"Google:" the noun that has become a verb. While many of us use Google search engines daily, few veterinary clinics are sure of their Google pages and holdings. I'll admit, using Google's intricate web of services can be time consuming and confusing. I've spent many an hour on the phone with Google support. To be fair, however, that largely has been the result of a long-ago practice manager "claiming" a Google Business account for the practice, but disappearing along with the password and time allotted to manage the page.
That said, Google My Business, formally Google Places, is absolutely a necessary "evil" for your practice. Claiming your clinic's Google account will provide you with access to your reviews, photos, maps, hours, and your overall appearance on Google search. It's free, and complements your website and existing social media platforms. Did I mention it's the only way you have access to responding to and/or reporting reviews? And the only way to control the address that appears for your clinic in Google maps? And the only way to change the photos people see when they Google you? See? I'm not kidding here- you NEED to do this. So let's get started.
Note: There are screenshot view images of each step at the end of this blog if you need them!
1. The first step is finding out if you have access to a Google My Business account. Go to https://www.google.com/business/ and click "Start Now."
2. You'll need to sign in with a Google account. This can be a bit tricky, so I would recommend:
3. Next, enter your business name to find your business!
4. Once you've found your business (make sure the name and address match! I found several "Brentwood Animal Hospitals, for instance!), you'll click the small arrow to the right of the address in the white rectangle in the upper left hand corner. .
Now you're at a crossroads. You'll immediately know after clicking that arrow if someone has already claimed your business account. It will look like this image, and it's ok to insert your own "wah wah wah wah....." sound effect. If so, you'll need to follow the directions to move forward to either reclaim access or request ownership. That's a whole 'nother blog, friends, but you can do it, especially if you recognize the address they give us as a hint. Reset your access and rejoin us.
If your business HASN'T claimed the page, you're in luck! You're going to claim it, own it, and make it rock. You must PROMISE to write down the info and passwords you use to set this up, though, for the sake of all future owners and managers :-) Let's move on with the next steps! If your clinic has a Google account (e.g. for Gmail), have that account access handy. If not, you may want to consider setting up a new Google account (e.g. firstname.lastname@example.org) that you'll have regular access to. A final option is to create a google account using a non-Gmail email account that you already use.
5. If you are able to claim access, you'll need to verify your contact info (address and phone), and check the box to state that you're authorized to act as the business and that you agree to Google's Terms and Services.
6. It does take a few seconds to initialize, so be patient.
7. Next, you'll need to verify your business. It helps to be sitting right next to your clinic phone to do this. There's an option to complete this by mail, but why wait? Click the CALL button to get a instant call with a verification code (usually just a few digits, but have some pen and paper handy). PRO TIP: Tell your receptionists before you do this in case one of them has a lightening fast answer reflex and gets to the phone before you do.
8. Congrats! You're now verified! You'll be taken to the main info screen, where you'll have the opportunity to edit any of your business information, like hours, address, phone number, description, etc.
9. You'll be prompted to take a quick tour, which I would recommend. Google will show you where all of your tools and access options are, so it's pretty handy. If you're a cheater OR if you have an appointment waiting, the screenshots are also in the slideshow below ;-)
10. After the tour, you should be taken back to the main page where you can quickly verify all your pertinent contact info and hours, and make sure you have that little green armor badge and the word "VERIFIED" next to your page. You own it, baby!
11. Ok, now it's time for photos. I know, you hate me. You hate photos. Most veterinarians do. But you need to have them. Why? Because they make you cooler than the clinic down the street, and if you don't put them up here, then Google will accept whatever random photo that a client posts on Google. You know it's going to be a horrible photo a client took AFTER their dog expressed their anal glands all over the room or something else equally unattractive. Upload SEVERAL great photos of your facilities inside and out, but more importantly, YOUR TEAM. Seriously, all joking aside, that's what we need to be showing off here. We need Google and everyone who uses Google search to see your faces, caring for pets. That's what makes you special. That's what makes your clinic unique. That's what makes clients want to come see you.
12. You'll also want to put in your profile picture, a logo and a Google cover photo. I know, I just had you back on my team after breaking the news about the photos. Sorry, you gotta have this stuff too. It's not so bad. If your uploads are coming out wonky, try uploading the logo and profile pic in a square format at 1000 x 1000 (it displays at 250 x 250 but this way you get good image quality). The cover photo should be 1600 x 900 pixels. Use Picmonkey or Canva if you want to design something original.
Personally, I would set the profile picture as a photo of your doctor interacting with a patient and the cover photo as a collage of other doctors and pets or potentially the building, depending on how your building appears on street view on Google search. If the building is not clearly visible on the main search engine page when you Google Your Clinic, this is the one time I will advocate for having a good picture of the outside of your clinic being any sort of header image.
13. YOU'RE DONE! After you have those pictures added in, your profile is complete. You can access your reviews, respond to them accordingly, add new information, edit when you need to, etc. I would make "checking in" on this page a regular task, just as you would do with any of your social media sites or other online profiles. At minimum, take a peek at this page once a month. If you want to add managers to give other people access to this page, you can add them in settings. This should help share the workload and allow you to set up activity notifications based on what's best for you!
Hopefully this has helped you claim ownership of your practice's Google My Business account, and given you better control over your clinic's online reputation. If you had any questions or need any help, let me know!