Not too long ago, I wrote an article about how Google was making some business owners angry with the Google Business Pages platform. If you recall that article, you might be thinking, “Here we go with the sleazy marketing. First they hate something, or pretend to, and then they turn around and tell you to buy into it.”

Well this is NOT that.

The fact is that Google IS ticking off a lot of people, especially companies who are paying a lot to optimize their website. The main goal when you invest in search engine optimization is to be the first website people see on the first page when they Google something. Google, with its maps platform and business platform, now shows up before those companies that have been working so hard. As you can see in this screen capture, the first thing I see if I’m looking for a local carpenter is a paid Google Adwords ad, and then there’s a giant map with different local business pages listed. I have to scroll down if I want to see anything else:

The fact is, however, that Google Business is a double-edged sword. If you have your own website, it might be harder to get people to visit it or even to see it. However, if you want to promote your business heavily on a local level, I truly believe Google Business is becoming a must. Here are five reasons why.

You immediately have a chance of showing up in search results

As we just saw above, companies that have a business account with Google can show up right away in those map listings. This is not to say that having a website or optimizing your website is now unimportant, but Google is doing its best to grab people and send them to Google pages, so why not ride on Google’s coattails? Even if you work nationally, being located on a Google map can show people where you are in relation to them and in relation to your competition.

If you play the game right, people can learn about you who might not have heard of you before

This is one of the features that really clarified for me how important a Google account can be for a local business. Here is a screen shot of a real insights report for one of my clients:

Over the last month, there have been 659 searches. Of those, 72% fall into the “discovery” category. In other words, people were searching for terms that pulled up my client’s page. They were not searching for the company specifically. This means you have a great opportunity to introduce people to your company who are actually looking for products or services you offer.

Links back to your website

Although Google has been criticized for trying to provide as much information as possible within the Google Business platform so people don’t ever need to visit your page, you can actually encourage people to click wherever you want them to go. There are options for buying, learning more, booking, and a couple of other options.

Tracking phone calls

The insights section of Google Business is probably my favorite feature (but then again, I am a 100% marketing geek). One of the most interesting things the insights section reports on is how many people have called your business from  your maps listing. In an ideal world, you would set up a special phone number that you would list on your Google business page, so you would know any phone calls to that number would be coming from Google. That way you could compare your tracking with Googles and also gauge how the quality of those leads are rating. Still, Google will tell you how many phone calls you have gotten from your listing and even what days you got the most calls.

Tracking the competition

Finally, Google Business is great because you can keep track of how your listing is performing versus your local competitors. In the case of the client above, I know that we are the only company in our direct area of expertise to have photos on our account, which gives us an edge in search.

All of this is not to say that you should abandon Facebook or Instagram or your website, but Google is giving a significant leg up to local businesses with these features. All you have to do is decide to use them and then track the results.