Any business hoping to capture potential customers for their store or service, needs to have a Google My Business listing. This service gives you an entirely different presence online, helping increase your visibility and offering a completely free inbound marketing measure to small, medium and large businesses operating on a local basis. In a world where a quick ‘Google’ can provide us with all the information we need, more and more local-based searches are taking place. When 50% of these searches then lead to consumers visiting the store or premises on the same day, it’s clear to see just how valuable of a tool it can be.
The sheer power of Google My Business in local SEO is unrivalled. We’ve spoken to our experts to get the full run-down on what Google My Business is, how it works and how you can make the most of your business’s listing.
- What Is Google My Business?
- The Features
- Setting Up Your Google My Business
- Verifying Your GMB Listing
- Optimise Your Listing
What Is Google My Business?
At its core, Google My Business is a free profile for businesses that appears in the SERPs for relevant searches. Essentially, it acts as a form of knowledge panel dedicated entirely to the business and can be edited and managed by the company once verified. In a lot of cases, you could already have a GMB listing that hasn’t been claimed, as Google can form a GMB listing by pulling information from your website or other relevant sites across the web.
For any business, this tool offers a range of benefits that make it a no-brainer in most cases. From heightened visibility, to offering your audiences all the information they need in one panel, GMB is one of the most powerful tools available on the search engine. Any company with good reviews, full contact details and plenty of additional information (e.g. images, a biography, opening times), is likely to stand out amongst the proverbial crowd, simply by being there.
The full panel typically appears to the right-hand side of the results on desktop and above the organic results on mobile, offering optimum visibility when it matters most. Google also provides full analytics to businesses that have claimed their listing. They offer insights into:
- Website Clicks
- Direction Requests
These quick insights allow you to better track and manage your listing by determining its progress over time. This means that you can better evaluate which changes have worked for the best, or which might need to be reversed or amended.
Google My Business has a number of features that can be used to better optimise your listing including contact details, photos, posts, reviews and more. It’s advised that you fill in as many of the below as possible:
Consumers love visual content and thankfully, Google My Business gives you the perfect opportunity to not only upload photos, but optimise them to your advantage. Any business with photos on the GMB photo can earn upwards of 35% more traffic than those without, and can even encourage more of the customers finding your GMB to actually visit your store. You should always include photos of at least your logo, your building (interior and exterior), product photos and anything else you deem relevant to your business. The more photos you can offer a potential client or customer, the more likely they are to deem your business trustworthy and credible. In fact, studies suggest that 42% more customers will request directions to a location if a business has photos on their listing, than if they don’t.
Google provides the following guidance for photos:
Business information on Google My Business is the standard details that Google often fills in itself before you’ve even claimed the listing. It’ll feature your address, phone number and an appointment booking link if you provide one. You can also add your opening hours, or amend any that are already there, as well as a number of different details such as menu links, department links and more. This will differ from industry to industry.
Questions & Answers
The Questions & Answers feature is your audience’s opportunity to get the information they need without having to contact you directly. They can ask questions via the listing, after which you can provide full, written answers that other users can then view should they be looking for an answer to the same, or a similar question.
There is also the opportunity for business owners to ‘upvote’ the good questions, or some of the more frequently asked ones, in order to have them appear first on their profile.
Reviews are some of the most powerful tools in any competitive market. 88% of consumers claim to put just as much faith in an online review, as they do a personal recommendation for a friend and for local businesses, that’s an invaluable statistic worth taking full advantage of. Google My Business offers a review feature that allows any customer to leave a review directly on the listing. They can give you a star rating, as well as a written review, after which you can go through and reply to any reviews you see fit.
Businesses that respond to reviews are often seen as being more credible, even if the review was initially negative. Being able to provide a reply that either offers a solution to the issue stated in the review, or even just offering support, can help reduce the impact considerably. In fact, 7 out of 10 customers claim that their opinion of a business changed after seeing them respond to their reviews.
The description feature allows a business to put together a quick 750-character description of their company, services, or any other relevant information. It’s a way for businesses to convince potential customers to investigate further, either by getting in touch or visiting their website or store. A well-written description can help to generate interest and engagement, even offering a more humanised element to an otherwise very business-based panel.
It can be a useful feature too, allowing you to provide any additional information for consumers that might not be covered in the given business information. Talk about your brand, products, services or anything you deem suitable for your audience and their usual search intent.
Google allows GMB owners to upload short blogs or posts of around 100-300 words, which will then be listed on the main knowledge panel. These can be used for anything, from announcements, to short snippets that lead to key pages on your website. You can add images and videos to grab attention further, particularly for important information or new releases.
Adding tracking links can add further worth to the posts you upload, by offering you insights into whether a particular piece of content is generating interest or engagement for the business.
A new feature that Google has added for GMB listings is Services. This allows businesses to list the services they provide in a form of menu, providing this often crucial information right off the bat. You can add different section names and items underneath these sections, as well as short description and a price.
This offers businesses the opportunity to inform potential clients of the services they provide without the user having to click through to the website first. In an age of zero-click searches, this has the potential to be invaluable for businesses, particularly those that offer multiple services that may not immediately rank in the SERPs.
Your GMB listing comes with the opportunity to add links to all of your social profiles. This essentially puts all of your accounts in one place not only for your users to utilise, but also for Google. While social media doesn’t have a direct effect on your ranking, the authority, expertise and trustworthiness you may be able to demonstrate through these platforms.
Setting Up Your Google My Business
If you have yet to claim your Google My Business listing, or your business doesn’t have one at all just yet (e.g. If you’ve just opened), then adding your business to Google is your very first step. Google My Business has its own dedicated platform through which you can set up and update your profile.
First, you’ll need to enter the name of your business. This should be the publicly recognised name, rather than the legal one listed on your official business licence. The next step is to add a location. You don’t have to do this if you don’t have a store that customers can visit, however it can help to build a sense of trust and credibility around a brand if you offer some kind of headquarters address. If your home address is currently being used as the businesses address, you should also skip this step as a matter of safety and privacy, except in exceptional circumstances.
If your business is an e-commerce store, you may be able to select areas that you serve, rather than offering a sole address for delivery. This way, you could pop up for more than just one location, enhancing your reach even further.
The next step is to choose a category that fits your company and its industry best. This helps Google to determine which searches your business may be relevant for.
From there, the initial set up only requires you to enter basic business information such as a phone number, website URL and email.
The other features are all optional, however it’s highly recommended that you fill in as many of these areas as you can in order to build credibility, visibility and secure a better chance at convincing local searchers to opt for your business. Before you can do that, however, you’ll need to verify your listing.
Verifying Your GMB Listing
After setting up your Google My Business listing, you’ll need to verify your identity in order to manage the rest of the information. There are a number of verification options available to choose from, dependant on the format of your business and your personal preference. Verification is designed to ensure no unauthorised party can edit the information incorrectly, simply by ensuring that you actually own the business in question.
The methods of verification are:
- Verify By Mail – A postcard will be sent to you from Google, with a code that you can then enter online for confirmation. This will usually be sent to your business address.
- Verify By Phone – Google will call the business phone number, giving you a code that you will need to enter online.
- Verify By Email – This option is only available for select businesses but allows you to get the verification code via business email.
- Verify By Search Console – Some businesses may be able to verify instantly via Google Search Console if it’s set up, but this is not available for all industries.
Optimising Your Listing
While your Google My Business listing won’t necessarily have a direct effect on your ranking, the content within GMB can add to your E-A-T score, improve user experience and play a part in your local SEO too. For this reason, optimisation is the key to making your brand stand out.
Complete The Full Profile
As far as you can, it’s important to set up the full profile for your business. That includes all of the possible company details your consumers might need, including the name of your business, the URL, any relevant booking or menu/service links, your hours, the areas you service, the year you opened, a contact number and any other attributes that you may have. This could include free WiFi, accessibility or frankly any features you may offer that will help you stand out.
If you don’t have the information available at the time of set-up, you can go back and edit or update any remaining information as you see fit. You can also add additional photos if you don’t have the full recommended number, or when you may want to add further images along the way from events, new facilities and products and more.
It’s also possible to add videos to your GMB listing, which can captivate your audience in a whole new way. The videos have to be 30 seconds or shorter, and under 100 MB, but can add a little something extra to help you stand out amongst your competitors.
Be Active In Your Management
While Google My Business does offer public editing, this can be just as much of a hindrance as a help. With anyone able to go in and suggest edits to your website, opening hours and more, it’s important to keep an eye on any changes made to ensure that your listing stays correct and optimised at all times.
Google have also introduced a new ‘Know this place?’ feature for users, where they can answer questions about a business if they happy to know the building. These questions tend to relate to parking, what they serve or offer and more, dependant on what you have and haven’t provided information for previously. Of course, they can provide the wrong answers, but you will be able to go in and amend any details added to the listing through this method.
Beyond just ensuring that the details remain correct, it’s important to monitor and manage the insights that GMB can provide you. The insights can offer information about:
- How your customers are finding your panel (Direct searches for your business name or address, and Discovery searches for a category, product or service)
- Where they found you (e.g. through maps or search)
- Their actions after discovering your listing
- Direction requests made via the listing
- Photos posted by them on your listing
- Phone calls made directly through the listing
Keep Encouraging Reviews
As we mentioned before, positive reviews are one of the most valuable tools available for your business online. Even just one positive review can generate greater trust in your brand and your products and so by encouraging regular reviews from your customers and clients, you can keep doing so. Both Google and your customers will appreciate reviews that are up to date, rather than a few months or even years old, and the more positivity you can generate, the better.
However, you’ll need to be just as active as your consumers and get to work with responding to every review you can. Even a simple ‘thank you’ in response to a positive review can make your business appear 1.7 more trustworthy than businesses that don’t. For negative reviews, you should respond with the offer to resolve the concern via a private message or direct contact with the customer if they choose to
Be Specific With Your Category
While it might seem counter-productive to reduce the broadness of your business’s category, it can actually prove to work for the better. If you set your category as something broad such as ‘marketing’, for example, the sheer number of businesses you’ll need to compete with to be seen will be huge. Something more specific such as ‘SEO marketing’ may still have a wide audience, but it’ll be far less than the broader term. The more niche you can go with your category, the fewer businesses you will have to compete with. Of course, it’s important to keep broad enough to cover all of your services, so try and find that perfect balance where you can.
Getting control of your Google My Business listing is an important step you need to take for your business’s local visibility. Whether you have a listing already and simply need to claim it, or you’re setting one up for the first time, our team are on hand to help you optimise it to it’s full potential. Get in touch with us today on 0800 088 6000 to find out more.