Updated on December 9th, 2021 (see additional new information at the end of this article!)
Think of Google My Business as your digital storefront. It’s the place you can organize the details of your real estate business (your contact information, reviews, photos, website address, thought-leadership articles, etc.) and it will sit on the top right hand of the Google search results page on a desktop or top of the page on your mobile device.
What most do not realize is that it is not just a way of organizing business information online, it's an incredibly beneficial tool for real estate agents and property managers seeking to increase the number of prospects & leads from ranking higher on a Google search.
OK, so what’s the secret sauce or internet magic that makes this happen? We need to take a few steps back.
What makes Google critical to real estate agents?
First, let’s start with Google itself.
Google dominates the online search engine market. When we want to research a business on the internet, we Google it. We don’t Bing it. We don’t Yahoo it. We don’t even say “look it up online,” which was common just a few years ago.
For real estate agents in particular, consider:
- 88% of the worlds searches happen on Google
- Over 80% of interested homebuyers and sellers find an agent via Google before seeing they’re marketing, website of getting a word-of-mouth referral.
- Google connects Homebuying information to consumers more than 20 million times per month. (source- Homelight)
- Google is one of the most trusted brands in the world.
- Consumers tend to view reviews on Google as more credible than anywhere else.
Understandably, for any real estate agent, high Google rankings will directly correlate to more leads, enhanced credibility, and the winning of new business. It’s not a complicated concept, it’s Marketing 101: Businesses that are prominently displayed in front of one of the web’s largest audiences stand to benefit the most.
So how do we get there?
How Google My Business affects how Google ranks real estate agents
Direct Searches vs Earned Searches
When someone searches for a business by name, Google prioritizes the results matching the specific keywords used. These direct searches account for about 17% of total search volume on Google, and either a business’ name matches the search query or it doesn’t. For example, Domino’s Pizza will never (organically) appear above Papa John’s if a consumer types “Papa John’s” into the search bar.
Earned searches, which account for the other 83% of search volume, refer to the use of broader search terms like “best real estate agents in Sarasota” or “best agent near me.” In these cases, Google has to decide what results to display. It will determine which agents most accurately reflect the users’ search parameters and are therefore most likely to satisfy the search term, and the more information Google has about an agent, the likelier it is to push that agent up the search rankings. In other words, this is where there is an opportunity to influence Google’s decision-making process.
In the past, an agent that wished to supply Google with information about its business could leverage traditional SEO tactics—filling their website, blogs, social profiles, reviews, etc. with the right keywords and links—and wait for Google to discover and recommend them.
But as the number of earned searches outpaces direct searches, Google decided it would be easier and more accurate if agents supplied information about their business to Google rather than Google going out and finding it. In other words, Google wants agents to be active participants in the information-gathering and ranking process, not passive.
And, as you probably now realize, Google wants agents to take this active role via Google My Business.
What happens when a real estate agent creates a Google My Business profile?
You can think about Google My Business profiles as an agreement between the agent and Google: You make it easier for Google to have accurate, up-to-date information about your local business (which gives them a competitive advantage over its competitors like Bing and Yahoo) and Google rewards your business by:
- Increased earned search rankings
Recently, Homesnap ran a study that compared real estate agents who had an optimized, regularly updated Google My Business profile than those who did not. They found:
- After three months, agents increased their appearance in earned searches 380%
- After six months, agents increased their appearance in earned searches 1,037%
- After one year, agents increased their appearance in earned searches 3,087%
- After a year and a half, agents increased their appearance in earned searches 5,037%
- Agents also saw their direct search appearances grow by 4,376%. That’s likely because prospective buyers and sellers discovered an agent via a broad, earned search, we’re intrigued by what they saw, and chose to search for the agent by name at a later date in order to learn more—e.g., visit the agent’s website and social media accounts, read reviews, customer testimonials, etc.
A presence in Google Maps
How many times have you visited a local business because of its proximity to your home or office? Granted, ordering chinese is less of a commitment than hiring an agent, but still, wouldn’t you want your business to appear on Google Maps?
But the real benefit of Google Maps is…
- Appearance in the Google Local 3-Pack
The Google Local Pack is a boxed-in section of a search result page that shows three local businesses related to a user’s search query.
Google has never divulged the exact factors that go into the algorithm that determines what businesses appear in a Google Local Pack, but two of the biggest ones are the frequency of appearance in earned searches and the ability for Google to determine your location, which comes from Google Maps.
Appearance in a Google Local Pack is a significant boon to any business, as 44% of all users click on a link contained within a Google Local Pack before any other result. That’s right: Nearly half of all searchers’ first choice for a business is one that appeared in a Google Local Pack.
If you have one takeaway from this blog it should be this: If you appear in a Google Local Pack and a consumer searching for an agent decides to click on a website or Google My Business profile, there’s a near-50% chance it will be yours.
A place to display your reviews
Google is the most widely trusted online review platform, more so than Facebook, Yelp, or any other online real estate marketplace. A Google My Business profile is the absolute best way to share reviews with consumers online.
Reviews also help boost your search rankings even higher. An independent study at Homesnap found:
- Users with an average review rating of 4.0 or better on Google appear in 350% more Google searches than agents with an average review rating of 0-3.
- Users with a 4.0 average review rating on Google received 300% more actions (calls, texts, website views, and direction requests) than those with a review rating of 0-3.
- The more reviews a user has, the better they perform in search, views, and actions.
These numbers are in addition to the search results mentioned above.
So, it’s that easy? Do I just set up my Google business profile and I’ll automatically rank at the top?
Many agents mistakenly believe that they can set up their Google My Business and then forget it, similar to a website. But that’s not the case.
Google places a heavy emphasis on management and frequent updates. That means continual postings, publishing marketing and thought leadership content, uploading photos (headshots, at-work and volunteer-type, listings, etc.), 360 photos, small promo videos and the regular submittal of new reviews. Studies that the boost given to profiles by a review expires after about 90 days.
When you think about it, it makes sense. As we mentioned, Google always wants to deliver the most relevant results possible to its users. Without a well-maintained and regularly updated, optimized Google business profile, Google assumes the information is outdated and potentially inaccurate. For all Google knows you moved, retired, or went into a different area of work altogether. Google will then lower your rank in search results.
How to rank higher on Google My Business
Ranking higher depends on the regular maintenance of your Google business profile. We recommend logging into your profile every day and adding new content (listing photos, video links to Vimeo/YouTube or promo videos, 360 virtual tours, thought leadership writings, events, open houses, or combination, etc.) at least once a week. Any less dedication and you could run the risk of de-prioritization. We would also encourage you to collect as many genuine reviews when possible and as often as you can.
If you don’t have the time or know-how, we can help verify, manage and optimize your Google profile and provide direction. We’ll take all the guesswork, technical know-how, and general head-scratchers out of managing a Google Profile. We’ll be happy to explain how you claim your profile, load it with your photos, listings, contact information, and more so that you can boost your appearance in indirect searches. Give us a call at 941-500-4702.
UPDATE for December, 2021 - Google has changed the name as of a few weeks ago! “Google My Business” is now “Google Business Profile.” Google is now recommending “small businesses manage their profiles directly on Search or Maps,” apps that SMB owners as consumers will undoubtedly already have installed.
Besides the name change, it’s now easier to claim and verify your profile through those two apps. Start this week, those eligible can:
"Search for your business by name and you’ll see an option to claim and verify the associated Business Profile. Once your business is verified, you can edit your business’ information, including the address, store hours, photos and more."