In terms of local SEO, Google My Business has always been an important and valuable tool. The platform launched in 2014 and continues to grow in importance for both businesses and consumers. Having a verified, complete, and accurate profile is critical to SEO. Google My Business is evolving to include transactions and engagement between businesses and their customers.
In June 2019, Google shared some Google My Business data, including the fact that Google facilitates “3 billion direct connections between merchants and users every month.” The company also indicated that there are 3 million monthly bookings through Google. And now, 95 million people across the world participate in the Local Guides program.
GMB Releasing More Branding and Promotional Tools
As part of Google’s announcement, they listed new features that businesses can take advantage of to improve their presence on the platform. These include:
- Add a logo: Businesses will be able to display their logo on the upper right portion of their profile.
- Add a cover photo: Businesses will be able to choose a cover photo that users will see when they bring up the profile.
- Welcome offers: These offers can be sent to prospects and customers who opt to follow a business.
- Dynamic photo module: This is a slideshow or carousel module that will give businesses the ability to add captions to the photos they wish to highlight.
- Promotional assets: Google has now launched a new site that allows businesses to create and order free stickers, posters, and other promotional items to make business promotion easier.
Google did not disclose the percentage of US businesses that have verified their Google My Business profiles. However, a recent report from Brand Muscle indicated that an estimated 61% of local businesses who participated in the survey had claimed their listings. Under the assumption that is accurate, that means nearly 40% of businesses haven’t taken the time to do it.
Local Favorites and Short Names
All the new features are meant to assist businesses brand themselves and promote more effectively on Google My Business and beyond. However, the announcement included two additional things that could ultimately prove more significant for businesses.
Local favorite badges will be awarded to the top 5% of local businesses in a category. However, Google was vague about the criteria they will use to determine who qualifies. Generally speaking, Google will reward businesses that keep their profiles updated and are responsive to their customers. We can expect to find out more about how this feature works in the future. Achieving local favorite status and badging may offer a significant competitive advantage for the winners, but it may not. It depends on how and where the badge is presented and how customers respond.
The other important feature is the option to use short names or URLs that will be searchable in Google and Google Maps. To use short names, your business will have to be verified with Google My Business. Short names will be presented in two forms: g.page/shortname and @shortname. Businesses should now be eligible to register their desired name. Google says there won’t be any kind of “domain squatting” because you must have a verified profile in order to get one.
When a user searches or enters the URL, it takes them directly to the merchants Google My Business profile. In the future, users will be able to search Google Maps using the business’ short name to bring up the profile as well.
Google says this is a global namespace so a restaurant in Los Angeles could easily compete against a restaurant with a similar name in Paris or London. However, Google, without going into detail maintains that it has a process to address these issues and prevent conflicts.
The feature is a result of merchant feedback and the desire for a short URL to better promote their businesses. Google envisions local businesses putting their g.page URL on promotional materials. There wasn’t any discussion on how to use it in digital advertising but this could be another potential application. It’s also not yet understood whether they would be any reporting on traffic to the short URLs.
Why This Matters for Businesses and Marketers
Google My Business has evolved from a way to obtain accurate data for Google search results into a more complex and Powerful tool. Google now considers the platform as a local engagement platform which increasingly allows transactions such as Reserve with Google. In April, Google surveyed some of its small business customers and partners about charging for the services. While it drew a mixed response from local search engine optimization agencies, as suggested potential future product direction.
In the coming months and years, it’s likely that we will see more direct communication tools and commerce capabilities added to Google My Business. The challenge for Google will be adding useful features without creating more complexity and confusion for these local businesses.
Actions to Take Now
If you haven’t already, make sure to verify your business with Google My Business so that you can reserve your short name. Periodically check your business profile to ensure the information is accurate and complete. As you check to ensure profile completeness, take advantage of the new features available to you..
If you need assistance creating and maintaining your Google My Business profile, reach out to us here at Sachs Marketing Group.