Remember the Yellow Pages?
If you wanted to find a plumber or call the department store to figure out what time they closed, you needed a book that was roughly the size and weight of a Pontiac.
And for businesses, the most important thing was to make sure your business listing appeared in a highly visible spot. Hence the practice of choosing a company name that would put you near the beginning of an alphabetical listing or paying for a prominent ad.
Today, it’s far more common for consumers to search Google Maps (or Yelp) to discover relevant businesses nearby. Google Maps provides many useful layers of context, such as proximity to the searcher, website, phone number, hours of operations, user reviews, services offered, menu, and even “busy times” when the business may see the highest number of patrons.
Google My Business (GMB) is the social network (loosely speaking) where you can establish your presence on Google Maps and customize all those bits of information that we mentioned above.
Why should Google My Business be a part of my local search engine optimization (SEO) strategy?
Google My Business is essential for local SEO as it helps your business listing to appear in search results for queries specific to your products or services in your area. Even broad queries with large search volumes display local results in the “three-pack” (a mini-map of nearby businesses) and community financial institutions can use this to increase visibility for their organization.
How does a Google My Business listing work?
When a user searches on Google or Google Maps, something called the Local Algorithm determines when and how a business listing is displayed. There are three key factors that contribute to a business’ score in the algorithm.
When a user searches for “drugstore” or “pharmacy” Google will look for businesses that match that description. No plumbers, no oil change shops, just drug stores or pharmacies, which may include certain grocery stores. Google wants to return results that match the search, or the searcher’s intent (adjusting for misspelled words and poor word choice) as closely as possible. This is why providing the right keywords and filling out your business information as accurately as possible is crucial to ranking highly on relevance.
Obviously distance is an important factor. Nearer is better for most searches that may be tied to a physical location. If a user is looking for a new bank or credit union, they probably want to see the options that are within 10 miles, not 50 or 100 miles. There may be exceptions (perhaps you want to find a financial institution that is near your workplace, not your home), but distance plays a big role in local search.
Finally, Google uses engagement metrics like reviews, likes, and inbound links to weed out the low quality businesses, even if they might offer the desired services within an acceptable radius from the searcher. So even though a business (such as McDonalds) may sell coffee, if you search for “coffee shop,” Google will show nearby Starbucks locations before McDonalds. Also, if a business has lots of positive ratings that can affect prominence.
In summary, the trifecta is for Google to show search results that are relevant to the search query, near to the searcher’s location, and the best array of options that fit the first two criteria.
Can an optimized Google My Business listing attract new account holders?
While there can be a benefit to running pay-per-click campaigns to target specific search terms, including queries from within a specific geography, there’s no doubt that the same reasons you would have listed your community financial institution in the Yellow Pages also apply for listing on GMB. It’s free to list your business and puts you in the driver’s seat when it comes to providing accurate information to a wide audience of people. When people are able to verify that your institution has good reviews (and that you respond to critical reviews in a timely fashion) they’re even more likely to seek your services. GMB also provides opportunities to promote your business and respond to situations in real time (ex: if road construction limits access, you can note that on your profile.)
It’s worth pointing out that accuracy is non-negotiable when it comes to using GMB. Outdated hours of operation and contact information will infuriate users and drive them to the next most accurate listing. The importance of this has only increased during the global coronavirus pandemic. Consumers haven’t stopped using financial tools and services — now is the time to remind consumers that you’re standing by, ready to help them with whatever their needs are.
Using Google My Business to manage your business during a crisis (aka, coronavirus pandemic)
Google has provided additional guidance for businesses who are coping with the challenges of the coronavirus pandemic. These new options can help you deal with reduced hours for in-branch service, direct consumers to your website for virtual service, and even display any additional services you may be offering.
We strongly recommend that local banks and credit unions redeploy some of their advertising dollars to “reassurance messaging” — letting your community know that you’re committed to serving their financial needs in this strange and isolating time. Utilizing the full array of options that GMB offers is a great way to build trust and credibility when people need it most.