Updated: Jul 1, 2022
These days, we don’t ask our friends: “Who’s doing your hair?” or “Who’s your mechanic?” Instead, we ask Google.
In the past few years, there has been a notable increase in “near me” searches. People are turning to Google to find the best hair salons, grocery stores, boutiques, plumbers, and other small businesses in their vicinity.
And yes, that means that all of these businesses are getting free traffic from Google. They don’t spend a dime on advertising.
How? With a little help from their Google Business Profiles.
Here’s what you need to know about using Google Business Profile as a small business owner:
1. What Is Google Business Profile?
Google Business Profile is Google’s free service that provides business owners with profiles that appear whenever someone searches for them, or for keywords related to their business.
So let’s say you ran a hair salon in Detroit. If a potential customer searched for “hair salons Detroit” on Google, your hair salon would appear in the maps view of all the hair salons registered for the Google Business service.
Similarly, if they searched for your salon by name, they’d come across your full profile.
Your profile would show them everything they needed to know:
- Your address and working hours
- Your photos and offers
Now, they could find all of that on your website, but here’s the truth: the majority of your potential customers have gotten so used to Google Business Profiles that if they don’t see your Profile, they won’t bother looking for your website.
And that’s just one of the reasons why you should claim your Google Business Profile as soon as possible.
2. Why You Need Google Business Profile
In addition to people thinking you’re not in business if you don’t have a Google Business Profile, there are a few other reasons why you need to claim and touch up your listing:
a) Your customers are making decisions based on their local searches. According to a recent study, 82% of smartphone users conduct “near me” searches. It makes sense; no one wants to go all the way across town to get the products or services they need. Not if Google is showing them all the businesses near them. So if you don’t appear in the local Google results, you could be losing a lot of customers.
b) If you’re on Google, you’re everywhere. Having a Google Profile is a great way to improve the digital visibility of your business, and generate more foot traffic. After all, if you appear in the “near me” search results, more prospects will know about your business.
c) Directly communicate with your customers. If your customers have a question, they’ll see your phone number and get in touch with you immediately. You can even message them through the Google Business platform, as well as state your email address and the most important information of them all: directions to your location.
Depending on your business type, you can even process bookings and reservations directly through Google Business Profile. This is especially handy for restaurateurs and other similar businesses with a local presence!
d) Give your business legitimacy. A nonexistent or poorly optimized Google Business Profile can turn away customers. After all, it’s a sign that a business isn’t serious about what they do. In contrast, a fresh, touched-up Google Profile gives you credibility and shows your customers how much you care.
e) Increase your revenue. Finally, Google Profile is a great tool for attracting and retaining customers. With the new Posts feature, you can alert your customers to new offers, discounts, and other business updates.
And if you get enough positive reviews, you’ll even appear in the local 3-pack: a list of the best 3 businesses like yours in an area.
3. How to Set Up Your Google Profile
Setting up or claiming your Google Business Profile is easy:
Simply navigate to your listing (search for your business name in Google – if a listing appears, click to claim it) or to Google Business.
Then, enter the NAP information (name, address, phone number). If you have a website, you can link to it from your Google Business Profile, as well. Your NAP information has to be consistent with the information stated on your website, social media profiles, and so on. Make sure you specify your service area. If you ship products globally, tick the box. If you operate in a certain area, then select the pertinent option.
Verify your business. You can choose between a few options, but verifying it by phone is the easiest (if available). However, most businesses need to verify by mail, and it might take up to 2 weeks to get the verification code to your business address.
Pay attention to the “Description,” “Category,” and “Attributes” sections. Your description is the first thing your (potential) customers see, so make sure it’s enticing. In the Category section, choose a category that narrowly describes what you do. For example, if you run a nail salon, don’t use the “health & cosmetics” category. Instead, choose the “nail salon” category. The more accurate you are, the higher will Google place you in relevant search results. Attributes differ by industry. For example, if you run a hotel, you’ll be able to select attributes describing amenities such as pool, parking space, complimentary breakfast, etc. Make sure you select the attributes that accurately represent your offer.
Add photos. Google Business Profiles with photos (profile, cover, other photos) are more compelling, and searchers click on them more often. Add your logo, and a few photos of your business.
If you use third-party booking tools, connect them to your Google Business Profile. Google Business has a handy option if you’re using software like Calendly. You can process reservations directly through it, so the customer doesn’t have to navigate away from Google.
Connect your Google Business Profile with Hookle. You can connect the Profile even it is not verified yet, and there is a link "Verify now" to verify your business. Hookle helps you to keep your profile active with the latest events and offers. With Hookle you can post directly to your Google Business Profile, as easily as on any other of your business’s social media channels.
And there you have it! Now it’s time to take it a step forward and make the most of your Google Business Profile.
4. How to Optimize Your Google Profile
While even a basic Google Business Profile is better than no Profile at all, if you truly want to attract more customers searching for businesses like yours, it’s time to touch up your profile.
a) Post updates on your Google Business Profile. Google lets you use the posts feature to inform your potential customers about:
Events: If you’re running an event at your business, inform your customers about it. Whenever they search for your business or click on your Google Business Profile otherwise, the post will pop up for them.
Offers: If you’re running a sale or you have new offers, it’s a good idea to create a Google post. You’ll also be able to add more information and state the price (range).
Products/services: Finally, you can create posts about your products on your Google Profile. This way, a potential customer that has found your profile will be able to see what you’re offering.
In this way, Google allows small business owners to get even more customers by turning their profile into a virtual storefront.
Posts on Google Business Profile should be fresh, timely, and relevant as your latest posts are visible on Google Maps and Search among the first search results for your customers. Thus it is important to make an update regularly. The easiest way to do this is scheduling your posts in advance using scheduling tools, like Hookle.
Additionally, every post type comes with action buttons so potential customers can immediately click through and perform desired actions (e.g. call you, book an appointment, and reserve a table).
b) Read and respond to reviews. Reviews are prominently featured on every Google Business Profile, and for a good reason: 84% of people trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations, and a staggering 89% of users read businesses' responses to reviews.
So in addition to aggregating reviews, it’s important that you respond to them on your Google Business Profile:
Be professional and friendly
Thank the customers for visiting and voicing their opinion
Invite them to come back again
The etiquette is simple when it comes to positive reviews. However, if you get a negative review, don’t panic:
Determine whether the review is legitimate or not. If it’s legitimate, respond to it. If it’s not (e.g. the reviewer never visited your business, it’s spam or a competitor), you can report it to Google.
Stay professional and show empathy. Strive to understand the reviewer and what their problem was.
Explain how you’ll rectify the situation. Did they buy a product that broke down? Offer to have it repaired. Be diplomatic. It’s not only the dissatisfied customer that’s reading your response but potential customers as well.
Fix the problem and notify them of it.
Don’t try to write a review for yourself. Google monitors IP addresses and device IDs, so it’s much better to ask your customers to write a review.
c) Understand your customers. For this, Google offers a handy “Insights” feature.
With it, you’ll be able to see how your potential customers find you; through the web search, or maps.
You’ll see what search terms they’re looking up when they come across your business profile, and which actions they take (e.g. call, visit your website, book an appointment).
All of this will help you improve your Google Business Profile even more. And after you’ve set it up, it’s time to wow your customers!
Read on more how to be seen on Maps and Search and getting the most out of Google Business Profile.
Connect your Google Business Profile to your Hookle App to publish and schedule posts effortlessly from your mobile phone.