Want to Grow Your Car Wash? Google It.
Google page setup is one of the easiest ways to tee up your business for success.
By Elsbeth W. Russell
Google is unarguably the leading search engine, with around 5.6 billion searches each day and a 92% market share. That means it’s extremely likely that your target market is on Google, possibly looking for the products and services that your company sells. It follows then, that you better have your organization’s Google presence ready for action.
“I think it's our biggest opportunity that I see people ignore and I think it has the most influence over customers in that consideration phase – for free,” said Mike Berlin, the GM & VP of sales for SLAM Car Wash Marketing, a highly specialized full-service marketing agency with deep roots in the car wash industry.
Indeed, at Express Wash Concepts, Marketing Director Beth Martin agrees that setting up a business on Google can provide the type of exposure you’d likely be unable to replicate using traditional advertising tactics.
“We hear all the time in the field from new car wash visitors that say, ‘We had to come check this place out because we heard online about your excellent customer experience. We wanted to see it for ourselves.’” Martin said. “You know, that kind of stuff, you can't pay for and it's absolutely critical.”
Based on Google searches and reviews, consumers are visiting 1.5 billion physical locations every month. Over the last couple of years, the number of people using “near me” or “buy now” to find local products or businesses has increased by 500%. In 2022, small businesses need to ensure that local Search Engine Optimization (SEO) strategies are adapted to allow for customers nearby to find your business.
With all this evidence to back up the relevance of Google in today’s consumer landscape, it’s startling to discover that SEO agency Safari Digital reports that 56% of local businesses have not yet claimed their Google Business Profile.
By creating a profile you can manage your business from Google Search and Maps to start reaching more customers. You can personalize your profile with photos, offers, posts, and more.
Google doesn’t share its search volume data. However, it’s estimated Google processes approximately 63,000 search queries every second, translating to 5.6 billion searches per day and approximately 2 trillion global searches per year. The average person conducts between three and four searches each day.
“It's the lowest hanging fruit we have,” Berlin said.
Verify Your Account
To get started on Google, you must first verify your business. When you verify your business, check that your info is correct and that you or the appropriate team members are the only people who can edit it.
You can either add your business through Google Maps or claim your business through Google Maps by entering your business name and choosing the one. Next click “Claim this business” and then “Manage now.”
Once you own your listing you may be ready to hit the ground running, however, it’s important to note that Google requires newly granted users to wait seven days before they can manage all the features of a profile.
While you’ll be ready to roll with your listing, Martin advises that checking your information shouldn’t be a one-and-done task.
“I think that the most critical piece that operators can focus on is keeping their content updated,” Martin said. “That's going to help with your SEO. That's going to help keep you top of mind in the search engines.”
Add Essential Info
Once you’ve claimed and verified your account you can add information like your phone number, operating hours, and health and safety measures, so customers know what to expect when they visit your car wash.
While this may seem like a simple and basic step, Berlin advises that you double-check to confirm that all of your listing information is correct.
“You'd be surprised how many folks we see with the wrong phone number and all that kind of stuff,” Berlin said.
If customers search for your car wash, they’ll expect to find information like your hours and where you’re located. They’ll be able to see what you’ve added but they also might get information you haven’t added, such as a link to your prices or photos customers have uploaded of their clean vehicles.
Martin said that businesses continually update this information to reflect any changes to regular operation.
“I don't think there's anything more annoying to a consumer than to search you on Google and then go and see that your location is temporarily closed,” Martin said. “It's super easy to keep that information updated.”
Taking it beyond the basics, you can also set your location apart by including attributes to show your business identifies as Black-owned, women-owned, veteran-owned, and is LGBTQ+ friendly. Berlin said adding strategic wording like this to your listing can help you stand out online.
“Google gives you 750 words and you want to use all 750 words if you can,” Berlin said. “I'd like to weave in keywords to help you with local searches. Something like, ‘We're really proud to employ bright stars from Asheville High School,’ if Asheville High School is in your area.”
You can also add your wash packages and pricing to your Google Profile under “settings.” This helps further streamline things for potential customers who are looking for services from your location.
Beyond the Basics
Once you’ve got the key details like location, hours and prices added to your profile, you can go a bit further and dig into the “Promote” options.
Here you’ll be able to dig into how your business is performing on Google, ask for reviews and even add offers and events to your profile.
This is also where you can check your Google Business Profile insights, add photos, get a shortened URL to ask customers for reviews, create posts and more.
When it comes to photos of your car wash, Berlin advises that teams put themselves in their customers' shoes when choosing the images to share.
“I see a lot of people just shoot pictures of foam and cars and buildings because that's what they're really proud of,” Berlin said. “They want us to go shoot drone shots of the rooftop to show the building and the site, and they want us to show it very busy.”
While this may seem like the natural way to showcase your business, Berlin said these types of images may actually backfire.
“I want to show the smiling faces of the people going through the tunnel. And if I show an establishment shot, I don't wanna show every vacuum bay jam packed full,” Berlin said.
“It's not about me being proud that I built a successful wash. The consumer sees that as, ‘Oh, they're too busy. Maybe I don't want to go there today.’”
“What consumers want to see is smiling, happy faces because we're trying to show people what the end result is of the car wash,” he said. “We're selling happiness, we're selling little $10 dopamine hits.”
Beyond images of your location and facts about hours, both Berlin and Martin said that teams consider what other types of content they may already have on hand to repurpose for their listing.
“Google likes to see cross-platform utilization,” Berlin said. “They want to see that you've got a YouTube video on your website and it's the same YouTube video that you've uploaded to your GMB page.”
Martin also said an easy win can come from looking for content on your social media platforms.
“A lot of people overlook posting the content that they're putting on Facebook or Instagram or Twitter,” Martin said. “They overlook doing those posts on Google My Business, and they automatically show up. To me, it's kind of a no-brainer to keep your content fresh there as well because that's typically what consumers are going to see when they type your name into a search engine.”
Add Social Proof
When it comes to your Google Business Profile, reviews are another free way to build a reputation for great customer service, positive exposure and even some SEO benefits.
While it’s great if a customer decides to give your car wash a spontaneous five-star review on Google, you don’t have to sit around waiting for a review to come in. It’s not unusual, and actually recommended, to encourage your customers to share their experience with you online.
You can ask a happy customer in passing, or even pick up the phone and call them if you know they recently came in for a wash and seemed pleased with the result.
Once reviews start coming in, they shouldn’t be a one-way conversation. Experts advise responding to all reviews – good or bad.
In fact, Martin said that monitoring and responding to reviews is a crucial part of the marketing department’s work at Express Wash Concepts.
“We have easily over a thousand reviews come in per quarter for our businesses and we personally respond to every one of them because those reviews are a great way to kind of keep a pulse on your business,” she said.
While the benefits of a great review are obvious, even negative reviews can be seen as an opportunity. Depending on your response, potential clients will be able to see how you handle frustration and they allow you to gather feedback you can use to improve your customer experience.
“Everything's great when you're getting the five-star reviews and people love you, but you really should be paying attention when you're getting those three- and four-star reviews and absolutely the one-star reviews,” Martin said.
Grow Your Presence with Your Business
While it can be overwhelming to consider all of the work that goes into creating and managing your car wash’s presence on Google, Martin advises that at its core, beyond all the algorithms and fluff, the purpose of your Google profile and presence is to be helpful to the customer.
At the core, it all comes down to Google’s mission to deliver searchers with the most relevant and reliable information in the most efficient way possible. As a result, in order to improve your ranking on Google, it’s important that your website serve as a helpful resource for customers looking for the services you provide.
HubSpot, an industry leading marketing, sales, and customer service platform, advises on its blog, “to rank high on search engine results, you need to ensure your site isn't spammy and doesn't look spammy – as with many things in life, looks play a role in how we're perceived.”
However you choose to manage your profile, Martin said the key is to regularly monitor things.
“If you're taking 20 minutes out of your day, every day to respond to reviews, it's not daunting,” she said. “But if you let them sit and then you'll log in five days later and have to do 100 reviews, that's when I think it's easy for people to just kind of slip off.
“As you grow and obtain additional locations, think about getting an aggregate platform to help you manage things,” said Martin, who uses the Yext online brand management tool to manage listings. “For those of us who are multi-location operators – we've got 75 separate Google My Business and Yelp pages – it can get daunting as you begin to grow.”