Google ramps up competition with Facebook Pages with new tools for local businesses

Google has been steadily updating its tools for businesses looking to reach more customers across Google’s platforms, including Search and Google Maps. Last year, the company took on Facebook Pages with a feature that let users “follow” and message businesses directly, as well as be updated about promotions, sales and other events. Today, Google is rolling out a host of other tools for Google My Business, focused on attracting customers and encouraging follows.

The suite of tools known as Google My Business was first introduced five years ago as a way for businesses with a Google presence to have a one-stop shop for updating their business information online, adding photos, reading reviews and — at the time — using Google+. While the latter has since shut down, Google is still competing with Facebook in its own way.

But now, instead of building out a vast social network of its own, it’s focused on helping businesses reach customers through Google’s most-used platforms.

Already, customers could “follow” a business to track its updates in the new “For You” tab on Google Maps. It’s very much Google’s version of liking a Facebook Page, then getting updates in a feed. Meanwhile, businesses could use the new Customers tab to read reviews and respond to inquires. They also can post to their business profile on Google.

Today’s update includes a handful of other tools for making those profiles more appealing.

For example, businesses can now add a logo to their profile, upload photos that are then displayed in a new dynamic module on their profile (and soon with captions) and set a profile cover photo. Again, more features to rival Facebook Pages.

Businesses can now also claim a short name and URL for their business so they can more easily direct people right to their profile page.

In a few more months, customers will be able to search Google Maps by these short names, as well.

Also new today are welcome offers. This allows a business to reward a new customer for following them by offering a discount or some kind of deal.

In addition to the new features, Google is today launching a Marketing Kit website where businesses can order free stickers and posters to place at their retail location, and download assets for social posts, among other things.

As a part of this launch, Google is highlighting the top 5% of businesses in a given category, with a “Local Favorite” designation. These businesses will later this summer be able to order digital and physical badges of honor, if they make the cut.

Google says there are now more than 150 million businesses using the Google My Business platform, since its 2014 launch.

“We hope that these more descriptive profiles not only help consumers quickly find the business that best suits their needs, but also help businesses stand out and express what unique about them,” explains Google Business Senior Product Manager Amir Fish in today’s announcement. “We’re committed to helping businesses succeed on Google and are excited to keep improving the experience for all people on Maps and Search,” it says.