Here is what you need to do in order to make sure that you are listed on that map, and more importantly make sure you are showing up on page one over time. Although there are multiple layers of complexity, and strategies you can do, the most important thing from a starting point perspective is to go to https://www.google.com/+/business.
Beware, this page changes often, but once on the page you want to go through the process of claiming your Google + listing. If you want to do just one activity that will yield you the most customers for zero cost, this is that one thing you should do, immediately!
The latest statistics indicate that more than 50% of businesses haven’t claimed their Google + listing. This creates a great opportunity for your funeral home to beat your competition to the punch. One of the first things you want to do is go to https://www.google.com/+/business and claim your listing so you can at least make sure it’s got all of your right information. Your phone number, your website address (if you have one) description of what you do, some pictures, and maybe a video if you have one. More than anything else make sure that you have control of your own business listing on Google.com, in the places listings.
Some things to be aware of as you claim your Google + listing. The process is relatively simple. If you have got a Gmail account or some type of Google account, Google will recognize that and let you use that to claim your Google Local listing. If you don’t, you’re going to need to go through the process of establishing your Google account so that you can claim your Google listing.
Once you have logged in, you will need to type in your phone number and company name. Then, the system will search the Google Local Business directory to see if you already exist in the database. In most cases if you have been in business for any period of time for more than a year, you’re typically going to show up on the list already. So Google will pull up your existing listing and ask you to confirm it’s yours and claim your listing. If you don’t, there is another process that will let you add yourself to Google Local Business. So if you’re a new business or if for some reason you don’t already exist in the Google Local Business directory, you would press “add new listing.”
In either event it’s going to walk you step by step through the process. You’re going to type in your company name, address, and phone number. You’re going to make sure all of that information is correct. A couple of things to pay attention to as you do that.
Make sure that you use your actual company name. So if you’re, “Alan’s Funeral Home,” make sure that you name it, “Alan’s Funeral Home,” and not some other facsimile thereof like “Al’s Funeral Home” or “Alan’s Funeral Home NYC .” Don’t add additional key words in that name. It’s against the Google Local Business rules and policies. Make sure you keep your name, the actual name of your company.
It is important that you establish your NAP (Name, Address, Phone Number Profile) and that it consistently referenced the same way across the web. That it’s showing your company name, phone number, and address the same way every time. As a starting point, if you’re getting started with Google Local Business, make sure that you make it very simple. And that you use the same methodology for naming yourself across the board. Same with your address. If you’re at 105 SW 10th Street, Suite 105, use that same exact wording. If you’re going to use SW use SW. If you’re going to spell out Southwest, spell out Southwest. If you’re going to use your suite number, “Suite 105”. Make sure you either list it, or you don’t list it, and decide whether it’s going to be “unit number” or “suite number”. In every search engine, List it that same way every single time.
Moving on, once you have added the fundamentals, make sure you add your website address. This is very important. If you don’t have a website, I definitely recommend getting a website setup. I’ll share some ideas on different posts on what the best website formats are, and what pages you want to build to your website from an SEO perspective, or contact me and I’ll tell you today!
In your description, I always encourage trying to make sure you list your services and your geographic market in the description. E.G. “[Your company name] is your full service New York Funeral Home Company. We provide a full service funeral, casket sales, embalming service, Green funerals, etc” You have only got about 160 characters for the description so really try and maximize that space to its fullest capability.
Directly below that, you have categories. You want to, obviously, choose the categories that most specifically match what your business does. Don’t add yourself to categories that aren’t relevant. You can add five categories. So, as a Funeral Home Business, choose the best option that applies to you.
You do have the option to create custom categories. You might want to add a custom category for “casket sales”, “cremation”, “pre-planning”, etc. In that way you’re making sure that you’re categorizing yourself as well as possible. But always exercise the already available categories as much as possible, as opposed to creating some unique category name.
Moving down the list, the next thing that you see is the ability to upload photos and videos. I encourage you, you need to upload as much content here as possible because Google is looking for a complete profile. The more information that you have in there the more complete your profile appears. You can upload up to ten pictures & five videos. Try and use real pictures. Always upload first either your logo, or a picture of you in front of your funeral home, or a picture of the staff. That way you’re putting something up that is a representative of your business and not just some stock photos. Upload pictures that are representative of your organization, such as your logo, pictures of your team, etc.
I love to get a team shot. If you have got three employees or 19 employees, get a picture of the whole company standing in front of the funeral home. That helps people quickly look at who you are and get a feel for you. “Wow this is an enterprise that has some bulk to it, and there are people behind it that drive this business.” Maybe an individual shot of the owner. If you’re members of the local chamber of commerce, members of the BBB these are the types of photos that you want to put in your Google Local Business profile. Save those images with key words specific naming. So, if your first image is your logo, call it “your company name – your city” and so on. Make the photos keyword specific. You can upload up to five videos, and the videos should connect through YouTube. Don’t miss out on this opportunity if you have them. Even if they’re not going to be super hi tech. Break out the iPhone, or break out the video camera. Shoot a video of yourself / the owner, just explaining who you are and what you do, and what makes you unique. E.G. Alan’s Funeral Home is a full service Funeral Home company, servicing the New York market. We provide a traditional service or cremation services. Call us, 24 hours, seven days a week. Something along those lines. Just a video that is a representative of who you are and what you do. What we find is, having a video, obviously it’s going to help build out your Google Local Business profile which improves your probability of showing up on the map, because information is power in the Google era.
It’s also going to help people resonate with your organization. You want them to feel like they know, like, and trust you before they decide whether they are going to call you or not. It improves the probability of getting that call, and getting that piece of business. So upload videos to YouTube and then connect them to your Google Local Business listing. Ideal scenario: ten pictures, five videos, if possible.
The next section is the Service Area. You can select your Service Area based off your location & miles included in your service area. Try to make this a legitimate representation of your true service area (don’t over do it).
The last field on the Google Local Business listing is additional information. Here you will find basically just two fields, and it basically lets you type in whatever you want. In a lot of cases, people left to their own device will get to that section, bypass it and just press submit, and feel like they’re done. This is the area where you can really add a lot of valuable content, a lot of specific information about who you are and what you do, and the specific services that you offer. What I like to do within that section is to create the first field which says, “Services Offered.” Right next to it list out all of your services. Again, you would say, “Funeral Home services” – cremation services, casket sales, green funerals, preplanning services, and on and on.”
You can also go to the next one and add, “Areas Serviced.” Then in the areas serviced section, you can then type in all of the cities in and around your main city that you happen to service. That gives you some ability to, really, add some additional keyword rich information into your Google Local Business listing, and enhance the probability of showing up for additional key words.
Once you have got all of those things filled in, and feel comfortable that you have got the right images, and description, and the right content listed in the additional information section, then go to the next step and press “Submit.”
This is where the verification process takes place. Google gives you two options for verifying your listing. Typically, you have the choice to either verify via phone, or verify via mail.
I always encourage you, if you do have the option, to verify via phone. Phone verification is an instantaneous process. When you press phone verification, you will get a message indicating that Google will be calling your business number with a PIN. As soon as you press submit, you’ll shortly receive a text or call. Make sure you have got someone available to answer that call directly. It will be an automated system that calls with a message like “this is Google, your pin number is 43625.″ Then, you type that into your Google Local Business account online. You have now officially claimed and verified your Google Local Business listing.
If you don’t have that option for phone verification, and I have seen cases where Google is not making the phone verification process available, then you need to press “Submit” to verify via mail. You will receive a post card, via the mail, typically within three to five business days. It has a pin code just like the other option. It takes a little bit longer this way but at least you get your pin and you are able to log back in and verify your account to verify and claim ownership.
Now once you have verified your Google Local Business listing, now you have the ability to go in and post status updates, or make changes and additions.
Fundamentally, that’s where you want to start. You want to go to https://www.google.com/+/business, build out your listing as I have described. And now you have got a placeholder and a higher probability of showing up on the Google map. I wish I could tell you it is just as easy as that and you’re going to be on Page One for your City + Your Service. Unfortunately, it’s not that simple, because there are a lot of businesses in your State, all doing the same type of thing. A lot of them have claimed their Google + listing. So, at this point it really doesn’t give you a free pass to the front of the line. But it does get you on the list.
The next step in getting placed on Google Local Business Map. To do this, we need to obtain consistent name address and phone number profiles across the web, and get online reviews from legitimate users. To do this you have to get yourself on other important online directories. This is extremely important as Google looks across the web and says, “OK, Alan’s Funeral Home in New York has a Google Local Business listing, but where else are they listed online?” They look at a lot of different places. They look at Yahoo Local. They look at Bing Local. They look at CitySearch. They look at Angie’s List. They look at YP.com. They look at Yelp. They look at MerchantCircle. And the list goes on and on.
They pull data from info providers like InfoUsa, and Axiom. So, in order to improve your probability of ranking high, you need to make sure you’re showing up in all of these different places with a consistent name, address, phone number, and profile.
Google wants to know that you do exist on other online directories.
The other really important thing you need to do, in order to improve the probability of showing up on the map, is to get reviews from real customers online. You will notice that the companies showing up on spots A F on page one have the ability to show reviews.
I will point out that you don’t want to try and game the system on reviews. It might be easy to think, “I’ll just go out there and set up a bunch of accounts and I will write up a bunch of reviews, and I’ll have 55 reviews on my account then I should be good to go.” It’s not that simple.
Google does have algorithms in place to prevent people from taking advantage of the system. Really they are looking at the reviewer’s profile. In order to write a review on Google Local Business, you have to have a Gmail, or a Google account. Google knows the historic profile of those that have Google accounts. They watch their search trends. They have IP information which gives them information about where they are located at the time they write a review. A lot of cases, they have entered and volunteered that information. “I’m located at this address, and they have frequented these types of web sites.” So Google has a pretty good idea who legitimate users of their Google search engine, one of the most frequented sites in existence. They have data on just about everybody. If you’re trying to take advantage of the system, Google will catch that. Last thing you want to do is get blacklisted.
You want to make sure that you have a process within your business to solicit reviews from legitimate people who have used your services. To get started, you can send out an email to the people in your sphere of influence, asking them to write a review. Printing up some review cards or emailing your customers a few weeks after service. Telling them, “you are building up your online presence and if you would, please write us a review on Google Local Business, CitySearch, or some of these other places.”
We also have Reputation Software that gives you the ability to automate the review process. We have found that to be the ultimate strategy for getting reviews on a consistent basis. We’ve got a whole series of information on that. How it works, and why it’s valuable.
Again just to cover the fundamentals of what you want to do from a starting point to really get started on Google Local Business and get the ball rolling in the right direction. First, go to https://www.google.com/+/business Claim your Google Local Business listings with some of the specifications that I defined earlier.
Then, really get aggressive with your name, address, and profile information across the web. Go onto websites like; CitySearch, Angie’s List, and Judy’s Book, and make sure that you’re listed there and that your information is consistent.
Then, launch an aggressive process for getting reviews from authentic customers.
If you start to do these things on a consistent basis you will start to show up on the Google map, in your area when people search “your service + your city”.