Google this week announced the launch of Google My Business, a new program aimed at getting more business owners under the Google umbrella with a one-stop shop for managing their business listings in search, using Google+ and more. Google My Business is an offering for businesses just getting started on the web, but will also become the default dashboard for current users of Places for Business and the Google+ social network.
In fact, as of today, if you navigate to Google Places for Business from the US or Canada, you'll be redirected to Google My Business:
This is a little unusual, as Google tends to release new products in the United States first, rolling out changes over a period of weeks or months. The incorporation of Google+ and Places for Business into Google My Business happened as the announcement was made.
If you're a business owner with a Google+ Page, a Places for Business account or just getting started, here are some tips to help you navigate the new platform.
What is Google My Business?
Google My Business is a free dashboard business owners and marketers can use to manage their Google-related online presence in one place. This includes:
- Managing business listing info for search, maps and Google+.
- Uploading photos and/or a virtual tour of your business.
- Sharing content and interacting with followers on Google+.
- Seeing reviews from across the web and responding to Google+ reviews.
- Integrating with AdWords Express to create and track campaigns.
- Accessing Insights reports, the new social analytics tool for Google+.
- Seeing information about your integrated YouTube and Analytics accounts.
Users can access Google My Business on the web or via the Android or iOS app from a mobile device (available on Google Play).
If you have more than 10 business locations and used Google Places Bulk Upload to manage listings information in the past, you'll notice on your next login that this has been “automatically upgraded” as well.
It's now called Google My Business Locations and here, Google promises more updates in the works, including faster update speeds, social features and visibility of live data.
How to Get Started with Google My Business
If you were using Google+ or Places for Business, you will be directed to the new Google My Business on your next login.
Those just getting started can head to the Google My Business website to get signed up.
There, you'll see a blue button, front and center, urging you to “Get on Google.” This takes you to a world map where you can search for your local business.
Note: If you're not a local business, click that option in the upper-right corner to be directed to My Business, where you can choose to start a Storefront, Service Area or Brand Page on Google+.
If you can't find your business (and you probably won't, if you're just getting started), click “None of these match” to add your business.
Add your physical address and the type of business, as directed.
Google will then search for similar businesses to see if you might already have a listing. If none of their suggestions match, choose “Keep my information” to move on.
You will then be asked to confirm that you are authorized to manage the business and agree to the terms of service.
With that, Google creates your Google+ Page and business account. You will need to verify your association with the business. Google offers to send the verification code to the mailing address for the business now, or you can choose to come back and do the verification later. Without verification, you won't be able to make any edits to your listing, so it's best to get it done as soon as you can.
Users are then sent to their new Page at Google+, where you can either jump right in, or take a tour.
Google is making it as simple as possible for people who haven't used Google+ before to optimize the page for their business. A progress bar shows the completeness of the profile as you add hours and other store information, add a profile photo and follow the prompts to input information.
Remember, these edits won't take effect until you verify your business. Reviews and Insights also stay “locked” until your business is verified.
Managing Your Google My Business Account
You're all set up and verified, it's time to sit back and let the customers roll in, right?
Not quite. Google My Business isn't a set-it-and-forget-it deal.
If you want to use Google+ to connect with existing and potential customers, you're going to need a social content strategy. Try to aim for a mix of your own original content and curated content – this will offer your followers variety and ease the content creation burden on your business. Get more social media marketing strategy tips here and learn about content promotion here.
Use the Reviews tool to monitor your business reviews and track your ratings over time. This is also where you can respond to reviews as the owner of the business.
Monitor your Insights and use this intelligence to improve your visibility and engagement. Insights help you understand how people find your business and interact with your content by showing data on different types of views (search, photos, profile, etc.) and clicks including driving direction requests and website visits.
Get creative with the tools and features Google My Business has to offer. From this dashboard, you can do some pretty cool things, like host Hangouts to chat live with your customers, or create photo albums around your products, services, customers and employees.
Whether you're just getting started or were an existing user of G+ or Places for Business, it's worth stopping by Google My Business to see what's new. Take this opportunity to verify that your map info, store hours, phone number and other information are correct and that your profile offers all of the information a consumer on the go needs to find you.
Let us know what you think about Google's latest move to bring small and local business marketing all under one roof!