Posts

Google is asking businesses to update and revise their Google My Business listings if their operations have been affected by the spread of COVID-19, commonly called coronavirus.

The company released a new help document listing ways companies can use GMB to update customers, including sharing updated business hours, ensuring phone numbers are accurate, and even using business descriptions or Google Posts to provide more detailed information.

To raise awareness of the recommendations, Google has placed a prominent alert at the top of all Google My Business-related support pages which reads: “If your business is affected by COVID-19, update your profile to provide the most accurate info. Learn more.

What To Do

If your business has been affected by COVID-19, Google recommends using your GMB listing to update customers by doing the following:

  • Change your business hours: If your business hours have changed, update the times when you’ll be open or closed. The hours will show when the customer visits your Business Profile, and they’ll know exactly when to visit.
  • Update your business description: Explain whether or not your business operations are affected by COVID-19. You can share information about any extra precautions the business is taking, if you’re providing any extra services to the community, or whether you’re experiencing delays.
  • Create a post: Share more detailed and timely updates about what’s going on with your business through Posts. For example, add information about what products and services you have available, and link to other resources. You can continue to use Posts to directly communicate with your customers on a regular basis as your business changes.
  • Update your phone number: Make sure your phone number is correct so that customers can reach you.

Keep Your Customers In-The-Know

Updating your Google My Business listing should always be a first step when making changes to your business, whether that means changing your business hours, moving locations, or just launching a new promotion. This is especially true during issues of public concern, like the ongoing coronavirus spread, when even regular customers may be checking your listing for the latest information.

Mask icon courtesy of Freepik

Google is changing what business owners see when they view their own reviews in order to make it easier to encourage new reviews.

In the past, business owners or account managers would see a button which directed them to “write a review” from their business listing. Now, many are reporting seeing a new button which instead reads “get more reviews.”

"Get More Reviews" button

While the function has not changed, the new text makes it more clear exactly what Google is offering – a chance to share your review links across Facebook, Twitter, email, and more.

The meaning behind the text is also much more clear as leaving a review for your own business is strongly frowned upon and can get your listing penalized by the search engine.

When shared, the review link directs people to your Google Maps listing with a pop up to immediately write a review.

Google has released a new report showing how people are using the search engine to find small businesses around them every day. 

Overall, the report shows that local search continues to grow with “tremendous” speed. Specifically, searches with “local” + “near me” have gotten more than 350 times more search interest compared to a decade ago. 

On a more recent scale, the search engine says that search interest in “mom and pop shops” has climbed to a three year high, with especially high interest in restaurants, coffee shops, diners, pharmacies, and pizza places. 

Google also notes that search interest in “local shops” hit a record high last year. 

To make the findings easy to take in, Google created a nice infographic breaking down all the most important findings. Check it out below, or in Google’s blog post “Small Business Search Trends” here.

Google has started automatically adding a large “Request a Quote” button to eligible business listings in its local search results.

The button appears to be limited to just businesses who have opted into the Google My Business messaging feature, which would allow customers to directly message a company representative. However, it is unclear what specific industries the button is being added to.

With the new feature, users can now immediately request a quote from your company directly from the local search results – without ever visiting your website. 

While that means less traffic to your website – and potentially less informed leads – it also makes it more convenient than ever for potential customers to initiate the sales process.

While we can’t guarantee your listing will be given the “Request a Quote” button, we do know that being signed up for GMB’s messaging feature is a requirement for the new feature. 

To turn on messaging for your own listing, just follow these steps:

  • Download and open the Google My Business app
  • Log in with the credentials for the account associated with the listing
  • Open the location you’d like to manage
  • Tap Customers
  • Tap Messages
  • Tap Turn on

Once this is done, you will be able to receive messages from customers within the app. Users will receive their responses through their Google Maps app.

A recent study from BrightLocal highlights exactly how powerful Google My Business is for helping local companies get found by local consumers and increase their sales. 

The findings are the result of research from 45,000 businesses using GMB from 36 different industries from 4 countries. 

Based on the findings, it seems that GMB not only helps improve search engine visibility, but phone calls, store traffic, and more. 

GMB Gets Your Business Found Over 1,000 Per Month

On average, the study says an individual business gets found in Google My Business listings in 1,009 searches each month – or approximately 33 times a day. 

Importantly, more than 80% of those searches are “discovery” searches which seek out a business category rather than a specific business name. 

The findings also revealed that three-quarters of these searches were done using Google Search, while the other 25% was done on Google Maps. 

5% of GMB Listing Views Convert

Local businesses receive an average of 59 actions each month from their Google My Business listing, according to the report. 

When you compare that with the 1,009 views each month, that suggests roughly 5% of GMB listing views directly lead to a website click, call, or direction request. 

Compared to BrightLocal’s findings from 2017 to the most recent study, that is a 25% improvement in conversion rates – rising from 3.87% to 4.83%.

Specifically, businesses received approximately 29% more website clicks from their GMB listings and 22% more calls. 

Other Findings

The study noticed that listings with more images received more views compared to those with fewer photos. 

Overall search volume also increased from 2017 to 2018, with direct searches up 38% and discovery searches rising by 6%.

To see the full report on the performance of GMB listings, click here.

A recent Wall Street Journal investigation has landed Google once again in the hot seat as the report claims Google Maps is filled with millions of fake business listings. 

Over the course of the article, reporters say they found some Maps search result pages where more than half of the local results included fraudulent or misleading information characteristic of a fake listing.  

For example:

“A search for plumbers in a swath of New York City found 13 false addresses out of the top 20 Google search results. Only two of the 20 are located where they say and accept customers at their listed addresses, requirements for pushpin listings on Google Maps.”

In some cases, the fake listings are simply phantom businesses with no real purpose or to misdirect customers. However, the Journal believes others are designed to scam potential customers out of large amounts of money. 

As you would expect, all of these practices are expressly forbidden by Google, but the Wall Street Journal says the policy is poorly enforced. 

In fact, the report says hundreds of thousands of fake listings are appearing monthly:

“Hundreds of thousands of false listings sprout on Google Maps each month, according to experts. Google says it catches many others before they appear.”

How This Hurts Businesses

The fake listings do more than cause consumers unnecessary frustration or potentially scamming customers. They also hurt businesses who are pushed out of the top search results by fraudulent businesses.

Getting your business into the organic local results without paying for ads is already a gamble that can involve hours of hard work optimizing your website and listing. Adding fake competition just makes the arena even more competitive and encourages more businesses to spend money on local ads instead. 

How Google Fights Fake Listings

Google openly acknowledges that it has an issue with fake business listings, though the company says it is already taking extensive steps to fight back. 

In an article on the company’s blog, Google explained:

“It’s a constant balancing act and we’re continually working on new and better ways to fight these scams using a variety of ever-evolving manual and automated systems. But we can’t share too many details about these efforts without running the risk of actually helping scammers find new ways to beat our systems—which defeats the purpose of all the work we do.”

Specifically, the search engine says it has removed more than 3 million fake business profiles over the past year – 90% of which were removed before they could ever be seen by users. 

Approximately 85% of these profiles were removed by Google’s automated internal systems, while around 250,000 fake business listings were reported by users and then removed. 

Google may be making significant efforts to fight the problem of fake business listings, but The Wall Street Journal makes it clear there is still much to be done.

Google My Business is updating Google Posts to allow brands to highlight glowing reviews from customers.

With the new update, you can feature 4 to 5 star reviews that have been left on your listing.

As Google said in the announcement on Twitter:

“In some countries, Google My Business now provides suggested posts to help you showcase positive reviews. These posts are automatically suggested based on 4 or 5-star reviews recently left for your business”

“You may get suggestions for new testimonials to post when you sign in to Google My Business, or via email notifications. These posts are automatically suggested based on 4 or 5-star reviews recently left for your business. You’ll be able to review and edit the post before publishing it.”

You can see a few examples of what the new post format looks like from Twitter user Andy Simpson below:

While it is unclear exactly which countries aside from the US have access to the feature, the update brings yet another way to make your local search listing more visible and engaging for users.

As always, Google Posts showcasing your reviews remain visible for one week unless you manually remove or edit the post.

Google is making it easier for brands to share their Google My Business listings by allowing businesses to create short names and unique URLs for their listings.

The new feature was revealed by marketing guru and Local Guide for Google, Mike Blumenthal. While Google has not publicly announced the short names and URLs, they have released a new help page dedicated to the feature.

By creating unique short names and URLs for GMB listings, it makes it possible for businesses to share their listings across other social platforms and in the real world through business cards, brochures, or similar marketing materials.

Considering Google My Business is the main platform for sharing reviews and providing details like directions, hours, or even scheduling, it makes sense that Google would want to make the listings more directly accessible.

The feature is still rolling out, so not everybody has access to it currently. To find out if you can claim a short name and URL, just sign into your GMB account and select the location you want to create a short name for. Click the “Info” tab and look for “Add profile short name”.

From there, you will be able to create a short name for your business with no less than five characters and no more than 32 characters.

Once approved, the new short name will also represent your new URL, which is formatted as g.page/[yourshortbusinessname].

One nice detail is that the new short names can help businesses with multiple storefronts differentiate their listings on Google while keeping consistent branding across their listings.

Google My Business has released a new way for business owners to respond to online reviews, giving increased flexibility to when and where you can reply after a review.

Now, you can reply to your business reviews from your listing in Google Maps from any desktop device.

In the past, replying to reviews was only possible from the GMB app or website.

Of course, you will still have to verify your listing before you may be able to respond to reviews. Still, the release of the new way to respond to reviews makes it easier than ever for business owners to reply to reviews as soon as they see them.

Along with the new way to respond to reviews, Google has also updated its help document on the subject by adding tips specifically for responding to negative reviews.

How Google Says to Respond to Negative Reviews

First and foremost, Google encourages business owners to remember that negative reviews are not always reflective of a bad business. For instance, some customers may have mismatched expectations. In this case, replying to the review can help other customers set their expectations appropriately and provide more customer satisfaction in the future.

Additionally, Google says to follow these tips when leaving a negative review:

  • Do not share personal data or attack the reviewer personally. Instead, suggest that they contact you directly.
  • Investigate the reasons behind the reviewer’s negative impression of the business.
  • Be honest about mistakes that were made, but do not take responsibility for things that weren’t your fault.
  • Apologize when appropriate. It’s best to say something that demonstrates compassion and empathy.
  • Show that you’re a real person by signing off with your name or initials.
  • Never lash out. Never get personal. Always be polite and professional, just as you would be face-to-face.
  • Respond in a timely manner to show that you pay attention to your customer’s experience.

It is important to keep in mind that negative reviews will not automatically hurt your business. How you respond can be just as important in shaping the public perception of your brand.

 

Google has allowed users to message businesses through their Google My Business listings since July of last year, but you’d be forgiven for not noticing. The prompt is typically just a small button that can be easily overlooked among all the information filling up a GMB listing.

Now, however, it appears the search engine is testing a more prominent button option within local listings.

Search Engine Land columnist Joy Hawkins shared a screenshot on Twitter of the new button, which is hard to miss when you open up a listing’s profile.

For comparison, here is what the interface normally looks like.

You’ll notice the small “message” icon next to the call, directions, and website icons.

While it is just a small tweak that might not ever make it out of the testing phase, it indicates that Google may be looking into new ways to promote the use of Google’s messaging tools.

Currently, the brands utilizing Google’s messaging features are in the minority. But, with the increasing popularity of using Facebook messenger for business pages, it is possible that brands could begin to make better use of Google’s online messaging and text messaging features.