by Tobye McClanahan
This edition of Tech Talk is going to be a little different. Instead of telling you about some great new app, I’m going to re-introduce you to a free app you’ve all heard of, but unfortunately many aren’t using to its fullest potential. Twenty years ago, it was one of the newest tech companies to emerge. Today, it’s a household word that even my 69-year-old mother likes to use regularly. It’s called Google!
Google gets 5.6 billion searches per day! According to the tech giant, 15% off all their searches are brand new, meaning they’ve never been searched before. This is because people use Google for everything from asking random questions, to regular day-to-day activities, to simple or complex research projects. An average user initiates 3-4 Google searches per day.
I’ve said it before and will say it again: it’s free to advertise via Google! So, it’s totally mind-boggling to me to see stores so detached from their store’s Google listing.
When was the last time you googled yourself? (That’s right, the word “google” is so popular that it’s a mainstream verb now, with no capital G needed in its verb form.) I regularly google myself, but not just my store name. I google services in my area to see how high my store is ranked in the search results. If you’ve never done that, do it right now. This will tell you a lot about your online presence … or lack thereof. If you have a good website with good SEO (search engine optimization), you should be closer to the top. If you’re not, then you may have some work to do.
Now, let’s talk about the free Google My Business™ listing that every business in America has. It should pop up when you do a search for your store by name. Have you claimed your listing so you can make edits? This also is free and easy to do. If you need instructions, go to http://bit.ly/claimmygoogle.
Once you’ve claimed your listing, take steps to add/edit your store info. Make sure your hours of operation are correct, your website is linked, etc. The next step is important and upon recently searching for a lot of stores in a large area, I found that many stores aren’t doing it: upload pictures of your store! I found lots of stores that only had a Google street view photo that was very unattractive and uninviting and, in some cases, just showed the back of a brick shopping center … or you had to rotate the image to even see a picture of the store.
In today’s world, customers have choices and information is vital for them to decide to use you. If you think people aren’t looking you up online and virtually checking you out first, you are quite wrong. (Sorry if that stings a little.) We live in a visual world and pictures of your store identify and define your brand. They are the first impression given to thousands of people each month, and if your Google listing isn’t impressive, you may not meet a huge portion of those people because they instead chose the store a few blocks away that looked more inviting or professional. Remember that perception is reality. You may have an awesome store, but if you aren’t showing it off on Google visually than you may be losing potential customers that assume that no information is bad information.
I love getting my monthly email from Google that tells me how many people found me via Google, how many of them called, how many asked for directions, etc. Google also sends me a list of my most viewed photos, which proves that people are looking! But to get that, I had to claim my Google My Business™ listing, make my Google profile attractive, and then continually keep it up to date and fresh.
My last point is going to be about Google reviews. If you aren’t monitoring and replying to your reviews on Google, you’re also missing out on customer service and public relations opportunities. I know this is an area that is hard to stomach at times, but it is vital to your store to know what people are publicly saying about you. Yes, many people are hard to please, and you will never get rid of all the naysayers, but it’s important to combat them with positivity.
You do this by: 1) Replying to the negative reviews in a professional manner (apologize, tell them what steps you’ve taken to make it better for the future, and move on). The replies aren’t for the one person that left the review, but rather they are for all the others that will read the review. 2) For every negative review, try to get five positive ones to keep your ratio good. Now this is a challenge because only a small fraction of happy customers will think to leave a good review. This means that good reviews don’t come as organically as negative ones, so they require work.
I’m going to tell you something that is working for me. Like everyone, I had a couple of bad reviews that were just flat out not true and/or just people that didn’t get their way—one of which wasn’t even for my business. In the past six months, I have made a targeted effort to increase my rating with a goal of 4★+. I’m currently at 3.9★, so I’m almost there. I took one of our business cards and on the rear side I have QR codes that take people directly to our Google or Facebook review page and the wording asks them to “help us grow.” It makes it easy when we have a customer that we know we have really gone above and beyond to help, to give them the card and ask them if they mind giving us a good review in trade. Having these cards so readily available makes it very easy to ask and helps the customers to remember to do it.
I had a lady this week that called me back said she couldn’t figure it out and came back to the store for us to help her and two of her friends! I got three 5★ reviews in five minutes! This is worth way more than the special-order fee I waived for her job.
So, to recap here’s a little checklist for your homework:
- Google yourself
- Claim your page and or keep your information up to date
- Add some awesome photos of your store—not just images of services or stuff you shipped, but of a well-organized and inviting store, and of course of your staff’s smiling, happy faces
- Keep a check on your reviews and come up with a plan to increase positive ones to counter any negative ones (remember it takes five good to counter one bad)
If you need help with your Google listing, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or catch me at AMBC’s The Event in Phoenix in November! #Google
Tobye McClanahan is the owner of Mailboxes & Beyond in Blytheville, Arkansas and serves on the AMBC Board of Directors as Director of Technology. She has a passion for small business and loves to visit other stores for fresh perspective. She’s a strong advocate for lifelong learning, so she’s always looking for a new idea! #TobyeTips