Case Study: There's More to a Google Listing Than You Think
SHOP STATS: Duramax Premium Lube Express Location: Five shops in Florida and Georgia Operator: East Coast Lubes
Everyone Googles businesses. But how many businesses are on Google My Business?
The search engine listing tool has been around for more than five years and has gained a lot of usability and features in that time. It now has features much like a social media page, including daily posts, photos and other things that require regular oversight.
But it remains underutilized, particularly among small operations.
The first thing to know is that it’s a step above the basic search engine listing, which can sometimes be automatically populated with customer photos, old information and incomplete data. Google My Business gives business owners more control over their listing’s image.
The second big feature is that the tool is free to use, and it helps customers find you. Google says that businesses that simply add photos to their listings get 42 percent more requests for driving directions via Google Maps.
When Vicki Heydinger launched a Google My Business account for the DuraMax Premium Lube Express shops, she found that there was a lot of old content to clean up. But the result was a more friendly and responsive online presence for customers.
In late 2019, Heydinger moved into a new position at East Coast Lubes, which runs five DuraMax shops in Georgia and Florida. As advertising, marketing and image director, it’s her job to maintain the businesses’ online image and manage customer feedback that comes in through Google or social media.
Years ago, after the company switched oil brands, Heydinger was having trouble updating the shops’ Google listing. She said customers were looking them up on Google and seeing old photos and information, which leads to a rocky customer experience from the start.
“Some of our hours of operation were outdated,” she says. “It was listing us under our old oil name. And people would get online and search ‘lube shops near me,’ and a business would pop up with our address and they’d come over and get confused.”
Before hearing about Google My Business, she says she even tried to contact Google to get some of the information updated. Her request didn’t get a response.
The company’s digital marketing partner tipped her off about Google My Business, and Heydinger began learning how to finesse the shops’ online listings.
Lay claim to your listing.
The first step is to check to see if your business is already listed on Google. This can be done through the search engine or on Google Maps. If the listing hasn’t been claimed by an owner, there will be a button that says, “Own this business?” There, you can claim your listing.
In Heydinger’s case, the listing had been claimed but not strictly maintained. It’s important to know who’s email address is connected to that listing claim, because that will be needed to allow permission to set up a Google My Business page and begin managing the listing.
Heydinger worked with that person who’s email was connected to the listing and got permission to create, edit and update the Google My Business account.
“Once I got the alert that I was granted permission, I’ve been able to go in and update our photos, update some of our really antique ones,” she says. “Get our business hours listed.”
Some important items to change first is to make sure the correct address and phone number are listed, make sure the photos represent the existing shop and make sure the hours of operation are current.
It allows businesses to be specific with those hours as well. Make sure customers aren’t left wondering whether or not you’re open on a holiday.
“There are some federal holidays where we’re closed—Chrsitmas, Easter, Thanksgiving Day,” she says. “There are also federal holidays when we’re open.”
Keep it current.
One benefit of Google My Business is being able to update information quickly when changes happen at the business.
Heydinger found this to be very helpful for customer interaction. She’s been posting reminders about weekly promotions for oil changes. When a customer gets a search result for their business on Google, the promotion is right there in front of them.
Quick updates can go out on the platform as well.
“Unfortunately here on the east coast, we run into emergency hurricane evacuations,” Heydinger says. “I can put an alert up: ‘Flood on over, we will get you new oil and make sure your fluids are topped off so you can get out of dodge.’”
The same goes for basic promotions. When it’s ready, she can broadcast it on the platform.
Review the reviewers.
Prior to using Google My Business, Heydinger was keeping track of customer reviews on the regular Google listing. But it was difficult to get a direct line to the customers who left negative reviews.
Now, Heydinger says that it’s quick and unintrusive to send a nice reply to a negative review (and positive ones, too). Other customers see that the business is responsive.
“It’s nice that I can see the reviews,” she says. “And if there’s a problem, I can address it quickly and hopefully we have a happy customer.”
Heydinger says that it’s worth it to take some time with the messaging. Customers notice when the same reply pops up beneath each review. Just like service in real life, digital courtesy is felt by customers as well. Heydinger says that managers should take time to show it.
“Hopefully the customers will see it as a little bit of appreciation on our end,” she says. “Like I said, we wouldn't be there without them. So, I want them to know how much they mean to us.”
There’s a lot of competition in the quick lube market of Savannah, Ga., where Heydinger is based. After starting with Google My Business, she was able to be much more personable with customers, and she feels it gives them a business advantage.
Heydinger started working on her home store there before moving on to others in their network. The process is similar as she moves on to each location: Claim the listing from Google or get permission from the owner to edit and update the listing that’s already claimed. Then just make sure it’s current.
“We picked up Sunday hours in June, so we were able to update that,” she says. “If our phone number ever changes, I’d be able to get on google and change that real quick.”
Heydinger does most of the work through the Google My Business smartphone app, which is handy for quick review responses. The result is similar to what shop owners want in the real world: customers need to see the most updated version of the shop when they search online. And if a customer has an issue, they get a response soon after posting a review.
The major advantage to Google My Business is that it’s where the customers are interacting. The search engine company commands somewhere around 90 percent of the searches made online, and Google dominates the digital ad market as well.
For the shop owner, Google My Business costs only time, though you might opt to pay for sponsored listing placements. At any rate, your customer service will be better when searchers can view accurate photos, up-to-date reviews and hours of operation on the listing.
The phone book moved online a long time ago. Now, people aren’t just looking for a quick lube. They want a quick lube that’s closest to them, and that’s what Google offers searchers. It’s up to you to make sure that your shop is the most attractive choice to those nearby customers.