You Ask, We Answer: Google My Business
Welcome back to another installment of “You Ask, We Answer!” (*intense music plays*). Because when you’ve got questions, we won’t rest until we find the answers. Well, there was that one time when one of the temps fell asleep while searching for the answer, but we doused them with a bottle of cold water–because that’s the type of intensity we bring to our webinars!
Today, we tapped our Lead Content Strategist, Google Local Guide, and moral beacon Melina Beeston to talk about Google My Business. Not only have we embedded the video below, but we’ve transcribed the whole damn thing (while I may subscribe to the infinite monkey theorem, it isn’t the best practise as a business).
Let’s jump right in . . .
Taylor: Okay. so a little kick right off of the first question. We’ve got someone else claimed my Google My Business listing. What should I do?
Melina: Good question, that we get asked more than anything else. If someone has already claimed your business listing you’ve got to make sure that they have verified it, which is obviously where we’re going to have a problem. You’re going to have to request ownership from that person and you can do that, you’re going to do it by logging into your Google My Business account and then you’re going to try and add that location by business name. So whatever they have it listed as you’re going to try adding that location with the exact name that they’ve got and it should give you a notification that says someone else has verified this listing and then it’s going to give you the opportunity to click on something that says request access. Once you’re there, there’s a form to fill out and you submit it. And what it does is it sends an email to person who is the owner, or I’m air quoting owner right now, who was able to verify that listing for whatever reason, and they have seven days to respond. So obviously we want them to accept. So if they accept, you’ll just be able to manage that listing. You can probably remove them as an owner if they have no reason to be owning it, um, and, uh, and go on from there. You’ll be able To manage it from your Google My Business account. But if they deny that request, you’re going to get an email that says that they’ve denied it and it does actually provide you the opportunity to appeal that decision to Google, and override that current owners denial, and if they don’t respond within seven days, you should have the opportunity to log back into the Google My Business platform and try to reclaim it yourself. So when you go to do that, add the location piece, it’ll give you the opportunity to claim that business.
Taylor: Our dealership sells two different makes and has two separate Google My business accounts for each brand since there are two separate websites. I’ve accessed one, Google My Business account, but when I request access to the other account, it gets denied so I don’t have control over it. Can I just create a new Google My bBusiness account for that second listing since I can’t make changes to it?
Melina: So this was a super specific question that we received from a dealer, and obviously we cleaned it up a bit so that it was less identifying. But this is another very common question that we received, especially with so many OEM brands that separate out the multiple brands that exist under the same roof top. So we have, you know, typically like your Ford and your Lincoln, or your Infiniti and Nissan, or your Jaguar and Land Rover, that kind of thing. So, this is where we’ve got multiple brands under the same roof, different websites, different dealership personas. So I actually broke down this question to a couple of different sections of the answer. So that first section was, you know, I have, we have these things, um, and, and you know, we have two different Google My Business accounts for each brand because they have separate websites.
So I just want to clarify, this is only allowable if the dealership truly is two different entities who happen to share the same rooftop. So that means that they have separate and distinct names between the two. So if it was like Strathcom Ford and Strathcom Lincoln, great, two different things. But if it was Strathcom Ford Lincoln, you don’t get to have two. And that means that there needs to be signage outside that indicates such. Um, and if you were at all uncertain of whether you qualify on that level, I would encourage you to stick to having just one Google My Business listing only, unless you don’t know any better unless you can for sure say that yes, I need that criteria. And in the case of that happening, then you would just report the other listing as a duplicate, which I can show you how to do later in the presentation.
Okay, so second part of that question, when I request access to the other account, it gets denied so I don’t have control over it. So This is the part that sucks and kind of like the last one, it’s unfortunately really common. So this is why I actually encourage all dealers to make sure that they have claimed their own Google. My business listing or the ones that they may need at some point in time. So if you can’t regain control of that listing, you should use that appeal process in the form that came in the rejection email when you tried to claim it, and if that doesn’t work, you can actually also reach out to Google My Business on twitter. So their handle is @googlemybiz, and you can try and engage with them in a conversation publicly first and then they will actually offer to switch to private messages and they’ll follow you so that you can follow them back and you guys can direct message with each other to kind of figure out what to do. But if you aren’t sure what to ask or how to explain what’s going on, um, you can absolutely reach out to your onlIne marketing manager and talk to one of us and we can kind of help bridge that gap.
The third part of this question is, can I just create a new Google My Business listing for that? A new Google My Business account for that second listing since you can’t make changes to the one that exists? No, you should not create a new account. So the reason for this is because, um, there are another verified listing already exists, so Google doesn’t like when you want to create duplicates of things on the map, it creates clutter basically and they don’t want clutter. So, your new listing is also not likely to receive verification because it’s a duplicate, another verified listing already exists. It probably also won’t show up in search results and you will not have any better outcome than you had at the beginning of this problem. So I would encourage you to not waste the energy doing these things that instead we need to go and we need to get acquisition of that account as much as we possibly can. That makes sense. does anybody have any clarifying questions that we’re looking for here? Thank you to the dealership that submitted that one.
Taylor: Why does Google select one particular dealership to show up in Google Maps in a search for our area, instead of showing everyone?
Melina: Okay, so This is, this is another one that I answer a lot. Um, and it’s usually, it looks kind of like this. I’ll pull it over in a second. So let me just grab the other screen and bring it to you here. So, can everybody see this? The map of the city of Edmonton, looks good. Okay. So let me just. Okay. So this is what we’re trying to do. so this is where you’ll see something like Edmonton, like I’m looking for a dealership in Edmonton and this is kind of already given you the heads up that something like this happens. So say I was looking for a lexus dealer in the city of Edmonton and I was searching for that in Google.
It’s going to automatically show me Lexus of Edmonton. Um, even though we know, maybe you don’t know, but maybe I know, as a customer who is looking at a Lexus, there’s another dealership right over here where my little mouses circling right now. So this is what happens when one dealership is named after a broad local area in a situation where there are two dealerships within that same local area. So that’s, that’s the problem here. And unfortunately, there isn’t a lot that you get to do about this except for appeal to your OEM, because what has happened here is that Google interprets what was previously a search query with a broad location specific intent. Now they think it’s a branded search, so they tend to prioritize branded search results wherever possible because they’re trying to give the user what they think to be the intended result that they’re looking for.
They’re trying to match that searcher’s intent as quickly as possible. So if you think about it this way, let’s pretend. Let’s pretend that we’re in winnipeg and we searched for an ice cream shop, and then Google finds a business name winnepeg ice cream shop. Without a lot of effort, this is probably a business that Google is going to assume is going to satisfy what we were looking for, right? So there are other businesses that Google might surmise would also be a good option for an ice cream shop, but they’re going to know that this one is, they’re going to try this one first because it seems to have decent reviews it’s within reasonable distance and it most closely matches what the person was trying to search for. So, um, they, they think that you were probably trying a branded search instead and that’s where we’re looking for that.
Taylor: I am located in an area next to another dealership, but their name is showing up as a label across their building on Google Maps in a search for our area, instead of showing everyone?
Melina: So this is the difference between like sometimes you will see the names superimposed over the map as opposed to just the little pin with your dealership name. The short version of this is that you can’t. And so the reason for that is that user editing to create those public labels was eliminated a few years ago by Google. So the labels shown in Google maps are actually now determined by Google and they’re using an algorithm and, obviously they’re not going to tell us what that algorithm is. But Google tells us that if you want to improve the chances of having that place label displaying for your dealership, that what you need to do is, you need to ensure that your business information on Google My Business is as accurate as possible, and that they have rich content associated.
So rich content means that you are, are using every possible aspect of that Google My Business listing and all the different features that they have, but especially that you have images that are submitted by you or other users. Um, a business tour shot by Google My Business certified photographer. Um, there are guys that are allocated within every, I want to say every market because it’s within a certain area and they’ll have one or two or I think Edmonton has like four guys that are certified by Google as photographers. And what they’ll do is they can come into your business and they can do basically a virtual tour that they shoot by pictures and then they have a program that they stitch together all of those things to create a full on virtual tour. Um, and uh, and that’s, so that’s some of the rich content that might help you. You also need to make sure that your location is fully verified if you want the opportunity to receive a business label. It’s not something that shows up right away for brand new businesses, but say your dealership has been there for awhile and you’ve had the same name for a long time, it’s probably more likely that you’re going to see it there.
Taylor: Can I use call tracking numbers in my Google My Business listing.
Melina: So I, uh, I generally discourage dealers from doing this. I understand there is a purpose for this, so I’m going to tell you that yes, you can, but you should only use a call tracking number as the primary number if you also know how to set up an alternate number in your Google My Business listing. So therefore you would set up your call tracking number as the primary, but you would use your regular local number as an alternate phone number in the listing because then Google will be able to see both to match things all together and to still be able to kind of connect all of your citations with that thing. However, if you were using any service that distributes your Google My Business listing information with other listing directories so that you can have your citations be correct. I would encourage you not to do that because it’ll send that call tracking number as your primary, unless you know how to set it up properly otherwise. And it’s not advisable.
First of all, it’s not advisable to send that call tracking number to all of those listings because what would happen is that, first of all, you’d muddy your data. If you’re having the same call tracks number, put all over all of these different listings, then you kind of eliminate that idea that where you can track things effectively. On the other side of that, it’s not advisable to use different call tracking numbers on every single one of your citation listings separately either because then Google has a tendency to have a hard time matching each of those things together, because the NAP, the name address and phone number information is inconsistent across those listings.
Taylor: Do I need to update my holiday hours on Google My Business if I’ve already updated them on my website?
Melina: Yes, you do. Google does not just automatically assume that your business hours are changed for any known holiday. They always know when we have long weekends coming up, they know what is a long weekend here, what is the long weekend in a different province. They know when it’s a long weekend nationally, and they don’t scrape and pull your business hours from your website so that they can update them for you on your Google My Business listing. So you need to ensure that you are actually updating them manually, your Google My Business listing, generally around the same time that you let us know so that we can update it on your website, so that everything matches. And actually just a shameless plug here, but one of our SEO packages does include us updating those holiday hours on Google My Business when your OMM–your online marketing manager–receives that notification from you. So if this is something you’d like to make sure that we remember to do, instead of adding one more thing to your checklist of things that you need to remember, you can ask your online marketing manager to uh, so that they can point you in the right direction and give you some information on that.
Taylor: Probably fair to say I speak for the majority of people, when I want to know if a business is open, I Google it and the first results–I don’t bother looking at the website to see if those hours are accurate. I just assume that it’s open.
Melina: Yeah, and that’s kind of, what’s hard is that I think when you search–Google actually calls you out–so when you search for somebody and they haven’t put in their holiday hours, it actually says “These hours may vary based on the holiday”, which is basically Google’s way of saying, and putting a little red flag next to you saying, by the way, these guys really don’t care very much to tell you whether they’re open or not because they didn’t log in and explicitly tell us. And they’re just leaving us to assume. So this information might be incorrect. We’re covering our own butts to make sure that this is all correct. But if it isn’t, then that, that kind of sucks.
Taylor: Is there a way to include different departments’ operating hours, more than one on Google Maps?
Melina: So Google only lets you put one set of business hours. It’s a really great question. So you cannot put several different department hours, what you should be putting on your hours as far as anything is concerned is what hours, if somebody physically showed up at your dealership, that they would be able to get in the doors for. So if service opens at 7:00 AM, your opening hours are 7:00 AM. Service might close before sales closes, which is usually what happens, but your sales department is open until nine. That’s generally average. So businesses opening hours on that particular day might be from 7:00 AM to 9:00 PM. It may not address all different departments. So what I would encourage you to do in that case is if you want to have it, and I didn’t, I didn’t include this because nobody asked the question specifically, but say you had different departments and each of those different departments has their own separate entrance point with their own separate signage, kind of the same way that we talked about if the dealership has two different Google My Business listings because they’ve got, you know, a Ford and a Lincoln, um, that you can, you can also have different listings, for your service department, different listings for your parts department, but only if they satisfy that same criteria. So do they have their own doors? Um, do they have their own separate phone number? Can we link it to a different page on the website? The answer is usually, yes. All of these different things. So it could be the service department at Strathcom Ford, and then it can be the parts department at Strathcom Ford, and then just the overall dealership entity Strathcom Ford. You can have all of those different ones. I’ll tell you right now, you’re going to have to keep each one of those ones up to date, especially if you have different holiday hours, so you’re creating more work for yourself. If you hire somebody to manage all of it for you, then it’s probably great bang for your buck. Because I know that like Strathcom, we as Strathcom, this is something that we are able to do there. But, uh, we’re, we’re able to manage all of those separately. But that’s about it.
Taylor: What level of authority should I, as a dealership, give to an agency for my Google My Business location?
Melina: There are four levels of access that you can give somebody for Google My Business, or that exist for Google My Business. So you’ve got the primary owner, the owner, you’ve got manager status, and you’ve got communications manager. For all of these there can only be one primary owner and there can be multiple of any of the others. We at Strathcom are strong advocates for the fact that your business location is your business location and you as the dealership should always maintain primary owner status of your Google My Business listing no matter what. And it should always probably be a high ranking person at the dealership so that there’s no risk if there’s employee turnaround or anything like that. Um, there can be multiple owners, but the primary difference between owner status and manage your status is that owners are able to add and remove others from any access level that they have, with the exception of the primary owner. So they can’t, they can’t remove. The primary owner is only the primary owner can transfer primary ownership. But the other thing that an owner can do is they can remove the listing. So I would strongly encourage you, especially if you are using an agency or anybody else as a third party to manage that listing. Do not give them ownership access. Say things go sideways. Say things just don’t turn out the way we want them to do. You don’t want to give somebody else the opportunity to remove that at that location unless they had a reason or the authority to remove that location. Um, and realistically you have at the dealership that can do that yourself. So I would strongly encourage you that from a dealership standpoint, never give anyone else ownership status of your listing with the exception of maybe your dealership group, I’d say. So you’re part of a group of dealerships on, you’ve got to like a group marketing manager, give them access to ownership access, your OEM might request it, but don’t just offer it for fun.
Um, and any third party managing your Google My Business listing for you can do anything that they would need to do from, while under your employ, from that manager access level. Um, the difference between the manager and the communications manager access level is that anyone with manager only access has the ability to make edits to the location. So if you’re hiring a third party sorry, if you’re hiring a third party to optimize that location. They’re going to need that access, um, and anyone with just communications manager access has the ability to publish on your behalf, so they’ll be able to do Google Posts, they’ll be able to respond to reviews, but they won’t be able to touch the actual listing information. So that’s the overview of all of this so that it kind of helps you understand that there are, there are so many different things that you can do. Don’t ever give anybody anything more than manager unless they, unless they have a reason for it and they belong to you.
Taylor: Is there any business information that should not be filled out in a Google My Business listing?
Melina: I’m an advocate that I want you to fill out everything as completely as you can, but if you are uncertain about the answer to an area that describes your business–so say you don’t know what something is, or we could sort of maybe stretch the information to sort of be that true answer it’s… I would rather err on the side of leaving the field blank rather than incorrectly stating that your dealership does something that they don’t do. If you misrepresent your business online, this violates the guidelines for Representing Your Business on Google, It’s a long document that Google keeps up to date. I’ll give it to Taylor so that when he sends out the email afterwards that he can include that link for you guys. But what this does, is if you have incorrect information on your listing, this opens up you up to being able to potentially have your business information changed on you by somebody with Local Guide status, or Google having to go in and do it if they determined that that information is incorrect.
So say that my office hours were listed that I am open until 6:00. And I decided to close early, like I run the risk of somebody showing up at 6:00 and marketing it that my hours are incorrect. Something like that. And if you keep having this problem, you may, if your information is constantly incorrect, you may end up getting caught with a violation and Google can punish you for that. So that’s kind of sad. So if there are any, if there’s anything that you shouldn’t throw out, it’s things that you aren’t certain about or that are not true.
Taylor: What happens if I violate one of the guidelines for Representing Your Business on Google?
Melina: So like I mentioned for the last one, you run the risk of having that business information changed without your knowledge, by a Local Guide, or by Google, but if you keep changing it back so you keep having the same problem, you run the risk of getting a soft or a hard suspension of your Google My Business listing. So a soft suspension is where you don’t have the ability to manage your Google My Business listing via the Google My Business platform. And you will no longer be able to receive notifications about your listing, and you won’t be able to make edits. You will not be able to use Google Posts and you will not be able to respond to reviews. So that sucks. Um, with a hard suspension, it removes your entire Google My Business listing. You lose all your images, you lose all your reviews, if you paid somebody to do that fancy tour I talked about earlier, it’s gone, Maps, everythingg. Um, and so since that listing doesn’t exist, it also won’t show up anywhere in local search results and you will probably also not see a favorable ranking position either in the blue links in local search, so that, that really sucks. Um, I liken it to basically, you know, uh, Google took their toys and went home, that sort of thing. Like I, uh, I secret to no one, I have dogs. And it would be like if my dog, I gave him a toy and he kept trying to rip it apart. So I took it away because he was trying to do this the other day. So I took it away because he was pulling all the stuffing out of it. And I pulled the, the loose, stuffing out and stitched it back up and, and gave it back to him.
That’s, that’s the soft suspension. I took the toy away for awhile and you didn’t get it back until I fixed everything and decided that you were okay to have it again. Um, but say my dog takes that toy and he rips it back open and decides to start pulling all the stuffing out again, he’s getting a hard suspension. I’m taking away the toy and he’s not getting it back. So that is basically with the differentiation that I can give you. Taylor’s looking at me, and kind of looking at me like I’m ridiculous.
Taylor: I’d like to clarify. She said dogs, plural. So what you’re telling me, this is one of those situations that the old chestnut, it’s better to ask for forgiveness than permission does not apply.
Melina: Yeah. It does not apply. So do not ask for forgiveness. Just don’t, don’t, don’t do the bad thing. Don’t do the bad thing. And it’s really easy to not do the bad thing when Google gives you a really specific list of things not to do.
Taylor: If I see incorrect information or someone else who is violating one of the Guidelines for Representing Your Business Online, what can I do?
Melina: So this was my favorite one, in that you know, if somebody keeps doing it and keep getting it wrong, especially if they’re your competitor, I always encourage everyone to get themselves a Local Guide account. And maybe I do this because I am a type-A stickler for people who want to follow the rules. But you can do this or you can get a Local Guide account by going to maps.uber.com/local guides.
And Google will prompt you to become–Google actual prompts you to become a local guide as well. Say you have the Google Maps app on your phone and you’ve mapped yourself to a couple of places, you’ve left reviews, if you’ve left at least two reviews you’ll generally, as soon as that, you’re kind of into this. So they invite you to become a Local Guide. You can sign up on your own. So once you have a local guide account, Google tends to trust your suggestions or if you make edits to a business more than they trust just the average joe. And if you keep putting in corrections that are correct, you will build up that authority on your Local Guide account. So I, first of all, I need to clarify, do not abuse this. You shouldn’t abuse this. You shouldn’t just go and change other people’s stuff because you have the ability to, because then Google will also take your toys and you won’t be able to play anymore either.
But um, I have no issue with reporting things that are factually incorrect. And so if you were going to do this, you would do it like this. So let me just close that one, but say I’m going to take this one over here. This is one that is a problem on a regular basis. So you can figure that I searched for Edmonton Chevrolet and we have a dealer here that has five listings for the same one, and a service listing. The service listing is fine. You can actually do that, but oh, the rest of these are not correct. So why does he have so many? So I can look at this and I can go. Okay, this pin right here, this one is probably the real one. Got 189 reviews, got the full proper star rating, but it’s got all these extra ones. I don’t know why, and this one actually has a better score.
So either are there. They’re trying to game the system by having multiples. So say you searched for Edmonton Chevrolet and several of these showed up. Instead of showing other dealers, Google doesn’t like that. They don’t want you to have multiple listings for the same business, for the exact same thing. So this one I can see has one review. This isn’t the primary. So you’re going to go here with your Google login. Google Guide account. I’ve got mine here with my little, my little icon, and you’re going to be able to hit suggest an edit. So the dealership name is this, the address and everything is what it is here. But we know that this is not the correct answer. So this place never existed because the real one existed over here. So what I’m going to do is I’m going to hit this place never existed.
Yes. Reason why it never existed. None of these things. It is spam, but more specifically, this is a duplicate of another place. Not as bad. So don’t do that. I encourage you to not do this because I will go over report them if I find them. So, uh, I will hit report on that and I will hit submit and people will say thank you for improving Google maps. You’ll get an email when your suggestion has been reviewed. Sweet. Done. And it’s going to do that. I will tell you right now, so we can close this. Um, I’ll tell you right now that I, I usually do this especially say we have a, if we have an SEO client who, um, is paying for us to optimize theirs, we also tend to look into what the local field is because oftentimes doing things like making sure that everybody else has the right stuff in the same area.
May be the difference between when you have that local pack show up and you have dealers a, b, and c that come up for that query, somebody else’s wrong information might be pushing them further up than they should be and that’s not right. Um, so I, I err on the side of doing what is right and by making sure that, you know, if my guy has the wrong information, I’m going to make sure that my client has the right information because I don’t want somebody else to catch it. We’ll edit it from the internal side, but we will also go through and report for anybody else that’s in the competitive market who is abusing the situation. So that is, that is a big thing that I strongly advocate for is making sure that we are making Google Maps a better place.
EAT (Authority), Google My Business (GMB), Off-Page SEO Tactics