Everyone knows that you need an online presence to grow your local business. But how can you go head-to-head with other local competitors in search engines?
The answer: Google My Business.
Google My Business (GMB) is an online tool that helps local businesses be better represented online. It’s not enough that you have a GMB account though. You need to optimize it so that users are presented as much information as possible.
Your GMB listing will make it easier for potential customers to discover your business and give them the means to contact you or visit your store directly.
If you have a small business and wish to explore GMB, you’ve come to the right place. We’ll tell you everything you need to know to experience better search rankings on Google.
That said, why don’t we jump right in.
Table of Contents
- 1 Google My Business Optimization: A Primer
- 2 How to Do Google My Business Optimization the Right Way
- 3 Organize Your Business Information
- 4 Publish Google My Business Posts
- 5 Reach Out to Your Customers Faster
- 6 Answer User Questions on Your Listing
- 7 Monitor Incoming Reviews (and Reply to Them)
- 8 Share Engaging Visuals
- 9 Conclusion
Google My Business Optimization: A Primer
As mentioned earlier, it’s not enough that you have a Google My Business listing. You need to do everything you can to make sure you’re supplying users with all the information they might possibly need.
And by users, we’re not only referring to customers. Google itself is relying on your data.
Google uses GMB information to populate its local pack.
What’s a local pack, you ask?
It a shortlist of local businesses that customers might find useful based on their search query. You may have already seen it in action if you ever looked for a restaurant or any business based on your location.
GMB is also used to populate Google Map results.
And when users perform a voice search, Google can provide results based on what information you entered on GMB.
So, yes, having a GMB profile really helps bring customers to your shop.
It helps generate more traffic and exposure through organic search.
Fortunately, Google has gone out of its way to make GMB setup a breeze. It’s also free so there’s really no excuse to not have one.
Moz considers GMB as an important ranking signal, especially for local pack presence. GMB is currently ranked in the number one position.
And if you look at this graph, you’ll clearly see that it’s well above every other local search ranking factor.
There are also case studies about GMB that have been published. They explain how it helps small businesses increase foot traffic and revenue.
One case study, in particular, shows how small tweaks to a GMB listing managed to increase an SEO company’s traffic by 68% in just one month.
Clearly, you want to optimize your GMB listing to achieve similar (or even better) results.
Let us show you how.
How to Do Google My Business Optimization the Right Way
Now you know all the benefits that GMB brings to the table.
Let’s shift our attention to discussing what you need to do to fully optimize your business listing.
Your goal is to supply Google with as much information as possible. There are fields that Google asks you to fill out when setting up an account. Some fields are not required. This is why entrepreneurs tend to leave them blank.
That’s a mistake you don’t want to make.
Plus, there’s a correct way to fill out some of these fields which we’ll explain in a later section.
First, let’s look at how to organize your business information.
Organize Your Business Information
The first thing you should provide Google is your basic business information.
Your business name, address, and phone number are the bare minimum. Aside from these three, there are plenty more you can provide.
You must provide accurate data in each section. A lot of people rely on GMB listings, even business directories at times. So any typo might result in lost business leads and profit.
Below is a list of the data you need to provide Google.
NAP stands for name, address, and phone number.
Your NAP information needs to be consistent across all sites and platforms. If you have your NAP present on local listings, it needs to be exactly the same.
If you list your business name as Generic Products Company on GMB but have it listed as Generic Products Co. on business listings like Yelp or Yellow Pages, you might run into trouble. It can be viewed by Google as a signal that your business signed up to GMB is not active. You need to fix that right away.
Note: To accomplish the next steps or the other subsequent ones in this post, you will need to add or claim your business listing. If it’s currently being managed by another person outside your organization, you can request ownership of your business listing.
To update your NAP on GMB, you’ll need to log into your Google My Business account. From your main dashboard, click Info on the sidebar panel.
Here you’ll be able to make changes to your business name, address, and phone number.
But what if the incorrect NAP is found outside of GMB on other directories? Is there any way to fix that?
The short answer: Yes.
We’ve covered NAP citation clean up on another post. If you’re interested, we suggest you check out How to Audit and Clean Up Your Citations.
So what do we mean by Google My Business description?
It’s a brief description of what your business is all about. You tell customers what you offer, what makes you different, your company history, and other related information.
It seems simple enough, right?
Well, not quite.
There are limitations as to what you can put on your GMB description. Google has a whole list of description DOs and DON’Ts.
For starters, the description section is not the right space for promoting discounts or sales you might have. There should be no pricing information here either.
You’re not supposed to have links or URLs in this section.
And of course, you’re not supposed to promote the sale of illegal substances and products. Offensive language is not tolerated.
The best types of descriptions are ones that take full advantage of the 750-character limit while sticking to Google’s best practices.
Your GMB description can be updated by accessing the Info page from the sidebar of your dashboard. It’s the same page where you edited your NAP details.
Whitespark, an SEO company from Canada used their GMB description to highlight some of the services they offer. Adding icons only helped get their point across more effectively.
Category and Sub-Category
Categories and sub-categories play an important role in GMB.
Without them, users would be confused as to what your business actually is. They serve as indicators for Google. It lets them know when to present your business as an option.
Even if a search query is related to your niche, Google might not show your business to its users.
There is no option to create a category. You must use one of the pre-existing ones that Google has set.
There are guidelines for choosing a category.
For example, you can only set one category. If your business offers different services, you must label each one as a sub-category.
If you operate a bookshop with a cafe inside, you’ll have to label “cafe” as a sub-category. Or if the cafe identifies as a separate business entity, the cafe would have to create its own listing where it categorizes itself as a cafe.
Note: If you change your category or add a new subcategory, you may have to undergo GMB verification again.
Here’s an example of how categories are presented on Google.
You can edit your categories and sub-categories under Info when you log into your GMB account.
Publish Google My Business Posts
GMB has other features that make it easier to communicate with your audience and customers.
Posts are little boxes that users can see just below your business information.
They provide additional details that users may find interesting. This way, people don’t even have to go to your site to learn more about what you have to offer.
Even better, it can help differentiate you from the competition. From the example above, we can see that Golden Apple Comics has several events in the pipeline. If users are looking for a comic book store, there’s a good chance that they are interested in these sorts of gatherings.
There’s also a carousel showing the latest comics the store has to offer. Users are given an idea of what products to expect when they walk into your store — or not. Because buyers can order these comics through GMB.
There are several types of GMB posts you can add to your GMB listing. Choose from one of four post types then select an appropriate call-to-action (CTA).
You can create a:
- What’s New Post — A way of disseminating news about your business. Did you change your address? Is your shop going to open on a holiday? Do you have new products to promote? If there’s anything you want to share with patrons, this is the type of post you use.
- Event Post — Do you need people to show up to a store launch party? Are you doing signings? You can use an event post to let people know about any event your business is throwing.
- Offer Posts — If you’re having some type of sale, an offer post can really get people talking. This is one way of getting people to come to your store. They’ll know all about your promotion from the comfort of Google’s search results page.
- Product Posts — What products do you have in your store? Do users know about it? If not, a product post might be in order. Show them what products you’re selling.
Posts that are paired with the right call-to-action can lead to more sales. There are six call-to-action buttons available: book online, ask online, buy, more information, register, and call now.
You can learn more about it through this Google My Business article.
Here’s how you can create your very own GMB post.
Log into your GMB account. On the sidebar, look for Posts. Go ahead and click it.
Once you’re in, click the box where it says Write Your Post.
This will prompt GMB to launch a new window. Here you can choose what type of post to use and be able to add your text and images (you can also use video).
Depending on what type of post you’ve decided to use, you will need to fill in other details like product name, price (or price range), and product details.
Once you’re done with the details, add your call-to-action button. This step is optional but we highly recommend that you do.
You can preview your post just to see if there’s anything you missed. When you’re done, click Publish.
Now you should be all set.
And the best thing about GMB posts is that it works.
There are two cases that prove that this is the case. The first comes courtesy of Search Engine Land.
In the study, Joy Hawkins (a guest blogger) tried to see if GMB posts had any direct influence on ranking for the local pack.
After some rounds of testing, Joy found that they do affect a company’s local pack presence.
A more recent guest post from Moz also tried to see the impact of GMB posts.
The researcher, Ben Fisher, found that users click on business posts almost always click on them to read more.
And in the end, Ben did recommend using GMB posts to promote businesses.
So how can you make effective GMB posts?
Here are a few tips:
- Keep Posts Under 100 Words — You can always link to a page that includes all the fine details. Use a blog post to further expand on your message.
- Add Target Keywords — This can help with your SEO efforts.
- Make Images 750 x 750 Pixels for Best Results — Or post videos instead. You can link to YouTube videos if you have them.
- Highlight Your Latest Products — Especially if it’s something your competitors don’t offer them yet.
- Post Job Openings — You never know who might be interested.
- Promote Local Charities and Non-Profits — This could be the start of a great partnership. If you’re a sponsor of one of their events, you can use posts to promote it.
- React to Local Happenings — Show people how you are a proud member of the local community.
Reach Out to Your Customers Faster
You can use your GMB listing to help push your products and services.
The key is being able to interact with users without having to go to your site. It can all be done through GMB instead.
Here are some of the ways you can communicate with potential customers.
Google My Business allows people to contact you through text messages.
Of course, there are other ways users can ask questions. But this feature enables you to answer business-related queries in real-time.
This alone can convert users in an instant. The longer people wait for an answer, the more likely they’ll search elsewhere. The Messaging feature prevents that from happening.
Your average response time will be posted on your listing so you want to reply as fast as possible. However, having a fantastic response rate can encourage users to do business with you so it’s not all bad.
Setting it up is easy. Just log into your account and select Messaging in the sidebar.
Just add your number, save your changes, and you’re done.
And with Google Allo gone, you can expect Google to continue its focus on its messaging feature from this point forward.
Let’s put a spotlight on one of the most useful GMB features it offers — the booking feature.
If you’re offering a service instead of an actual product, Booking might serve you better.
Booking does exactly that. It lets users set up an appointment right from GMB. This is useful for service-oriented industries like plumbing and carpentry. Those who are running restaurants could see a hike in reservations all thanks to this feature.
Clicking Schedule will reveal all available dates and times that you can book. If you find something that’s of interest to you, you can just click Book Now to reserve a slot.
To use this feature, however, you’ll have to first set up an account with one of the Google-accredited booking providers.
Google has an easy-to-follow guide on how to integrate a provider with GMB.
But once you have a booking provider, you just head on over to your GMB sidebar and click Bookings.
Note: If you don’t see Bookings, then the service is not yet available in your area.
From here, you should be able to select your provider from the list.
Need to gain social media followers for your brand?
Fortunately, Google adds social media links to your GMB listing. This will help users who connect with you through your official social media platforms.
However, this is not a feature that you can activate by yourself. This is something that Google does on its own through something called Structured Data.
You can check out this forum thread if you want to learn more.
The best you can do is update your Google knowledge panel and hope for the positive results.
You can send changes to Google and it will review the validity of those changes.
As long as the data you provided are publicly available on the internet, Google should be able to confirm your information’s accuracy.
Answer User Questions on Your Listing
Users can leave questions on your GMB listing instead and not use the messaging feature.
Google uses a feature called Question & Answer. Users submit questions, you provide the answers.
You can even try posting your own question and answering it yourself. That way, you can address frequently asked questions more accurately.
However, as Moz pointed out, you won’t receive notifications on your GMB dashboard when a new question comes in.
There is a new GMB Question & Answer feature though that sends you notifications in your email.
Monitor Incoming Reviews (and Reply to Them)
Reviews are important because they can turn anyone into an instant customer.
According to one study, 91% of consumers would check online reviews to see if a company or business has a good reputation or not.
Hearing what others have to say about a business can be the difference between converting a user and losing a sale.
The study goes on to say that reviews are more trusted than personal recommendations, even ones from family and friends.
So you really have to pay close attention to the reviews you’re getting.
Log into your GMB account and click Reviews.
From here, you’ll be able to see all the reviews you’ve received. You can choose to thank the reviewer or address any issue that’s been raised by hitting the Reply button.
How do you get reviews to begin with? What if nobody’s leaving any?
You can try your hands on something called review marketing. One jewelry retailer got a 120% increase in GMB views thanks to this tactic.
Review marketing is basically going out of your way to ask customers for positive feedbacks. You can then use those for promotion on other channels. This will generate traction and the cycle will continue.
Asking your customers for reviews can help jumpstart your GMB listing.
You can also try inserting your GMB review link when you send your marketing emails. You can ask your staff to nudge customers into leaving positive reviews.
If your customers are not tech-savvy, printing out flyers on how to leave reviews might help out.
And if nothing else, you can always send personalized emails and ask your customers directly.
Adding photos and videos about your business helps humanize your brand to your audience. It gives your brand a face by featuring the people that run your company.
Share your company photos and videos. Take pictures of your products.
Then upload them all on GMB as posts.
You don’t need professionals to take your pictures. You just need to make them good enough. What’s more important is consistency. Users are always looking for something new. Reusing the same-old photos just won’t cut it.
After optimizing your GMB listing comes the hardest part.
Now you have to manage your listings regularly.
You need to monitor every activity. Even your competitors can make suggested edits to throw people off. Even worse, Google might not notify you about the changes made.
That’s why you have to stay vigilant.
Users changing GMB information isn’t an unusual sight.
According to Moz, anyone can make dramatic changes to your listing.
That being said, so long as you stay on top of things, this shouldn’t be an issue.
So go ahead and start optimizing your Google My Business listing today to get ahead of the competition and improve your search engine rankings.