“How to Optimize Google My Business - Business 2 Community” plus 1 more
Posted: 15 Aug 2019 06:34 AM PDT
Most businesses will get many of their clients from people who live within the area that they provide their services. Being able to let people within your area know that you provide a particular service or product they are interested in would be a major plus for your business. This is why every business should take advantage of Google My Business listing. This allows the business to appear in location-based searches as well as in Google Maps.
Claiming your listing or creating the listing is only the first step towards ensuring an effective online presence. This guide will teach you how to optimize Google My Business to get the best out of the listing.
Google My Business (GMB) does not just help the business, it also helps people searching online. This free tool from Google enables a searcher to find a business near them and then get vital information that will help them make a decision about whether to contact the business or not. For example, they can see if the business is open at the time they are conducting the search, they can see the address of the business and look at photos of the business posted both by the owner and people who have been there before. They can even see reviews by customers.
This may sound so much like a substitute for a website but it really isn't though it has to be optimized just like you would do for a website. Use this tool to complement your website by creating an informative presence on the most used search engine.
The knowledge card is something you need to get familiar with before you begin to optimize your GMB listing. The Knowledge card is what you would see at the right-hand corner of your desktop or at the top of your mobile screen when you search for a business. The knowledge card contains the following information among others:
As you optimize your listing, you will need to pay attention to a lot of this information. Visitors look at this information and they can decide whether they want to continue to the website or to contact the business, it is therefore important that this information is convincing enough to trigger a positive response.
This information also helps Google to know your business better. If it understands what your business does and where it is located, along with other vital information, it can determine whether your business is relevant to different searches and therefore your knowledge panel along with your website link will appear in more search results. The information is also used in Google Maps.
Claiming Your Listing on Google My Business
For businesses that have been in operation for years, it is highly likely that your business is already listed on GMB but it may not have been claimed yet. The first step to claiming the business is searching for it.
You need to go to Google and enter your business name along with its location. If your business is listed, you will see it in the results and the knowledge panel will also be present. In the knowledge panel is a link prompting you to either claim the business or to own it – it depends on whether you are using a desktop or mobile phone.
Click on the link and you will be on your way to claiming the business. For some businesses, someone may have already claimed the business and that would mean you would need to request them to revert the ownership to you if they are not part of the business. Sometimes you may have hired an SEO company which took the initiative to claim the business in order to optimize your online presence.
Creating a Google My Business Listing
If you are unable to find your business when you searched, and it is not listed then you will need to create the listing yourself. Creating the listing does not take too long. You will need to sign in to your Google account or if you do not have one you will need to sign up. Once that is done you can proceed to the Google Business page and click on the 'Manage Now' button. Follow the instructions and you will be done in a few minutes.
Managing Your Business Information
Once you have claimed your listing, it is important that all the information is accurate. You need to scrutinize the information and make sure everything is correct. Ensure the web address is actually yours and is spelled right along with the business name. Fill in other fields that may be missing like the type of business, location, if you have more than one location, you can include those as well, if the phone number has changed, add the new one that you know will be available and include the operating hours for your business.
It is also important that you indicate if you provide your services at the customer's location. This is common for service businesses like plumbing, cleaning and catering services, among others. You will also need to enter the area in which you operate. Often they may be multiple areas and you will need to include that so people are able to see if you serve their location. Make sure that all the changes you make are saved. You can do that by clicking "Apply" once you are done with the changes.
In order for these changes to appear in the listings, you need to verify your Google My Business listing. You have multiple ways to verify the listing. These include:
– Phone Call: The Google team will call your primary number and provide a verification code
– Email: The verification code will be sent to your email address
– Post Card: A postcard can also be sent to you with the code
– Instant verification
Most experts will recommend that you choose either postcard or email to verify your listing. This is a vital step in claiming your listing because Google uses it to ensure the business actually exists and does what you say it does as well as have a physical address. Google constantly weeds out the fake businesses and you do not want to be mistaken for one of the fake companies out there.
Verification can take about a week and until it is done, your listing will not be visible.
Optimizing Google My Business Listing
So the initial stage is done and you need to get down to the critical stage of ensuring that your listing effectively captures the attention of prospective clients and drives more traffic to your website with the ultimate goal of making conversions.
If you are constantly on the move, it is best that you download the Google My Business App so that you can easily respond to reviews, upload pictures and make any necessary changes on the go, or if you like to dedicate a particular amount of time each day to optimize your listing, then the desktop may be fine.
A great majority of people are convinced about how good a business is based on reviews from other users of the service or product. Google knows this and that is why there is a review section on the listing. Try to encourage as many people as you can to leave reviews about your business. These need to be genuine reviews because you can be penalized for having fake reviews, but naturally, you will want to have positive reviews so make sure your business is making people happy and you will have the positive reviews you want.
It is not a one-way street though, you need to be actively involved in the interaction. If someone leaves a review, be sure to respond, it could be saying 'thank you' or if the review is negative, you may want to address that too without getting defensive. If the fault is yours then own up and provide a solution that shows you care about your clients and want them to be happy.
You need to keep in mind that the more positive reviews a business has, the higher it is ranked and will appear among the top search results for businesses in its category. It should, therefore, be a major goal for you to collect as many positive reviews as possible.
You will also need to be on the lookout for fake reviews, feel free to report such reviews to the Google team. Your competitors may be using underhanded methods to get reviews and you can also report such issues.
Here is a crucial step in optimization. You might find that when you claim your Google My Business listing, there are already photos chosen by Google or uploaded by people who have used the service or product before. It is not enough. You need to pay keen attention to the photos that appear on your listing.
According to research, businesses with quality photos receive more clicks than those without and they will also get more requests for driving directions. It is worth spending on a professional photographer who can take amazing pictures of your business as well as the products or services. Remember first impressions last and the pictures you put up need to be able to make a positive lasting impression.
Choose the profile picture carefully, do not just settle for a logo of the business, let it be something attractive about your business. It could be the foyer or the workspace or for a restaurant, it could be an enticing buffet. Be creative here and ensure you impress.
It is important also to ensure brand recognition so pictures on your listing need to match those on your website and the quality should also be the same. The minimum resolution should be 720 by 720 pixels and they should be formatted in JPEG or PNG.
Just like with SEO for your business website, Keywords are very important. Google still takes note of particular keywords when choosing which listing to show and you would want to have the right keywords in your listing.
Borrow a leaf from your competitors and see how they are using different keywords and then go-ahead to implement a similar strategy. The area for description of the business is a great place to insert some strategic keywords but do not overdo it.
It is important that you accurately describe the category your business falls in and go on to exhaust the other related categories. At the same time though you do not want to include irrelevant categories that have nothing to do with your business
There are a lot of tools you can use for monitoring the performance of your GMB listing. Make use of all the available monitoring tools especially Google Analytics. There is a lot this tool can provide and it will help you make updates to your listing to ensure it is effectively attracting more clients and maintaining the existing ones. You will be able to track the number of people finding you using the listing along with other sources.
It is also possible to see what a visitor did after they found your listing. They can make a phone call to the business, go through your photos, ask for directions to the business location or visit the website. Here you will be able to tell what is the attraction on your listing and what is the poorest performer so that you improve it.
It cannot be overstressed how important it is to get the information you provide on the listing correctly. Wrong spelling, inaccurate directions or false information can greatly affect the impression you make on visitors as well as Google's impression of you. Take the time to go through all the information and make sure it is correct and appealing as well.
Posted: 14 Aug 2019 07:04 AM PDT
The ABFE Free Speech Report is a column by David Grogan, ABA's director of ABFE, Advocacy & Public Policy. The views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the American Booksellers Association. Grogan welcomes comments and suggestions at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Many media stories have reported on Russia's alleged steps to tamper in the 2016 U.S. election, including allegations of disinformation posted on social media. In response, companies like Google (which owns YouTube) promised to clamp down on this kind of tampering. Richard Salgado, Google's director of law enforcement and information security, and Kent Walker, Google's general counsel, issued a written statement in regard to Russian interference, which promised that Google will "work to prevent all of it, because no amount of interference is acceptable," as reported by the New York Times.
But what if it is actually Google that is interfering in the election process?
That is the assertion made in a lawsuit filed last Thursday by Tulsi Gabbard, a Democratic congresswoman from Hawaii who is running for president. Gabbard's suit claims that Google infringed on her free speech when it briefly suspended her campaign's advertising account after the first Democratic debate in June, as reported by the New York Times.
Gabbard's campaign website alleges that on June 28, following the Democratic debate, "according to multiple news reports, [Gabbard] was the most searched candidate on Google. Then, without any explanation, Google suspended [Gabbard]'s Google Ads account." The campaign claims that Gabbard's advertising account remained offline while Americans were searching for information about the candidate.
Gabbard's campaign goes on to argue that "if Google can do this to [Gabbard] … Google can do this to any candidate, from any party, running for any office in the United States." (It is worth pointing out that Gabbard has been a vocal proponent of breaking up the tech monopolies.)
In its challenge published by the New York Times, Tulsi Now, Gabbard's campaign committee, states it is bringing the suit due to Google's "serious and continuing violations of Tulsi's right to free speech. Since at least June 2019, Google has used its control over online political speech to silence Tulsi Gabbard, a candidate millions of Americans want to hear from. With this lawsuit, Tulsi seeks to stop Google from further intermeddling in the 2020 United States Presidential Election."
The challenge also stressed that "by acting to silence Gabbard at exactly the moment when her speech was most important, and most ready to be heard … Google violated the Campaign's federal and State rights to free speech."
"Google's discriminatory actions against my campaign are reflective of how dangerous their complete dominance over Internet search is, and how the increasing dominance of big tech companies over our public discourse threatens our core American values," Gabbard told the Times. "This is a threat to free speech, fair elections, and to our democracy, and I intend to fight back on behalf of all Americans."
In response to the challenge, Jose Castaneda, a spokesperson for Google, told the Times that it has automated systems that flag unusual activity on advertiser accounts in an effort to prevent fraud. "In this case, our system triggered a suspension and the account was reinstated shortly thereafter," he said. "We are proud to offer ad products that help campaigns connect directly with voters, and we do so without bias toward any party or political ideology."
Now it will be up to the courts to see if Google was being discriminatory to Gabbard's campaign or it was merely a glitch in the system. I personally am not convinced by Google's explanations, though it is plausible that it simply was an unfortunate coincidence.
Regardless, Google's dominance is unsettling. As I wrote in a February column, a company like Google has government-level power to shut down speech. And there is a huge difference between offering content and monopolizing content. It is this very reason why lawmakers like Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI) — as well as the FTC and Justice Department — are investigating Google (and Apple, Amazon, and Facebook) for antitrust violations.
And if what Gabbard's campaign alleges turns out to be true, it will only further prove the point that, at the very least, Big Tech and free speech is an issue that we must grapple with — hopefully before the 2020 election.
Kids' Right to Read Project Combats Censorship in Libraries
Over the past few months, the Kids' Right to Read Project (KRRP), a program of the National Coalition Against Censorship that is supported by the American Booksellers Association, the Association of American Publishers, and the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund (CBLDF), was called upon to defend books from censorship in public libraries and elsewhere.
In late June, KRRP responded to reports that, despite a review committee recommendation to keep The Walking Dead graphic novel series available to students, the title was removed from the Wallace High School (WHS) library in Wallace, Idaho, and banned from campus. The decision was apparently made in order to accommodate select parents' preferences.
In a letter to Dr. Robert Ranells, superintendent of the Wallace School District, KRRP urged the district to honor its First Amendment obligations by rescinding this ban and restoring The Walking Dead to WHS library shelves. KRRP wrote: "The First Amendment protects students' freedom to access information and engage in non-disruptive conduct in school. In keeping with First Amendment principles, Wallace District libraries 'provide a wide range of materials on all appropriate levels of difficulty, with diversity of appeal, and the presentation of different points of view' (Wallace District Policy 2510)."
In May, KRRP reached out to Orting School District administrators in Orting, Washington, after they removed Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell, from an 8th grade class' Battle of the Books competition after a parent complained about profanity in the book. KRRP stressed in a letter that the district failed to follow policy before removing the book from the classroom. "We are deeply concerned that administrators appeared not to even be aware as to the policy which pertains to the review of challenged curricular materials (Policy 2020)," KRRP's letter notes, "and made the decision to pull the book from the Battle of the Books choice curriculum unilaterally. While we are glad to learn that an Instructional Materials Committee has been convened to review the book's suitability for the library, we urge you to reconsider the decision to remove it from the curriculum."
That same month, KRRP wrote to Hanover County Public Schools in Ashland, Virginia, concerning recent media reports of controversy around students' freedom to read PRIDE: The Story of Harvey Milk and the Rainbow Flag by Rob Sanders. "We want to support you in protecting your students' right to express and learn from diverse perspectives," KRRP wrote in a letter.
According to public reports, a principle removed the book from a Henry Clay Elementary second-grade classroom and criticized the teacher for exercising "poor judgment" after one parent complained it made her daughter "question her Christian faith."
KRRP wrote: "We hope you will continue to make PRIDE: The Story of Harvey Milk and the Rainbow Flag available to students who wish to read it. Should you consider the book for your core curriculum, we hope you will convene a committee, as per Policy 6-5.6, and consider the attached guidelines for viewpoint-neutral review. Ultimately, we hope you will support your teachers and work together to preserve intellectual freedom in Hanover County classrooms."
In April, KRRP wrote to Jeffrey Bender, superintendent of the North Hunterdon-Voorhees School in Annandale, New Jersey, expressing concern over changes to a policy that governs the selection of instructional materials in classrooms and libraries, noting that the changes will heighten the risk of censorship in the district.
The original policy entrusted trained librarians with book selection, a delegation of responsibility that was meant to assure that book selections were credibly rooted in sound pedagogical reasoning, rather than subjective opinion. The policy was amended, however, so that, as worded, absolute authority is vested in the sole person of the superintendent to select and remove books without a review of their educational merits.
"This concern is aggravated by the fact that the policy changes were adopted shortly after the graphic novel Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic was returned to library shelves over your personal objections. We urge you to adopt policies designed to bolster rather than undermine free expression protections in your District," KRRP wrote.
NCAC Among 12 Organizations Urging Amendment to Intelligence Authorization Act
Last month, a coalition of more than two dozen organizations, which includes the National Coalition Against Censorship, called for congressional leaders to remove a provision in the Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020 that would dramatically expand the existing federal crime of disclosing the identity of intelligence operatives. The provision, requested by the Central Intelligence Agency, would expand the definition of "covert agent" in such a way that would unreasonably criminalize disclosure of current and retired operatives' identities, NCAC noted on its website.
At present, current law prohibits disclosing the identities of intelligence employees who serve or have served abroad within the previous five-year period. But the CIA's proposal would expand the provision, making it a crime to disclose the identity of agents regardless of whether they ever served overseas, and apply this broad prohibition indefinitely.
The provision, which is Section 305 in H.R. 3494 and S. 1589 (S. 1589 has also been added to S. 1790, the National Defense Authorization Act), would permit the prosecution of reporters or any other person who discloses the identity of a current or retired operative, regardless of whether the disclosure is necessary to reveal government misconduct or threats to the intelligence agencies themselves.
The groups note that the provision would impede congressional oversight of the intelligence community, weaken accountability, hinder public access to information, and create a major chilling effect on journalists and public interest organizations.
PEN and NCAC Fight Law That Would Restrict Political Speech
In July, NCAC announced that it had joined with PEN America to oppose a New Jersey state bill (S.B. 4001) that is intended to combat a rise in acts of anti-Semitism. NCAC noted that, while it supports the intentions of the bill, it is written so broadly that it "could apply to constitutionally protected speech in New Jersey schools and universities that is critical of the Israeli government or supportive of Palestinian rights." Similar bills have been signed in South Carolina and Florida. "If the bill becomes law, it could be used to silence political activists, including Jews," NCAC wrote.
In its announcement, NCAC reported that Kenneth S. Stern, the former director on anti-Semitism for the American Jewish Committee, has been a leading critic of the Anti-Semitism Awareness Act, federal legislation that is similar to S.B. 4001. This is especially significant because he was the lead author of the expanded definition of anti-Semitism adopted in both bills.
Stern believes that education is the best way to fight anti-Semitism on campus. "There should be more courses on anti-Semitism, on the human capacity to hate, on the conflicting narratives of the Israel-Palestine conflict, and on how to discuss difficult subjects," Stern concluded. "Rather than suppressing speech about the conflict, we should be encouraging it. How else will students learn?"
NCAC and PEN America wrote the New Jersey State Senate urging them to reject S.B. 4001.
Have you tried Counterspeak?
Speaking of censorship, this month's Counterspeak podcast is available now.
This month's episode features interviews with Jonathon Hamilt, co-founder of the Drag Queen Story Hour, about attempts to censor and shut down his events at bookstores. And David Horowitz talks about his work with the Media Coalition, an association that protects the First Amendment right to produce and distribute books, magazines, recordings, home video and video games.
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