OK, Google: "Is (my business) open now?"

Keep your Facebook page for your small business. But also add your business information to Google so that it can be found when people search with Google, Google Maps, or from Android devices.

Guido's coffee

Guido's Coffee Lounge is a friendly place that serves great coffee. It's located inside a beautifully renovated furniture building in Owosso, Michigan.

Online, you'll find Guido's Coffee Lounge on Facebook. That makes sense: more than 70% of adults in the US use Facebook. So, it makes sense for Guido's to maintain a Facebook presence.

But... you'll only find Guido's on Facebook.

That's a problem, as people move to mobile devices. comScore reports that smartphones hit "70% mobile market penetration" -- that means that there are approximately 169 million smartphone owners. As of May 2014, more than 52% of those smartphones are Android devices, and more than 41% are Apple devices.

An Android owner that asks "OK, Google... is Guido's Coffee Lounge in Owosso open now?" won't get an answer. Instead, they'll see Google search results, with a link to the coffee shop's Facebook page.

Try the same search for another small business, "OK, Google... is Oriental Accent Arts in Okemos open now?" If it's a Tuesday, you'll hear "Oriental Accent Arts is open until 9:00 pm."

Even if you're "old-fashioned" and type your query, the search results are the same. Google knows the business hours for Oriental Accent Arts, but not Guido's Coffee Lounge (Figure A).

Figure A

Figure A
Add business hours to Google to improve search results.

The reason for the difference is simple: one business owner created a Google+ page, the other hasn't... yet.

(Disclosure: Oriental Accent Arts is owned by my father's wife. I have no connection to Guido's. I'm just a happy customer.)

Google makes it easy to ensure your business's information is accurately listed with their latest "Google My Business" initiative. Simply follow these steps:

  1. Click the link to read: "About Google My Business"
  2. On the "About Google My Business" page, click the "Get started adding your business information to Google" button.
  3. Sign in with your Google Account (if you don't have a Google Account, you'll need to create one)
  4. Choose your business type: a storefront, service, or brand (Figure B). Note that Google broadly defines a "brand" to include products, causes, or informal organizations. (Learn more about the details from Google's support page if you're unsure which one to choose.)
    Figure B
    Figure B
  5. For a storefront, search for your business name (Figure C). Very likely, you'll be able to find your business. When you do, you'll need to indicate that you're authorized to manage the business.
    Figure C
    Figure C
  6. After that, add information about your business: describe your products or services, and add your hours of operations.

Install the Google My Business app (Figure D) to manage your business' information from your Android or Apple mobile device. The app lets you learn more from customers, because you can read reviews and see statistics. You can explore Views and Clicks, which shows the number of people who viewed your listing, and the number of people who clicked through to your website or for directions.

Figure D

Figure D
Read reviews and see statistics with the Google My Business mobile app.

Completing the above process ensures that Google will provide accurate information about your business. When people search for your business with Google search or with Google Maps, Google will use the information you provide.

You can also use the process to remove information about your business. For example, neither Guido's nor Oriental Accent Arts maintain a website. Yet the Guido's search results display large links to "Call," "Directions," and "Website." Click the website link, and you'll see a parked domain page at GoDaddy (Figure E). The Oriental Accent Arts results omit the website link entirely.

Figure E

Figure E
Use Google My Business to remove inaccurate information, such as a link to a parked domain.

(Note: If you don't take control of your page, other people -- with less than good intentions -- might. Kevin Poulsen details small business owners' tales of woe when competitors edit information about a business in "How Google Map Hackers Can Destroy a Business at Will.")

If you get ambitious, Google also promotes tools to help you create a website as part of its "Get Your Business Online" campaign. In the US, open your browser to http://gybo.com/, then explore the "Build Your Free Website." They've partnered with companies to provide free domain registration and hosting for a year. If you want a basic website, this can be a relatively easy way to get started.

As a small business owner, you need to focus your online presence for maximum impact. So, by all means, maintain your Facebook page. But you should also add your business to Google to ensure that you'll be found when people search with Google, Google Maps, or from Android devices.

Try searching for your business from both an Android and Apple device. What do you see? How did the results change after you added your business information to Google? Share your experience in the discussion thread below.