In today’s post, we are going to cover Google My Business (or GMB for short) and examine where it started, what it has become, and my belief for where it is headed.

This post will go into detail on everything you need to know about Google My Business (GMB).

It was 2002… Small businesses were in disarray…

Jon Jacobs owned and operated Jon & Sons Pizzeria (a small pizza shop in Derry, New Hampshire). He’s a loving husband and father. And relied on his pie shop to survive.

A big chain pizza shop moved into town and was stealing Bob’s customers.

As the weeks turned to months Bob’s profits turned from green to red…

He tried all he could. But he could not keep up with the dirt-cheap prices and gigantic marketing budget of the big chain shop…

Bob’s business was falling apart… The stress of business was affecting the quality time with his family… His marriage was on the rocks.

Then he heard whisperings of a new thing for businesses. It was 2004 and Google has come on the scene with its new feature dubbed Google local…

Bob set out to find out how he could use this new tool to get his customers back and save his business.

Because of Google, Bob looked like a marketing wizard. And with his newfound marketing prowess, he was able to save his business and his family.

Google My Business as it is now called is the tool that helped save Bob and his business. This post will provide a glimpse into Google My Business past, present, and future.

No reason to wait any longer. Let’s look at what Google My Business is and where it has come from.

Google My Business: Past

It has been a long road for the Google business listing. Google My Business has evolved into an all in one platform for small businesses to get found, and to speak to their audience.

But it went through many changes to get where it is at today.

2004

Starting as Google Local in 2004 it was a business listing where users could get recommendations, publish their own photos, and write reviews.

The earliest form of Google Local didn’t even include a ‘business center’. So business owners were unable to make alterations to their own listings until they added this feature in 2005.

This drastically limited a business owner’s ability to take charge of their listings.

2005/2006

Come 2005 Google decides to unify the two services naming it Local. Due to mass hysteria and all-around confusion. In 2006 Google then reverses direction changing the name of the service to Maps.

2009

Google Maps had done fine but the user experience was still lacking. Google saw an opportunity to expand its local business listing. Seeing the tremendous success other social media platforms experienced Google feels Google Maps/Local/Places could be the next big SOCIAL MEDIA GIANT.

Due to this Google splits Maps apart and takes the listing portion of the service renaming it Google Places.

2014

Officially changing the name of the service to Google My Business it was the genesis of what GMB is today. Still lacking many of the flashy features of the ‘snack pack’ today. It was a foundation for what millions of individuals use on a daily basis.

Bluetrain offers a detailed list of each change made to Google My Business up to June 2014 if you want even more information on the origination of GMB.

Now that you have a strong understanding of where Google My Business was. It is time to look at what GMB is today.

Google My Business: Present

Fast forward to today and Google My Business could be the most powerful tool in a small business owner’s toolbox.

So important in fact in Moz’s local search ranking study GMB was ranked as the most important factor for search rankings.

So let’s dig into the big questions you are asking yourself and take a look at the robust platform that is Google My Business.

What is Google My Business?

Google My Business is a free tool that lets businesses manage their Google search and maps listings. Today the tool is a full-featured platform that has taken control of local search.

So for example… If Tommy in Topeka looks up pizza near him the ‘local pack’ is going to show him 3 options for pizza near Tommy. The businesses that show up in the ‘local pack’ are earning up to 80% of consumers’ dollars.

You may be wondering when customers see your business profile (previously knowledge panel)?

Well, the two most common examples are in the ‘local pack’ which is what appears when customers search for services near them. Or your business profile (knowledge panel) which appears when customers perform a direct search for your business.

Local Pack

This is a typical example of what you see in the ‘local pack’, ‘snack pack’, or whatever you would like to call it.

Previously featuring 5 businesses the ‘snack pack’ has shrunk to feature results from only 3 businesses.

This decreases a business’s likelihood to appear in the ‘local pack’ and increases the competition. If you want your business to show up when potential customers are searching. Read the How can you optimize your GMB section to learn how to give your business the past chance at standing at the top of the ‘snack pack’.

Business Profile

The business profile also referred to as a knowledge panel provides a much richer view of details about your business. The business profile continues to expand its offerings.

In the past couple of years, Google has added features such as Google Posts, Q & A, messaging, and more. Improving the user experience for both businesses and customers.

If you do this correctly you can stand at the top of the ‘snack pack’ as we covered before. That is the exact reason you need to read the next section.

How Can You Optimize Your GMB?

As a business owner, if you get only one part of your local marketing plan right it needs to be your Google My Business profile. So what are the most important parts of your GMB profile? And how do you know if it is properly optimized?

This section will answer both of those questions and give you a foundation to create a GMB profile that pops and earns you more customers.

Photos

Business owners and customers can post photos to a business listing. Photos should represent what customers can expect from a business.

Sharing photos of employees, products, services, interior and exterior photos of businesses are just a few examples of photos that a business should be sharing.

Search Engine Journal analyzed 45,000 GMB profiles and determined there is a clear correlation with the number of photos on a business listing and the overall activity that the business receives.

There studied determined that business’s with 100+ images receive 520% more calls than the average listing. 2717% more direction requests. And 1065% more web clicks. Businesses with only 1 image received 71% fewer calls, 75% fewer direction requests, and 65 fewer website clicks.

These are some glaring numbers that show the power of Google photos. It is worth noting although there is a clear correlation one cannot determine causation with the data.

Bright Locals’ Ultimate Guide to GMB Photos shares that 60% of consumers say photos lead them to a buying decision.

Review your Google My Business photos regularly to ensure people do not post obscene or explicit photos to your listing.

You would be surprised what people will post to your GMB photos. Not being proactive can actively drive potential customers away from your business.

Resources:

Reviews

Reviews are one of the most important features of GMB. With consumers saying they will not interact with a business if they have less than a 3.3 rating. A business needs to have a clear process to get more reviews. While also responding in a strategic manner to the reviews they are already receiving.

How can you get more reviews? These are a few tactics that can help you get more Google reviews:

  1. Ask for reviews: When your working with your customers. Ask them for a review and let them know it means the world to your business.
  2. Simplify review process: Simplify the process for them to leave a review. Add links to your business card. Shorten the URL using goo.gl. Or however, you can simplify the process for your customers to leave reviews. Do it.
  3. Reputation management software: It will not only help you get more reviews but it will also help stop angry customers from leaving negative reviews.
  4. Ask for their email: An email list can be one of the business owners’ most valuable assets. Ask your customers for their email and start building that list.

How is your business managing reviews? Do you respond too negative reviews? These are just a few things to keep in mind when responding to reviews:

  1. Be prompt: The quicker you can respond the better. It shows customers that you care about their feedback and make them feel heard.
  2. Be positive: Even if the customer left a negative review. Remember review responses are public. That means potential customers will be reading how you respond.
  3. Respond to positive and negative reviews: You should be responding to both positive and negative reviews. Remember to keep your responses short.
  4. Customize your message: Make sure you are not responding with generic messages. Tailor your message to each customer’s review.

Reviews are one of the most important ranking factors for local SEO. Your review management strategy should be clearly planned out to maximize your success.

Resources:

Google Posts

This is a newer feature added to the GMB. A Google Post is a feature that allows businesses to share content with their customers through their business profile.

You can think of this kind of like a mini blog post. How do you create an inspiring Google post? Here are a few tips on how to do just that:

  1. High-quality picture/video: Eye-catching and high-quality picture or video. A text-only Google post looks very plain and boring and will severely limit your engagement with your post.
  2. Keep it short: Google posts have a 1500 character limit but I recommend keeping posts between 150-300 characters. Only the first 100 characters will show up in the knowledge panel. And these are not meant to be long-form blog posts. Shorter Google posts have shown to convert better.
  3. Clear call to action: Let your customers know what you want them to do. Your CTA should match whatever action you want your customers to perform.
  4. Set up tracking: To track engagement with your Google posts you need to set up custom UTM codes. Google Campaign URL Builder will create your custom UTM tracking codes for you. These will give you insight into what the conversion and click through rate for your posts.

If you want to learn even more about how you can use Google posts to grow your business. I recommend you read my comprehensive guide on Google Posts.

Resources:

Messaging

Messaging is a new feature that allows customers to communicate with a business through a text messaging platform similar to FaceBook messenger. Enabling messaging on your GMB profile can help create an extraordinary user experience.

If a customer clicks on the message button the interface will open and users will see your custom welcome message.

For businesses with one location messaging can be a great source for lead generation and for review management. Make sure to create a custom welcome message that is personalized to your business and your customers.

Q & A

In this modern age of schema markup and structured data. Q & A is a hot topic. Optimizing your Q & A on GMB and your website can help you gain valuable real estate on those SERPs.

Google wants the questions that appear on GMB to be asked by customers (not the business). Answers can be provided by the business or by customers (you want to be the one answering questions, not your customers.

Resources:

Working through each of the items above will leave you with a properly optimized listing for your business. And it will also help you get more customers by creating an awesome user experience.

Google My Business future will hypothesize on where this omnipotent marketing platform will be in 5 years. Including the all possible renaming of the service.

Google My Business: Future

We know where Google My Business has been. But we do not know where Google My Business is heading.

It has already grown to become the most powerful marketing tool a small business owner has in their tool belt. But in terms of potential. GMB has just scraped the surface.

As Google’s algorithms and user experience continue to improve. With enhanced SERP features from ‘0 search results’ (an experiment Google ran from March 13th to 20th 2019) to features that stick such as ‘People also ask’. One thing that is for certain is the search results page will look completely different in 5 years.

Where is GMB Going?

Schema.org working with Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, and Yandex created a universal standard for structured data. The goal of this is to make websites easier to understand for search engines.

You can see this structured data integrated into all parts of the search pages today through rich results. These rich results take shape in the form of rich snippets, ‘the carousel’, knowledge graph, and more.

Google’s mission is to understand the searcher’s intent and provide the exact answer they want right now. The continued focus on structured data shows that local results will continue to move away from websites and towards the rich results.

What does this mean for local marketing and small business owners? Less frequent will it be that potential customers will visit your website to find what they need. And more likely they are going to get everything they need from google without clicking past the SERPs.

What does this mean? GMB is and will continue to be the core of a local SEO and small business owner’s marketing plan. It will grow in importance and take the focus away from the website and move it to the web results.

Google My Business will continue to optimize integrating more rich features into your search results. RankBrain, PageRank, BERT are all improving search results with the one goal of creating a better user experience.

Search and you will receive your answer right on those SERP. Businesses who fail to prepare their marketing and messaging for this change will limit their ability to grow.

“If you’re not growing you’re dying”

William S. Burroughs

In short, Google my business has dawned and quickly taken the crown of local search. It is at the beginning of what has quickly become the central hub for all things local business.

So let’s salute Google for their worldly accomplishments in the domination of local search. As all exceptional things should have let’s finish this off by giving Google My Business its own jingle (kind of like 80’s rap).

Google My Business Jingle Rap

GMB is here to stay… Please don’t take this any other way… Taking over those search engine pages… That direct you to and from places… Yes! Google has it all figured out… Local business is what it’s all about.