One of the first places to start with any local SEO strategy is with the Google My Business listing.
In this post we’ll take a look at how to optimize your Google My Business listing for more website traffic and better leads.
Optimizing your Google My Business listing will increase the chances of your listing showing up on Google’s Local Pack, Local Finder, and on Google Maps.
It will also help with your local search engine rankings.
Google continues to add features to their My Business listings that small businesses can use to enhance their listing and get people’s attention online.
If you haven’t yet, head over to Google.com/mybusiness to claim and verify your Google My Business listing.
Otherwise, let’s jump right into it!
How to Optimize Your Google My Business Listing
Many small businesses claim their GMB listing then proceed to ignore it completely.
There are a number of reasons why small businesses need a Google My Business listing that’s accurate and informative.
Here’s how you can set that up for local search success:
Complete Your Listing
Many GMB listings are left uncompleted with local small-business owners wondering why their website isn’t getting any search traffic.
It’s important to fully complete the GMB listing using accurate business information.
With any local SEO strategy, it’s the NAP(W), or Name, Address, Phone number, and Website of the business that needs to be consistent on every page.
The NAP information needs to match up with your GMB listing, otherwise your local search ranking will be negatively impacted.
Without this information your customers won’t be able to find you online:
- Your business won’t show up on Google Maps
- Your business won’t be listed in the Map Pack at the top of local search results
- There won’t be any information (hours, description, etc) shared about your business by Google
If you haven’t already, visit your website and include the NAP on each page:
- Phone number
There’s other information you can share with your visitors as well to make their experience even better.
Some other types of information you can provide include:
- Business hours
- Business category
- Business description
- Types of payment accepted
It’s better to add as much information to your GMB listing reasonably possible.
Google favors detailed listings in the local search engine results and will actively avoid those with poorly filled out or unclaimed listings.
Don’t forget to include relevant keywords in your business description and choose the most accurate business category for better results.
Use High Quality Photos
The profile photo on your GMB listing is important.
This image gets the most exposure and has more of an impact on search engine users than any other image on your listing.
For the business profile photo, choose an image that portrays what your business offers or stands for.
Rather than using a logo, opt for something that tells users what your business is about right away.
Along with a profile photo there are other types of images to consider adding to your GMB listing.
- Logo – Using a logo makes it easier for customers to identify with your business
- Cover photo – This is a great place to showcase the personality of your brand or small business. Use a large photo here with a 16:9 ratio.
- Additional photos – Use photos here that highlight the services, products, current offers, the location, and any other aspects of your business that people might find interesting. Customers love looking at photos and they’re great for adding personality to your online business profile.
Don’t forget to follow the best practices for photos as set by Google:
- Format – JPG or PNG
- Size: 10KM to 5MB
- Minimum resolution – 720 x 720
- Quality – The image should be realistic, accurate, and unedited.
Using your own photos is a great way to control what’s on your GMB listing.
Keep an eye on what customers and other users are uploading – delete any lower-quality images that don’t accurately represent your brand or small business.
For an even better profile, Google has approved photographers that will take pictures of your workplace to be used on your My Business listing.
Ask Your Customers for Reviews
Reviews act as votes when it comes to the local search engine marketing popularity contest.
Look at it this way:
- Good reviews = sales.
This means the more good reviews you get the more sales your business will make.
What about bad reviews, how do you deal with those?
It’s scary when small business owners reply to bad reviews with negative comments, hurtful insults, and personal attacks.
Instead, use a bad review as an opportunity to improve your own business and attempt to salvage the relationship with the customer.
A small effort, such as a discount or freebie, can go a long way with promoting your brand and building the online presence of your small business.
Do reviews even matter?
More than 90% of people read reviews online before buying anything.
This applies to local businesses as well with more than 50% of consumers searching for local business reviews before going out.
So how do you get reviews from your clients and customers?
Just ask them!
Take a moment to copy the link to your Google My Business listing to easily share it with your previous customers.
Consider sending an email to your current email list asking any previous customers for an honest review.
Once you start getting reviews on your GMB listing it’s important that you respond to them.
Take the time to personally respond to every single review that anyone leaves for your business.
People are more likely to visit a business where the owner response to reviews, even the negative ones.
Getting more reviews is one of the best ways to optimize your GMB listing and grow your small business through local search engine marketing.
Take a look at my post on online reputation management tips for small businesses for more information.
Understand the Google My Business Attributes
There are some different attributes of your Google My Business profile that you can access when you log into business.google account.
These attributes reveal that Google is placing more importance on their My Business listings to help make things easier for local search users.
You can also use these attributes to your advantage for optimizing your Google My Business listing.
Let’s take a quick look at the difference available attributes and how you can use them.
This is one of the best new features of the GMB listings available to small businesses.
Sharing Posts from your listing can improve your local search rankings.
These Posts can also be used to share information about your business or service with your local audience.
So what do you include in these Posts on your GMB listing?
You can share information about upcoming events, promote new products, inform your customers about any new specials – there are heaps of possibilities.
Google will show your listing Posts in local search results so it’s possible to get traffic from them.
It doesn’t take much to setup some Posts on your GMB listing and it can go a long way in personalizing your business to people online.
This is another interesting tool that gives you more information about your GMB profile and where it’s showing up.
You can learn more about what people are doing when they visit your listing – whether they’re calling, clicking on anything, looking for directions, etc.
This information can be used optimize your listing by making it more accurate and easier for people to find information about your business.
Unfortunately, the provided data is still quite limited.
It’s still useful to look at and some of the data can be used to improve your listing.
Through this section of your profile you can manage your business reviews.
This is where you can reply to reviews – something you must do every time.
Getting reviews is important for improving your local search rankings.
More reviews will help your business show up on Google Maps and the local Map Pack in search results.
It’s important to reply to all the reviews your business receives, even the negative ones.
Managing reviews properly will increase your local rankings and generate more leads/interest for your business.
With the Messaging feature it’s possible to connect your profile to your phone.
This way you can receive texts about your business from people looking for more information online.
This is a feature to consider using as you’ll be receiving texts from people looking for immediate help.
Being the first person to respond with helpful information can win you the deal.
For businesses that book appointments this is an option that needs to be enabled on your GMB listing.
Google offers a few different booking services so it’s easy to integrate your schedule into the Google profile for your business.
This makes it easy for people to book appointments online rather than having to bother you with calls, texts, or emails.
This feature is at the beginning stages of being implemented across the Google My Business platform.
It gives users the ability to create a simple “Google website” for their business – basically a landing page with some photos and contact information.
It will be interesting to keep an eye on how this feature develops.
Choose the Right Category
After claiming your Google My Business listing you’ll be prompted to choose a category for your business.
Google will assign their own category to your listing based on the keywords in your description and name.
Unless their assigned category is 100% accurate you’ll need to choose your own that’s relevant to your business or service.
When choosing a category it needs to be as accurate and relevant to your business as possible.
For example, let’s say you’re a used Volvo dealer in NYC.
You don’t want your primary category to be “car dealer”.
While accurate and relevant, it’s not accurate enough for a properly optimized Google My Business listing.
Instead, choose a specific category like “used car dealer” or “Volvo dealer” – make it as specific as possible.
Don’t get too strung up about using the best category.
It can be changed at any time plus there are secondary categories you’ll have to add to your listing as well.
Remove Duplicate Listings
One common problem many small businesses face when optimizing their GMB listing is the discovery of duplicate listings.
These duplicate listings were created when Google Places, Google Local, and Google Plus were separate tools.
Often, new accounts were made to sign up on these platforms so it’s not surprising to find duplicate listings.
The NAP information is likely inaccurate as well which could be negatively impacting your local search rankings.
When you find duplicate listings it’s important to delete them, especially if they’re outdated and inaccurate.
You can update outdated listings that you find as long as they aren’t a duplicate.
If you didn’t set up the listings for your business try to contact the individual that did.
Without the login information for each Google account it can be difficult to delete the duplicate listing.
Along with claiming, creating, or verifying your Google My Business listing, cleaning up any duplicates is the next thing to focus on.
Analyze Your Competition
One of the main goals of your small business digital marketing strategy is to outrank your competitors.
This includes with your Google My Business listing.
Using Google, search for keywords and categories that you want your business to rank for.
What’s at the top of the results?
Is your business one of the first three listed?
If your business isn’t listed, what information are your competitors providing that you’re not including.
Analyzing your competition who’s going to set the foundation for designing your local search engine optimization plan.
If your competitors are ranking highly for keywords in your industry – they must be doing something right.
Look at their GMB listing, check out their website, and come up with a strategy to outrank them for the best keywords.
Other Local Search Factors to Consider
When it comes to ranking for local search there are three other factors to consider:
These factors also help determine the results that Google will display for local searches.
Similar to ranking in a non-local niche, relevance plays an important role in helping Google rank your site.
Is your website providing what your local market is looking for?
Or do visitors have to visit another website (your competition)?
Google keeps track of where visitors are going.
If people are landing on your website from search engines then click back to another website – you’re not relevant enough and your website won’t rank.
Google treats every local search as a “keyword near me” type of search.
For example, if you search for “plumber” in Google the algorithm interprets it as a “plumber near me” search and displays results accordingly.
In many cases your competition will outrank in the Google Map Pack results simply because of their location.
You can’t expect to be ranking for local keywords if you’re miles away from your client base, especially in big cities.
You’ve heard a lot about reviews in this guide on optimizing your Google My Business listing.
That’s because reviews are an important part of ranking your GMB listing in local searches.
Don’t forget to ask customers or clients for reviews.
Respond to all reviews with a positive attitude and focus on making improvements based on comments from negative reviews.