Today I’m chatting with Sue Ellson, an Independent LinkedIn Specialist and Google My Business expert. I discovered Sue presenting a workshop on Google My Business for the City of Boroondara. She shared plenty of tips and she sure knows her stuff.
(Of course I haven’t actioned any of Sue’s advice yet, but one day…)
Welcome Sue! Why bother with Google My Business (GMB)?
Well, it’s one of many Google products for local businesses. If you want to appear in Google search results, a Google My Business listing will help. It allows customers to write reviews and business owners to provide constant updates on what is happening in their business. Right now, all of the services are free.
Back in the 1980s every business had a Yellow Pages listing—it’s a bit like that, but way better, right?
I believe it is replacing Yellow Pages, but don’t forget, you can still get a free Yellow Pages listing with your website (in one category). Unlike the heavy Yellow Pages book, Google My Business allows people to search online via their laptop/desktop or mobile/tablet. It provides more information than the Yellow Pages ever did—and it’s free! If you set up your GMB account correctly, it can increase your website traffic and potential customers almost instantly.
I find it helps with SEO, do you agree?
Definitely. It’s especially great for local search results—potentially for both your business name and your primary keywords. If you are a local business like a restaurant, tradie or store that relies on local customers, Google My Business is a must-have. You may have noticed in your own Google Search Results a map with local results? It’s called the Google Local Pack. The map pinpoints several businesses listed and three companies get listed in more detail.
Here’s an example for za local Thai restaurant.
If you want to be one of those three restaurants featured, work on your Google My Business listing. If you have plenty of reviews and have completed all the elements on your profile you will hopefully feature in that group of three.
I see Google creates automatic settings for some businesses? How does that work?
Even if you decide not to use Google My Business, you may find that a listing already exists and people are reviewing you. Google automatically collects information from other quality listings (like Yellow Pages ironically). So it’s best to take control of your listing and let Google know that you own it. If not then you can set up your own listing. Either way, you will get sent a postcard with a code to your physical address. The postcard verifies you own the business and then you can start updating your profile.
People who work from home worry about sharing their home address on Google—is that a problem?
No, you can easily say that you do not serve customers at your address. So you have the benefits of a listing while keeping your home address private. However, you still need to provide the real address for the postcard to be sent by mail.
What location area should you specify?
It depends on the area that you service. I’ve set mine to Australia because I work with clients all over the country. If you are a local business, set your area to within your vicinity—that helps you appear in local search results. If you are an online ‘international’ business, you still need to set a location and you are more likely to appear in local results as Google will be able to see that most of your website visitors are local residents. Location is the number one criteria for all searches. If you are looking for a hairdresser, it will give you a local result, not one for another location (unless you ask).
Sue’s Google My Business Page lists her area as Australia. Mine is local for Melbourne (because I want to rank for ‘Melbourne Copywriter’ searches, I use a virtual address).
Let’s move on to the tricky area of reviews. How should business owners be using the review function of Google My Business?
Reviews are great, because they are so persuasive. A collection of positive reviews can be the difference that makes people choose you over your competitor. If you have a listing with a good number of reviews, it will help you appear in more Google searches. Google wants genuine reviews from different people, from different devices, over time. So, you cannot incentivise people to write them. This is a breach of Google’s terms, and you risk getting suspended or permanently deleted or even having your website removed from Google search results.
How can I get more reviews?
You have to ask for them! If a happy client tells you on the phone that you’re terrific, strike while the iron is hot and ask for a review. You can find a direct link on your GMB listing, which you can share, so all your client has to do is click the link to write a quick review. If the person has a Gmail address, they already have a Google account, so if you are just starting out with asking for reviews, approach these people first.
Similarly, if you get an email thanking you,hit reply and ask the client to cut and paste that email praise into a review. Of course, not all people you ask will give you reviews, and that’s okay.
I was funny about asking at first, but now I do and it’s fine! I remind my clients once and then I leave it.
Okay, that sounds good. You could send one reminder but you don’t want to make them feel as if it’s compulsory. People are busy and they just don’t get around to it (especially if they have to create a Google account to post a review). That’s fine, don’t stress about it and just accept you wont get a 100% hit rate. I have asked hundreds (possibly thousands) of people for a review and only have 89.
Should we respond to reviews and what do we say?
Definitely respond to every review. Don’t just write ‘thanks.’ List what was good about working with the client. If you’re a store or a restaurant, try a simple ‘thanks so much we are glad you enjoyed visiting or shopping with us.’
Include highlights from what they have said so that it feels more like a personal response.
Don’t repeat the same reply each time, mix them up and use a few different responses.
Here’s a little tip. You can even incorporate keywords in your reply. So for you Kate, you might say ‘thank you for your feedback on my blog writing service. Kate Merryweather’ That way, you have woven in the ‘blog writing service’ keyword and your name.
I did not know that, will do! What about negative Google reviews, how do we respond to those?
I encourage you to reply, but don’t write a word if you are angry and emotional. Consider whether the review is fair and reasonable—is there something you could do better? If so, thank the reviewer and promise to review your procedures and do improve next time. Be positive and be willing to apologise, even if you are not in the wrong. For example ‘I am sorry to hear that you felt XYZ. It is always our goal to ABC. If you would like to discuss this further, please contact us directly and we will do our best to resolve the matter.’
What about those mean Google Reviews that are untrue?
Of course, some reviews are unkind and unfair. Some are just inaccurate, accusing you of something that you haven’t done. You can even get reviews from people you’ve never worked with. It can be very upsetting. When a review is inaccurate you can simply state the facts and reply as calmly and fairly as you can. This could be:
- ‘Unfortunately, we do not have any record of providing service to you. However, please contact us directly if we can rectify the situation’
- ‘While we understand that (their story) we believe that (our story)’
- ‘We’re sorry to hear you had a bad experience on this occasion because we strive to deliver X, Y and Z’
- ‘Could you tell us more about your experience by contacting us directly?’
Sadly, some people will write a bad review so that they can get something for ‘free’ just by complaining.
You know, I think you can include a bit of emotion in a reply, saying that you are ‘really disappointed because you have such high standards,’ or something like that.
I like to leave emotion out, but friendly professionalism in. Being prepared to apologise is important as some people expect an apology. Please be careful about what you ‘admit’ to. The main goal is to acknowledge the concern and find a way forward, preferably offline.
For sure, we’ve all seen nasty replies to Google reviews that do the business no favours. Can you get nasty or fake reviews removed?
It’s difficult. You can ask Google to remove it but may not happen. Plus it’s sometimes better to leave it there with your genuine reply, because it helps you gain trust in the minds of anyone who reads the review and your response.
Okay, moving on to other areas. One thing I don’t do is add posts to Google My Business, is that worth it?
Definitely! You can post an update in What’s New, share an Offer or list an Event.
Posts are only active for seven days. After that, they are still visible to searchers, but few people bother to scroll your older posts and you lose the visible carousel. If you get into the habit of posting every six days, you will always have a post visible.
What sort of things can you post?
Well just like social media you can post all sorts of things. Links to blog content, special offers, opinion pieces, advice and tidbits. You can post a unique promo code, so when people use that code you know they’ve come from Google My Business. That’s a good way to track leads.
What else can we do to optimise Google My Business?
There’s plenty more, and the good thing is, Google will remind you to populate your listing. Add photos, especially photos of parking, and your entrance to your office so readers can check your listing if they can’t find you. If you’re a consultant or expert, post photos of yourself so people can start to get to know you. Aim for at least 100 photos in various sections on your profile. Share photos of your team, behind the scenes your office space (inside and out) and your products. You can also share videos, such as a walk through video of your office space.
You can populate the FAQ section with questions you are commonly asked. This is a good way to promote your services too.
Make sure to specify your opening hours, If they vary during restrictions then make sure to update it and mention if you offer online appointments.
One important thing to do is make sure your Google My Business listing is connected with your Google Analytics account. This helps you see the traffic you are getting from Google My Business, so you can see if your efforts are paying off.
My final tip is to have the Google My Business app on your phone. This means you can get notified when reviews come in and reply quickly. It’s easy to use and gives you all the data you need in your pocket—but just in case the message comes in late at night, choose visual notifications on your phone rather than sound ones!
Thanks so much Sue for all your tips. I will make sure to pimp up my listing with your advice.
My pleasure, Kate.
Want to follow Sue? Here’s where to find her.
+61 402 243 271