Google My Business, a subproduct of Google, Inc., is a platform designed specifically with local business owners in mind. Spreading the word about your business is not always easy, even if you are attempting to do so locally.
With Google MyBusiness, optimize your marketing efforts as well as your local visibility within top search engine results today, including Google itself. With Google My Business, you can reach a significantly wider audience in less time and with a focus on what matters most—your customers and clients.
A free service that lets you provide more information about your business when it appears in search. Beyond a URL and description, you can add business photos, videos, telephone numbers, business hours, a delivery area, and links to reservation services. A cover photo and snippets from Google Maps and Google Street View help potential customers know what to expect when they arrive for the first time. A word of warning: Users can suggest edits to your profile, so check it regularly for accuracy.
In this guide to Google My Business, you'll learn about the most important aspects to take into consideration to verify your Google my Business presence and maximize your local search results by optimizing it.
The most important starting point for getting found in local searches is your Google My Business (GMB) profile, to be created with your Google account. When you search for your business on Google, your profile is what shows up in the knowledge panel, or the box on the right side of the search results page.
It’s also the source of the information that shows up for your business in the map pack—the group of 3 listings at the top of organic search results—as well as your info that’s surfaced on Google Maps.
Google My Business features
If you are interested in Google My Business optimization and streamlining your own local business, it is first highly advisable to create your own Google Business account to familiarize yourself with the features that Google My Business has to offer. Some of the most notable features of Google My Business can help you on your journey to success, no matter what industry you are in.
Descriptions and categories
Whenever you are attempting to place your business URL into an online directory, you may find yourself limited by the type of information your listing can have or how the listing itself is organized. With Google My Business, you can choose what category is right for your business while also implementing a tidy description of your business that will act as keywords for users whenever they are searching using Google. Adding a description and selecting a category for your official URL will also help to boost the SEO, or the search engine optimization of your website.
Spreading the word about your local business can become frustrating, especially if you are not doing so online yet. With Google My Business, the exact location of your business will appear within rendered search results, along with a local map to display where on the user's map your business is positioned. You can use Google My Business to help boost the overall visibility of your business, especially if you are a locally-owned company in an area that is rife with competition.
Reviews go a long way in making lasting impressions on users, especially when attempting to sell a product or service online. With Google My Business, your company's reviews will appear automatically, which can work in your favor or against you, depending on how others feel about your business and brand. A business that has a high rating with rave reviews is much more likely to garner the attention of newcomers and prospective customers. If your Google My Business listing is littered with poor or mediocre reviews, new prospective customers are more likely to seek out an alternative source.
Another key element of Google My Business is the ability to implement and share photos of the location of your business, the types of services you provide, and even the products (such as unique items, food, or even drinks) that you offer to your customers. Additionally, with any Google Business listing, customers and clients can upload and share the photos that they took of or at your place of business. Using Google My Business to share photos can change the way others view your business while also helping to leave a lasting and positive impression on those who are genuinely interested in knowing more.
Throughout the evolution of Google My Business, new components and features have been implemented into the platform itself for user accessibility and accuracy purposes. Today, anyone who uses Google My Business with a Google Business account has the ability to add their very own attributes to their business listings or local promotional campaigns. Attributes from Google My Business represent specific details about a place of business, such as whether or not the location is pet-friendly, offers outdoor seating, or even donates to specific or charitable causes. Using attributes can help with attracting a particular audience or crowd, especially if that is your intention.
The advantages of Google My Business
Using Google My Business is a great way to attract new customers, spread the word about an existing business, or find your way into any market, even highly saturated and competitive ones. Some of the most notable advantages of using Google My Business for your own business include:
- Visual maps: Provide visual maps and GPS coordinates directly from Google Maps once you have integrated your own business into Google My Business.
- Boost SEO: Using Google My Business is a great way to boost the SEO of any website, including those of local businesses near you.
- Boost your appeal: When a business or brand appears within the top search results of top search engines such as Google, it is much easier to make a positive and professional impression, which will result in a higher CTR, or click-through rate on your website.
- Valuable insights: Google and Google My Business provide even more valuable data and insights from online users and customers. Use Google My Business to learn more about how users find your business and whether they are doing so via search engines or via the Google Maps maps themselves.
- Maintain a higher ranking: One major benefit of using Google My Business is the ability to keep your company's overall ranking steady and climbing, rather than forgotten. With an active Google Business account, boost your URL positioning effortlessly within Google search engine results.
- Increase overall engagement: When users feel as though they can trust your business, they will be more likely to interact and engage with your links, promotions, and even your products or services.
Your profile is your new homepage
Your first impression with potential customers isn’t just your website anymore: It can be your GMB profile.
Websites used to get significant traffic from people who needed simple bits of info about a business, such as its address, phone number, testimonials, or photos of your single or multiple locations.
Today, people don’t need to go to your site to get that information. Your name, address, and phone number are at the top of your profile. There’s also a gallery of images of your business, and customer reviews are aggregated right under your location information. Google even shows the most popular times for visiting your business. For many local businesses, people will decide to become customers without ever visiting your business’s website.
Since potential customers will also be comparing you to your competitors, it’s vital that you complete and optimize your listing so you can make the best first impression and increase your chances of converting those users to customers.
How to set up your account
If you’ve already got a Google My Business account set up, skip ahead to the optimization section. If you haven’t, here’s how to claim your location in Google business listing. Please note that Google occasionally makes updates, so some of the wording may be a little different. Just follow these easy steps:
- Go to google.com/business.
- Click “Manage now.”
- Enter your business name and click “Next.”
- Enter your address. If you’re a service area business and don’t have a physical store but deliver services (such as a plumber or electrician), click the “I deliver goods and services to my customers” and “Hide my address” checkboxes.
- Choose your primary business category. It’s important to pick the most accurate category that describes what you do.
- Add your phone number.
- Add your website URL.
Verify your business
In most cases, you won’t get to choose your verification method. Google will send a postcard to the address you entered, and when it shows up (typically about a week later), you’ll log back into your GMB dashboard and enter the code to verify your business.
Sometimes you might be able to choose phone verification. If you’re eligible, you’ll see the option to “Verify by phone” in your profile. When you click the “Verify now” link, you’ll receive an automated call with a verification code. Enter the code and you’re good to go.
Sometimes you won’t get the postcard will have other problems with verification. If you can’t seem to figure things out, your best option is to contact Google My Business support on Twitter. Send a tweet to @GoogleMyBiz and someone on the GMB support team will get you the help you need.
Once your business is verified, you’ll be able to respond to reviews and make edits to your business information.
Optimize your Google My Business profile
Now it’s time to optimize your Google My Business profile. Sign in to your GMB dashboard and click on your business.
Because your GMB profile feeds valuable details about your business directly to Google—and the best optimization tactic is to supply as much information as possible—fill out everything you can.
Here are the elements you want to optimize:
- Use your actual business name. Adding additional keywords is against Google’s Terms of Service and can get your listing penalized.
- List a local phone number. It’s a key signal, or ranking factor, that you’re a legitimate local business. If you use a call tracking number, enter the tracking number in the primary slot. (That’s what will show up to users.) Put your actual local number into the secondary slot.
- Make sure your hours of operation are correct.
- Write a compelling description. Let people know who you are. Don’t stuff this section with keywords, which is the practice of loading a page with keywords to boost a site’s ranking, because the description doesn’t have any effect on how you rank in searches.
- Upload lots of high-resolution photos. This includes exterior, interior, and product shots.
- Upload videos, if you have them. Videos must be 30 seconds or shorter and smaller than 100 MB.
Get reviews from happy customers
Potential customers want to know what it’s like to buy your product or service, so they’re going to check out your customer reviews. Reviews are also a key element in getting more visibility in local searches.
Customer reviews are not just for internal review. In fact, they can have a major impact on how others view your business and whether or not your business succeeds online. Whenever you research a company that is unknown to you, you may seek out reviews or testimonials to help give yourself some peace of mind before making a purchase or placing your trust in the company's hands. However, if your first impression of the business includes poor reviews or negative responses, you may be more inclined to look elsewhere for the products or services you need.
Reviews from customers provide insight into what your customers want and need from your business. They can also be extremely informative when it comes to the shortcomings of your customer service or even the level of quality of your products.
As a business owner, it is also important to communicate with your users and prospective customers, even those who are disgruntled or unhappy with the service they received. Responding to reviews with the use of Google My Business is not only a way to potentially win back loyalty from customers, but it is also a method of conveying transparency to those just getting to know more about your business. You can also use your time to respond to a poor review to remedy the issue and offer a solution, which the public and anyone who stumbles upon your Google My Business listing will see. Businesses who interact and engage with unhappy customers are much more likely to receive returning and repeat business in the future.
Pay attention to questions
The questions and answers section is a “community” feature that shows up directly under your name, address, and phone number. It allows anyone who uses Google to ask questions about your business or answer them. Since you’re the expert, you should be answering every question that’s asked.
Questions can receive multiple answers, but the answers with the most “likes” will show as the primary answer. Then users can click the link to read more answers if they want to.
Questions work the same way. If a question gets at least 3 likes, it will show up in your GMB profile instead of the standard “See all questions” link. If multiple questions get more than 3 likes, the question with the most likes will be the one that’s displayed in your profile.
Control the conversation
Asking your own questions gives you even more control over the conversation around your business. Load your most-asked questions, then enter informative answers to set up a pre-site frequently-asked-questions page. You’ll stand out from competitors and be much more likely to convert users into customers.
Make sure you vote for your answers, too! This ensures that your “From the owner” answers are always displayed as the primary responses. Keep an eye on your questions and answers section so you can keep your answers at the top.
Some useful sample questions (depending on your market and industry) include:
- Do you ship your products and/or services? If so, how do you go about shipping items to customers?
- What is the return or refund policy on your products?
- What methods are available for contacting customer service?
- How can I return an item if I received the wrong one?
- When can I use the promotional codes and discount offers I received in my email from you?
Controlling the conversation ahead of time can reduce overwhelming your customer support team while also helping to solidify a professional and trustworthy reputation online.
Grab more eyeballs with Google Posts
Posts are basically free display ads for your business. You should always post promotional offers because users can see Posts before they get to your website.
Posts display a thumbnail image and brief description that pops up to a full-sized image and more text when clicked. They show up at the bottom of your profile panel on desktop and in a dedicated tab in the Google Maps app.
Select an eye-catching image that’s at least 1200x900 pixels. Pay attention to how the image is cropped in the thumbnail version so you don’t lose an important part of the image or text.
There are 4 Post templates you can use when creating your own. The amount of text visible in thumbnail view depends on the template you choose and whether you decide to include a call to action (CTA).
- What’s New Posts give you the most visible text in your thumbnail. Without a CTA button, you’ll get 4 lines of text, or about 100 characters. If you include a button, the link will replace the last line, so you’ll only have 3 lines of text.
- Event Posts let you include an event title and a date range for the event. However, each bit of info replaces 1 of your 4 lines of text. Without a CTA button, you’ll only have 2 lines of text, and with the button, you’ll only have 1.
- Offer Posts include an offer name, a date range for the offer, and options for redemption methods such as a coupon code, visual coupon, or link to your site. You’ll lose lines of text for the name and date range, so if you include a CTA button, you only get a single line for your description. (Redemption methods and coupons only show when expanded to full view.)
- Product Posts include a product name and a price range. Each replaces a line of text, so when you include your CTA button, you end up with only 1 line of text.
Posts stay live for 7 days after they’re published. If you have several active Posts at the same time, they’ll appear in a carousel with the most recent post displayed first.
Get more out of your listing
Now that you know how to claim, verify, and optimize your Google My Business listing, you can make that great first impression. Whether you’re setting it up for the first time or optimizing a listing that already exists, you’ve got a guide to help you show up more often in local searches and find new customers.
From sharing photos of your products and services to answering questions directly and providing a visual map of your company's location, using Google My Business has many advantages for all business owners. Whether you own a small local printing shop or if you are looking to scale and grow your business online, using a Google Business listing with your own Google Business account is essential today. Next, check out our What is Local SEO? article to learn more about the basics of local search.
A well-optimized GMB listing is one of the most important elements of local searches, so get out there and show yours off!
Written by Greg Gifford. Greg is an expert in local SEO.