In the midst of Covid-19, lockdown measures are making local search optimisation for your SMB’s Google Business Profile increasingly important

When users search the first thing they are likely to notice is the Google Knowledge Panel appearing on the right side of the SERP. If someone is searching for your local business this will appear as a summary box of collected public data, referred to as your Business Profile. 

Optimising the Google knowledge panel
Google Knowledge Panel

Undeniably, this is the simplest way to rank in Google Maps and gain visibility in local search results.

The host of information such as reviews, booking options, opening hours, and directions is also going to boost perceptions of convenience and credibility.

optimising Business Profile for local search
Local SEO for Google Maps

Assuming you have already gone through the process to claim your Google Business Profile, the next step is to make your business information more likely to appear to potential customers. 

optimising Google Business profile dashboard
Google My Business Dashboard

So what does Covid-19 have to do with it?

Data shows search behaviour has changed during the pandemic. Search volume has experienced a high but this traffic is categorised by a shift away from nonessential business websites toward areas such as health, entertainment, and news. Despite this decline, local search optimisation for small local businesses remains particularly important. 

For local brick-and-mortar retail businesses that may never have previously relied on an online presence, there are new opportunities to be seized. 

  1. Travel restrictions are causing consumers to rely on local businesses more than ever.
  2. Amidst a crisis, we see a growing attitude toward community, which has been marked by the #supportsmallbusiness movement. 
  3. You probably have the time to refocus your SEO strategy 
  4. You can start to build loyal customer relationships for the long-term  

Stay relevant

People are regularly seeking information in these uncertain times. You need to keep up-to-date information about operational changes such as opening times and delivery services.

A simple tool to utilise is Google Posts. Choose a post category from an event, offer, announcement, or product update, but try to keep it actionable. Keep in mind, these only last a week but a quick and free boost in visibility never hurt.

Google Business Profile Posts to communicate during covid
Google Business Posts

Be informative

Users are seeking reliable information, so maintaining communication with your audience is key to attracting them into your doors. Frequent updates are great for your local ranking. Make sure you are updating temporary closures, contact information, and changes in services.

Profile attributes will help you stand out against other search results. These can be found in the Google My Business dashboard. These are most relevant for service industries such as hospitality or retail and include indicators such as “delivery” and “contactless pickup”.

profile attributes
Google profile attributes

Avoid inconsistency

These are uncertain times, even for Google it seems. As Google’s algorithm scans your website for information, it’s important to be cautious of misinterpretation. Ensure your Google My Business profile is consistent with the information across your website, socials, and public sources. Sometimes we see the “temporarily closed” label being mistakenly marked across businesses. When it comes to low-involvement purchasing decisions, it’s these minor uncertainties that cause your customer to opt for your competitor.

Monitor reputation

Positive, high-quality reviews can be the determining factor in whether or not a customer will visit your store. Whether good or bad, it’s crucial to frequently respond to these reviews via your Google my business profile. Engaging with your customers not only demonstrates your commitment to customer service but also verifies your expertise, authority, and trust to search engines. Additionally, Google Reviews are an efficient way for users to quickly find answers to questions when scanning the search page.

Information on your local listing will also comprise crawled data from public sources. This is likely to include reviews from local directories and Facebook. Google bases its “prominence” rank factor on number and score of reviews, so maintaining a presence on these sites should not be overlooked.

Utilise features

If you have categorised your business, Google will allow you to add certain features that ease and encourage consumers to make contact. Examples for retail and hospitality businesses could include a menu or booking button.

Google Organic search ranking factors
Overall Ranking Signals

Add photos

Signal to Google that your business is active by uploading images directly from your Google My Business dashboard. Go a step further and publish 360 photos with the Street View app, then link it to your Maps listing.

Your potential customers are likely searching location-based queries such as “Bike repair Carlton”. Therefore, you want to geo-tag these images to define your prominence in local search.

Conclusion

Overall, your Google My Business strategy is based on providing detailed and consistent information across your website, review sites, and social accounts.

If the pandemic has left you with the spare time you should be taking advantage of this simple and free local search strategy to connect with customers and increase awareness of your business.

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