As a small business owner, you know that having a digital presence is an important part of your success. In fact, 81% of shoppers research a company online before deciding whether or not to make a purchase. These days, it’s no longer an option to stay disconnected if you want to grow your business beyond your local community.
Having a website of your own and social media channels where your customers can learn more about you and follow your business should always be the focus of your digital marketing strategy.
But in an online world that’s dominated by Google and their algorithm, making use of their tools is a great way for small businesses to reach potential customers in a number of different ways. We’re here to show you everything you need to know about Google My Business and why it’s the perfect place to gather customer reviews that will help you grow your business.
What is Google My Business and Why Do You Need it?
Let’s get started with a quick overview of what exactly Google My Business (GMB) is and how it works. GMB is essentially an online business directory that’s triggered by different Google searches that users make.
It’s primarily focused on local businesses in whatever area the customer is searching from, showing the user all of the business information that they might need to know like the business name, phone number, address, hours, service area, and a selection of recent customer reviews.
Most Google My Business listings also connect to Google Maps so that customers can quickly and easily find the business location from wherever they currently are. This even works on a mobile device, pulling open Google Maps when the user clicks through for directions (or they can search directly within maps.google.com). There’s even messaging functionality built in and a click-to-call feature for users who want to get in touch with your business directly from your business profile.
But the most important feature that you’ll want to know about is the reviews section. Google reviews are one of the most popular business review platforms online today, with minimal competition from other sites such as Facebook and Yelp.
We all know how important customer reviews are in encouraging new business from potential customers. After all, word of mouth referrals are still one of the top methods of marketing your business. With GMB, testimonials about your business are front and center in the search engine results page (SERP) and can provide a significant boost to your online presence.
Google reviews aren’t only about displaying stories from happy customers, though. If you’re actively working on your SEO as part of your marketing strategy (which you should be), it’s important to know that Google My Business reviews are a major signal to the Google search engine about where your website should appear in the local search ranking.
Local SEO, which is focused on building your business visibility in your region, is built around how you stack up against the competition. Having a fully optimized Google My Business profile that’s generated when a potential customer is using Google search and maps could be the difference between a first position ranking and not appearing in the first few pages of search results at all.
By connecting it with the Google Maps app and highlighting your best Google reviews, your GMB profile, also known as your Google My Business page, is the perfect opportunity for you to get in front of new faces who are looking for what you offer but have never heard of your business before.
How to Set Up Google My Business
“This all sounds great, but how much is it going to cost me?” we hear you ask.
One of the best features of Google My Business is that it’s completely free for you to set up your business profile and start building your Google My Business profile today. All you need is a Google account and email address to connect to your new Google My Business account.
The first step is to check that a GMB listing doesn’t already exist for you. Search your business name in Google to see if a side panel of information shows up. If it does, you can claim it or request ownership of an existing page. If there’s nothing there, you’ll want to create a new page from scratch. Here’s how to do that:
1. Search Google’s directory for your business
Navigate to Google’s business directory site, www.google.com/business, click the button for “manage now,” and then type your business name in the designated field.
2. Enter your business name and category
The first page will prompt you to enter some very basic information about your business: your business name and category (for example, a restaurant).
3. Add your location
Next, you’ll be given the choice whether or not you want to add a location to your business. If you’re a business with a physical or brick and mortar location, it’s smart to select “yes” and then enter your address. Doing so means that your business location will be displayed on Google Maps and in search results.
4. Enter your contact information
You want your customers to be able to get in touch with you and this section gives you a place to add your business contact information, including your best phone number and your business website. Keep in mind that whatever information you type here will be shown to customers and searchers.
5. Verify your business
Finally, you’ll need to verify that you are indeed the owner of (or, at the very least affiliated with) the business you’re creating a profile for. In most cases, Google will send a postcard in the mail that has a verification code to complete your setup.
Once your profile is verified, you’ll be able to access your Google My Business dashboard to manage everything about your local business listing. If you ever need to update your contact information, you can do that here, along with any details about your opening hours, special discounts or promotions that you’re running, or new products and services. You don’t need to list everything here like you would on your website, but make sure that your key offerings are outlined so that you’re making use of core keywords that users might be searching to find what you do.
Your Google My Business dashboard is also where you can manage customer reviews. Whether they’re new reviews or date back to years ago, you’ll want to stay on top of everything your customers are saying about you in this very public space.
Everything You Need to Know about Google My Business Reviews
Once your Google My Business page is published, you’re ready to start receiving your first customer reviews. Google reviews work on a star rating from 1 to 5 and will provide an average over time as you gather a larger number of reviews. As you see more reviews come in, they should begin to accurately reflect the customer experience that both previous and new customers can expect when they work with you.
How to Get Reviews and Respond to Them
Whenever you work with a new customer, encourage them to write a review on your Google My Business page. You can even have business cards made up or a note added to your invoices or receipts with instructions for them to make it even easier. Never add fake reviews or have friends or family leave positive reviews if they aren’t actually customers. Trust us, it’s not a good idea and you will be caught eventually.
Once you have a total number of more than five reviews, Google will start to show them in your GMB listing. That should naturally encourage more customers to leave reviews, especially if you respond to them. You can access the reviews function within your GMB dashboard to see individual reviews and a comment box where you can respond as the business (just make sure you’re signed into the right account!).
If you’re not sure what to say when someone leaves a review, have a short template on hand that you can refer to. Don’t directly copy and paste them as everyone will be able to see that’s what you’ve done, but have a few bulleted points you'd like to cover on hand when responding to both negative and positive reviews.
Address the reviewer by their name if it’s clear from their review and thank them for leaving feedback. If they’ve left a negative review, apologize and offer a way to help or fix the problem. If you can, try to encourage them to contact you offline by phone so that you can de-escalate the situation away from prying eyes on Google. It’s worth investing time in negative reviews as users can edit reviews that they’ve left, even years later. If you solve the problem and they turn into a happy customer, that 1 star review could become a 5 star review!
To Delete or Not to Delete Negative Reviews?
This is somewhat of a trick question because you as the business owner can’t actually delete any reviews that your customers leave for you. You can only remove your own reviews that you may have left for other local businesses. While we know the temptation is there to hide or delete negative reviews, even if this option was available, we’d highly discourage it.
Even if you could get to a negative review within seconds of it being posted, there’s still the chance that someone (even the original poster) has taken a screenshot and spread it all over the internet. Negative reviews and how you respond to them can quickly turn into a PR disaster if they’re not handled with empathy and care, and deleting reviews is a surefire way to turn your customers against you.
There is an exception to this when it comes to fake reviews. Hopefully your business will never fall prey to these, but it does happen. If you find yourself in this situation, Google does have a review policy where you can request a removal. Online reviews will only be removed if they somehow violate Google’s policies since they want high quality reviews just as much as you do. There’s no guarantee that it will work, but if you believe that a review has been left unfairly due to spam or there’s some offensive language involved, you can try to have it removed.
Get in Front of More Customers with Google Reviews
For small businesses, what your customers think about the work you do can be make or break, especially when 93% of customers say online reviews influence their purchasing decisions. So having a home online where prospective customers can learn a little more about who you are, what you do, and, most importantly, what other people think about your business is an important step in building a successful digital presence.
Setting up a Google My Business page is quick, easy, and free, so what are you waiting for? Get started today and stay engaged with your customers.