Recap: Google My Business as a Social Media Channel

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Google My Business and Local SEO experts Krystal Taing, Solutions Engineer, Strategic Partnerships at Uberall; Claire Carlile, Chartered Marketer at Claire Carlile Marketing; and Allie Margeson, Director of GMB Services at Whitespark joined us on a panel to talk GMB.

Have you been leveraging your content creation skills to their full potential?  The group discussed how using GMB Posts to share engaging content can highlight your business in the local pack and increase conversions.

Watch the replay video above or check out the highlights below.

Table of Contents

Allie’s top 3 fundamentals for a great GMB - 3:40

Anna asked the panelists to each share their top three most important steps to making sure a GMB profile is ready to perform well and drive conversions. Allie’s top three were:

When choosing the most accurate business category, Allie stresses that it’s best to keep it as specific as possible.

“That’s really important to keep it accurate. For example, if you’re a law firm, there’s lots of different options. You can have lawyer, law firm, criminal defense attorney, voice divorce attorney like they’re kind of endless, and so it’s really important to choose the most specific Those ones, we find that businesses that go specific, that you know, even if a category could be related to a keyword that you’re targeting, that’s going to be the best thing. If you set yourself as a divorce attorney versus law firm, you’re going to rank better in Google Maps.”

Pro tip: Allie also says that Google is always adding new categories, so continue to check back regularly.

Allie’s second top tip highlights the importance of having a review strategy and building it into your company culture. She mentions that Whitespark just published their 2020 Local Search Ranking Factors study and Google reviews was a top conversion factor. 

“Make a plan, ask every customer for review, whether it’s in person by email, by text, through a platform, whatever it is that you’re doing, make sure that you’re asking every customer for a review and get your team to buy in so that’ll be successful.”

If you aren’t sure how to ask for reviews, use this guide with templates for making the request. 

If you aren’t sure how to respond to reviews (yes you need to respond), use this guide for responses to those tough-to-handle bad reviews

For her third point, Allie shares the unfortunate truth that Google My Business Insights are unreliable. She recommends tracking everything through your own methods, using UTMs, and considering a call tracking system. 

Claire’s top 3 fundamentals for a great GMB - 8:22

Claire’s top three were:

She first stressed the need for continuing education on GMB functionality and staying apprised of what’s changed. She noted that Google rolls out updates pretty regularly that can change the way your listing looks in results. 

“If that’s available to your business, then more importantly, how does it look to a consumer? So having a look on desktop, having a look in the Maps app, having a look on a mobile, because you might find that there are some new features that have been added that get a lot of real estate.”

When you see functionality available to you, use it.

“Just make sure that you’re using everything to get that coverage and to take up as much real estate as you can in the business profile.” 

She also says that businesses tend to neglect their imagery on GMB much more than they do on other social media sites. Photos are crucial, and they should be realistic while giving a holistic view of the experience that customers can expect.

“So look at everything through the eyes of your potential consumer, get fresh photos, upload them regularly, and make sure that they reflect what people expect to see, especially now in a pandemic.”

For her third recommendation, Claire mentions tracking and leveraging all opportunities to link to the business site with UTM tags. 

“One of the things that I like to do is just make sure that I am making the most of all of the opportunities to link to my business website from GMB. And in all of those cases, we’re marking up with UTM tagging so that we can measure what people actually do when they get to the website. So you know, you might be driving people to the website, but when they’re there, do they buy anything? Do they call you? Do they email? Do they sign up for a newsletter? So, big fan of UTM tagging for all of your links.”

Regarding the photos, Anna asked Claire if she thinks a business needs to hire a professional photographer, or are there best practices that people can follow to create quality photos in-house? 

Good news everyone: Your iPhone will work just fine. Just make sure they’re clear, accurate, and address the questions a customer may have about your business while making a decision. 

Krystal’s top 3 fundamentals for a great GMB - 12:04

Krystal rounded off the GMB fundamentals with guiding pillars that every GMB manager should keep in the back of their mind.

Krystal discussed how GMB used to mostly be a way to get a foot in the door online, but now it may encompass many points along the entire customer journey. 

“Lately, I’ve been talking to a lot of businesses that have gone either partially or fully digital. So there’s been this theme for years and years about your Google My Business being your online front door. And in many cases, now, it’s not just your online front door, it can be your primary front door.”

This essentially means using all the GMB attributes available to you to showcase the same branding, experience, and information that you would in a store window or anywhere else in your in-person experience. 

GMB managers should also give searchers enough information to make a decision.

“Are you going to have a new entrance? Is there going to be limited parking or, you know, there might be a line because you’re limiting the amount of people that are available inside? Any information you can that’s relevant to users and relevant to your category, put it in Google My Business.”

And when you put it on Google My Business, make it clear and easy to find.

“Don’t make users dig. You know, make sure you have things available like chat and your phone number so people can get more information if they want. But anything that’s pertinent for them to make a decision right then and there, make sure it’s surfaced on your GMB profile.”

Krystal also doubled down on how important it is to see your profile from the searcher’s POV.

“Look at your GMB profile. Go on your mobile phone, look at your competitors profiles as well. Act like a user and make sure you understand exactly what they’re seeing, you know, kind of get outside of the GMB interface and make sure you see exactly what someone would be seeing and you know that that’s a an actual representation of what you want them to see.”

Circling back to Krystal’s mention of making chat and phone number available, Anna followed up with an attendee submitted question: Is there value in keeping messenger or chat turned on consistently? 

The group consensus was a resounding “yes.” With the increased move toward digital interactions, chat is just another avenue for lead gen and driving conversions.

Krystal added that it’s especially crucial for professional services. If you have a business where you usually work with people on the phone to coordinate doing business with them, chat provides an accommodation to that same end.

Krystal’s top 3 things to know about GMB Posts - 16:05

Drilling down into the Posts feature on GMB specifically, Anna asked each panelist to share their top three things to know about GMB Posts. 

Krystal’s top three were:

Krystal often sees that effective Post types for one business don’t work as well for another business, even within the same industry. It’s important to always be trying out new types of content, but equally as important to find ways to track the success of each one.

“Even what works for one business in the same industry may not work for you. So try it out, see which ones get the most interaction, see which one gets the most clicks. But also see which ones maybe people ask you about. Sometimes posts aren’t driving the click the same way that your ads might, but they might call you and ask about something that they saw if you’re making it engaging enough. So you know, make sure you have a way to track that.”

She also tends to see that the most successful content is simple content. Here’s a few best practices she listed:

She also reiterated a strong recurring theme: check how it looks to searchers and be prepared for that to change often. 

The visual real estate Posts take up, how they’re truncated, where they appear on local search results, and many other factors can influence how you should create content for Posts. 

Where GMB managers can stay updated on changes - 18:18

So as far as these frequent changes go, where does Krystal go to stay updated? The first place she checks is Twitter, where Local SEOs always let the community know what they’re seeing.

To keep up with these discoveries and discussions, you can follow our panelists on Twitter here:

Krystal mentions that she also gets her info from Local Search Forum, where SEO professionals can ask questions, get answers, and have public discussions. 

Claire’s top 3 things to know about GMB Posts - 20:06

Claire’s top three for the specific Post feature were as follows:

Claire explained that there’s different categories of Posts that managers can use for different content types. While it can depend from business to business, she does tend to see success with “offer” Posts.

She still recommends trying them all (with a tracking system!).

She also stresses that you need to iterate with intention once you find out what works, and that means planning and scheduling posts.

“Once you know what’s working, then you need to iterate. So get yourself a calendar, work out what type of content is working, if you always want to have an offer post live, you’re going to need to schedule that in.”

Fanbooster users can schedule Google My Business posts in advance with the direct GMB integration. Learn how to set it up using this guide.

To wrap up her top three, Claire encouraged GMB owners to continue to try to new things and figure out what works with an audience that is doing a local Google search. Posts can work for your business. 

Mythbusting: Is using schedulers to preserve geotagging data a real thing? - 22:06

A little while back, a rumor started floating around alleging that Google strips geotagging data from images if you upload them directly to GMB, but that data is maintained if you use a third party scheduler. 

The idea here is that obviously GMB surfaces for searches with local intent, so geographical data that shows your location may help you rank. 

Like all things in SEO, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. If it were that easy for everyone to get a leg up, the tactic would quickly be moot. 

The group quickly busted this myth, but did note that that doesn’t mean there isn’t a myriad of other benefits to using a scheduler for GMB Posts.

Allie’s top 3 things to know about GMB Posts - 25:16

Allie then shared her top three most important things to know about the feature. 

Allie explained that while COVID-related info is definitely important, GMB owners should be aware that using this Post type will bury all other Posts to keep the COVID Post in the spotlight.

Businesses should decide if using this Post type is best, or if important COVID related information can be worked into relevant content across the other standards post types.

“COVID-19 posts will bury all of your other posts, which reduces their visibility. So if you were running a COVID-19 post, updating people on procedures, and you’re still regularly posting weekly, no one’s seeing those.

Definitely take a look into that, obviously it’s so important for businesses to communicate how they’re operating during COVID-19. But there are other ways you can do that through the other post types as that’s what we’re recommending, at least for clients, just so that you don’t lose the function of that fully.”

Allie’s next recommendation is to keep Post content keyword-based.

We treat these as basically like conversion points, not so much like a regular social post where it’s an update on what’s happening. We want these posts to convert and so that content, it can be pulled into your listing when it ranks for a specific search query.

So if somebody is searching for something very specific, Google can grab a little chunk of the text, they call it a post snippet from your post, and show it. Which just shows the searcher that your business is a relevant business.

Allie included an example of this, where an auto dealer used the keyword “dealership” in their GMB Posts and a snippet of it surfaced in the local pack. 

auto dealership
dealership posts
She also wanted to highlight that because GMB is so different than social channels like Facebook and Twitter, you need to set expectations that the results will be different as well. In particular, you may see lower engagement, but that doesn’t mean you should scrap the strategy.
“That doesn’t mean that your posts aren’t working. If you have very low views and even lower clicks, what you need to do is absolutely start using those UTM tags track to see when somebody clicks or views and clicks through to this post. What are they doing on your site? You know, are they actually converting and look at that data, rather than just using clicks.

How first-timers can start keyword research - 29:21

If someone is new to creating GMB Posts and new to this idea of basing them on “keywords,” where they can start to build a first iteration of their keyword list?

Claire recommends starting with a seed list of general keywords you already know to describe your business, then building them out using free datasets. Google My Business Insights in particular will show you how people are reaching your GMB while searching. After expanding that list, think through your services and offering to include those keywords as well.

“So you’ve got your insights in Google My Business, and then you only needs a slightly other level of technical savviness to get into your Google Search Console, then so then you can identify things. What are they? What are the sets of search queries?

And you know, we all know what the products and services that we’re offering. So for example, if you’re an adventure provider, and you’re offering sea kayaking, mountain biking and stand up paddleboarding, then you’re going to want to write some posts about those things and using those regularly. So those are sort of entry level search query research that anyone anyone can do.

Allie also mentioned that if your business runs any Google Ads, you can use the Google Ads Keyword Planner.

She advises GMB managers to start out with their products and services to pull keyword lists from the Keyword Planner, but to also be strategic about which of these is likely to drive conversions, i.e. figure out your moneymakers.

“For example, for dentists, implants are really big moneymaker. And so a lot of our posts will talk about implants, because that’s what makes the money you know, rather than doing the regular cleaning. We could talk about that till we’re blue in the face, but what’s actually going to make the difference and give the business a return on investment is to talk about the top selling services and get more visibility on those.”

How Post content should differ from Facebook and Twitter content - 32:43

For social managers who might be beginning to create GMB content, Anna asked the panelists how GMB Post content differs from that of other social networks.

When accounting for these differences, where should content creators draw the line between strict need-to-know updates and the general interesting things they may tweet about?

Krystal’s first piece of advice was to target keywords or use imagery, because visibility isn’t at the same level as other social channels.

“I think one of the core differences is if you’re comparing them to a Twitter or a Facebook post, is there’s a lot less visibility on the content without a click on a GMB post. So a lot of it has to do with the image if someone’s looking at a post. But I love the example that Allie shared about the keywords that are pulled out. Those will then be highlighted by Google. So even though content isn’t as visible, making sure that they’re very important words that you’re targeting in there.

She also adds that this is a good opportunity to showcase anything else about your business that the other GMB fields don’t give you the space to promote.

“My recommendation is usually to think about the things that are not going to be known by looking at your GMB profile. You know, it’s not part of your primary category. It’s something else supplemental that can’t be found in attributes in those types of things. So highlighting, you know, a unique service or product or product line that people are searching for that you want to you want them to know that you have kind of use it as a you know, an advertising opportunity to, to show users.”

Allie said that the main difference for her is that the GMB content is conversion-based, while other social is not. The businesses who will often get the more conversions from GMB than others tend to be service-based businesses, so it’s all about getting them on the phone or to a meeting.

“We just want somebody to book a call or book an appointment for when it’s a service business. Otherwise, you know, there’s different things you can do with products. But majority of businesses, we’re working with are service businesses like lawyers, dentists, those sorts of things. And so all we need to do is get them to book that call. “

Claire adds that it’s really important to remember that GMB Post viewers are at a very different place in their journey than those who follow you on social media, and this will help guide your content.

They could be making a generic search, basically. So it’s that they’re not in a relationship with you the same way that they are if they’re following you on social media. So I think that’s one of the mistakes that I see, is businesses just cross-posting what they have added on Facebook. And it doesn’t work. And it doesn’t get the traction, because people aren’t in love with you the same way that they would be if they had liked you on Facebook.

Getting followers on Google My Business - 37:30

If people aren’t in love with you when they come across your GMB, is it important to make them love you and want to follow your GMB?

The general consensus from the panelists was that there’s much more important goals to build a GMB strategy around than gaining followers. 

However, there are a few use cases where tailoring content to get followers can result in conversions. If you frequently leverage Offer Posts, customers maybe follow you to stay apprised of the next coupon or deal. Allie also noted that for Offer Posts you can select the duration of the offer, so it can be a low effort way to schedule a high-conversion Post. 

What to never post on Google My Business - 47:38

Is there anything that a business should never include in their GMB Post content? 

Krystal warns that Google’s system for detecting and removing content, which she not-so-fondly refers to as Nanny Bot, can sometimes pull Posts for words that seem totally benign or are legitimately applicable to your business. 

“If you are ever in the boat of getting rejected, literally just go through the words in your GMB post and say, which one could be considered not within guidelines. There’s certainly a lot that are relevant and irrelevant, because maybe they make sense in one country and not the other that would cause your post to be rejected.

Another frequent misstep that Allie sees clients make is not realizing that the skin ratio in their pictures is one that Nanny Bot deems inappropriate, even if it was in reasonable context (like a bikini shop or plastic surgeon). 

She also agreed that the culprit is often words, especially those that Google deems inappropriate without surrounding context. For example, she shares that “stripping” is a forbidden word for all businesses across the board—bad news for hardware stores trying to figure out what went wrong with their Posts about solvents. 

Q&A - 51:25

To wrap the webinar, our panelists fielded a few questions surround basic GMB setup and which tactics they believed to be Local SEO ranking factors. You can learn more about setting up a great GMB in this guide, and you can read the 2020 ranking factors report from Whitespark. 

If you want to connect with our panelists to learn more, follow them here:

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