Often when we think of SEO campaigns, we think of a global or nationwide brand presence — but for many businesses, local SEO is the bread and butter of their digital marketing strategy.
With more than 90 percent of the search engine market share, Google remains a focal point for local SEO strategies. This is thanks, in part, to Google My Business.
Our guide will take you through every step of optimizing your Google My Business listing, from setting it up to monitoring results.
What Is Google My Business?
A brief recap for those out of the loop – Google My Business (GMB) was launched back in 2014. It’s a completely free tool created by the search engine giant to help local businesses appear within search results and on Google maps.
Over the past few years local keywords like “near me” have exploded in popularity, rising in search volume by 900 percent in some instances! Google’s response was to continue to up the importance of GMB listings for local businesses, giving them a chance to rank with larger businesses in the search results.
This resulted in what’s known as the Local Pack or the 3 Pack being added to most search results. This is the ‘map’ result within search results pages which lists three GMB listings for that given query, giving smaller and local businesses a stronger chance of getting leads from potential customers.
GMB listings are made up of key information about your business. This includes things like your address, contact information, website, and business hours. Additionally, it includes reviews, photos, and posts if available.
If you previously used Google tools like Google+ chances are your business already has a Google My Business Listing – you just haven’t claimed and optimized it yet.
How to Create a Google My Business Listing
First things first, check you don’t already have a Google My Business listing. You can do this by searching for your business in Google and checking the results, or by using Google’s in-platform My Business search feature.
If you have a GMB listing already, great – all you need to do is claim it and the rest of the process is as though you’re creating it brand new. For those that don’t have a listing, head the over to Google My Business platform.
You’ll start with your official business name, business details, and main business category. These details will be basic information like your website and contact information – you’ll have the option to add more in-depth details later.
Your business category can be changed later on if needed, but be sure to pick the most relevant category for your business or industry. There’s a huge range to pick from so finding one that reflects your business should be easy.
Service Area Business or Brick and Mortar Business?
After setting your category, you’ll be asked if you’d like to add a physical storefront location to your brand page, like a shop or an office. It’s really important you don’t add a physical location if customers can’t actually visit one. Many businesses with GMB listings operate as service area businesses (SABs), so you don’t need to have a brick and mortar storefront for your GMB listing to appear in search results.
This can all sound a little convoluted – so let’s simplify. Examples of service area businesses would include things like electricians, plumbers, and gardeners. Brick and mortar businesses, on the other hand, would include things like car garages, restaurants, and grocery stores.
For service only businesses, you’ll select the service area or areas that are relevant to your company. You can choose to hide your office location from your GMB listing if you’re not customer-facing.
For those with a location customers visit, you’ll get the option to add the address of your store. Don’t worry about missing out on customers by being too local – Google will also ask you if you’d like to service customers outside your location and set a service area.
You can change any of these details at any time, so don’t worry too much if you’re not sure just yet. Once you’ve completed this section, click finish to move onto verification.
Verifying Your GMB Listing
Your GMB listing needs to be verified to actually be live and visible for customers. It’s a pretty simple, but important process.
Google will send you out a postcard by mail, which can take up to five days to arrive. The postcard contains a verification code you can use to verify your listing within the GMB dashboard. This proves to Google that you do indeed operate at the location you’ve listed and also that the person managing the GMB listing is part of the company.
Once you’re verified your GMB listing will appear within search results, as well as on Google Maps. You’ll also get full access to back end data within the GMB dashboard, like their analytics and insights.
How to Optimize Your Google My Business Listing
Now for the fun part, optimizing your Google My Business listing to attract your potential customers. There’s a whole host of ways to do this, so we’ll break it down.
Photos and Videos
Imagery is hugely important in attracting customers, and GMB is no exception to this. The different types of visual assets you can add to your GMB listing include:
- Cover photo
- Interior photos
- Virtual tour
- Additional photos
For your logo, you should use a square sized image so nothing is cut off to fit. Similarly, your cover photo will be cropped to fit a 16:9 aspect ratio, so keep this in mind when choosing. Other asset rules to keep in mind are:
- Minimum resolution: 720px by 720px
- Size: 10KB to 5MB
- Format: PNG or JPG
Your interior photos help your customer get a good feel for inside your business. Make a good impression with high quality, professional photos. Alternatively, you can set up a virtual tour that allows customers to have an interactive 360-degree experience.
You can also use video and additional photos to highlight different aspects of your business. These can be things like products or goods you offer, employees, or the exterior of your business. They should remain relevant and useful to your listing, not just stock images.
Information Is Key
Don’t you hate it when you search for a business and can’t find their opening hours?
Local search results favor businesses offering the best information. This means detailed information so customers aren’t left guessing when it comes to your business.
Fill out all the information fields you can within your GMB listing, with professional and helpful information. It will help your customers and your appearance in the search results.
Keywords Still Matter!
Just like with your regular local SEO, keywords will still help your GMB listing perform better. This means you need to include keywords within your business listing. You can add them to places like your business description quite easily, so don’t stuff them in anywhere you can unnecessarily — Google won’t thank you!
You can also include keywords in posts you create from your GMB account, and we’d highly recommend doing so!
As we mentioned above, GMB allows you to create posts much like social media posts. You can use these to post information about products, sales, or events related to your business.
These posts not only help you keep your customers informed, but help keep your GMB listing fresh and relevant for Google.
Posts should be free of spelling errors, as well as include relevant links to your site. Including an image is optional, but as with social media generally, image-led posts will perform better than those without.
It’s important to note for some businesses in particular industries, posting about specific products would be going against Google’s guidelines. These are for all the obvious industries which are usually restricted in advertising like alcohol, tobacco, weapons, pharmaceutical products, and so forth.
When we’re living through a global pandemic, this advice couldn’t be more important. As good practice, you should be updating your information like business hours or contact information whenever necessary. But when so many businesses are closed, open for different hours, or unable to be contacted through regular methods, this is vital.
Customers lacking in this information become quickly frustrated, especially on time-sensitive matters. This is why Google allows you to customize opening hours for things like national holidays and more.
You can also create posts to update on any issues, for example, closed phone lines, so your customers are never left in the dark.
Closely related, you can actually allow customers to message you through your GMB listing. To do this, simply go to your GMB dashboard and click customers, then messages, and then enable.
Customers can then contact your business through their own business profiles. You can set up automated responses to let customers know someone will answer soon.
Allowing messages can really maximize your GMB listing in terms of visibility and performance, however a word of warning. Do not enable this function if you don’t plan on keeping a close eye on it. You must keep response times under 24 hours.
If you don’t have the staff, or time yourself, to do this it’s better to leave the message option disabled.
A relatively new feature, special attributes allow you to add key selling points of your business to your GMB listing. This could be for things like outdoor seating or parking for brick and mortar businesses. However, there are also special attributes such as women-led or black-owned which are attributes well worth boasting about to customers!
You can’t control the reviews that appear on your Google My Business listing, but you can react to them. It goes without saying that positive reviews are great for potential new customers to see. You should respond to these with thanks when you get them.
You should also respond to your negative reviews. Do this professionally and try to resolve the issue, don’t place blame or attempt to argue with your customer. A professional response attempting to resolve the issue looks much better for other customers.
Your reviews will affect your ranking within search results, so it’s well worth encouraging customers to leave reviews whenever you can.
For businesses with physical products, GMB includes a Product Editor function to allow you to showcase them. This function is available to most businesses, provided you’re small or medium-sized. Large businesses would have to use Local Inventory Ads instead.
Your product listings can include photos, a description, and pricing, allowing customers to find out key information about what you’re offering. Information needs to be kept up to date and accurate, as things like mismatched pricing cause a terrible customer experience.
Last but by no means least and another newer feature for GMB, the booking button.
Some businesses in supported regions can now get a booking button integrated directly into their GMB listing. This powerful little tool is bound to be a great option for some businesses in particular like restaurants. You can find out if you’re eligible for the booking feature here.
Monitoring Your Google My Business Listing
It’s all well and good having a great looking GMB listing, but what you really want to know is how much is it helping your business? You can monitor this through the GMB dashboard and Google Analytics. This means you can see how your GMB listing performs in search results, as well as how that traffic behaves if they click through to your site.
First, within the GMB dashboard, you’ll have what Google calls Insights. There’s a whole host of different information available within insights including things like where customers find you on Google and how they found your listing. For the latter, this is broken down into direct searches (your business name) or discovery searches (using a keyword).
You’ll also get data on how customers interacted with your GMB listing. This includes whether they clicked through to your website, called you, or requested directions to your business.
For those who want to see how users who clicked through to their website behaved, use Google Analytics. You can find your GMB traffic under the Acquisition heading, then all traffic, then channels. Once you get to the Channel report, select Organic followed by Source.
Once located, Google analytics will give you the same array of data for your GMB traffic as it would for any other. This can give you great insights as to how well your GMB traffic is performing once on-site.
It’s important to remember Google My Business is just one part of a larger local SEO picture – there are other ways you can boost your local traffic.
No Time? No Problem
Many small and medium-sized businesses struggle to find the time or resources to dedicate to SEO, leaving them falling behind their competitors who do. Riserr are a leading digital marketing agency, specializing in local SEO campaigns. From Google My Business listings through to paid search, we’re experts at what we do.
Just get in touch to find out how we can help your business grow.