14: How to Use Google My Business Effectively - it even makes you a website!

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Hi everyone and welcome to Episode 14 of Your Social Media Journey. If you have become a regular listener, you will know this podcast is about starting a running a business and using social media as a marketing tool. If you are a new listener, welcome! In this episode, I talk about the grand daddy of all things social – Google.

My name is Shikhita and I started my business, Fair Cake, in 2007. It is a cookery school dedicated to all things cake and we have a workshop in Greenwich, London. Since 2009, I have been using social media for marketing my business – so if you are interested in the journey so far, you might be interested in the other episodes I have in this podcast. Today, though, let’s talk about Google.

My first brush with Google was a very positive one. As an avid user of the search engine, of course, and who isn't, these days?! Once I quite my job and set up my own company, I got to experience the other side of Google. The long wait for my website to start showing up, even when I was searching for my own website's name! However, once those initial bumps were gone, Google was an absolutely phenomenal help in building my business. As long as I put descriptive text on my website, informational content and suchlike, these words would get picked up in people's searches and my website started getting a whole lot of organic reach. Organic reach means that I was not paying for any of these people to come to my website, I was not paying Google – I was simply ensuring that I had high quality content on my website and that I was following all the rules that companies such as Google put in place. These rules, for Google, determine which websites they show on their searches and which they do not. For instance, if you simply repeatedly type a keyword, one that you would like your website to show up for on a Google search, your website is not likely to show up. However, if you use that keyword, in context and people that land on your page as a result of finding that keyword are interested in what you have to say, then Google will show your site. So far, so simple. I make a high quality website, write lots of descriptive text and put pictures on my site, I offer a great service and my website gets a lot of hits and in turn, I get business.

Well, all good things must come to an end, I suppose. Things started to change for me when social media became prevalent. It wasn't that social media was taking hits away from my website. It was that being on social media was taking away the TIME that customers would have spent searching on Google – a big difference. Now people were looking for businesses like mine on social media rather than Google, so obviously, I had to strengthen my game on social media too – which I did, by building an online presence to rival big brands. Fair Cake punches well above its weight with half a million odd followers across social media. So far, so good.

So, as you can imagine, Google is facing stiff competition from the likes of Facebook and, believe it or not, Amazon. How Amazon, you ask? Very simple. Time was, if you wanted to buy a high definition TV, you would do your research on Google and Amazon would be just one of the websites you would turn to. Now that Amazon is so well established, a large number of people simply search on Amazon, for everything from TVs to fresh produce and they bypass Google.

So what does Google do to fix this?! It is facing competition from Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Amazon and other similar websites – and Google Plus, its own social media platform died a weird death a few months ago.

Well. You will have noticed how Google's search pages have changed. Remember those days when you would simply see a bit of text from the website and a link to the website? Well, things have changed my friend, big time! This is all due to a service called My Business. Now, when you Google for a business, if THAT business is using My Business, then you will see a lot more detail about them, not just their website words and links. So, as I have mentioned previously, Google is becoming more like Facebook – this is how. Starting with businesses, we are now asked to Update Our Status. Sound familiar? Businesses are also encouraged to add pictures and videos and regular updates on what is going on. Again – very similar to social networks! Now, Google has accepted defeat on the social network, or so we thought! Just a few weeks ago (I am recording this in July 2019), a brand new social network has been announced, called Shoelace! Much like Gmail first started, you had to have an invitation to have an account and it all felt very privileged, Shoelace is also, currently, invitation only.

The reason I bring this up is because it seems that the dependance of, especially small businesses is increasing on social media – so if you are finding yourself spending more and more time to get that perfect Instagram aesthetic or chasing the best engagement rates on Facebook, do not do so at the expense on your own website. Your own website is your best asset. Just recently, a few weeks ago, a large number of social media managers were reporting very little engagement on Facebook and Instagram. The number 18% down was bandied about. Now, if you were focussing on your own website, then this 18% would not matter to you at all. My point is that your own real estate, your own asset is your website and your business depends on it. Because Instagram is going exactly how Facebook went a few years ago – towards paid advertising. And yes, there is still a lot, a lot to be said for building and using a social media presence, this should not be at the expense of your own website. Think about it – you own and control your website, nobody can leave random comments on it, nobody can follow or unfollow you. And now, Google clearly has woken up to the power of images and videos associated with a website – so why not use it?!

To use this, what you need to do is sign up to Google's product called My Business. It is pretty straight forward. In fact, if you have a few images saved up in your Google Drive, Google will make a temporary website for you. I had a little play around with this Google website today, and it was not bad, not bad at all. In fact, if you do not have a website, this might be the way forward for you to get started. Just for fun, I put together a website for Fair Cake, my own business and you can view it here.

The most powerful feature that I found about My Business was that aside from detailed Insights, that tell you how your posts are doing, it also gives you the search queries that people will have used to go to your website. Now that information is worth its weight in gold because that is exactly what your keywords would be WERE you to invest in paid advertising, ever.

So I do think that Google is flexing its muscles and will become very important for a business – in a social media-ish way. It was already super important because that is how most people found your business in the first place, but even more so now. You will have heard of the term SEO a lot, I am sure. It can be a minefield. SEO stands for Search Engine Optimisation. I promised that I would not go deep into SEO. I say so because I am no expert and the kind people at Google have laid it out very clearly how you can make your website Google friendly. All I do is try to ensure that none of the links on my website are broken, that I add a fair bit of text to my website so that Google can index it and that I follow rules and never try any SEO hacks. That is it, really. But, if you wished, I am sure you can find plenty of SEO experts to help you out.

This new My Business on Google, however, is very easy. It is as easy as having an Instagram account. What you need to do to is Google for “Google My Business”. You need to claim your website and away you go. If you are in the creative industry, I am sure you have awesome pictures to share. Use the same pictures and share these on Google, too. You can even add events and product images, separately and link these back to your own website, where they can be checked out.

Given that Google is not giving up on the social media side of things and is still the biggest player out there on the internet, I reckon it is important to keep it on our side. Especially now that competition on social media has become so intense, it pays to pay attention to other avenues.

So that was it, my episode on how Google is becoming more like Facebook, for businesses at least. What do you think? I would love to hear from you! You can always find me online. The best place is Instagram DMs, where my account is @yoursocialmediajourney, or you can email me. My email address is hello@yoursocialmediajourney.com. And, if you do have a spare minute, please leave me a good review and do, of course, subscribe to this podcast so you do not miss a thing. There, I have said what everyone else says. Done my duty.

I am organising some awesome interviews for the next few episodes, including some absolutely incredible businesses that punch above their weight, thanks to their online presence. Looking forward to sharing those. Until next time, bye for now...