If your customers can’t find you online, what’s the likelihood they’ll find you at all? You don’t need to be an SEO agency to know that the odds are low.
Building a local buzz online is crucial for securing a steady stream of offline foot traffic. Google My Business is one absolutely essential component of this.
The best part? The anatomy of a highly-effective GMB profile isn’t rocket science. Every business can implement simple changes for phenomenal results.
This guide is the actionable checklist every business can try – starting right now.
In this article we’ll cover:
Let’s dive in.
Google My Business (GMB) is your way to make sure the most accurate information about your business shows up when people search on Google.
You can add your location, hours, photos, manage reviews and much more.
GMB is completely free, but there are a few requirements you need to tick if you’re going to use it.
The most important one is that you cannot be a 100% online business; you must have some face-to-face interaction with your customers.
Why Google My Business matters
We get it – there are so many Google tools on offer, so do you really need to stress one over another one?
Google My Business is an essential tool for local SEO, and local SEO is an essential strategy to propel sales from local customers.
Local SEO is where search engine optimisation is focused within specific geographic regions, with a goal to acquire, service and retain customers.
It comes down to the simple idea that if you can promote your products or services to local customers at the EXACT moment they’re looking for them, you can drive more people to your business.
The upshot of all this is that local SEO should be a digital marketing investment for any brand – however big or small.
In fact, if you’re a smaller business, local SEO is your opportunity to crush the competition. And Google My Business is the #1 tool you need to do this.
In a nutshell, there are three key benefits of Google My Business:
Increased visibility in local search
Better experience for buyers
More traffic to your website and physical location
The first and most important step in any local SEO strategy is to claim and verify your Google My Business listing.
Here’s what you need to do:
Log into the Google Account associated with your business (or create one).
Go to google.com/business and click on “Start now” in the top right-hand corner.
Enter your business name and address.
Check the relevant sections to show whether you deliver goods and services, and your service area.
Choose your business category – be as accurate as possible.
Enter your business phone number and website.
Choose a verification option.
The key here is to ensure your messaging is consistent across your channels. Don’t confuse potential customers by showing different opening hours on Google versus your website.
Double check all the information on your Google My Business page and cross check it with what’s on your website.
Putting the basic information on your GMB page is fantastic, but it’s just the first step. If you want to stand out from competitors, you need to optimise your profile to help Google and searchers understand more about your business.
Put it this way, the more Google knows about you, the more types of searches your listing will show up in, and the more people will see what you have to offer.
Use this actionable checklist to optimise your GMB listing:
A. Add as much detail as possible
While you’re setting up your GMB listing, do your best to fill in every category and answer each question.
Yes, it takes time and can be tedious. But it's worth it for two excellent reasons:
You want potential customers to find the essential information the very first time they see your business, e.g. opening hours, website, location. Fail to do this, and they'll go straight to the competition.
If you don't add information to your listing, other people can do it for you. Google invites users to add missing information to your listing and suggest edits. This is a huge risk.
B. Write a compelling business description
Last year, Google announced that you can now include a business description on your Google My Business listing:
Make sure that you write your business description in a way that puts the most important information, keywords and your location near the start of the description. Especially because, while you’re allowed 750 characters, only 250 characters show up before they get cut off.
Google reviews your business description before it’s published, so stick to the rules laid out in its Google Business Description Guidelines.
Here’s an example from a local cinema in Melbourne:
If you look in the middle of the image above, you’ll see a section that says From Cinema Nova. That’s the header for your business description.
C. Add photos and videos that show off your business
Why should you add pictures to your GMB listing? We’ll let Google explain:
“Businesses with photos receive 42% more requests for driving directions to their location from users on Google, and 35% more clicks through to their website than businesses that don’t have photos.”
That’s a compelling reason, right there.
So, what type of photos are we talking about?
Here are the kind of photos you should add:
Cover: This will be the hero photo on your Google My Business listing, so make sure it shows your business in the best light.
Profile: This will appear when you review responses, post videos and more (like your social media avatar).
Products: Showcase your goods so customers are attracted to find out more.
Inside your business: Show off the inside of your store/restaurant/office and your employees.
Shopfront: Use external pictures of your business at different times of the day. Make sure the business name and logo are visible.
PRO TIP: When adding photos, stick to JPG or PNG files, at least 720 pixels wide by 720 pixels high. Remember to name them in a way that describes what they are, e.g. jacks-tyres-shopfront-sydney.jpg
For example, in our GMB listing, we use the Online Marketing Gurus team photo as our hero image, along with pictures of our office interior and exterior:
Now let’s talk about videos.
We already know that the best performing content, in terms of engagement, across every industry and every geography is short-form video (less than two minutes) — according to research performed by Altimeter.
Adding videos to your GMB listing will likely impact your ranking and allow you to connect with customers on a whole new level.
So, what kind of videos should you post?
Show off your sales floor, restaurant or products to give people a feel for your business before they visit. Videos can be up to 30 seconds, which is just enough time to grab people’s attention and get them wanting more.
The important thing is to make sure your videos are filmed at the place of business. In other words, leave the stock footage on the cutting room floor.
Google can and will remove videos if the primary subject of the content is not related to the business location.
D. Post engaging and relevant content
Another relatively new feature on GMB is Posts. Think of them as social media posts, except they show up in your Google My Business listing on a Google search.
This is where you can really begin to target your audience, zone in on keywords and build the authority of your listing.
One case study reported by Search Engine Land found a positive correlation between GMB posts and an improved ranking.
Adding a post is easy. Go to your GMB dashboard and click on the “Posts” option on the left-hand menu.
Stuck for ideas? Try these GMB posts:
Set up an event post with a date, time, and link to the registration page.
Create a sale event post.
Link to your latest blog article.
Feature your new products and link to the store.
Send a holiday message post.
Here’s how Australian business Bright Brewery uses posts:
The first example is useful information to searchers who might have been thinking about visiting. It’s concise, informative and eye-catching.
The second example is a great way to promote the brewery’s products to potential customers. The picture is enticing and the call to action takes you straight to the online store:
Now, check out this great example from a Sydney spa. The spa uses posts to promote timely gift ideas.
And here’s one more from Craft & Co in Melbourne. We love the way they use “Book” as a call to action.
E. Respond to reviews – both positive and negative
The power of online reviews is no secret. Online reviews impact search result rankings, consumer trust,click-through rates and conversions.
Just like on Facebook, the reviews on your Google My Listing page can be a deciding factor in whether or not a user engages with your brand.
Check out these facts from BrightLocal’s 2017 Consumer Review Survey:
49% of consumers need at least a 4-star rating before they choose to use a business.
Positive reviews make 73% of consumers trust a local business more.
Now, you can ask your customers for reviews, so long as you follow Google’s guidelines for Google My Business reviews. Just be wary that if you break the rules, your reviews could be removed.
But getting reviews is only the beginning. You need to respond to reviews too – all of them, good and bad.
Not only does it show the reviewer that you appreciate their feedback, it also shows potential customers that you care.
In fact, BrightLocal’s research shows that 30% of consumers say they’ve judged a business based on its responses to reviews.
What happens if you get a negative review? It happens to the best businesses, so don’t freak out.
If it was a genuine negative experience, respond to it with an apology and explanation. But don’t get defensive or nasty.
If you have a troll who left a one-star review and a nasty comment, it’s not worth stressing over. Most people will recognise it for what it is.
Check out these two reviews and the responses from Beechworth Bakery:
In the first review, the owner is enthusiastic and genuine. It leaves a great impression and would invite other people to leave positive reviews.
For the negative review, the owner responds with the positive first then apologises before making an offer for a refund.
In both cases, the posts address the reviewer by name and sign off with a name. All in all, an excellent example of what do.
F. Use the bookings feature
Are you an appointment-based company? Use the bookings feature to give users the opportunity to schedule a visit directly through the GMB listing.
You can integrate your booking software with your Google My Business listing, so there’s no risk of double booking or lost bookings.
By making it possible to book straight through GMB, you are removing a step in the buying process and making the whole experience smoother. So it’s even easier to convert new customers!
G. Use Questions & Answers
Questions & Answers does exactly what you’d expect: it allows people to ask questions about your business so you can answer those questions.
That’s the important part: you need to answer the questions.
Too many times we see a GMB listing with heaps of unanswered questions. Worse, other users are trying to answer the questions but might give the wrong information.
The Google My Business Questions & Answers feature is your chance to give your audience the information they are asking for and cut out the middleman.
Keep a close eye on your Q&As so you can answer questions before other users or correct an inaccurate answer.
One thing you can do is create a Frequently Asked Questions list to preempt the questions you might get on.
Ask your customer service and sales teams to list the questions people most often ask, then put those on your GMB listing with accurate, clear answers.
You can also upvote essential questions to make them more visible.
H. Check, measure and respond regularly.
Some businesses have a love-hate relationship with GMB for one reason: anyone can "suggest an edit" or “answer quick questions” at any time.
Unsurprisingly, this has led to complaints that competitors or trolls can ruin their Google My Business listings with these features.
But, Google’s philosophy is all about encouraging user-generated content to build a community and make sure a business’s profile is complete.
So, the only way to avoid foul play is for you to:
Get everything right and complete the first time so that people don't feel the need to add things.
Check your profile regularly and make sure all the details are correct.
Checking your profile frequently also means you can answer questions and respond to reviews in a timely manner.
There’s nothing more frustrating for a user than a question lingering for weeks, or an unchecked negative review that could be turning customers away without you even realising.
The good news is Google does allow you to turn on notifications, so you will get an alert when a change is made.
There’s another part of GMB that it’s worth paying attention to: insights.
Google can provide valuable, data-driven insights about your GMB listing. The kinds of insights that will reveal more about your target audience and help you see where visitors are coming from.
By understanding how your customers are finding your business, the type of information they are seeking and what their next action is, you can better adjust your listing and digital marketing efforts.
Over to you
Make your Google My Business listing part of your SEO checklist. The more time you spend adjusting and fine-tuning your GMB listing, the better it will perform with searchers and the more conversions it will drive.
Add as much detail as possible
Write a compelling business description
Add photos and videos that show off your business
Post engaging and relevant content
Respond to reviews – both positive and negative
Use Questions & Answers
Check, measure and respond regularly.
Now you’ve got your local SEO up and running, find out what you else you need to do to nail SEO.
Find the must-have advice and strategies in our Ultimate SEO Guide. Get yours now – it’s completely free!