Developing a diverse Local SEO strategy for companies with brick-and-mortar addresses includes establishing and optimizing a Google Business Listing. This free marketing platform provides businesses with a variety of opportunities to connect potential customers to their products and services.
As customers search for local businesses such as hairstylists, restaurants, auto repair, plumbers and other local companies, Google My Business is quickly becoming an ideal way for business owners to expand their digital reach with Local SEO in new and creative ways.
Do I Need A Google Business Listing?
Google My Business now functions as a Business Directory. Google’s FAQ page states, “Google My Business is a free tool that allows you to promote your Business Profile and business website on Google Search and Maps.“
This is your company’s one opportunity to connect to Google Maps, rank in category searches when customers use the “near me” features, and allow customers to provide online reviews.
It’s important to know that for now, it is free to set up a Google Business Listing. However, that can change; we don’t know what Google will do in the future.
As we stated earlier, Google continues to add features to their Google My Business page platform to make this free internet real estate very valuable for business owners. It’s to your benefit to go further than simply setting up a page to show up on Google Maps.
If you interact with people in person, if you have one or more brick-and-mortar locations, or your company wants to provide important information about the context of your company, creating a Google My Business page is an excellent way to expand your digital presence online.
Ineligible Businesses For Google My Business
Business Profiles on Google My Business are only accessible for two categories of businesses. The first category is those with physical locations that customers can visit. The second is for businesses where service people travel to customer locations.
Some Ineligible Businesses include the following:
- – Rental or for-sale properties such as vacation homes, model homes, or vacant apartments. Sales or leasing offices, however, are eligible for verification.
- – An ongoing service, class, or meeting at a location that you don’t own or have the authority to represent.
The following actions will take you step by step through how to set up and optimize your Google My Business Profile (GMB). Bookmark this page and check back here often. Google adds new details regularly to enhance how the listing page works.
Claim / Create A Google My Business Profile
There are two ways to set up your Google My Business listing. You can use your mobile device and set up your listing through the Google My Business app (available on the Apple App Store or Google Play Store), or you can navigate to https://business.google.com/ and set up the listing on your computer.
The steps are slightly different. On mobile you will work through an app. On your desktop you will begin by logging into your Gmail account. In the top right corner search your Google icons and select the Business icon.
Follow the steps and enter your information in each section:
The more information you include the better. Currently, there are sections to include the following details:
- – Name
- – Category
- – Address
- – Service Areas
- – Phone Number
- – Website
- – Hours of Operation
- – Short Name
- – Appointment Links
- – Products and Services
- – The year you opened
- – A space to add photos
There are also sections where you can include business categories such as Financial Planner or HVAC Contractor to help Google pull your information accurately for search results.
It’s vital that you enter accurate information in your Google Business Listing since you will show up on Google Maps. If your address is incorrect your location on Google Maps, as well as other directory listings, may confuse customers.
Google offers a few ways to verify your Google Business Listing; however, the majority of businesses will need to verify by mail. When you verify by mail you will receive a postcard to the address you enter on your listing with a code. Follow the directions on the postcard. This is another opportunity to confirm whether Google has your company details correct.
If your business is already showing up on Google Maps but you haven’t claimed the listing, you can verify your listing by claiming it through Google Maps. After selecting Claim this Business > Manage Now > You will see this option: To choose a different business, click I own or manage another business. Simply go through the steps to complete the process.
Google states that your postcard should arrive within 14 days. They also warn that making changes to your GMB in the meantime may delay the validation process.
Starting in 2020, Google shifted its policies. It’s now incredibly difficult to claim your business if someone else has already set up a profile or consolidate pages.
Optimizing Your Google My Business Profile
Optimize For Search
The goal of optimizing your business page is to improve the visibility in search so that you will connect with people who need your services.
There are a variety of ways to feature your company’s profile. Start by selecting a primary category to group your business. These categories are predetermined by Google and they are limited. You may need to choose one that is similar to your business. If this is the case, select an option that includes keywords your ideal customer uses when searching for your business.
Choose a primary category and several additional categories if they are available. Every option is another keyword you have an opportunity to rank for in search.
Other opportunities to optimize with keywords include:
- – Service Areas
- – Short Name
- – Products
- – Services
- – Business Description
- – Photos
- – Offers
- – Events
You can list customized services and feature special attributes about your such as Veteran-Led or Woman-Led. There are sections to include your hours of operation, and you can even highlight holiday hours.
Optimize For Location And Voice Search
If you have a brick-and-mortar location, you need to make sure to include an accurate address. Not only will this allow your business to appear on Google maps, but it will improve your chances of showing up when a potential customer uses the phrase “specific company near me”.
Google has developed a helpful option called Google Assistant. This feature was originally for drivers with Bluetooth but is also utilized by those with virtual AI devices at home. By using voice search companies that rank in the top three positions retain a significant advantage with customers who are looking to discover new businesses, hear reviews, and pinpoint a brick-and-mortar company.
Google Assistant also allows people to schedule appointments. If you prefer for clients to schedule appointments, you can seamlessly connect your GMB to your website scheduling link and allow them to schedule an appointment at their convenience.
All of these small choices help make it easier for local customers to find your GMB page. The more you optimize your page, the more it will stand out in the search results.
Your Google My Business Listing (GMB) also has sections to add images. Google suggests adding images that will help customers identify your business.
Google places photos in several categories of your business listing:
- Logo: Help your customers recognize your business on Google. For businesses that have their basic information, such as a phone number or hours of operation, the Business Profile highlights the logo.
- Cover photo: Set a cover photo at the top of your profile that best represents your business. In some instances, this action doesn’t guarantee the cover photo will show up as the first image for your business.
- Business photos: Add different photos to highlight features of your business to attract and inform customers. Google has specific guidelines about business photos.
Google Photos must meet the following standards:
- – Format: JPG or PNG.
- – Size: Between 10 KB and 5 MB.
- – Recommended resolution: 720 px tall, 720 px wide.
- – Minimum resolution: 250 px tall, 250 px wide.
- – Quality: The photo should be in focus and well lit and have no significant alterations or excessive use of filters. In other words, the image should represent reality.
Add Videos And Virtual Tours
The ability to add video to your GMB provides opportunities for you to feature short snippets similar to those you may create for Instagram or Facebook, or you can do something unique using a program like Animoto.
- – Are you a new business that is about to have your grand opening? Why not do a sneak peek virtual tour?
- – Do you have a new menu rolling out for the season? Have your chef explain the dishes as people taste them for the first time. Their reactions will encourage people to make reservations.
- – Have you noticed people asking the same questions when they call your store? Do a quick, frequent questions and answers video.
The key is to title the video accurately, so customers know what to expect when they click the video. And, speak quickly since you only have 30 seconds.
Google Videos must meet the following requirements:
- – Duration: Up to 30 seconds long
- – File size: Up to 100 MB
- – Resolution: 720p or higher
Monitor and Maintain Your Listing
Google has already included so many different features in the GMB that you may think once you add your information you can leave your page alone. However, Google continues to add new features all the time and enhances the original sections to give searchers the best experience possible.
The attributes section featured earlier is a perfect example of an area where Google continues to add new details.
New attributes for brick-and-mortar locations that offer accessibility and health and safety attributes were recently updated.
Manage Customer Reviews
One of the most important features of your GMB is the customer review section. Google encourages you to interact with customers whether they leave positive or negative reviews on your page. If Google suggests that you do something on their platform, it’s a good idea to pay attention to that nudge.
One way to interact with customers and practice good customer service is to thank someone who takes the time to endorse your company positively.
Recent studies reveal word-of-mouth referrals are vital for businesses. Beyond friends and family, 88% of people trust online reviews written by other consumers as much as they trust recommendations from personal contacts. (source)
Building trust is also why you should make every effort to address negative reviews as quickly as possible. In our experience, when you conduct your business with integrity the people who leave a negative review aren’t able to accurately represent the situation. When you respond to the review or customer comment, you have the opportunity to professionally tell the whole story and directly address the person who left the review.
After you respond, you can also request that Google remove the false statements. We’ve written a post walking you through those steps here. For more ideas on how to respond to negative reviews on your Google My Business page as well as other review sites check out our blog article How and Why You Should Respond to Negative Customer Reviews.
One of the challenges of the customer review space is that anyone can leave a review. This means that a competitor can misrepresent who they are online and say they are a dissatisfied customer. This situation is one of several areas Google lists as prohibited and restricted content. When you have a review on your Google My Business page that fits one of the categories listed below you can start by flagging the content as inappropriate.
- – Spam and fake content
- – Off-topic
- – Restricted content
- – Illegal content
- – Terrorist content
- – Sexually explicit content
- – Offensive content
- – Dangerous & Derogatory content
- – Impersonation
- – Conflict of Interest
While many of the categories seem self-explanatory, you will want to read the definitions before flagging the comment.
As the owner of the business, Google allows you to flag reviews through your Google My Business Account. In our experience, reporting reviews through your Google My Business account is the most effective way to have a comment removed. Google recently updated this process due to an uptick in fake reviews.
To report a false review through your GMB Page:
- Log in to your Google My Business account
- Open the location you’d like to manage (for companies and businesses with more than one location)
- Select ‘Reviews’ from the menu bar
- Identify the fake review in question
- Click the three vertical dots and flag it as inappropriate
Incorporate Industry Keywords
One final way that you can monitor and maintain your GMB is by continuing to optimize your descriptions by incorporating trending keywords. Just as you take the time to optimize your meta descriptions and title tags on your website to help increase your rankings, the same opportunities apply with your GMB.
Review your company’s description a few times a year to ensure that it still accurately reflects the products and services you offer.
Remove Duplicate My Business Listings
One way to protect anyone from setting up a Google My Business listing is to verify your page immediately. Google protects verified listings from having duplicates created. However, if you discover that you need to remove a duplicate listing, the process for deleting a duplicate is simple. Log into your GMB and go to your Account Summary. Choose “Delete this Listing.”
This will remove the listing. As long as you haven’t removed the verified version, you should be set to move forward.
If someone else has set up a listing on your behalf the process becomes a bit more complicated. In this case your best option is the report duplicate locations on Google Maps.
To report a duplicate location on Google Maps:
- Open Google Maps.
- Find the location you want to report.
- Click Suggest an edit.
- Mark the location as “Place is permanently closed or has never existed.”
- Select “Duplicate” as the reason.
- Click Submit.
Reserve With Google
As Google strives to be people’s preferred resource for help, they are finding new ways to make using their platform convenient for business owners and customers. With Reserve with Google, you can allow customers to book their table at your restaurant, schedule classes, purchase movie or event tickets.
When you link your preferred third-party reservation service customers will see (or hear) available bookings whether they find you through Search, Maps, or Google Assistant.
Link Google My Business Listing To Google Ads Or Google Merchant Center
There are two benefits to linking your GMB and your Google Ads accounts. The process to link your Google Ads account is simple; you will need to request a link.
Once you have linked your GMB and Ads accounts you can:
- Advertise your locations with location extensions.
- Link to your Merchant Center account and advertise your products with local inventory ads.
Linking and unlinking your accounts are seamless procedures. You just need to select to link or unlink.
If you want to allow more than one person to have access to your GMB, you can easily select users in the far-left column and send permission to administrators who will access the GMB through their email.
If you are going to use the messaging app you will want to make yourself the owner of your page. Even if you anticipate that a marketing agency takes care of a majority of the optimization and daily monitoring of your GMB as the owner you will receive the messages on the app.
Now that your Google My Business page is set up, you will want to continue to optimize it frequently. This includes more than monitoring and responding to customer reviews.
When you open your GMB page, you will see a list of options on the left side of your monitor. The section highlighted in blue is the tab you are viewing.
This next section will highlight each tab in detail.
Recommended Optimizations For Each GMB Section
The ‘Home’ Tab
The Home tab allows you to see an overview of your GMB, to update many features quickly, as well as jump to different sections such as customer reviews or analytics. The main feature of the Home tab is the ability to create posts and add photos to your page.
The posts are opportunities for you to share content about your company. They will stay live for customers to view on Desktop versions of the GMB for 7 days and will stay live on the Mobile version forever.
There are three choices on the different posts you can place. Creating posts is free. Adding photos is also free. When you create an ad, this is connected to your Google Ads account as we previously explained.
After you select Create a Post from the choices to add free information to your Google My Business Listing, you will have four different types of posts to feature.
What’s New – This is a great option to feature blog posts, something new such as a change in store hours, an announcement about a new employee or anything else you can imagine. This is the most versatile of the spaces.
Event – This space is for highlighting an event. You will need to include dates and the information will stay on your GMB until the event.
Offer – This section is different because it has space for you to include a Coupon Code, a Link to Redeem an offer, and Terms and Conditions. You can have the offer run for a limited time by including dates. Take time to Preview your post before you hit publish and make sure everything looks just like you expect.
Product – In the Product section, you will include a price. You can include a fixed price or range of pricing. Google is currently building out the Product tab. We will talk about more ways to use this feature later.
The benefits of adding content to your page include featuring photos, blog articles, and events unique to your company. Incorporating keywords into each post such as company location, services, and the most searched terms will give Google additional opportunities to understand the context of your business. This will help you connect with searchers looking for your products and services.
You have the option to end each post with a call to action. Your choices include the option to have a customer call you directly, schedule an appointment, or learn more about the information you’ve highlighted in a blog post. Here is a full list of your call to action options:
When you select Call Now your phone number from your Google My Business Page will auto-fill into the box.
The ‘Info’ Tab
The Info tab allows you to update your business details. If you add a business service area you can include it in the Service Areas. This is where your address is listed as well as where you choose your Business categories. You can also edit your hours of operation or add holiday hours.
There are sections to include your main business line and a Google phone number, your website, and a link for appointments. Some of the sections will show up as buttons at the top of your GMB Listing on Desktop or Mobile.
Going down the list of additional info to add, this tab is where you add attributes, services, a few paragraphs of details about your company such as your mission statement, and when you opened or founded your company.
The ‘Insights’ Tab
The next tab is Insights. Google has recently updated the information you can receive from your insights.
Insights data includes views, searches, and actions from both organic search results and Google Ads. Google Insights provides you different ways to understand how customers interact with your listing:
- How customers find your listing
- Search queries
- Where customers find you on Google
- Customer actions
- Direction requests
- Phone calls
- What your business is known for
Here are Google’s definitions:
Direct: Customers who find your listing by searching for your business name or address.
Discovery: Customers who find your listing by searching for a category, product, or service.
It’s important to realize that just because a customer doesn’t take direct action through the GMB doesn’t mean that they don’t connect with you.
It’s important to track your total analytics as well as direct actions on your GMB and make sure to compare your numbers.
If you find that your GMB is not pulling up in Search or you aren’t showing up on Google Maps these are good indications you need to spend time optimizing your GMB.
One feature of Insights to pay close attention to is “Searches Breakdown”. These longtail keywords are indicators of how customers are finding you.
Use these words on your website and social media profiles in addition to your GMB.
The ‘Reviews’ Tab
Your Reviews tab allows you to directly respond to each comment left by a customer on your GMB. You can also flag the comment as inappropriate in this tab. There is now an option to delete your comment and rewrite it as well.
The ‘Messaging’ Tab
The Messaging tab is also an app. This space allows for customers to send you private messages directly similar to texts. Having the option to answer from your desktop rather than your phone will help ensure you spell things correctly and answer quickly when working in your office.
The flexibility of multiple platforms also allows for several users to utilize the service ensuring a quick customer response time. We said earlier Google now has a plan where they encourage you to set up your messaging app on your phone. If you don’t want to use this feature your profile will stay incomplete.
We realize that not everyone has the flexibility to answer text messages all day from people via Google all day while attempting to complete other work and we hope Google also realizes this is a feature they should allow you to set up an automatic response for soon!
The ‘Photos’ Tab
If there is one thing that Google makes clear repeatedly it’s that they want you to add photos to your GMB continually. On the Photo tab, they include all the different types of images you should include.
When you upload images under each category, Google will identify the images under each category. This could be helpful for customers who are looking at your GMB. If a customer takes a photo and it’s dark or shows an older version of decorations it will be easier for those browsing images to identify why those photos don’t match the ones that are placed by the business owner.
The ‘Services / Products’ Tab
While not all businesses offer services and products these features are available and should be optimized.
In the Services section, start by adding category titles that are pre-set by Google. Once a category is set you can add customized services under the pre-set category. It’s important to group similar services together. This will help Google understand what keywords are related.
Product pages feature content differently than services and need to be used properly.
When you set up the Products page, you will start by creating a Collection. In this example, the Collection is the Ultimate Smile Design (the name of the company) Dental Procedures. Then within each Collection, you can add Products which are the sub-categories featured here with a title, image, and explanation. The first sub-category is Cosmetic Dentistry. You have up to 1,000 characters to describe the product, and you can include a link for a customer back to your website to read a web page or to complete a purchase.
Use the description section to include keywords customers will search for when looking for products. Always make sure to include links to purchase products or contact the business to request the product.
The ‘Website’ Tab
If you are looking for a quick way to build an inexpensive website, Google is happy to oblige. A Google website is a bare minimum web page. It will give you a web presence, but it will also limit your opportunities to dive into marketing strategies such as blogging, backlinking, and developing your email marketing lists with special offers.
If you’re in need of a professional website design, contact a local Cache Valley web designer. Local agencies can design beautiful, custom websites for a competitive price.
Edits And Updates
When your company changes addresses, adds a service, or wants to refine service areas you will need to fix or update the incorrect business information. When you make changes to your Google My Business page they will take a few hours up to a few days for Google to register the updates. You may also need to manually approve the updates.
WARNING: 3rd Party Information Will Now Show Up On Your GMB
How Google sources business information:
Google is transparently stating that they are pulling information about your business from third-party sources. This means that inaccurate data can appear on your GMB at any time.
Here is what Google outlines:
There are 4 main sources of information that you may find in your business listing:
- You: Information you’ve added about your business. You can add, edit, and remove this information as it changes to keep customers up to date and showcase your products and services. Learn how to manage your business information.
- Your website: Information from your business’s official website.
- Users: Information from people who use Google services. Google gets a wide variety of information about businesses from its users. This user-generated information includes reviews, popular times, and photos. Your Business Profile is updated when someone takes an action like leaving a review, uploading a photo, or reporting a problem.
- Third-party sources: Information from other places online. If Google finds information about your business that could be helpful to customers, it may be added to your listing. This can include links to restaurant menus, social profiles, hotel amenities, or booking/ticketing availability.
Google continually adds new features and improvements to help businesses reach their target customers through the power of Search.
If you’re looking for more instruction on how to improve your digital marketing strategy, contact us today!