The best time to start planning your year-end holiday marketing is right after the holidays: in January.
But even if you haven’t given any thought to your holiday marketing until just now as you read this, there are still some things you can do to increase your online visibility to last-minute shoppers.
The way to do this is on your Google Business Profile (formerly Google My Business).
Your Google Business Profile is the single most important part of your local search engine optimization (SEO) strategy. Even more than your main website (and you’ll need one of those too), the completeness and accuracy of your GBP is what helps you rank higher in local search results, which are not the same as traditional SEO results.
According to a recent study by Whitespark, your Google Business Profile accounts for 36% of your local pack (aka map pack) ranking position, compared to 17% for reviews and 16% for your website.
If you don’t have a Google Business Profile yet, you’ll need to create one here. If you have one, you can log in at the same link; or simply search for your business and edit your info right on the search engine results page (SERP) or Google Maps.
To close out the year, here are 12 things you can do right now to boost your local search visibility for the holidays. They fall into three basic categories:
- Update your basic Google Business Profile information.
- Post about your business.
- Engage with your visitors.
Step 1: Update Your GBP Basic Info
The first and most important step to take — and it will take you all of 10 minutes — is make sure your basic business information is all correct. This is critical not only for rankings, but for user experience — the way potential clients or customers interact with your business from the beginning.
Nearly half of all Google searches are for products and services “near me” or “nearby,” and increasingly, consumers are searching online before visiting in person.
Their experience online, whether it results in a visit, and how it compares with that visit, all influence the overall customer experience that results in a good or bad review.
- Ensure that your business name and address (or service area) are accurate. This is the single most important piece of information on your profile. Do not be tempted to add your location or description here unless it’s actually part of your business name. Google considers that keyword “stuffing” and will penalize your profile.
- Select a main business service category and subcategories that best describe your business. After the business name and address, these categories are the second most important factor in Google’s local search algorithm. The better you can describe your business, the better Google knows if it’s relevant to a search query.
- Update your business hours. You know how frustrating it is to find a business you’ve just driven to is closed when the listing says it’s open. GBP lets you add special holiday hours and alternate schedules, so you don’t frustrate your customers too.
- Add a Covid-19 update. Customers want to know how you’re keeping them safe when they visit. This matters for conversions, not rankings.
- Update your business attributes. Besides categories, you can add attributes to your profile — simple tags that let customers know about accessibility, ownership, health and safety measures, service options (online, curbside pickup, etc.), and other amenities.
Step 2: Post about your business.
- Update your products and services. With supply chain issues causing shortages of many products in stores, shoppers are checking online to see what’s available before making a trip. Create “product posts” to let them know what you have available. You can also add descriptions to the service categories in the previous section.
- Highlight your special offers. Let customers know about your holiday specials with an “offer post.” Include start and end dates, coupon codes, and links to redeem the offer online.
- Add a holiday FAQ. Adding Frequently Asked Questions to your GBP is a good idea anytime, but right now shoppers have additional questions. Do you have this or that? How soon can it be delivered? This is the place to include an “order by this date to receive by that date” as a helpful guide.
- Add photos. Photos are an important but often overlooked tool in your GBP toolkit. They show customers what kind of in-store shopping experience to expect when they visit your store. Right now take pictures of your holiday displays, or whatever provides an enticing view of your location.
Step 3: Engage with your visitors.
- Set up Reserve with Google bookings. Depending on your type of business (based on the service categories you selected at the beginning), your Google Business Profile may offer the option to connect your appointment booking platform so you can book appointments right from the profile. More than 150 popular booking platforms are supported.
- Activate GBP’s call, messaging, and “get quote” features. Besides bookings, you can enable potential customers to call or message you or request a quote directly from your profile on their mobile phone or desktop.
- Respond to reviews. This is always important, but during the holidays you want to show customers that you’re responsive and understanding of the frustrations they’re bound to experience in the face of shortages, pandemic precautions, and the general holiday madness. Supply chain problems may lie completely beyond your control, but you can always control how you communicate with customers who take the time to complain.
If your business depends on customers looking for products and services “nearby” or “near me,” your Google Business Profile is one of your greatest assets during the holiday shopping season. (And all year, for that matter.)
One of the main reasons local consumers get frustrated with online shopping is inaccurate information — about store hours, items in stock, etc. Updating your holiday hours, business attributes, health and safety policies, and other basic information is critical. Consumers expect accurate information, or they’ll shop elsewhere.
It’s also important to keep your GBP profile fresh and updated with offers, posts and photos about your business, and answers to questions your prospective customers are likely to have. These factors can help your rankings, but more importantly, they boost your conversions — more customers!
Finally, engaging with your customers is important for building the know-like-trust factor that gets people to choose your business over the competition.
The short of it: Keep your customers informed and updated. People are searching and often scrambling for local information more than ever. Make it easier for them.
Only a couple weeks left, but it’s not too late to improve your Google Business Profile for the holidays. So start here now. Like they say, the best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago; the second best time is today.