Google My Business is a free listing tool that helps small local businesses publish up-to-date and relevant information to Google’s search results. However, Google My Business is more than just a tool for local businesses. It can provide a wide array of benefits to national B2B firms as well.

Many national B2B and professional services firms provide their services across the country through a network of tens if not hundreds of offices. Many of them also undervalue Google My Business as an effective marketing tool. However, this attitude is based in a misunderstanding of how Google search results work, and specifically how Google collects and displays information about businesses both large and small.

Understanding Google’s Knowledge Graph and knowledge panels

The purpose of a search engine is to provide accurate, reliable results to user queries. Specifically, Google’s core business model is based around providing users with the best possible answer to match their search intent.

Note that this doesn’t mean providing a single answer or response to the user’s question or query. After all, having only one search result at the top of the page would hardly be useful to most users. Instead, Google’s goal is to provide a broad range of information that paints a complete picture of the topic for the user.

This is why, for example, a search for a national business such as Apple or Home Depot will bring up panels of information that provide recent news, contact information, and maps to the closest store. These panels of information are called “knowledge panels.”

Google creates knowledge panels using an encyclopedia-style system known as “Knowledge Graph.” Or, as Google explains:

Sometimes Google Search will show special boxes with information about people, places, and things. We call these knowledge panels. They’re designed to help you quickly understand more about a particular subject by surfacing key facts and to make it easier to explore a topic in more depth.

The information about an “entity”—a person, place or thing—in our knowledge panels comes from our Knowledge Graph, which was launched in 2012. It’s a system that understands facts and information about entities from materials shared across the web, as well as from open source and licensed databases. It has amassed over 500 billion facts about five billion entities.

Source: A reintroduction to our Knowledge Graph and knowledge panels.

Google’s knowledge panels help to provide a single, simplified listing of a particular entity right on the Google Search Results page. They generally include facts such as the proper name of the subject, a short summary (often pulled from a source such as Wikipedia), a picture, key facts, and links to the business’s website and social media profiles.

In the context of national B2B organizations, you should expect your business’s knowledge panels to include all the basic information a prospective client might need to know before they reach out for the first time. For example, many knowledge panels will display a business’s headquarters, subsidiaries, CEO and management information, and biographic information such as when the business was founded and by whom.

How does Google My Business fit into the mix?

Google’s Knowledge Graph is based on the idea of correlating facts to entities. For example, if I searched for Jacob’s Engineering Group, Google’s Knowledge Graph would know that the company was founded in 1947 or that the current CEO is Steven J. Demetriou. Google could then present this information through different knowledge panels on the search results page.

Importantly, Knowledge Graph will take these facts from one of two locations: properties you control and properties you don’t. Properties you control can include sources such as your organization’s website, your social media profiles, and profiles on Google properties such as Search Console or Google My Business. Generally, Knowledge Graph will trust this information more than facts found on 3rd party sources. Properties you don’t control can include Wikipedia, Wikidata, public databases (such as publicly available stock information), and other resources that Google can scrape for facts.

Knowledge Graph will then take all these facts and look at them in the aggregate to determine which facts are the most likely to be true and relevant to a particular search.

For example, if your company is going through a name change, there are several ways to provide clues to Google so they can update your knowledge panels. This could include updating all instances of the name on your website, changing the name on all social media profiles, and updating all relevant information in directory listings such as Yelp or the BBB.

However, updating the name field in Google My Business is often the easiest and best way to tell Google directly about the change.

Google My Business as a vehicle for updating the Knowledge Graph

Google My Business is a free marketing tool that helps businesses better manage their Knowledge Graph entity. It provides a centralized location where you can update and curate certain core facts about your business.

For smaller businesses, Google My Business provides a direct path for updating the local search knowledge panel. For example, a business could add information about their hours, whether they deliver, or even whether they’re primarily women- or minority-owned. These facts will then propagate into the Knowledge Graph entry for the entity and will show up on any future searches for that particular business.

For larger businesses — including national B2B firms — Google My Business acts as a powerful resource for curating and updating the facts contained within the Knowledge Graph by providing yet another location that you “own” where you can post information about your organization.

In this way, the primary benefit of Google My Business for national B2B firms is to provide an additional resource for interacting with and curating the knowledge panels that show up whenever someone searches for your business.

While B2B firms can still benefit from the local SEO features of Google My Business, the larger benefit is providing a centralizing resource where you can provide a wealth of facts and clues to Google about your organization. Because these clues come from a verified source (a property you “own”), Knowledge Graph will give more weight to them when displaying knowledge panels.

Combined with the information found on your website, in Google’s Search Console, and across your social media profiles, this setup can help provide a more holistic, up-to-date look at your organization as an entity in the SERPs.

How else can Google My Business help national B2B firms?

In addition to acting as a window into the Knowledge Graph, Google My Business provides numerous other benefits to national B2B firms.

The first, and largest, benefit centers around Google My Business’s ability to manage numerous local profiles for offices around the country. In each of these local profiles you can list a variety of information for local residents, such as the specific office’s phone number, address, and hours. Since the knowledge graph panels are often the first thing users see when they search for your brand online, it’s critical that you provide accurate, up-to-date, and geographically relevant information on each of these profiles.

In doing so you can also improve your local SEO rankings by optimizing your offices in local search results. For example, while you may not rank for the more general keyword “construction firms,” you may be able to claim a top spot for local searches such as “construction firms near me” or “construction firms in Richmond, VA.”

As another added benefit, Google My Business acts as a building block in creating a single, cohesive online presence for your brand. Much like how we discussed updating the Knowledge Graph earlier, Google My Business (and its related local business knowledge panel) acts as a way of providing relevant, timely information to your users in yet another format that they might find helpful.

For example, Google My Business provides limited posting functionalities, allowing you to publish social posts (similar to the ones on Facebook or LinkedIn) with news and updates about your organization. You can also upload images, service lists, and even videos to round out your brand’s presence in Google search results.

As one final benefit, Google My Business acts as a way of establishing trust with your audience. To reorient a little, imagine for a moment that someone searches for your business or a local office and can’t find a listing for it in Google (such as if the knowledge panel is missing). What would they think?

For many users, the lack of a knowledge panel or Google Maps result would indicate that the business doesn’t exist in their local area, and may even harm your reputation with local customers by making you seem hard to find or untrustworthy. On the other hand, a local office listing with tens or hundreds of positive reviews is an exceptionally positive trust factor that may even bring additional business into your firm.

A simple but powerful part of the buyer’s journey

In general, you should update your Google My Business listing every time something important changes regarding your business (such as an address or phone number). You should also schedule quarterly reviews of your Google My Business profile to ensure all of the information is accurate and up-to-date, in addition to regular reviews of the analytics and posts shared on the platform.

Altogether, managing a Google My Business profile only takes around an hour of work a month (at the most) and can have wide-reaching positive effects on your firm’s reputation online.

Because Google’s knowledge panels are so essential to visibility in the SERPs, it’s critical that you focus on leveraging these panels to their fullest potential. Google My Business is a centralized, powerful tool that can help national B2B firms curate the information in their knowledge panels, while simultaneously providing all the same benefits enjoyed by other businesses to the local offices and branches of the national firm.

Search engine optimization is all about making sure you get the right information in front of the right people at the right stage in their buying journey. Leveraging Google My Business to provide a more holistic look at your business is important because it provides you with a resource that only you control, allowing you to better curate and update the information provided on search engine results pages.