As of 2022 "Google My Business" has been renamed "Google Business Profile".
One of the most effective ways to get your accommodation business noticed is by utilising a fantastic free tool from the good people at Google: ‘Google Business Profile’. Google Business Profile is what we call your ‘digital storefront’. It can appear when customers search for your business specifically or for accommodation like yours on Google or Google Maps.
You’ve probably seen Google Business Profile listings plenty of times before. If you search for a specific business on Google, it’s the listing that appears to the right side of Google search results, full of useful information that allows you make a decision about whether to use that business or tells you how to get in touch right away. If you search for a more generic term such as ‘Nelson restaurant’, the Google Business Profile results are the ones that appear as ‘Maps’ results underneath the Google Ads—with locations, star ratings, images and opening hours attached.
Google Business Profile listings are prominent, eye-catching and can be extremely beneficial to your business. Because information on multiple businesses is displayed in the exact same way, customers have the advantage of comparing ‘apples with apples’—allowing for quick decision-making without the need to scroll through dozens of pages on multiple websites.
Research suggests that a good listing on Google Business Profile can increase clicks through to your website by up to 400%. Some also argue that a Google Business Profile listing has now become just an important—if not more important—than your website. If you’re not yet using a Google Business Profile, you’re missing a fantastic opportunity… And did we mention it’s free?!
Share a digital snapshot of your business
A Google Business Profile takes important information about your business and turns it into a dynamic digital snapshot, by way of a simple listing. Among this information is images, contact information, a short description, opening hours, popular times of day, reviews, questions and answers, location information, a link to directions and link to your website.
Where else in the digital world can customers access this amount of detail on your business, aside from your website? Even on your website, it’s likely to take the customer a few ‘clicks’ to access some aspects—and many time-poor customers appreciate the convenience and simplicity that a Google Business Profile listing offers. A Google Business Profile listing is like a business card that is frequently updated and tailored to its reader’s location. It’s short and sharp with a focus on helping customers reach you through whatever method they prefer.
Get on the map
If you have a Google Business Profile listing, your business will appear on Google Maps in localised searches. What does this mean, exactly? It means that if somebody uses Google Maps to look for ‘Nelson accommodation’, for example, your accommodation business in Nelson will appear on the map with a pin showing its location, and your Google Business Profile listing will pop up if that pin is clicked on. It will also appear in the listings to the left of the map.
So, why is this important? For many customers, business location is a critical factor when making a booking. Why would a customer book accommodation located 30km away when they can book another that is just 10km away with a 4.5-star rating to boot? Location is especially important for accommodation businesses, so if you’re not highlighting your location, you are missing a massive opportunity to be noticed.
Position your brand as credible and professional
The beauty of a Google Business Profile listing is that it is not completely under the control of the business owner. While you have responsibility for keeping your details up to date, you also need to be verified by Google. A Google Business Profile listing shows that your accommodation business is the real deal. It’s established, it’s open for business and active in the digital world which denotes professionalism and currency—and means you probably have effective systems and processes in place to handle bookings. This may sound like a lot of assumptions, but this is an example of some of the conscious or subconscious thoughts customers may have when completing online searches and making decisions.
Another important aspect that adds credibility is the inclusion of reviews. Three Google reviews are displayed on your Google Business Profile snapshot (with the option for the customer to read all reviews) and you don’t have control over which ones appear up front. If 100% of your reviews are positive, great! But if you have a few negative ones here and there, and a negative one displays on your listing, you don’t need to panic. Look at it as an opportunity to reply with grace and professionalism, showing customers how you handle complaints which are a reality of running any business. Done right (or wrong!) your response to a negative review can influence a customer more so than the review itself. Also, the more reviews—and the more positive your reviews—the more likely you are to show up in the coveted ‘three-pack’ position—the results positioned directly underneath the Google Ads that we mentioned earlier on.
Connect with your customers in more ways
Responding to reviews is one way to engage with customers, but a Google Business Profile also has a Questions and Answers function that can be useful for both the business and the customer. Customers can submit their questions through this function. It could be something simple, such as ‘Can I book online?’. You can answer the question as the business owner, and other Google users can choose to answer the question too if they believe they know the answer. This function often ends up acting like a ‘Frequently Asked Questions’ tool. Customers will often check out existing questions to see if they can find the answer before asking themselves.
You can also switch on the ‘messaging’ function in your Google Business Profile which allows customers to converse with you via instant message using your mobile phone. If you have this turned on, just make sure you are on alert for notifications (silent mode is a no-no!). If you don’t respond fast enough, you may lose a booking!
You can also manage your listing to give your multiple methods to connect with you—whether it’s by calling, emailing, visiting your website or following you on Facebook. Customers love options!
Gain valuable insights to convert more bookings
A Google Business Profile has an ‘insights’ function, giving you a whole suite of useful data about how and where your listing has appeared, who has seen it and how they have interacted with it. This type of data is marketing gold: it can be used to understand your customer, to improve your search results and to convert more bookings.
For example, your insights may demonstrate that customers are often calling your business after hours. Do you have a strategy in place for these after-hours calls? Could you use the instant messaging function to give customers another way to reach you when you’re not available by phone – or add a post that directs them to make a tentative booking online?
Check your insights regularly to learn about your customer behaviour. These insights can not only help you improve your Google Business Profile, but can feed into your overall digital marketing strategy to enable you to run effective campaigns, increase awareness and grow your business fast.
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