Even if you don’t know what they’re called, you’ve seen them many times—those knowledge panels of information that come up with photos, directions, hours of operation, reviews, and more when you Google a business. They’re called Google My Business listings, a free, simple-to-use tool for businesses to manage the information that Google users find when they search for a business, or the products/services they offer.
Google My Business manages your online presence across Google, including Google Search and Google Maps, and makes it easy for customers and potential clients to connect with you by making sure they have your website address, street address, and other important information.
You can also serve customers better—and your business in the process—by updating your hours of operation as they may change due to any business impact caused by COVID-19.
On desktops, the listing displays to the right of organic and paid search results. On mobile, the listing often appears at the top of the screen.
If your practice hasn’t claimed and verified a free Google My Business listing, or if you have one but haven’t updated it in a while, here are three big reasons to do it today:
1. More Website Traffic
According to Google and Oxera, accurate business details on Google My Business generate roughly a 30% increase in click-throughs to a business website.
2. More Traffic to Your Front Door
According to Ipsos MORI, businesses with Google My Business listings are 38% more likely to have searchers visit the location, and visitors are 29% more likely to become customers.
3. Improved Customer Trust
According to Google and Oxera, businesses with verified, up-to-date listings on Google My Business are twice as likely to be considered reputable.
Said more simply: In a competitive veterinary market, listing your practice on Google My Business is an important tool to help increase website traffic, customer trust, and practice profitability, and having complete and up-to-date Google My Business listing information is key to reaching those goals.
Google is a business focused on customer satisfaction, and relevant search results are cornerstone to Google to maintain customer satisfaction. After all, if Google displayed search results that were irrelevant to a user’s needs and/or location, people wouldn’t use Google. To ensure this doesn’t happen, Google’s search algorithm and ranking systems are designed to present results that best match what some is looking for, and local results appear for people who search for businesses near their location.
By providing complete business information in Google My Business (and updating that information as needed), you help Google understand more about your business. This makes it easier for Google to match your business to relevant user searches, which enhances your local ranking on Google and presence on Google Search and Google Maps.
Google My Business Includes Insights
The more you know about potential customers, the better you can tailor your overall practice marketing to turn prospects into clients. Google My Business provides insights into how people searched for your practice and where those searches came from. You can also find information such as how many people called your practice from the number listed on local search results in Google Search and Google Maps.
Optimizing Your Google My Business Listing
- Complete your basic practice information: business name, address, phone number, website address, hours of operation, etc. Then double-check what you’ve entered against what you have on your practice website to make sure they both reflect the same information. When visitors arrive on any website for the first time, they consciously or unconsciously ask themselves, “Have I come to the right place?” Continuity between your website information and Google My Business listings helps reassure visitors that they’ve indeed arrived at the website they want.
- Choose your business category. You can choose up to 10 categories to show off the services you provide, but you can only choose one primary business category (and you can’t create your own category). So, choose your categories carefully. If you add or edit one of your existing categories, you may be asked to verify your business again.
- Add a value proposition to your business description. Marketing any business effectively involves answering the #1 question in the minds of prospective customers: “Why should I choose your product/service above any other competing product/service?” Now, if you happen to be the only veterinary practice in town, the answer for prospective customers would naturally be, “You should choose us because… well, you don’t have a choice.” If you don’t have a captive market, answering the primary prospect question is a key issue. Having words like “animal hospital” or “veterinary clinic” in your business name certainly tell pet owners that you care for animals. Yet competing practices likely offer the same level of information in their business names. To inform people about why they should choose your practice over another, use your business description to tell people about what sets you apart from others.
- Upload photos and/or videos. According to Google, businesses with images in their Google My Business listings receive 42% more requests for driving directions to their location from Google users—plus 35% more click-throughs to their websites—than businesses that don’t use images. When posting images, make sure to include an exterior picture of your practice so people can more easily recognize it when they’re driving or walking there. (This also applies to clinic walkthrough videos.)
- Respond to all online reviews—even the negative ones. For why this is important and how to turn negatives reviews into positives, read our recent blogs: The Benefits of Negative Reviews and Understanding Why Clients Post Negative Reviews Online.
- Share posts to promote events, offers, and website content. In 2017, Google rolled out Google Posts to give local businesses a simple way to attract new customers and build relationships with existing ones. Google Posts appear on your Google My Business listing, and clients can both read a full post and share it with friends directly from Google.
- Create a short name and URL for your practice. Once you have a verified Google My Business listing, you can create a short name, or custom name, for your Business Profile to make it easier for customers to find you.
Verifying Your Google My Business Listing
Once you’ve created your initial Google My Business listing, Google sends out a verification code by postcard that you use to verify your business location. Make sure to enter this code carefully. If you enter the code incorrectly more than five times, you’ll receive a message informing you that your verification has failed, and you’ll no longer be able to verify your business. Once your listing is verified, you’ll be able to make changes to your business information, write posts, and share images.
Take a Good Hard Look at Your Practice Website
It’s one thing to attract more visitors to your website with an optimal Google My Business listing. But it’s another thing to keep visitors engaged once they arrive. People form opinions about businesses in seconds based on how their website looks. According to a Northumbria University study, 94% of website first impressions are design-related, which means it’s more important than ever that your site is visually appealing, unique, and easy to use to moment visitors arrive. So, take a step back and make an honest assessment of your practice website.
- Is it custom designed to reflect the distinct style and personality of your practice while adhering to established design standards and user experience best practices?
- Is it optimized to display beautifully on smartphones and mobile devices to reach people on devices they use?
- Does it have user-friendly navigation so visitors can explore your site with ease?
If you’re not sure how your website stacks up against other practices, have a look at these veterinary websites as examples of the kind of designs that stand out from the competition.