By Tricia Clements
Many pet businesses service a specific geographic location. For instance, whether you’re a pet sitter, groomer, dog daycare owner or veterinarian, your customers most likely come from an area rather close to your business. You want to focus on getting found by people in that area—not across the country.
SEO, or Search Engine Optimization, is basically making sure that you are doing what you need to in order for the search engines to find you and have your business come up in search results. Local SEO means that you are targeting a local geographic area. As we just discussed, a Dog Groomer in Charlotte, NC wants to come up for people in that area and doesn’t really need to be shown in Austin, TX.
But how do you target your local area?
You want to optimize your Local SEO, and you do that by focusing first on three primary areas: your website, online citations and your Google My Business Profile. In this article, we’re going to discuss your Google My Business Profile and how to optimize it—because it is crucial to your Local SEO.
Google My Business (GMB)
Google is the most popular search engine and maintains the largest market share of online search volume. Did you know that Google has a free platform (to date; fingers crossed it stays free) that you need to claim your business on and actively monitor?
I’m not referring to G+—the now defunct social media platform that was an attempt to be like Facebook. I’m talking about your Google My Business (GMB) profile. Since the announcement that G+ was going away, Google has been focusing their efforts on GMB and making changes and enhancements frequently.
Have you set up or claimed your Google My Business profile? When people search on Google and Google Maps, this is the listing that they see. You need to make sure your business is listed, the information is correct and that you have the ability to login and edit it.
As a business owner, you must make sure that you OWN your account. It is perfectly fine to have an agency or employee be the manager on the account, but you must be the owner. It’s similar to Facebook in that you can have different levels of users on the account.
I’ve been contacted by numerous business owners that don’t have access to their GMB Account and they don’t have the ability to respond to reviews, correct their store hours and much more. While I am able to regain access to their account, it takes time and money for them to do so. It’s best to simply own it from the beginning.
Being able to log in to your GMB account and edit the information and keep it current can really help with your customers and potential customers. Just think, if you’re a groomer and extend your hours during holidays, and someone double checks your hours online to make an appointment during the off season and they haven’t been updated to reflect your regular hours, you’re not going to have a happy customer when they realize your regular hours won’t work with their schedule. Your reputation matters, and optimizing and keeping the information on GMB current is crucial for that reputation.
Your GMB profile is also where you will find your Google Reviews. Your reviews on Google are a key factor in search engine ranking. This means you need to have a lot of reviews, but also try to get quality reviews with some of your keywords included.
For instance, if you are a holistic groomer and offer a variety of services that other groomers in your area do not—such as use of all natural products or restraint-free grooming—then you want to prompt your customers to use those terms in their review.
It’s important to make sure you’re responding to ALL of your reviews, even the negative ones. Replying to every review shows your customers and search engines that you’re dedicated to your customers and their satisfaction.
Be careful though when replying to negative reviews; don’t let them take you down that rabbit hole! Be polite, concise and try to get them to take it offline. Offer to reach out to them to resolve the issue. You need to remember that you are responding not only to the reviewer, but also to everyone else that is reading the review.
When it comes to search engines, consistency is key. You need to make sure that your business’s NAP (Name, Address & Phone) is correct across the board. This means that everywhere you enter your NAP, you need to make sure it is exact.
This means that 123 Peachtree Road is NOT the same as 123 Peachtree Rd, and Patti’s Pet Grooming Services is NOT the same as Patti’s Pet Grooming Svs. Any inconsistencies will hurt your search engine ranking results. The search engines don’t know which is correct and will therefore push you down in the results.
There are a lot of online directories that use web crawlers to search for business information. This means that if you have one inconsistency in your NAP, that can spread to various directories online and harm your ranking. It’s best to start off with your correct NAP and keep it in a file where you can copy and paste it so that you don’t have to try and correct information listed in online directories later.
Don’t Set It and Forget It
Your GMB account is one that needs to be consistently reviewed. The information needs to be correct for your customers and potential customers. Not only do you need to reply to reviews and keep the hours current, but you also need to be aware of any changes made by someone else. That’s right, users can recommend edits on Google, and if you aren’t watching your account, incorrect information could be added to your account.
There is also a Q&A section where anyone can reply to questions. It needs to be monitored, and every question should be answered by the business owner—especially if someone else has provided incorrect information about your business. This is most likely unintentional, but it happens.
For instance, if you have special holiday hours, not only do you need to add them to your GMB profile, but you also need to check the Q&A and make sure no one has asked about hours and gotten incorrect information.
GMB has a feature that allows you to add a post with an image, text and link that will come up with your GMB listing. This is a great place to post your promotions, sales, special offers and events. For example, if you offer a referral program, advertise it in a GMB Post Promotion. These posts stay live for seven days, so weekly posting is a must. The only exception is for events; they stay live until the event occurs. But don’t forget to add it as an event so that people in the area see it on Google Maps.
Don’t Get Left Behind
As you can see, GMB has seen significant changes in the last year. It’s a social media channel that should be treated as a top priority—especially for pet businesses that service a specific geographic location.
Have you claimed and optimized your GMB account? ✂️
Tricia Clements is a social media manager, marketer and online reputation manager specializing in pet businesses. She started her business, MuttButs.com, to combine her love for pets (especially her rescue mutt) with her business. You can schedule a free 15-minute consult at MuttButs.com