Surprisingly, owners of small, local businesses share a common interest with mega-corporation Google, Inc. One of Google’s goals is to know what people are looking for so well that they don’t even have to search for it. Try this: type the word “weather” into the Google search box (on the Google site, not in your browser’s toolbar). Before you even click Search they have displayed a weather forecast for the location from which you are connected to the Internet.
This is just one of the first steps towards becoming aware of the context in which you are seeking information, in order to return more relevant results. Mobile devices equipped with cameras and GPS can be even more aware of their surroundings, providing Google with even more information to work with, presumably leading to ever more tailored results. Remember that Google is in the business of providing advertising to as many eyeballs as humanly possible and they seem to have determined that the best way to do this is to be relentlessly useful.
Google’s famous slogan, “don’t be evil”, can be debated at this point but that’s not the subject of this post. If you are a small business owner, it is almost certainly in your interest to provide Google with as much information as you can. One way to do this is through the free Google Local Business Center (http://google.com/lbc). The LBC is a part of Google Maps, although information entered there is shared with Google Search results. Here, watch the ad:
Here’s the thing: if they don’t get the information from the business owner, they’ll get it from somewhere else, such as an online Yellow Pages provider. That information is likely to be incomplete, at best. Businesses should be in control of their own information, especially when they’re given a ready-made tool, such as the LBC.
I have a challenge for my own local community of Sonora, CA. Let’s get every business in Tuolumne County to claim their listing or add a new one if it doesn’t exist. Keep those listings up to date, link it to your web site, add coupons (yes, you can do that), solicit reviews and use this free tool to its full potential. Tourists and locals alike search these listings every day and I’d like to know if providing them with better information can have a positive effect on our business’ bottom line.
Please let me know in the comments when you give this a try and what your experience is (even if you’re not from Sonora). Take a few minutes and put your business on the map.
Map by Matt Brown.