Google It

Claiming and managing your Google My Business listing is a critical part of lead generation

Our tech-heavy culture has a tendency to turn nouns into verbs, not the least of which is ‘Google.’ As powerful as Google is, when it comes to customers finding your business listing on the search engine — managed through a free Google My Business account — is not something you want to leave unmonitored.

“In the pool industry, business is usually done for a local, by a local,” says Kristy Verity, brand strategist and owner of Vee Media in New York. “So when people use search terms such as ‘pool service near me,’ your GMB listing will be exactly what they are looking for.”

While Google isn’t social like other platforms — its attempt at social media, Google Plus, was deactivated in April of this year — Verity says pool companies are doing themselves a disservice by not utilizing GMB to bump their company higher up on Google search results. “You can gain prime SEO,” she says. “Google gives organic search preferences to those who actively update their listing.”

This primary position is even more critical on a mobile device, which has less screen real estate, according to Scott Reynolds, co-owner of The Get Smart Group, a marketing firm in California. “If you have your GMB profile filled out completely and your competitor doesn’t, you’re already at an advantage,” he says. 

To claim your Google business listing, Google your specific company name and location (best done from a computer versus mobile device for this process). A box will show your business name, address, phone number, website and anything else that Google has already managed to compile from your online presence, though possibly inaccurate. Click the “claim this listing” button at the bottom of the box and follow the steps to do so.

Having the correct information on Google search results for a pool service company can mean the difference between gaining and losing a customer. “If they had a party Saturday and the pool water turned green the next day, they’re going to want to know when you open for a shock Monday morning,” Reynolds says. “And that better be accurate. I promise you, if your GMB listing says 6 a.m. and you don’t actually open until 7 a.m., you can have a very angry customer. This can be avoided by keeping your listing up to date.”

Even if a pool company doesn’t actively manage its listing through GMB, consumers can still leave reviews on what Google populates in consumer search results for that company. More significantly, consumers can make suggested changes to business information. And unless the business is claimed and managed through a GMB account, you’ll have no idea these changes are made for all to see.

“Google thinks people are altruistic for some reason, and trusts the general public to update your business address, phone number or store hours,” Reynolds says. His No. 1 recommendation for managing a GMB listing is to use an email address that management checks frequently so email notifications about reviews and suggested changes aren’t missed. “When someone makes a suggestion, it will first email you and give you about 10 days to approve or reject the suggestion,” Reynolds says. “If you do nothing, [the change] goes live.”

Jeffery Manning, president of Manning Pool Service in Houston, appreciates that the Google My Business service is free. “We utilize and rely on Google for a great part of our marketing and how our leads come in” Manning says. “We have utilized Google My Business for some time now, and it does work wonders. It allows us to post and edit pictures as we please, similar to social media.”

GMB is less intensive to maintain than other online marketing platforms, says Kelly Skelton, director of marketing for South Shore Gunite Pools & Spas in New England. “Once information about the company is entered into the firm’s profile, it requires very little attention to appear professional and competent,” he says. While South Shore doesn’t spend a lot of time managing GMB and does not spend money on Google Ads, its up-to-date and managed Google listing represents 30 to 35% of the company’s overall leads in any given year and contributes to around 20% of new pool sales, Skelton says.

Kevin Barry, president of Summit Swimming Pools, Inc. in Wayne, Pennsylvania, admits he’s not the most tech-savvy guy, but he says it’s easy to keep track of and manage Google reviews with a GMB account. “When a potential new client reaches out to us, we always ask ‘How did you hear about us?’ and five out of 10 callers mention they looked through our Google reviews and that was the main reason they called,” Barry says.

His No. 1 recommendation: Reach out to your happiest clients and ask them to review your business, sending a direct link to your company’s Google listing (accessible from the dashboard in your GMB account). “Set up a system to continually get clients to review your business on Google,” Barry says. “There are many companies that specialize in providing this automated service, but we choose to do this in-house.”

Skelton says it’s important to be responsive when a new review is posted on your Google listing. “I’ve found that having the GMB app and enabling push notifications has allowed me to be highly attentive to customers who post a review,” Skelton says, adding that turning on the messaging system can be helpful for customers who want to contact you right away. “This GMB feature lets customers text or call you after finding your information on search results. If you’re able to get them a response in minutes, I’m sure that would make them even more impressed with you.”

Skelton explains the ‘post’ feature of Google My Business is the equivalent to status updates on social media but with different customer engagement. Viewers cannot comment on or ‘like’ a post but can follow a call to action, such as clicking to learn more about a sale or special promoted on the post. Through the GMB dashboard, companies can access analytics to see how many people see and click on these posts for further information.

In the photos section, Verity recommends including pictures of your storefront if you have one — including virtual tours — and your company’s pool crew. “Anything to personalize your listing,” Verity says. “Customers love feeling like they know [their pool tech] already.”

Reynolds recommends additional free services like Google Webmaster Tools, Google Site Tools and Google Tag Manager, all of which can be linked to your GMB account. “They get progressively more complicated,” Reynolds says, “but they give you more and more Google love — for lack of a better term — the more of these you utilize on a regular basis.” If you have a Google Adwords account, you can also connect that to your GMB listing. “Why would any business not take advantage of a marketing tool with such advantageous perks?” Manning says. “It’s a win-win. It’s an opportunity to gain access into customer insight and track the audience that most needs pool service or repair.”

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