On June 17, to celebrate International Small Business Day, Google announced the launch of its new website which has been built with the purpose of helping small businesses grow. The site is designed to match local businesses with Google products and services.

During the announcement, Google explained how businesses can take advantage of the three main actions the site offers:

  • Personalized Plans: Where businesses need to provide their name, answer a few questions about the business and mention its primary goal. On the basis of the given information, the business will receive a step-by-step, plan of recommendation customized as per its needs. Although the plan includes products to help businesses stand out online, reach more customers and work more efficiently, it lays more emphasis on the goal that’s most important to each business.
  • In-person workshops: The in-person workshops will assist business owners looking for personalized help. Businesses can locate free Grow with Google workshops happening near them.
  • Latest News: With the latest news, businesses can stay updated about Google’s small business-focused tools and services.

If you have a new business and you’re looking for an opportunity to grow its online presence, this website is the right platform for you.

They provide a mix of free and paid service recommendations that can help you grow your business. You can analyze which of these could be most helpful for your business and take a trial.

It’s true; come July 1st, Google will, by default, use its mobile Googlebot to index all the new sites that come online. This move will help ensure that the users’ needs are placed at the forefront. Besides, mobile-first indexing is something that Google has already been doing with over half of the search results anyway.

Want to Find Out Whether Your Site is Being Indexed by the Mobile Bot?

Chances are, if your site is responsive and mobile-friendly, then it is already being indexed using the mobile bot and you have nothing to worry about. However, if you still want to check whether your site is being indexed using mobile-first indexing, then it is fairly easy to do so.

Normally, you will receive an email notifying you that your site has been migrated. In case you missed the mail, you can check using Google’s URL Inspection Tool. All you have to do is add your homepage URL in the top search bar in the Google Search Console account and hit enter.

The page that comes next will show you whether the site is being indexed using Google’s smartphone bot.



If while using the tool you are unable to understand the results you get, go through Google’s URL Inspection Tool guide that offers details on all the different types of results one can get.

Area 120, Google’s experimental products group, introduces a new call automation service – CallJoy.

A cloud-based phone agent, CallJoy will help local businesses improve, measure and automate their customer service.

Take a look at Google’s promotional video explaining the benefits of their new service.

Here’s how it will work…

  • Post a quick setup, you will receive a local phone number.
  • CallJoy will immediately filter calls that matter and start blocking unwanted spam calls.
  • An automated agent will answer calls that matter the most, greet the callers with a custom message and provide basic information related to your business, like days of operation, services available, etc.
  • If the customer would like to place an online order or book an appointment, the virtual agent will send them an SMS containing the URL for the concerned task.
  • The calls will be recorded and transcribed for quality purposes regardless of whether the callers interact directly with you or speak to the CallJoy agent.

These features will make it easier for business owners to tag and search each conversation based on the topic. For instance, a restaurant owner is most likely to search how many times a day callers placed orders for a particular dish.

CallJoy also compiles your data in an online dashboard and mails you a daily update including metrics like volume, new vs returning callers, etc.

At an economical fee of $39/per month, CallJoy promises to deliver customer services for small businesses that were previously available only to larger corporations.

Final Takeaway

Although it has been noted by many local search experts that Google isn’t that great with automation so far, if you wish to test the system, sign up for early access here.

Google My Business rolled out a Products Beta feature to some business listings last year. It allowed them to add products to their listing just like services. Google has a very easy-to-understand help page that explains every single detail of this feature.

You should know, however, that currently, it’s only available to a few businesses in select countries. Also, they have special instructions for different categories, so make sure you read their help page before diving deep into it.

If you are eligible to promote products, you are allowed to feature your products within a Google post, which has proven to bring in a lot of sales. But, just like the service feature, you will have to add each item one at a time. And because it’s only available to retail merchants, it’s obviously a very slow process. We’ll have to wait and see if they will allow bulk uploading in the future, but as of now, it’s just one product at a time.

We tried searching for answers as to why it’s only available to retail merchants – and a selected few–, but we only found this statement:

Important: This feature may not be available to all retail merchants. We’re working to bring it to all eligible businesses.

Takeaway

If you are a retail merchant and you are eligible for this feature, you can see it in the products tab in the left-hand menu. If you are eligible, the first thing you should do is to try it out right away. It is a free marketing tool and can bring in a lot of relevant traffic & ultimately boost your sales.

Now you can highlight positive customer reviews for your business easily. Google has rolled out a new feature that allows you to highlight the reviews from your happy customers. It’s called Suggested posts: Customer testimonials.

Here’s an excerpt from their announcement:

We’re happy to announce a new feature that lets you post automatically suggested reviews as customer testimonials.

In some countries, Google My Business will provide suggested posts to help you showcase positive reviews left for your business. You may get suggestions for new testimonials to post when you sign in to Google My Business, or via email notifications.

These posts are automatically suggested based on 4 or 5-star reviews recently left for your business. You’ll be able to review and edit the post before publishing it.

Here’s an example of how it looks:

         

Takeaway

Positive reviews are immensely beneficial to your business and bottom line. Therefore, if you have a verified Google My Business listing, you can use Google posts to highlight reviews from your happy customers. It can help you in many ways. Also, do not forget to constantly use Google posts to promote your events, products & offers. In case you are new to Google posts or thinking about how much value it will bring to your business, we suggest you give this article a read.

Everyone was excited about Google Posts within the SEO community. But over time we analyzed that it is getting less and less exposure. However, we still believe that Google Posts are worth your time and efforts.

The good news is, that while other types of Google Posts are getting less exposure, “Offers” are getting more & more exposure. Google’s new layout introduced a dedicated space for customers to see a carousel of Offers from your business.

Actionable Strategy
Google Posts may not be proving as fruitful as you might have expected it to be, but it still drives free traffic. So don’t stop creating Google posts and utilize the “offers” within the Google posts to the fullest. However, make sure that you are sticking to Google’s guidelines while creating offers:

“An offer can include a description of the promotion, a coupon code or any terms and conditions useful to your audience. You can surface up to 10 unique offers in the carousel, providing a list of choices.”

A verified Google My Business listing can take your company to new heights. When your listing is verified, it not only helps in the SERP, but it also appears on Google Maps and can appear in the local pack.

Having a verified listing on GMB increases the chances of your website appearing in front of your prospects due to the emphasis that Google puts on the location of the searcher. But, over the years, Google has made their policy strict and now it’s harder than ever for some businesses (especially those in the service industry) to get their listings verified.

So, let’s find out if your business qualifies for it and we will also try to explain how Google sees it.

A. Brick and Mortar
A traditional office, store, warehouse or shop gets the fastest approval from Google.

B. Shared space
1) Business inside another business
If you have a store or office inside a commercial complex it means that you share that location with other businesses as well. Although you are entitled to a verified Google My Business Listing, you might face some issues since Google will be extra cautious while verifying it. Many people have reported that although their business got verified, it still shows “Your business is verified. Listings may be reviewed for quality and can take up to 3 days to be published.” But it never gets reviewed and published within 3 days, it takes way longer.

2) Departments within other businesses, universities or institutions
This case mostly arises within universities, hospitals and bigger institutions, since they are spread over a huge area and have various entries for different departments and different timings.

Here are Google’s guidelines for getting a verified listing of different departments of the same company:

“Publicly facing departments that operate as distinct entities should have their own page. The exact name of each department must be different from that of the main business and that of other departments. Typically, such departments have a separate customer entrance and should each have distinct categories. Their hours may sometimes differ from those of the main business.”

3) One location, one owner, multiple businesses
If you are an owner of multiple companies and they all share the same physical location, but you want each of them to have its own listing, they should each also have distinct categories, business names and phone numbers, and each phone should be answered with the name of that specific business.

4) Different practitioners at the same location
What if you are a lawyer or real estate agent who operates from the same location that other lawyers and realtors share? Will you be eligible for an individual listing? The answer is “YES”. Here’s what Google’s guidelines say about it:

“An individual practitioner should create his or her own dedicated listing if:

  • He or she operates in a public-facing role. Support staff should not create their own listings.
  • He or she is directly contactable at the verified location during stated hours.
A practitioner should not have multiple listings to cover all of his or her specializations.”

Having said that, have no doubt about it that it is going to be really challenging. However, if you run into any problems, you can contact the Google support team on Twitter @GoogleMyBiz or you can fill out the form here.

5) Virtual office space
Google has made it clear that if you use virtual office spaces you will not qualify for a verified GMB listing. You will be eligible only if you or someone from your team is “available” there at the location during the business hours mentioned. Google has also recently updated its guidelines regarding this. Give it a read.

6) Sharing an office with a business like yours
You will have a tough time verifying this kind of business because no legit business would want to sit at the same location where their competitors are. And in case you manage to get it verified, the chances of data getting conflated are very high. So, it’s better to just avoid it because it can get messy.

7) Co-working spaces
It’s not very different from shared spaces and virtual office. So, let’s just say that if you or your employees are available at the address during the business hours, then you are eligible for a verified listing on Google My Business. But we must emphasize: it will be tricky!

8) Home-based business location
One of the most hectic situations to be in. Google has doubts about a business that is being operated  from a residential address because they got spammed a lot in the past, and now Google wants to avoid that. However, you may be eligible for the listing if you can show proof that you have set up a legitimate office in your home where you meet your customers. They may ask for the photos and/or videos of sign boards, business cards, front entry, etc.

C. Service Area Businesses (SABs)
First, let us explain what Google considers as service area business: “Service area businesses are those that do their work at the customer’s location”.

Hidden Addresses
If you don’t meet your customers face to face, then Google thinks that showing your address on the map is not necessary. If you operate such a business, make sure you answer all the questions appropriately while setting up your GMB account.

Verification
To get this type of business verified, you may need to provide additional proof, such as videos of your work vehicle, etc., to prove to Google that your business truly exists.

Home Addresses
It has been seen that many companies have tried to create an individual listing of their business from their own home address or their employees’. While this “MIGHT” work, chances are high that it will backfire if you are trying to trick the giant of the internet.

Takeaway
Make sure you read Google’s guidelines and above-mentioned tips and information before setting up a Google My Business listing because, not only has Google made their policy strict, but your competitors are also looking for any inconsistency so they can report a problem with your listing. This may result in suspension of your account – which you want to avoid at all costs.

Google has recently revamped their Test My Site Tool that shows the average loading speed of your website on mobile devices along with a report on how to fix issues and make your website faster and better.

The biggest change here is that they are now using a 4G connection to test the site speed instead of a 3G connection that they used earlier. They have also added some new features which, according to Google, will help website owners boost their site’s performance.

Here are the new features that have been added to the tool:

  • The speed of both their entire site and of individual pages
  • Whether their site/page speed is faster or slower compared to the prior month
  • Whether their site speed/page speed ranks Fast, Average or Slow
  • How their site speed compares to others in the industry
  • The potential impact of site speed on revenue
  • A detailed list of recommended fixes to increase speed on up to 5 pages on their site
  • A complete report to share with their team

Our takeaway

When it comes to the digital world, every second counts. Multiple types of research have confirmed that site speed directly affects the bottom line of your business. Hence, you want your website to load fast. Now that Google has revamped its tool and provides more meaningful insights, it’s easier than ever to understand the issue (if any) and fix it immediately.

If you need any help, our experienced team will be there to assist you. Just connect with our support team for further details.

Again, a piece of good news for business owners and agencies from Google. Google is now allowing business owners or those who operate it digitally to respond to reviews directly from the desktop.

Until now, you had to open the Google My Business Mobile app to do so, which was troubling for some, as many found the GMB app confusing. This new feature (that should be there from the very start), will provide convenience to agencies who have multiple listings to manage.

According to Community Manager, Kara at GMB…

“We’re making improvements on how you can reply to reviews, and providing you with more information and tools to get feedback from customers. You can now reply to reviews directly with your business profile on Google Maps from your computer.

Replying directly from Google Maps lets you manage your reviews without having to download the Google My Business app or open its homepage”.

How to go about it

Just search for your verified business on Google Maps. When you see your listing scroll down until you see
See All Reviews, then click Reply next to the review you’d like to reply to.

Our takeaway

We all know the importance of reviews and how it plays a crucial role. By allowing us to directly respond to them, Google provided the much-needed convenience. In case you haven’t seen it already, Google has released its guidelines on how to respond to reviews, especially the negative ones.



How to adapt voice search in your SEO strategy and what are we doing for Voice Search Optimization.

NOW IS THE TIME TO EMBRACE VOICE SEARCH

Voice Search is undeniably growing at a rapid pace, and for good reason—it’s fast, it’s convenient, it allows you to search on the go, and it’s becoming part of almost every device that consumers are using. It has taken a good percentage of total searches across the world, in part due to AI assistants like Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa, Google Assistant, etc. With mobile impacting desktop in terms of search queries, and home automation devices becoming mainstream, voice search will power many future local search queries. Optimizing for voice search conversational terms will be a key differentiator.

The good news is that we already have services in place according to Google’s priorities such as surveys and widgets to boost customer reviews in Google, Yelp and Facebook. We were one of the first agencies to adopt Voice Search optimization, wherein the content we create is more conversational and matches users’ natural language pattern.

Here’s a list of things we’re currently doing for Voice Search optimization:

  • Verified and Accurate Google My Business Listing – Most voice search queries will ask for directions to your business address, so we will make sure that your business is listed accurately on Google Maps. Without verification, it would be really difficult to rank for voice search queries.
  • NAP (Name, Address, Phone) Consistency Across Local Sites – Accurate map listing, in terms of name, address and contact number, across multiple map databases will also help search engines to be more confident about your location, and it will form part of the ranking algorithm. We will ensure that your business information (NAP details) is consistent across other top tier and second tier local search engines, directories and review websites.
  • Generating Positive Reviews – Customer reviews are a critical part of the ranking algorithm for voice search. We can help you get positive reviews on Google and Yelp for your business via our proprietary Plug and Play Review Widget and Survey Review Booster.
  • Mobile Friendly Website – Since most voice searches are done on mobile devices, you MUST have a mobile-friendly site. If your website isn’t mobile friendly, we can help you set up a mobile friendly version with the help of our experienced team.
  • Conversational Content – Mobile voice searches will use natural language, which means long-tail keyword phrases are more important than ever. A way to add natural language to your website is by using words and phrases that people actually use (versus a formal register, which is usually not very commonly used online). The content used will be more conversational in tone, and the keyword phrases will probably resonate more with a person performing a voice search. We have already started implementing this for website content, which will help the site rank for voice-based queries.
  • Microdata & Advanced Schema Markup – Google will start using schema markup both as a site quality and richness indicator (i.e. affecting rankings), and for creating carousel-like results for certain searches, with Knowledge Graph-like summary data on each result in the list. We will help you set up structured data on your site.
  • Rank Tracking – We have already started tracking rankings in mobile search results for voice based terms like “near me”, “close to me”, “around me”, etc. around physical location across all verticals and reporting these rankings on our dashboard.

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