Hooray! The second local SEO guide is finally here to teach you how to make the most of Google My Business (GMB). If you are new to local SEO, we advise you read part #1 of our Local SEO Guide.
This time we will take you through the process of establishing your GMB account, the best practices when creating it and even the steps to optimise it. We aren’t stopping at the basics, we will be your shoulder to lean on when going through the nitty-gritty parts too!
As Google My Business has grown and had various improvements over the last decade, it has become a vital component in creating a great local SEO strategy. So, what exactly is it?
“Google My Business (GMB) is a free product that allows business owners to verify and submit basic details about their business to Google. Owners can also engage with existing and potential customers across Google’s properties.” – Yoast
First things first, you need to make sure you are eligible for a Google My Business account. Generally, if you are a walk-up brick-and-mortar location, you will be eligible to create a listing. But, not every local business wants their location to be found, particularly those who offer services to be carried out at the customers’ location.
These businesses include plumbers, carpet cleaners, and couriers. However, through careful selection when creating a Google My Business account, these businesses are eligible for an account too. Let’s take a look at the choices these companies must make when making a listing.
The following steps will walk those businesses who deliver their goods and service to customers at their location, through creating a listing.
Remember: To be eligible a business must make in-person contact with customers during its stated hours. For more guidelines on Google My Business, click here.
Select “Yes” when Google asks if you deliver goods and services to customers at their location.
Leave the “I also serve customers at my business address” unticked to hide your address from the public.
You’re then good to go and verify your listing! Easy.
To ensure that only legitimate businesses are represented in GMB, Google requires anyone attempting to claim a Listing to verify their association with the business.
We will take you through the simplest steps to verifying your location and ownership of a business.
Create a desktop search on Google with your business name. For example “Grove Coffee House“. In the right-hand of the page, there is a panel that poses the question “Own this business?”.
Important: Before clicking “Own this business?” make sure you are signed into the right gmail for the business and not a personal account. Alternatively you don’t have to sign in as you can create an account in the next step.
Next, we advise you to create a business account unless you have one already. Although it’s not a GMB requirement when it comes to sharing access to your listing to other employees or agents of the company, having a business account makes it a lot easier.
Having created an account it’s time to fill in the basics (see below for our tips to ensuring you list all of your relevant business details in the best way). Once these are in, you will get to the verification of your listing.
If Google can confirm your address and phone number you gave to your business, you will receive a phone call containing a PIN number. This must be entered into the field on your desktop screen and BAM, verification complete!
However, if Google hasn’t previously seen a business with the phone number and address you submitted, you’ll be mailed a postcard within a week with instructions for how to PIN verify.
It may sound completely obvious to you, but it’s surprising how many business owners actually overcomplicate this process – and get it wrong.
Your basic business information creates your basic thumbprint online. It’s good to know if you try to “optimise” these details thinking you’re doing yourself a favour, actually you’re really not.
If your basic information doesn’t reflect your business accurately, Google will lose trust in you and stop sending traffic (aka customers) your way!
Your Name, Address and Phone Number (NAP) are the most vital components that Google uses to make sure you are a trusted and credible business.
The category field is one of the most crucial attributes that can be optimised at Google My Business – particularly for your rankings perspective.
We encourage businesses to choose as many relevant categories as possible to add to your listing. Here’s a great example from Yoast:
Example: If you operate a small restaurant that’s open from 7 am – 3 pm, select “Breakfast Restaurant,” “Brunch Restaurant,” “Lunch Restaurant,” “Restaurant,” “Cafe,” “Coffee Shop,” and any other relevant category.
It’s important to assign some time to research multiple keywords and keyword phrases that best describes your business to see which of the Google categories match. Even though you may find lots of similar categories, you may come across lots that aren’t relevant to your business. Don’t use them if they aren’t relevant!
Once you have selected your business categories you want to list for, it’s time to enter your chosen website page that links with the listing you are submitting to Google. So, you may be thinking “that’s obviously my homepage”, but it’s not necessarily.
If you operate more than one location it’s good practice to enter the URL for the page on the website that corresponds to that location you have listed on Google.
Discussion around whether your homepage or location page is better is still circulating. We suggest thinking about it from your customers perspective. If you think they will have a better sense of your business from the homepage, submit that. In contrast, if you think they will get a better sense from a location page or even a different page, submit that instead.
Don’t neglect the use of photos with your GMB listing. The success of images in the online world indicates how visual our internet culture has become. Through apps such as Instagram and Pinterest, the digital community has developed to give businesses a competitive edge by displaying content in a professional and high-quality way.
As the Google My Business panel focuses on having a customer friendly user interface, images can be used to give a dominant representation of the business in a short, snappy way. Take a look at the listing for “Denstone Hall Farm Shop & Café“.
By having a collection of photos on their business listing, including those posted themselves and customer photos, it gives new visitors a taste of what they offer, without stepping foot into the store.
Top Tips: Like many social media channels, Google My Business has it’s own image format requirements. We suggest you check them out to make sure you are fully equipped with high-quality photo formats for your listing.
You can further optimise your photos by promoting them at a customer’s point of sale, through engaging questions or even by creating competitions centered around the image. These are great ways to get your content shared for noise around your brand.
As Google has made some dramatic improvements to its interface, hours are now on the centre stage for customers so they should definitely be accurate. Selecting your opening hours is pretty straightforward.
Instead of leaving customers in a guessing game, you get to add specific hours for holidays and special events and even set different opening times for multiple times during the day.
Though you may find this beneficial or not, Google now also displays the busy-ness of your business in real-time. This is done through aggregate location-tracking of visitors on smartphone devices, such as Android phones and iOS Google Map users, with location services enabled.
Certain categories of businesses will have the option to add a link to a menu. This means that visitors can directly click on these keywords to enter those specific pages. In turn, this gives Google an additional set of keywords that your business then gets considered for. All in all, making use of these is a great way to improve rankings and get more reach.
Google My Business also has a variety of advanced features that help to enhance multi-location businesses and franchises.
All three fields, although primarily geared towards those businesses who have stores in a number of locations, are great for giving additional business information. The more, accurate and relevant information given, the better your GMB profile.
Once having created your listing on Google, you shouldn’t stop there. With it becoming a more and more popular tool, it’s important for you to optimise your profile further. Like Facebook, Google My Business allows others to leave a review of your company. These are great for advertising your company through the voice of a “real person”.
In general, when people see that lots of people recommend you and giving you a good rating, they are more inclined to click your website. That’s whether they see good ratings on Facebook or Google My Business itself. Monitoring and maintaining these reviews is crucial in ensuring your customers are happy and are encouraging more people to your brand, rather than sending them away.
Dealing with your negative reviews is as easy as apologising and finding a resolution. Don’t shy away from bad ratings. Instead, it’s the feedback here that you should prioritise.
Step one, be sincere. Apologise for your mistakes as “the customer is always right”. Next, solve the issue. Redeeming customers’ faith in your brand will show you as a problem-solver and reinforce trust and your high-quality customer care. You never know, they could change their review afterwards!
Although you can try to control and improve your local SEO on a range of platforms including GMB, there are two significant ranking factors that businesses have little control over.
The first is the proximity of your business to the location where your prospective customer is performing their search. Google will choose to display a business closer to the searcher than one further away. Where you are showcased in search results, depends on your customers’ location which is beyond your control.
The second factor is having an address in the city in which your customer is searching. For example, if your customer is searching in Manchester, your Stockport-based store won’t appear. That’s simply because it is not relevant to the search. Google knows there are other stores closer to the customer that offer similar products and services.
Other than opening stores in additional locations to target areas where there is a high concentration of customers, there isn’t much you can do to optimise for these factors. However, you should be aware of their importance and not disregard them when planning marketing materials and strategies.
A free, basic analytics package is provided when you have obtained your GMB account. These give users basic insights into how customers and potential customers are seeing and using your listing.
Comparison statistics show differences in the times your listing appears in plain old search vs. Google Maps, the number of clicks to your website, requests for driving directions and phone calls. All of which, are great for monitoring how exactly customers interact with you for future marketing strategies.
Google My Business also has a simple breakdown of the number of customers seeing your listing by direct searches and discovery searches.
Google My Business listings can, unfortunately, face some trouble shooting issues. The most common tend to be the existence of duplicate listings for the same business. And when a duplicate listing has been made, deleting them has gotten harder, making your life more difficult. We advise that you learn how to “close” these listings instead, by following our quick steps.
The first step is to recognise that a duplicate has been made. Search for your business name on maps.google.com. You will see a comprehensive list of potentially-matching businesses that Google finds relevant.
If you can identify multiple listings referring to your business, select the one you’d like to report and click “Suggest an Edit”.
Tip: If you realise these are created from your own error, keep the one that is doing the best (i.e. more reviews, more customer photos posted, etc.).
On the following screen slide the “Place is permanently closed or never existed” bar to “Yes”. Next select the radio button next to “Duplicate”.
Google responds to these errors usually within a week. To speed up the process it is good practice to get other co-workers, friends, family members and so on, to report the same problem.
Tip: If you aren’t having much success in reporting your duplicate listing, tweeting @googlemybiz helps with getting Google’s support. This is the official Twitter for Google My Business.
With various updates and improvements made to the program, GMB is now a robust tool in helping small business owners to engage with their customers on a regular basis. The old idea of “set it and forget it” is out the window, and Google is now enhancing the tool for Messaging and Posts.
Through these third party integrations, customers get what they need quickly and easily. Booking an appointment, ordering products, getting immediate directions to the store are all great features that optimise the customer’s experience.
Instead of being flooded by overwhelming mindshare on other channels – Facebook in particular – Google My Business is looking as though it will become a go-to program for benefitting local rankings.
The best uses for Google My Business, in relation to SEO and local SEO, are the following:
For more information about improving your local SEO, come and have a chat with us. We are always happy to help.