Google today launched Google My Business , an easier way to manage information about your business and how it appears on Google maps, Google+ and search.
You get a single place to update your information about your business. Then the updated information will flow through to appear on various Google properties where people may be searching for your business or see your business listing.
A McKinsey Global Institute study (“Internet matters,” March 2011) found that small businesses with a strong web presence grew more than twice as quickly as those that had minimal or no presence.
According to James Croom, Marketing Manager of Google who works on the Google My Business initiative, while the advantages of having a strong online presence are clear, “Business owners are overwhelmed.” He pointed to a survey by Brother conducted by Wakefield Research in March 2014. In that survey, 63% of small business owners said they are overwhelmed by the sheer number of technologies available.
Google My Business is intended to address that overwhelmed feeling.
It simplifies how small business owners manage their business information that appears. While today you can manage how your business information appears in Google from various places, “Google My Business brings it all together in one place,” Croom added.
Google My Business will save time and make the process less complicated not only for owners, but for the staff they may have to train to update the business’s online presence.
How Google My Business Works
Only the business owner and his/her staff will see screens for Google My Business. To business owners it looks like this:
By using Google My Business , you can:
- Update your business information on Search, Maps and Google+ from one place, to list accurate hours of operation, location and similar information.
- Add photos of your business and a virtual tour of your business interior to help customers see it.
- Connect with fans and customers by sharing news, events and other important updates from your Google+ page.
- Stay on top of reviews from across the web, and respond to Google reviews.
- Understand how people find and interact with your business using custom insights about how many times your business information is seen and from where. Google My Business also integrates with a streamlined version of AdWords, called AdWords Express.
What the public will see is the updated information in the Google search engine, in Google Maps, and even in Google+.
You may not realize it, but increasingly in the search results is something that Google refers to as a “knowledge panel.” You will see more and more of these when searching in the Google search engine for a business. The knowledge panel gives a sizeable block of online real estate in the Google search results to a business, on the right side of the page. The knowledge panel looks like this one for a San Francisco company called Dandelion Chocolate  (knowledge panel is circled in red):
According to Croom, there are several ways a knowledge panel like this may appear for your business. But the easiest way to get one of these is to use Google My Business to input and keep the information complete and up to date. The knowledge panel, when nicely fleshed out, is impressive to customers and prospective customers alike who see it.
Google My Business manages only certain “business listing” types of information. Google has other tools, such as Webmaster Tools , to manage other parts of your site’s appearance in Google, such as which pages of your site are indexed.
Croom addressed the sometimes sensitive issue of online reviews. A link to Google reviews and also to reviews from other review sites across the Web appears on the knowledge panel and in other places in Google.
Said Croom, “Google requires real names [tied to a Google+ identity] for Google reviews. While business owners cannot change the verbiage of reviews left by reviewers on Google, they can respond to reviews.” That way if information is inaccurate or the issue has been resolved, the business owner can put it in context.
Small businesses we talked with are still exploring Google My Business, but on first reaction welcomed it, as did search experts who work daily in the local search field.
Vedran Tomic, a local search expert and co-founder of Local Ants, LLC , said, “With the introduction of ‘Google My Business,’ Google has taken another big step towards increasing their share of the local advertising market. This time, they did it by simplifying and integrating their SMB products into one. This long anticipated change will help SMBs get more out of Google.”
Mike Blumenthal , a local search expert and co-founder of GetFiveStars , was also positive. He noted, “The rollout of Google My Business is significant in many, many ways. First, it puts the messy transition and confusion of Places, Plus etc. behind us and provides a single portal for SMBs to interact with Google. Second, it demonstrates a significant commitment on the part of Google to allocate adequate resources to providing necessary tools for SMBs. This is a big change from 2 or 3 years ago. Third, it is a clear statement that Google Plus isn’t going away but is being better integrated into their suite of business marketing tools. And fourth, My Business, as a platform, allows Google to quickly develop and integrate new functionality and they have indicated to me that they have lots of cool new capabilities coming. ”
Blumenthal added, “For the first time in as long as I can remember, Google has a product for local businesses that has state-of-the-art features, easy to use design, useful features like review monitoring and social analytics, great support, is technically sound, and demonstrates a strong vision for the future. I think every local business needs to learn the ins and outs of this new platform NOW.”
Who Can Use Google My Business
The new interface to update your business presence online is not limited to so-called local businesses. Any business can use it. Croom said there are three main categories of businesses that he believes may find it valuable:
(1) Brick and mortar businesses with physical storefronts that serve a defined local area.
(2) Businesses that serve a specific area but don’t have a traditional storefront (they may work from a home office or work out of a truck, for instance).
(3) Online-businesses only or businesses without a defined geographical area they serve.
Use It on a Desktop Computer or Mobile Device
Google MyBusiness can be accessed on a browser from your desktop computer, tablet or any mobile device.
There’s also an Android app (pictured above). An iOS app is “coming very soon” says Croom.
For Windows mobile users, Croom recommends using a mobile browser and accessing the desktop app that way.