Want to improve your visibility on Google and reach more potential customers? One of the best ways to do this, is also the easiest. Create a Google Business Profile. A completed, up-to-date profile will help your small business rank higher in online searches, helping you “to be found” by the very people who need your product or service.
What is a Google Business Profile?
A Google Business Profile is an online listing for your business that appears on Google Maps and in the right column of Google Search results. Think of it as an online presence standing in for your actual store. One caveat, Google Business Profiles can only be used for businesses with a physical presence or those that interact with customers in person (such as a plumber).
The profile allows you to share important information about your business, such as its location, hours of operation, and contact information. You can also add content to your Business Profile, like photos, videos, and product listings to help showcase your business.
Google Business Profiles replaced Google Places for Business, Google Listings, and Google+ Business Pages. That means a Google Business Profile is now the essential tool for small businesses looking to increase their online presence and attract new customers.
14 Reasons a Google Business Profile Should Be Included in a Business Plan
A business plan should include all the tools and resources that will help your business succeed.
A Google Business Profile is one of those tools. And the only expense is the time it takes to fill in the information.
- It’s free to create a Business Profile. A profile is a budget-friendly way for businesses to create an online presence and be seen by potential customers.
- Reaches customers in your local market. If your business serves a localized area, a Google Business Profile can be particularly beneficial. It allows you to reach people who are searching for businesses specifically in your area. It’s especially helpful for searches ending in “near me”.
- Makes the business easier to find on Google Maps. A Business Profile will appear on Google Maps, making it easier for customers to find and get directions to the business.
- Adds credibility through reviews. Google Business Profiles also include a place where customers can leave reviews. Reviews help to build trust and raise your rank in searches. It gives businesses an opportunity to respond to customer feedback and thank customers for taking the time to share their thoughts. Even negative feedback, if handled correctly, can be an opportunity for a business to look responsive and professional.
- Showcases the business and its offerings. A Business Profile allows you to add photos, videos, and other content to help showcase the business and its offerings.
- Keeps customers informed about the business. A profile makes it easy for businesses to keep customers informed about things like a change in business hours, emergency closures or special promotions.
- Improves the business’s search engine rankings. Having a Business Profile can help improve the business’s rankings in search engine results, which can lead to increased traffic. The more detailed the profile, the better it will rank.
- Establishes the business’s credibility. A Business Profile helps to establish the business as a legitimate and trustworthy operation. This improves the chances that customers will give it a try.
- Allows businesses to manage their online reputation. A profile allows businesses to monitor and respond to reviews from customers. People like to see that a business is actively responding to reviews—especially when it’s a personal message from an actual employee and not an automated reply.
- Provides valuable insights and analytics. Can provide information on how customers are interacting with the business’s online presence, which can be valuable for making informed marketing and business decisions.
- Enhances website SEO. Having a Business Profile can help improve your business website’s search engine optimization (SEO). Higher SEO results in higher rankings, which leads to increased traffic to the website.
- Makes it easier for customers to find the business’s website. A Business Profile includes a link to the business’s website, making it easier for customers to find and visit the website.
- Improves the business’s local SEO. A Business Profile improves the business’s local SEO. That means, when people are searching for a particular type of business in a localized area, that business will appear if they fit the criteria.
- Allows businesses to stand out from the competition. A well-designed and comprehensive Business Profile can help a business stand out from its competitors and attract more customers.
Google Business Profile as a Marketing Strategy
The audience reading your business plan wants to see that you’ve thoroughly thought through the methods by which you’ll market and grow your business. In addition to the more traditional strategies such as paid advertising and direct mail, a Google Business Profile provides another avenue to market your business.
By taking advantage of the free benefits offered by a Google Business Profile, you can greatly increase awareness of your business, drive traffic to your store or website, and potentially sell product right from the profile.
In fact, it has so much to offer, it should be considered an important cornerstone of your marketing and growth strategy with its own section in the business plan.
Leverage Google Reviews for Your Business Plan
Your Google Business Profile includes a place for people to review your business. This is very important if you have a local business such as a restaurant, service business, or retail store. It might make you feel a bit vulnerable to not have control over who is posting, but this is where people go to find information about you.
They will read your customer reviews and your responses to the reviews. Having a high number of reviews along with a high star rating will directly improve your traffic and sales. You’re bound to get a few negative reviews no matter how great you are (some people are never happy, or there could be a misunderstanding), but you will actually seem more authentic with a few bad reviews in the mix. It’s how you respond that matters.
Always respond to criticism with thanking the person for their business, apologizing for their disappointment and redirect them offline to discuss further. People will see that you care and that you are trying to do the right thing. But in case this is a person that can’t be pleased, best to have a grittier discussion out of the limelight.
Don’t just respond to negative reviews, make a habit out of responding to all reviews with a personal message. Address the reviewer by name (if possible), name the item or service they purchased, thank them, and include your name and contact information at the end of the message. Customers want to be appreciated, and they want to know that you’re a real person who genuinely cares about them.
A high number of reviews also gives you more credibility. To encourage people to leave reviews, Google will provide you with a link you can send to your customers, making it easy for them to leave comments. You can email this link to your customers a week or two after they make a purchase and ask them for their feedback.
Or perhaps you can print a QR code that takes customers to that same link and have them leave a review while still in your business. For instance, if you have a restaurant, they will likely be using their phones and they could leave a review after they’ve just had a delicious meal.
Use this Google link for soliciting comments and you’ll be receiving a lot of reviews, which will help to grow your business quickly. Keep in mind, customers like to see responses from the business regarding the reviews.
In your business plan discuss how you will use this tool. List the processes you’ll put in place for monitoring the review section. Who will respond to comments and in what time frame? It would also be a good idea to create a style guide for responding to reviews in case multiple people are tasked with this activity. You’ll want to stay on brand with your responses.
Online Ordering and Reservations with Google Business Profile
If you’re writing a business plan for a restaurant or other business which can offer online ordering or reservations, make that possible from your Google Business Profile. These are key factors for success in the food business and should be a part of your marketing strategy.
Offering this ability from your profile will require you to sign up with a third-party service, but these can be linked to your Google Business Page so customers can take action directly from your Business Profile. This information should be included in your business plan stating which provider you’ll engage and the cost.
Enable Chat—It’s Free and It’s Great Customer Service
Make it easy for customers to talk to you, on their terms. Some people like to call on the phone, others like to use a chat box, and others like to send emails. By offering many ways for potential customers to reach you and making yourself easily accessible, you’ll have a higher conversion rate.
You can link your business phone number to your Business Profile. It will then show in your profile as a linked number. When someone clicks on your number, their phone will automatically call your number.
Chat capability is also built into your Google Business Profile. Turn this on and link it to your cell phone or enable desktop alerts. You can immediately begin chatting with customers online without the need for them to access a separate app first.
These features should be included in your business plan. Detail how you will use the phone and chat features to beef up your marketing efforts.
Add Pictures – Lots of Them to Your Google Business Profile
People love pictures, no matter what you’re selling. Adding photos to your Business Profile is free advertising. Show them who you are and showcase your products. This is yet another tool to market your business.
Showcase Your Products on Google Business Profile
Not only can you feature pictures of all your products on a Google Business Profile, but customers can also make a purchase right there without going to your website. Normally, you want to send traffic to your website, but when someone sees a product they want to purchase, you should take advantage of the moment and make it easy for them to buy it.
Your business plan should include a description of this additional marketplace for your products.
Updates, Offers and Events on Google Business
Your Google Business Profile allows you to easily promote products or content and drive people to your website with the “Add update” option. Create a special offer such as a coupon, showcase an improved product, or add an event. Three great ways to further promote your business and grow sales.
Questions and Answers on Google Business
This is another terrific communications tool you have to drive sales. People often have similar questions they want to have answered before they’ll commit to a sale. They can publicly ask questions in your Google Profile where you can provide an answer. The Q&A remains visible as a resource for everyone to see.
If one person asks a question, there’s likely to be others wondering the same thing. And since the Q&A is posted publicly, potential customers might be able to find an answer right away without having to contact you and wait for an answer.
More Than a Dot on the Google Map
As you can see, there is so much more to a Google Profile than plugging in your address so your business will appear as a dot on Google Maps. It’s a powerful marketing tool that provides a cost-effective way to increase awareness around your business and drive sales.