Google introduced a new program on Wednesday to help small businesses better engage their customers via—surprise, surprise—Google.
The search giant created pages for 30,000 American cities in a new initiative called “Let’s Put Our Cities on the Map.” Businesses can go to their city’s page and use various tools to help them improve their visibility on Google Maps and in local search-engine results. For example, a business can type in its name to find out whether it has a Google business listing and, if so, get advice for how to improve that listing.
The tool recommends steps such as double-checking the business’s phone number, including photos in the listing and adding hours of operation so customers can quickly see by searching Google when the business is open. A study conducted for Google last year found that having a fleshed-out business listing on Google My Business offers several benefits to businesses, including greater consumer confidence in the business, more traffic to the business’s web site and reduced customer acquisition costs.
Other studies have found that consumers are 38 percent more likely to visit a business’s web site and 29 percent more likely to make a purchase from a business with a completed local business listing. However, only 37 percent of businesses have such listings.
Google says it’s also working with local business organizations to host workshops that teach companies how to increase their online visibility.
David Mihm, director of local strategy at software maker Moz, says small companies should make the most of free online business directories beyond Google. Businesses should review their listings on sites like Yelp, Facebook, Angie’s List, YP.com or any online directories consumers use to find businesses like theirs online.
Businesses should first check whether the information is accurate, as directories sometimes source business information from inaccurate sources and publish the wrong information unless a business fixes it. They should also take steps to enhance their listings on other directories, and make sure the directory lists their business under the correct category of business, so that consumers will easily find them when searching online, Mihm says.
"There is a ton of value in taking these initial steps to claim your presence and put your best foot forward with customers online," he says.
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