A long time ago, in an internet far, far away, business owners could enter a description of their business in an old version of Google Plus for businesses called Google Plus Local. Do you remember those days? Yes? No?
Google changes things so rapidly and at light speed that it can sometimes feel like features disappear, reappear and disappear again at random, only to be added to another Google service before disappearing again.
That’s because Google does like to launch a feature, then move it to another Google platform, then completely take it away, then launch it again under another name somewhere else, and then bring it back, and so on. Guess what? The descriptions in Google My Business are back, and the business descriptions are starting to appear in the Google Knowledge Panel. But what does that mean for small business owners?
A Brief History of Business Descriptions in Google My Business
To find out more about business descriptions in various Google features, including Google My Business, I first sat down with BizIQ Marketing Director, Lexi St Laurent and BizIQ GBC Manager, Danni Petersen to learn a bit about the history of business descriptions.
Neither Lexi or Danni could remember if descriptions of businesses ever appeared in the Knowledge Panel in Google search results. It turns out, according to Mike Blumenthal’s blog that sometime in the distant past they did appear in the Knowledge Panel, but nobody seems to remember when that was. Such is the nature of Google and near constant change.
Regardless of whether they ever appeared in the Google Knowledge Panel, they continued to be a feature of Google Plus Local. Business owners and local listing managers could enter a business description. Potential customers could click on a business’ knowledge panel in the search results and read about the business on Google Plus as well as interact with the business there.
Then came the new Google Plus and the end of Google Plus Local. Danni says about a year and a half ago the business descriptions completely disappeared from any part of Google. There had been some hope that they might be returning a year ago with the advent of Google Posts, which is a great way for small businesses to alert consumers to upcoming specials, events, and promotions as well as other company news.
Why Business Descriptions Are Important For Small Businesses
It took another year for the descriptions to finally return to your Google My Business listing and to show up in the Knowledge Panel, but for now, at least, it seems that Google is slowly rolling the ability to add a description of your business from within Google My Business itself. At first, Google just made the feature available to service area businesses but recently we’ve seen it on other types of businesses as well.
So as a small business owner why should you care about adding a description to your business listing? The business descriptions in Google My Business probably don’t affect your ranking in search results. However, the descriptions are another way for you to communicate with prospective customers. Your business description is a way to entice prospects to take an action such as visit your website or contact your business from within Google search results, and it’s free.
GMB Business Description Guidelines
Google likes to make new features available gradually, and this feature was no exception. However, on March 28, Google made an official announcement on Twitter that the feature is now available for all verified business listings. A couple weeks earlier Google had already published guidelines for writing business descriptions in Google My Business Support and several people were noticing the feature popping up in the Knowledge Panel in Google search results, including Barry Schwartz of Search Engine Land.
The news that you can again write a description of your business is great, but you might be wondering exactly how you should go about it. Keep reading for a few tips on how to write your business description on your Google My Business dashboard.
Don’t Make the Following Mistakes
Don’t treat the description like it’s another Homepage. You won’t have much space to write a description, so don’t try to cram in everything about your business in the description field of your Google My Business dashboard.
Don’t keyword stuff. Keyword stuffing anywhere is an old and outdated practice. It has no value for increasing your business’ visibility and Google frowns on it. Furthermore, Google doesn’t use your business description in Google My Business as a ranking factor for your website.
Don’t include links. It’s against Google’s guidelines for you to even include a link to your homepage in your business description. So while you might be tempted to include a link to your website or a special offer’s landing page, don’t do it.
Don’t post low-quality, spammy, or distracting content. From poor grammar and spelling mistakes to spammy and misleading or distracting content are things you need to avoid. Have another employee proofread your description for errors and absolutely do not include content that has no relevance to your business but that you think will get people’s attention.
Don’t focus on specials, promotions, or sales. Even if everything is discounted all the time at your business, your business description is not the place to display this information. As tempting as it might be to edit your business description in your Google My Business profile to include a special promotion or your annual sale, don’t. It’s against Google’s guidelines.
Don’t post offensive, inappropriate, or any unpermitted content. We’re confident you know better than to include inappropriate, explicit or violent content in your business description. Even if it’s satire or in jest, don’t include anything in your business description that violates’s Google’s rules when it comes to offensive and other types of unpermitted content.
Here’s What To Do Instead
Google has designed the new old improved business description section of your Google My Business profile to serve as a sort of “elevator pitch” of your business. The description is displayed in the Knowledge Panel section of Google search results. You want it to quickly tell potential customers what your business does and why they should visit your business or contact you.
Tell potential customers what’s different about you. Include a sentence on why you’re different from your competitors. Avoid terms like “family-owned”, “Member of the Chamber of Commerce,” “A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau,” or “licensed and insured.” I can guarantee you that all your competitors can say the same. These things are not unique. Read positive customer reviews for an idea of why you’re different if you’re stuck.
Share your “why” with customers. You don’t have much room so don’t include your entire life story here. Just briefly state your company’s mission and history and why you love doing what you’re doing.
Briefly summarize your key products and services. If you have a long list of products or services, you won’t be able to include all of them here. Just briefly highlight your main services or products and remember it’s not the place to list discounts or sales on anything. 750 characters are all you have. That’s only about a paragraph. So don’t just copy & paste your entire homepage copy here. It looks like Google is testing a feature where you can list every product and service your business provides in another section in Google My Business, but it’s too early to tell if they’ll make it available for everyone.
Be transparent in your business description. Today’s customers don’t want to be manipulated or tricked into visiting your business. There’s no need to get gimmicky with your description. Be upfront, clear and honest and only include information that will help potential customers know what your business does and whether or not you have what they need.
Marketers everywhere are thrilled to see the return of business descriptions in the Google Knowledge Panel as well as the ability to add and edit them within your Google My Business dashboard.
As a business owner, you should be excited too. You’ll definitely want to add a description of your business. Yes, since Google likes to change their products and features constantly, the feature may or may not be here to stay, but you don’t want to miss out on yet another opportunity to reach potential customers and stay in touch with existing clients. Remember to keep your descriptions brief, clear and only include relevant information about your business.
Google appears to be gearing up for a big change, again. In Google My Business alone over the last quarter we’ve seen color changes, layout changes and new features appear. No matter which new features are here long term, making sure you include a description of your small business in your Google My Business profile is key.
Need help? Have an opinion on business descriptions?
Let us know in the comments below or contact us here at BizIQ.
Annette is a film school dropout and former child therapist. As a child, she was in the Oakland Ballet’s Nutcracker two years in a row and wanted to be a professional chorus girl. Annette is the resident copywriter at BizIQ. She likes sci-fi and horror movies, her dog, and is obsessed with the tv show, “Supernatural.”