Googlemapslogo2014How are your new customers finding you? In 2015 it’s likely that many are searching for you on Google. If you don’t have control of your online presence, you’re at risk for misrepresentation at best and fewer new leads at worst!

I recently spoke with Mike Bayuk of Digital Airstrike. Mike has over three years of experience optimizing digital marketing for car dealerships and local search and Google pages. Here are some tips and tricks for not only getting started but also leveraging Google Pages to drive more web and foot traffic for your local business.

Leverage Google Pages to drive more web and foot traffic for your local business. Click To Tweet

LB: What advice do you have for small businesses that want to increase their online traffic and foot traffic locally? Why is it important to create a Google Page?

MB: Creating a Google Page is important because this is how people are finding you! The whole point is that it integrates with Google Maps! If you live and die by your web traffic, you want to make sure that what Google shows is right!

If you’re a local business, there is a decent chance that you’re listed on Google Maps without actually doing anything. Google’s whole goal is to ensure that people find the information they are looking for and they can’t rely on small business owners to list their businesses. Google pulls data from online directory sites, government records, big data aggregators, etc. The amount of data and the amount of sources for data that Google is pulling from is mind-blowing.

If you search for local businesses, you sometimes see search results with information or photos that don’t make sense. As a local business owner, you don’t want to rely on the data Google is pulling or allows people to upload random photos and tag them as your business. You want to put your best foot forward everywhere you can and make sure you give the best first impression possible.

LB: What’s the difference between Google+ and a Google Page for businesses?

MB: Google has slowly been backing away from Google+ as a brand and specific product. It’s a problem for them because they were trying to make everything run through Google+ a few years ago. They are not necessarily abandoning the interconnectivity, but they are shrinking away from Google+.

The service that local businesses need to use is called Google My Business. To get started, local businesses need to visit the Google My Business. In order to manage these local pages, you’re going to need a Google page for your business.

One of the big mistakes that I’ve seen is that small businesses set up a Google+ profile and they think they are done. In Google+ speak, a Google+ profile represents a person and what you need to do is create a Google+ page to represent your business. It’s a key distinction.

So, step one is setting up your Google+ profile and step two is setting up your Google+ page for your business.

When you set up your page, a small business will need to pick one of the three types of Google Pages.

  1. A storefront makes the most sense for local brick and mortar businesses.
  2. A service area is for a locally-owned business but one that may not have a storefront. This is meant for service businesses like a plumber, taxi, home cleaning or landscaping service. These businesses go to where their customers are instead of having their customers come to them.
  3. A brand page is not specific to a local area. If you’re a web-only business you just need to create a Brand page. If you have both an online store and a physical location you can create a brand page in addition to your storefront page.

Many small businesses also don’t know that you can have more than one page. For example, Chipotle has a brand page (because they are a big brand) but they also have storefront pages for all their individual locations.

LB: What are your top four tips for small businesses when it comes to Google Pages? And what are some common mistakes you’ve seen?

MB: While these may seem simple, I’ve found they are really important to small business owners. Here are my top four tips.

Tip #1 Don’t Lose Your Password

Make sure that you don’t lose your username and password. I see it happen all the time. Busy small business owners will forget how to log in and it’s hassle to reset passwords, etc.

Tip #2 Log in to Your Google Page Regularly

Log in regularly to make sure it’s verified and active. You need to maintain the page. It’s not optional. Google has said that they will be checking automatically to see who’s been inactive on their Google My Business account. If you haven’t been active in the last 3-6 months they may un-verify your page. Showing that your account is active will make sure you don’t lose your verified access. It’s not a one-and-done experience. Making sure your page is verified doesn’t even cover best practice, it’s just table stakes. Your phone number or hours could get updated without you doing anything. If your details do get updated or changed,  you’ll see a yellow banner notifying you of the update when you log in.

Tip #3: If you need help, call Google!

A lot of people don’t realize that Google My Business does have a phone support team. If you’re logged in, you can ask for them to give you a call. If you’re having any trouble with your page (like random photos showing up) you can ask for help.

Tip #4: Respond to your reviews!

If you get reviews, you don’t want to be in a position where you’re ignoring them. If someone posts and says something negative, you want to respond to the review. You want to put your side of the story out there. Just as you the business owner understand that customers may not have a perfect memory, users or consumers will understand that, too. Give a pleasant response to position yourself as doing everything you can do to help. Don’t put people down or cause more frustration. Remember that you can’t remove reviews, but you can respond.

LB: Can small businesses check to see if they show up on Google search results?

MB: Yes. You can visit this site to check how you show up on Google results.