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Five free ways to boost your small or rural business online during lockdown

(Image via Raw Pixel.)

If you have a business in a physical location, chances are you’ve already taken some steps to list your business address on Google so it appears on Google Maps. But did you know that there’s a ton of other things you can do within Google My Business to increase your presence online that go way beyond just putting your address on the map? If you haven’t explored the further reaches of your Google My Business (GMB hereafter) account, now is the perfect time.

This blog will take you step by step through five free things that all small business can do on Google My Business to increase their online presence during Covid-19 lockdown (or anytime). Next week's post will focus on other avenues for expanding your business reach online. Businesses that don’t have customers visiting a specific location can also benefit from GMB by listing the general area you service, or multiple areas you offer services in. So if that’s you, don’t think this doesn’t apply to you, too!

(Image: Montpelier, Vermont: A front view of a F.W. Woolworth 5 and 10 cent store. Ca. 1910. via Getty Images.)

STEP 1. Sign up and follow the registration steps for Google My Business.

(To sign up, you need an account with Google. If you haven’t already got a Google account, you can do that here.) While singing up with GMB, you'll be asked to provide location info. If you've got a physical address clients or customers come to, add that. If you provide services outside of your physical address, you have the option to add service areas. If you are a service-based business, I recommend adding as many areas as you currently have clients in (or would like to have clients in). You can choose specific towns or whole states depending on your target market. If you are a goods-based business, list all areas that you ship to. If you are a service-based business in one location, add surrounding towns with customers likely to travel to you. If you are an online business who offers in-person client meetings, the same applies. You can list up to 20 service areas.

STEP 2. Add your business info.

Once you've registered, your GMB homepage should look something like this:

The first thing you can do is complete your listing by adding your business info - hours, description and logo by choosing 'info' on the lefthand panel. Work your way down the info entry boxes and fill in as many as you can!

Categories: If your business fits into more than one category, add multiple categories

for more reach.

About section: Who, what, where - this is your elevator pitch, be concise!

Services: You have the option here to add services in multiple categories, so add as many as you've got!

Goods / Products: If you have physical products for sale in a store, or have an e-commerce store, adding your products to Google provides a HUGE additional avenue for people to find your products. It means they can be seen on Google and Google image searches, and if you choose to promote them via a Google Shopping Ad Campaign, they're ready to go for that, too. Don't be stingy on this part - add all of your product lines here if you can.

STEP 3: Photos & Videos

In the photos section of your side panel, you have the opportunity to add your logo, cover photo, work samples and promotional videos. All of this will be visible on Google search, so think about how you'd like to present your brand and business. Do you have any professional photoshoots you can use images from here? Identifying photos (your office building, interiors) as well as a visual guide to the goods & services you offer are essential here. A picture's worth a thousand words!

STEP 4: Post an update & a promotion.

Has your business functionality changed during Covid-19? Add an update that will appear on your GMB profile to let customers know. Can you run a promotion to help your clients out during this financially tough time? Add that here too, and it will be visible in Google searches once your account is verified. Did you know you could get all this free exposure on Google!?

STEP 5: Complete your verification, and ask for reviews.

Once your verification process is complete, you'll be able to see all your hard work pay off when your business info shows up in Google searches! Reviews are a huge part of Google My Business culture. So while you're sitting on your hands, reach out to clients or customers you've done services for recently and see who'd be open to writing you a public review in a week's time. Remember, these need to be genuine reviews and need to be posted by clients / customers. Asking can be hard, but many businesses are struggling right now, and most people are happy to know there's something they can do to help others out that doesn't cost cash money right now.

Phew, that wasn't so hard, right? Now pat yourself on the back. You've just done your business a huge favour that'll pay off in the future!

If you're interested in Part II, follow Storiology on Facebook or Instagram for post updates.

If you'd like help working through these steps, get in touch.

(Image: Washington, D.C., circa 1925. "F.G. Lindsay store front, Anacostia, 2215 Nichols Avenue." Exterior of the grocery seen here. National Photo Co, via Shorpy.)

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