Google determines a lot of things in the world of search, and your business’ perception is no different. Particularly with a home care business, you rely heavily on local presence, reviews, recommendations, and reputation. That’s why your SEO strategy must include Google My Business listings. But not just listings — correct, accurate, spot-on listings. You may think of Google My Business as just a place on the web to advertise your business hours and address. That’s so 2017. This year brings more changes and more features from Google designed to help businesses like yours thrive. Google has been busy making several critical improvements to its Google My Business platform, which is the dashboard you can use to add and update listing information on Search and Maps.
Over the past year, Google has added features that connect consumers with business owners, but even more than that, allows them to interact with business owners. In addition, businesses can post promotional information directly to search engine result pages (SERPs) and even create websites within the Google My Business platform. The momentum doesn’t look like it’s going to stop throughout 2018, with changes coming fast and furious. You’ll want to keep an eye out for them so you can comply as best you can. If you ever doubt Google’s market dominance in terms of reach, consider this stat: 77 percent of the 1.52 billion search engine users worldwide conducted a Google search at least once last year, translating to 1.17 billion Google users compared to 292 million users of Yahoo’s search and 267 million people users of Microsoft’s Bing.
Let’s go over what the new Google My Business features are and why they matter to SEO.
First off, it’s important to talk about Google My Business posts and how they impact local SEO. When you share relevant content and information about your local business, you increase the effectiveness of your Google local listing. It’s this “relevance” factor that will engage your users more deeply than ever before. Previously, any visitors from Google Maps just saw general metadata about your local business such as hours of operations, reviews, address and phone number.
Now, you can take that user interaction even further with news, information, videos, photos, appointment URLs and more. In a nutshell, the more information you share that’s specific to your business and location, the more “location rich” metadata you can build into your Google My Business listing. In terms of local SEO, such as ranking in Google local and Google Maps search results, this involves building more location authority to boost your presence in local search results that respond to a wide variety of keyword phrases and searches.
Optimizing your GMB listing is an easy way for a local home care business to generate new, locally relevant content. All posts you create, for example, add context through the inclusion of relevant information, tags and keyword phrases. All of this contributes to your location authority. Next up: recent changes to GMB listings.
Google has upped the ante this year, allowing businesses to upload videos about them and what they do. You can now add a video that’s up to 30 seconds in length – a huge advancement as video continues to play a bigger role in digital media consumption. In 2018, adults will spend almost an hour and a half with digital video every day. In fact, U.S. adults consume an entire hour more of media overall per day than last year, totaling 10 hours and 39 minutes per day.
With this new feature:
- Videos will appear in the overview tab of the Google My Business Dashboard.
- Consumer-uploaded videos will appear in the “customer” tab.
- Merchant-uploaded videos will appear in the “by owner” tab.
- It may take up to 24 hours for the videos to appear. Once they go live, they will show up where local photos do.
As a local eldercare company, connecting with your audience is important, as is responding to all questions quickly and succinctly. While other companies can get away with quick yes or no answers, such as pizza places or retail shops, your type of business has the ability to expand on answers for a more well-rounded experience. You should get to the point but feel free to elaborate on your answer for the benefit of not just the person who asked the question but for everyone else that will see it.
If you simply answer a question with a yes or no as to whether you offer a particular service, it could come back to bite you later. For example, perhaps you answer yes to a seemingly innocent question and then the user goes back later to edit it. If they wanted to ding your reputation, they could type in “have you been fined by OSHA” or “have you overbilled Medicaid for fraudulent home care services.” A lone “yes” could harm your reputation. Enhancing your answer will clear up any confusion.
One change in this area has been in upvoting. This is when other people “like” a question, causing it to show up in the listing itself without the need for further clicks. Google says upvoting makes popular questions more readily available and visible. So, questions that everyone seems wants answers for will appear front and center. Search Engine Land has a pretty good synopsis of the Q&A feature.
In November, the New Selection attributes feature was added, allowing businesses to specify predefined choices. The example by Google centered around kosher foods, offering choices from predefined business descriptions such as “No Kosher food,” “Some Kosher food,” or “Strictly Kosher food.” You can view all possible attributes and their types by clicking the “create” icon, then clicking “import locations from a file,” then clicking the “Download attributes reference spreadsheet”.
A related feature is the ability to specify Accessibility Attributes — which as a local home care business, you should take a big interest in. Accessibility attributes collect information about your business to share with customers who may be in a wheelchair, perhaps. You can specify if your location is wheelchair accessible at all entrances, restrooms, seating areas, parking lots, and elevators.
Google Posts allows business owners to promote a sale or an event, which will automatically pop up when users search for your business. You can post one image and up to 300 characters to describe your event or promotion. These quick posts can also connect to a landing page that provides more information about the topic. Keep in mind, posts expire after seven days but you’ll get a notification about the pending expiration so you can renew it or post an update.
The ability to have multiple messaging platforms for your business is important — especially in light of the fact that 64 percent of consumers prefer texting over voice, with the average person taking 90 minutes to respond to email but only 90 seconds to respond to a text message. This new messaging feature allows users to text businesses directly from their phone. You can access this feature on the dashboard under the Messaging tab.
This is a great feature that adds to the convenience factor for your customers. You can now add a URL to your Contact page or any page you want. Users simply click on the link to make, change or verify an appointment.
It’s been a couple of years since Google My Business did away with the ability to edit the business description field. Now it’s back! It’s got a no-frills name: “Description From the Business,” which will be an optional addition to GMB listings that owners can write and add themselves. Such descriptions will show up in business listings when appearing on Google Search. Keep in mind, these descriptions won’t replace the Google editorial summary that displays at the top of Knowledge Panels and Map listings.
Check out these guidelines for representing your business on Google.
For those times when your business has to follow an irregular schedule, such as holidays or special events, it’s now possible to enter special hours in advance, with regular hours remaining in place for other days of the week. Let’s say you schedule special hours for an official holiday… visitors will be advised that those hours are scheduled just for the holiday. If a location doesn’t provide special hours for these days on Google My Business, users on Maps and Search will be told that the hours may be different on holidays.
Once you claim your listing on Google My Business, you can then customize a free mobile-optimized website to represent you, with the ability to edit and optimize it as you please. Google will utilize that information as well as photos from your Google My Business listing to create a site that you can customize with themes, photos, and text, which will update whenever you change your business information or post a new photo. Even better: your website will be optimized for display on desktop, laptop and mobile devices.
Emojis in Business Name
Emojis can impact your business listing, especially if you have an AdWords campaign. Google used to be much more strict about the use of emojis in business names, but now it seems they’re starting to back off. Emojis were removed from search results in 2015 but last year, Google reversed that decision. You still can’t use them randomly or in excess but when used correctly, they can boost the quality of your organic search results. Why the change? Well, emojis are a simple, visual form of communication that is not bound by language, which blends nicely with Google’s strategy of delivering relevant search results to its users.
You now have the option to set the date on which you first opened up your business. This shows the longevity of your business and how long you have been serving the community. It will ask for the month and year but you can also specify the exact date.
UTM Tracking Codes in URLs
Customer intention, quite simply, is indeed an organic search result. And because Google searches take intention into account, it can be very helpful to monitor and track this traffic to gain insight into the behavior of your users. You can adjust your Google My Business listing for the best-qualified users that can help you achieve your end goal, from lead generation to getting phone calls. To take advantage of the Google Analytics data, you need a custom campaign URL to track, which you can do through the addition of parameters to the URL you use on your GMB listing.
Similar to the menu feature launched in February, the services list could be quite helpful to your home care business. Add the name of your services, descriptions and how much they cost. This one is still rolling out, so don’t be alarmed if you don’t see this capability on your GMB account just yet.
Contact A Servant’s Heart Web Design and Marketing
Want to learn more about the new Google My Business rollouts? We have the answers. In fact, it’s our job to stay on top of these changes. Contact us at 760-744-8200 or visit our website for a free website SEO consultation today.