EVERY LOCAL BUSINESS SHOULD HAVE A GMB LISTING.
If you’re a local business it is impossible to ignore Google My Business (GMB).
There is a growing trend towards Google becoming an answer engine rather than a search engine, with more and more search queries being answered directly in the search results without clicking on a single website.
Since it started in 2014, Google My Business has evolved from a fairly simple ‘verification and listing of your business, to a local business powerhouse.
Some local search experts have made the call “Google is your new home page”, and for many businesses GMB is becoming or has already become, on a par with their website as the number 1 online presence when it comes to attracting new customers.
I’ve put together this guide to help you understand how to:
- Optimise your GMB listing
- Take control of your branded search results, and ultimately
- Attract more customers.
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The key takeaway here is to get your Google My Business profile hip, hop and happening… because this is where it’s at in 2019.
Make sure you’re taking advantage of GMB to dominate in your local area.
Google My Business – Recent Updates
There are constant changes to the Google My Business platform and it can be frustrating to say the least. Especially when things like this happen a couple of months after you’ve spent hours optimising a client’s GMB listing to its full potential: Sigh.
Image via Sterling Sky
I personally find it tiresome keeping up with changes to Google My Business even though I work with this tool daily, so I imagine it would feel overwhelming for a small business owner like yourself who has far more important priorities on a daily basis.
Nevertheless, utilising new updates as they are released can become a competitive one-up for you.
Google has released major updates to the platform in just the last month:
- The ability to create a Special Welcome Offer for customers who ‘follow’ your business. Google has created this function as it says more than half of online customers are looking for a discount.
- The ability to claim a unique Short Name for your business with a short name link that goes directly to your GMB listing or your Reviews
- More control over Photos of your business
Image via Google
New and revised features are constantly being released, which suggests that the importance of this Google tool can only continue growing as it becomes more and more helpful as a source of information for your potential and existing customers.
How your website ‘talks’ to Google My Business
While it might seem like having a pimped-up GMB Profile could diminish the need for a website, that is definitely not the case.
Your website is still the primary source Google uses to get information about your business.
So it’s essential your website is aligned with your GMB data.
Google looks for information from a variety of sources to determine what it believes to be the correct information about a business.
And it’s not only your business name, address and phone number (which I’ll cover later), it’s also your services, products, and other info that supports the information you add to your GMB listing.
Don’t have a GMB listing?
Here’s how to get a Google My Business listing. (If you already have a listing, skip ahead)
If you’re not sure if you have a listing, kick off by completing some general searches.
Unless you’re a brand new fresh-outta-the-oven kinda business, you may have a listing you don’t even know about.
It could be there set up and ready to ‘claim’ as your own. So do the checks.
First up, do a search of your “business name” + “city” to see if you can get a Google My Business profile to show up.
What we’re looking for when we do this search is information about a business on the right hand side of the search results, or at the top of the search results on mobile.
Try a search in Google Maps to be sure. If your biz has ever had a different business name, address or phone number, it’s worthwhile trying a search using the address and / or phone number too.
Still no go?
Try going to Google My Business, click on ‘add a business’ and type in the business name to see if anything shows up.
If after doing these checks no info shows up in the local Knowledge panel or maps listings, it’s time to sign up and create a new listing.
Follow the steps Google provides you with to create the listing and verify the information. A postcard is the most common verification option but phone verification and email verification are becoming more popular too (and easier!).
Google says Postcards take 6 days but some clients have waited up to a month or longer and we’ve had to order 2 or even 3 postcards before we receive the thing in the mail. Frustrating but worth the wait.
If your postcard doesn’t turn up after an attempt or two, it can be speedier to get in touch with GMB support and they may do a video verification with you.
Once your listing is verified, your GMB listing is live and ready to rock n roll.
Claim/Verify a Listing
Let’s say you search for your business and *surprise!* you do have a listing. But you don’t own the listing. In fact, no-one does. Guess what, you now get to claim ownership of that listing.
It does seem strange that a listing can be created for your business without you triggering it.
The most important thing to do now is (a) claim ownership (b) take control of your information and business data (c) optimise your listing so you can show up in the search results!
Here’s an example of an unclaimed listing:
Get onto claiming your listing pronto, because an unverified listing means less access to features.
No verification means no responding to reviews and no Google Posts.
Yikes. Someone else owns my listing!
Uh oh. Someone else has taken charge and verified your listing? You’ll need to follow the instructions here.
Suggest an Edit
All Google My Business listings have the option to ‘Suggest an Edit’. This universal feature is available to anyone who wants to suggest a change to information about a business. But you have to be logged into a Google account.
As the profile owner, you *should* be notified of changes, so you can go in and fix any incorrect updates made to your listing, but in all honesty this doesn’t always happen (eeek).
The best thing you can do is regularly keep an eye on your listing and check your emails for notifications.
Crowd sourced features
Has Google ever asked you questions about locations you’ve visited? This feature encourages people to answer auto-generated questions about a business to help Google provide the most accurate information. This feature is cool if people are providing the right answers but may become painful if not.
Sometimes you’ll get a popup asking if you’ll answer questions about a place. Otherwise you can answer questions by clicking on the listing yourself. Some examples:
Maximise your listing by optimising the *hell* out of it
Now we get down to the fun stuff. If you REALLY want to make the most of your GMB listing, be sure to fill out every. last. bit. of. info.
Your business name should be entered exactly as it is in the ‘real world’.
Whatever you use on your signage, business cards, vehicle wrap.. That’s the one you use on GMB.
Yes, people do add city names, but you’re not meant to. Unless your official business name includes the town or city, I suggest you don’t tack it on the end.
If you’ve read any of my other blogs on Local SEO citations, you’ll have heard me bang on about NAP consistency. Once you add a city name to the end of your biz name on Google My Business, that consistency is out the window.
Some SEO folks may tell you to add extra keywords in your Google My Business business name too.
Do it at your own peril. I’ll never recommend it.
Google has upped the ante on account suspensions so I wouldn’t recommend anything that is against Google Guidelines.
Can customers visit your business at a physical location? If yes, then you publish your address on GMB.
Service Area Businesses
If you operate from a home office, a workshop or other location that is not available for customers or clients to visit, and you serve clients in a particular geographic region, you’ll want to choose a service area business.
It’s said that no matter how big a service area you choose, you’ll really only benefit from a service area located within 30km of your location.
Enter in your phone number and use the main number for your business. It should be the same number you use on your website and other places your business listed.
If you have a business mobile include it here too. You can also add 1300 or 1800 numbers and even call tracking numbers.
If you have one business location, usually you’ll add in your home page into the ‘Website’ field. But if you have more locations, it’s generally recommended to create separate location landing pages.
In this instance you’ll want to create separate GMB profiles, too. It’s not just a matter of copying the same information over and updating the location though. Each location landing page must have unique information and include information relevant to the business category and the location.
So if you’re a plumber offering Emergency Plumbing on the Sunshine Coast, and you also want to offer your services in Brisbane, you’ll need an Emergency Plumbing page for both locations, with different information on each.
More than 1 business location requires a specific strategy which is more detailed that I can cover in this blog post. You can check out this useful blog for some insights.
Google My Business also offers a free website option. A review of this feature is available here.
The categories you choose are incredibly important and affect what searches your business comes up for.
Your primary category should accurately explain what your business ‘is’.
Secondary categories are additional categories that can be used to your advantage and it’s worthwhile adding those that are a good match to your services.
The most useful trick here is to look at your competitors’ categories.
Hours are a super handy feature. Add in your normal business hours (double check your website says the same hours, too).
GMB has a feature that allows you to enter ‘special hours’ so you can enter in advance, days where your hours may differ from the norm. Think Christmas, public holidays, and that kind of thing.
‘Business name opening hours’ are a popular search and to avoid people turning up at your business when you’re in fact closed, and annoying customers in the process, be sure to keep these up to date.
Appointment URL is another helpful feature for users so I’d suggest to make use of this, even though in many cases the link will not go to your website.
For example, a medical centre may use third party booking software such as hotdoc. In this case you’d put the direct hotdoc appointment link here. You can instead link to your website contact page or a calendar page if you take online bookings via a calendar app.
Many businesses will have access to a feature called ‘Services’ in the GMB dashboard. You can go through and add your service offerings (grouped into categories) and add up to 1000 words per service, as well as pricing. Pretty cool!
Currently the ‘Services’ information only shows up when people search on their mobile device (not desktop unfortunately). It may also be called ‘Menu’.
If you’re lucky enough to have this option, I say use it.
Attributes are a bit of a funny one because you can only add specific attributes that appear under your ‘Attributes’ heading. You can’t force attributes to show on your profile. And they vary greatly between businesses.
Attributes may also called ‘Accessibility’ on some listings.
Some examples include:
- Wheelchair accessible
- LGTBQ friendly
- Child friendly
- Pet friendly
- Unisex toilets
- Payment options
Be sure to check on your Attributes at least once a month to see if there’s any new options.
The business description field disappeared for a while and now it’s back, yippee.
Check it out here on the Knowledge Panel:
This description is an opportunity to provide users with a short info section about your business, your offerings and differentiation, in up to 750 characters, which is around 130-150 words.
Not all industries have this feature.
Google My Business Photos
Photos are the optimal method to increase engagement with your listing and allow users to get a feel for your business. This can help to increase engagement with your calls to action whether that be to click through to your website, call you or ask for directions.
- Identity – Logo and Cover image
- Your team
- At work
- Any image that showcases your business
- There are additional categories depending on the industry you operate in. For example, most hotels and motels have a ‘Rooms’ and ‘Food and Drink’ photo category.
Your customers can add images too. This is brilliant as customers can offer a unique perspective of your business and help boost your photo count in the process.
The 360 Virtual Tour
If you’ve got a 360 tab in the photos section you may have ignored it to this point. But it’s a pretty cool feature. (If you’re a service-area only business, you won’t have the option – there’s no location to photograph, is there!)
Whether or not a 360 tour is of value to your business, really comes down to what kind of business you have.
Restaurant with a view?
Oh yes, 360 degree photography is for you.
A virtual tour may help convert the searchers you’ve fought hard to attract, into customers with a lifetime value.
360 tours are brilliant for businesses where the aesthetics, atmosphere, layout and design form part of the experience.
When you have a 360 tour, this is what it looks like to searchers:
Google My Business has an approved 360 photographer program and you’ll need to source an approved photographer in your local area. There is a way you can DIY these images but if you’re not tech savvy go to the pros.
GMB offers an option to add a short video to your listing:
- Up to 30 seconds
- File size: Up to 100 MB.
- Resolution: 720p or higher.
Some client have had success adding videos longer than 30 seconds.
Need ideas for videos?
- Outline your pitch or your unique value proposition or core brand messaging
- Discuss the history of your business
- Share an interview with an employee, manager or owner
- Cover FAQs from customers
- Describe what to expect when visiting your location
- Show customers interacting with you
- Share customer testimonials, or video customers giving testimonials
Advanced Information (for multi-locations and Google Ads)
Multi-location businesses can utilise store codes to identify unique GMB locations and keep them organised. You control how you want the code to appear.
Labels allow you to sync your GMB listing to a Google Ads campaign if you’re incorporating local ads into your marketing mix. You may have heard your Google Ads Consultant mention ‘location extensions’ and labels help to organise these particularly for multi-location businesses.
Google Ads Location Extensions Phone
Proper tracking methods help to check the ROI of money you’re investing in Google Ads. By adding a call tracking number in this field, you will have conversion data for how many users are clicking to call from your ads, and this helps you to measure how successful your ads campaigns really are. If this field is left empty, then by default Google Ads will use your Primary Phone Number and you won’t have the call tracking capability.
Now that you know how to make your GMB listing fully optimised, it’s time to make use of additional features that will enhance your branded results. Enter Google Posts! (At this stage Google Posts are available to many industries, but not all).
Google Posts are an easy way to share content and promote services, specials and events. Google Posts are visible in both the search results and in Google maps.
When used effectively, Google Posts can increase traffic to your website, boost engagement with your audience and in turn increase your bookings and sales.
There’s 4 types of post you can use:
What’s New: You could use this type of post to share an update about your business, for example a new team member, new service offering, a customer review, an industry update or a new blog post.
Events: This post type is ideal to promote an event you’re supporting or hosting. All events require a title, start & end dates, and time.
Offers: Like events, offers require titles, start & end dates, and time-frame and the “View offer” CTA is automatically added to the post. Use this to share promotions, sales and coupon codes.
Products: Use this post type to promote your product range (or services). Only the first 20 or so words will show up so even though you can add 300 words, it’s the first sentence or 2 that counts.
More on Posts
- You can have up to 10 live posts at once
- They are published in a scrolling carousel
- Posts expire in 7 days which means they stop showing on the front of your GMB Profile but can still be viewed if people click onto your profile.
- Every post should have an image or video.
- You can add a Call to Action on every single post type and your options range from: Book Order online Buy Sign up Get offer Learn More Call (uses listing’s Primary Number)
- You can also add special code to the links on your posts to track which ones deliver traffic to your website. These are called UTM parameters.
Questions and Answers
Questions and Answers are an important part of your GMB profile.
If you are not monitoring these and responding as a business, you should be. This feature is ‘crowd sourced’ which means anyone can ask a question or submit an answer. You can answer questions even if they already have answer, so be ready to provide answers that work in your favour.
This feature does show up in your branded Knowledge Panel. Questions can be “liked” and this can move older, more helpful questions to the top. You need to have a verified listing to respond as the business owner.
You can adjust your GMB settings to receive email alerts about Q&A’s. Be sure to turn this on to regain some control over this feature.
You can report inappropriate questions and you can also ask your own questions from another account that’s not tied to the business.
Messaging is a feature that allows people to message or text you directly from your Google My Business listing in the search results.
Whether you want to use this feature is totally up to you. If you have the time and ability to respond immediately to a message, then this could be a great feature for you but if not, then it’s best not to activate.
There is a high expectation of a fast response time from customers who message. It’s particularly convenient for customers who prefer to text a question rather than pick up the phone and chat.
Reviews play an incredibly crucial role in local business visibility and can help improve your rankings. It’s a way to differentiate your business in the search engine results, particularly if you’re exceptional at what you do and have a 5-star or 4.5+ star rating.
- Reviews are brilliant for social proof of your business operations and provide insights for customers comparing your business with others
- 84% of customers will look at your reviews before they’ll do business with you
- Your reviews are showcased in your branded Knowledge Panel
- Businesses with reviews instantly stand out thanks to the stars and obviously the higher the better
- Reviews from other third-party sites can also feature in your knowledge panel e.g. TrueLocal
- If someone asks a Question in the Q & A section of your GMB profile, Google will try and find the answer in your Reviews (say whaaat??)
Is BYO allowed? (Yep, someone’s already asked that question!)
Ethics around Reviews
As reviews become more and more important to businesses, it’s worthwhile noting a few of the guidelines. Google has been clamping down on fake reviews, Facebook has changed how it presents reviews and Yelp is notorious for filtering and removing reviews. Best to do it the right way.
Here’s some guidelines:
You must get your reviews in an ethical manner. No fake reviews, no bribes, no incentives.
You and your employees cannot review your business. We know you think your business is the bomb. Your potential customers don’t care what you think, they want to hear it from your previous customers.
No negative or harmful reviews on competitors. I don’t think I need to share this one, but maybe I do.
How to get more reviews
First, get a direct link to your review box to make it oh so easy. This is now incredibly simple with Google Short Names. Claim your short name and add /review. on the end. Your lovely customer can just click and write, friends.
Send a text message. Yep, you can send that same link via a text message too. Considering your client is quite possibly logged into Google Maps on their phone, this will make the process a breeze.
Ask in an email. An email is a perfectly easy way to request a review. If you don’t work with a huge volume of customers, save the review template and copy / paste the text into an email as needed.
Personalise it. If you hire a team who have direct contact with your customers you might increase your review-generation success by getting the employee who provided the service to request the review. This is a brilliant opportunity to make it a personalised request rather than using a stock standard template. Depends on what works for you.
Provide a review template. A review template is fantastic as it helps your customer by providing questions that trigger answers about their experience, and is a great opportunity to encourage the use of keywords in the review, that are relevant to your business.
Add the review link to your email signature.
Add it to the header or footer on your website.
Add it to invoices.
Send a thank you card. A nice gesture, include a form with instructions on how to leave a review.
Use review software. Review software options range from automated emails and texts to having tablets at your business location where customers can leave a review before they even leave your premises. The options here are endless.
It’s best to respond to all types of reviews – both positive and negative. Your reviewers will be notified when you respond.
It’s worthwhile noting that some businesses are scared to encourage reviews for fear of getting a negative one. If you feel like this you’re not alone, it’s a line I hear often.
Let’s put it this way – if you are good at what you do, you’ll get plenty of positive reviews to outnumber a negative one.
In the real world you can’t please everyone 100% of the time, so why would it happen online.
By the way there is no need for a perfect 5-star score. Anything above 4 stars is excellent.
Requesting reviews be removed
Google does have a mechanism for requesting removal of a fake review and you will need proof, but you can’t request removal of a review simply because you disagree with a genuine customer complaint.
You’re ready for the next step… GMB Domination!
If you’re new to GMB this guide is probably feeling rather overwhelming.
But if you’ve already dabbled in the basic features, it’s time to try out some of the new features that can really propel your listing.
Google is constantly expanding the capability of Google My Business and you need to make the most of the tools available.
If you’d like help with your listing I’d love to hear from you.
I offer a Google My Business full-service package to optimise your listing and manage it on a monthly basis, helping you get more leads, bookings and sales, all tracked using Google Analytics.