In 1995, when volunteers came together in Missoula, Mont., to build a carousel to give the community a place for “good, old-fashioned fun,” customers had to use old-fashioned methods, like telephone books, to find it.
The Internet was in its infancy, and a small business like A Carousel for Missoula didn’t have to worry about how it showed up in search engines and social media. Now, if a small business isn’t found when a customer searches on the map of their mobile phone or through the Web, they may never be discovered at all.
To combat this problem, Google is announcing Wednesday the launch of an aggressive new program to help small businesses get found online. Called “Let’s Put Our Cities on the Map,” Google has generated customized websites for virtually every town and city in the U.S. to enable local businesses to learn to improve the information that shows up on Google search, Google maps and Google+.
“People use Google for so many things, to find basic information,” said Jessica Coulter, director of operations for A Carousel for Missoula, who attended a pilot of the program last October conducted by the Missoula Chamber of Commerce.
“People find us when they say ‘What is there to do with kids in Missoula?’ or ‘What can you do in Missoula?’ When they can find that information easily on Google, it helps promote our business.”
In fact, studies show consumers are looking for more than just basic information when searching online or on maps, but also expect to find other information – such as business hours – and photos easily. According to research conducted by Google and research company Ipsos MediaCT, consumers are 38% more likely to visit and 29% more likely to consider purchasing from businesses with more complete listings.
“Small businesses have said that getting online is hard,” said Soo Young Kim, head of marketing for Google’s Get Your Business Online Program (www.gybo.com). In 2011, Google began conducting small business workshops in a number of cities. Let’s Put Our Cities on the Map grew out of that program as a way to reach more small companies.
“We’re using sophisticated technology on the back end to make it simple for small businesses to get online and create their listing,” said Kim. “Google has created over 30,000 websites to provide every business in every city a fast, free and easy opportunity to help them get found.”
Google is also working with local partners, such as Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs), Chambers of Commerce, SCORE chapters, to conduct training programs to assist small businesses in person. Local organizations serving the small business community can sign up to team with Google to host events and workshops in their area.
At a localized Let’s Put Our Cities on the Map website small businesses can:
• Learn how to put more information about their business into Google
• Get their company verified for Google searches
• Add information such as location, hours of operation
• Add photos to enhance the listing
• Get a diagnostic tool to see how they can improve their listing and visibility
• Get a one-year free website and domain name from Google partner StartLogic
• Learn about local training workshops and other resources
Let’s Put Our Cities on the Map is specifically aimed at helping small businesses. “Big businesses and big retailers are centrally managing listings to make sure they’re appearing on Google,” Kim said. “Small businesses need to be there – right next to them – when a consumer is searching. We don’t prioritize big retailers before small businesses. Both have the same abilities – to upload photos, listing, hours of operation, get reviews.”
“I don’t know if people were having trouble finding us before, but (this program) was good for us,” Coulter said. “Our hours vary seasonally, and we wanted to make sure that when they search for us, their phone says, ‘Open today from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.’ Now they get the most accurate information. We had never updated our hours in a way that would show quite so clearly.”
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