Get your business ahead of the competition with these additions to search engine marketing

Digital360 on 14 September 2017

Google is the street for your digital shopfront. Every day, thousands of potential customers are strolling through search results – most likely with a mobile phone – looking for businesses to help them solve a problem or find a product or service.

In the past, businesses used snappy headlines and conversion-driven descriptions to entice browsers to click-through to a website. But more and more, business information is being put in front of web users directly in search engine results. That means the customer conversion can often happen right in search engine results or Google Maps.

This change is opening up Google Search. It’s time to take your business where customers are using the latest features available (or coming soon) for Australian business. With these tools, you’ll make it easier to find, help and convert your customers through organic search.

1. Keep business information updated

The Google My Business Knowledge Panel

The Knowledge Panel in search results. Source: Google

Before you get started, make sure that your Google My Business account is updated with the latest listing information. Why? Google My Business is the backbone of a search marketing strategy. It’s the easy way to give Google the right information about your business and get access to new search features as they become live.

By adding or updating this information, search engine users can see opening times, quickly get an address or make an enquiry with your business. All this, without leaving search engine results. Even unique search queries for a business phone number, address or customer review will serve users that specific information.

This business information is displayed in what’s called the Knowledge Panel – a content box displayed on the right-hand side of search results on a desktop or above results on mobile devices. Already, there is plenty of functionality available in the Knowledge Panel, but new features are being rolled out all the time, such as the ability to book an appointment.

2. Answer community questions in Google Maps

Q&As asked through Google Maps

Ask a question in Google Maps. Source: Google

Google Maps is a powerful part of search results, especially for local service businesses, such as restaurants, stylists, mechanics and franchisees. An up-to-date Google My Business account will ensure your business can be found in Google Maps. But once they’ve discovered you, your customers may have more questions about your business.

That’s why Google Maps recently introduced a feature which allows users to ask and answer questions about a place or business. Everything from specials and discounts to menu options can be asked and answered by Google users.

It’s important to know there may be a community of search users who may be publicly talking about your business. And you may want to join the conversation by answering questions yourself. If your business details are correct, Google will notify you when a question is made about your business is made.

3. Allow instant messaging

Adding messaging in Google My Business

Businesses can allow messaging through Google. Source: Search Engine Land

This is a feature rolling out across selected countries and may not be available to all users.

In the social media world, Facebook's Messenger is becoming a boon for customer service support and sales. Now Google is bringing similar functionality into the search experience, giving users the ability to message a business as part of the options in Knowledge Panel.

To get this feature when it becomes available, make sure that your Google My Business is updated with the right telephone contact information. Adding a phone number will mean that search engine messages are automatically sent to your business phone. However, these messages should be answered quickly as search engine users are likely to move on.

If you prefer not to use SMS, Google launched an instant messaging feature called Allo, available for both iOS and Android. To use Allo for your business, simply register for Allo using the same number used to sign up for messaging in Google My Business.

4. Create a 'Post'

Creating a Google Post

Posts display directly in search results. Source: Google

There’s no faster way to give users information about your business than providing it directly in search results. In an increasingly mobile world where each second matters, adding ‘Posts’ is a smart way to share new company information with your customers.

What are Posts useful for? You can publish news about upcoming news and events, offer special deals, or promote a new product or service. These announcements will appear directly in Google services, such as Search and Maps.

To create a Post, sign into Google My Business or use the Google My Business app. From here, navigate the left-side menu in your Google business listing and select ‘Posts’. You can add up to 300 words, upload an image or add event information. Then simply customise the Post with a call to action and hit publish.

5. Add a virtual tour

When searching for businesses, consumers will turn to maps 44 per cent of the time. Adding rich-media in map listings could make your business stand out above the rest. 'Virtual tours' are one such innovative tool. These tours allow users to take a virtual peek inside your business directly from Google Maps or Google Search.

You can get a professional accredited by Google to create a virtual tour for your business, which works much like Google Street View. This feature is ideal for hospitality, travel, accommodation and retail services, where consumers put a premium on the physical space and experience.

This kind of technology is perfect in a mobile, on-demand world – and could continue to play an increasing role in the future with the development of virtual and augmented reality. But right now, it’s a unique way to put your business above the rest in Google Search and Google Maps results.

Virtual business tours in Google Maps

Preview a business with a virtual tour. Source: Google

6. Add Google Customer Reviews to AdWords

Google Customer Reviews ratings

Paid media is an important part of a search engine marketing strategy. Google AdWords gives advertisers more options for how their business can be displayed in search engine results. This includes various ad extensions, such as sitelinks, contact information and verified star ratings.

When consumers make split-second decisions in search engine results, many rely on other cues and supporting information, such as ratings and reviews. In fact, up to 90 per cent of consumers admit to being influenced by online reviews. The takeaway? Social proof is a powerful differentiator in the online world.

Google Customer Reviews replaced the Google Trusted Stores program early in 2017. The reviews collected in Google contribute to your seller rating, as well as display on paid services such Google Shopping and AdWords text ads, with ratings boosting click-through rates by up to 10 per cent. So make sure your business is getting positive reviews.

7. Post a job

This feature is currently only available in the United States.

So far, these Google features have been for acquiring customers – but what acquiring quality employees? In fact, Google is building ways to get jobs listed in search engine results. Although this feature is not yet available in Australia, it’s worth keeping a lookout for.

The jobs feature works by indexing and serving relevant new roles to job seekers. As they begin their job search, Google will display various positions in search engine results – reducing the burden of discovery and freeing up more time for both businesses and candidates.

There are two ways this feature is currently working. First, by structuring website HTML with specific markup allows Google can scrape the information for display in Google. Another way is using a third party job site that has integrated with Google.

Jobs displaying in search results

Available jobs may be displayed in search results. Source: Google.

Boost your search marketing

Google is a constantly evolving product for business and search engine marketers. If you're looking for advice on how to take advantage of Google services, talk to a search engine marketing expert about your business needs.

Speak with a search engine marketing specialist in Melbourne.