Below is the transcription for the Digital Marketing for Contractors Podcast: Google Business Profile. Click this link to listen to the podcast.
Today we are excited to jump in and talk about something that is a hot topic for a lot of home improvement contractors. We want to provide some clarity today for you all around the idea of Google Business Profile – formerly known as Google My Business.
We will cover what it is, how it’s meant to help you, and some practical things that you can do to take advantage of this great and free tool for your business. So, at a basic level, what is a Google Business Profile?
What is a Google Business Profile?
Let’s say you’re looking for pizza. You get on your phone and search for “pizza restaurants near me” or you Google the name of a specific pizza place. The result for that pizza restaurant is probably not going to be the website of the pizza restaurant. It’s going to be the Google Business Profile.
It is the property on Google that a business has to claim and then populate with information, such as hours, phone numbers, products you sell, your address, etc. That is the thing that’s going to show up first on phones and a desktop. If you’re searching, it is the little box that floats on the right-hand side of the search that will usually have a thumbnail picture of the front of the business, the hours, and all that stuff.
The Convenience of Google Business Profiles
As a consumer, this is super helpful. I find all the information that I want right there. As soon as I search for something, it is readily available. And to use the example about pizza, if I know what I want, I can just hit the call button or the go-to website or even order straight from that profile listing. And all of it’s done and taken care of there.
Your Google Business Profile Is Not Your Website
However, keep in mind that your Google Business Profile is not the same thing as your website. It can drive traffic to your website, but the consumer has to take an extra step to click the button to go to your website. So from the consumer’s perspective, it makes our lives easier. We get a phone number, we get directions, we get hours of operation without having to dig for it. But from the business owner’s perspective, you’ve spent money, time, energy, and effort building a website that you’re proud of, and you want people to go visit it.
Google is kind of thwarting that a little bit. They’re doing it in the service of all of us who are using Google to get phone numbers and directions. But what just happened is somebody went looking for pizza and they got all the information they needed without actually going to the pizza restaurant’s website. That’s called a zero-click search.
So as a contractor, when you’re thinking about optimizing your business so local homeowners can find you, now you have a few things to worry about – your website and your Google Business Profile along with the tasks and effort that it takes to maintain both of those.
It’s still really valuable to use, but data is showing right now that over 60% of searchers are going to use your Google Business Profile before they use your website, which is expected to increase over time. It is vitally important to make sure that you are taking advantage of that tool and that it’s up to date and accurate, but to also know that at the end of the day, it isn’t yours, it’s Google’s.
Google’s Incentive for Zero-Click Search
Google wants to keep people on its website and not necessarily send them to yours. So there’s a give and take here. It’s really good for consumers and your leads. You’re providing them with information that is going to help them choose your business over time, but you’re having to do it through another platform, which is Google. And that isn’t always the easiest or the best thing to have to navigate around. So we do have to think about those things as we figure out the best way to take advantage of these tools.
If you’re reading this and you don’t have a Google Business Profile, or you’ve just left your former employer and you’re setting up shop and you’re trying to get it optimized so homeowners can find you, you may be wondering how one goes about claiming their Google Business Profile.
How to Make a Google Business Profile (GBP)
One of the great things about using a platform like Google is that they are trying to make it as easy as possible for you to be able to do that. One of the simplest ways to do it is just to search for your business name in Google, and if there’s not a profile already created, Google may have created a dummy one for you.
There will be a button at the bottom of that profile that will say, “Claim this business,” or “Do you own this business?” From there you can click on it and then start the process of establishing that the company is yours and you want to be able to own this profile. If you don’t see anything there, you can also go to https://www.google.com/business/ and start the process of creating, claiming, and verifying your profile right through there.
Google Business Profile Best Practices
The easiest and most basic thing to do once you’ve got that up and running is to input the most important things that a potential customer is looking for. They need to see your business name and logo, how to get in touch with you, your website, your phone number, your address, your hours of operation and what your services are. Those are the things that are the easiest to update on a GBP.
Let’s take the example of a company that’s doing window replacements. Likely you are doing windows, siding, roofing, and maybe gutters. What you need to do once you claim your profile and you’ve logged in is click the button to edit and manage the profile. Google may change the edit screen, but it will either be called products or services. What you want to do is you want to load up your profile with the products and services that you offer. So in this example, you would add windows, gutters, roofing, and siding as your services.
How Often to Update Your GBP
We come across the question from time to time about what to do, if anything, with a GBP once it’s been set up. Many ask if it is the 21st-century version of a Yellow Pages ad that they can run once per year and don’t have to worry about – set it and forget it, so to speak.
There is a world where you can set it and forget it, but if you are aggressively pursuing lead generation and you’re trying to optimize your business so it’s more easily found by homeowners in your service area, then we do not recommend that you set it and forget it. What you’re going to want to do is take that login information and periodically add photos, answer questions, and add content, the same way you would add content to, say, your personal Facebook profile. Just a few sentences, post and you’re done.
When Google first created the GBP property and feature, they kind of treated it like a social media platform. Nobody uses it like that, but there is a function and a feature where you can post content to it. I don’t pretend to think that users are scrolling through and reading the content that businesses are posting, but what we have found is that if you post consistently, you’re feeding Google’s algorithm information about the products and services that you install.
Let’s say you’re a James Hardie siding contractor, you’ve got your GBP set up, and your services are listed as siding, roofing, and windows. That GBP doesn’t have any specific details about products that you install including brand names, like James Hardie. You can use the Post Content feature on your GBP to post a paragraph or two and then link to your site. That way you’re getting the words James Hardie, CertainTeed, and Marvin Windows affiliated with your business listing. Now, if a homeowner is looking for “James Hardie siding installers near me,” then your GBP is more likely to show up because you’ve posted that content to the profile.
What you have in your GBP and the posts on the profile can help your search results. Again, you’re playing on somebody else’s platform and if you’re playing by their rules, it’s more likely that your profile will show up in front of more people. It is a game that we’re learning how to play and the rules keep changing, but we do want to make sure that we’re doing all that we can to help you to understand what the best ways to utilize this profile are and how to get it in front of your potential customers.
We’ve talked about making regular posts and putting content onto the profile, but other than that, there are things that a contractor needs to be doing to be able to kind of keep things updated and stay on top of the profile itself.
Another Reason to Maintain Your GBP: Your Reviews
For home improvement contractors, GBPs are where your reviews are. When people talk about having Google reviews and they’ve got 4.9/5 stars, this is where all of that lives. This is the only place where you have the opportunity to be able to interact with and engage and respond to those reviews.
Homeowners are looking for those reviews to figure out if they can trust you and if they want to get a quote from you. So when you are asking homeowners to review you, they are reviewing you through the GBP listing. If you don’t have that profile claimed, you’re not going to be able to have those reviews and reviews are critical to lead generation success.
Engage with Reviews
We also recommend that you respond and engage with those reviews. Even if you get a five-star review and all they say is “great work”, all you have to respond with is “Thanks!” It communicates to that customer that you saw their review and you appreciate what they said, but it also communicates to other customers that you are active and engaged and as a potential business that they could work with. It shows something about your level of customer service that you pay attention to those kinds of things, and that goes a long way. That’s kind of one of those silent votes in your favor.
Navigating Your GBP
One of the things I’m passionate about is trying to help contractors navigate the confusing world of the Internet. Let’s talk about some challenges that have come up with GBP. The number one thing that you should ask yourself is “Do I know how to log into this thing?” If you don’t know how to log into it I strongly encourage you to address that.
When we start to work with a new client, one of the things that we do during onboarding is we try to get access, as their agency, to their GBP. We will ask them to add us as an authorized user, but then our client won’t even know how to log into it.
Using a Business Email to Claim Your Profile
It’s okay to have someone else who’s helping you do this, but you need to know that your GBP is set up through your business account and not through some other kind of account. So if your office manager is the one who manages your GBP for you, that’s fine, but are they doing that using an email address that is associated with your business, or are they using their email address?
It needs to be something that’s associated with your business, because if that person moves on, at some point in time, you, as the business, still need to have access to this profile. If the GBP manager moves on and they’ve been managing it through their email address, it stays with them. You have to make sure that the primary owner of your profile is an email address that’s associated with your business.
We typically recommend if you’ve got an admin email or something that’s always going to be associated with your business, that you use that account as your primary owner for your profile and that you have the password logged somewhere for people to easily find and use. Anytime you change it, you should update that spreadsheet or wherever you’ve got that password saved so that you know how to access it and you can guarantee that you’re not going to lose ownership of your profile.
Let’s say your former office manager set up your GBP, but when they claimed your business listing, they used their email address. Then they leave the company. Now you’ve got 135 reviews and your business hours on that listing. You’ve got a lot invested in that profile, but the office manager is long gone. You are not able to log into their email because they have a bunch of personal stuff there and that is the only email address associated with your business that you own.
What Happens When You’ve Been Locked Out of Your GBP
You can’t update your profile, respond to reviews, add services, or change your hours, address or phone number. You can’t do anything with it because you’ve got this profile associated with a former employee. There’s nothing wrong with having your office manager have access to it because you can have multiple users associated with that profile, but you or your business partner need to be one of those users.
When you go to log into the GBP, the username is going to be an email address. So it’s got to be an email address that you know how to get access to. We’ve had multiple contractors that are up and running, employ people, are serving jobs, and they’ve been locked out of their Google Business Account. It’s a big deal and it’s not easy to fix.
What ends up happening is your profile either becomes out of date or becomes irrelevant. And then customers who are looking for your type of business online are going to see that and not choose you because you can’t keep your profile up to date. It will cost you leads and potential sales because you just don’t have the right username and password associated with your account. It seems like it’s a small thing, but it can affect the success of your business.
Follow Google’s Instructions
Another thing that I would say is that Google owns their platform and your profile is just sitting on their platform so you do have to play by their rules. One of the things that we try to help contractors understand is that you shouldn’t be gimmicky with your profile. What I mean by that is just stick to the things that it’s telling you to do and don’t try to use it in ways that might get creative or cut corners to get more leads.
Let’s say you’re ABC Siding Company that’s based out of Nevada, and you decide to change the name on your GBP to a specific brand of siding. All of a sudden, it no longer says ABC Siding, which is your actual business name, but it says CertainTeed Siding of Nevada because you think that’s going to get you more attention from everybody who’s looking for that brand of siding.
Through automation, Google is going to find out that something about your profile name doesn’t match up with what they have on record about your business. If that happens, they’re going to instantly disable your profile. When people search for ABC Siding, you’re no longer listed because they’ve disabled it. Then it’s up to you to figure out why Google disabled you and what you need to do.
They’re not going to tell you they disabled it. Nobody’s going to call you and warn you that you are violating their terms of service. You just happen to notice one day that it’s gone, and then you’re left to question how long it has been gone.
Because it’s a free service, Google doesn’t provide easy access to customer service. You’ll have to submit a support ticket online and hope that what you understand as the problem is the same way that they see the problem. If those things match up you can very easily get it solved. But the truth of the matter is, you probably won’t.
Google might tell you that they can get the issue resolved in three to five days, but we’ve had clients that have gone through this same scenario and have been weeks or even months without their profile. The cost to your business is tremendous. That’s why we say don’t try to get gimmicky with it. Just stick to what’s basic, how they’re telling you to use the tool and you should be safe and be able to get the maximum exposure and maximum leads out of using this tool. If you try to get cute, you’re going to get into trouble.
Verifying Your Profile
Let’s talk about the records that they have on file. When you first claim that business listing, they’re going to do something really old school which is mail you a post. Why are they doing that? Because you are inputting a physical address of a business location and Google needs to verify it. That is for the protection of us all.
What they don’t want is for one of your competitors or some random person to claim the business and then start posting nonsense on the profile.
So Google has put together a verification process. When you go through that verification process to claim the listing, you’re going to have to receive a code that’s texted to you at a phone number – which can become an issue.
Let’s say you have a phone system with automated answering. You can’t get a verification code to that number because it has a phone tree. So you may decide to give the owner’s cell phone number to receive that verification code. You can do that but keep in mind that whatever phone number is used to verify the account will be the phone number that’s published on your GBP so choose another number or create one as needed.
In short, understand the rules and play by the rules. It’s a free listing hosted on a platform other than your own so don’t get cute because if something goes sideways, it will be so difficult to unwind and you’re not going to be able to call somebody. We don’t intend to scare you but we do this because we’ve seen the pain that it can cause a contractor when things go awry.
Your GBP is Invaluable
When you use your GBP correctly, it can be a fantastic source of leads and engagement with your customers. It is a fantastic tool to have as part of your marketing mix overall that can help your business be successful.
We believe there are things that you should learn to do well to manage your GBP well and we want to help you do that. We are offering a digital course for contractors called the Contractor Marketing Game Plan. A part of this course covers how to set up and use your GBP accurately to maximize the type of leads that you can get through that profile.
We want to encourage you to check out our website to see if the Contractor Marketing Game Plan course could be right for you and to consider it as a resource on how you can succeed with your Google Business Profile and more.