For companies with physical locations and ecommerce sites, driving customers into physical stores can be just as important as selling online. Organic search can be a powerful channel for both.
Google just released a newly redesigned and feature-filled app to make managing the location information — critical to local search across Google web search and Google Maps — a lot easier on the go. From the app you could always:
- Manage multiple locations from one dashboard;
- Update business name, address, and hours;
- Manage and respond to customer reviews;
- Post updates and photos to Google+;
- Monitor high-level analytics on visibility, engagement, and audience to understand how people are searching for your store information.
But now, the redesigned app enables you to also:
- Manage locations open 24 hours;
- Draw city, postal code, or radius zones for businesses that serve limited areas;
- See how your business is represented in Google search, Maps, and Google+;
- Monitor analytics on Google+ post performance;
- Get more detailed feedback on location information.
The Android app is the first to receive the update, naturally. Download it at Google Play. The iOS version can be found on the Apple’s App Store, with an update to the new version reportedly coming in the next week or so. Both versions of the app are free to download.
The redesigned Google My Business app integrates with the Google Analytics app and the YouTube app to interlink the data needed to manage location information updates, monitor performance, respond to updates and post new content easier. And Google’s suite of apps makes monitoring and managing your local search information simpler when you’re closer to your phone or tablet than your computer.
Having to switch between three apps is not ideal, but at least Google has provided the interlinks. When you move from the Google My Business app to Google Analytics using the app’s navigation, hitting the back arrow takes you back out of Google Analytics and into Google My Business instead of dropping you on your phone’s home screen.
While the Google My Business app does make some functions easier via mobile, you’ll definitely want to upload your locations initially using a computer if you have more than one or two stores.
Getting Started with Google My Business
To get familiarized with what it offers, start at the Google My Business Overview page, which explains all the features and benefits in glossy detail. The Google My Business Help section is more straightforward and may provide a clearer picture on the actual steps to take to get started.
For those who have worked with other iterations of Google business tools, Google My Business has replaced both Google Places for Business and the Google+ Pages Dashboard.
There is no monetary cost for participation in Google My Business, only the time you spend. Depending on how many locations you have and how confident you are in the data you have about each location, the amount of time this takes could be negligible or substantial.
If you have more locations than time, consider starting with your top 10 locations based on their revenue or strategic importance. Dipping your toe in the water will boost the local search benefit for your most important locations and also give you insight into the value of optimizing your remaining locations.
Locations can be entered individually, one by one, or by bulk upload via a spreadsheet for businesses with more than 10 locations. If you’ll have more than one person managing the locations, make sure to create a Business Account. You can share the business account with multiple individuals without having to give out your personal Google password.
It’s important to note that Google My Business makes a distinction between your “brand” as a business and your individual locations. Location pages are essentially the information shown alongside the map in Google search and map results (at left above). Brand pages look like Google+ profile pages (at right above). I recommend claiming and optimizing your brand page as well, but the local business pages are the focus in local search.
Optimizing Local Search
Local search is about more than traditional web search results in Google, Yahoo, and Bing. It encompasses getting found via in-car mapping systems like OnStar, apps like Apple Maps and Google maps, social sites like Foursquare, reviews sites like Yelp and Trip Advisor, and online directories like Yellow Pages.
Local search optimization — driving customers into your stores instead of your competitors’ regardless of where they’re searching — requires distributing accurate, relevant data and content to more than 300 sites and databases. This goes far beyond individual location optimization by manual upload. Optimizing the universe of local search opportunities just isn’t possible without the help of a specialized local search solution provider that uses an advanced software platform.
However, Google My Business is a good place to start. As the leading search engine in the world with a top map platform as well, optimizing local search for your locations on Google’s products will get you a long way.