It’s 2018. We’re deep into the 21st century and the age of the Internet. If you’re a business owner—regardless of the size of your business—and you still don’t have a business page online, whether it’s on social media or your own website, let’s be honest: you’re doing it wrong. Everyone is on the internet most of the day now, so it’s on you to reach the most people as quickly as possible online.
One really easy way you can do this is by using Google’s Google My Business (GMB) listing services. A GMB listing functions similarly to old yellow pages listings, except that they can be updated in real-time. Where yellow pages simply list down a business’s name and phone number, and sometimes even their address, a Google My Business page has a wealth of information immediately available to the searcher.
A GMB listing can include the phone number, social media pages or the website, business hours (and a real-time update on whether the business is currently open or closed), customer ratings, the exact location of the establishment on Google Maps, images of the place to help customers find and identify it more easily, and so on. Google’s really made it so that business owners can quickly put themselves out there using GMB; all you have to do is put it up, fill in info, and make sure it’s the first thing people see when they search for a keyword your business falls under.
Beyond a mere listing on the Google search results, the Google My Business service also includes a free and easy-to-use website builder! It’s a basic what-you-see-is-what-you-get site builder that should be easy enough for people who want to have a fully-functioning and professional-looking website to go with their listing.
With these free tools Google has to offer, you’ll be able to reach a market you might have never thought was possible, and generate more leads and sales from beyond, say, Huntsville, Alabama than by word of mouth, or by your business simply existing in its location.
Creating a Google My Business account, listing, and website
You can access the GMB dashboard by clicking here.
In order to create a Google My Business listing, your business has to be eligible for it. While that may sound restrictive, it’s actually not hard to be eligible for GMB: your business simply has to be one that involves constant personal interaction with customers. That means if you’re a brick-and-mortar store of any kind, you are allowed to create a GMB page. There are exceptions for places like ATMs, but if you’re a small business owner—especially in a place like Huntsville—you’re likely to be eligible for it.
For quick reference, you can’t create a GMB listing if your business is:
- Still under construction
- A property for sale or for rent (there are other channels for this)
- Not a business in a place you own, or of an organization you are not a representative of
Got it? Good. Don’t worry, if you’re here reading this, it seems like your business qualifies. Once you’ve created your GMB account, you can access the site builder feature on the drop-down menu (the three horizontal lines icon) and Google will take you through the entire process of site creation step by step. (If you want your own .com domain name, you’re going to have to pay for it, though! That part’s not free.)
Once your site is finished and live, you need to add the URL (that’s the .com link) to your GMB listing so that people have somewhere to click when they look you up.
Search Engine Optimization
How exactly do you get to the top of the Google results page, you ask? Well, the trick there is in something called search engine optimization, or SEO.
Some business owners may already be familiar with this, but if you don’t have a GMB listing or an online presence yet, it’s not surprising that you may not know what SEO is as well. Basically, it’s the process of tuning your site and its content in order for Google’s search crawling bots to rank it higher on its results page, thereby making it more likely to be the first thing searchers see. At its simplest, SEO involves stuffing your website’s text with as many keywords involving your business and its particular niche as possible, but also without “spamming” or overdoing it.
SEO also involves creating unique and compelling content for your site, as well as making it easy to access, but since you’re only creating a site for the purposes of having a presence on the internet, you shouldn’t be concerned with coming up with regular content. You’ll just need to make sure that your site’s text is full of the relevant keywords, which should also include your business’s city or region location. Google will also take care of how your site runs, so you don’t have to worry about whether it’s functional.
Using Google Analytics to track traffic
Once your GMB listing and site are up and running, the real key is using Google My Business, SEO & Google Analytics together to track your traffic and leads. Google Analytics is a free service Google offers for people to monitor statistics of how many people are accessing your site (and thereby looking at your business) in real time or any particular period of time. It can get a little technical, but at its simplest, it’s merely counting how many people visit your site.
To start using Analytics with your Google My Business account dashboard, all you have to do is activate Analytics (you can click here to do it) using the same Google account you signed up for GMB with. Make sure both your listing and site is live; after you set up Analytics, all you need to do is click the listing on the GMB dashboard in order to see the Analytics insights and data for your site.
From there, you can check out how many people visit your site, whether your listing and your site are effective in presenting your business and generating leads, and figuring out where and what to adjust if necessary.
Get an advantage online
Now, for an old-school small business owner in Huntsville, AL these things may take some learning. There’s a bit of jargon and technical know-how that gets in the way, especially in putting up a new site, doing some SEO, and using Google Analytics, but trust us—once you fully understand what’s going on, you’ll be looking at marketing your business a whole new way. When people start coming in after finding you on Google, you’ll be glad you went online!