Google has stepped up efforts to compete with Facebook and other social networks in giving local businesses a platform by adding a few new features. 

Google My Business launched in 2014 as a way to help local businesses — real estate agents very much included — get on Google: They were encouraged to showcase their hours, location, photos, reviews and other info they deem important. 

While initially part of a process to get users to use its affiliated social media site, Google+, Google My Business has eclipsed its social network counterpart and become the preeminent social media site for local businesses. 

Google My Business has evolved, however, into a platform that focuses on engaging customers and making the marketing process a bit of a two-way street, likening itself to Facebook business pages.

Here’s a brief rundown of how it’s changed in the past few years:

Google My Business features that have been around since 2014:

  • The ability to follow a business
    • Akin to liking a Facebook page, fans can make sure they don’t miss a post by subscribing to a business’ updates
    • While users can choose to do this publicly or privately, the feature must be done on a mobile device, illustrating the media landscape’s increasing preference to mobile 
  • The ability to post
    • As a business owner, you’re able to promote your listings, inject your personality and show off visuals that can bring prospective clients to your site
    • Google My Business posts help boost your SEO and placement on Google’s SERPs

New Google My Business features:

  • You will now have a Customers tab, in which you can reply to clients’ messages and respond to reviews. This is an incredible tool for relationship management, and responding to reviews is useful in building rapport and credibility
  • You can now add a logo to your profile
    • This is the perfect place to add your agency’s logo as well as a high-quality headshot of yourself
  • You can now add photos to a scrollable gallery
    • These look similar to a Facebook page’s cover photo
  • You can select a short name and URL for your business
    • These are unique usernames, quite like Facebook’s, that are used to represent your business
    • You’re able to use http://g.page/yourshortname to send people straight to your business profile, simplifying the process in a major way
    • Clients will soon be able to find you on Google Maps via these short names
  • MarketingKit
    • Google now gives away a few things as part of its commitment to local business owners. These include:
      • Physical posters of your positive Google reviews. Hang these up in your office
      • Social media posts that you can use on your Google business profile, Facebook page, Instagram or any other site you’re promoting yourself
      • A table tent reminding clients to review you on Google. This is perfect for open houses you host

Using the old features in concert with the new is a surefire way to push yourself to the top of Google’s rankings and make sure your prospective clients see your professional profile. Don’t sneeze at any of them — the more you engage with your profile, the more Google recognizes your efforts and rewards you. 

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