9 Common Google My Business Mistakes To Avoid

Have you set up your Google My Business (GMB) to succeed or to fail? Your GMB Knowledge Panel (KP) should be chock-full of awesome and vital information about your business. It is your opportunity to let your customers get the much-needed information they crave.

When was the last time you checked your GMB KP? If it has been a while, you should double-check your information to ensure this valuable information is complete and correct. Here is what a standard KP looks like, using SEMrush as the example.

The vital information Google displays:

  • See Photos
  • See Outside aka Streetview
  • Map
  • Website
  • Directions
  • Reviews
  • Address
  • Hours
  • Phone number
  • Questions and answers
  • About

If you are not monitoring any of the above information and it’s incorrect, you are providing a bad user experience and probably losing out on acquiring new customers. Below are the nine most common GMB mistakes business owners make. They are all easily rectified. You need to monitor your listing, or these mistakes might affect your listing and your bottom line.

Nine Common “Google My Business” Fails

1. Unclaimed Listings:

If you do not claim your GMB, how are you going to manage it? You won’t be able to reply to reviews. While you can suggest edits on your address, phone number, website URL, and hours, claiming your GMB listing gives you far more control. Without claiming, you can even upload photos, but it will be from a customer and not as the owner. The Google My Business team will not be able to assist your concerns while the listing is unverified, and you will not be able to use or create Google Posts. Ultimately, you’re missing out on a valuable tool you can use to improve your business listing. 

If your listing is not claimed and left dormant long enough, a user can suggest an edit that the listing does not exist. Google more than likely will accept that edit and delete the listing. If your listing is unclaimed, you run the risk of another company coming in and either claiming your listing or editing your information and adding their telephone number and website. Since the listing is left unclaimed, Google will not be able to alert you that the information has been updated or changed and your business can be hurt.

The easiest way to claim your GMB listing is directly from the Knowledge Panel. Click the “Own This Business” and follow the steps.

2. Closed Businesses:

If your business shut down, please mark your business as permanently closed. You can do this in your Google My Business dashboard. Although you may no longer have need for the listing, it presents a bad user experience. If a potential customer attempts to visit you only to discover you are closed, they will become upset that they wasted their time. Google filters out closed GMB listings to prevent them from coming up in the map pack. 

3. Missing Information:

If you have set up your GMB listing and have not checked it recently, your listing could be missing vital information. The most common missing pieces of vital information are hours, website URLs and phone numbers. How are your customers going to know when you are open or how to contact you if this information is missing? Potential customers are going to go to your competitor if they are unable to reach you.

I don’t know of any business that wants to lose potential customers to their competition. Log in to your GMB account and check that all of your information is A) listed, and B) correct. If it’s not, you’re working for the other guy.

4. Incorrect Information:

Having incorrect information is actually worse than not displaying information. If you do not update your hours and potential customers show up at your location only to find out that you are closed, they’ll be upset. When I had to take my car to get smogged, I checked their Google listing for the hours of the business I was going to. They did not open when they said that they would, so I left a negative review for them. Then, I went to their competitor and left them a positive review; this is how it works.

5. Map Pins:

Map pins are often overlooked, and too often they are in the wrong place. I have found map pins on the opposite end of a shopping center, in the middle of the parking lot or in the street; this doesn’t help potential customers. More and more people are using GPS programs, and they don’t want to be directed to the wrong spot. If they can’t find you, they may call you or just assume that your business is shut down and go elsewhere.

6. Ignored Reviews:

Reviews are one area where business owners mess up the most. For starters, they ignore or don’t reply to the reviews, positive or negative. Consumers want to see a business that is engaged with its customers. If you don’t reply to the reviews, you are showing potential customers that you don’t care, and they will go elsewhere. Reply to both positive and negative reviews.

I booked a massage for my wife’s birthday. She enjoyed it so much that I left positive reviews on all of the review platforms they were listed on. The owner, replied to me directly to thank me for my review and kind words. It felt great to be appreciated and acknowledged.

Replying to negative reviews is tough and not enjoyable. Sadly, I see business owners respond in anger, lash out, and insult the reviewer. While you may want to tell the customer to take a hike, you need to know that future customers will see your reply and judge you on your response. Your future sales are also dependant on your response. No one wants to deal with a jackass.

Some ways to reply to a negative review:

  • That is not how we want our customers to feel.
  • We are going to address this and ensure that it won’t happen again.
  • Please contact us, so we can address this with you directly.

7. Google Customer Missed Q&A

Q and A is a new feature, and because of this, it’s an element that gets ignored a lot. There are a lot of questions from potential customers that could translate into new sales. If you don’t answer them, they will be left unanswered or answered by somebody else. What if the answer that is provided is wrong?

Google allows business owners to post their own questions, so post the ‘frequently asked questions’ you get. If users can get the information from your listing, they won’t need to call you or a competitor looking for the answer, and you can focus your time on the customer in front of you.

8. Photos:

Photos are often neglected. I have seen businesses that only have the Streetview. Sometimes the only other photo is from a customer. The example below is a photo taken by someone sitting in their car; you can even see the dashboard, which is not an overly attractive picture for a business. Also, if you’re not careful, Google will cull a photo from the wrong Facebook page or a news article.

I recommend adding five to eight exterior and five to eight interior photos with and without staff. Pictures with people look much better than empty storefronts and lobbies. Show off your personality and let people see that real people who work at your business and that employees are capable of smiling. Play around taking photos at different times of the day to see which photos you like more. Ask your friends and staff to vote on which pictures they like. You can also hire a Google Trusted Photographer to take a 360-degree tour of your location, and they also snap staff photos.

9. Located In:

Google now allows users to edit the Located In feature in Google My Business. The example of RedBox below was shown in the wrong business; I also noticed that the hours are missing. You need to perform a Google search to verify that your GMB shows the correct “located in” location. With this feature, you can advise users that you are located in a specific store, shopping center, grocery store, building or in a mall to help make it easier for your customers to find you.

All nine of these common GMB mistakes can be easily rectified. If you have a Google My Business, you need to perform an audit on your listing. Look for any of these glaring issues that might be affecting your listing, and correct them. Your customers will appreciate it, and you might find it’s the key ingredient between remaining in business or closing down permanently.

Post courtesy of SEMRush.

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What Does the End of Google+ Mean for Local Businesses?

Google+ Is Dead

Well, you’ve no doubt already heard the news that Google is shutting down its beleaguered social network, Google+ in August 2019. For many of us, this comes as no surprise. The platform has seen fading traffic and, and beyond the activity of a scant few forums, there have been very few reasons to use it.

What has come as a surprise to many is the fact that shuttering Google+’s doors is due not to stagnating use but the revelation that the platform suffered an until-now hidden data leak that potentially affected up to 500,000 accounts.

The other shocker isn’t that it had that many users (b’dum tish) but that it’s the exact same API weakness that allowed Cambridge Analytica to misuse Facebook data. No wonder they tried to keep it hidden!

G’bye, Google+!

Google has a chequered history of trying to force the influence of Google+ on other parts of its service, from putting search weight behind content authors’ G+ profiles via the ‘rel=author’ tag and encouraging people to ask questions on G+ to highlighting ‘Latest Posts’ in SERPs. The failure of these attempts at forcing people to use Google+ should be an encouraging reminder to all that even monopolies can have their bad days.

As with any big update The Big G makes, it’s important to take a look at your local business operations and adjust as necessary. While its closure shouldn’t technically affect your local SEO, Google+’s claws were in many places (remember when they forced YouTube and Google+ together?), so I’d recommend taking a look at the below.

What should local businesses do now that Google+ is closing?

Breathe a sigh of relief

Well, that’s one less thing to worry about. Google+ was part of a wave of new social networks that all positioned themselves as pretenders to the twin crowns of Facebook and Twitter, and for a time every local business owner was swimming in apps, wondering which platform was going to be the next breakthrough hit.

With the exception of image-based networks like Pinterest, Instagram and Snapchat, the new frontier of social media never really materialized. They hung around, sure (Google+ longer than most), but today we focus our sights on the few social media platforms that are truly right for our businesses.

However, this sudden shuttering is a reminder that everything online is transient, temporary. It’s unlikely that you’ve been saving your best content for Google+, but it’s just good practice to place it on your website, which you have total control of, first and foremost. Then you can push it out to social networks.

Put more effort into Google My Business Posts

Google+ may be going, but Google My Business Posts is just getting started. It may not be a social network but it does present a great opportunity to use the kind of content you might have been posting to Google+ in a way that captures people’s attention right there in the SERPs, as part of your GMB profile.

With a 1,400 word limit per GMB Post, there are big opportunities for a variety of announcement and content types here.

Don’t worry: this won’t affect your local SEO

Although there once was a time when Google Places (now Google My Business) was integrated heavily with Google+, with the introduction of Google+ Local, that was six long years ago and the relevance of G+ on local SEO in recent years has been pretty much nil. So take heart in the fact that this is one Google update you won’t have to tear your hair out over.

Delete your account?

As for your Google+ personal and business profiles, I’d recommend downloading or saving everything you’d like to keep from them before the platform closes its doors for good. You can do this using an official Google tool called Google Takeout.

Whether you delete your profiles entirely or let Google remove them when the time comes is up to you, but personally I’m a bit too organized to leave a thread like that dangling (that’s if I can find my password, of course). Plus if the platform is susceptible to data leaks it might make sense to take that data out of their hands sooner rather than later.

Ditch the social sharing buttons from your site

Ah, there’s nothing like getting rid of fluff from your site. You’ve probably long squinted at the minimal interactions your G+ sharing buttons have been getting compared to others, and will celebrate the fact that you can now get shot of them.

Make sure you take stock of all the places Google+ is linked to throughout your site and beyond, such as:

  • Social sharing buttons
  • Icon links to social networks in website header/footer
  • Company and personal email signatures
  • In-store signage
  • ‘Write a G+ review’ links
  • Printed marketing collateral

A professional perspective

I admit I wasn’t an avid user of Google+, so I wanted to get the opinion of someone who used it a lot. Here’s SteadyDemand’s Ben Fisher with his eulogy:

“Google+ helped nearly 1,000 of our customers connect with their current and future customers in a meaningful way for the past six years. Having the ability to boost local rankings based on interactions with semantically relevant content that people actually read was a silver bullet for many of our agency clients.

“Our clients and team enjoyed using the platform tremendously and are very sad that it’s closing in August of next year. We understand the platform will still be available for enterprise use beyond August, but can’t profess loudly enough that today’s version of Google+ is loved by those who use it and will be sorely missed. We encourage everyone to use Google+ while it’s still available; we certainly will!”

What do you think?

As we say adieu to Google+, it just remains for me to see what you all thought of the platform. Did you find some use with it, or was it just another thing to keep track of?

New Migration Tool for the Google My Business Agency Dashboard

Google My Business Agency Dashboard Migration

The new Google My Business Agency Dashboard was released back in June of this year to help agencies better organize and manage a large number of listings. One of the challenges that agencies had when this first launched was how to get all the listings from dozens of separate accounts merged into one. Google just announced yesterday that they are launching a tool to help with this!

The migration tool shows up on the overview tab of the Google My Business agency dashboard at the bottom.

When you click the “Get Started” button it allows you to login to another Google My Business account and transfer all the locations from that account to your agency account in one step.

When we were doing this we ran into an issue because my employees all have their own Google accounts and I don’t want to know their passwords to login myself.  If you’re in that situation, this is what you can do as a workaround.

  1. Create a new Gmail that everyone on your team will have access to.
  2. Add that Gmail as a member of your organization in the Google My Business agency dashboard.
  3. Have everyone login to that Gmail and click the migration tool that appears on the Overview tab and migrate their own accounts.
  4. Once this is done, they will all transfer to the agency dashboard since the Gmail is a member.
  5. Once you confirm the listings are all in the agency dashboard you can remove the Gmail as a user.

The other thing this migration tool accomplishes is that it easily allows organizations to add their employees to the agency dashboard.  Previously, we ran into issues because all my employees had GMB listings in their Google accounts and in order for me to add them as members, they had to empty their entire account.  This is not ideal since it can disconnect Google Ads Location Extensions and it can be time-consuming to manually remove yourself from dozens of listings.  The migration tool solves this issue because they can simply migrate all their listings and select the option to remove the listings from their accounts in the same step.

Citations Tips if You Want to Hide Your Address

Hide Your Address

Not all local business owners want customers to show up at their door, but they all want customers to know about their business, and purchase their goods/services. If you’re a business that operates from home, you may want to hide your address to keep it private.

There are also Service-Area-Businesses (SAB) that go to clients, businesses that are not staffed during operating hours, and decentralized offices that require the ability to keep their addresses private, while still wanting to be found locally, create a strong online presence, and connect with customers.

Is it possible to build citations and not share your address? Yes, but your options for sources are limited. Before we get to the sources let’s take a quick look at why some businesses want to hide their address, if this can have a negative impact, and alternative address solutions.

Why Would You Want to Hide Your Address?

  • The business operates out of their home and they are extremely uncomfortable with sharing their address and the risk of having a potential customer show up at their front door.
  • The company operates as a SAB and customers are not served at their location.
  • The business isn’t staffed during regular hours, and they don’t want anyone to show up at the location to find no one there.
  • It’s a virtual office and it isn’t staffed or it’s staffed but by the V.O. employees who aren’t equipped with the knowledge of your company.
  • The business uses a shared co-working space, but they aren’t always there at consistent hours, and it’s not an ideal location to help serve clients.

Is It Harmful to Your Local Visibility to Hide Your Address?

Harmful, no, but you will be limiting your citation opportunities if you’re adamant about never showing your address. There are far less options, and you miss out on most industry and city specific citation sources, as the majority of these sites won’t let you hide your address. So you will have to ask yourself how important hiding your address is versus taking full advantage of all of the available citation opportunities.

But Google’s Guidelines Say I Have to Hide My Address

According to the Google My Business guidelines, if your business is un-staffed during business hours, then you are required to hide your address; showing your address in this case is against their terms of services and you risk having your listing suspended and removed if you don’t comply.

Google is the only site that requires SAB’s and home-based businesses to hide their address, though. These are just the guidelines on Google, and Google doesn’t care whether your address is visible on other sites or not.

Our Recommendation

Most businesses with home-based addresses don’t want people showing up at their door, but they would still like to maximize their potential to rank in local search. We recommend that you hide your address on the sites that will let you, but you still build citations on the rest of the sites. The thing is, all of the sites that have actual humans looking up business information let you hide your address: Google, Bing, Facebook, Yelp, Yellowpages, etc. Your address is going to be effectively hidden for the most part. It’s very rare that someone finds your business listing on more obscure sites such as bizvotes.com.

Plus, there is no guarantee that your business address will stay private/hidden online even if you only list your business on sites that let you hide your address. There are many listing sites that get their information directly from government databases, business registries and so on, and these sources will have the registered business address that you used in your documentation. Your address is likely to show up somewhere online no matter how hard you try to prevent it.

So, we recommend:

  • Hide your address on the sites that will let you.
  • But also build citations on the other sites as well, because it’s very unlikely that actual humans will come across your address information on these sites anyway, so you might as well get the benefits of more complete citation building work.

Maybe You Should Just Get an Office?

If there is absolutely no way you can have your address on the internet, then you could consider getting a different address for your business. There are plenty of alternate options available to business owners when it comes to establishing a base location, but should you be using them?

P.O. Boxes
Using a P.O. Box for your business is an outdated practice. You absolutely are not allowed to have a Google My Business listing if you do use one. This means you miss the opportunity to rank in the local pack, local finder, and maps.

With the amount of competition that’s already out there and the challenges to rank enough as it is, we view the P.O. Box strategy as a hard no, especially when there are far better alternatives.

Virtual Office
Virtual offices were all the rage in the past for home-based businesses, SAB’s, and startups, etc (think Regus, UPS, Da Vinci). However, if you do pay for virtual office you’re still required to hide the address on GMB if you do not keep it staffed during business hours. This isn’t a deal breaker though because a virtual office will still give you the flexibility to publish the address freely on other citation sites.

What is an issue with virtual offices though, is the bad reputation they’ve acquired over the years, and if you’re using a V.O. address and still not going to be there to meet clients at the location, why bother? It would be better to use your home-based address. There is also the risk that Google will hard suspend your business listing for using a virtual office (this applies to businesses who are not adhering to the guidelines). But with guidelines constantly changing there is the risk of having your listing removed, and being stuck with finding a new business address.

Co-working Spaces
Co-working spaces offer a unique opportunity for businesses to rent an office, work in a collaborative area, gain access to meeting rooms, and run their business operations out of an affordable shared space. These spaces are physically occupied, have regular hours, and are often staffed with a receptionist.

If the space is setup well and follows the GMB guidelines, then it can be a great alternative to other address options, and potentially provide a solution to having a hidden address and limited citation options. Many co-working spaces provide additional services such as mail forwarding, extra office amenities, a chance to collaborate with other business owners, and a location to meet with clients when needed.

There are still potential issues that can arise from this option, you have to be there during your stated hours or you will be required to hide your address. Then there’s a small risk of having your GMB listing getting merged or worse, removed. It’s also crucial that you have your own unique phone number, that is separate from the co-sharing location’s business line.

Super Cheap Office Space
Depending on what city you operate your business out of, it’s very possible that you could find an affordable office space, and eliminate the headache of having to hide your address. We think this is the most ideal option if you are adamant about not having your address on the internet. Please note that to have this new office address visible on Google, and be in compliance with guidelines, you still need to have that office staffed during your stated hours.

Wrapping It Up

To recap, here are the scenarios and our recommendations:

Situation: you have a home-based business and you don’t want people showing up at your door.

Recommendation: hide your address on the sites that will let you, but still build citations on other sites because:

  1. You’ll have more citations and increase your likelihood of ranking.
  2. Hardly any real humans are ever going to see your listings on the other sites.
  3. Your address will likely make its way on to the internet anyway because of government databases.

Situation: under no circumstance can the address of your business be found online.

Recommendation: get an office space of some kind (see options above) and use that for all of your online listings instead of your home address.

Get The List

Go to our resources page to see the list and download your copy. There are a few tips and tricks for getting your business listed with no address on some of these sites. These sources are also quality sites that impact the local search ecosystem.

 

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