New Google My Business Features For Your Business

gmb profile

I wanted to share some recently introduced Google My Business features that a majority of local businesses are not yet using. They were discussed in details during the ‘office hours’ webinar hosted by Local Marketing Institute.

These new features can help you further promote your offers or content and encourage/enable new ways for users to interact with your business. So without further delay, let’s dig into these 3 new(er) features:

GMB Posts:

screenshot of google my business profile

Google Posts are similar to Facebook posts, except that you need to log in to your Google My Business dashboard and then create a post in there.

The advantage is that your post will show up on the knowledge graph when people search for your business on the Google search engine.

In this post, you can promote blog posts, events, offers etc…

As you can see, a thumbnail of the image, dates, short description and a link to your website or landing page can all be included.

Keep In Mind:

  • Posts will stay live for 7 days, after which they just get archived
  • It will be shown on mobile (Android and IOS), Google maps, desktop and tablets
  • Although there is no conclusive evidence, it appears that these posts can positively influence your business ranking on maps and organic search

Questions & Answers

google my business ask a question

google my business respond to client

This was a feature that was rolled out a couple of months ago. It allows users to ask a question which can be answered by anyone in the community and by the business owner.

To manage conversations, the owner needs to be logged into the associated Google account on an Android mobile phone or tablet. IOS devices do not have the ability to manage these conversations yet.

If you are signed in to that Google account on your Android phone/tablet, you will receive a push notification when someone asks a question or someone in the community responds to the question.

Just the way reviews show up, the name of the person who asks or answers the question will show up. If the user is a ‘Local Guide’, then that badge will show next to the person’s name. If the business owner responds to a question, it will show up as a response from the business.

Keep In Mind:

  • Only Google maps on Android/tablet can be used to manage Q&A’s
  • You have to be signed in to the respective Google account
  • You get push notifications on mobile when people ask or answer questions
  • Anyone can answer questions – answers will show up as answered by individuals name, individuals name (local guide), or the business owner

GMB Messaging

google my business messaging

Business owners can login to the Google My Business dashboard and turn on messaging.

They can choose the phone number which will receive the messages if consumers choose to engage with the business in this way.

The option to message a business is, currently, only going to be visible to users who find the business listing via mobile web search. They will not see the option to message the business if they find the business on their desktops/laptops.

Interactions will be exactly the same as regular text messaging as the message from the user will reach the SMS app on the listed business phone number.

Keep In Mind:

  • Use Allo (app by Google) if you want to separate personal texts from business texts. It will allow business texts to be directed to the Allo app.
  • Enable if you can commit to reply within, at least, a day. Although, Facebook and Google want businesses to reply almost immediately – which is not always practical.

Note: If you are a dental clinic or a law firm, the Google My Business guidelines are slightly different than what they are for regular businesses. The features discussed above will still be applicable. But we had recently published a post to highlight some of these differences. Click here to read it.

Google My Business For Doctors And Lawyers

Google my business for doctors and lawyers

How is Google My Business unique for Doctors and Lawyers? According to Google policy, doctors and lawyers are allowed to have their individual practitioner listings with the same address and phone number as the business page of the clinic or law firm that they work with.

This is because doctors and lawyers are often associated with multiple clinics or firms and Google wants to allow users the option to review the practitioners instead of the clinic or firm. Such practitioner listings are not considered duplicate listings by Google. 

Google Policy on this is:

Multiple Practitioners At One Location

If the practitioner is one of the several public-facing practitioners at this location:

  • The organization should create a listing for this location, separate from that of the practitioner.
  • The title of the listing for the practitioner should include only the name of the practitioner, and shouldn’t include the name of the organization

Solo Practitioners That Belong To Branded Organizations

If a practitioner is the only public-facing practitioner at a location and represents a branded organization, it’s best for the practitioner to share a listing with the organization. Create a single listing, named using the following format: [brand/company]: [practitioner name].

Acceptable: “Allstate: Joe Miller” (if Joe is the sole public-facing practitioner at this Allstate-branded location)

This post addresses practitioner listings when multiple practitioners work at one location and we cover what happens when:

  1. A practitioner works at multiple locations
  2. The practitioner stops working at a location
  3. A practitioner moves to a different city/country

We will also conclude with some of our personal thoughts on why this is not a perfect system and how it can be improved.

When A Practitioner Works At Multiple Locations

If a practitioner works at multiple clinics/law firms, then the practitioner should have a separate Google Business listing for each of the locations. The hours of operation will need to be different for each listing. E.g:

  1. John Miller, MMD; 111 A Street, City, State, Zipcode; 666-666-6666; Mon-Fri 9 am to 11 am; X Clinics Website
  2. John Miller, MMD; 222 B Street, City, State, Zipcode; 777-777-7777; Mon-Fri 1 pm to 3 pm; Y Clinics Website
  3. John Miller; MMD; 333 C Street, City, State, Zipcode; 888-888-8888; Mon-Fri 4 pm to 6 pm; Z Clinics Website

This allows users to search for the practitioner’s name and find his/her information in the knowledge graph. It enables a user to leave a review for the practitioner instead of the clinic/law firm.

Note: The name of the practitioner should not include the clinic/law firm’s name. E.g. do not put the name as X Clinic: John Miller, MMD or John Miller, MMD: X Clinic.

Also Note: Practitioner listings should be owned and controlled by the practitioner and not the organization that he/she is working at. It is best for a practitioner to claim all his/her listings with the same email address. This way, when he/she logs in to business.google.com, all the listings will be visible on one dashboard as shown below –

google my business screenshot

When A Practitioner Stops Working At A Location

If a practitioner stops working at a particular clinic/law firm, then he/she should mark the listing with that location’s address as ‘Permanently Closed’. To do so, he/she would log in to business.google.com and select ‘Manage Location’ for the location that he/she quit.

Google my business map screenshot

 

Then, select ‘Info’ from the left column and choose ‘Close or remove this listing’. This is where they can choose to ‘Mark as Permanently Closed’.

Note: The other option within ‘Close or remove this listing’ is to ‘Remove Listing’. This option simply undoes the verification of the page. It takes away your ability to manage that page, respond to reviews and also lets anyone (yes, anyone) claim that page to be their own (requiring verification).

When A Practitioner Moves To A Different City/Country

When A Practitioner Moves To A Different City Within The Same Country

If a practitioner moves his/her residence, he/she may start working at a new location/locations and quit the clinics/law firms he/she was working at previously.

In this case, the practitioner can create newly verified listings for the locations he/she is working at now and get them verified. Then he/she can request Google to mark the old listings as ‘Moved to a New Location’ and punch in the details of the new location. By doing so, the review strength of the practitioner will be passed over to the new listing.

When A Practitioner Moves To A New Country

If the practitioner moves to a new country, then the old listing cannot be ‘moved to the new location’. In this case, the old listing will need to be marked as ‘permanently closed’. Remember, this does not remove the listing from the Google database. However, it does eventually delete the listing when there is no engagement with the listing. But this can take 1-2 years and there is nothing that can be done to speed up the process.

Why Can This Get Complex?

From a local search optimization point of view, NAP (Name, Address, Phone Number) consistency is the elusive goal that we are constantly chasing. When one address gets associated with multiple listings, it can be a recipe for disaster.

There is a high probability that many business directories pull information about local businesses from Google. So we may be dealing with one instance of a John Miller, MMD Google Business profile right now but in the future, there could be several other listings with John Miller’s name that can pop up on the Internet that show the address of the clinics/law firms that John worked at.

Another issue is when a practitioner moves to a different country. Since Google cannot move the listing to a new country, the old listing will need to be marked as ‘permanently closed’. We don’t like this because it means there will be a permanently closed listing floating around on the Internet with the clinics’ address for a year or more.

Alternative (Proposed) Solution:

Practitioners should not be expected to create their own listings. Instead, only the clinics/law firms should have their listings. But these clinics/law firm listings should be able to mention the names and basic details of the practitioners that work there.

When a patient/client wants to leave a review, Google can ask if the review is for the organization or for the practitioner. If the user chooses practitioner, he/she should be able to choose from the list of practitioners that work at that location and leave a review for the particular individual.

Such a practice will reduce the number of listings that are to be created and managed and thus make the Internet slightly less congested. It will also leave the administrative responsibilities in the hands of the firms rather than having the doctors/lawyers worry about such things.

This alternative solution is a personal opinion shared by the local search experts at ElementIQ who are not looking to be hired by Google to lead such an initiative (unless they are extended an offer they can’t refuse!)