Global tech giant Google wants to help Australian small businesses reach more customers by improving their online presence.
That’s the thinking behind today’s launch of Google My Business, an online portal that creates a one-stop-shop for businesses using Google products, including Google Places, Google Maps, Google Plus.
Rich Flanagan, head of small and mid-sized businesses marketing for Google Australia, told SmartCompany Google wants to “reduce the complexity faced by small businesses when managing their presence online”.
“Through our research internally and external partners, we’ve found that small businesses are time poor and they are not necessarily marketing or digital experts,” says Flanagan. “So we want to give them a very simple tool to manage their presence online. And we wanted it to be free.”
“If you don’t have a web presence, this is probably the fastest and cheapest way to get online,” says Flanagan.
“And if you already have a website, Google My Business further enhances what you’re already doing and provides more insights for users and more ways for them to find information about your business,” he says.
Google My Business is also available via an Andriod app, with an iPhone app on its way. Flanagan says this means small business owners “don’t even need to be at their desk to manage their online presence”.
Another key feature of the platform is the ability to monitor and respond to the ratings and reviews customers leave on a business’ Google Places listing, says Flanagan. “As customers experience your product or service, they can leave ratings and reviews and these are quite powerful for others to look at,” he says.
Google My Business is also closely integrated with Google Plus, with TechCrunch reporting the new portal replacing the Google Plus dashboard previously used by business customers.
The Google My Business portal will also become the default setting for previous users of Google’s Places for Businesses.
Search engine optimisation expert Jim Stewart told SmartCompany this morning Google is essentially rebranding its existing business tools under the one umbrella, and if the portal functions as it should, it will bring benefits to SMEs.
“It can be really confusing for businesses, with Google Maps, Google Places, Google AdWords, YouTube channels, etc,” says Stewart, who says there was added confusion earlier this year when the tech giant upgraded Google Places to look similar to Google Plus.
“Google has been doing a lot to merge its products together and make them more seamless,” says Stewart. “Hopefully it will be helpful.”
Stewart says the ability to monitor and respond to customer reviews is one feature of Google My Business that SMEs should take advantage of.
“An area that a lot of SMEs don’t connect with, and maybe this will help, is reviews on Google Places,” says Stewart. “A lot of businesses receive bad Google reviews but there are no comments from the business in response.”
“For a lot of people, including myself, if you read one or two bad reviews, you probably won’t use the business, especially if the business is not responding to the reviews,” says Stewart.
While businesses can delete unfavourable comments that are posted on their Facebook pages, Stewart says bad reviews on Google are permanent.
“You’ve got to be in there responding [and] so if you can do this via the app, or receive alerts, that will help,” he says.
Stewart also recommends bricks-and-mortar take advantage of the opportunity to post photos and videos of their stores via Google My Business.