Despite Google’s ability to revolutionize online search on a regular basis and exert influence over the way we carry on in our daily lives, it was not the online giant that initially brought small business into the national conversation. The Shop Local Movement, American Express (well known for creating Small Business Saturday), and countless references to America's economic foundation being built on the backs of small business, have all pushed small business into the spotlight and raised awareness of how important it is to the American economy.
But Google will never be left behind when a trend is afoot, so it comes as no surprise that Google has upped the ante in their online search capabilities for small businesses with Google My Business. These changes take local small business marketing to an unprecedented level.
Recently Google shifted the way local listings are displayed in its search results, making it much easier for small businesses to be found through the search engine. With recent testing on neighborhood targeting, Google is toying with the notion of going “hyperlocal” and assisting online searchers by locating and featuring small businesses within a very small radius.
The local search algorithm previously never recognized neighborhoods (SoHo in New York, DuPont Circle in Washington D.C, The Pearl District in Portland, etc.), so it couldn't easily feature small businesses based on a neighborhood-related search query. Now, however, by testing out these neighborhood-specific search capabilities, or utilizing geotargeting, Google is able to connect your location with specific neighborhoods.
Essentially you can use a neighborhood in your search query now (i.e., record stores in SoHo). Also, Google will use geo-targeting to know which neighborhood you are currently in and will alter its results accordingly.
If you’ve ever been a victim of the ruthless process of choosing a restaurant for dinner, this must be great news for you, but do keep in mind that Google, for the moment, is only able to detect well known neighborhoods like the few listed above, but you can be certain this process of identification will expand.
Google My Business
What does hyperlocal searching mean for the small business owner? Quite a bit, actually. Remember when achieving the perfect SEO strategy was the ultimate goal so that Google would find your business in its searches for businesses like yours? The good people of Google have actually simplified things for the small business owner and made it easier to get found without having to stretch the limits of your search, SEO, and online platform maintenance capabilities. Imagine that.
Google has consolidated Google+ business pages and Google Map listings into one simple, easy to use solution: Google My Business. This new platform makes it very easy to update and change your small business’ listing information in Google and Google+, which saves time and allows you to work more on your business, not in your business.
By updating your map listing with information about your business, the products and services that you offer, and the neighborhood name, Google My Business now features the updates to your profile. When the map listing gets updated, so does the Google Carousel, located at the top of the search results. The interconnectivity of the Google platforms can be a small business’ ally when looking to get found online.
- A dashboard with all your business information in one place
- The ability to add photos of your business
- A singular place to stay on top of reviews of your business, including responding to reviews
- Insights into search traffic for your business, including calls and clicks, views, and directions
All this can be updated on both your desktop and your mobile phone too.
Google listing savvy
Proceeding with Google My Business and getting your small business noticed more online is really quite simple if you follow these tips and reasons why you should be on top of Google My Business.
Update your Google My Business listing in order to get the right information updated in Google’s database.
The information housed in Google My Business listing will become incorporated into Google’s Knowledge Graph. Previously reserved for large companies with Wikipedia pages, the knowledge graph information appears on the right side of the screen. This includes a company’s name, Google+ activity, CEO, stock price, reviews, and more. For small businesses, the address, phone number, hours of operation, directions, and reviews will show up instead. This allows valuable contact information to appear before a searcher even clicks on your website.
Don’t forget the power of mobile
By using Google My Business, you dramatically increase your ability to be found by people near you while searching on their mobile devices. The geolocation of the device and your business’ physical location becomes more important to Google as it searches specific neighborhoods for the business a mobile user asks for.
Optimizing for neighborhoods
If your neighborhood has a commonly used name or title (give examples)—even if it’s not as well known as those in large cities—be sure to include that name in the description on your various business’ listings. Make sure your neighborhood name is included on your website, as well, because Google will pick up on those keywords when indexing your website.
With these shifts in the way Google locates and displays small businesses, it’s important your small business updates its website and listings accordingly. While small businesses are taking center stage, many small business owners still need all the optimized power they can get. Being as user friendly as possible for the Google local search algorithm allows Google to put your business at the top of neighborhood search results.