Google My Business could be the pain reliever small business owners have been praying for. Whereas in the past you had to create and manage separate accounts to take advantage of Google+ and Google Places (not to mention YouTube), Google My Business gives you a single integrated interface. It’s more functional and more streamlined, so you can save time and (hopefully) get better search results.
Some key things remain the same. You will still use +1 clicks, post with #hashtags and ability to tag businesses or individuals, see the same page tabs as well as Google Analytics and Insights.
So what’s different?
Your existing pages are automatically pulled together, so you can:
- Manage your reviews, YouTube, Analytics and AdWords from a single page and a single dashboard menu.
- Edit local search information or your Google Maps address and respond to reviews.
- Start and view AdWords campaigns.
- Track an assortment of useful metrics to see how people find and interact with your page.
- See your reviews and +1’s together on one page.
Perhaps the most significant change is that custom business categories have gone away, replaced by broad categories – “storefront” or “service area” — to which your business is automatically assigned. (Google My Business will ask you a few questions when you create your account to make the determination.)
There is a third category called “brand” for non-local entities such as online businesses, national brands, sports teams or non-profits. Where these entities have local operations, they can link a storefront or service area page to their brand page.
The switch to uniform, assigned categories makes it easier to appear in local search results as part of Google’s business directory, as opposed to the previous “watered down” effect of having multiple pages.
Here’s how to upgrade to Google My Business.
If you have an existing Google Places or Google+ account, simply log in and check to be sure your business information is complete and accurate. (If you’re asked to verify your address, you’ll be sent a verification code via mail. Yes, actual mail.) Add your business hours and an icon photo – both now required. When you upgrade, your local pages will automatically be converted to storefront or service area page status.
You can add a virtual tour that enables followers to learn more about your business.
If you haven’t already claimed your Google business pages, you can establish an account from scratch. Go to Google My Business and enter your address. If your business doesn’t show up, add it. You’ll also have to confirm you’re authorized to claim and manage this account.
What’s in it for you?
Better rankings and easier engagement, according to Google. Your local business will be universally visible across Google Search, Maps and Google+, making you accessible to searchers using any type of device. Searchers will see more information about your business – your hours, driving directions, phone number, etc. — so they can easily follow up.
And your business popularity will still be visible to prospects and customers, who can post ratings and reviews, endorse you with +1’s and, of course, share your great content with their own networks. As always, creating and posting that great content is up to you, if you want higher rankings and greater visibility.
Just because Google My Business is consolidated and therefore more efficient doesn’t mean you can set it and forget it. You’ll still need to monitor and manage the proceedings, but at least you won’t have to access multiple pages to do that as you had to do in the past.
So what are you waiting for? The Next New Thing is here. The sooner you switch to Google My Business, the sooner you’ll be seeing the benefits for your local business. Looking for more local marketing tools? Try out our ROI tracking guide for your local business.