You should know by now that showing up high in Google search results will greatly improve your company’s online visibility. However, you may be overlooking a free tool that gives you even more exposure, while enhancing your customer experience.

Google My Business (GMB) is a free online business profile available to any business. In fact, you may already have a GMB listing that was automatically generated by Google—you just need to claim it. You can then enhance your profile by taking advantage of a wide range of built-in features.

One reason it’s so valuable: Google often puts local business listings at the top of search results when people look for a specific type of business. And those online searchers often turn into customers. One study found that 76% of people who search for a local business on a mobile device end up visiting that business or a similar one within the next day.

“Google My Business is probably the easiest search engine optimization (SEO) play a business can make,” says Natalie Hornyak, SEO specialist for The Content Factory, a digital PR agency. “By taking the time to optimize every part of your profile, not only can you ensure local customers find your business, but you can also control what they see.”

So, how can you take full advantage of GMB to make it effective at reeling in customers? Follow these six steps:


  1. Get on the map

Before setting up your profile, make sure that one wasn’t already generated for your business based on third-party information, such as online customer reviews. Google will guide you through the steps of building out your profile. One key step is ensuring your business shows up on Google Maps, so that potential customers can easily find your physical location.


  1. Make your listing pop

Write a short, engaging description of your business using keywords that online searchers are likely to use to describe your type of business, such as “sports equipment” or “pet supplies.” This will help drive search results. Then add photos and videos showcasing your business, your products, your employees or your customers in the best possible light. Be sure to provide all the information requested, including your physical address, phone number and hours of operation. The more complete your listing, the higher it will land in Google search results, Hornyak says.


  1. Solicit customer reviews

Customer reviews are a key metric Google uses to determine your GMB ranking in search results, Hornyak notes, so it’s important to encourage happy customers to post reviews to your business profile. While you can’t pay customers to write positive reviews, an incentive such as a free appetizer or a discount on their next purchase could motivate them.


  1. Take advantage of extra features

Once you’ve covered the profile basics, explore what else GMB offers. For example, it recently rolled out a new feature that allows service businesses to display their service area. You can also promote coupons, blog posts or special events using the Google My Business Posts feature. Posting regularly will boost the SEO of your website if you include related keywords, says Ellie Shedden, director of THE-OOP.COM, a digital marketing company. These posts appear on your GMB homepage, almost like mini-ads or social media posts. Link back to your website or social media pages in your posts to maximize their effectiveness, Shedden adds.


  1. Use Google Analytics

Along with your free listing, you’ll have access to Google Analytics data, which shows you where your customers are coming from and how they are finding you. You can also measure the response to specific posts, promotions and calls to action, which can help you fine-tune your marketing strategy.


  1. Review your listing frequently

Keep in mind that anyone can make changes to your profile, and not every customer is going to have a positive experience with your business. So it’s important to check your listing regularly to make sure all of the information is still accurate, and to respond to any negative reviews.

GMB can be a valuable customer engagement tool, but only if you know how it use it effectively.

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