Complete Guide to Optimizing Your Google My Business Listing
BY: MATT SHEALY ON SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 17, 2018
Picture the last time you were really excited about a new restaurant opening. You open up Google, type in the name and nothing appears except for a barely-used Facebook page. After a few minutes of trying to find the opening hours and a menu, you give up and move on.
Sound familiar? This is where Google My Business comes into play.
It’s no secret these days that Google runs the internet, and for local businesses, Google My Business is an important tool when getting started with your SEO and inbound marketing strategy.
Google My Business is a free service that includes information such as the address, phone number, website, hours, payments accepted, and more for any business that chooses to utilize it. By successfully optimizing this feature, businesses appear optimized in general organic rankings and Google Maps - which helps consumers make informed buying decisions.
Once your business qualifies, your work is not done just yet. Many businesses make the mistake of simply signing up for Google My Business and not taking advantage of the optimization opportunities. Because Google continuously improves for businesses to better rank locally in search results, it’s important to always keep the listing updated and accurate for better results.
Ready to learn more? Follow this comprehensive guide to better leverage your Google My Business and drive sales to your company.
Utilizing All Business Information
Google will ask you to complete valuable business information such as your: phone number, address, business category, hours of operation, images, and more. In turn, this information is displayed in the Google’s right-hand Knowledge Panel to allow potential customers to easily learn more about your business.
Have you ever done your research and visited a company in person, only to find out it was closed? That can do irreparable damage to your company. By not including key information like hours of operation to your listing, you are only opening the door for your competition.
This goes without saying, but listing information should correlate exactly to what you include on your website, branding materials, social media, and other marketing assets. You want to remain consistent and send the same message across all your marketing channels.
If sections of your listing is left blank—anyone, even your competitors, can ‘suggest an edit’ and change your information.
While manageable, it is important to note that these ‘suggestions’ are user-generated (or by Google’s own algorithm) and can go live on your Google My Business without notice. Google does claim to send notifications to the listing owners, but these emails are oftentimes disregarded or unnoticed.
Fake information can negatively impact search rankings and cause confusion to your business. To frequently view and change any updates, you can click on ‘Google Updates’ and ‘Review Updates’ to remove any incorrect data. It’s better to be safe than sorry, so be sure to check your listing regularly to ensure information is correct.
Previously, businesses could categorize their company through one of Google’s business categories—all 2,300 of them. Hard to pick, right? Especially if your business falls under a few different categories or not at all.
Google has recently implemented a feature that allows companies to use 750 characters towards a detailed description of the products and services they want to convey to the customer.
It’s vital that you to take advantage of all the characters and to include valuable keywords. Not only is this an extra opportunity to tell the customer more about you, but descriptions also improve search rankings.
Google does review these, so follow their guidelines. A calling card will be in the upper-right hand corner of your Google My Business dashboard to add a description and complete the listing.
In 2017, Google launched Google Posts, which are much like your social media posts and will appear directly in the Knowledge Panel. There are endless post possibilities and you can certainly have fun to show your business’ personality.
Posts can be images, videos, events, downloads, promotions, news, and more. They are a great opportunity to grab your customer’s attention and keep them updated with your business. Additionally, each post allows you to post a call-to-action link for even more engagement.
If you’re unsure on where to start, here are a few ideas:
- Add a description and link to a recent blog post.
- Show off your new product video installation.
- Set up an event with the exact date, time, and a registration link.
- Promote products with a special offer coupon.
You can get started by clicking ‘Posts’ in your Google My Business navigation panel.
Posts show up directly on the mobile and desktop versions of Google My Business—giving customers the most up-to-date information possible. While Posts stay live for 7 days, it’s important to consistently make relevant posts since older ones still appear in the feed. The more active you are, the better your engagement will be.
Photos & Videos
According to Google, “businesses with photos receive 42% more requests for driving directions to their location from users on Google, and 35% more clicks through to their websites than businesses that don’t have photos.”
Do you thumb through restaurant images to pick out what you’re going to order? Images empower informed business decisions and have the power to drive sales. Whether the images have been taken professionally or by just using your smartphone, your Google My Business listing needs to include visuals to add credibility to your company.
Remember, the images you choose matter. If you’re a landscaping service, you need to show work you’ve done in the past. If you’re an office, depict different behind-the-scenes images of your company.
Additionally, Google lets customers add images to listings. Similarly, when you’re ‘tagged’ in a social media post, these images show in your Google My Business for others to view.
Customers can become your biggest advocate. Encourage them to interact with your listing by sharing positive experiences. If you do come across an image that needs to be deleted, Google does allow you to moderate and update.
While adding images has been a Google My Business staple, adding videos is a new exciting feature. Specifically, you can now add a quick, 30-second video to grab your customer’s attention.
This attribute is a great marketing opportunity to share your company’s values or promote a specialty product. Since it’s only 30-seconds, it needs to be concise and directly related to your business. It’s also important to note that many people watch videos without sound, so be sure your video doesn’t rely on extensive voice-over – or be sure to add captions.
With many category options to stay organized, adding videos and images to your Google My Business is super easy. Get started by clicking ‘Photos’ in your dashboard navigation.
Everyone looks for other opinions when making a purchasing decision. We all do it. While it might seem a little scary for your customers to leave reviews openly, reviews can leave a positive impact for your next customer. Google believes so much in the power of reviews, that they encourage business owners to ethically ask their customers for them.
Google continues to change their regulations in asking for reviews, so reading up on the acquisition ‘dos and don’ts of your strategy is important.
85% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations and 49% of those consumers need at least a four-star rating before they choose a business. If you’re still not convinced, consumers read an average of 7 reviews before trusting a business—up from 6 last year.
Reviews appear directly in the Knowledge Panel of your Google My Business, so it’s important to pay attention to them.
But, what about the negative, 1-star ratings? If you do receive a bad review, as most businesses eventually do, it’s important to not freak out and begin a keyboard battle. These things happen and how you respond will be a reflection on your business.
The key is to respond to all reviews—the good and bad. This shows your customers that their feedback is valued and you will continue to work hard to earn their trust.
Questions & Answers
When looking for answers, 82% of people turn to search engines. But, what happens when your question is still unanswered? This is where Google's Question & Answer feature comes in handy.
Potential customers can directly ask specific questions like, “Do you provide gluten-free options?” or “Is your business wheelchair accessible?” and you can quickly answer without any hassle.
However, you cannot view or answer questions via the Google My Business dashboard. To use the Q&A feature, you need to go directly to the Q&A section in the business listing. It’s important to note that Google does send out notifications when a question has been asked, but similar to the ‘suggest an edit’ section, stakeholders in your company might not see the notification. To ensure all questions are answered, check this feature regularly.
Frequently Asked Questions can be featured in this section so customers have easy access to the most commonly questions asked. Talk to your customer service department about questions they are frequently asked, add them to the Q&A and then upvote. The more upvotes, the higher in ranking the question appears. Win, win.
If you’re looking for a way to directly interact with potential customers, Google My Business offers a text messaging service. This not only increases your engagement rates, but also gives automatic updates to those who want to connect with you.
Click the ‘Messaging’ tab in your Google My Business dashboard to get started. By setting up your phone number, you can control what message is originally sent out. Think of this as your AIM away message, or ‘Business Welcome Message’ as Google calls it.
To get started, you will need to verify your phone number in the ‘Messaging’ section on the Google My Business dashboard navigation.
Google My Business can truly turn into a one-stop-shop for your customers with the integrated booking button feature.
If your company relies on appointments with a scheduling software, such as a fitness gym, customers can book directly from your listing. This is an added value that allows your customers to quickly book their own appointments in less than a minute, while you stand out against your competitors.
Google integrates with many scheduling providers and it will be automatically added to your listing. After you’re enrolled with your provider, you can track all of your bookings coming from Google.
Menus & Services
If your company offers menus, such as a restaurant or hair salon, the Menu & Services feature is a beneficial attribute to add to your listing. Currently, this section is limited to food/drink, health, beauty and service companies that do not have service or menu list provided by a third-party.
In this section, you have the option to list items and to categorize your items to stay organized. After creating your categories, prices and descriptions can be added as well. This feature allows customers to view your offerings with just one-click, which helps prevent bounces. If a potential customer needs to find this information elsewhere, they may give up altogether.
To build your own menu, visit the ‘Info’ section in your Google My Business dashboard and then click ‘Services.’ For consistency, remember to update this section regularly for any changes in menu items or prices.
Businesses that serve particular regions or areas can add their Service Area to their local listing section to inform customers how far you’re willing to travel, deliver, or bring your service. This feature is particularly useful for businesses that don’t work out of their office, like a local plumber, or for those businesses with a lot of travel involved such as when products need to be delivered.
Businesses can specify their service area by adding their address, city, or zip code. To edit your service area, click on ‘Info’ in your Google My Business dashboard and then click on ‘Service Area.’
Getting Optimized for Google My Business
Google My Business offers a multitude of features to get ahead of your competition and it is important to take advantage of them all. This platform is your business’ first impression—how do you want to be seen?
Google is always looking for ways to improve search results for the customer. When both you and the customer continue to interact with the listing, the more likely the business is to rank higher. Google loves engagement and their algorithm caters to those who are on-board with continuous optimization.