Task 1: Plan Your Google Presence
While it may seem straightforward, you’ll have a few tricky choices to make when creating a My Business profile. Make the wrong decisions, and you may face significant challenges down the line. With that in mind, let’s start by discussing the initial steps to creating a My Business profile.
Part 1:Make sure you have the proper authority
While anyone can create a My Business profile, but there’s one step in the process that not everyone can complete — verification. To ensure its data is accurate, Google requires every business to go through a verification process by phone or mail to confirm that its data is correct, and that the person creating the profile is authorized to act on the business’ behalf. Your My Business profile will not be activated until verification is completed.
If you’re interested in creating a profile for your brokerage (or for anyone other than yourself), check to ensure you have the proper authority. Also, make sure you have access to the email address, phone number, and mailing address that will be used in your profile. Google is a very big company. If you miss their attempts to verify your mailing address, it may be difficult to get the problem corrected.
Part 2:Plan the structure of your presence
My Business is used by all types of businesses, from international conglomerates and brands to the corner sandwich shop. To accommodate this variety, Google divides My Business profiles into three basic types — storefront, service area, and brand.
- Brand: These profiles are primarily intended for business that are not closely tied to any geographic area, like major corporations, bands or even political causes. In the real estate industry, this type of profile would be appropriate primarily for large brokerages, particularly franchised brands.
- Storefront: These profiles are suited to “brick and mortar” businesses that have a physical office where they primarily interact with customers. While this profile type is more typically used by businesses like restaurants and clothing stores, some agents may find this to be a good fit for their needs.
- Service area: These profiles are most appropriate for businesses that are tied to a specific geographic area, but don’t tend to do business through a traditional storefront. You can specify service areas by cities or zip codes. Remember, the important consideration here isn’t whether you have an office, but whether you do much work with customers there.
These profile types may present a conundrum for some agents. What if, for instance, if you primarily work from home, but your brokerage has an office in the next town over and is part of a national franchise?
To solve this conundrum, think about who you’re trying to reach with your My Business profile, and how they’ll be using your data. While some existing clients may use Google to look up directions to your office, your primary audience is prospective customers. Think about how these people might use Google, and how your profile would best match their interests.
For example, if you work in a rural area and cover multiple towns, creating a storefront profile may not be the best choice. After all, a storefront profile for your office in Conway could cause you to miss people searching Google Maps for agents in Springfield, even if you cover that area. Similarly, if your office is in a suburb right next to a major city, you’re probably better off with a service area profile that encompasses the city, since more people will search for it. On the other hand, a storefront profile may be a better option in a beach resort town, where you’re likely to have visitors searching Google on their phone to find a local agent.
Finally, consider the relationship between your My Business profile and related profiles. Find out whether profiles have been created for your local office, regional brokerage or national franchise. Using the same data, like office address, in multiple My Business profiles is may not be permitted by Google.
BonusConduct keyword research
Doing a little keyword research at this stage is very valuable. Matching for the right search terms can have a massive impact on the traffic you receive from Google, so find out for certain how many people search for terms related to your business.
When investigating keywords, be sure to consider all the different terms those searching might use to describe your location. Your neighborhood, city, county, suburb, or metropolitan region might all be used by different searchers, so be thorough in checking which terms are used most frequently.
For more insights on finding the best search keywords for your real estate business, check out our ebook: The Real Estate Marketing Guide to Keyword Research.
Task 2: Create Your My Business Profile
With your plan in place, head on over to My Business to begin your profile. If you don’t have a Google account already, you will need to create one. Even if you have an existing account for personal use, it may be a good idea to create a new one specifically for your business. While you can only have one My Business profile, you can have multiple Google accounts. For our purposes, we’ll start by creating a new Google account.
Part 1:Create a Google Account
On the My Business homepage, you’ll see a link labeled “Get on Google.” This will direct you to an account creation screen. Note that you do not need to create a Gmail address with your account. In fact, you can use any email address, as long as you can verify that you own it. Be sure to use an address you can access.
You’ll also be prompted to provide a phone number for your account. Again, this will be verified, so use a number you can personally answer. This contact information will only be associated with your personal Google account. You can choose to use different contact information for your My Business account.
Part 2:Create your My Business profile
Once you’ve created a Google account, you can begin building your My Business profile. Google begins by presenting a map where you can search for the address of your business. This is where your profile type (storefront, service area, or brand) becomes important.
If you begin by searching the map, Google will send you down the path of creating a storefront profile. If that’s your plan, go ahead and search your business name or address. Otherwise, in the upper right corner above the map, you’ll see a link: “Not a local business?” This will take you to a screen where you can choose between the three profile types.
If you select a storefront or service area profile, you’ll be sent back to the map to enter your address. If your business appears up on the map, this may mean it has already been claimed and verified by someone else in your organization. In this case, you can request administrator privileges for your listing. If you still want to create your own My Business profile (for instance, to differentiate yourself from your brokerage), you can create a service area profile.
If your business doesn’t show up in search, you’ll be prompted to enter more details, including business name, state, city, address, and telephone number. You’ll also have the opportunity to add your business category (real estate agency, commercial real estate agency, real estate consultant, etc.). Select the option that best fits your business.
Once you’ve entered all your information, double check the map to make sure Google has correctly identified your location, then check the box to agree to the terms of service and click “Continue.”
Part 3:Verify your business
Finally, once you’ve claimed your address, you’ll be prompted to begin the verification process. You can choose to do this later, but many of Google’s My Business features won’t be unlocked until you’ve verified.
Google verifies My Business profiles in two ways:
- Postcard: Google will send a postcard to the mailing address you’ve provided (you can also add a recipient name), featuring a verification code unique to your business. This postcard may take one to two weeks to arrive.
- Phone: Google will place an automated phone call with your verification code to the contact number you’ve provided. Enter the code in the corresponding field on your My Business dashboard. Note that this option is only available to some businesses. If you don’t see a phone option when you attempt to verify, request a postcard instead.
Once you’ve received your code, head to your Google My Business dashboard and click “enter code” at the top of the page to verify your address.
See Google’s support article for more information on verifying your business.
Task 3: Complete Your Google Presence
While verifying your My Business profile is sufficient to get your business acknowledged in search results and on maps, there’s much more you can do to maximize your visibility on Google.
Part 1:Add more information to your My Business profile
Not completing your business details on Google My Business is akin to having a boarded up window on your storefront. It reflects a lack of care for your business and creates a bad impression. Here are the sections you should complete.
- Additional contact info: Add the URL of your real estate marketing website, along with your professional email.
- Business hours: This is primarily important for agents and brokers promoting the brick-and-mortar offices of their real estate businesses.
- Maps & Search photos: Here, you can add the images users will see when they find your business on Google Maps or Google Search. Google’s criteria for these images is fairly strict: they must be photos that offer users information about the physical location of your business: an exterior photo of your office, for instance, or the sign out front. A standard company logo will not be accepted. See Google’s photo submission guidelines for more information.
- Introduction: Offer visitors from Google Maps and Search a brief description to who you are, what you do, and who you serve. This introduction will also appear on your Google+ page (more on that in a moment). If possible, incorporate the location and service keywords you researched in Task 1.
Part 2:Earn reviews for your business
Once your business is verified, users will be able to leave ratings and reviews of your business on your Google+ page, or directly in Maps and Search. These reviews will appear in search results, and can help you build credibility for your business as well as stand out from your competitors.
- Reach out to existing customers. Send past and current customers a link to your Google+ page, along with an invitation to leave a quick review of their experience with you.
- Drive your audience to Google. Include and prominently display links to your Google+ page in your website, email newsletter, and other pages and profiles you use to promote your business online. Offer a clear call to action encouraging visitors to write a review.
- Respond to reviews. Thank users who contribute positive reviews of your business. For negative reviews, apologize to users for their experience and take the conversation offline to find out what went wrong. Either way, people who find you on Google will see that you value their input.
See Google’s support page for more information on getting reviews for your business.
Part 3:Fill out your Google+ profile
Finally, you can expand your Google presence by completing your Google+ profile, which is automatically created with your My Business page.
If you’re familiar with Facebook or other social networks, you’ll find Google+ easy to grasp. While it’s never become quite a popular as its rivals, Google+ has one big advantage — activity on the network has a significant impact on Google search results. In other words, a Facebook post may get likes and shares, but a Google+ post that attracts attention is also more likely to improve your standing in search results — a very valuable side effect.
- Add images. Start by adding a profile picture (200 x 200 pixels). This can be your company logo, a professional headshot of you, or some combination of the two. Make sure this image can be cropped in a circle. Next, add a cover photo (1080 x 608 pixels) for the top of your profile. This can be a photo of your team, your office, a recently sold listing, or a landscape or cityscape in market you serve.
- Link your website. By linking your website to your Google+ page, you can help Google determine the relevancy of your site to a user query on both Maps and Search. To link your website, you’ll first need to verify your website in Google Webmaster Tools. Once your site is verified, head to your Google Webmaster Tools account and select My Business > Google+ Page from the left hand navigation menu. Under the ‘About’ tab, click the “Link website” button next to your website URL. See Google’s support page for more information on linking your brand website to Google+.
- Verify your email. Before you can show your professional email to Google+ visitors, you’ll need to confirm it by clicking the “verify” link beside it. Google will send a verification link to your email.
- Get a custom URL. Once your My Business profile is verified, you can swap the string of random numbers at the end of your standard Google+ URL for something personalized. Choose something simple, memorable, and descriptive. For instance: plus.google.com/ApexRealtyNYC.
- Create posts. While you don’t need to do it often, posting to Google+ periodically can show visitors that you’re active online and drive them to channels where you’re more active, like your blog or other social media profiles.
BonusResearch your Google footprint
Once you’ve verified your My Business account, set up your Google+ page, and gotten some reviews, it’s a good idea to periodically check that everything is in order. The best way to do this is to impersonate a potential customer trying to find you online and evaluate the experience.
Start by doing a Google search for your name or the name of your business. Does your website come up? What about your location on the map, or reviews? Is the contact information current? Is the description of your business appealing and accurate? This is also a good way to discover if there is unflattering information about your business available online.
Next, try a variety of keywords and phrases that pertain to your business. If you’ve done your keyword research, use your top targeted phrases. Again, approach this exercise with the mindset of a potential customer to determine whether you’re making the right impression.
For more information on setting up and using Google My Business, see Google’s My Business FAQ page.