How to (Actually) Win on Google
August 10, 2023
By Austin Lee, originally published in SBAM’s July/August 2023 issue of Focus magazine
If you didn’t know alaready, Google owns the internet. As of 2022, Google had around 90 percent of the search engine market share in the U.S. When people look for local businesses and services, Google is where they go. However, for many of us, joining the digital landscape can be a daunting obstacle.
How much and who should I invest in to build a website? Should I run ads on Google or Facebook? How do I leverage social media to promote my business? Ten years ago, these technologies were reserved for only the largest commercial companies and digital marketing agencies representing mid-sized businesses.
Fast forward to today and a digital presence has become a minimum requirement for most businesses to even survive.
While the task of establishing a digital presence can be overwhelming, it starts with taking the first step. The first step for almost every local business is establishing a Google Business Profile.
In most scenarios, Google Business Profiles are the first online impression a local business will make. Your profile configuration is responsible for how your business shows up in the map pack, as well as the appearance of your knowledge card in branded searches.
First Impression Importance
We all know the importance of making a good first impression. Even if you have an amazing product, store front, physical presence, or even social media profiles or a website, all of that is of little value if we can’t drive traffic to them because our Google presence isn’t impressive. Being the owner of an elegant, yet lonely place in cyberspace does little to help the bottom line. In marketing, we call this phenomenon the Halo Effect.
Simple Psychology defines the Halo Effect, sometimes known as Halo Error, as “a type of cognitive bias whereby our perception of someone is positively influenced by our opinions of that per- son’s other related traits.” This effect is very evident in marketing and advertisements where we are inundated with marketing messages and calls to take action or to buy something. The end result is that unless your digital presence makes a good first impression, it is unlikely that customers will ever reconnect with or buy from your business.
How to Make a Good Impression
When it comes to local services, clients are very often unfamiliar with brands and more loyal to their needs than a particular brand name. They want to make a good choice, so we need to position ourselves as the best option.
Get Your Google Business Profile to Show Up in Google Maps
While local SEO (Search Engine Optimization) has a lot of factors, I typically coach local business owners to focus on the 80/20 rule, and most of the SEO ranking value in the Google Map Pack comes from three factors:
- Relevancy: Typically when you search on Google for the best cheeseburgers near me, it doesn’t pop up with a list of This factor may seem intuitive and obvious, but a lot of business owners I have worked with don’t spend the time to complete their Google Business Profiles withtheir services, service area or descriptions. Make sure you create a profile that tells Google what you do.
- Proximity: Does your physical business location affect your rankings? Absolutely! “Near me” or named location searches for services typically show results in close proximity to the location of the searcher or city center of the location searched. Thus, having a physical office location and listing your business at a named physical location can help tremendously to boost your chances of showing up. Be careful when listing your business though, as Google has guidelines for what constitutes a valid physical location. For example, P.O. boxes are not allowed and virtual or remote offices like coworking spaces must meet Google’s outlined criteria. A quick Google search can help you discern the latest requirements.
- Review Score: The final piece of the puzzle is the review score and quantity. Having a high quantity of reviews and a good aggregate score are key to your success in local searches. Google’s algorithms tend to have a weighted bias towards quality of reviews and recency, so ensuring you’re offering a world class service that is praiseworthy is essential for success. Google also does an excellent job of discerning fake reviews from real ones, so I don’t recommend getting any funny ideas.
Things to Focus on to Win
- Optimize your profile: Start by claiming your Google Business Profile if you haven’t already. Ensure that all the information is accurate, complete and up to date. Provide details about your business, such as contact information, opening hours, website link and a compelling business description. Spend time here exhaustively adding products, service areas and services, calling them out by name and doing everything you can to provide Google with as much information as possible. While there is no exact answer to make it perfect, there are plenty of online resources and tutorials to help you get started.
- Replying and Engaging with Customer Reviews: As previously discussed, positive reviews can greatly enhance your conversion rate AND attract new Respond quickly and professionally to both positive and negative reviews, showing that you value customer feedback. Both potential future customers and the algorithms monitor these. Not only does it reflect positively, but responding promptly and contextually has been widely speculated to also increase your ranking in Google Maps.
- Post regular updates: Utilize the “Posts” feature on your Google Business Profile to share updates, special offers, events or any other relevant information. This helps keep your profile fresh and engaging, and it gives potential customers a reason to choose your business.
- Add high-quality photos: Visual content is crucial. Include high-quality photos that showcase your products, services and the overall ambiance of your business. This helps potential customers get a better sense of what you offer and can make your profile more appealing. Continue to add photos at regular intervals on a monthly or at least quarterly basis. Freshness of content is very important when it comes to making Google your ally.
- Utilize Google Q&A: Monitor and respond to questions posted by users in the Q&A section of your Google Business Profile. This helps provide accurate information and shows your commitment to customer You can also proactively add frequently asked questions to address common queries.
It doesn’t take a ten-thousand-dollar website, search engine optimization expertise or a crazy ad spend to start winning on Google. Engaging in the right activities consistently and providing great service will make Google your ally and drive customers to your digital doorstep.