How do people search?
Whether you prefer using Google as your primary search engine or something else, the bottom line is that most users use Google. They own 93% of the search market between all their properties. Therefore, since Google owns most of the search market, you have to play in their sandbox and by their rules. This is where Google My Business comes in.
As I said already, GMB lets you manage how your business appears on Google Search and Maps, and it is FREE! It includes the ability to add your business name, hours, location, and you have the ability to monitor and reply to customer reviews. You can also add photos, videos, and learn where and how people are searching for you.
According to SMA Marketing, "49% of businesses receive more than 1,000 average Search views of their GMB listing per month, and 33% receive 1,000+ views on (Google) Maps." The Small Business Blog by Google says nearly 4 out of 5 people are turning to search engines to find local information.
Is there any reason why you shouldn't see Google and the GMB as the home page to your business? When people search for a service or product, Google does the best job it can to show the service or product nearest to them. The reason being nearly 50% of all Google searches are looking for local information. It should also be noted that this isn't isolated to more major metros, take a look at the screenshot and all the "near me" searches.
Local Search Ranking Factors
You may have heard it said that Google is the front page of your website. Well, your GMB is the new digital front door. In the most recent Moz Local Search Ranking Factors report, a GMB listing is the biggest local ranking factor, at more than 25%.
- Google My Business Signals (Proximity, categories, keyword in business title, etc.) 25%
- Link Signals (Inbound anchor text, linking domain authority, linking domain quantity, etc.) 17%
- Review Signals (Review quantity, review velocity, review diversity, etc.) 15%
- On-Page Signals (Presence of NAP, keywords in titles, domain authority, etc.) 14%
- Citation Signals (IYP/aggregator NAP consistency, citation volume, etc.) 11%
- Behavioral Signals (Click-through rate, mobile clicks to call, check-ins, etc.) 10%
- Personalization 6%
- Social Signals (Google engagement, Facebook engagement, Twitter engagement, etc.) 3%
Hopefully, it should be evident by now that it's imperative to have the correct information about your business show up when people search Google. Simply making sure it is accurate, complete, and as optimized as possible can go a long way.
Google Knowledge Panel, Local Pack and Maps
Google Knowledge Panel
The knowledge panel is the box or container of information that will show to the right of the search results or near the top on mobile when someone searches specifically for your business, such as a branded search.
The knowledge panel will have all the key information most searchers are looking for, such as an address, hours, phone number(s), website, link to directions if applicable, and other important information depending on your industry.
Google Local Pack
Google Maps (both the app and desktop and mobile web versions) is intended to help those looking for directions as well as to discover businesses and locations. Think of it as the new Yelp, without the overly aggressive advertising reps.
What Are the Benefits of the GMB Listing
Ultimately, Google wants to provide the best answer for the searcher, also called searcher intent. For example, You have two competing businesses. We will call them Nautilus Nautical Tours and Chaz’s Charters. Google may think that “Nautilus Nautical Tours,” which is farther away from you, the searcher, is more likely to have what they are looking for than “Chaz’s Charters,” which is much closer. Since Google wants to provide the best local result, they will show Nautilus Nautical Tours higher in the ranking than Chaz’s Charters.
How To Claim A Listing
Step 1: Head to Google My Business’ Create Page
The first thing you need to do is to create your business account and claim the listing. As I mentioned before, the only requirement for using it is that you must have some face-to-face interaction with your customers.
Be sure to search for your business on Google. There is a high likelihood that there may be a listing already created. Hopefully, it is unclaimed. If the listing is claimed by someone other than you, an authorized employee, or an authorized business helping you to manage your listing, then it can be a little harder.
To register, you will need a Gmail account. If you are using G-Suite for Business, then you have an email address you can use already! Alternatively, you will need to set one up. We recommend setting up one that is close to your business name as possible. This isn't a time to get creative and use RememberWalkingInTheSand at gmail.com. Also, Google will sometimes email you about a potential change to your GMB, make sure it is an email you check and not a "burner" address.
Given you have all that in place, log into Google and head to google.com/business and select "Start now" in the top right-hand corner.
Step 2: Fill Out Your Business Name
Use your business’s real-world name here. Don’t try to keyword stuff or get creative with your name. You will just risk getting a suspension, and no one wants to go to the brig.
Step 3: Choose the Category That Best Fits Your Business
Choose your business category. Try to choose the most accurate and as specific as possible, especially for the primary (first) category. You're essentially telling Google which type of customers should see your business listing. It's not uncommon to find that there isn't a category available within Google My Business that perfectly represents your business. If you're struggling to find the ideal category, don't be afraid to choose one that is broader than your current classification or niche.
Step 4: Choose Whether or Not to Add a Location
If you are a brick and mortar that the public can visit, you will most likely want to have your address listed. If you are a service provider, it may be more of a personal choice. If you go to your customers' locations, rather than having them come to you, check the box, "I deliver goods and services to my customers."
Step 5: Add Your Address
If you work out of your house or another address, you don't want publicly shown, Check "Hide my address (it's not a store) Only show region."
If you want people showing up at your business, then be as accurate as possible and be as consistent as possible.
For example, if your address is:
867 Tommy Tutone Lane, Jennisville, NC 53091
Note: Be sure to have it listed the same on your website and on the GMB listing.
Step 6: Review Possible Listings
You may see that there is a similar listing already available that you can claim. Hopefully, you won’t have to deal with this as it can be a nightmare!
Step 7: Choose Whether or Not You Serve Users Outside of This Location
This is pretty self-explanatory; just choose the option that works best for you and your business.
Step 8: Select the Areas That You Serve
Depending on what you chose in step 7, you may be able to choose the areas that you serve. You can add more than one. You will want to think realistically about the furthest you want to travel and where most of your business comes from. Add those first, so you set up a perimeter, then add more up to 20 total.
Step 9: Add Your Contact Information
Add your phone number and website's URL. You can use Google's free website, which is based on information from your listing.
Step 10: Opt-in to Updates and Recommendations
99 times out of 100, you will want to opt-in for updates and recommendations. Unless you plan to check your listing weekly or you are afraid of getting Google Email Bombed, then opt-in.
Step 11: Finish and Manage Your Listing
Click 'finish,' and your GMB page is set up, and it is on to verification.
Step 12: Verify Your Listing
There are several options to verify your listing:
- By postcard
- By phone
- By email
- Instant verification
- Bulk verification
- Verify it later
Step 13: Say Hello to Your GMB Dashboard
Once your listing is verified, you will be able to see your GMB dashboard and be able to complete the listing. You can add your hours, photos, logo, description, and much more.
Claiming a Google Maps Listing
If the business is already listed on Google Maps but it lacks a GMB, then the steps are similar to setting up a fresh listing. You will just want to use the claim button and then verify the listing via the postcard method.
Claiming an already claimed listing
This one can get a little tricker and can take some time. It can be done, but it’s beyond the scope of this post.
Options for verifying your business
- Step 1: If you aren't already logged into Google My Business, sign in now and choose the business you want to verify.
- Step 2: Make sure your business address is correct.
- Step 3: Click "Mail." The postcard should reach you in three to seven days -- make sure you don't edit your business name, address, or category (or request a new code) before it comes, because this could delay the process.
- Step 4: Watch for the "postcard." I often tell clients that it may look like junk mail, and will have the tear-offs like a mailed check. For some clients, I have had to resend the postcard three times because they thought it was junk mail. Be diligent on watching for it!
- Step 4.1: Sign in to GMB and choose the business
- Step 4.5: Once you've gotten the postcard, log in to Google My Business, and select "Verify now."
- Step 5: In the Code field, enter the five-digit verification code on your postcard. Click "Submit."
If you're eligible to verify by phone, you'll see the "Verify by phone" option when you start the verification process.
Again if you're eligible, you'll see the "Verify by email" option when you start the verification process.
If you've already verified your business with Google Search Console, you might be able to instantly verify your email.
If you operate ten or more locations for the same business, like a franchise and you are not a service business or an agency managing locations for multiple businesses, you may be eligible for bulk verification.
Optimize your GMB listing
Now that your business has been verified, you can finish up the profile.
Note: Anyone can "suggest an edit" to your listing, so it's important to get everything right. You don't want to encourage random people to make their own changes (it isn’t Wikipedia).
You will need to go to the Google My Business dashboard, click the listing you'd like to work on, select "Info," and then choose a section to fill out or update.
Enter Complete Data for Your Listing
Local search results favor the most relevant results for searches. Make it easy for Google to show your business by ensuring you have the most detailed and accurate information entered.
Like with a good website, make sure your listing communicates with searchers where your business is, what it does, and how they can acquire the services and/or goods you are offering.
Be sure to include a profile photo. This should be your business logo, not your personal profile picture from Facebook or Linked In unless you are a personal trainer, its best to keep the beach bod to your own profiles.
Google uses a variety of signals to serve search results. Use good basic white hat SEO tactics, including important keywords and search phrases to your business listing. Remember that you are putting information directly into Google through the GMB listing.
Keep Your Hours Accurate
People want to know when you are open. Closing for the holiday, Google allows you to customize hours for them and other special events.
Photos help business listings’ performance more than most business owners and marketers probably expect.
According to Google, a business that has photos on their listing typically get more requests for driving directions on Google Maps, to the tune of 42% more. They will get 35% more clicks to their website than a business without them.
Similar to other social media, you will want to make sure you have your logo, Cover Photo, and any additional photos you have. Try to use photos that can perform well in both square and landscape modes because your images will be formatted as rectangles on phones and squares on desktops.
Here are Google recommendations and sizes for each
- Profile photo
- Your profile photo is what appears when you upload new photos, videos, or review responses.
- Use your logo or something that represents your business, not the beach bod.
- Logo image
- Businesses should use their logo to help customers identify the business
- It needs to be a square-sized image
- 250 x 250 pixels (minimum 120 x 120; maximum 5200 x 5200)
- Cover photo
- This should showcase a brand page’s personality.
- It is the primary image that appears whenever your business is viewed, as it shows upfront and center on your listing.
- A 16:9 ratio with a minimum 480px x 270px and a maximum 2120px x 1192px. Ideal is 1080px x 608px
- Additional photos
- Any other photos you can place to help identify your business, it could be photos of your staff, wrapped truck, etc.
- 497px x 373px pixels is ideal, with the minimum width 497px and maximum being 2048 x 2048
All photos should be:
- JPG or PNG
- Between 10KB and 5MB
- The image should represent reality. In other words, don’t over photoshop it or put too many filters on it.
General users can add photos to your listing as well. This is known as user-generated content. You can remove them, but it can be a challenge.
Videos are a great way to add some spice to your profile. Personally, I haven't seen many if any businesses utilizing it. This is a golden opportunity for you to be able to get ahead of your competition.
Videos must be:
- 30 seconds or shorter
- 100 MB or smaller
- 720p resolution or higher
Think of the services section as a menu board. You can list the broad categories of the services you offer, then the individual services and pricing.
Attributes & Highlights
The Attributes/Highlights section allows you to add items depending on the industry your business falls into.
These can include things like:
- Wheelchair Accessible
- And much more
This is pretty straightforward. You have 750 characters; you will want to make it sound natural and human. Don't attempt to keyword stuff. Google is smarter than that, and let's be honest, it sounds odd. There is some evidence that says you want to include the main locations you want to be found in. I haven't tested it, but I am of the opinion it can't hurt so long as it sounds natural. These will typically show up in the knowledge panel, with approximately the first 200 characters showing.
Google My Business Short Name
The short name is the URL to your listing. As an example provided by Google: 'g.page/[yourcustomname]'.
For our clients, I try to use their website address; this keeps it simple and consistent. You may choose something different but make it easy to remember.
How to Add Questions & Answers in Google My Business
People have questions, and they come to Google to find those answers. Hopefully, your website will answer them, but it can't hurt to have more of the FAQ listed on your GMB listing. It's an easy way to enhance your listing.
Name, Address and Phone Numbers (NAP) Consistency
I mentioned previously about making sure your match your address between your website and your GMB listing. The same goes for your name and phone number.
Call Tracking Numbers
If you are using a call tracking system, you will want to have that number listed first, but you will also want to list a secondary phone number that is also listed on your website, think about the main phone number you have. By having the main phone number listed on your GMB, you ensure it is still tied to your GMB listing.
When you list your website address, you can add the optional UTM parameters to help you when you are looking at your Google Analytics. Append the following to the end of your URL: ?utm_source=gmb&utm_medium=organic&utm_content=listing&utm_campaign=local
- Book reservations
- The Date Your Business First Opened
- Product Catalog
The bottom line is the more you can add in your listing, the better off you will be.
Google My Business Posts
A GMB Post is similar to what you may be more accustomed to on other social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, or LinkedIn. It merely is content that promotes your business, such as an announcement, offer, event, or product update. Depending on the nature of your customers' search query and your content, your post will either show up on Google's search or map results.
Make sure your business is publishing content often as there is a seven-day life span on each of your posts. Once you click through, you can see the older posts.
Posts can contain text, photos, and videos.
Why would you want to add another thing to your list? It is all about getting into the three-pack or map pack. If you're a service business, 40 to 50% of your calls could be coming from that.
The 4 Types of Post
What’s New Posts/Update Post
- These are posts containing general info you want to provide to the public.
- You can have up to 1,500 characters in a “What’s New” post.
- Optional CTA Buttons includes:
- Order online
- Learn more
- Sign up
- Call now will use the primary number from your listing
- If you're planning on hosting an event, you can use this post to promote it. These are great for venues and restaurants or anyone with an event to promote, such as a webinar.
- Start/End Dates/Times
- You will want to be sure to set the time frame or the start and end date.
- Add an optional event start and end time. However, the event time will not be shown publicly.
- You can have an optional event title. You get a maximum of 58 characters with spaces
- Like with the What’s New post, you can have 1,500 characters to describe the event.
- You can also add a photo/video
- Optional CTA Buttons includes:
- Order Online
- Learn more
- Sign Up
- Call Now
- If you're offering any type of promo deal, you can use this type of post to inform people.
- There is some evidence that Google gives a little more weight to an “Offer Post.”
- These posts include a bright yellow tag on mobile and search
- You are required to put an Offer Title. Again you have up to 58 characters with spaces for it.
- Again you have 1,500 characters for the description and details.
- You can enter the dates that the offer is valid for
- If you want to add an optional coupon code offer, you can do that with this post.
- These last a year
- In Google's own words, “The Product Editor allows merchants to build a presence on mobile and the computer to showcase their products and drive consumer interactions. Consumers will see a more curated showcase of a store’s products on the Business Profile Products tab on mobile, or the Product Overview module on the computer. Items added through the Product Editor appear in Business profiles on the computer and mobile version of Google Search.”
- Product Post is probably the most powerful, if applicable to your business
- Product Posts are only available to businesses that have the products feature.
- Products encourage you to highlight specific merchandise or services that your business sells
- They really don’t expire
- The Welcome Offer post is a way for business owners to “convert followers into customers.”
- It is only visible to people who choose to “Follow” your business in the Google Maps app.
Automating Google My Business Posts
GMB posts can be automated, similar to other social media platforms. Google also seems to be looking favorably on businesses that are posting often. It's worth testing and measuring with your business.
Periodically check your listing
It is also a good idea to regularly check that everything is correct. Google will sometimes email you about a potential change. Be sure to check those if you get them.
Remember that disgruntled employee you had five years ago, well, they can "suggest an edit" to your listing. Anyone can suggest one. Therefore it is essential to get everything right the first time. You will also want to log into your account and check the GMB dashboard to ensure everything looks correct.
One of the most significant benefits of the GMB other than it contains all the basic information is users' ability to see social proof (reviews) about your business. According to Bright Local, "90% of consumers read online reviews before visiting a business."
If you want to encourage people to visit your business or use your services, then the best thing you can do is respond to both positive and negative reviews.
One of the best ways to encourage future customers to leave positive reviews? Respond to current ones. You may say, but I already got a positive review. Why should I respond?
For one, many business owners don't respond to reviews. By merely responding, you are already doing more than most, score 1 for you! Besides responding to reviews, the review itself becomes an excellent opportunity to engage with your clientele.
A study by Harvard Business School found that responding to reviews correlated with a higher overall star rating. People appreciate engagement, and we all know a simple "thank you," "your welcome" or "my pleasure" can go a long way.
Google has even confirmed that responding to reviews helps your business's search ranking. They also tell you on the support page for Google My Business to "interact with customers by responding to reviews that they leave about your business. Responding to reviews shows that you value your customers and the feedback that they leave about your business."
Responding to reviews shouldn't be a difficult task for most small businesses. However, you shouldn't think you can just block out a Friday to respond to all the reviews you got that week. Dhiraj Nallapaneni at Birdeye says, "most customers expect businesses to respond to reviews within 24 hours." If that review happens to be negative, then you lost your window to turn the negative into a positive.
Also, your prospects care about the number of reviews you have, more than you may think. The average consumer reads ten online reviews before making a purchase decision. And nearly 3 out of 5 consumers will only buy or use a business service if it has at least a 4-star rating. Purchase likelihood peaks when the average star rating of a product is between 4.2 and 4.5 stars on a 5-star scale. From Reviews to Revenue: How Star Ratings and Review Content Influence Purchase.
Guidelines for responding to a Google My Business Review
For the sake of stating the obvious, If a review is positive, thank the customer, if it’s negative, be kind and attempt to make things right if you can. Just don’t get in a war with someone just because they leave you a bad online review.
Removing Negative Reviews From A Listing
There is no way to remove a review just because it's negative. The best you can do is respond to the review and try to be as helpful and positive as possible. Again, don't go to war with them.
Google will let you dispute fake reviews. However, there is no guarantee that it will be removed just because you dispute it, though.
How To Dispute a Fake Review?
- From your, Business Dashboard click on Reviews
- Find the review you want to flag, click on the three little dots in the upper-right hand corner of the review.
- Click “Flag as inappropriate”
- You can follow up on your dispute's status by clicking on the Support option from the left-hand menu.
- You can file a legal removal request form as well. But be aware, the standard is set pretty high for libel.
Embed Google Reviews On Your Website
There are a variety of options to embed reviews on your site. You will want to go through a third party system to do it right. Don’t copy and paste the reviews into your site, or place screenshots.
Getting Users to Leave Reviews
First off, don't review yourself or have your employees leave reviews. Don’t purchase reviews from others, either. Google can and will remove reviews they think aren’t natural.
There are several ways to encourage a user to leave a review. Most of the services that will let you embed the reviews on the site will also help you with getting the review.
Do Google Reviews Impact SEO?
Yes. Google has stated on their own site, “High quality, positive reviews from your customers will improve your business’s visibility and increase the likelihood that a potential customer will visit your location.”
This would fall under the "Review Signals," which, as I mentioned previously, accounts for almost 16%.
Let's go back to your Nautilus Nautical Tours and Chaz's Charters example. Given all things equal except for the review star rating and count, if Nautilus Nautical Tours has a 4.7-star rating, with 100 reviews, and Chaz's Charters has a 4.9-star rating, with ten reviews, which would you choose?
Google My Business Messaging
If your business listing has been verified, you can enable messaging. It is a powerful tool to utilize, especially if you're trying to attract younger audiences.
Google My Business App
Google My Business is also available in app form for both iOS and Android. If you are going to be serious about managing a GMB listing, you will want to have it at your fingertips. It will quickly let you:
- Update your business hours, location, contact information, and description
- Post statuses and pictures
- View search insights
However, you cannot:
- Delete your business listing
- Change its settings
- Give ownership of the listing to another user
Insights: The treasure trove
While Google Analytics is great, you almost need a Ph.D. to really decipher and understand it all. The GMB insights are much easier for a small business to understand and grasp.
You can see
Returning To The Docks
My hope is this voyage of discovery and intrigue, allows you to become the Captain at the helm of your own business.