This article originally appeared in OPE Business.
If you’ve been a frequent reader of this space in past issues, you know how important and powerful I think the Google My Business tool is for local businesses. In November, however, Google announced that they were doing away with Google My Business in favor of a more streamlined business management model known as Google Business Profiles. This isn’t an uncommon practice for Google as this particular product has been renamed multiple times over the years. Anyone remember Google+ or Google Places? They were just prior iterations of what will be known as Google Business Profiles going forward.
So what does this mean for business owners who had just gotten used to utilizing the Google My Business app to post updates, images and product information?
First, the Google My Business app is going away in 2022. It will be retired in favor of allowing businesses to manage their details directly from Google Maps or Google Search apps or websites. So as long as you are a signed in to your Google account and you are a manager of your business, you’ll be able to make edits on the fly from within the existing web interface itself. If you’re used to going to google.com/business to manage your business, now you can simply go to google.com and search for “my business” and you’ll be able to manage your details directly from the search results page.
One big exception to this change is that if your business has multiple locations, you’ll still be able to use the existing Google My Business website to manage those listings just as you always have. That website will become known as the Business Profile Manager and act primarily as a support hub for businesses with multiple locations.
With this update, Google has announced some additional features that should have now rolled out to all users.
- New verification process
- If you need to claim your business listing, you can now do it directly in Google Search or Google Maps, without the need to go through the Google Business Manager.
- Some businesses will see faster methods for verifying businesses, including video verification.
- Call history
- Call history helps you keep track of phone calls from your customers on Google Search and Maps. Using call history can help businesses respond quickly to missed calls so that you don’t lose an opportunity for a sale. Plus, any call that you receive that originates from your Google Business Profile will have a short whisper message informing you that the call came from Google. This is a great way to understand just how much traffic and visibility you’re getting from your listing.
- Instant messaging
- Your customers can now message your business in real-time directly from your business profile. You can customize your automated welcome message, share photos and store your conversation history. In order to provide an optimized experience and promote trust and engagement for your customers, Google requires businesses to respond to messages within 24 hours so if that’s not a watermark you’re comfortable with, it’s best to not activate this feature for now. However, businesses that are committed to an above average customer experience and respond quickly to messages will get the benefit of users seeing messages like “Usually responds in a few minutes” directly on your Google profile. If you can commit to responding and engaging with your customers quickly, you’ll likely see more customers taking advantage of this method of communication and you’ll be first in line when they are looking for the products you sell.
- Marketing kit
- Another recent addition is the new marketing kit that allows you to create free marketing materials to promote your business. Customize and download print-ready posters, windows stickers, pre-made social posts and more. As long as you have a verified profile, you’ll have access to these materials to encourage customers to review your business or even automatically create a quick video to use on your social media channels.
Local Google search results are powered largely by how well you engage with customers and optimize your business profile. Google benefits when they can provide the best possible results for searchers and your business benefits when you take the time to utilize all of the free resources at your disposal. According to Ipsos Research, an up-to-date Google Business Profile is:
- 2.7x more likely to be considered reputable.
- Gets 7x more clicks
- Is 70% more likely to attract location visits
- Is 50% more likely to lead to a purchase
All of these factors add up to make the new Google Business Profiles the single most important free tool you’ll ever utilize for your business.