I was debating whether to discuss Google Places in my next blog. After all, this is such a no brainer! But then I read that only 10% of local businesses in the U.S. have claimed their Google Places listing.
Shocking! There are undoubtedly some tire dealers and auto service centers that have not yet claimed their listing, and there surely are many businesses in our industry that are not fully leveraging this free service.
Does anyone use the phone book anymore? When you want information on a local business, where do you go? Google receives more than 2,000 queries per second.
Here are five free steps to leveraging the power of Google:
Step 1 Claim your listing in Google Places. After filling out a brief form, you will need to verify with Google that you are the business owner. Google will call you at the number you provide and give you a pin number which you then will enter on the Google Places website.
Step 2 Be as detailed as possible in filling out your listing…a thoughtful description of your business, your hours, what area you serve, etc. The more detailed you are, the more relevancy you will have in Google’s algorithms.
Step 3 Sign up for Google Webmasters. This free service gives you incredibly insightful reports about how your web pages are doing on Google. What search terms are people using? What links are generating the most traffic?
Step 4 Solicit positive reviews of your business. The more positive reviews you have, the better your Google search results will be. Put up a counter card encouraging your customers to post positive reviews on Google Places, as well as review sites. For example, a positive review gets a free oil change or enters them into a drawing for a set of tires. A recent survey found that 78% of people trust consumer recommendations; only 14% trust ads.
What about negative reviews? Here’s advice from Google:
Be nice. This isn’t just a guideline it’s a good idea. You aren’t going to win an argument with a frustrated customer. And you don’t want to burn any bridges. Even customers who initially had a bad experience might come back.
Don’t get personal. Remember that you’re replying to feedback about an experience, not about you as a person. Reply in a way that addresses the overall experience, and remember that there’s a real person on the other end. If you believe the review violates the posting guidelines, please use the “Flag as Inappropriate” link.
Feedback is helpful. Both positive and negative feedback can be good for your business and help it grow (even though it’s sometimes hard to hear). Think of all feedback as an opportunity to improve.
For more tips on ground rules and sample responses, go to Google Places User Guide.
Step 5 This is a new one and really exciting! Google is now photographing the interiors of businesses. They want their users to have the right expectations when they go to a local business. Google photographers are currently visiting businesses in select cities in the U.S., Japan, Australia, and New Zealand. If your business is in one of the cities, you can apply at Google Business Photos. If you are not in one of these cities, keep an eye on this expanding service; it’s a great way to show off your attractive customer lounge or showroom. You can learn more on Google Business Photos’ FAQ page.
This is all free and extremely powerful. Use it and be ahead of the 90% of other businesses out there who have not yet realized that we are “living in a Google world!”
Christine Taylor is vice president of social media marketing for JTMarCom,a Nashville-based marketing agency that helps companies with online reputation management and integration of social media into their traditional marketing programs. With a combined 35 years of experience in the tire industry, the agency places a special emphasis on working with tire and automotive aftermarket companies. Follow Christine on Facebook and Twitter (@chrisgtaylor). She can also be reached at 615-714-5469.