is happening these days via Google My Business.
Here is more of the Mineo’s Pizza Knowledge Panel (Knowledge Panels can be pretty extensive!):
As you can see, the Knowledge Panel contains customer reviews. Google My Business collects and displays these.
On a desktop computer, Google My Business shows three reviews by default, with an option to click through for all of them. On both desktop and mobile, a link for reviews is also available at the top of the Knowledge Panel so that users can get to them quickly.
You are correct that word of mouth is key for you – but more and more, it’s an online activity rather than an in-person one.
Online is where your current and potential customers talk to each other. It’s where they read and give their reviews and recommendations.
In fact, 79% of consumers say they trust the reviews they read online as much as they trust personal recommendations.
Online is also where your competitors are publicizing their own reviews. If yours aren’t there too, you forfeit the online game. But with Google My Business, you don’t have to be a no-show.
Google is Where the People Are
While you may be asking how to market your small business, you already know instinctively that you need to meet customers where they are. You need to be wherever people are searching for products, talking about them, and comparison shopping.
Today, this means leveraging the power of Google. This is because people aren’t just online; they’re on Google specifically:
- Google is where more than 92% of all internet searches take place. It absolutely dominates the search market.
- Google is the most popular online review platform, with 59% of consumers using it.
- No really, it’s the most popular online review platform, surpassing Amazon, Facebook, Yelp, TripAdvisor, and any others you might be thinking about.
- Search engine optimization (SEO) experts say that a business’s Google My Business listing is second only to its website in terms of importance.
You want to get in on all this Google action. So let’s get into the nuts and bolts of making Google My Business work in marketing your small business.
Preparing to Use Google My Business
Working with Google My Business is like painting a room: there’s some tedious but critical prep you must do before getting to the fun part.
Many articles that aim to get you started with Google My Business skip over this prep. The results can be unnecessary confusion in establishing ownership of your Google My Business listing and managing it going forward.
We want to spare you that headache, small business owners. So we believe that any proper intro to Google My Business includes the prep steps. We’re going to embark on them now – there are only two:
Create a Google Account for Managing Your Google My Business Listing
You may already have a personal Google account that ends in “@gmail.com.”
A lot of people refer to this as their “Gmail account,” but it’s really a Google account, and you can use it for a bunch of Google tools besides email.
We are not talking about this account.
Rather, to best manage your Google My Business listing, you need a Google account associated with your business email address. This is the one that ends in “@yourbusiness.com.”
To create this account, head over to accounts.google.com/signin, and click “Create account.” We’ve circled it in red below:
When you click “Create account,” you can choose to do so for yourself, for your child, or to manage your business. Choose “To manage my business.”
In the window that appears, you are prompted to enter your first and last name, a username, and a password.
In the Username field, click “Use my current email address instead,” and enter your business email address.
This option can be a little tricky to find! Here it is, circled in red:
Next you will need to confirm your business email address via an email that Google will send to that address. Go ahead over to your business inbox (without exiting out of the task at hand!) and take care of that. We’ll wait right here for you.
Great, you’re back! Once you’ve completed the fields in the “Create Your Google Account” window, click “Next.”
In the window that appears, Google asks for security-related information, like your phone number and birthdate. This information won’t be published anywhere and much of it is optional, so you can complete these fields as you see fit.
If you do choose to enter a phone number, use your mobile number – you’ll have to confirm it via a text from Google.
Now complete the remainder of the prompts, and you’ll get a confirmation that your Google account is all set up. Here’s what that looks like (and congrats!! 🥳):
Now click “Continue“, and you’ll be prompted to create your free business profile.
Before we do that, though, there’s one more prep step.
Hang in there, small business owners! We’re almost done.
Verify that Your Business Does Not Already Have a Google Profile
If your business has been around for any length of time, someone may have created a profile for it, or its profile may have been generated through the magic of Google Maps. (Google Maps creates business profiles from places on Maps, but let’s not go too far down the digital rabbit hole here.)
You don’t want to end up with duplicate business profiles – it interferes with how your business appears in search results. So before you create one, let’s check to see if yours already exists.
The most straightforward way to do this is to go to google.com/maps, and enter your business name in the search bar.
What you do next depends on what you find:
If your business profile appears in Google Maps along with a map location:
This means that your business already has a Google profile.
In this case, depending on a variety of factors (including how you’re logged into Google and the login of the person who owns your business profile, if that person isn’t you), the profile may display one of the following messages:
- “You manage this business profile.” In this case, you can start working with your Google My Business listing now. Exciting! You can head on over to Part 4 of this blog series (we’ll provide a link here when it’s live).
- “Own this business?” or “Claim this business.” In this case, you need to request ownership of the profile. This is a process that can take one of a few different paths. Without knowing your specific situation, we humbly direct you to Google Support, but reach out to us if you get stuck – we mean that!
If your business profile does not appear in Google Maps:
In this case, you’re ready to create a new Google My Business listing. Woohoo!
Now you can start using Google My Business to market your small business – and specifically to increase awareness of your brand, build trust, and connect with more customers. This is exactly where we will pick up in the next installment of this blog series.
Great work today, small business owners. You’ve gained familiarity and context for Google My Business, which means you’ve also gained some marketing know-how.
If you have any questions – or if you’re stuck in a Google labyrinth much like those Halloween corn mazes (it happens) – contact us. We love to help small businesses with all things marketing, and we’re ready to talk any time.
This post is part of our “DIY from DYI” (see what we did there?) collection, which features do-it-yourself marketing tactics for small business owners in Pittsburgh PA and everywhere.