“The new phone book’s here! The new phone book’s here!”
Steve Martin’s character in “The Jerk” would croak if he knew that the physical, print phone books — while still in existence — are no longer used by “millions of people every day.”
Despite this, the yellow pages are still very much alive in today’s modern world, albeit through a completely different medium.
The Importance of a Google Listing
Several years ago, Google introduced a service called Google Places. This allowed any business to create a profile with their contact information, services offered, hours open, etc. so that potential customers could quickly and easily find reputable businesses.
Fast-forward to the confusing Google Plus era, and listing your business on the world’s top search engine is seen as one of the best marketing tools out there. And best of all, it’s free.
Google processes (on average) over 40,000 search queries every second. That equates to over 3.5 billion searches per day.
Getting Started with Google
Getting listed on Google is as simple as having a Google Plus brand account. This gets tied to your personal account, but allows you to have multiple owners or managers of a brand.
You’ll be asked for some basic information about your business — the name, address (which can be hidden), hours, phone number, website and more. You can also add a logo and some photos to represent your services. In my case, I uploaded some of my past work. You’ll also be asked to choose a category for your business — “Photographer” was what I chose. You’ll notice I didn’t fill out my hours because I didn’t want to limit when I was available.
Once your profile is approved, you’ll be added to the “yellow pages” on Google, which also includes Google Maps and Google Plus. This means that if someone were to search “photographer” in Google, they’d see your listing somewhere on a map. Furthermore, if someone were to search your business name, it would appear on the side of the search results screen, which can be powerful.
I’m Listed…Now What?
Once of the most important elements of having a Google listing is gaining reviews. The more top reviews you can get, the higher you move up the rankings of other photographers in your area (there are other elements that help determine this too, like search engine optimization).
For the past few months, I’ve spent time asking past and current clients for a 5-star review. I’ve gotten nine 5-star reviews over that period, which has garnered me a 5.0 average star rating. This is displayed in my search listing as well, just like it would be for a restaurant or other company.
The trick here is to be patient. You might have four 5-star reviews. But that doesn’t mean you’ll have a 5.0 average star rating. Google has a calculation that’s based on the star ratings as well as “other signals” that they don’t explain. In my experience, I was stuck at a 4.9 average rating for what seemed like forever before it finally went up to 5.0. There’s a lot of different thought as to why this might be, but like with most things Google, there’s no explicit reason given.
And that’s not to say that once you achieve a 5.0 average rating, that you’ll always be at that level. It’s important to frequently ask for reviews from customers, to keep this number fresh and your reviews up.
Side Note: Get Facebook Reviews, Too!
Google isn’t the only important engine out there for reviews. Getting Facebook reviews can be just as powerful, and in my case, I believe getting them put me to the 5.0 average rating on Google. Google now includes a link to your Facebook page (if you set it up), which pulls the number of reviews for your business page. This is displayed alongside the Google reviews you’ve received.
Just like your portfolio website, getting listed on Google isn’t a one-and-done exercise.
I check the photos I’ve uploaded, on a quarterly basis, to see if there’s anything new I should add, or old that I should remove. I also try to reply to the reviews that are given on my business, as it shows I’m attentive and that I care about my clientele.
Finally, as mentioned above, be sure to link your Facebook page with Google, as well as your Twitter account. Those will appear as links at the bottom of your business listing, which could help draw customers to your social media accounts to further interact with you.
Setting up a Google listing is easy, free and may be one of the top business marketing tools available. Once you get rolling on it, you could in fact, just be “somebody.”
For more on Photography Marketing, see our weekly column.