The one thing you can count on about Google is that the rules of the game are constantly changing. Google’s commitment to providing searchers with the purest, most useful results means that it keeps changing things to prevent business owners from scamming its system while providing various tools to help people use it. What was true in the past may not be true today. There are a few assumptions that you may be making about Google’s local search that are completely wrong. And, here are a few tips for keeping you from going wrong.
1. Some Dealers Overlook the Power of Google My Business
Perhaps because Google hyped its soon-to-be-scrapped Google+ to compete more directly with Facebook, however, the advent of Google My Business (GMB) has gotten overlooked to an extent by some dealers. GMB has many tools and facets that are dramatically helpful to free self-promotion.
In fact, today, GMB is probably the most important part of local Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Dealers who have not claimed and fully optimized their GMB pages are losing out. It represents the loss of potential customers. It ignores the power that Google provides totally free to describe the business, where it is located, its business hours, how to contact the business and what it looks like through pictures and videos. When information is missing or out of date, it diminishes the opportunity to attract new customers.
2. Some Dealers Believe that NAP is Enough
NAP stands for Name, Address, Phone Number – the key elements of being listed online. These are, of course, essential, but there is so much more that Google offers to display with your NAP of which many dealers do not take advantage. They include elements that are important in attracting local customers and beating competitors of which they are not paying attention (and did not read this article!).
Many online business listings allow owners to include descriptions, images and offer deals without the visitor having to leave the listing and click on a website. GMB goes even further by providing a place for informational posts, special events and offer limited-time, self-expiring promotions.
3. Some Dealers May Try to Trick Google
As you might expect, Google has rules. These rules are described as Google Guidelines (see: www.bit.ly/gmb-guidelines). They define the categories under which operators must describe their businesses. Google will infer services under a category by visiting your website and other similar businesses to further define your sub-categories, but it also gives you the option of doing so to the extent that their pre-defined descriptions fit your business.
A suggestion from Google’s guidelines: “Select categories that complete the statement: ‘This business is a … ‘ rather than ‘this business has a… .’ The goal is to describe your business holistically rather than list of all the services it offers, products it sells or amenities it features.”
Attempting to break this or any other Google guidelines could result in Google suspending the listing. And, the penalty is not just lowering your Google ranking. It is a total suspension altogether until the issue is resolved.
4. Some Dealers Think Mastering Google is Enough
While Google does garner over 70% of all online searches, you cannot ignore the dozens of other sites that can mention your dealership online. Simply stated, you want as many citations as possible. A citation is a mention of your business in an online directory. The listings usually include the NAP and often the business’ URL. The greater the number of “clean” citations that a dealership has, the more chances it has of reaching potential customers in the geographic area that it serves.
To quickly check the number and accuracy of your dealership’s listing on a variety of these sites you can run a free report at www.bit.ly/checkmysites2019.
Even if your prospective customer does not go directly to one of the more obscure sites, your listing may show up in a Google search anyway. The more places your dealership is listed, the greater the chance you have to be found. Furthermore, the more places that Google discovers your dealership mentioned online, the greater authority it has which can result in a higher listing in organic searches.
5. Some Dealers Still Do Not Respect the Power of Reviews
According to BrightLocal, 93% of consumers use reviews to determine their inclination to use a business.
In the recent past, retailers and some consumers became cynical about the number of obviously fake reviews that were being displayed. In fact, some unethical business owners did pay people to post manufactured reviews on their sites, or negative ones on competitors’. But, consumers have gotten smarter about spotting fake reviews and many published articles about how to spot them have helped.
It is no longer a question about whether consumers care about reviews, they are quite often predicting their entire decision of whether to call or visit your dealership based on them.
Negative reviews, while becoming statistically less frequent than complimentary ones, are even more critical. Reviews approached with the sincere objective of addressing the customers’ concerns gives the business owner the chance to minimize the problem or add information to the dialogue that will give future readers more perspective. In fact, a properly addressed negative review can get that review removed by the complainer and has the opportunity to turn the unhappy customer into a positive reference and future customer again.
Given the cost of traditional advertising, it is truly amazing the number of dealers who do not take advantage of the tools provided by Google and other sites that are absolutely free. The fact that taking advantage of them doesn’t require the power of an overpriced geek should be encouraging.
Roger McManus is the author of “Entrepreneurial Insanity in the Tire Industry” (Amazon) directed at tire and auto service business owners who are trapped at the hub of their business wheel. The book can be ordered at www.RogerMcManus.com. Roger consults with dealers on their online visibility and social media presence. He can be contacted at [email protected].
Check out the rest of the July digital edition of Tire Review here.