If you’ve looked into digitally promoting your business, you’ve probably heard about or have ran into Google My Business, or GMB for short. Currently, GMB is one of the most important assets your business can have, at least as far as its digital footprint is concerned. This is true for a number of reasons:
- Google is the most trafficked search engine and, as a Google product, GMB exerts a lot of influence on how your website performs.
- Having a properly branded and verified GMB gives you more control over how easy it is for local customers to find your business on Google Maps and the Maps portion of the search results page (often referred to as a Local Pack; see below for a visual reference).
- An active GMB — updated with your blog posts, memes, helpful articles, et cetera — exposes patients and customers to the wealth of information your business has to offer.
Unfortunately, navigating Google My Business can be a real pain in the neck. I’ve learned this the hard way, working on hundreds of GMB pages and spending countless hours on the phone with Google. It’s not always clear how a GMB page should be properly branded and there is a variety of other problems that invariably pop up throughout the process.
Hopefully, I can make GMB a little bit easier for you by sharing four common stumbling blocks that I’ve come across when working with our clients’ on their Local SEO.
Your Business Name & How it Affects Your Digital Marketing Strategy
If you’re a dentist, a doctor, or an attorney, Google My Business affords you two separate directory listings — one for the practice and another for the practitioner. The reason they do this is because they understand that there may be multiple specialists working under the same roof, so they allow you to market the practice and then yourself individually.
There’s a catch, however. If your practice is literally your name and your credentials (e.g. John Smith, DDS), there’s no way for Google to differentiate between you and your business. In these cases, you only get one GMB listing. Here’re two examples of dentistry practices which are eligible only for one GMB:
Being confined to a single Google My Business page doesn’t sound like a big deal, but it can be. With two listings, you have the possibility of showing up twice on relevant local searches. Also, if you have a second website — one that promotes you, for example —, a second listing can help that site perform better on the search results page. In other words, two listings can help your site attract more patients or customers.
Understandably, if you’re already happy with your business’ name, even if it confines you to a single GMB, you’re not going to want to change it. Still, it’s important to know how your branding will affect, and possibly limit, your internet marketing.
How to Properly Brand your GMB
A common mistake is for Google My Business pages to be named both after the practice and the doctor. It usually looks like this:
Why is this a mistake? It’s important that the name of your practice’s Google Plus is consistent with the name of the practice on the website. Google’s algorithm will compare the two, along with other ‘citations’ — which are other official representatives of your business online (e.g. directory listings, social media, et cetera) —, and if your business name is inconsistent you won’t get as much out of your GMB as you otherwise could. An improperly branded GMB can confuse searchers and the algorithm as to whether that GMB is really representative of your business.
This is doubly true if you have two listings, one for the practice and one for you, as a practitioner. If your practice GMB includes both your name and that of the practice, when setting up your second listing you’ll run into a problem where Google is unsure of what the existing page represents. In these cases, they’ll take one of three actions:
- They’ll deny your verification request
- They’ll mark the second listing as spam
- Or, if you do manage to verify the second GMB, their algorithm will unverify it later without letting you know (yes, they do this — yes, it is annoying).
You’ll save yourself a headache by branding your GMB pages correctly. Remember, if the GMB is for your practice, the displayed name should be that of the practice. If the GMB is for you, then brand it with your name. Just don’t mix the two.
Does Your Practice Have the Proper Signage?
Some businesses co-exist with residences. This is common in New York City, Chicago, and other big cities where there are a lot of multi-story apartment buildings. For example, the bottom floor of the building might be dedicated to businesses, while the upper floors are housing. The reason I bring this up is because there have been more than a few times where Google refuses to verify GMB pages for businesses who fit this description, because they suspect foul play.
I actually ran into this problem yesterday when trying to verify a dentist GMB for a Now Media Group client. While going through the manual verification process, a Google specialist brings to my attention that, on Google Maps, the practice looks like an apartment building. Sure enough, I go to Google Maps, look up the address, and I see an apartment building with balconies decorated with satellite dishes and barbecues:
I explain to the specialist that this is a residential building, but that the bottom floor is commercial. We even call the owner of the building. Still, the Google specialist remains skeptical and refuses to verify the page. Finally, we settled the matter by taking a photograph of the office’s door, which includes the business name, the suite number, and the address.
The moral of the story is to make sure that your building has proper signage, so that Google — and your patients and customers, more importantly — can tell whether they’re at the right place when visiting your business.
Not All Google Plus Pages are the Same
There are different GMB pages depending on the nature of what’s being listed. Physical locations, like a dentistry, a law firm, a grocery store, et cetera, should have ‘Storefront’ pages. Brands, such as Nike or Now Media Group’s InfoSites™, get what are called ‘Brand’ pages. Google doesn’t choose for you — whoever makes the listing is expected to get it right when they set the page up. It sounds easy enough, but it’s all too common for small businesses (and those taking care of their GMB) to make the mistake of choosing the wrong type of listing.
Getting it right matters. As a physical practice or company, a brand page is not useful to you if you sell services to local customers. It doesn’t necessarily hurt you, and you can have both, but what you really want is a storefront page.
Google Plus pages all look very similar, so what are some ways to tell them apart?
- ‘Storefront’ pages allow people to review your business. ‘Brand’ pages do not allow for reviews, so if your GMB doesn’t have space for reviews it’s not a ‘Storefront’ page.
- ‘Storefront’ pages don’t mention the gender, so if your Google page mentions gender, it’s a personal page — it’s not a GMB listing.
- Verified ‘Storefront’ pages usually have the verified symbol — a grey circle with a checkmark — next to the profile picture, while ‘Brand’ pages have them next to the URL. Compare, for example, Now Media Group’s ‘Storefront’ GMB and our ‘Brand’ GMB:
We Can Make Google My Business and Local SEO Easy For You
If you have an InfoSite with Now Media Group, we’re more than happy to help you with your Google My Business, free of cost. We also include this service under our Local SEO package, which comprehensively tackles your branding across the web to make sure your local patients or customers are finding your business. If you’d like to learn more, we encourage you to give us a call or leave a comment below — we’re more than happy to give you a helping hand.
Formerly at [Tony] Robbins Research International and at Now Media Group as their Director of Marketing, Jonathan has a background in quantitative economics and analytics.