SEO is a frequent topic of discussion in both the marketing and web development worlds and is in fact a huge industry in its own right, but more and more we need to be paying attention to how businesses appear in all manner of search results. Simply showing up on search results is important, but businesses now have a high level of control over what relevant information is available to customers when they search, if they just take control of it. With the rich snippets that now show up in Google search results, Google Maps’ ability to provide business information immediately within latter day tool tips on the map page, the prevalence of built in Google Search on Android devices, and the now cross platform Google Now location and preference based updates, it has now become all the more critical, especially for brick and mortar businesses, to take advantage of all the information which Google My Business allows them to get to their customers when and how they want it. Here are some tips to get started if you haven’t, or to do even better if you have.

Claim your business

Whether you’ve taken the time to set one up or not, the odds are that Google has at least the beginnings of a profile for your business already based on the publicly available information that’s out there, from places like your other social media networks, your website, or even information offered by customers. Even if you’re not a local, brick and mortar style business, there are options to claim a business profile or set up a new one, so don’t think you should skip out on this just because you don’t have a physical, local storefront. Once you go to Google My Business and get started, you can find your business and claim it to begin to be able to update information about the business directly. Not only that, but it prevents any confusion between you and similarly named or located competitors and prevents any possibility of digital squatting. You can’t win if you don’t play, even in search optimization and social media.

Update your profile

Now that you’ve claimed ownership of the profile, take the time to make sure that all information like address, phone number, business hours, and offered services is updated and keep it that way. This is especially important if you have things like seasonal hours or alternating locations. This is all information that should also be on your main website, which should be linked from the Google profile, but the Google My Business information is there in the first search results people look at, whether it’s as a highlighted snippet on a desktop search results page or in a mobile or location aware search. Accurate hours and location are also critical to make certain that things Google Now location based results that come up are relevant and accurate. For example, if the listed hours of operation indicate that a business is closed, my mobile device will clearly tell me CLOSED when I perform a search or look at the list of stores or restaurants or other business nearby and I’ll move right along to someplace else on the list. If that’s your business and you actually are open but the hours are simply listed wrong, you just potentially lost business.

Keep an eye on reviews

Google asks customers to review businesses right on the listings, so make sure to read through those reviews and respond to ones that justify it, whether it’s customers who have had problems and left neutral or negative reviews or customers who had a mostly positive experience but had an unresolved question or point of confusion. Of course not every negative review needs to be or should be responded to, but many of them may offer opportunities for you to turn things around with that customer. If a review is simply belligerently angry, or doesn’t offer any comments on what exactly was wrong with the customer’s experience, it’s reasonable to let that lie, but any kind of specific issues or coherent criticism can potentially be addressed and resolved.

Use Google+

Google+ may not be a key part of your social media strategy, because it still doesn’t quite have the same degree of broad usefulness for some audiences as a social network, but the integration of Google+ into other Google products, including business listings, makes it incredibly effective for businesses. It doesn’t have to be a key part of your social media specific strategy if you don’t feel like that makes sense for the business given the target audience or the social media goals, and you can easily re-purpose content from other places onto Google+, but it should be a part of your larger digital marketing strategy because of the connection to those business listings and the information populated into search results.

Take advantage of the extra analytics information

If you’re already using Google Analytics, your Google My Business data can be incorporated into that existing data pool and can give you an extra degree of information, including things like how often customers request driving directions, where your customers are coming from when they search, and how many click-throughs you get from various Google services. Even if you’re not primarily using the Google Analytics platform for your data collection and analysis, it’s still worth looking at independently for all that same information, especially things like where your customers are coming from and what exactly they’re looking for. While it can be easy to get swamped in too much information, this location based data especially can be very powerful and is not easy to get otherwise, so take advantage of it.

As people’s ability to search for information goes further and further beyond a simple desktop search, getting the right information to your customers at the tight time will become increasingly complex, and taking advantage of your Google My Business listing is just the first in what will almost inevitably be a growing list, but it’s an important start. Have you ever found a business of which you weren’t otherwise aware thanks to a Google business listing? Share with us in the comments, and thanks for reading!