What we will cover
Whether you are looking at your local search engine optimisation (SEO) strategy or starting a new venture, claiming your free Google My Business (GMB) profile gets you on the map and found in search.
If you have claimed your spot, congratulations! You are already in the top 68% of businesses (according to 2018 statistics). But have you set your profile up correctly? Is it optimised? Are you making the most of all the features Google have given to you including the new option to add posts?
Drawing on our experience in all things local SEO, we have taken a deep dive into GMB so we can advise you what content you should add to your profile to get found online.
Adding or claiming your business
First things first: learn how to set up google my business by claiming it on GMB.
You will need to have a free Google account to start the process. Then you simply need to access the Google My Business home page and click the ‘Start Now’ button.
The first question Google asks is: ‘What’s the name of your business?’
If Google is already aware of the existence of your business, you should see the name and address automatically appear in the suggestions below as you type.
Otherwise you will see the prompt: ‘Create a business with this name’ under your typed entry. Clicking this will bring you to the place where you can manually add your business address.
If your business is already listed, you should also arrive at the same place, only this time you will only have to edit or confirm the address which will be pre-populated.
But wait! As we will elaborate on in the section on optimising your GMB profile, it is important that the business name and address you enter here is identical – yes, identical – to how you are listed elsewhere. If it isn’t, we recommend changing the details on your other directories to match.
Has a former employee or business partner already claimed your business? If they have, you will get a different message: ‘This listing has already been claimed.’ You will then need to follow the links provided to regain control of your business listing.
Getting on google maps
Before we go through the rest of the claim process, you might be wondering how you can get your business featured on Google Maps so that potential customers in your neck of the woods can discover you.
The good news is that Google Maps is fully integrated with Google My Business so by going through the claim process, you will soon be seeing your business appearing alongside those of your competitors on Google Maps (and Google Search too!).
In fact, you can track how your Google presence looks across these platforms via the GMB dashboard. At a glance, you will see how many views your profile has had in the past 28 days, split into Maps and Search. You will also see the percentage change over that period which can help determine whether your GMB content strategy is working.
What’s the process
Once you’ve entered your business name and address you will be prompted to add a primary business category plus optional additional categories. Be warned! This can be a frustrating process and Google really need to think again about this section.
For example, if you are a writer, you won’t find ‘author,’ ‘copywriter’ or even ‘writer’ among GMB’s more than two thousand categories. However, you are sorted if you run a ‘nudist park,’ or ‘nudist club’ as both business categories are listed.
Fortunately, you can also add a 750 word description in which you can wax lyrical about what you actually do (more on that later) but as far as categories go, you might just have to make do.
Google will then ask you: ‘What contact details do you want to show to customers?’
This is where you enter a contact number (ideally a local number) and website URL.
Finally, Google will ask you to confirm you are finished and ready to verify your listing. In most cases, this will involve Google sending you a postcard in the mail.
It can take a week or two to arrive so ask your team to look out for it. It probably won’t have a picture of Blackpool Tower on it but it will have the all-important code you will need to finally lock together your online and offline presence.
How to set up google my business listing
Once you’re verified you can really get into the meat of your GMB listing and flesh it out with details such as:
- Hours of operation
- Holiday closures
- A short name
- List of services and prices
- Business description
- Original opening date
- Store codes/labels to help manage multiple listings
- Photos (see the section on content below)
You will also notice an ‘Attributes’ section which gives businesses the opportunity to enrich their listing with additional information such as whether they have free onsite parking, are disabled friendly or offer a customer toilet.
You will be given a list of attributes you can edit based on the category your business is in but you can also unlock hidden attributes by answering questions about your business (see the next section in what to optimise in your GMB listing).
What to optimise
To become visible to the local online community, you need to do a lot more than just claim your GMB listing. To master local SEO, you will need to continually monitor and optimise your GMB listing.
Even a simple omission like closing an hour earlier on a Friday and forgetting to update your GMB opening hours can have negative consequences if a customer relies on the information and turns up at your locked door.
While keeping factual information up to date is basic housekeeping, optimisation is fine-tuning your GMB listing to help you climb the local SEO ranking.
How can you best do this?
One habit you must get into is ensuring your business name, full postal address and phone number (your so-called ‘NAP’ profile’) is consistent across directories. Google relies on this data to establish you as a real business entity and even a digit out of place on a directory listing can lead to their programs discounting the local signal from that directory.
Your business description can also be optimised for local SEO by including one or two location-specific keywords in addition to your industry keywords. You have 750 words to play with and we suggest you use them all.
When you visit your Google Search knowledge panel (click ‘View on Search’ from your dashboard), you should see a prompt: ‘Know this place?’ followed by a link: ‘Answer quick questions.’
By clicking the link you will get the opportunity to add relevant attributes to your listing. Customers can also answer these questions.
Finally, you should check out your Insights page, accessed from the main GMB dashboard menu. This contains a wealth of information including:
- The proportion of your customers who found your site directly versus discovering it through search.
- The actual search queries used to find your website.
- How many customers found you via Google Maps versus Google Search.
- Whether those customers visited your website, requested directions or called you.
- Where customers travelled from.
- How many phone calls you received and when.
- How many times your photographs were viewed compared with your competitors.
- How the quantity of photographs on your website compares with competitors.
As you can imagine, this information is a real help with optimisation. It can help you decide which keywords to include in your GMB description, where to target your advertising and whether you need to add more photographs to your profile.
Role of reviews
A 2017 study found that a whopping 85% of consumers trusted online reviews just as much as personal recommendations. Another study discovered that around a third of customers had judged a company based on their responses to feedback with 73% trusting the company more if their response to feedback was positive. Meanwhile, 68% of customers left feedback for a GMB listed business when asked to do so.
Add these stats together and the take home message is clear: asking for, monitoring and responding to Google reviews is good for business.
What content should I add
So your listing is bang up to date, your NAP profile is cloned across the web, you’ve optimised your business description and responded positively to all reviews.
Don’t let up! You can still do more.
Recent research has shown that adding photographs and taking advantage of GMB’s post feature are well worth the effort.
How important are photographs to your GMB listing? Here are some eye-opening stats!
A Synup study concluded that:
- Businesses featuring photographs on their GMB profiles were deemed twice as reputable as those without any.
- Businesses with photographs attracted 42% more requests for driving directions than those without.
- Businesses with photographs were clicked on 35% more times than those without.
When uploading photography, we recommend high resolution JPEG files measuring 400×300 pixels. You can also choose to use customer-tagged photographs of your business for your cover image.
Posts on GMB are like a cross between an online ad and a blog post. You can upload images and add up to 300 words of text followed by a CTA in the form of a button. Posts are live for just 7 days so you need to keep on top of them. Engagement rates are high so it is well worth making the effort.
Google also enables you to upload short videos to go with your posts or photograph stream.
How do these optimisations help?
So how does a well optimised Google My Business profile increase your visibility to locals or visitors to the area?
Whenever you perform a Google Search for certain products or services – on desktop or mobile – you will notice a map displayed together with a list of three relevant businesses. This is the so-called Google ‘three-pack’ with other relevant businesses hidden under a ‘more places’ button.
The three-pack may be at the top of the page or, in some cases, below some paid ads but they always appear above the main ‘organic’ search engine results and contain their own website and directions links. Many people will either click these links or open up the full directory to see other relevant businesses.
When considering the size of the screen on a mobile device it is now very likely that you could appear top of the Google listings yet never be seen because your customers are going straight through to competitors who have verified their businesses on Google My Business.
As with the ordinary search algorithm, Google’s My Business search algo is secret but they have spelled out exactly which three factors it seeks to balance: relevance, distance and prominence.
To be deemed a relevant business your My Business listing needs to match what local residents or visitors are looking for. That means selecting the appropriate business categories (these are a bit limited but hopefully Google will extend them one day) and including relevant keywords in your business description. This is why your listing needs to be complete.
Ensuring you enter your full address will allow Google to accurately determine how close you are to someone searching for your type of business. It is also vital for your Google Map listing and Directions link on your My Business entry.
This means that where you say you are will increase your visibility for those searching for you nearby. For example our website may get found for the term Website Design Devon, however we won’t be displayed in the 3 pack to those from more than a few miles outside of our local address.
Reviews can also help with this, as google will look there for locations and services, as well as your website, and it will offer suggestions by placing you wider in the three pack or suggesting “their website mentions Taunton”.
This is perhaps the most difficult area of local SEO to manage but Google have provided some ideas of how it measures a business’s prominence. Some of the signals are identical to those used in general SEO such as backlink profile, content quality and SERP (search engine results page) ranking. Others are specifically local in nature. One of these is your presence in local directories and it is widely understood that consistency is vital here.
Online directories will all store at least your business name, address and phone number, often referred to as your NAP profile. The hallmark of a real, established business is a consistent NAP profile that does not change every other month. It is understood that Google regularly compares the NAP details on My Business with a number of trusted local directories and gives added weight to those businesses that appear the same across the board.
Google explain that it is the balance of ranking factors that decides who makes the three-pack and who doesn’t. For example, a highly relevant business will often appear above a geographically closer alternative. This is why you should spend time completing all parts of your My Business profile.
One ranking factor that impacts on your prominence score is your reputation with Google users. You will notice that there is a star rating associated with businesses listed on My Business and the quality and quantity of these reviews form part of the prominence score. In fact, Google explicitly states that good reviews, “will improve your business’s visibility.”
Adding rocketfuel with Google ads
Location, location, location is the estate agent’s maxim but now that much of business ‘real estate’ is built of 1s and 0s rather than bricks and mortar has location become less important?
Not a bit of it.
In the early days of the web, digital marketing had more of a global approach, with a focus on creating a powerful online presence and maximising global rankings on the search engines. This created several problems. Huge chains would get the advantage simply because of their marketing budgets while customers were often being served irrelevant results. Yes, I’m sure that Starbucks in Bristol is great but it’s a bit of a trek from Paignton on a Monday morning!
Today, location is everything. Google in particular has rebuilt its entire search strategy around serving local solutions to local problems. It uses location signals from everywhere (postcard verification, directory entries, reviews, ip addresses, GPS signals, etc.) to bring customers and businesses together on a local level.
Effectivly when it comes to setting up Google Ads, you set a location, ring fence the distance thats affordable for your budget, and get instant traffic for your search terms.
Budget Allocation and Location Targeting
Just as with buying or developing business property, you will have a budget. Now you could blow all of that money on web design and online ads and you will end up with a visually stunning website with an impressive flow of traffic.
However, it’s a bit like focusing all your property spend on decoration and signage without paying a thought to how close it is to where your customers actually shop.
Ensuring your local signals are accurate and up to date should also be high on the ‘to do’ list. This means checking local directory listings and making sure your name, address and phone number are consistent across them all. This is a powerful signal which Google uses to check that your business is both real and located where it says it is.
Such structured information is becoming increasingly important to Google and Vu Online can help you with this and other local visibility tweaks that you might benefit from.
If you are running a Google AdWords campaign, you can enable local extensions at campaign level. This is necessary for your ad to show on Google Maps and also means that your telephone number will have ‘click to dial’ functionality on mobile devices.
If you have multiple businesses set up on one Google My Business account, you can choose to promote all of them within a single AdWords campaign or set up multiple campaigns. If each business operates in a broadly similar way (as in a franchise), a single campaign may be adequate. Otherwise, multiple campaigns will allow you to select different keywords depending on the type of customer each business appeals to.
A Note on Keyword Research
Ensuring your physical location is nailed down on Google is an important first step but you still have to work on making sure you are reaching out to the right customers in the right way. Keyword research for local search engine optimisation (SEO) is no less important and making mistakes is all too easy.
To stick with the property analogy, a lot of businesses focus on keywords that their customers aren’t searching for (setting up on an empty street). Some choose irrelevant or ambiguous keywords (setting up on the wrong side of town) while others choose keywords that are generic or just too popular (setting up next door to their biggest competitors).
Spending time and budget on keyword research will help you find that sweet spot in town: somewhere your customers will know exactly where to find you and that is also well-placed for local footfall.
In conclusion then…
As a free service, there really is no downside to claiming your place on GMB. The real question then is how much time and value to allocate to keeping up to date and adding and editing the content on your profile.
This poses its own unique question to your business, what results do you want and what are you doing regarding Search Engine Optimisation to help your visibility online?
If you aren’t sure then the answer may be that you need further education, our upcoming SEO Training Course will help give you a deeper understanding of SEO and how GMB and Google Maps sit within a robust local SEO strategy.
We hope this helps with how to set up google my business, if you need help with any of the doing then just get in touch.
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