Maintaining a Google My Business listing has become a must for local SEO. This powerful tool is a mainstay for local businesses, and if your profile is not fully optimized, you could be losing out on potential visitors and conversions. Whether you’re a local florist, restaurant, or any location-based business, here’s the lowdown on how to fully optimize your listings in order to make the biggest impact.
What is Google My Business?
Google My Business (GMB) is a free tool from Google that allows business owners to create and manage a profile for their company. GMB profiles appear in a number of Google search features, such as Google local search results in Maps, the Knowledge Graph, and more. Who hasn’t Googled, ‘The best tacos near me’, when trying to find a place for dinner? If you want people to find your business when they search for these kinds of terms, you need a GMB profile.
However, only certain businesses can be eligible for a GMB account — specifically, businesses that have physical locations. According to Google, “Listings on Google My Business can only be created for businesses that either have a physical location that customers can visit, or that travel to visit customers where they are.” If you run e.g. an online business from a location that customers never visit, you are not eligible for a listing.
Your New Homepage
Google is placing more importance on the GMB profile, with GMB search signals increasing 32.14% from 2017 to 2018. Google is making it easier for users to research everything they need to know about a business without having to click through to their actual website, e.g. hours of operation, phone number, location, etc. All of that important information is front and center of the GMB profile.
“People don’t need to come to your website anymore — they can get all that information from GMB. So treat that like your homepage.” – Greg Gifford
With that in mind, your GMB profile will be many customers’ first impression of your brand, so make it count!
The More, The Better
If you want to outshine the competition, you need your profile to be as complete as possible, providing Google and potential visitors with as much information as you can. Google is basically begging for information to share with your customer base (for free!), so why not take advantage of this opportunity?
Questions and Answers
The Questions & Answers feature is one of the most important features on your GMB profile. Similar to the business listing details, anyone can ask and answer a question about your business, including your competitors! Pay attention to your profile to make sure questions are being answered accurately and by you. While most people who give answers are just trying to provide useful information, you won’t always be so lucky. In some cases, people will write negative responses about your business or even point potential customers towards a competitor.
Remember, you can ask your own questions, so take advantage of this opportunity to answer FAQs right here in your GMB listing. Your GMB listing is your new homepage, so what do you want people to know about your business? How can you make someone’s first impression a positive one?
Can’t think of questions to ask of your own business? Ask customer service and sales reps of your company to identify questions often asked about your business.
Reviews are often a guiding light for potential customers. People trust other people’s experiences and opinions, bad or good, and their decision to frequent a business may be affected by what other customers have said online. We all know reviews are valuable, but are they really a must-have?
According to Invesp, 90% of consumers read online reviews before visiting a business, and 88% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. 92% of users will use a local business if they have 4-star rating or higher. In other words, if you have poor reviews or no reviews, people are unlikely to trust or frequent your place of business.
How can you make sure you’re getting good reviews? Google actually encourages you to ask customers for their opinions, which are placed next to your listing in Google Maps and your Knowledge Panel results. Ask users who’ve had good experiences with your business to write a review. However, don’t offer incentives to customers in exchange for a review, as this goes against Google’s guidelines.
If you do happen to receive a bad review, make sure to respond to that customer. Customers will notice when their input is valued and writing a response to their negative experience will help build trust with other users. In fact, 45% of people actually say they’re more likely to visit a business if they can see that it responds to negative reviews.
60% of consumers say local search results with good images capture their attention and push them towards a decision. The visuals attached to your listing are important as they’re the first impression users will associate with your brand. Make your listing visually appealing!
Google My Business makes it easy to share visuals with a wide variety of features which should make it easy to get ahead of the competition. Features include sharing pictures on the listing, attaching images to posts, uploading videos, 360 images and even virtual video tours.
This doesn’t even include user-generated pictures, which you have little control over. Take advantage of all these features and don’t be intimidated to post videos or images — you don’t need a professional photographer or videographer to create stunning visuals. Smartphones are good enough! For more tips on optimizing visuals for your Google my Business listing, take a look at BrightLocal’s guide on looking good online.
Google’s Photo Guidelines
There are several types of photos to add to your GMB listing, including your logo, cover photo, and additional photos to showcase the features of your business that customers may consider when making purchasing decisions (such as photos of your location, facility, or key products). For image formatting, follow Google’s photo guidelines.
Format: JPG or PNG
Size: Between 10 KB and 5 MB
Minimum Resolution: 720 X 720 pixels
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.
An often overlooked feature, Google Posts are something every business should be utilizing immediately. Introduced in 2017, this feature allows businesses to post text and images directly to your GMB profile, acting like (free) mini-ads for your business.
Posts show up on the bottom of the knowledge panel and are a great way to engage customers before they click to your website. What else? With the ability to use a call-to-action button, you can get conversions without users ever visiting your site.
Posts will stay live for 7 days and then disappear, unless you use a template with a set date range. This free tool is a great way to advertise specials, discounts, offers and events. Make sure to get creative — you can now even upload a 30-second video Post.
If you take appointments and bookings for your business, make sure to add the bookings feature in your GMB profile. Customers will be able to make appointments directly from the SERPs, removing the added step of clicking through to your website. Google will integrate with most booking providers and track your bookings, allowing you to analyze the data from this unique feature.
Once you fill out your profile, your job is far from done. Make sure you monitor your profile frequently in order to respond to reviews, answer any customer questions and keep an eye out for any suggested edits to your profile.
While most people what to help keep information up-to-date, make sure any edits made to your profile are correct and useful. Check out Birdeye’s guide to Optimizing Google my Business for tips on how to respond to negative reviews.
While not an exhaustive list, this is a great place to start when optimizing your GMB profile. Google is continually optimizing and improving their Google my Business platform, so staying up-to-date with your GMB profile is an easy way to get ahead of the competition and interact with potential visitors. In the end, Google is trying to make it as easy as possible for businesses to find and engage users. So in the spirit of Jerry Maguire, help Google help you.