Google's business listings first emerged in 2004 under the name “Google Local”. Over the years it has evolved from Google Local, to Google Maps, to Google Places, to Google+ Local and now Google My Business (with perhaps a few more lesser-known names in between).
Because Google My Business is so heavily integrated into Google Search, Google Maps, and even Google Adwords, it is now one of the most powerful and valuable Google services for a business owner.
Getting Started With Google My Business
Like any other Google property, you will need a Google account. First, head over to https://places.google.com and click on the big “START NOW” button in the right corner.
Creating Your Google My Business Listing
If Google does not recognize your business, you will need to create one. This is simple enough, just fill in the business information in the form:
The most important things are the Name, Address, and Phone Number (NAP) of your business.
Be sure these are correct and consistent with other instances online, particularly your website. Here are some helpful notes when adding your NAP:
Entering Your Business Name
For your Business Name, make sure you use the business name you would like to appear on the web. This does not necessarily need to be your official, registered name.
Formatting Your Address
Putting in the correct address format can be tricky since there are so many different ways to input it. What complicates things further is different directories online seem to have different formats.
Start by entering the street address in the first line, and then adding a line for the suite or unit number. Google is sometimes finicky with how it displays unit numbers, so you may have to adjust it after.
Optimizing Your Phone Number
Keep the phone number simple with the ###-###-#### format. If you are expecting many out of country calls it may make sense to put the +1 at the front.
Claiming Your Listing
Once your listing has been created the next step will be to claim it. The standard claiming method is to verify address ownership by requesting a postcard by mail. Postcards usually arrive in about 5 business days.
They contain a PIN number which will need to be entered into your profile dashboard.
Once you claim your listing it will be verified on Google and you will have full access to managing the business listing information.
Now if your business already exists on Google Maps (you didn't need to create it) the claiming process is usually much easier.
First, search for your business on Google. If you find your listing and it has an “Own this business?” link, you're in luck.
Click the link and it will allow you to receive the verification code by phone or text, in addition to the postcard. This will allow you to skip the wait time and claim your listing immediately.
Get Google's Help
Navigating Google My Business is by no means a walk in the park. I have had my fair share of frustrations over the years.
The biggest issues you will run into are usually related to claiming and verifying the listing, especially if it has already been claimed or verified by someone else.
Here are some helpful tips I have found that can ease the process:
- Google My Business support is surprisingly effective. Just click the “Help” link in the footer of the dashboard and select your issue. Most issues will require you to submit a ticket or request to Google, but I have found their email support to be quite responsive.
- They still have a callback option though it's buried deep in the Help options. Click Need More Help > Ownership or access to my business > Someone else owns or verified my service area business and request a callback. Someone from Google will call you and usually is willing to help with any issue, not just for service area businesses.
- I've heard that contacting the Google My Business team through social media (Facebook chat or Twitter DM) is more effective because it will go directly to their Google My Business team in Mountain View, CA. I have had mixed results with this, from an immediate response for some cases to a 3-4 day delay for others.
Google My Business Should Be A Priority
If you are a small or medium sized business, you absolutely should invest the time and effort into your Google My Business page. Do not overlook this online profile as it is your best bet to get your business found online, and it's free!
Google is constantly improving these business listings like allowing owners to now include posts. This allows for more engagement with customers.
Google My Business is a powerful tool that is only becoming more and more popular. It is an industry standard that legitimizes your company online and attracts customers. Stand out and get ahead, create your business profile today!