What is Google My Business and how will it benefit my company?

Senka_Pupacic_Top_10_SEO

Before search engines became a convenient access point for almost any type of information searched for, information searching had to be conducted manually. We’d flick through mail-order catalogues to satisfy our retail therapy needs, and we consulted the Yellow Pages if we needed to find local business information.

These days, such services are only a quick ‘Google’ away. A few taps on a smartphone enables us to easily discover the most reputable company for any product or service we require.

With the popularity of such convenience rising year by year, Google began to optimise this service to improve their user experience. While the focus is predominantly on the consumer, this type of service provides business owners with an incredible opportunity to enhance their presence both on and offline.

What is Google My Business?

Although there are many major search engines available, Google has become the go-to service of choice for the majority of web users. It’s My Business feature is essentially an online Yellow Pages that allows consumers to easily find the most suitable business offering the product or service they’re seeking in their area.

Rather than displaying online-only organisations, this feature displays all companies that have a web presence in order of relevance – including bricks and mortar business.

All the information a consumer needs to make a purchasing decision is displayed, such as business address, telephone number, website link, business hours, aggregated reviews, and photographs wherever relevant. Depending on the type of business, consumers are also able to view a company’s busiest times, allowing them to choose when to visit.

What does Google My Business look like?

Google uses your location to display relevant businesses near you. If you were in Sydney and searched for ‘top SEO’, the results would look something like this:

Using a multitude of factors, Google’s algorithm calculates which businesses are shown to the web user based on their relevancy.

Properly search engine optimised sites tend to appear higher, meaning they’re deemed to be the most relevant result for the consumer’s search term. In this example, Top 10 SEO based in Sydney is the company Google considers the most appropriate business for that particular search term—or key phrase—followed by two other organisations order of relevance.

As shown in the image, Google displays the name of the company, its average review score, the organisation’s location, contact number, opening times with live business hours, a link to the company’s website if applicable, and access to directions from your current location to the business address using Google Maps.

This combination of information is two-fold. It allows users to quickly assess the suitability of the company to their needs, while also providing Google with the information required to display the company in results in the first place. Without this information, businesses will not show up in Google search results.

How did Google My Business begin?

To improve user convenience, Google merged their existing Local Business Centre with their Maps service in 2005. This moment was significant for the evolution of SEO, as it allowed businesses to provide the most pertinent information their potential customers needed to make a purchase decision.

With all business information condensed and displayed in a single location such as contact details, business hours and driving directions, consumers could easily decide which business they would use.

Five years later, in 2010, Google relaunched their Local Business Centre as Google Places. Rather than a simple name change, the search engine giant included many important updates such as new image features, options for local advertising, and geo-specific tagging options for applicable markets.

Perhaps most importantly, Google’s focus on the local element of web searches allowed Places pages to align with localised search results, thus making the connection between users and local businesses quicker and easier than ever. However, in order to become and remain relevant in online searches, bricks and mortar businesses had to make local SEO a priority in their marketing strategies.

Up until 2015, Google displayed seven businesses in their results. An updated version of Places saw the search engine reduce this number to three, meaning businesses had to work much harder to earn a spot on the first page of results.

What are the latest features of Google My Business?

More than just a business directory, My Business allows business owners to streamline the management of their online presence, while providing a multitude of additional benefits and useful features. Here are the most recently updated of these.

1. Call-to-Action button

Customers can easily find your business using Google’s feature, and take specific actions. As an example, for online reservations, consumers can search events by typing in the date or location, and have Google display all relevant local results.

Google can do this for you, but a much better way of achieving relevancy is to create a Google My Business Account, and then add a call-to-action button directing users to booking or reservations page on your website.

2. Creating and Updating Google My Business Posts

If, for example, you’re a restauranteur, you’re now able to display your menu online for potential customers to view at their convenience. Not doing so could lead to losing business to your competitors, as you can be sure they’re already doing this.

The latest Google My Business Console update makes publishing this type of information easy for business owners – and is a feature you certainly ought to be taking advantage of.

You can display and update menus and other useful information such as sales banners or similar campaigns, and they’ll show up whenever a web user discovers your listing. These posts last for seven days and can be changed or edited whenever required. You can see my latest post I have added in my business page while writing this article for you, in the second image. Google is trying another way to keep Google posts alive with the business page integration.

How can I ensure my business is displayed?

As Google are always refining their process to improve usability and relevance of results, 2018 has seen even more changes, with the business page dashboard expanding to allow for the increasing number of options.

To promote equal opportunities, Google often rotates the businesses it displays in its search results. However, there are steps you can take to increase the likelihood your company shows up for certain search terms more often than not.

When creating and publishing Google My Business posts, keep the following tips in mind:

  • Although you’re allowed to include up to 300 words, try to keep your posts between 80 and 100 words.
  • Optimal image size is 750 x 750. Keep images centred to ensure it still looks suitable if it gets cropped.
  • Images below 250 x 250 will not be accepted, so ensure your image is at least that size, and ideally larger.
  • Preview your post before publishing so you can see how it looks and make any tweaks if necessary.
  • Images with text may not be suitable on mobile devices, so try to avoid including text on your images whenever possible.
  • Write your posts in tone suitable for your target audience. A conversational tone is suitable for most industries.
  • Ensure the content and theme of your post align with the landing page you’re sending your visitors to.

3. The types of Google My Business Posts you can publish

Google My Business posts can be used for a variety of purposes such as promoting deals, events, sales, products and services directly within Google search results. The different types of posts you can and the different buttons offered include:

  • Booking (appointments/reservations)
  • Buy Now
  • Order online
  • Sign Up
  • Learn More
  • Event
  • Get Offer

Apply some creativity when constructing your message, but make sure you use an appropriate call-to-action button. For example, use the ‘Order Online’ or ‘Buy’ buttons when selling a product.

If you’re directing visitors to your business or store, create a dedicated page on your site displaying the product featured on your Post, including your contact details. This makes finding your store’s phone number and physical location easier for potential customers.

Should you want visitors to book an appointment with you, you should select the ‘Book Now’ option and include a link to your website’s bookings page, or include a booking telephone number to make booking an appointment a simple process for your visitors.

4. Using the Google Website Builder

Another useful tool in the Google My Business features is their Google Website Builder. This feature allows small businesses to easily build and manage a website for free, although a small additional charge applies if you wish to use a custom domain name.

Unlike many other website hosting packages, these sites are mobile-friendly, which is a significant contributing factor to any website’s SEO efforts. Furthermore, updates are applied automatically, and sites created using the Google Website Builder can be managed easily, while creating and publishing new posts is an incredibly straightforward process.

What’s next to come from Google My Business?

While it’s impossible to predict what else Google has up its digital sleeve for their My Business features, the fact remains that their consistent updating of features suggests that they’ll keep improving and expanding the features, to better streamline the relationship between business owners and aligning them to their existing and potential customers on Google search. Please contact me on the link below to find out more.

Senka Pupacic has advised and worked with companies across the globe and is the Founding Partner and Principal Consultant at Top 10 SEO Services, www.top10insydney.com.au.

Australia’s coming economic crisis

Economist_John_Adams

The Australian economy is gravely ill.

Contrary to popular belief, Australia is suffering the most chronic economic structural imbalances in its history.

Record household debt of $2.34 trillion (especially relative to disposable income at over 190%), record high house prices (especially relative to disposable income), record net foreign debt over $AUD 1 trillion (or 57% of Australian Gross Domestic Product (GDP)) and household savings at a chronically low 2.1% (the lowest since December 2007) have dramatically increased systemic macroeconomic risk throughout the Australian economy.

This also comes at a time when global debt is over $AUD 80 trillion higher than the 2008 Global Financial Crisis and the world is experiencing record high asset bubbles and structural economic imbalances whether they be:

  • the Chinese financial system;
  • corporate debt in the United States;
  • ballooning European and Japanese sovereign debt;
  • Canadian housing debt;
  • the return of risky financial derivatives; or
  • emerging economies with bulging foreign debt, such as Turkey, Argentina, the Philippines or Indonesia (especially those who have taken on loans worth trillions denominated in US dollars).

The causes of these global economic imbalances are several and largely result from the boom which occurred during the 2000s and the short-term band aid public policy approach adopted by policy makers around the world in 2008 to deal with the challenges resulting from the Global Financial Crisis.

In Australia’s case:

  • excessive money and credit creation through ultralow interest rates and lax bank lending standards;
  • skewed tax policies that encourage incurring debt and asset speculation;
  • generous social welfare policies which dissuade savings;
  • productivity crushing regulations and burdensome regulatory costs;
  • uncompetitive industry, trade and industrial relations laws and policies;

has led Australia for over 27 years to generate economic growth based on speculative debt accumulation channelled largely into the housing sector rather than the generation of real productive wealth.

This phenomenon is underscored by the growth in the Australian money supply as measured by what the Reserve Bank of Australia defines as ‘broad money’.

Broad money has grown by 7.5% per annum from 1992 to 2017 and has led to ‘credit to housing’ as a proportion of GDP to grow from 21.08% in July 1992 to 95.23% as of June 2017, while ‘credit to business’ and ‘credit to other personal’ (non-mortgage debt) as a proportion of GDP remaining effectively flat over the same period.

Alarmingly, the total amount of debt within the Australian economy as well as the amount of debt concentrated in the Australian housing sector is larger than the 1880s and the 1920s, the two periods before the two big depressions experienced in Australian history which occurred in 1890 and 1929 respectively.

In short, Australia is in the biggest debt bubble in our national history, at the same time we are in biggest global debt bubble in the history of the world.

From an economic historical perspective, there is no precedent that can be referenced to sustain the argument that current Australian and global economic structural imbalances are sustainable, especially as inflationary pressure emerges in both developed and developing economies alike and as global interest rates continue to rise.

Nor is there is a precedent that such economic imbalances, especially in a rising interest rate environment, can be resolved in an orderly ‘soft landing’ fashion.

Rather, economic history points to the current global situation resulting in an extreme economic event that will impact the global economy and by consequence the Australian economy.

This is why starting in 2016, I have penned articles for several media publications such as The Daily Telegraph, news.com.au and The Spectator Australia as well as have conducted internet-based interviews seeking to warn the policy makers, business leaders and ordinary citizens about the nature of the chronic economic problems facing Australia and the inevitable economic crisis that historically manifested itself resulting from structural economic imbalances.

Such a crisis may manifest itself in different forms and depends on whether the global debt bubble and by consequence Australia’s debt bubble pops or is engineered to continue through ultralow interest rates and expansionary monetary techniques such as quantitative easing.

The spectrum of possible scenarios of how the coming crisis may play out in Australia was outlined by me in a piece for news.com.au on 19 June 2018 titled the ‘Six Pathways to Economic Armageddon’ and I would encourage readers to look the piece up and consider its analysis.

Irrespective of how events may manifest themselves, it is clear that Australian policy makers, businesses and households are neither sufficiently aware or prepared for the most challenging set of economic problems in our lifetime, especially from a financial, psychological or public policy perspective.

To his credit Tim Wilson MP, the Member for Goldstein, is the first and only member of federal parliament to explicitly warn about the coming economic crisis which he did during an adjournment speech on 28 February 2018, by stating:

‘there are a number of warning signs that we need to wake up to…. We have alarming rates of public and private debt, low interest rates, inflated asset prices and excessive public spending.’.

In his speech, Mr Wilson encouraged members of parliament to come to terms with the current economic warning signs and embrace necessary reforms which would lift national savings, unwind current asset bubbles, reduce public and private debt, while promoting productive investment and sustainable economic growth.

Nevertheless, the Turnbull Government and pivotal federal institutions such as the Federal Department of the Treasury, the Reserve Bank of Australia and the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority as well as State and Territory Governments have not yet taken any sufficient policy action which would begin to address Australia’s economic challenges.

With the domestic and international economic data flashing red and federal parliamentarians raising the alarm bells, the question for the business sector is what should business owners and executives be considering as the economy heads into more fraught circumstances?

Unlike our largely lucky escape during 2008-09, the traditional lax Australian attitude of ‘she’ll be right’ won’t cut it this time around.

Business owners and executives can ill afford to put their head in the sand and wish away the mounting debt plaguing the Australian and global economies.

Rather, business owners and executives should take stock of Australia’s structural economic imbalances and consider how these imbalances may impact their businesses and industries over the short to medium term.

Businesses who are involved in international trade or who have operations across several countries have the added task of understanding the economic conditions and potential structural problems of both individual and regional economies, any economic interdependencies which may between economies as well as how these different economies and governments may respond to adverse economic circumstances.

Becoming well versed with the current state of the Australian and global economies, studying economic history and examining the potential economic scenarios which may play out in the current economic context will give business executives a more complete and robust understanding of the risk profile facing their enterprises and their industries.

Business executives should ensure that macroeconomic risk play a feature role in business and contingency planning and considerations should be given to how these economic risks, if realised, will impact the sustainability of the business whether it be from a customer, financial (especially business cashflow), workforce or supply chain perspectives.

Business leaders must be also sufficiently nimble and agile to ensure that they can both respond to rapidly changing economic circumstances as well as identify market opportunities and capitalise on those opportunities ahead of potential competitors.

Risk and contingency planning should also note the speed in which an economic shock or adverse economic news may result in financial markets moving rapidly.

The recent 2000% explosion of two-year Italian bond yields in May 2018 from -0.138% to 2.738% over the course of 2.5 weeks is a clear signal that electronic algorithmic trading combined with financial derivatives can result in sharp rapid market adjustments in light of unexpected developments, whether it be poor economic news, political instability or unanticipated company announcements.

Beyond preparing their own enterprises, business leaders should also seek to engage relevant business groups and industry associations that can take forward concerns about the economy to relevant federal and state public policy makers.

Business leaders should seek to work with policy advocates to formulate policy proposals that would address Australia’s structural economic imbalances and better insulate the business sector from adverse economic events.

In conclusion, Australia, with the biggest debt bubble of its history, continues to sail undeterred towards a looming economic crisis. Business leaders must be alert to the risks and prepare their enterprises for tougher and potential extreme economic circumstances.

John Adams is an independent economic analyst and commentator having written on economic, political and public policy matters for news.com.au, The Daily Telegraph, The Spectator Australia and The Canberra Times.

John Adams is a former economic advisor to Liberal Senator Arthur Sinodinos and is qualified economist with economics degrees from the University of New South Wales and the University of Wollongong.

John can be contacted at john@adamseconomics.com.