To attract customers to your small business, you have to have a presence wherever those customers may congregate. From a simple sidewalk sign to an active presence in your community’s Facebook group, the goal is to be top of mind when consumers need your products or services. One of the most effective ways to keep your business front and center is by creating a Google Business Profile.
Wait, is Google My Business dead?
No way! Google My Business is alive and kicking with a new name: Google Business Profile.
When I host Grow with Google marketing classes, I liken the Business Profile to a dating profile for your business. It’s chock full of business information, customer reviews, photos, videos, and several other ways for customers to get to know your brand. Just like a dating profile, the more details and content you add, the better your chance to woo new customers.
For any local business owner, this is, by far, one of the most powerful ways to get noticed when people are searching on Google. But is it worth your time to build and manage a Google Business Profile? To answer that question, let’s dive in to understand what it is and why it matters.
What is a Google Business Profile?
Is it a business listing? Is it a search result? Is it a social media page? Actually, it’s all of the above.
A Google Business Profile is a business listing that lives on Google and contains all of the pertinent information that a customer needs to consider your business. The information and content you add to your profile shows up on both Google Search and Google Maps. It looks like something you might see on Yelp or TripAdvisor, but with higher visibility and more options to customize how you appear.
If you were to search Google for “nail salon near me,” the first thing you’d most likely see is a list of three to four businesses that relate to your search. If you click on any of those business names, their corresponding pin on the map will change color and the information they’ve added to their Business Profile will appear on the screen.
These are all Google Business Profiles, and all of this information appears because it was most likely added to Google by the business itself.
If you peruse through enough listings you will notice that som appear more complete than others because the business owners took the time to optimize their Google Business Profiles.
These optimized listings have a much better chance of showing up on Google because the extra detail signals to the search giant that the business owners care how they appear.
Google Business Profiles also allow you to add posts and offers to them which will appear prominently when someone visits your listing. In this way the platform functions like a social media platform allowing you to share photos, graphics, videos, blog posts and more!
Why Google Business Profiles matter
If you’re sitting there thinking you don’t have the time to create a Google Business Profile, allow me to play Devil’s Advocate. Local businesses with Google Business Profiles get noticed! In fact, the average business is found in 1,009 searches per month, with 84 percent coming from discovery searches.
Local search is powerful
If people are going to learn about a new or existing business in their area, they’ll most likely use Google Search. Sure, some may discover your business by driving by or hearing about it from a friend, but the vast majority of people will discover it by searching on Google.
Optimizing your Google Business Profile will help prospective customers discover your business more often and likely lead to higher transaction value because your attention shines through.
According to Google research, local searches result in a same-day purchase nearly 18 percent of the time. Simply put, you can convert 18 percent of searchers into customers just by making sure your profile is complete and up-to-date!
Micro-moments dictate our buying decisions
Through analyzing its data, Google has found that when people want a product or service, they are willing to forgo brand loyalty to fulfill their need as soon as possible.
Staying with the nail salon example, say you are running errands and you destroy one of your nails. It’s sharp and dangerous, and you cannot wait to get it fixed. You pull out your phone and search “nail salons near me” to find a place to fix it right now.
This is what Google calls a “micro-moment.”
A micro-moment is the instant a consumer needs to know something, go somewhere, do something or buy something.
These moments are critical for businesses because the consumer is ready to purchase and actively looking for your products or services! If you are easy to find online, and your business can satisfy their need, then you have a very good chance of winning new customers.
This micro-moment phenomenon happens more than you think. In a two-year period, Google has reported over 900 percent growth in mobile searches for “___ near me today/tonight,” and that number has continued to grow. People want to know, go, do, or buy within 12 to 24 hours of the thought entering their head.
Using our nail salon example, a potential customer may search for “manicure near me today” or “pedicure near me tonight.” If your nail salon was open until 8 PM with vacant chairs and willing nail technicians ready for new customers, but you had not updated your Google Business Profile to say so, how would that customer know? Better yet, how would Google know that you were open and relevant to the customer’s search?
If you make sure your Google Business Profile is robust and complete, those customers in micro-moments will be able to find you and make the decision to do business with you without having to go to your competition. You can’t let them get away!
Put your business on the map
A Google Business Profile puts your business on the map — literally.
One of the most important functions of a Google Business Profile is that it actually shows your business on Google Maps.
Businesses with storefronts and physical locations cannot afford to be absent from Google Maps.
Creating a profile gives you the opportunity to add complete and accurate information about your location, products and services, and business hours, which will help customers find you.
How to create a Google Business Profile
Are you ready to create or claim your Google Business Profile? The first thing you need to do is sign in to your Google account or create one if you don’t have one already.
Once you are signed in, search your address on Google Maps. On the screen you will see the map on the right and the information on the left. If there is no profile for that address, you will see a link that says “Add Your Business” below the image and address. If there is already a listing auto-generated by Google you will see the link “Claim This Business.”
Verify your business
Once you’ve created (or claimed) your Business Profile, you’ll need to verify ownership.
This step exists to make sure that people aren’t setting up profiles for businesses they don’t own or flooding Google with fake Business Profiles.
Depending on a variety of factors, you may see one or more of the following verification options available:
Postcard: If you select to receive a postcard Google will automatically send a postcard to the address you have used as your business within five days. Once you receive that postcard you will log in and type in the five digit code on the postcard.
Email: In some cases you may be able to verify by email. If that option is available to you, select it and Google will send an email to you with a verification link. Once you click that link you are good to go!
Instant verification: You may be able to use instant verification if you have previously verified your business with Google Search Console. To use this make sure you are creating your business profile with the same Google account associated with Google Search Console.
Video verification: Originally introduced in 2018, Google has brought back video verification to make it much easier and faster to verify your business. You may be presented with a QR Code that will prompt you to record certain videos of your storefront and signage to be uploaded for Google’s review.
Fill out your information
You don’t have to wait for your profile to be completely verified for you to add in more details about your business.
Select what kind of business: Make sure you select what kind of business you are. You can choose from a storefront business if you operate entirely out of a physical location, service-area business if your business provides products and services in a specific area, or a hybrid business if your business does both.
Choose a category: From there you need to choose what category best describes your business. You cannot make up your own category, but Google has more than 3,000 selections to choose from, so be sure to choose the category that best fits your business. This is important because it will dictate what options you get within your profile and how your business shows up in Google Search. (Note: You can add up to nine additional categories.)
Write a description: What would make a customer want to do business with you? Keep that in mind when you write a business description. Tell them what you do and how you do it while adding in one or two keywords to help with your SEO. Don’t include any hyperlinks in this area since it is not allowed and will look like spam.
Add operating hours: One of the most important things on your Google Business Profile is your operating hours. Be sure to accurately fill out your operating hours including any upcoming holidays or pre-planned closures.
Upload photos: Before your profile can be considered complete, you should upload at least five to seven photos of your business. For your cover photo, select what you think best represents your business because this image will be the most visible to searchers. Your profile photo can be a logo or a photo of your sign. From there upload at least five additional photos showing off different aspects of your business like your products, before and after service shots, or your team.
How to edit your profile directly in Google search
Once you build and verify your Google Business Profile, your job is not done. I always recommend setting a weekly or bi-weekly reminder to review and update your Business Profile.
Before you even attempt to find your business to edit the profile, you have to make sure that you are logged in to the correct Google account.
The first way you can access your profile is to visit google.com/business. This option will be phased out in the future and only be accessible to those who are owners of multiple Business Profile accounts, which brings me to your second option.
The better way to access and edit your Business Profile is through Google Search itself. While signed in to your Google account, simply search your business name or type the words “my business” and you will see it appear at the top of the search with the headline “Your business on Google.” Click on “Edit Profile” and you will be able to start editing.
Creating and updating a Google Business Profile is one of the most important things you can do for your small business. Search engines, especially Google, are how most people find the information they are looking for. If you spend your time making sure your business is represented correctly on Google Search, you are allowing those potential customers to find you!
But equity rounds aren’t the only way for a company to raise money — alternative and other non-dilutive financing options are often overlooked. Taking on debt might be the right solution when you’re focused on growth and can see clear ROI from the capital you deploy.
Not all capital providers are equal, so seeking financing isn’t just about securing capital. It’s a matter of finding the right source of funding that matches both your business and your roadmap.
Here are four things you should consider:
Does this match my needs?
It’s easy to take for granted, but securing financing begins with a business plan. Don’t seek funding until you have a clear plan for how you’ll use it. For example, do you need capital to fund growth or for your day-to-day operations? The answer should influence not only the amount of capital you seek, but the type of funding partner you look for as well.
Start with a concrete plan and make sure it aligns with the structure of your financing:
Match repayment terms to your expected use of the debt.
Balance working capital needs with growth capital needs.
It’s understandable to hope for a one-and-done financing process that sets the next round far down the line, but that may be costlier than you realize in the long run.
Your term of repayment must be long enough so you can deploy the capital and see the returns. If it’s not, you may end up making loan payments with the principal.
Say, for example, you secure funding to enter a new market. You plan to expand your sales team to support the move and develop the cash flow necessary to pay back the loan. The problem here is, the new hire will take months to ramp up.
If there’s not enough delta between when you start ramping up and when you begin repayments, you’ll be paying back the loan before your new salesperson can bring in revenue to allow you to see ROI on the amount you borrowed.
Another issue to keep in mind: If you’re financing operations instead of growth, working capital requirements may reduce the amount you can deploy.
Let’s say you finance your ad spending and plan to deploy $200,000 over the next four months. But payments on the MCA loan you secured to fund that spending will eat into your revenue, and the loan will be further limited by a minimum cash covenant of $100,000. The result? You secured $200,000 in financing but can only deploy half of it.
With $100,000 of your financing kept in a cash account, only half the loan will be used to drive operations, which means you’re not likely to meet your growth target. What’s worse, as you’re only able to deploy half of the loan, your cost of capital is effectively double what you’d planned for.
Is this the right amount for me at this time?
The second consideration is balancing how much capital you need to act on your near-term goals against what you can reasonably expect to secure. If the funding amount you can get is not enough to move the needle, it might not be worth the effort required.
Elon Musk said Sunday he “somewhat agonized” over the font designs for his companies Tesla and SpaceX.
The billionaire businessman added he “loves fonts” and has tweaked the logos over the years.
He revealed the SpaceX logo also holds a hidden meaning, representing a rocket’s arc to orbit.
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In a series of Sunday tweets, Elon Musk said he “somewhat agonized” over his choice of fonts for his businesses and revealed a hidden meaning behind the SpaceX logo.
Responding to a tweet about serif and sans-serif fonts, the billionaire businessman took a break from posting cryptic memes and discussing politics to say he loves fonts and put significant consideration into how his companies are presented to consumers.
“I somewhat agonized over the Tesla & SpaceX font design (love fonts tbh),” Musk tweeted. “There are some similarities, particularly use of negative space. We’ve made many little tweaks over the years.”
The Tesla logo — a T-shaped design with a custom, sans-serif font spelling out the brand name — is meant to resemble a cross-section of an electric motor. The SpaceX logo, written in a similar font with an extended X, references the reusable rockets made by the company.
“The swoop of the X is meant to represent the rocket’s arc to orbit,” Musk tweeted.
Other business logos have also held hidden messages: Baskin Robbins, a chain that sells 31 flavors of ice cream, has a secret ’31’ hidden in the letters of its logo. Likewise, Amazon’s arrow logo is meant to represent a smile, while the circular ‘B’ logo for Beats by Dre represents a person wearing the popular headphones.
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The internet has revolutionized the business world and changed how we conduct business. Any business that aims to increase its visibility and boost profit needs to pay much attention to top ranking factors, including local SEO — which introduces the topic of the local search algorithm.
Local SEO is one of the top practices that help boost a business’s visibility and generates more sales.
However, achieving better local SEO rankings is not a walk in the park, especially due to increased competition. To appear higher on local results, businesses and marketers need to understand how the local search algorithm works.
Knowing this helps guide the steps for improving rankings in the local pack.
The competition gets stiffer as more businesses open and optimize for local searching. Besides, Google is updating its algorithm consistently, meaning only businesses that can keep up with these updates can appear at the top of local search results.
Luckily, you have come to this post as this article looks at everything you need to know about Google’s local search algorithm and what you can do to get that top spot in the local pack.
Understanding the local search algorithm
Google aims to provide the best results that match a specific local search query. It constantly updates the local search algorithm to determine which business to rank on top of local search results.
Ideally, Google wants to provide local content that is relevant and valuable to users. As with search engine optimization, keyword stuffing cannot give you that top spot in local search results.
SEO specialists and marketers should consider Google’s local search algorithm updates and make the necessary changes to rank higher. Failure to consider these updates means losing your local search presence, resulting in fewer leads and conversions.
Local algorithms check the Google My Business (GMB) listings to determine where to rank a business in local search rankings.
Ideally, Google’s local algorithm ranks businesses with information that matches a searcher’s query. And the higher a business ranks in local search results, the more chances a potential customer will click on it.
This post looks at the three major pillars that determine local search results to better understand the local search algorithm: proximity, prominence and relevance.
Of course, other factors make up Google’s local search algorithm, but since we cannot identify all of them, we’ll focus on the most crucial ones in this post.
By understanding these pillars, marketers can better position themselves for local search success.
Proximity is one of the major ranking factors when it comes to local search. That means the distance between a business and a searcher is a ranking factor in local search.
When a searcher searches for something, Google considers how far the searcher is from the location of the term they use in the search. When a searcher doesn’t specify the location, Google calculates the distance based on the information they have regarding their location.
Ideally, Google aims to provide the most relevant results to a search query. For instance, why would Google provide a list of coffee shops in Los Angeles if the searcher is searching from Colombia?
That would be irrelevant local search results that won’t benefit the searcher.
Unfortunately, while proximity is a major local search pillar, it’s one of the factors that businesses have little control over. After all, you cannot change where your business is located, right?
You can only ensure your business location is as clear as possible, so that it appears for related nearby queries. Here are steps you can take to achieve this:
Claim and verify the Google My Business listing
Ensure local listings are accurate and optimized for local products or services
Get the Google Maps API Key and optimize for your location and routes
Set up your profile correctly (for Service Area Businesses) to avoid violating Google’s guidelines
Users can perform several types of local searches, including:
Users will perform geo-modified searches when they are planning to visit somewhere. For instance, a searcher in Los Angeles planning to visit Toronto, Canada, may search for a “coffee shop in Oakville.” The results will differ from if they searched for “coffee” while physically in Oakville.
To be specific, geo-modified searches are mainly based on relevance and prominence as opposed to proximity when a user searches for something when outside the city included in the search.
Searchers perform this type of search when looking for something around them. For instance, a user in Los Angeles performing a local search for “coffee.”
Ideally, the user only needs to search for something and is shown results based on proximity. They will get the results that are closest to them.
“Near me” searches
“Near me” searches have been so popular in recent years. Although their popularity has significantly declined, users still perform this type of search when looking for something locally.
For instance, some users could add “near me” when searching for a coffee shop, hoping to get the most relevant results near them. As we’ve stated, this trend has lost popularity because when you perform a local search, you are searching for something near you.
It is not necessary to add “near me” to what you’re searching.
Prominence refers to how important Google thinks your business is, which gets factored into the local search algorithm.
In other words, it refers to how well a business stands from the rest in various aspects, including directories, links, reviews, mentions, among other things.
If search engines view your business as trustworthy and credible, they will likely show it on top of related search query results.
The local search algorithm views businesses/brands with a stronger online prominence as credible and trustworthy. Some of the factors that determine prominence include:
A local citation is the mention of a business’s information online. The mention can include the partial or complete name, address, and phone number (NAP) of a local business.
Citations are an excellent way for people to learn about local businesses and impact local search results.
A business with high-quality citations can rank better in local search results, although businesses must continually manage citations to ensure data accuracy.
Backlinks play a crucial role in local business prominence. Gaining relevant backlinks from high-quality sites is an excellent way to build a business’ online reputation.
If you’re trying to outrank your competitors without much success, your backlink profile could be the reason.
In that case, you should check your competitor’s backlinks and compare them with yours. When doing this, pay attention to the number and quality of their backlinks.
As a rule of thumb, aim to have high-quality local backlinks pointing to your site to improve your page’s authority.
Next, you need to pay much attention to reviews to improve local prominence. Many customers look at a business’s online reviews before deciding whether to engage more with the business or not. Besides, many positive online reviews can increase a business’ ranking factors.
Consider this scenario. A potential customer is looking for a pub around Oakville. When they perform a search, they are presented with two results: one with over 100 reviews and another with less than 10 reviews.
Which business do you think the searcher would trust? The one with 100 reviews, obviously.
As with search engines, customers need to trust a business before they decide to do business with it. Similarly, search engines can view online reviews and analyze them to determine a business’s online prominence.
That said, here are strategies you can use to boost your online review signals:
Have a strategy
You won’t have a strong online prominence if your products or services are not of a high standard. So, the first step to having many great reviews is to develop great products and services.
After that, develop a strategy to encourage your happy customers to leave honest but valuable reviews of their experience doing business with you to help boost your online reputation.
Monitor and manage the reviews
Having many reviews is one thing; you need to develop a plan to engage with your customers for better results. Responding to reviews shows people that you care and are genuine about your products and services.
People will avoid businesses that don’t respond to customer reviews (whether positive or negative).
Search engines, too, can tell whether you engage with customer reviews or not and will use the information to determine where to rank on local search results.
When responding to online reviews, pay special attention to negative reviews and how you respond to them. While no business likes getting negative reviews, how you respond to them can positively impact your business — respond positively to turn the negative reviews around.
As earlier stated, Google wants to provide the most relevant results to a local search query. This key ranking factor will determine a business’s position in local search results — how well does a local business match a search query?
Even if your business ticks the above pillars (prominence and proximity), if the content on your page isn’t well structured and doesn’t cover the topics that a searcher is looking for, you won’t appear on top of local search results.
Here are factors that businesses should consider to create a relevant listing:
Local page signals
Local listing categories and attributes
Social posts and responses to online reviews
Local listing signals and categories
A business GMB listing and category can impact its relevance score for local searches. As such, complete your business profile carefully and continually add quality content to the web page to ensure it is relevant for proximity searches.
More specifically, ensure that all information on all listing pages, including Yelp, Bing, and Google, is complete and accurate. Aside from these factors, here are two crucial features you should pay attention to:
Selecting the right categories for your local business listing is among the crucial factors for ranking locally. With over 4000 GMB categories, you want to choose categories that best describe your business — ensure they are relevant and specific.
Here are guidelines to follow when selecting a category:
Describe your business as opposed to your services
Be specific to minimize competition
Reduce the number of GMB categories to describe your business better
Without a proper description, users won’t know what your business is about. This section is about adding an introduction to your business so that customers and search engines can know more about your business.
However, don’t use this section for marketing your business. Just give users and search engines descriptive info that can help determine whether your business matches their needs.
Local page signals
Another way a business can improve its standing in the local search algorithm is by optimizing web pages for specific keywords. For multi-location businesses, it’s essential to have separate, localized pages for each location, with relevant information and contact details for customers to reach you.
Performing competitor research is advisable to determine what terms or keywords to use for a specific query. Here are top on-page signals to consider when trying to gain relevance for a given topic:
Keyword research — Before creating local content, you need to find keywords that matter to your business. Perform keyword research to determine highly relevant keywords with high intent. When finding relevant terms to use in your content, base your research on the customer perspective; think about what they search for and the type of content they are looking for.
Create local content — After finding the right keywords, it’s time to create your content. Google values the quality of content more than the length of the content, so keep this in mind when creating content. Another crucial thing to pay attention to is localizing the content. For example, you can create content on local news and events or use your city’s name within your content.
The goal is to create a connection between what’s happening in your local area and your business. Also, use pictures with your specific geolocation to increase your content relevance.
Creating quality and relevant content is only the start. You need to optimize your content for on-page signals so local search algorithms can discover and rank them better. Here’s how you can optimize your local content for on-page signals:
Meta descriptions — Include keywords in your meta descriptions to encourage searchers to click through and increase visibility
Title tags — Title tags are some of the factors that search engines use to determine where to rank content. Incorporating keywords naturally in your title tags can help boost local rankings
Image tags — Another way to improve local rankings is by including relevant keywords in your image tags. Including geotags also comes with an added advantage
Headings — Users and Google value pages with clear structures. Consider creating headings within your content to capture readers’ attention and encourage them to read on. However, ensure your heading tags describe the content that comes after them well. Also, include keywords in your heading tags to help search engines understand them and their importance.
Off-page local signals
Gaining high-quality backlinks is a great way to boost credibility and trust. Backlinks refer to external links from another website to your site. Aim to have more high-quality backlinks to boost your website authority.
Ideally, having many quality backlinks shows search engines that your website or page is credible and trustworthy, which boosts the chances of ranking it higher in search engine results.
Guest posting is one of the best examples of link-building strategies you can use. Finding great guest posting opportunities provides an excellent opportunity to share your content to a new but relevant audience, which helps boost your website authority.
Another strategy you can use is to create longer and better content than what is already available on the web. When your content is high quality and relevant, it will be easier to get high-quality backlinks.
Review and social signals
Online reviews can also help boost relevance for your local business. Aim to get as many positive reviews from your happy customers as possible.
Remember, when customers perform a local search, they get not only the relevant businesses but also reviews related to the search. The more positive reviews a business has, the higher chances a potential customer will do business with them.
Closing thoughts on the local search algorithm
Ranking on top of local search results can seem daunting, but it shouldn’t when you know the vital things to focus on. As you have seen above, the local algorithm is based on three pillars: relevance, proximity, and prominence.
Of course, other factors determine local search rankings depending on your industry and competition.