Years ago, people found local businesses by asking their neighbors for a recommendation or searching for them in the Yellow Pages. It only took one great customer experience and an affordable listing in the phone book to get new business.

Today, consumers turn to the internet to find local businesses. Specifically, the majority of them turn to Google. The king of online searches has billions of queries submitted every day, many of them by hopeful users looking for a business that’s local to their area, has good reviews, and shows up high on their search results.

So how do you get on that lucky list? Enter Google My Business. This free business directory tool allows you to set up and manage a Business Profile on Google that will be shown in local search results to drive traffic and attract consumers.

If you don’t have a Google My Business account, or you don’t know how to effectively use it, this guide will show you why it’s important for your business and how to make the most of it.

What is Google My Business?

Google My Business is a business directory tool that allows businesses to manage the way they appear in Google searches. By creating a free Google My Business account, you can tell Google (and potential customers) specific things about your business to help them include you in relevant online searches.

Things like your location, hours of service, website, and contact information can – and should – be added to your business page. Google then uses this information to create a profile, categorize your business, and include it in local search results.

But it’s far more than a static profile. Through your Google My Business account, you can also receive and reply to customer reviews, schedule appointments, share updates, and even gain insight into the types of people searching for your business.

Why is Google My Business So Important?

Nearly half of Google searches done in 2019 had a local intent. That means customers were searching for a business near their location that could provide a specific product or service they needed.

But it’s more than just landing on the results page. Having a GMB listing gives you a greater chance to be included in the Google Local Pack, or the lucky businesses that are shown in a list above the organic search results. These businesses increase their odds of a sale by hundreds of percent, and they only get there by having a completed Google My Business page and consistently working that page.

Another important aspect of a Google My Business page is the ability to gain insights into consumer behavior. Your account will allow you to see what types of people are searching for your business, what keywords they use to find you, and how you performed in searches. This important information will show you what’s working – and what’s not – so you can tailor your local SEO strategy to get the best results.

Businesses with a Google My Business page have increased search visibility, are more trusted by consumers, and ultimately make more sales. Setting up your business is the crucial first step, but the buck doesn’t stop there – to make the most of your GMB page, you need to effectively manage it.

How to effectively manage your Google My Business Page

Too often, a business will set up their Google My Business listing and then forget about it. But managing your page regularly and effectively will skyrocket your listing to the top of results and strengthen your local SEO strategy. Here’s how:

Optimize your page. Make sure all information is complete and up-to-date, including your contact information, business description, location, and services menu. You should also be sure to use appropriate keywords in all text areas to optimize your profile for targeted searches.

Add Photos and Video. Visual content is wildly successful online. Take advantage and add photos and videos to your profile to capture your users’ attention and make your business stand out.

Check your listing regularly. Many businesses don’t know that anyone can make edits to your business listing. A disgruntled customer, a malicious hacker, or even a thoughtless clicker can make dramatic changes to your business information with ease. Check your listing regularly and log-in to your dashboard to verify everything is still correct.

Make Google My Business Posts. Like a mini social media account, your GMB listing can include regular posts that appear on your business profile. Share things like upcoming events, exciting sales, holiday messages, and anything else that will give your business personality and engage with hopeful searchers.

Check Questions & Answers. This fun feature allows users to pose a question to your business listing. You can then answer those questions from your dashboard and have them posted to your profile for future users. But many business listings have questions that are never answered, giving users the impression that you aren’t active (or don’t care). Always answer questions promptly and politely.

Receive Reviews. Positive reviews have a huge impact on how consumers see your business. GMB encourages businesses to ethically ask their customers to leave reviews on their listing, which are then shown next to your profile (be sure to read the guidelines). Ask satisfied customers to review your business and be sure to respond to every review, even the negative ones. You could turn an unhappy customer into a loyal ambassador! *could link “impact” to the reputation management blog