If you’re looking to improve your local search visibility, it’s likely that one of the routes you’ve considered going down is Google My Business. It’s free, it allows you to list key information about your business, and ultimately it’s a tool with some real power to make a connection with potential customers.

Like most online tools, however, Google My Business has its flaws. Whilst Google describes it as ‘easy to use’, in reality it comes with a whole spectrum of frustrations which could leave you tearing your hair out. Trust me, I’ve been there.

To help you get a full picture of what to expect from Google My Business, I’ve put together my thoughts on the positive and negative aspects of the platform, as well as the problems you might face with it: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, if you will.

Read on to find out more about the tool, along with our top tips for managing those pesky frustrations.

The Good

We’re a positive bunch here at Silverbean, so to get things started, let’s take a look at the benefits Google My Business has to offer.

It’s an essential tool for local strategy

Google My Business is the only way to effectively manage and optimise what appears in Google’s local map pack results, so if you want to improve your local visibility, it really is a must.

Customers are looking increasingly to Google to find businesses and services nearby, so by getting Google My Business in place, you can ensure you’ve got a chance of being noticed.

With that said, Google My Business isn’t the only thing you’ll need to work on for your local strategy, so check out our complete local SEO guide for a full rundown.

It’s aligned with customer needs

It’s been reported that 65% of smartphone users carry out searches for information on the go, and this figure is likely to continue to rise.

With more and more people using their mobiles to answer key questions such as where businesses are, when they’re open and how to contact them, it’s vital that you cater to these needs, or those prospective customers might just go elsewhere.

Anything that makes customers’ lives easier and encourages them to pay you a visit has got to be good, right?

If you don’t have Google My Business set up – or if your information is missing or incorrect – you could miss out on potential website traffic, phone calls and real world footfall, so the real question is, can you afford not to have it in place?

It’s free

Did I mention that Google My Business is free? Incentives don’t come much better than that.

What’s worth bearing in mind though is the amount of time you’ll need to spend on getting everything set up properly. And boy, are you going to need some time.

More on that later…

It’s for everyone

Google My Business can be used by anyone, from small business owners to large companies and marketing agencies, so whatever the size or type of your business, you can benefit from this tool.

It provides useful data

One handy thing about Google My Business is that it features an Insights section for each location, which can tell you all sorts of useful things, like how many people have gone on to visit your website or phone your team after viewing the listing.

This data has the potential to be extremely helpful for your local strategy, although it’s currently not the easiest system to use, as we’ll go on to explain below.

The Bad

Whilst they do say not to look a gift horse in the mouth, I can’t help but point out some of the negative aspects of Google’s free tool.

It’s not user friendly

Despite what Google may say about it being ‘easy to use’, Google My Business can be a nightmare to implement in practice.

Some issues can’t be fixed without additional help from Support, which can be frustrating to say the least. Meanwhile, the ever-so-helpful Insights data is only stored for 30 days, and can only be extracted manually, so it’s really not designed with the user in mind.

Google, if you’re listening, we need more user-friendly data please!

It’s time consuming

The simplest tasks can become really time consuming with the Google My Business tool, particularly if you’ve got a large number of locations.

Whilst it is possible to verify a group of locations in one go if you have more than 10 of them, any problems with verification or duplication will need to be addressed on an individual basis.

The Google My Business Insights data is also far more manual to use than it needs to be, although it is very worthwhile if you’ve got the patience to stick with it.

Sometimes it’s out of your control

Users can suggest edits to your listings, and can even add their own photos, which could be a danger for your brand image. Take a look at this listing for an Odeon cinema, for example, which appears to feature an image of someone’s garden…

Image shows local seo, google my business for Odeon Metrocentre Cinema

Plus, if someone else has set up your business’ local listing with a different email account, you’ll end up with a duplicate which you can’t fix without some extra help.

To try and keep control of things, you’ll need someone to keep a close eye on the account.

There’s not enough support

When you need to make changes that are out of your control, the support provided by Google can be, err, less than supportive. Before you can get a problem resolved, you’ll inevitably end up spending lots of your precious time calling, emailing and chasing them, which certainly isn’t ideal when you’re probably already rushed off your feet.

Without being too cynical, it appears in our experience that issues with Google My Business aren’t prioritised due to it not being a paid service.

An ever-changing landscape

Once you’ve worked through the various quirks of the platform and begun to get it mastered, the likelihood is that it will all change again.

This is particularly annoying when changes are made to how the Insights data is presented, rendering all your carefully gathered historical data useless when it no longer matches up.

The Ugly (and how it can be overcome)

As you’ve probably gathered by now, the Google My Business tool can be somewhat tricky to use, and there are a number of challenges you might face when it comes to setting it all up.

Luckily for you, here at Silverbean we’ve already worked our way through the frustrations of Google My Business and we’ve got some tips to save you going through the same hassles.

Read on below to find out more about the common problems and how to overcome them.

Managing multiple listings

The majority of frustrations with Google My Business stem from the difficulties of managing multiple locations, particularly when there are a large number of them.

As mentioned above, there’s not much integration between the locations, so if you need to do a task, you’ll often have to go through and do it for every single listing.

How to overcome it:

If you’ve got a large number of locations, our key advice would be to make sure you get someone on board who has the resource to set it all up properly.

Ideally, seek the help of someone who’s done it all before, to make sure you get things right first time, otherwise you could end up with more problems later down the line.

Adding content

As well as simple information like opening hours and contact details, you’ll probably be wanting to add some useful content to tell customers all about your local branches.

Google My Business used to have the facility to add content for each location, but recently it appears that the only way to add content to each location is to add it via Google+. The difficulty comes with finding out how to upload it.

How to add content for a Google My Business listing:

Finding the right place to add the content certainly caused us some headaches here in the office, but to save you going through the same frustrations, here’s a step-by-step guide on how to upload the content.

  1. Log into Google My Business and use the list view to see all of the locations.
  2. Click the location you want to add content for.
  3. Once the location page loads, click the Google+ logo.
  4. Click the icon in the top right corner to view the menu, and choose the location you want to add content for.
  5. A pop-up may appear – click ‘let’s go’ to continue.
  6. Click ‘About’ (at the bottom of the main banner).
  7. Click ‘Story’ to add your content.
  8. Repeat for every single location…

(Process correct as of March 2017)

So user friendly, huh!

Verifying locations

Getting a location verified often isn’t straightforward. As part of Google’s aim to maintain quality, they’ve (quite rightly) put measures in place to ensure that any listed locations are genuine.

However, this could mean that you have to spend a lot of time proving your business exists, which may involve verification by post, by phone, or even having to video yourself in that particular location (yes, really).

How to overcome it:

If you’re having problems with verifying your business, you’ll need to get in touch with Google’s support team for help.

However, getting hold of them isn’t always easy, and you’ll need to brace yourself for a process which could prove long-winded, complicated and oh-so-frustrating. All the more reason to make sure you’ve got someone with enough resource to follow through with it all.

Removing duplicate listings on Google My Business

Listings can crop up from anywhere, even if one already exists for that location, so you might find yourself with duplicate locations on your hands. It can be a bit of a hassle to get these removed, particularly if the duplicate is held by a different email account.

In the best case scenario, you’ll simply be able to click to mark it as a duplicate, but if the duplicate is held by another account, it could take much longer and you may need to contact customer support.

How to overcome it:

You’ll need to be patient, as responses from support can be slow to come through, and it’s likely that there’ll be a bit of back-and-forth before the problem finally gets resolved. Have your best nagging skills at the ready and be persistent!

Getting data

As we’ve mentioned, the Google My Business tool comes complete with some pretty nifty data which has the potential to be really useful. However, you can only view data from the last 30 days, so you can’t look back historically, and you also can’t export data easily. Getting the data out manually is very time consuming, especially when you have multiple listings to plough through.

How to overcome it:

There’s currently no quick fix for this. To get your hands on the data, you’ll need to go through each location manually and record the figures in your own systems. We’d advise that you set an alert in your calendar every month to remind you to go through and collect the data because once it’s gone, it’s gone!

My top tips for Google My Business success

Don’t get left behind

Despite all the various frustrations, Google My Business really is a great way to ensure that the right information about your business reaches your prospective customers. Google has also confirmed that paid ads are going to start appearing in the local pack results, so the importance of Google My Business is only going to grow.

To stay ahead of the crowd, we’d recommend ensuring your listings are set up sooner rather than later.

Find an expert

As you’ve probably gathered by now, Google My Business can be very time-consuming and ever-so-slightly frustrating to set up properly, particularly if you have locations up and down the country.

With that in mind, I’d advise seeking out some experienced hands to arrange it all for you.

Lucky for you, you’re already on our site!

If you’ve got any further questions about Google My Business, we’d love to hear from you! Get in touch, or tweet us @silverbean.