It’s no secret that having an online presence makes you more accessible to the world. Usually when we think of a business being active on the internet, we automatically think about a website or how they utilize social media. However, what we tend to overlook is arguably the most useful tool for businesses of all sizes: search engine results.
Google is, without a doubt, the most popular search engine. As of February 2020, Google was averaging nearly 7 billion searches every day. That’s over 7,000 queries per second! So, how can you leverage search engine results as a small business? It’s not as hard as you may think. Google offers a free business listing called Google My Business.
A completed Google My Business listing can drive customers to your business, both online and in person. Getting set up on Google My Business is relatively easy. The initial process can be done in less than an hour. Just create a Google My Business account, fill in the information, and choose your verification method. For a complete guide to setting up your Google listing, click here.
This free resource offers a lot of great benefits, especially for small businesses. Below are some tips for leveraging Google My Business as a small business.
Make Your Business Accessible
A Google My Business listing includes your business’s location information, which connects to Google’s map function. Not only does this help existing customers find your business, but it can increase awareness and bring in new customers.
Let’s say you own an auto mechanic business in Fergus Falls and someone visiting the area experiences car trouble. To find a mechanic, they’re likely to turn to Google and search for something like “mechanic near me.” Google will return a handful of results listing mechanics in the area, showing their contact information, customer reviews, and overall rating.
Setting up and claiming your business allows you to input that information and increase the likelihood that your business will appear in the results. Better yet, it gives you complete control and you can ensure the details that appear are correct. It also lets you optimize your profile with strategic keywords that your target customer may use when searching for a business like yours.
Encourage and Engage With Customer Reviews
Reviews are an essential element of any Google My Business listing. Good reviews give your business a boost in the search results, and also help you engage with your existing customers and attract new business. Below are some important stats about the impact of online reviews to consider.
97% of consumers read reviews for local businesses (BIA/Kelsey)
93% of consumers say online reviews impact their purchasing decisions (Podium)
91% of consumers aged 18-34 trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations (BrightLocal)
89% of consumers read a business’s response to an online review (BrightLocal)
Let’s go back to the mechanic scenario. When sifting through the search results, it’s more likely that a potential customer is going to patronize a mechanic with good reviews. But, how do you encourage customers to leave a review?
Getting reviews is a two-step process. First, you have to ask for them. Second, you have to make it easy for your customers to do. Tell your customers how to leave you a review and direct them to your listing. Google offers some great print and online media to share with your customers, either on social media or in-store. In addition, make it a point to remind them while they’re checking out. Some businesses print instructions on cardstock the size of a business card and keep a stack near the register. Another option is add a call to action and link your e-newsletter or at the bottom of the receipt.
Responding to Reviews
When a customer leaves a review, it’s a great idea to respond as your business—whether good or bad, engaging with a reviewer shows that you genuinely appreciate their support and feedback. Take a few moments every week to read and respond to reviews.
If you receive a negative review, which happens sometimes, don’t let it get you down. As discouraging as a review from an unhappy customer can be, those instances present a unique opportunity to make it right. If a customer leaves your business feeling dissatisfied but doesn’t leave a review, you have no idea what went wrong. On the flip side, a review gives you the chance to address the problem and turn that bad experience into a more positive one.
Cathy, the owner of Cally’s Cafe & Coffee in Fergus Falls, shares how she handles a bad review. She notes, “I know that we cannot please everyone all the time, but we truly take a negative review to heart. I want our guests to really enjoy their time here and the offerings that we take pride in bringing them. When there is a bad review, I try to touch on all their points and say something positive to repair things with that customer.”
Cathy’s strategy is effective because it makes the customer feel heard. Start by thanking them for their feedback and apologize for the bad experience. Then, invite them to reach out so that you can make it right with them. At that point, you can invite them back into the store and provide a better experience. If it fits your budget, you can even offer them a gift card or discount as an incentive to give your business a chance to provide them with a better experience.
Our team at Greater Fergus Falls believes in the benefits of utilizing Google My Business. So much so that we recently offered a two-part live training on the topic! We plan to continue to offer training on a variety of topics, so be sure to follow us on Facebook for information on upcoming classes and workshops. In the meantime, feel free to reach out to our team with any questions you may have.