The Ultimate Guide to Google My Business

The new Google My Business feature lets you list your business in Google search results – complete with photos, contact information, and more.
We’ve created a detailed, free guide that shows you how to set this listing up, plus gives you details on how to create your own promotions, posts, and more to get highlighted in Google.
If you have a small business and are struggling to attract customers, get phone calls, or make sales, this guide is for you – in just 30 minutes, you’ll have a GMB listing created and working for you!

GMB Overview & Basics

A report by the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor revealed that over 15 million Americans (or 7-8% of people age 18 to 64) own a local business and rely on it to support their families.
Running a business is something that many people dream of, but finding success doesn’t usually come easily.
A report published by the Small Business Administration shows that the top reason for businesses shutting down was low sales with 25% of businesses citing that reason for going out of business.
Local business owners and marketers need to be able to get search engine traffic from local search to truly maximize their potential and odds of success.
Although SEO might sound scary to many local entrepreneurs, getting traffic from local search doesn’t have to be complicated. In fact, one of the easiest ways to start getting local SEO traffic is to submit your business information in Google My Business.
So what is Google My Business and how can it help your local business? Let’s take a closer look…

What Google My Business Is

Google My Business (GMB) is a free tool that allows businesses with a physical location to create an update to their Google profile. It allows businesses to control how their business information appears in Google search and on Google Maps.
With Google My Business, you can add photos, create a compelling business description to entice customers to visit your location and also monitor and reply to reviews that customers leave on Google for your business. GMB also has a mobile app that you can use to monitor your online presence when you are away from your computer.
Google My Business also offers free analytics to let you know how people found your business online.

Why It’s Important

According to Moz’s local search ranking factors, which they update each year, Google My Business is consistently in the top spot for ranking factors in local map search and also a significant factor in organic local search. If getting search engine traffic is important to your business, then you absolutely need to at least set up your Google My Business account.
Being visible in local search makes it easy for customers to find you. Customers that are looking for businesses on Google maps and in local search are usually ready to buy
Here’s an example of what shows up when I search for “pizza” on Google. In this example, the Google maps results are displayed above the organic search results:

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Note that the Google map results don’t always show up on top, but people still tend to click on them even if they are farther down on the page. Juris Digital did a heat map study and discovered that around 32% of people clicked on the Google maps results, while the remaining users clicked on organic search results or paid ads.
Google maps make it easy for customers to see exactly where you are located and get directions to your business location. Being listed on Google maps can drive a significant amount of traffic to your local business.
Having a Google My Business account also allows customers to leave reviews for your business. Reviews are another important ranking factor for search engines, so being able to accumulate reviews will also help you rank better in local search.
If customers leave negative reviews you can also reply to those reviews to resolve the situation. Being proactive and replying to reviews lets customers know that your business cares about their customers, which will increase people’s confidence in doing business with you.

How to claim your account

To sign up for an account, go to the Google My Business page and click on the button to get started. You can also call the phone number on the page for assistance: https://www.google.com/business
Once you click on the button, Google will ask you a series of questions, starting with your business name. You will also be promoted to enter your address, business phone number and hours of operation.
Be sure to also upload photos and write a compelling business description that will encourage customers to come visit your location. A strong business description and high quality photos can encourage customers to click on your listing and visit your business.
After you’ve completed fill out the forms, Google will send a postcard to your business address to confirm your business location. The postcard will have a code that you can use to confirm that you are the owner of the business. After you’ve entered the code, your Google My Business account is confirmed and active.
If you need further details, Google has also created its own guide to help business owners set up their Google My Business account.
Another important thing to note is that people can suggest changes or edits to your business on Google. This feature allows consumers to alert Google if a business closes down or if the business’s information changes (since business owners don’t always update their online information).
However, one of the downsides of this feature is that unscrupulous competitors or malicious individuals can also change your information without you being notified. Be sure to check your Google My Business account periodically to make sure that your business information is up to date and accurate.

GMB Optimization

Setting up your Google My Business account is a great first step to getting traffic from local search.
But to maximize your results from Google My Business, you can take several steps to optimize your listing to help drive even more traffic from local search.
Optimizing your listing may take a little time to do, but is not difficult. Any business that wants to be competitive in local search should do these steps.
Want to get more local search engine traffic?
Then let’s take a look at how you can optimize your listing and get more reviews on your Google My Business account.

How to optimize your listing

Taking the time to optimize your Google listing could significantly increase the number of people that see it and ultimately decide to visit your business. Here are some simple steps you can take to increase the effectiveness of your Google listing.

Business Name and Basic Information

For business name, Google wants business owners to enter their actual business name and nothing else. Avoid using taglines, location information or mentioning products in your business name unless they are an actual part of your business name.
Some SEO practitioners believe that adding keywords into your business name will help you rank better.
However, note that listing your keywords in your GMB name is not required to rank. A quick search for keywords like “pizza” will show that several of the ranking businesses don’t have the keyword in their name.
Instead, be sure to include your keywords in your business description and on your website’s title tag and text.
Fill out your other business information including business hours, address, website and phone number. Select the right business category so that Google will rank you for the right terms.
Google might also provide other options, like menus, where you can enter information specific to your type of business. For business name 8 and information, the most important part of this section is to fill it out as completely and accurately as possible.

Business Description

Google allows 750 characters for the business description, but only 250 characters will show up in the short versions when display space is limited. Be sure to write a compelling description in the first 250 words that can stand on its own. But also use the remaining space to create a longer description if you feel that it can help.
Business descriptions should not contain self-promotional language or offensive or inappropriate content. Avoid talking about special promotions that you are offering at the time. You are also not allowed to use links within your description.
Instead, take the time to write a description that accurately reflects what your business offers and highlight key selling points.
Do a quick search and look at what other businesses have written for their business description. Think about how you can write a description that stands out from the rest.

Photos

According to Google, businesses with photos see 42% more requests for driving directions and 35% more clicks on their website link than businesses without photos. Google recommends that photos should be at least 720 x 720 pixels and saved in jpg or png format. They should also be no larger than 5MB in size.
Uploading high quality photos and videos can make your business look more appealing to potential customers. You don’t have to be a 9 professional photographer or video editor. Sometimes even cell phone photos can do the trick.
If you are an agency or marketing manager, there is a tool called LocalPics that will automatically send text message reminders to business owners to send pictures. The business owner can upload the pictures to LocalPics and they will automatically get uploaded into their Google My Business account.
Let’s take a look at the types of photos you can upload.

Cover photo

Your cover photo is important because it is the most prominent photo shown on your business profile. This image is also used in thumbnails, so be sure to pick an image that makes you stand out from competitors or makes people want to click on your listing:

 
 
 
 
 
 

Profile photo

Your profile photo is what shows up on your avatar when you post a photo or reply to a customer review. A business owner might choose to upload a high quality photo of themselves as the profile photo or a high quality image of the business logo.

Other photos

Be sure to also upload a variety of other photos to represent your business. Here are some ideas you may want to consider:

  • Photos of the exterior of your business
  • Photos of the interior of your business
  • Photos of your most popular products
  • Photos of happy customers enjoying your products
  • A photo of your team or employees
  • Any additional photos that clarify what you sell or demonstrate value to the customer

Add as many high quality photos as you need to fully convey your product offerings and what your business does. You can upload multiple photos in each of the above categories, if you think that doing so will help.
If you have a lot of photos or multiple business locations, you can upload photos using a spreadsheet.

Videos

Google also allows people to upload videos to a Google My Business profile. Videos can be a maximum of 30 seconds long and 100 MB in size. They should be 720p or higher in resolution.
Adding a video can be a great way to engage your customer, showcase your location or demonstrate your product. Some video ideas might include giving a tour of your location, having the business owner share a message, filming happy customers or showing off some of your products.
Most local businesses don’t have videos on their Google profile, so it’s not really required. But taking time to create and upload a video can be a good way to stand out.

How to get reviews on Google My Business

Another important step to getting search engine traffic from Google and also attracting more visitors is to get reviews on Google My Business. According to a study by Brightlocal, 91% of people surveyed trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations and 86% of customers read online reviews for local businesses.
Unlike Yelp (which discourages asking customers for reviews), Google My Business actually encourages businesses to ask customers for honest reviews.
To get more reviews, make it easy for people to get to review sites by linking to them from your website and social media pages. You can even ask people to leave reviews by sending them an email and simply asking for a review (if they join your email list).
Avoid offering incentives like discounts or free products for giving a review.
Reply to positive reviews when appropriate to thank customers for their business and show them your appreciation.
You should also reply to negative reviews. Be careful not to resort to personal attacks on the customer as that type of reply will make your business look unprofessional and turn away future customers.
Instead, reply diplomatically, apologize when necessary and offer a solution to the issue.

Stay engaged with your GMB account

Engagement can be a factor that affects how websites rank in Google local search, so be sure to log into your GMB account periodically.
Review your business description, images and other details and update them to improve your listing, if needed. Replying to reviews to takes time, but increases engagement from your customers.

GMB Features

Setting up your Google My Business account is a great start if you want to get more customers and search engine traffic to your business. But you can increase your website traffic and get more customers by using some of the other features that Google offers.
What else can you do to stand out from your competitors? And what other steps can business take to improve engagement and get more customers?
In this section, we will cover some other powerful Google My Business features that business owners can use to improve search rankings and attract more customers. These features include Google Posts, Google Booking and Reservations, Google Messages and Google Questions and Answers.

What Are Google Posts & How To Use Them?

One feature that Google My Business users should look into are Google Posts. Google Posts allow business owners to share announcements, offers, news and other content from their Google My Business account.
This content can show up in Google search or Google maps when someone does an online search in Google.
Some marketers also believe that creating Google Posts can help businesses rank higher in the organic search results. In this case study, A marketing agency successfully increased organic traffic and search rankings for a local garage flooring company and a church by create two Google posts per week over a period of 3 weeks.
Patient Pop also tested Google Posts with their clients and found that using Google Posts increased the number of booked appointments by an average of 11%.
So what types of content can you create in Google Posts? And how can you optimize your results?
Let’s take a look…

Event posts versus regular posts

Google posts allow you to create regular posts or event posts. Posts are required to have a minimum of 100 words and can have a maximum of 300 words.
Regular posts expire after 7 days and can be used for business announcement, news or status updates. Since standard Google Posts 16 only last for 7 days, ideally, you should strive to create at least one new post each week.
Event posts last until the event is over, so they can drive traffic and customers for a longer period of time.
Both types of posts can be helpful for driving online traffic to your website and business. Asides from showing up on your Google business profile, Google Posts are also indexed and can show up in independent search results.
Google also allows you to schedule your Google posts in advanced or save them as drafts so that you can publish them later. Google keeps up to date information on how to create Google posts in their help section.

Adding images

Another great feature of Google Posts is the ability to add an image to your post. Adding an image can increase user click through rates and engagement, so be sure to take advantage of this feature.
Images must be at least 400 x 300 pixels (10 kb) in size and no larger than 10,000 x 10,000 pixels (25 MB).

Bookings and Reservations With Google

Another useful feature that Google offers is the ability to add a booking or reservation button to your profile. This feature allows people to click on the button to book an appointment or make a reservation with your business.
If you want, you can also share the booking button on your website or social media sites like your Facebook page.
Adding the booking button in Google can increase the number of appointments a business gets as it makes it easy for people to book appointments. Additionally, the booking button can also benefit customers, who can add their appointment to their Google calendar to get automatic reminders.
Google provides up to date instructions for enabling the booking feature in this help article. Google can also integrate their button with these third party booking and reservation software tools.

What are Google Messages?

Studies show that businesses that focus on engaging their customers experience increased sales. So it’s no surprise that many businesses are starting to focus on increasing engagement with customers.
Google Messaging allows customers to contact businesses directly through their Google My Business Listing. Enabling this feature can allow businesses to answer customer questions quickly and better engage people who visit their listing.
Messages are sent to your phone and you can reply. Phone numbers are not revealed for either the business owner or the customer, so you can even set it up to send messages to your personal cell phone.
If you decide to enable Google Messaging, be sure that you are able to reply to inquiries quickly. If you aren’t going to be able to reply in a timely fashion, then you will be better off leaving this feature disabled.
Google also provides some guidelines on what types of messages are appropriate and inappropriate for this service.

What is the Questions and Answers feature?

Google My Business also has a Questions and Answers feature where people can ask questions about a business. Business owners and other people can reply to these questions.
According to a study conducted by Gather Up, 25% of businesses get questions on their Google business profile. Unfortunately, independent studies show that most local businesses and big brands are ignoring questions and leaving them unanswered.
Monitoring and answering questions is a great way to engage customers and provide answers to commonly asked questions.
Business owners can also ask and answer their own questions. Using Google Questions and Answers to create your own FAQ can be a good way to market the business by showcasing what you offer and describing the benefits.
Businesses that are concerned about reputation management should also monitor their questions because visitors can use this feature to write comments and criticisms. Unhappy customers or competitors can also reply to questions that other people ask and leave negative comments.
Replying to these comments can be a good way to fix problems and maintain a positive business image.
Note that Google My Business does not notify business owners when new questions are asked. To monitor your account for new questions, you can install the Google Maps app on your phone and turn the 20 notifications on. You can also use a paid service like Gather Up that monitors Google Questions and Answers for you.
 

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