Last week we took a vacation to Oceanside, California. First real trip since the pandemic hit — and it was just what we needed.
I don’t know about you, but one of my favorite things to do on any vacation is to scout and try out all the local restaurants.
Sure, hitting the chains is the safe bet, but the real gems are always the local hole-in-the-wall places where you find locals hanging out.
Thankfully finding these places has been made a whole lot easier since we carry our phones and an internet connection wherever we go. A quick Google search for “food near me” brings back tons of results of local businesses, their location, photos, and even reviews.
You’re probably familiar with the screen that comes up when you do a “local” search like this. They are results generated by Google (a program called “Google My Business”) — here’s what it looks like.
If you hit the “more places” button at the bottom you’ll be taken to a list with tens, hundreds, or even thousands of business listings.
As we scrolled through all the results nearby us in Oceanside, my wife and I shared some spots we had found, compared notes, and came up with a list of places we wanted to try (she was all about the bakeries with sweet treats, and I (of course) was on the hunt for tacos).
We must have looked at a hundred places — making snap judgements based on the photos, the menu, our proximity, or even just the name.
Every place we visited — breakfast, lunch, and dinner, were all planned this way… Except for one.
One night as I was walking back from taking some sunset photos down by the pier, I walked past a little brightly painted mexican restaurant that had a line out of the door. I took a step back from the sidewalk out into the street to see what the name of it was… It wasn’t one I recognized from my previous search.
When I got back to our rental, I looked the place up and noticed the listing said “closed permanently”.
I knew that couldn’t be right… I just walked by the place and it was bustling with people willing to wait in a long line… But that was certainly the reason it never made my list, since I thought they were no longer in business.
Seeing how popular the place was, we called and audible the next day and hit that place up for lunch…
BEST. MEAL. OF. THE. TRIP.
We ended up going there twice and spending nearly $100 with them in total — but would have never even considered it unless I happened to walk past it that night.
On the second trip to eat there, I told the guy behind the counter that his Google listing showed his restaurant permanently closed. He seemed shocked, and didn’t understand why it would say that… They had been in operation for over 20 years!
I asked him if he had set up the listing or had the login to get in and make changes, but he didn’t know anything about it.
It makes me sick to think of how many families visiting Oceanside passed on this awesome meal because they didn’t happen to walk by the place like I did. Anyone who had been searching online for a place to eat scrolled right past this place thinking it was closed — who knows for how long?
This tiny error, on a listing the business didn’t even know existed, is probably costing them hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars per day — unbenounced to the owners.
This is just one example… How many other listings do you think have inaccurate information? It’s not just restaurants either — most local businesses have a profile like this, from doctors to landscapers and everything inbetween.
For people searching locally, especially from mobile devices, these Google My Business listings are the most visible resources for searchers.
Keeping them accurate and up-to-date is critical — but it’s just not something a lot of businesses realize they should be doing (or even realize they can).
Besides having accurate information, these listings can also be optimized — helping them rank higher in the order that they are displayed in the search results for all the topics they are relevant to.
By now, you gotta be thinking to yourself “Is my listing optimized? Is it even up to date? Do we even have one?”. If you haven’t already taken a pause from this email to go check — now’s the time.
Hopefully your listing isn’t missing out on thousands of dollars worth of business every day like the brightly painted burrito place in Oceanside.
Here are a few quick tips you should know about your Google My Business listing:
- Your listing might have been created by you — but they can also be automatically generated by Google, or even put in place by users.
- In order to manage the listing, and all the business details it provides (like whether or not it’s even open!), you have to “claim” the listing. This typically requires a verification process to ensure you’re the rightful owner.
- If you have verified ownership of your listing, you can update all the information, including: Business name, address, phone number, hours of operation, business categories, photos, and more (including “posts” which are promoted for 7 days and draw a lot of attention — but not many people seem to be using them!).
- The reviews on your Google My Business listing are some of the most powerful reviews you can get on the internet… Not only because they are highly visible, but how well-rated a business is can affect the order Google displays them in results.
If the last time you looked at your listing is when you created it years ago — you’re not alone. I think most businesses end up forgetting about them. But hopefully this story illustrates why it’s important to keep that information fresh, up-to-date, and accurate.
I’ve set up, optimized, and even managed listings for some of my clients for years now. In fact, for one of my clients, their Google My Business listing is the number one referral source for her business — and it’s not even close (yes, you can track all the views, clicks, calls, and more from your Google My Business listing).
If you need a hand with yours, don’t hesitate to contact me — I’d be happy to take a look and let you know if anything is out of place or could use some tweaking & optimization. It’s not difficult to do, but knowing your way around the system and how to squeeze the most out of it does take some experience.
These listings are a great way to get your business an additional spot (besides your website) in the search results, and an optimized listing can help you show up before your competitors (chances are your competitors haven’t optimized theirs yet, either).