Is GMB all it's cracked up to be? By Lizzie McCauley

Is GMB all it’s cracked up to be?

May 20, 2019

Anyone who has even dipped a toe into the world of local SEO, will know that a strong Google My Business listing is a core part of the arsenal. If you want any local business to succeed online, of course they need a decent and accurate presence on GMB. But is GMB all it’s cracked up to be? Has the power and importance of this Google service been exaggerated?

As with any branch of digital marketing or SEO, it’s easy to get swept up with supposed best practices. However useful these things may be, we simply cannot forget the end user. If we don’t please the user, we don’t get customers, no matter how well we rank or how much we appease Google.

So it begs the question: what do users actually think of GMB?

Is GMB useful to prospective customers?

When you work in this industry, it can be easy to assume everyone uses the internet the way you do. They don’t. So when BrightLocal did another one of their surveys, asking consumers how they use GMB, the results were pretty interesting. It’s time for local SEOs to sit up and pay attention.

It turns out that the biggest thing users want from a GMB listing, is contact details. In fact, 64% of the surveyed consumers are using it for exactly that. However, GMB isn’t the only place people are getting this information. 87% of consumers have looked for a phone number or address online. Of those people, 49% visited local business websites to find what they’re looking for, and 23% used an online business directory. What does this all mean? While it is undoubtedly important to get your details right on your GMB listing, you’ve got to be thorough and make sure they’re right everywhere. Different people are looking for you in different places.

An interesting addendum to this point: 60% of users would prefer to call a business, 16% would send an email and 15% would visit the business in person. So make sure the phone number is correct wherever it appears, and make sure there are people staffing that phone line! You can’t afford to miss out on 60% of potential customers for something as simple as that.

Aside from contact details, consumers seem to consistently want three other things out of a GMB listing: opening hours, directions, and reviews. Yet again, it’s the basic stuff GMB offers that people like to use. They don’t really care about posts or Q&A or any of the other, newer functions. They want to know how good you are, how to get to you and if you’re open. For these things they seem to trust Google over anything else. With a lot of SMBs time and resources are tight, so spend them where they make a difference. If there simply isn’t the bandwidth for Google posts, don’t use them. Make sure reviews are responded to, and keep the basics on point.

All that being said, 13% of the survey respondents hadn’t ever used any of the GMB features. While you do need to get the foundations right, there are still those people that aren’t using GMB at all. So how do we capture those people?

Don’t forget your business website

It might sound so simple that it’s bordering on stupid, but all business websites have got to remain the number one priority. We can all get distracted by the other elements of local SEO, but we have to catch ourselves in the act. Come back down to earth and remember how important the website is.

Jamie Pitman also discusses the BrightLocal survey. He points out that 56% of users trust a business’s website over its GMB listing. That means more than half of your potential customers need your website, now matter how good your GMB listing is. In fact, 38% of consumers are only using the GMB listing to get to the business website. GMB is nothing more than a jumping off point for our customers.

Only 8% of consumers never look at websites when choosing a local business. Now, it’s staggering that there are still 8% of consumers who don’t look at websites, but that’s where word of mouth and recommendations have so much sway in this niche. Besides, it still means that 92% of consumers are looking at business websites. 50% of them would be deterred from using a local business if contact information was out of date on their website, and 39% would be put off by typos. All of this is just yet more reason to go back to your website, give it some TLC, and make sure it’s the best it can be.

Is GMB just clogged with spam?

If we’re taking a hard look at GMB, we certainly can’t forget the other GMB users. The ones who are claiming listings in the spammiest possible ways. As much as we love *ahem* alternative techniques at UnGagged, nobody likes spam.

Google supposedly hates spam more than anyone else in the industry. So why is it, that their spam-prevention is so lackluster when it comes to GMB? Back in the day, there was a pretty handy forum where local SEOs could report and discuss issues to try and get them sorted out. But that was replaced by a simple form that barely did the job. It’s no surprise that GMB spam is still going strong, a lot of it left unchecked.

This isn’t just the issue of obviously-fake businesses that clog up the listings so that real businesses are impossible to find. This is also an issue when legitimate business are affected by incorrect information or falsely claimed listings. This spam doesn’t seem to be going anywhere, in fact it only seems to be getting worse. And when customers see a GMB listing before they see a website, what does that mean for small businesses? As Jamie Pitman puts it, the “first impression now belongs to Google” but you can’t necessarily intervene when something goes awry. That’s a frightening and sobering thought.

TL;DR? Think beyond GMB

No good SEO would put all of their eggs in one basket, and the same is definitely true for local SEOs too. We all know that, and we all know how important a business website is, but sometimes we need a reminder. In the wake of Google’s GMB survey this March, we got to thinking about the state of play with this tool. With new user statistics and a sharp look at the situation, it becomes clear that GMB isn’t the be-all and end-all.

Obviously, you’ve got to optimise your GMB listing and optimise for Google Maps. Make sure all of your information is accurate and be vigilant against spam where you can. But remember that there’s more to local SEO than your GMB listing. Keep pushing, keep testing, and keep learning all the new ways to game the system. Because the great thing about this industry is that there’s always something new just around the corner.

By Lizzie McCauley, UnGagged

Upcoming Conference: UnGagged Los Angeles 2019


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