Go ahead… search your own business on Google. Are you at the top of the results? Are you showing up at all?
If you can’t find your business, chances are someone who wants some work done can’t find them either.
These days, businesses that can’t be found easily on Google are at a significant disadvantage, said Garret Wasny, a Vancouver-based professional development advisor. He assists professionals in getting the most out of the world’s largest search engine.
“We live in a Google world,” he said. “That’s how we live and how people go through life. People wear Google-coloured glasses and that’s the lens through which they make decisions about where to shop, what to buy, and which companies have the right inventory and reputation.”
The search giant is the first touch point for many consumers.
“Google accounts for about 95 per cent of all global searches,” said Seth Owens, senior account executive at Podium, a customer interaction platform. “So your presence on Google is, almost every single time, the place somebody finds your business.”
And to strengthen your relationship with Google, and help your search results, you need to have a Google profile.
Similar to having a Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter profile, a Google business profile is easy to set up, and will give prospective customers key information about you, like where you’re located, when you’re open and how people can get in touch with you.
“That is probably the most underrated but most important profiles that you can have on the web,” Wasny said. “It’s a simple but critical first step to get a Google presence and increase your visibility on Google.”
He uses the phrase ‘first step’ on purpose. It’s not enough to input this information and walk away. Like with Twitter or Facebook, it requires regular updating.
“Things like adding pictures makes a big difference. Auto repair shops are such a visual, tactile place,” he said. “How many cars come in? How many different tools do you have? How many people work there? How many different repair situations come up? There are endless ways you can photograph (automotive repair shops). That makes it visually interesting.”
The opportunity to teach and advise are countless. Becoming a trusted source of information ultimately means more business. And, best of all, it’s free. You can’t even say that about hosting your own website.
“Some have said, ‘We’re not going to have a website. This [a Google page] will be our de-facto website,’” Wasny said. “And actually there’s nothing wrong with that, especially if you have limited resources and you are really on a bare-bones budget.”
The only real cost is time because, remember, it will need periodic attention. A junior staffer can probably handle the task without too much disruption, though.
And registering with Google is a good idea, even if you have a booming website, Wasny said. The Google profile is what pops up whenever a business is searched.
“In terms of getting the most visibility, having that Google business page is more important than your own webpage,” he said.
A key aspect of the Google business profile is getting reviews from customers. Important factors go into whether or not a business will show up when searched: the star ratings given by reviewers, how many reviews the business has received, and how recent those reviews are.
If someone is searching for a repair shop near them, feedback will play a critical role in where they shop.
“The reason reviews are such a hot topic is that people are most of the time finding your businesses from a search for the first time,” Podium’s Owens said.
Not too long ago, people would go into about four different businesses before they decided where to spend their money. That’s how we did our research. Nowadays, the average person will walk through about one door.
“Reason being, all the information they need to make that decision is online and that’s where those decisions are being made – online,” Owens said. “Reviews heavily, heavily impact that. So by the time they walk through your door, they’ve likely already made their decision.”
Reviews are an extension of word-of-mouth recommendations, except conversations are taking place online rather than at your neighbour’s house. Even when the recommendation starts in the real world, it moves online as the prospective customer checks you out on the web. If they can’t find you, or see bad reviews, chances are that they won’t follow through.
“If you don’t have a good reputation – if people don’t feel like they can trust you – you’re dead in the water,” Owens said.
Wasny sees a lot of businesses putting in a significant effort in soliciting positive feedback online. This makes sense because people typically only write a review when they have something to complain about. Owens recommends asking for reviews at the end of the sale, while the customer is happy about the service they received.
“If your question is, ‘Do reviews affect my business?’ then the answer is, ‘Absolutely.’ People are hanging on to every word of that review,” Owens said.
Reviews, as part of a Google profile, feed into four main traits customers look for in a business: reliability, expertise, experience, and professionalism.
“People are willing to pay a little bit more if they get what they want – and what they want is a good job,” Wasny said.
Filling out the profile
When it comes to reliability, customers want to know that they’ll get the product or service they want. They want to know that the business has the inventory, expertise, and training to meet their needs. Do they belong to an association and do they adhere to professional standards or codes of ethics? These can all be expressed in your Google profile.
“As much as possible, you want to communicate that in every ad and in every signal your company has on or off the web,” Wasny said.
Failing in any aspect means it’ll be tougher to grow.
In an industry that still battles poor public perceptions, creating trust and credibility is key. A glowing Google profile could be exactly what you need to be found by the right shoppers.