VetPartners member Kelly Baltzell is founder and CEO of Beyond Indigo. She serves on the Today’s Veterinary Business editorial advisory board.Read Articles Written by Kelly Baltzell
Mobile devices have changed the landscape of how people find businesses. Because smartphones are with us wherever we travel, we have access to information 24/7. Hungry? Look at “Restaurants near me” to find out what is close by, see menus and check busy times. The snow is melting and mosquitoes are emerging? A search for “Heartworm prevention near me” can fix the problem.
Searching for local businesses has increased to the point where everyone expects local information instantaneously. Google knows this because it analyzes search trends. To meet the demand of local information, Google has beefed up its Google My Business search feature.
It’s a Must
Google My Business, or GMB, is now a key part of online marketing strategies. It’s free to use and is packed with oodles of information that can assist a veterinary practice with managing how pet owners find and use the clinic’s services.
Visit www.google.com/business to get started. The first thing you will see upon signing in is a dashboard rich with information. Instead of focusing here for the moment, first make sure all of the practice’s data is up to date and correct. To check whether everything is copacetic, look to the left, where various icons will be shown.
Confirm that the following sections are completed:
- Users: Every online platform should have more than one person as the administrator. The hospital owners should be listed, even if they never touch the site, and so should the people actively managing it. Any third party helping to maintain Google My Business should be listed as a user as well. A third party whose services are no longer needed can be deleted with a click.
- Info: Multiple choices are under Options, such as setting the business hours, a description, the placement on Google Maps, a phone number, a website and an address.
- Settings: Make sure all alerts are set to enable so that notifications are received quickly if something is amiss with the account.
- Photos: Images are key. We are visual creatures and make decisions based on the photos we see. Happy pets with happy people are important for people searching for a new place to bring their pet.
These sections in the administration area should be monitored and utilized weekly:
- Reviews: This used to be a standalone digital marketing feature and is being rolled into local search and Google My Business. Building relationships with future clients can start with people reading how a business responds to a review. Timely replies to reviews left for the hospital can go a long way in persuading a pet owner to choose your hospital over another one.
- Posts: Posts are like miniature ads and are free for now. The posts last for a week. This spot can be populated with things like specials of the week, upcoming holiday hours or what to do in an emergency.
Tracking the Data
Google, for better or worse, holds a ton of information on just about every person and every business, and Google shares some of the information with a veterinary hospital through GMB. The facts that can be gleaned about people’s behaviors are fascinating.
Once in the administration area, look to the left and click on “Insights” to find behavioral usage numbers such as:
- How many people searched for the business.
- Where people viewed the business — in the directory or through maps.
- Customer actions, such as visiting the website, asking for directions or calling.
- Direction requests, broken down by ZIP code and showing a map.
- Phone calls, broken down by days of the week and volume.
- Photo views, or how many times your photos were seen compared to other businesses.
Once a month, Google will email a snapshot of key indicators to the administrators. At a glance, you can see the number of people who found you on Google, asked for directions, visited the website or called. Google also shows the percentage change from the previous month. These indicators can provide direction in the practice’s overall monthly marketing plan.
Google has added more depth to the Google My Business tool. These features are worth consideration to help keep tails coming through the clinic doors. They include:
- Services: A practice can list what is offered, such as puppy or kitten wellness care, boarding, grooming and dental procedures.
- Woman-owned business: If the business is owned by a woman, the fact can be listed.
- Multiple location management: Very recently, Google allowed multiple locations to be seen in one dashboard.
- Appointment scheduling: This is still in its infancy. A practice can allow requesting and booking appointments through Google My Business, but a Google partner must be used. Learn more at http://bit.ly/2Skf4ch.
- Client messaging: When this feature is enabled, clients can text the number placed in GMB. For set-up instructions, go to http://bit.ly/2Axtuiq. Note that Google will show publicly how long a business took to respond to a text message. This means you need to be responsive, or just don’t enable it.
- Q&A: Publicly, a questions and answers section can now be seen. Anyone can ask and anyone can answer. Reviewing the responses for accuracy is an important best practice.
Stay Up to Date
Google constantly institutes changes and then announces them to the world. To keep up with changes, including those on Google My Business, set a Google Alert at www.google.com/alerts.
Start cultivating your hospital’s Google My Business area today. With nurturing and care, it can bring clients through the door.