For companies with a local or regional customer base, Google offers a free tool to make them more visible to prospects. We asked our Google wizard, Arlene, to share some of her knowledge.
Q: Let’s start at the beginning. What, exactly, is Google My Business?
A: It’s a platform, offered free from Google, to help companies reach out to potential customers. Any company can use it, but it is most helpful for those serving a local or regional customer base. Businesses that take advantage of this tool are able to tell potential customers more about their company than they would otherwise. Their website will also perform better in search rankings.
Q: You say it helps reach out to potential customers. How?
A: Google My Business is designed to deliver crucial information to a prospect at the moment they are considering a purchase. They have identified many types of “micro-moments,” each of which reflects a different mindset or intent in the mind of the prospect. Google wants to deliver exactly the information the searcher wants, at precisely the moment they are most interested. Once a business has submitted information to Google My Business, its name will appear on Google Maps. That is not only helpful to the searcher, it boosts their confidence in the company. It demonstrates they know what they’re doing. Even more important are knowledge panels.
Q: What can you tell us about “knowledge panels”?
A: A knowledge panel is a display that appears on the right side of the search results screen, containing a lot of useful, easy-to-scan information about the company in question. It features photos, maps, operating hours and more. It can include a scrollable carousel of featured products. The idea is to convey as much information as possible to show the prospect they are looking at a company that delivers what they need. The knowledge panel only appears for companies that have been verified by Google My Business.
Q: How do companies get verified by Google My Business?
A: They submit information, which is reviewed by Google to ensure accuracy, and then they gain all the benefits of Google My Business, including the knowledge panel. Google has guides that explain the steps. The process usually involves communications via email and phone calls. It is important for the company and its marketing partner to collaborate in this process. For example, the agency will need to implement verification codes into the website to access all the advantages of Google My Business.
Q: Is this just for restaurants and other retail businesses?
A: Absolutely not. All businesses benefit from Google My Business certification. It’s a good brand awareness builder. Let’s say you’re an engineering company that makes pipes for the petroleum industry. Nobody comes to your location to look at pipes, buy them and take them home. It’s not that kind of business. And yet, the knowledge panel conveys crucial information that potential customers find useful and reassuring. They see the building, they see photos of the products, and so on. The contact information is right there, and they don’t have to click through to the website if they don’t want to.
Q: What else is in the knowledge panel?
A: Google has designed them to include, for example, ratings and reviews. People crave this kind of credible information from other customers. The panel can also include a Q+A section. Again, this gives prospects the ability to find out more before committing to a deeper engagement. The idea is to offer at least the possibility of a “zero click” engagement, meaning one in which the prospect can get answers without clicking through to the website.
Q: If they don’t click through to the website, is that a problem?
A: Not necessarily. If they get all the information they need from the knowledge panel, then they have saved a step. Of course, companies generally prefer that a prospect visit their site, but if the knowledge panel delivers what their prospect wants to know, it’s generally good for the company, too. Just because the prospect doesn’t click through does not mean they have disappeared forever. If it’s a good knowledge panel—a convincing one—the prospect will come back.
Q: How hard is it to get certified?
A: Companies can do it themselves, but results are always better when they work with skilled specialists who are experienced in dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s. As long as this free tool is available, it only makes sense to get the most out of it. Also, as Google adds features, specialists are on top of those developments and prepared to put them to use for the business of them.
Q: Once a company is certified, then what?
A: It’s not just a matter of submitting the information one time and then forgetting about it. A company should continuously monitor their knowledge panel and update it regularly. For example, they should check comments and be sure to respond swiftly as part of good reputation management. They should add new photos (team photos are always a good thing). A thorough knowledge panel is one of the most powerful ways to assure potential customers that your company is reliable and worthy of their business.
Q: Thank you for helping us understand what Google My Business can do.
A: My pleasure.
If your business isn’t taking full advantage of Google My Business, we’re ready to help.