Google gives businesses the chance to put themselves on the virtual map - have you taken advantage?

Comment: What does your firm’s Google page look like?

With a brief respite on the calendar from show upon show I’ve got an opportunity to get back to the real thrux of this column (featured within print edition, page 49); playing Agony Aunt to the trade’s current concerns and flagging up anything of use to the frontline that I’ve spotted on my, often virtual, travels.

With that in mind, let’s cover Google – everyone who owns a computer knows what that is. It’s the modern Yellow Pages for many and much more, for starters. Search for your bike shop and town and with any luck you’re listed. Did you know, however, that Google allows you to create a short profile on your store, add photos, directions, opening hours and generally do things that many years ago you’d have needed an advertising budget to achieve?

Chosen entirely at random, yet a good example of what’s achievable with just five minutes investment, look up Peter Hansford Cycles of Winchester. A clickable photo of the employees links through to the store’s website. It’s as easy as that to cement a good first impression and place the customer in a position to find out more, or start shopping.

The service, in line with what competing social networks are doing, is evolving too. With the launch of Google+, dedicated social media styled pages can be made to represent a business. Google says that its service will differentiate itself from competition by providing the ability to add a ‘+1’ link to their search results or marketing campaigns – furthering the reach of a page in social media terms and allowing firms to monitor visitor numbers and tagging rough locations to each.

It’s more or less proven that, in this day and age, internet research and reviews influence where customers spend their hard-earned and here’s the downside to not keeping tabs on your five minute investment. On my travels I’ve counted shops with multiple one star ratings attached to a few paragraphs of anger-fuelled spiel.

One review of a London shop that I’ve recently read was highly slanderous, yet hidden behind the ‘anonymous is hating’ moniker, what can a shop do to defend itself against what may well be just one poster with an axe to grind? Sound like I’ve got too much time on my hands? So have disgruntled customers. Worth keeping tabs on.

You may have noticed a ‘+You’ tab appear at the head of the search engine’s home page lately. Click that tab to get started and if you want further guidance on how to optimise your page, look up Zen Bikes, a business which Google has flagged up as a prime example of how to broaden your reach.

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