It's easy with the excitement of starting and running your own business to get so carried away with implementing your idea's that you forget who you are creating a business for and how they are going to find out about you. Trust me I know. Some things are obvious such as having a great website with great Search Engine Optimisation to help your business get found over your competitors, setting up your social media platforms e.g. a Facebook business page, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Linkedin or Google+ and these are all great things to have. but unless your website appears on the 1st page following a search engine enquiry then it's not really going to benefit you in obtaining new customers.
The thing is, the majority of people that will follow your business on social media already know about your business or perhaps they are your own friends who you are already personally connected with on social media. So whilst social media is a great way of engaging with your existing customers it's not really going to get you any new ones without you paying out on advertisements.
Quite a few months down the line after setting up the 1st of my businesses, whilst sat in my local coffee shop it dawned on me that it's great having people like your page, or follow you, but the biggest challenge I faced was how was I going to get new customers who were after the services or products I had to offer to be able to find out about little old me. It dawned on me through all the excitement of planning and opening my business I had been thinking of my business from a business owners point of view and not putting myself in my customers shoes.
I hadn't started with the where ? Where do customers, who want what I offer, start their journey?
That's when I realised one of the answer's was actually nestled in my hand. Google search, well more specifically Google local search e.g. where is my nearest ... or photography studio Gloucester .... you get the idea, after all you've probably done it hundreds of times yourself. This is where Google then puts 3 businesses in front of you (above the fold) based on relevance, distance and ratings.
So, I immediately started searching specifically for independent businesses I knew of to see if and how they came up in the searches. I would like to point out that at this moment I was sat in my local coffee shop, which is in my opinion one of the best independent coffee shops in Gloucester and when I searched for my nearest coffee shop Google wanted to send me to a coffee shop on the other side of town. The coffee shop I was sat in simply hadn't created a Google My Business page so to over 3 million visitors to Gloucester in 2016, they were invisible online. Yes they had a website and Facebook page. However unless you knew the name of the coffee shop, you would never have found them online, as their website didn't appear on the first 5 pages on Google when looking at website searches and lets be honest most people don't go past the 1st page.
That's when the penny dropped about what I had to do to get my business known and in front of more people but also how I could help by putting other small businesses on the map and in front of more customers online by taking advantage of local search. Since creating their verified Google My Business page they now frequently come up in the top 3 of local search and in 3 months have been found over 19,000 times with the photographs being clicked on over 12,000 times.
So I ask you to think about your business and where do your customers typically start their journey? If you are a big chain with a household recognised name, then perhaps your customer will go direct to your website. If not, they are likely to be searching via the internet for a service or product. Think of any type of service or supplier a customer might need, e.g. a customer had forgotten about a special occasion and needed to find a florist, beyond Interflora I genuinely cannot think of the name of one. So, where do you go next ? For around 90% of people they Google it. Where's my nearest florist ?
To my surprise it wasn't just the coffee shop that wasn't on Google My Business but a whole range of independent small businesses, some were new and some had been established for a while. Some had a listing which wasn't verified or hadn't been updated or had photographs that would put you off and move onto the next business.
This is the 1st image that a customer sees from a restaurant in Gloucester after conducting a search for the nearest restaurant. If you were a visitor to the city and you Google where's my nearest restaurant would you want to eat here or would you move onto the next one?
Think of Google My Business as the virtual shop front to your business. It's a great way of attracting more customer's to your business, when done properly. Google brings increased visibility from Google Local listing results on mobiles, which is essential for local SEO.
Google shows the top 3 results automatically on every search. There are several ways of ensuring your business features as high as possible; being verified, having up to date information, having great photographs and if relevant having a virtual tour, so that your customer can literally see what it would be like to be stood inside your premises.
If you are not on Google My Business, which is a free service provided by Google, and your business relies on attracting local business, then you are simply invisible.
Google determines local ranking primarily on:
Relevance - So making sure you add complete and detailed information about your business helps Google understand your business and match it to relevant searches.
Distance - How far from the potential customer the business is e.g. within a mile, within 5 miles etc.
Prominence- How well is a business known? Some places are more prominent in the offline world, so famous store brands that are familiar to many people are also likely to be prominent in local search too. Having great reviews on Google or linked pages also is an important factor in prominence.
Some of this may seem obvious but it doesn't do anyone any harm to do a bit of housekeeping every now and again to ensure that anything that may have changed is brought up to date. I've recently searched for a large organisation whose name I won't mention here but when I arrived at the premises not only was the business not there but the site had been bulldozed. This company simply hadn't updated Google to let them know. Needless to say I was disappointed that I had a wasted journey and then took my business elsewhere.
Having now put a lot of small and medium independent businesses on the map, by optimising existing Google My Business Pages or creating new ones for businesses, I have gained recognition from Google as a Google Trusted Photographer, which means I can now create, verify and manage Google My Business pages as well as provide you with fantastic professional images optimised for Google My Business, provide a 360° virtual tour and optimise those images for you to use on other social media platforms or your website depending on what you need.
Take a 360° view inside a local florist
Google send me notifications of businesses that they feel would benefit from having great images to represent their business.
Would you trust a business with someone whose only image on Google My Business is this ? I know I certainly wouldn't, I would be swiftly moving onto the next one. It doesn't matter if you are a one man band or work from home, having great images builds trust and credibility.
I am passionate about helping small independent businesses and offer a Free onsite consultation to discuss how Google My Business could help drive more customers to visit your business. If you would like to schedule an appointment, please call me on 01452 668049