The Google My Business platform is truly an underrated gem. GMB listings are closely integrated with Google Search and Google Maps, and an invaluable marketing asset, particularly for those businesses where driving in-store customers is critical, such as retailers or restaurants.
I feel that GMB is a very under-utilised platform right now. Even more so in the context of our relatively small New Zealand market. I think a large part of this lies with the relatively limited capabilities of the platform.
There’s currently quite a limited range of actions that we can do in Google My Business.
From a pragmatic standpoint, this is what Google My Business is good for today:
- Business information - NAP (name, address, and phone number) - conveying key business information so that users can find and contact you.
- Photos - uploading photos and videos to build your brand.
- Reviews - user reviews act as a vehicle for both customer interaction as well as social proof. Users can contribute photos and videos to your listing.
- Posts - allows you to write text-based posts with a call-to-action, accompanied by an image or video. A relatively new feature and only around one year old.
Figure 1: Posts are an excellent way to leverage the visibility of your Google My Business listing.
Posts were quite the groundbreaking update to the Google My Business platform. Previously there were no means for content marketing via GMB listings. Not until Posts came along and allowed businesses to cycle regular content through. It also allows serves as another medium through which users can engage by taking action on the post.
The introduction of GMB Posts marked a turning point of the platform and foreshadows a range of incoming updates to the platform, updates that suggest we should begin taking Google My Business more seriously.
GMB Updates We’re Looking Forward To
1. Follow buttons
This is right here, right now. On mobile devices, you can choose to “follow” a business to keep up with their updates. This is an awesome way to connect with users on an on-going basis.
More importantly, this functionality signals another shift in Google’s shifting focus towards building the Google My Business into a fully-fledged platform of its own right. It’s likely this is the start of something bigger and better, something to potentially rival the Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn.
Figure 2: The “follow” button is a new Google My Business feature introduced in 2019.
2. Welcome offers
You’ll soon be able to provide special offers as a form of thanks to customers who “follow” your business. This will be an excellent tool to incentivise new customers and to begin building a following on your listing.
In a similar manner to UTM tracking, this will be a great way to start determining how well Google My Business is working through measuring uptake of the offer.
3. Local Favourite badges
Word is that the top 5% of businesses in each category will be awarded a “local favourite” badge of honour that displays on their listings.
There’s very little information on this feature at this stage and no other indication around which specific metrics business listings will be ranked on. However, it wouldn’t be a stretch to presume that user reviews will be a key factor, as they are right now for local SEO.
Having said that, while reviews represent the voice of the people, the Google My Business platform is known to be rife with fake reviews. In a system which leans extensively on user honesty, how will we know that the real cream is rising to the top of the results? Nonetheless, it will be very interesting to see how to feature this Local Favourite feature plays out.
4. Customised cover photos
While we’ve always been able to upload cover photos, it hasn’t always been a guarantee that Google would show the image we selected. Which is a frustrating notion - although absurd notions from the big G-man are something that we search marketers are all too familiar with.
We’re looking forward to finally exercising full control over our brand.
5. Short names and URLs
Whenever we need to share our agency’s Facebook page, it’s a fairly straightforward address: https://www.facebook.com/insightonline
We’ll let’s say we wanted to share our Google My Business listing... https://goo.gl/maps/qtrtcunLjbBWkooE6
Captivating. Poetic. Memorable.
Without discrimination towards unaesthetic URLs, I’m really looking forward to acquiring our g.page/insightonline vanity URL!
In the past we’ve manually created GMB shortlinks, but this native functionality will be much appreciated. It’ll be much easier to share listings as a result, and something I’d expect businesses might begin incorporating across promotional material - right next to their Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram URLs.
The Future Is Bright
These updates suggest that Google is aspiring to build Google My Business into an active and engaging platform, one that could challenge existing powerhouses such as Facebook or Instagram. Perhaps they might be a little salty from the failed Google+ platform?
Google My Business stands to compete well against its peer platforms, especially considering it can leverage its existing extensive visibility across Google Search & Maps. Harnessing traffic from these neighbouring channels in the Google ecosystem is something that no other platform would ever be able to leverage to the same degree.
All in all, it bodes well for the longevity of the Google My Business platform and anyone who uses it.