John Maher and John McDougall talk about Google Business Profile, formerly Google My Business, about some of the basics of claiming and verifying your listing, finding your reviews link, and how to optimize your business for local search.
John McDougall: Hi, I’m John McDougall and this is Digital Marketing Madness. This podcast is brought to you by McDougall Interactive. We’re a digital marketing and SEO agency in Gloucester, Massachusetts. Today, I’m here with our VP of Multimedia and Digital Marketing, John Maher, and we’ll be discussing, “what is Google Business Profile and how do you claim your listing?” So, John, what is Google Business Profile?
What Is Google Business Profile?
John Maher: Hey John. Yeah. So Google Business Profile actually used to be called Google My Business. I’m having a hard time getting that through my head too, because I’ve called it Google My Business for so long and Google just keeps changing the names of their things. Google Search Console used to be called Google Webmaster Tools and then they changed the name. They keep changing the names of things and I can’t catch up, but it is now called Google Business Profile. And basically it’s a free business listing from Google. When you search on Google for a business name or even a type of business – you just type in “pizza restaurant” or something like that — Google will show you a little map of your area and a few listings of local businesses that match your search. If you’re searching for a company name, usually they’ll just pop right up into that company name unless there’s some couple of companies that have that similar name or something like that.
But if you’re searching for a type of business, often they’ll show you the map and a few local businesses that match that search. Again, you’ll see it with the map there and then you can click on one of those listings and see the details of that business – some photos like inside the business and outside on the street view of the business, the location of the business like their address, the hours that they’re operating and what services or products they sell, that sort of thing. And so, basically, it helps to increase your visibility across all Google services. So when somebody’s searching, it’s good to come up in the organic search results. And it’s good to do Google Ads in some cases and be in the ads as well. But if you can be in a third place on the page of search results and be in those local listings, that just adds more visibility to your company.
Ranking in Local Search vs Organic Search
John McDougall: And what makes that different, when you’re trying to come up, than regular SEO?
John Maher: So the regular SEO is really more about what’s on your website — the content, whether you have good content on your website, your usability and user experience on your site; of course, links to your website are still important as well. Those are all still good and still important with the local SEO and coming up in the Google profile and the map listings. But really it’s more based on your standing in the local community. So Google pays attention to things like the number and quality of your Google Reviews and your proximity to the searcher’s location; if it can figure out where the person is searching from, especially if they’re on a mobile device, they can tell with the GPS exactly where you’re searching from. So it’ll give you results right in that local area, but it will go by your IP address otherwise.
So it’ll give you searches in your general area. If you’re doing a search where you include a town or city name, again, if you’re just searching for “pizza restaurants, Boston, Massachusetts”, or something like that, sometimes it’ll show you the listings that are closest to the center of that town. It’s a little bit tricky because, again, there’s a lot of factors here and it goes by the reviews. So high quality reviews maybe are going to be up there more than if you only have one or two stars. But otherwise, if all things are equal, sometimes Google will put just the places that are closest to the center of the town and have those come up. Obviously there’s not much you can do if you have a business and you’re on the outskirts of the town, you might have a difficult time without really ramping up the amount of reviews and things like that that you have.
John McDougall: And some people game it and people used to get bogus locations, but we don’t recommend that because you don’t want to fake it.
John Maher: Yeah. You just have a PO Box in that town or maybe one of those temporary offices and you use that as your address or something like that. Sometimes it worked, but Google’s getting smarter all the time. So it’s not generally the best idea. I would say also that one important thing to remember is that if you ever change your address, or even if you haven’t changed your address in a while, you still want to make sure that your address and your name of your company are the same everywhere where your company is listed on the web. So just all of these local directories whether it’s on Yelp or different places like that, you want to make sure that your address and your phone number and the name of your business, what it’s called, are all the same on Google and all of these other services. That helps Google to trust that this is a real business and you’re managing it, and you’ve got your ducks all in a row.
If Google sees that your address that you have listed on Google is different from an address that you have on Yelp and then it’s different from an address that’s on some other service, all of a sudden it puts up a little red flag and Google goes, “I don’t know if we can trust this, I don’t know whether or not I have the right address or whether they have the right address.” And so that distrust makes them maybe not put you up in the top of the listings.
John McDougall: Yeah. Think about how many times agencies and different people move. And especially if you have a little bit of a generic company name, maybe even hard for Google to figure out, “is this the same company?” Because there are three different addresses and they might not know that it’s actually you that moved. If you are “Italian pizzeria” or something like that and then you’ve got three different addresses, how does Google know it’s not three different companies? I mean, it could be.
John Maher: Right. They might just think it’s a brand new listing for a different company and not one company that moved, something like that.
John McDougall: Don’t make it hard for them to figure that out.
John Maher: Right. I’d also say that you don’t want to ignore your website though. I am saying that, yeah, it’s important to have your Google reviews and make sure your address is up to date but you don’t want to ignore your website either. Google does want to see that you have a complete user experience and your website is listed on that local listing and that people can click on that and go to your website. If people do that and then they bounce right off of your website because you have a bad user experience, that could hurt your local listing as well. So don’t just ignore your website, you do want to keep your optimization up on that as well.
How to Claim Your Google Business Profile Listing
John McDougall: And so how do you claim your listing if you don’t know how to log in and make edits to your Google Business Profile?
John Maher: So, you want to go to business.google.com and using a Google account, whether it’s a Gmail address or some other email address that you’ve set up as a Google account — you want to log into business.google.com — that’s the Google Business Profile manager. And in there, you want to click “add business” and then it’ll ask you for the name of the business, so you type in the name of your business. And if Google knows about that business already, it will show up in a little list of search results. And if you recognize, “oh yeah, that’s my business, I recognize that’s my town that I’m in and that’s my address”, so you can then click on that and say, yes, that’s my listing. If you don’t see that — your business doesn’t pop up when you search for your name in there — then you might need to start a new listing.
Either way, once you do that, whether you’re claiming an existing listing or you’re starting a new one, you then want to fill out all of the information about your business. There’s a form there — you’ll have the name of your business, what type of business it is and the industry that you’re in, what your business hours are, what your address is, it’ll ask you to maybe upload some photos, things like that. So you want to go ahead and fill that out as completely as possible.
Verifying Your Google Business Profile Listing
And then you need to verify that listing. And Google will usually do this by sending a postcard to your business address. Occasionally you might be able to get away with clicking an option to have them call you at your phone number. If they maybe already have your phone number listed for that business, you might be able to just click that option and then Google does this automated phone call where your phone rings, you pick it up and it just says, “Hi, this is Google with your code”. You write that code down, go back into business.google.com and put in that code to verify your listing.
If you can’t do it with the phone number, again, you have to watch for this postcard to come in the mail. And we have so much trouble with this, sometimes, with our clients, because that postcard that they send, it really looks like just a direct mail spam — it just looks like any other spammy direct mail thing that you get from any company. It’s just a little postcard. It has the Google logo on one side. And it does say on the back, “here’s the code that you requested”, but somebody, an intern or the person who works at the front desk or whatever, could easily just grab that and just throw out right in the trash. So whoever gets the mail at your company, warn them that this is coming and say, “Hey, if you see anything coming that has Google on it, keep that and show it to me”, because we see it all the time where weeks will go by…
John McDougall: You’ve got to go do it again…
John Maher: And then you’ve got to go do it again. And now it’s another two weeks before you can get another postcard. So you don’t want to do that. So just watch for that postcard to come in the mail. Once you have it, you’ll have this code. Again, you just log back into that business.google.com account and put in the code, and that will verify the listing. Now, once you’ve done that, any change that you want to make to your business listing, you just log into that account — you can change the address, you can add photos, all that sort of thing. You can make changes to it.
John McDougall: All those videos, offers, products, services, different things like that.
John Maher: Yeah. Look through all of the options. There are all kinds of things that you can do in there. Recently with COVID they added a place where you could link to COVID information on your website. So they’re always doing updates like that for whatever the latest thing is.
Always update your business hours if those ever change. You don’t want people to be showing up at your store and saying, “Hey, Google said that you were open and now you’re closed.” That’s a bad user experience and you might get a bad review for that. So definitely keep your hours up to date.
Any holidays that you’re away, you can actually put those in there as well, say, “hey, on Christmas and Easter and on July 4th, we’re closed.” So you can actually put that in there so that Google will tell people when they look you up that you’re closed on those holidays.
John McDougall: Yeah. Another part of that we saw recently was one of our lawyer clients had that their hours were 9:00 to 5:00, but there are two competitors that were ranking neck-and-neck with them with a similar amount of reviews and similar other factors but one was ranking better. But those two other people actually had said [they were open] 24/7, pretty much 365 – they’re personal injury lawyers and they have a call center, so technically, they can take calls 24/7. And that’s an interesting factor. And if you’re a Google robot, you’re thinking, well, I probably want to show this one. Certainly I want to show this one if it’s after 5:00, if I’m Google, and I’m preparing my results for my Google customers.
John Maher: Yeah. If somebody’s searching for lawyers and it’s 11 o’clock at night, yeah, then maybe that person that says they’re open 24 hours a day…
John McDougall: Yeah, two of them are open and one is closed, what are you going to do? Put the one that’s closed up, like, “Hey, call these people?” That would be stupid of Google. So it’s funny little things like that you’ve got to think about.
John Maher: Absolutely.
Finding Your Google Reviews Link In Google Business Profile
John McDougall: And so, since you said, and this is a fairly well known fact for most people in this space, reviews are important, especially in (formally Google My Business) now Google Business Profile. But how do you get the link to directly let people review you? How do you find that?
John Maher: So, this is a lot easier than it used to be. You used to have to find your business on the Google map. And then once you found your business and clicked on it, you’d have to go up into the URL in your browser, and there was a code embedded in the middle of the URL; you’d have to grab that code and then you’d have to put it into this other part of a URL, and put the code in the middle of that, and then that would be your link that you could send people. It was just this complex thing that nobody knew how to do and it was very hard to find.
Now Google Business Profile does this in a much easier way. You just log into your Google Business Profile and, assuming that you have already gone through that verification process and verified your business, all you have to do is…on the homepage of the profile manager is a box, if you scroll down, called Get More Reviews. And in that is a button that says “share review form”. And when you click that, it just pops up a little window that has a link and you can just cut and paste that link. And again, you could put this in an email and send it to a specific customer and say, “Hey, so glad that you had a great experience with us, would you mind giving us a Google review? Here’s the link.” And if that person is logged into a Gmail account or another Google account, and they click that link, it’ll pop right up in their browser with where they can leave a Google review for your company.
So it’s really, really easy. You might want to tell people, just give them a little reminder, “hey, you do have to be logged into a Google account or a Gmail account in order for this to work.” Just so that if it doesn’t work for them, they’ll go, oh, okay, I should log into my Gmail account. That’s useful to just give as a reminder, but that’s all you have to do.
There are also some buttons there to share that link on social media. I think there’s like a Facebook and there’s other social media buttons. So if you wanted to share it directly to your social media, you can do that right with those buttons. But again, the easiest thing is just to cut and paste that link from the “Get More Reviews” section on the homepage of your Google Business Profile.
John McDougall: And it often doesn’t happen just on its own even if you have happy customers. So I know we’re going to make a better effort to get out there and just send people the link because when, especially, people are in a good mood when they’re like, “oh man, you guys did an awesome job for us”, and then sometimes they drift off or they’re just not thinking about it, and it’s harder to get them excited to do it. So strike while the iron is hot, get it out there and get good reviews because Google really is looking at the idea of frequency of reviews.
Because if you have old reviews, you think, well, yeah, I have 10 or 20 or 50 or 100 or whatever reviews you have, you might think it’s good enough. But if you don’t have any recent ones, Google will factor that in to where you rank and just in the trust of your site overall. Because you might have been great a year ago or five years ago, but what if you’re just asleep right now? What if you died of COVID? Google doesn’t know that. So they might assume the worst, “hey, they’re not even in business or whatever, they’re gone.” So fresh, recent reviews is critical. So just like anything, make a small habit out of it.
John Maher: Yeah. And you can do it manually or if you have something like marketing automation set up with your email platform, you can do it through that. Maybe it’s that anytime a contact that you have in your marketing automation becomes a customer, then three days afterwards it automatically sends them an email with the link and says, “Hey, would you mind giving us a review?” Or you can do it manually if you want to and just, any happy customer that walks out the door, you make a note, “all right, on Thursday I’m going to email them and ask for a review.” But yeah, you want reviews? Ask for them.
John McDougall: Yeah. And there are software tools like BirdEye and different things like that. I’ve seen some customers do well with them, but I’ve also seen if they then delete that platform, it’s a little sticky. Some of those platforms are a little funky, how they… I’m not saying this of BirdEye necessarily, I’m just saying some of them in general, because I have seen a couple of good times with BirdEye being used, and Review Buzz for contractors, but sometimes they filter away the reviews at a certain level or they hoard the reviews and they control the process. Whereas if you just email your customers directly that link, like you’re saying, I think that’s really the place to start and then you’re not dependent on a tool to do it. But you do have to go take some action or use some automations to really get it going.
John Maher: Absolutely. Yeah, and we’ll go into more details another time on other things that you can do to optimize your Google Business Profile like adding photos and adding content and blog posts and all kinds of things that you can do with it but reviews is a great place to start.
John McDougall: Yeah, we’ll do a part two. All right, John. Well, good stuff today. And for more information about digital marketing and SEO, visit mcdougallinteractive.com and please subscribe, rate and review this podcast on Apple Podcasts. Thanks for listening. I’m John McDougall, see you next time on Digital Marketing Madness.